Dave Mackey’s Miwok 100k Race Report

Dave Mackey’s race report from winning the 2011 Miwok 100k.

By on May 13, 2011 | Comments

Dave Mackey just won the Miwok 100k (again) in remarkably stiff competition. How stiff? Well, just three and a half minutes separated Mackey, Mike Wolfe, and Hal Koerner after 62 miles of racing. Anyway, Dave was kind enough to share his race report. I’ve included a few bonus items following Dave’s report.

Miwok 100k guyComing back from Randall aid station back to Bolinas Ridge I thought I’d overdone it. I’d lost about 25 seconds to Dakota Jones and Mike Wolfe, with Hal Koerner nipping at my heels. I had taken two pit stops, one on the hill climb out of the Randall turnaround and at Tennessee Valley, and was trying to make up about two minutes, which takes a ton of energy to regain and must be judiciously spread over a couple miles. I felt a deep fatigue from racing a month ago. I still knew that I either would crater or win.

All four of us (Dakota, Hal, Mike Wolfe (aka Garlic)) had come together into Bolinas Ridge 1 on the return trip with tons of people yelling support. It was super cool to have this going on; in past years the typical layout is that the front-runners get spread out ten miles before this point, but this year was different. I felt a bit spent coming into this aid station, and knowing there were still 15 miles remaining, there was a good chance I’d bonk it hard getting to Pan Toll 2, seven miles away. I was also on foreign ground, as I’d run the American River 50 mile four weeks prior, and didn’t know today if my late race reserves would hold up. I’d felt tired the week before from moving and getting settled in the new semester and family in our new digs in Novato. Okay, so I had lame excuses… With this in mind, I made sure I came out of Bolinas with food and fuel to compensate for my paucity of seeming reserves, and fueled at the expense of losing time to Dakota and Mike, with Hal right behind. I felt like crap but, as typically happens when I feed well and my stomach holds up, it pays off in later stages.

I’d caught a ride with Topher and Kim Gaylord and their posse to the Rodeo Beach start, and cut it a bit close in timing my pre-race needs. I lubed only half the requisite anatomical areas than normal due to haste, and also ended up racing all 100k without any electrolyte caps or NSAIDS. By natural experiment, I found that these two staples of ultrarunning didn’t seem to make a lick of difference in my performance, until perhaps the very end, when I was trashed anyway (but in a hot race I would definitely want these pills).

The race started as usual, with many of the same cast of characters, but when I first ran Miwok seven years ago the front pack would not have included most of these elites. It was refreshing to run up Conzelman Rd and look around to see new faces gunning up the Conzelman grade, with the typical banter led by old dog Hal as we crested the 800’ climb with the world-class views of the Golden Gate Bridge, the Bay, and all of San Francisco. The wind was gusting hard, making for alternate boosts and stiff headwinds that would last throughout the day, possibly playing a factor in everyone’s pacing on the exposed hills.

The new course goes out Conzelman road without the old loop back on itself, and then hits some new ups and downs through the Headland meadows and bluffs on trails I never knew existed. It then comes back to cross the Rodeo Beach sandy start at mile seven to an early morning crowd of energy. I like this new race and aid station format as it boosted the race’s early stage vibe.

Onto the steep pavement and stairs climb the 800’ of Wolf Ridge, the course then takes fun rolling single and double track (same area as the classic and newly-returning Headlands 50K) to connect over to the Old Springs trail, then down to Tennessee Valley 1 aid station. I felt fine with this section, and had never run it in reverse like this, so it was like running a new trail to me. The pack remained 15 guys running steady, all with faces and names of guys who had won national-caliber races.

I porto-pottied at TV, grabbed a bottle from Kim, and lost a bit of time on the pack, but made it up going up the Fox Trail climb (the 2nd right turn as you head down the valley) over across Coyote Ridge. Passing the Green Gulch trail, I remembered years ago when I’d gone down this trail by mistake at Miwok and lost some time, luckily to still win. As we crested to join the Miwok trail and descend the long grade (the arduous return in-bound section of the old course) I felt in no rush and was extremely comfortable. I was already tired of eating gels, and switched to Clif Bloks and solid food like PB and J the rest of the race, and supplemented gels when I ran low on these other items. This strategy worked well I found, as my energy stayed high for the day, except for the one lull returning on Bolinas.

