Assault on Mt Tam

On Saturday, I got to do something I have wanted to do for a LONG time. I finally got to run up Mt Tamalpais, the big mountain in Marin County. We’ve hiked it twice and I’ve been dying to run up it from bottom to top. But on Saturday, the Husband very nobly volunteered to take the Dude and his friend mini-golfing and geocaching and I got to meet up with Jen and KP and run the beast.

I’ve been hill training for a couple of weeks – twice or thrice weekly doing repeats up long hills of anything between 1/2 mile and 1 mile. I’ve done it in the heat of the day which has been sweaty and unpleasant but was the only time available to me. However I haven’t run ‘long’ for 4 weeks and really wasn’t sure what kind of shape I’d be in for this run.

The planned route was Old Railroad Grade. This fire-road style trail starts just outside the town centre of Mill Valley and winds its way up the mountain at a very gentle gradient, because it used to be the route of the railway which took tourists up the mountain. I knew it wasn’t steep, but I also knew it was 6 or 7 miles long. We’d basically be running uphill for 6 or 7 miles. I also knew that I was underestimating the downhill. In my head, I’d just ‘roll downhill’. It could be grim.

jen kate

I met up with the girls at 8.30. It was cool and grey, which was pretty perfect, and we started running. And that’s basically what we did for the next 1 hr 45. We run (aka…jogged slowly) and took walk breaks. Every time we saw a bend in the distance, I promised the girls that the West Point Inn, which would be about 2/3 of the way up, would be round the next corner.  Every time, I was wrong. But we wound our way up through redwood forest, along a stretch of paved road, through more trees and then out into exposed trail through chaparral. I was feeling pretty good.

me mt tam
‘Jump’, Jen told me. This was as good as it got.
mt tam
The top is that tiny square bump on top of the hill on the left.

We did eventually make it to West Point Inn, where we used the loos and rested for a bit before the final push. I still felt good, just jogging along. The girls called me the Energiser Bunny, which was a real mental boost for me. And somehow, we finally emerged out onto the car park at the top, just 1/3 mile to the summit.

The final 1/3 mile is basically a rock-climb so we pushed on, scrambling up the rocks and then finally, I was at the top. I knocked on the door, as is traditional, with a massive grin on my face. I felt really really happy.

mt tam jen kate
Jen and Kate arrive at the top
Happy girls Photo Credit: Jen
Happy girls
Photo Credit: Jen
mt tam me kate jess
Luckily someone volunteered to take a decent photo

We didn’t linger long at the top. We took a few photos, got a bit chilly and then headed down. This time, we diverted onto Upper Fern Creek trail which cut a mile or so off our return journey. It was single track and really quite beautiful but very steep so we crawled down, trying to avoid twisting our ankles on the rocks. There were a few really lovely stretches through manzanita trees but a lot of it basically involved us staring at the ground trying not to fall! Eventually we emerged back onto Old Railroad Grade which was smoother and we just slowly worked our way downhill. It felt like we would never stop running downhill.

jen mt tam
Jen on Fern Gully trail
Fern Creek trail was VERY low on ferns. This was the only one we saw.

But we did, 12.2 miles later. We were all pooped at the end, but also pretty happy. And totally starving!!

I REALLY enjoyed Saturday. Great company, as ever, but also a lot of satisfaction at finally doing something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. I was also really surprised and happy at how strong I felt. I haven’t felt very fit for a good few months now but I felt great today. I don’t think the cycling and spin classes are making me a faster runner, but I wonder if they’re helping with my endurance. I may be wrong, but I was a happy runner.

My knees ached all night long and my quads were shaky and sore all day Sunday.

13 Comments Add yours

  1. Jen says:

    You totally rocked it on Saturday – so steady both up and down the hills. The hill (and heat) training really paid off! Thanks for planning and knowing the route, Firebum! 🙂

    1. Jen says:

      BTW, I really love that photo of you “jumping”! You look so happy! (and you can blame the photographer for not catching you at the right moment, while you were airborne)

      1. Cathryn says:

        No, I’m a rubbish jumper. But I was indeed very happy.

    2. Cathryn says:

      Thank you. I felt so rough when we ran Pleasanton that running so well up Tam really made my day. And any time I get to chase you down a hill is a good day 🙂 (Firebum forever).

  2. Congrats, girls!! It sounds like a pretty perfect running morning to me 🙂
    I’m pretty sure the cycling makes you a stronger runner. You gain strength in your legs and it’s a really really good thing for trail running.

    1. Cathryn says:

      It was a GOOD day to run! And I’m also intrigued about the cycling and its impact. I’m going to try speed work if it ever cools down this week, I’ll be curious to see if it makes a difference with speed? All those spin classes must be doing something.

      1. I’m no expert in cycling but I’ve been told that the secret to speed and becoming better at cycling is: lots of ELEVATION…

      2. Cathryn says:

        I have this horrible feeling that it’s probably the secret to becoming better at everything.

  3. jess says:

    I also love the jumping photo!! You gals look like you had a great time!! Very happy for you! and glad to hear all the hill training is paying off =)

    1. Cathryn says:

      Oh WonderJess, we talked about you the whole time! If you want to run up Tam before you leave, we should try and get it in the diary.

  4. Angela says:

    Sounds like a fun day!! You guys are hardcore!!

  5. bt says:

    Looks like super fun. I may have to add this one to my wishlist.

    1. Cathryn says:

      Do, it was fab and not toooo brutal

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