My Top Strava Segment in Marin (Mount Tam Hill Climb)

#10 (Rodeo to Wolf Ridge)

#9 (Coastal – Matt Davis to Willow Camp)

#8 (Pirates Cove)

#7 (Fox Trail Descent)

#6 (Ninja Loop)

#5 (Hogsback descent)

#4 (Fern Creek descent)

#3 (Marincello)

#2 (Dipsea)

#1 – Mount Tam Hill Climb

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https://www.strava.com/segments/2176386

Location: Downtown Mill Valley (clocktower) to the East Peak Fire Lookout
Distance: 3.2 miles
Elevation Gain:  2533 ft of Gain
Overall Runs: 2040 Attempts By 330 People
CR:  Galen Burrell in 30:58 (!) and YiOu Wang 40:53
My place: 9th, 36:08
Why:  This is the route that really brought me into the trail running community of Marin and no other route can match that in importance for me.  From my first time up the summit meeting Brett for the first time on a Tuesday morning to the my last Wednesday morning jaunt with Brett plus an amazing community of runners I have covered this segment as much as any other segment in Marin (77 times, with countless numbers of friends).  When run at the same time throughout the year you are treated to a different sunset at a different point on the trail with different weather to boot.  Its amazing, as are Galen’s and YiOu’s CRs.  They are the king and queen of the Marin climbling trails for a reason.  Watching them hold court is every bit as inspiring as the downhills of Jorge and Vitor(s).
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A rock star in so many ways, Mr. Galen Burrell

Insider Tip:  The scramble at the top of the route can be tricky to find, loose footing, and lead you astray easily.  There is a race every labor day where you can get a little competition on the normally casual, friendly, and gentlemanly paced route.  Don’t expect to nail it on your own and touch the fire lookout door, overwise it doesn’t even count as a summit run.
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The Godfather

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Sunny and shirtless

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Rainbow summit season

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Headlamp season

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Silhouette season

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Sunset season

My Top 10 Marin Segments #2 (Dipsea)

#10 (Rodeo to Wolf Ridge)

#9 (Coastal – Matt Davis to Willow Camp)

#8 (Pirates Cove)

#7 (Fox Trail Descent)

#6 (Ninja Loop)

#5 (Hogsback descent)

#4 (Fern Creek descent)

#3 (Marincello)

#2 Dipsea

Dipsea

https://www.strava.com/segments/2756047

Location: Downtown Mill Valley (clocktower) to the Stinson Beach
Distance: 7 miles
Elevation Gain:  1348 ft of Gain and loss
Overall Runs: 485 Attempts By 288 People
CR:  Alex Varner 48:01 and Sarah Bamberger 1:00:05
My place: NA (ie not a true Marin resident)
Why:  Why? With only 288 official runners, why? Really, you are asking why?  Clearly you don’t live in Marin.  First run 1905, the Dipsea race is the oldest trail race in America.  And if you live in Marin….and you run….then it’s the Superbowl (side note: similar to the Superbowl it takes money and/or luck to compete).  Fittingly Alex Varner (blog) who grew up in Marin and has lived close to the start of the race is a multi-time winner of the fastest time (but not the race itself) and has the CR on the mens side.  The race is quirky (handicapped, black shirts, and short-cuts) and worth learning more about (great documentary on Vimeo here).  However, even if you don’t/can’t do the race the route itself is iconic.  Its starts with 3 flights of stairs (688 in total), plunges down to Muir Woods, climbs Cardiac Hill (complete with heart-stopping views while your heart is jumping out of your chest), descends through Steep Ravine, and completes the route at Stinson beach.  The race website has turn by turn directions here.
Insider tip:  While the trail is technically 7.4 miles long, notice that the segment is 7 miles in length.  That’s because on Dipsea day all routes are valid….well thats mostly true as some short cuts are forbidden many are still allowed.  That saves those in the know 0.4 miles.  Do I know them? No not really.  So go figure it out for yourself.  Also, there is the double Dipsea and quad Dipsea for those not able to get into the race.
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The man, the legend.  

