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)


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.

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).

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)


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.


Top 10 Marin Strava Segments #8 (Pirates Cove, North)

#8 Pirates Cove (North)

See #10 (Rodeo to Wolf Ridge)

See #9 (Coastal – Matt Davis to Willow Camp)


Location:  Starting at the top of Coastal – go left
Distance: 1.4 miles
Elevation Gain:  417 ft of climbing (-2% grade).
Overall Runs: 6,413 Attempts By 2,553 People
CR:  Alex Varner in 10:34 and Chessa Adsit-Morris in 12:04.
My place: 5th, 11:21
Why:  Another of the most fun, iconic stretches of trail in all of Marin.  While not typically raced for speed (similar to Coastal above Stinson), this segment placing in the top 10 because it has one of the best views and it one of the most fun stretches of trail along the coast.  While the descent down to almost the ocean is filled with stairs, rocks, you are rewarded with a steady climb and some rolling single track that you can really pick up speed on.  Its one of the more fun stretches along the coast.   This stretch of trails is part of the TNF50 and Marin Ultra Challenge Races.

Rob Krar early in the TNF50

Insider Tip:  Once you finish this segment….STOP.  Turn around and take in the views.  It can be quite foggy and cold, so don’t be too surprised if you don’t get a view at all.  During the TNF50 this is a great first spot to watch the race as you get to see the bobbing headlamps descend and ascend the single track trails of Pirates Cove.

Turn around, enjoy the view.

Marin Strava Segments #9 (Costal Matt Davis to Willow Camp)

#10 (Rodeo Beach to Wolf Ridge)

#9 Coastal: Matt Davis to Willow Camp


Location:  Starting where Matt Davis Diverges to where Willow Camp intersects
Distance: 1.6 miles
Elevation Gain:  370 ft of climbing (4% grade).
Overall Runs:  1868 by 1140 people
CR:  Max King in 12:02 and Keely Henniger in 13:39.  Max set the CR in route in the middle of the TNF50 race.
My place: 14, 12:30
Why:  To me this is one of the most fun and most scenic stretches of trail in all of Marin, weaving along the hill ~1500ft up from the ocean on single track trail.  On a clear day the view to Stinson below and out to Pt Reyes is fantastic.  Plus it serves as part of the TNF50 race (in both directions).  While Max’s time is impressive, I think that this is one of the segments that could (should?) go down.  So who will it be? Dybo? Varner? Roche?

The Golden State

Insider info:  In the spring the grass is like a green that you have never seen before.  Wildflowers in the summer.  Plus look out for that old car on the trail.


Varner cruising the return route during TNF50

Marin Strava Segment Top 10 List (#10 Rodeo Beach to Wolf Ridge)

I think Strava is swell.  While I agree with the premise that Strava has killed the loneliness of a long distance runner (see Sam’s Blog post here), for those that run alone most days it can provide a motivation and connection to our peers and history not previously readily available.  It also provides some pretty epic segment battles which have produced some incredible performances normally reserved for races.  No need to worry about nailing a taper and having the perfect conditions.  When you are ready you can challenge the best any day of the year.

Recently I put out a query on twitter about what the most iconic Strava segments in the Southern Marin/Mt Tam are of Marin county are.  I got some great responses (here, here, and here) which I totally agreed with.  They all made the list.  Now the order is something entirely else.

My rationale for choosing a segment was based on the following simple criteria.  How impressive is the CR performance?  How iconic is the bit of trail it is on?  How many people have run it before?

So starting with #10 and working back to #1 I will post one segment a day for the next ten days.  Feel free to argue, agree, or offer your alternatives and insights as well!  Eventually I will post a similar list of the Boise Foothills, but for now, I will reminisce about my old neighborhood trails.

#10 Rodeo Beach to Wolf Ridge

Location:  Starting at Rodeo Beach, climb up along the road and then take the trail and continue up to the trail junction of Coastal and Wolf Ridge.
Distance: 1.6 miles
Elevation Gain:  833 ft of climbing (10% grade).
Overall Runs:  1775 by 1093
CR:  David Roche in 12:48, 7:52 pace.  Maria Dalzot, 15:20 (both were set during this year’s ITR Marin Ultra Challenge 25k)
My place: 21, 15:31
Why:  This is a standard climb for many trail races in the Headlands.  It also might be the only one of my top 10 that super speedster David Roche has the CR for.  The views from the top are second to none in the headlands.  SF in one direction Mt Tam in the other.  Its a classic climb, in a classic location.
Insider info:  Get ready for stairs!  You think the pavement is tough, wait until you hit the stairs that force all expect the fittest to drop into a power hike.  Be sure to save a little for the section that flattens off after the stairs.

Looking back towards Rodeo Beach and SF.


Science of Ultrarunning Column for UltraRunning Mag


I’ve been quite on the blog front.  It’s not because I don’t have ideas to write about, I just lack the time.  Teaching has been busy.  Getting some research up and running has been busy.  Trying to get back in shape has been keeping me busy.

When I do have the time to write I have focused on my column for UltraRunning Magazine, called the Science of Ultrarunning which debuted in the January issue and can be read for free here.  However, to check out my latest article “Going Mental” in order to up your psychological training you will need to pick up a print version.

