Training & Racing

Inside Trail’s 3rd Annual Lake Chabot Race: A Success Story After an Inauspicious Start

5 Comments Posted by: Sarah Lavender Smith, February 26, 2014

Instead of writing a regular race report, I decided to use this space to revisit the story of the organization that put on the race: Inside Trail Racing. You’ll find a short race report at the end of the post.

ITR logFebruary 25, 2012—Two years ago, I rode in a truck in the early morning hours along Redwood Road above Lake Chabot with Tim Stahler, race director for Inside Trail Racing. He drove at dangerously high speeds along the curvy road, a look of mild panic on his face.

It was Inside Trail’s inaugural event, and we needed to reach a location to set up an aid station before the first runners arrived. We were scrambling because Tim was not terribly familiar with this region, so he misjudged the drive time. He had only a skeletal crew of volunteers to help. And he was probably sleep deprived, because he had endured a crazy couple of months that gave rise to Inside Trail.

I was volunteering because I wanted to help Inside Trail get off the ground. I had witnessed Tim and his co-director at the time, Tim Long, break off from their association with Pacific Coast Trail Runs, which was plagued by mismanagement and instability in the second half of 2011 due to PCTR’s former RD Sarah Spelt (see here and here for background. And for the record, PCTR is back on its feet, with a calendar of events that friends report are once again well-managed, thanks to its new RD John Brooks.)

I hoped from the beginning that Inside Trail would grow into a strong, special trail-running outfit. But at the same time, I initially wondered, who are these guys? And do they really know what they’re doing? One longtime East Bay ultrarunning friend referred to Inside Trail’s RDs as “carpetbaggers,” since one Tim was new to trail running and the other Tim was new to Northern California. But I gave Inside Trail the benefit of the doubt and admired the Tims’ moxie for trying to build something good from a bad situation.

Fast forward 24 months to this past weekend, when Inside Trail put on its third annual Chabot event. I decided to volunteer again and then run the 30K not only to celebrate my fledgling comeback from injury, but also to reconnect with  Tim Stahler and see how Inside Trail is doing as it turns 3. I  try to volunteer for Inside Trail periodically as a thank-you for receiving comped entries and some free gear for being on its racing team, and because it’s always fun to cheer on the familiar faces who show up to run.

Tim Stahler is now the solo RD, since Tim Long split when Inside Trail was still in its infancy. Kudos to Tim S. for sticking it out. Over the past year-plus, Inside Trail found its footing, grew its numbers of volunteers and participants, and developed into a well-organized operation radiating good will.

working the reg table at ITR Chabot event photo by Allen Lucas

That’s me in the middle working the reg table before the Inside Trail Chabot event. Photo by Allen Lucas.

On race day morning last Saturday, I joined an ample number of volunteers who helped set up the starting line. Everything ran on time and with minimal stress. I opened many of the supply bins and saw them all highly organized.  The race sold out to its capacity of 400.

In a smart move, Tim started collaborating with Brazen Racing so Brazen provides chip timing and sets up the timing equipment, making for accurate results while relieving Tim of the duty of manually entering finishing times. The nice guys behind the startup UltraSportsLive.TV also showed up to provide live-stream coverage, raising the event’s quality another notch.

Tim told me that the events on Inside Trail’s calendar are consistently growing in participation, with some of them doubling in number from 2012 to 2013.  “We’re capping all our events at 400 people, and I don’t want to get much larger than that; I want to have the small, friendly feel to our events, but the demand seems to continue to grow.”

In spite of that demand, Tim says he’s actually cutting back the number of events in 2014. In 2012, Inside Trail put on 23, and last year, 21. This year, he’ll organize 18. “I’m trying to cut back some and allow the races to grow and have a bigger, more professional feel to them; if I’m not stretching myself by putting on a race every other week, then I can focus more on those races.”

The highlights of Inside Trail’s 2014 calendar include the Marin Ultra (half marathon, 35K, 50K, 50M) on March 15, and the Bishop High Sierra (20M, 50K, 50M, 100K) on May 17. The Bishop race is a much-loved, 20-year-old event in the Eastern Sierra that Tim was tapped to run starting this year after Bishop’s longtime RD retired. Tim says he’ll also stay committed to putting on a couple of ultras on new courses that Inside Trail developed: Toro Park in Salinas in late August, and Fort Ord in Monterey in early February.