 

Marin Top 10 Strava Segments (#3 Marincello)

#10 (Rodeo to Wolf Ridge)

#9 (Coastal – Matt Davis to Willow Camp)

#8 (Pirates Cove)

#7 (Fox Trail Descent)

#6 (Ninja Loop)

#5 (Hogsback descent)

#4 (Fern Creek descent)

#3 Marincello

Marincello

https://www.strava.com/segments/641879

Location: Start at the Tennesse Valley Parking Lot and Climb to Bobcat
Distance: 1.3 miles
Elevation Gain:  677 ft of Gain(6%)
Overall Runs: 14972 Attempts By 3782 People (popular!)
CR:  Galen Burrell 9:35 and YiOu Wang 11:04
My place: 9th, 10:40
Why:  Sometimes called the 10,000 dollar hill as its place at the end of the TNF50 miler in December, this consistent mile plus climb can make or break a number of trail races in Marin.  While normally it is a nice runnable grade towards the end of a long ultra it can feel like a death march.  Adding to its place as #3 are the very stout CR’s by Galen and YiOu at 6:55 and 7:59 mile pace respectively.  I was fit when I attempted it and only managed 7:42 pace.  Currently the top 5 are all from current/past Mill Valley residents.
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Marincello CR or Lake Sonoma win, which one would YiOu rather have…

Insider Tip:  When climbing up you will notice double white posts which represent 800m in.  This make a great hill repeat option if you are not up for the full-length route.  You can sometimes find the SFRC racing crew doing repeats out here on Tuesday nights.
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You have arrived at the correct spot.  See you in a little while when your HR maxes and your quads no longer work.

My Top 10 Marin Strava Segments (#4 Fern Creek Descent)

#10 (Rodeo to Wolf Ridge)

#9 (Coastal – Matt Davis to Willow Camp)

#8 (Pirates Cove)

#7 (Fox Trail Descent)

#6 (Ninja Loop)

#5 (Hogsback descent)

#4 Fern Creek Descent

FernCreek

https://www.strava.com/segments/1354319

Location: Start at the East Peak Parking Lot at the Top of Tam and End at Railroad Grade
Distance: 0.6 miles
Elevation Gain:  672 ft of Loss (-21%)
Overall Runs: 2800 Attempts By 695 People
CR:  Victor Ballesteros 3:44 and Naomi Plasterer 5:25
My place: 15th, 5:15 (and I was trying hard!).
Why:  I’m probably a little biased because I ran this segment weekly during Tam Tuesdays and 6:11 pace does not seem that fast for a 0.6 mile, 672 ft loss section of trail, but for THIS section it is.  Whereas the previous two downhills (Fox and Hogsback) require massive turnover, Fern requires massive risk taking.  Over a several week period in 2014 the CR exchanged multiple hands and there was an all-out assault on who could take more risks.  Not surprisingly Victor Ballesteros came out on top by a solid 15s margin.  Personally, I can not imagine going under 5 minutes, yet alone 4 minutes on this switch-back, stair-filled, rocky and loose, and pipe popping out of the middle section of trail.
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One of easier sections of trail

Insider Tip:  Be prepared to take some risks.  I think most of the time can be gained on the upper section which is loose and slick. This is a great section to practice for that crazy European trail race you scheduled. Which of course you scheduled, you live in Marin.

 

Victor

Victor is the man with the plan to fly down technical trails.

 

My Top 10 Marin Strava Segments (#5 Hogsback Descent)

#10 (Rodeo to Wolf Ridge)

#9 (Coastal – Matt Davis to Willow Camp)

#8 (Pirates Cove)

#7 (Fox Trail Descent)

#6 (Ninja Loop)

#5 – Hogsback Descent

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Location: Firetrail where Hogsback Ends and Intersects Railroad Grade
Distance: 0.2 miles
Elevation Gain:  261 ft of Loss (-18%)
Overall Runs: 2948 Attempts By 688 People
CR:  Victor Mier 54sec (3:18 mile pace) and Lydia Gaylord 1:42
My place: 4th, including breifly had the CR for a 3 month period.
Why:  Because witnessing the abandonment at which Victor attacked this brief stretch of trail was crazy.  This is not a smooth stretch of trail by any means. Ruts, loose rocks, and often a chill that would water the eyes make this stretch tough to stay upright when you are just cruising.  3:18 mile pace for quarter of a mile is sub 50 seconds for 400m but rather than the metronic style you see circling the oval this was a form of controlled chaos which took skill in addition to fitness to harness.  I thought my 1:06 was good.  I was wrong.
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Brett can Ninja, but he can’t Hogsback

Insider Tip: Sunglasses, wear sunglasses if you are really going for it.  Oh yeah and a running start helps as well.