About the same time that I agreed to start writing the column I found out that another Professor in Idaho was also interested in bringing sports science to the ultra community.  Science of Ultra Podcast by Dr. Shawn Bearden is an excellent resource for any looking to see how scientific research can be put into practice.  His guests are second to none in the scientific community, really the best of the best when it comes to the field they are discussing.  A few of my favorites thus far have been Psychological Fatigue with Dr. Marcora and Alistar McCormick (which lines up nicely with my article in UltraRunning Magazine), Hydration Physiology withDr. Sam Cheuvront and Dr. Robert Kenefick, and Fatigue with Dr. Joyner.

With all of these different sources coming together now more than ever is the time to learn about how to use both existing and new science to optimize your ultra performances. So read, listen, and learn to perform.


My First Week at School

I’m not one to get sentimental about moving.  Since finishing undergrad at Davis I have been in Missouri (5 years), Copenhagen (2.5 years), and back in the Bay Area (Oakland and Marin, 3.5 years).  Such is the life of a scientist in search of training and funding to progress in ones career.  My mindset in each case was “well if I don’t like it I can always leave”.  Inevitably, while adjustment can take time each place I have settled in, found a wonderful group of friends, and really enjoyed my new normal.  Sure, the lifestyle is certainly different in Copenhagen versus mid-Missouri as our the people, but if to pick one that I preferred is difficult, if not impossible.  Its apples and oranges.  Very different, each with their own plusses and minuses.  Or maybe I’m just easy to please.  Regardless moving is mostly a pain and saying goodbye is always difficult.  Still I know that the next adventure will bring new experiences, new people, and enrich my life and perspective in entirely new ways.  Thats always exciting and whether you stay in the same place for your entire life or not, its a worthy goal.

That is the setting upon which I found myself in Caldwell, ID at the front of a classroom of mostly freshman, mostly athletes, explaining why I was going to be giving them quizzes (its because it enhances retrieval learning).  The College of Idaho was not on my radar.  In fact I don’t think I even knew that it existed.  But last December I somehow found myself hoping on a plane to go interview for a tenure track position.   The interview went well and soon there after it was a drive back to Boise for a snowy weekend and frequently uttering “Can we live here?”.  We (Bridget and I) choose yes.  Bridget has secured an awesome Graduate Assistant position working in the new department of Innovation and Design at Boise State.  Her MBA will be completely paid for.  I on the otherhand landed in the newly formed Health and Human Performance Department at the small liberal arts school College of Idaho.  Yes, its mostly teaching, and yes the research is limited by resources, but I am inspired.  Instead of chasing big NIH money I work on projects that are driven by intelligent, motivated undergraduates.  Best of all I get to that in a human performance lab instead of flipping vials and counting dead flies.  I may still be in the honeymoon period, but my initial impressions of the school are overwhelming positive and I feel extremely lucky to have landed the position that I did.  The faculty seem truly invested in educating and transforming the students here into intelligent thinking professionals.  Not only that, but they all seem to enjoy it and are legitimately excited to be here as well as evidenced by an extremely low turnover!  Sure I recognize that its a self selecting crowd, but from the top down the College of Idaho sets high standards for their faculty and higher standards for the students that choose to come here.  And while past success of the students at College of Idaho it certainly doesn’t guarantee future success, but the culture is here and thats incredibly important, encouraging, and exciting.

In a way my position at College of Idaho is the completion of me coming full cycle.  When I entered my PhD I thought, teach at a small school, maybe even do some coaching.  During my PhD at Missouri I was inspired by the research my colleagues and I completed.  It was successful, it was fun, and it was what I trained for.  I was all aboard the R1 train.  My experience in Copenhagen did little to damper that enthusiasm.  Some great colleagues and the opportunity to mentor a fantastic PhD student seemed to have me on track for that tenure track lifestyle at an R1.  While not really finished with my time in Copenhagen the opportunity to move back to the Bay Area came up and we jumped at it.  The Buck Institute seemed like a place I could thrive and reach that goal of a “high-impact” paper that would pave the way for me to an R1.  However something happened along the way.  Instead of more inspired by moving to more basic and supposedly high impact I became less inspired.  I saw the papers in the top journals more a product of politics, reductionist approaches to biology.  The science could be exciting, but was at times seemed far away from the translational science I was doing before.  I missed the work I was doing in Copenhagen and Missouri, but also realized that those projects, while important to me, probably would not land me at an R1 school in a location that I wanted to be.  In a way my research interests had become too broad to fit into the R1 world of academia and I felt stuck.  Still I don’t regret my prior research choices.  Those choices led to a breadth experiences which will certainly make me a better teacher, a better mentor, a better member of the College of Idaho faculty.

In Boise we have 100’s of miles of trails from our door and beautiful mountains a few hours away.  At the College of Idaho I have student-athletes interested in science of sport that I get to interact with personally on a weekly basis and watch grow during their 4 years at school.  It seems like a perfect personal and professional match.  As such I am truly grateful and excited to now start that life I had envisioned 11 years ago when I finished my degree in Exercise Biology at Davis.  Plus I get 3 months off in the summer and thats pretty cool.