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


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.

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



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 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.


NBD: Injured with less than 30 days until Western

This was not how it was suppose to go.  I was suppose to recover from Ice Age and come back putting in my best training block of the year. I was supposed to be healthy & fit, toeing the line with the best 100 mile field in North America on June 28th in Squaw.  It was not suppose to be the time for my plantar fasciitis that I have been dealing with for more than 6 months to flair up, nor was it the ideal time for a manageable hamstring issue to move to a debilitating hamstring injury.  Yet that is where I find myself currently.

Stupidity is commonly defined as doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result.  The last few weeks I have been training stupidly; 2 days off, 1 run that hurts, 2 days off, another run that hurts.  I was expecting my body to heal itself without providing a novel stimulus to allow that to happen.  That’s not how physiology works, and I should know better.  After doing some self-diagnosing (always dangerous) combined with an some Active Release Therapy appointment (30 minutes and $185 later) I have an understanding of the problem.  It could be general tightness (manageable) or it could be an upper hamstring tendinopathy (6-12 weeks for recovery).

Regardless of the cause, the treatment is similar. There is a certain amount of relief in knowing what actions are necessary to remedy the problem.  It starts with diligent attention to my plantar issue, followed by eccentric strengthening of the hamstrings, combined with a bit of core work thrown in.  That is the action plan just to get healthy, but because I am not running I need to take an alternative approach to get fit.  Being injured is exhausting. Continue reading

Running Downhill is Eccentric

Northern California is full of experienced, talented ultra runners.  I don’t really consider myself one of those.  Since I started running Ultras in 2009 I have done 11 ultras, only 6 of which took more than 6 hours and just one 100 miler.  I think Ian Sharman did 11 already this year.

So when I had a bad day at work and ended up registered for a 100 mile race last October I went into sponge mode.  When Ian asked if I wanted to run up Diablo with him I did not hesitate at the chance to pick the brain of the crazy man, Leadville Champion, and new Grand Slam record holder himself.  Ian is only a year older than me, but in ultra running years (I think there is a McMillian or maybe Torrence Calculator for that) is light years more mature than me. The most critical thing I learned that first trip up Diablo was that just because you run (or hike) up slow, does not mean you need to run down easy.  3600 ft of trail descent with 3 sub 5:10s thrown in for good measure and I had my first “real” taste of downhill training.  I say “real” only because I am not an exercise, running science, newbie, and I do understand training. Continue reading