After crossing Hwy 1, there is a brief climb over Dias Ridge, and then the Miwok trail becomes a stellar singletrack through meadows and green woods. Aesthetically, this is my favorite part of the race, as we ripped around the contours I remembered prior race years of running this section, some years feeling better than others. On most of these long switchbacks you could reach down and high five someone 30 seconds ahead of you if you wanted.

After crossing the Muir Beach Road, the real racing started. This is about a 1,400’ Dipsea dirt road climb to Pan Toll from here in the middle of a 7 mile section of no aid. I’d quickly filled my empty hand bottle at some water jugs that Gary Wang had placed kindly for the race at Hwy1, and was thankful for this top-off off to get to Pan Toll. I noticed most guys didn’t take advantage of this small hydration bonus, but the pack was still 10 or so strong, with no one seeming to be in too much trouble yet. I felt great on this climb, but was still pushing, listening to the other runners breathing and gauging their effort levels relative to mine. In an ultra, it is my goal to never be breathing hard in order to maintain 80% effort, until the last 5 miles or so if needed. So I try to maintain an effort level which feels like I could always run a bit faster at all times. Other racers know I am pretty non-chatty in races, mostly because to talk takes effort for me while running, and several minutes of talk over a long race could cost some time. I also want to listen and focus on subtle cues that my body can give indicating red flags to address; heavy breathing, chafing, an energy drop, blister issues, etc. I am pretty relaxed though overall and don’t mind listening to the other racers crack jokes, to which I occasionally contribute pithy (at least to me) commentary.

Of note on this climb was that Mike Wolfe was really stinking up a storm, as he had chowed raw garlic for breakfast and dinner, and was sweating it out. It was like running 80K through an old Italian kitchen with that guy. I had to try to avoid running directly behind him and to breathe through my mouth when possible. Mike apologized to us by saying “I’m sorry, I just love garlic!” Well, it definitely helped him and me, I suppose, to run faster.

Pan Toll came and went in a blur, with Kim handing me a fresh bottle and crewing for three of my aid stations, as well as for Dakota and hubby Topher, who was somewhere probably not too far behind. This is the start of the long out and back to Randall, and not much changed through this section to the turnaround, except that the long views of the ocean, grassy meadows and forest below, all on some the sweetest coastal single track in the country. Our pack was now six, who I think consisted of Aaron Heidt, Dan Olmstead, Hal, Garlic, Dakota, and me. This lasted all the way to Randall, with the Bolinas aid station in the middle to break up the dynamics.

As mentioned, coming back to Bolinas I ate and drank and felt a bit crappy. The lead was now Dakota and Mike 25 seconds ahead, me, then Hal only 25 seconds back. I was really impressed with this group’s efforts, and part of me hoped this vibe would last so that all would be happy with their overall performances, which seemed significant to this point. Sometimes it takes a group to get the best out of a runner.

A mile before Pan Toll 2, I started to feel good again with energy returning on the gradual downhill track to the aid station, and passed Dakota and Mike to push the pace a bit and gain some momentum into the descent back down the Dipsea road and to Muir Beach. At Pan Toll 2 aid station I spied a can of opened Mt Dew on the aid table, and suddenly knew what I needed. I took it and walked for 20 seconds to chug it, losing 20 seconds to Mike, who had jumped ahead, in drinking and resultant digestion. From then to the finish, high fructose corn syrup became an unplanned but valued fuel. I started the pounding hardpack descent, hearing Hal’s pounding steps not too far behind. I felt like I could accelerate on the hard dirt and catch Mike if I needed, but decided to not do so as I knew there were many miles climbing later. As we crossed Muir Beach road onto Redwood trail, Hal was only two seconds behind. Lucky for me, it was the last time Hal would be close to me, as I pulled away on the fast tight wooded singletrack Redwood trail to get a bit closer to Mike, who was 30 seconds ahead. I think I have raced this Redwood section a couple dozen times in the last ten years, mostly at races such as Headlands 50k, the North Face 50, and Miwok, and it never gets old. I think I have only trained on it twice, so all I know of Redwood is racing fast over its wooden bridges, thighs stung by nettles that you don’t feel until the evening.

Coming into Muir Beach aid station, Mike was just ahead. Once again, a soda can saved the day, as I grabbed a Coke and started jogging with it. I downed it quickly and carried the crushed can in my running shorts until Tennessee Valley … not a pleasant experience! As we climbed I slowly reeled in Mike until the crest before Pirates Cove, when I passed him for the last time. I felt that running conservatively off Pan Toll and other downhills, as well as fueling, had paid off, so I crested the hill into TV feeling like I had some energy to spare. Mark Richtman unexpectedly showed up ahead and took my bottle to fill, and I headed scared up Old Springs, hoping to self-motivate the hill to Miwok. I could see Mike 1.5 minutes back as I climbed and knew the race wasn’t even close to being done.