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When not descending like crazy Victor can be found living in a van or traveling the world.  A true renaissance man.

Top 10 Marin Strava Segments #6 (Ninja Loop)

#6 Ninja Loop

#10 (Rodeo to Wolf Ridge)

#9 (Coastal – Matt Davis to Willow Camp)

#8 (Pirates Cove)

#7 (Fox Trail Descent)

NinjaLoop

https://www.strava.com/segments/1485877

Location: Start at the (west) Parking Lot on the Marin side of the Golden Gate Bridge
Distance: 11.5 miles
Elevation Gain:  2151 ft of Gain and Loss
Overall Runs: 655 Attempts By 138 People
CR:  Brett Rivers 1:21:48 and Devon Yanko in 1:27:12.
My place: none, just never started and finished from that parking lot
Why:  The Ninja loop is on here because it has been a standard weekly run of many of the Marin trail running community for some time (pre-Strava?).  Plus I have to include at least one segment where the Godfather (and owner of SF Running Company) has the CR.  At 11.5 miles with more than 2k of climbing it is a challenging route, but it hits many of the best trails in southern Marin (including a segment to be included in the top 5).  Its not the most popular segment (due to its length), but it is aesthetically pleasing in so many ways.  My personal favorite is the stretch of SCA trail that ribbons along the hillside providing intermittent views of SF and the Pacific.  EARLY Thursday mornings is when the group meets, but you are rewarded by the pre-dawn wake-up call with sunrises over SF.
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Views of the iconic Golden Gate make the last few miles more than worth it

Insider tip:  If you are doing this run on your own arrive early.  The tourist crowds can be overwhelming and the parking lot overflowing.  If you are not a Marin/SF resident be sure to follow Trailhapa on Instagram to experience the ever changing views of the Ninja run (both pictures you can find on his Instagram account).
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You may get a sunset like this, or you may get fog

Top 10 Marin Strava Segments #7 (Fox Trail Descent)

#10 (Rodeo to Wolf Ridge)

#9 (Coastal – Matt Davis to Willow Camp)

#8 (Pirates Cove)

#7 Fox Trail (Down)

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Location:  Coastal above Tennesse Valley to the North, heading back down into Tennessee Valley
Distance: 1 mile (but probably closer to 1.1 miles)
Elevation Gain:  718ft of LOSS (-13% grade).
Overall Runs: 36161 Attempts By 1856 People
CR:  Jorge Maravilla in 4:06 and Larisa Dannis in 5:30.
My place: 70th, 6:26
Why:  This is the first segment that is squarely within the “oh-my-god-what-am-I-doing” category.  1 mile and steep.  While the climb up on this route is a test piece of it’s own its downhill is fire road, pretty straight, and all fast.  This is the perfect place for a mile PR and might just be Jorge’s mile PR.  Jorge’s time of 4:06 is STOUT and nearly a minute faster than Strava second, but what is more impressive is that the average pace is 3:51!!!! suggesting a slightly longer than 1 mile route and a SUB 4 mile.  It might be the only sub 4 anywhere on the trails of Marin.  I was there to witness it just over 2 minutes behind.
Fox Trail

Okay lets call it more than a mile

Insider Tip:  Not really an insider tip, but running downhill takes confidence and practice.  Ian Sharman, one of the best, has some great tips on how to improve your own downhill running on his blog.  Take a look and practice before really going after it.

Jorge Maravilla

Preparing for a super human downhill effort undoubtedly. Jorge has some wheels, no hands and all.