Cruising down Miwok trail was a pounding blur, and coming into the valley I started to relax a bit as we took a hidden single track climb behind a horse barn to crest over onto Conzelman and the wind whipped finish. I came in happy, particularly content with my strategy in one of “the Classics.” Mike came in 2-3 minutes later, followed closely by Hal, who ran an outstanding race, perhaps his best at Miwok as far as I can tell. These guys will rip up Western States, I bet.

Overall, a great day… got some more Montrail Cup points and some prize money, and It is nice to have won five of the past six races I’ve run, and set course records in 3 of them.

Easily the best part of all this is simply the thrill of competing hard with cool people in a beautiful place outdoors. As usual, Tia Bodington (the RD) put together an excellent event with tons of volunteers and a supportive community. Thanks!!

Overall splits:
Rodeo Beach 55:57
TV 1 33:39 (1:29:36)
Pan Toll 1 1:14 (2:44:23)
Bolinas 1 49:49 (3:34:12)
Randall 47:22 (4:21:35)
Bolinas 2 54:39 (5:16:15)
Pan Toll 2 52:00 (6:08:15)
Muir Beach 39:23 (6:47:39)
TV 2 35:25 (7:23:05)
Finish/Cronkite 40:25 (8:03:29)

This years Miwok was, as my Scottish teaching pal Fergus used to say, “Pure dead brilliant.” The racing planets aligned perfectly, with stellar weather, a new more techy single track course with likely more vertical, the front pack running at their best, and my little kids and wife at the finish to greet me… I couldn’t ask for more from a race.

I can’t believe I pulled that one out, given the high risk/rewards ratio in running American River 50 and Miwok so close to each other. Some elites like Geoff Roes can get away with performing at their peak for close races, but I can’t, and I definitely felt it. One reason I know that I could race this close together this year was due to my footwear. I know I say it too much, but the Hoka shoes have changed my ability to recover during and after races, all with my requisite need for lightweight. It is now four days post-race, and I can walk without soreness, cramping, and that overall wasted feeling and grumpiness. A racer can spend years trying to figure out the simple concrete magic elixirs that will help boost performance; 10 hours of sleep/night, ginger caps, mega-mileage, no sex, etc. For me this change in footwear has led me to a solid start to the year with three high level ultra wins in three efforts.

Hats off to Ian Sharman for running for a beneficiary cause. Elvis ran Miwok to raise money for aids awareness in South Africa, and is soon going to run Comrades marathon.

Bonus from Bryon
Since I’ve not posted a proper race report for Miwok, I’ll just share a few things here and call it even.

First off, here’s a link to full race results and a few race reports from the front of the pack:

  • Hal Koerner – 3rd – “It was amazing running as the group of six ate up miles and climbs without hesitation, we were like silent assassins barely making a sound, waiting for one another to make the next deadly move and, well, because no one had uttered a word for hours.”
  • Dakota Jones – 4th – “Miwok was the most intense racing I have ever been a part of. I literally couldn’t believe what was happening during the race”
  • Pam Smith – 1st woman – “After so many second places, I knew I could run well, but I think I had to prove to myself that I wasn’t holding anything back, that I was willing to take some risk and not shy away from competition.”
  • Amy Sproston – 4th woman – “While I had been questioning for weeks whether or not I should run Miwok because of a calf strain, I could not back out on the grounds of losing my lucky undies.”
  • Ian Sharman – 1st Elvis Impersonator, 10th Overall – “He said, ‘I may be the captain, but you’re the KING!'”

Finally, If you haven’t seen it yet (or even if you haven’t), check out this great video of the 2011 Miwok 100k!

Bryon Powell

Bryon Powell is the Founding Editor of iRunFar. He’s been writing about trail running, ultrarunning, and running gear for more than 15 years. Aside from iRunFar, he’s authored the books Relentless Forward Progress: A Guide to Running Ultramarathons and Where the Road Ends: A Guide to Trail Running, been a contributing editor at Trail Runner magazine, written for publications including Outside, Sierra, and Running Times, and coached ultrarunners of all abilities. Based in Silverton, Colorado, Bryon is an avid trail runner and ultrarunner who competes in events from the Hardrock 100 Mile just out his front door to races long and short around the world, that is, when he’s not fly fishing or tending to his garden.