What about expanding to Southern California? “That seems daunting to me right now. I’d love to do some stuff down there, but I don’t want to do any courses that are already done,” he said.

I asked Tim how he feels about his job these days and the degree to which he’s committed to it. “I’m committed,” he said. “I love doing Inside Trail and being able to give back to the trail running community and be a part of that community, and I’m realy proud of what we’ve grown so far.” But, he added, “I do ultimately need to have some solid income,” so he is interviewing for work to supplement his Inside Trail work. Being Inside Trail’s RD is “very full time and all encompassing, but it’s not really a money-making venture.”

I looked around at the finish-line crowd and noted that more and more, it seems, many of the Bay Area’s top-tier ultrarunners and unique characters participate in and volunteer for Inside Trail, which is probably the best proof that the organization is doing well.

Inside Trail RD Tim Stahler (left) with always-fast-finisher Mark Tanaka (photo courtesy Mark).

Inside Trail RD Tim Stahler (left) with always-fast-finisher Mark Tanaka (photo courtesy Mark’s FB page).

(L-R) Karen Gerasimovich, Catra Corbett and Mike Palmer (photo courtesy Mark Tanaka's blog)

(L-R) Karen Gerasimovich, Catra Corbett and Mike Palmer (photo courtesy Mark Tanaka’s blog)

I’m really grateful that Tim Stahler and his core of regular volunteers—people who volunteer way more frequently than I—have put so much time and effort into developing Inside Trail to the point where the organization is hitting its stride. I’m looking forward to doing more Inside Trail events; I plan to work an aid station at the Marin Ultra next month, so if you see me, please say hi. I’ll also try to make it to the Bishop event in May, and I’d like to do their Berkeley Tilden event in September again, too.

Call for comments: If you’ve run any Inside Trail events, what did you think of it? Which has been your favorite event of theirs and why?

My Race In a Nutshell

I went to the Chabot 30K (approx. 18.5 miles) with low expectations for how I’d run. Since I got back to running two months ago, right after Christmas, I’ve been running in the single digits mileage-wise and only  60 – 90 minutes for time. My little training runs on trails averaged a pace of 12 to 14 minutes, since I hiked a lot. The only quasi-long run I did was 16 miles in the rain two weeks prior. Going 18 miles in the hills seemed daunting. But, I had some good high-altitude short runs last week that tuned up my legs and lungs, and—best of all—my troublesome foot felt 95 percent normal.

I hoped to finish around 3 hours but didn’t really care. I was just so happy to be out there, gathering at the Chabot Marina where so many great trail runs start and end, and taking off on the East Shore path toward Honker Bay. I felt relaxed, happy and chatty; I knew I was starting at a conservative pace because I talked to people right and left. I fell into a rhythm between two trail-running friends I admire and always like to run with: Christine Chapon and Kelly Poe Tarkowski. I made a decision to try to stay with them or at least always keep them in sight, which meant I committed to running a sub-10-minute pace—faster than intended, but it felt good so I went with it.

It was so lovely to be back in those eucalyptus groves—except the stretch on the Brandon Trail next to the gun club’s shooting range, where the rapid-fire shots were deafening. But mostly, the run felt tranquil, with perfect spring-like temps and not-too-dry ground due to earlier rain this month (though the dry creek beds gave evidence of the drought). The best part came on the outbound loop when we ran past Bort Meadow and high into the hills on Goldenrod Trail, up to the Chabot Equestrian Center. I never go that way; I always do the more boring and easier Grass Valley – Brandon combination to return to the lake. It was a surprise and joy to take that detour—the biggest bump on the profile below:

Chabot 30K profile

I felt tired and sore, but in a good way, not an injured way. I lost Christine—she pulled ahead, out of sight—but kept leap-frogging Kelly. At the end, I got teary because I saw my husband with our new puppy. Two months after unexpectedly losing our beloved dog, I feel like my life is whole and healthy again. Note to self: please, please don’t screw it up!

Here is the video of me and our 3-month-old pup, Beso, crossing the finish. Beso (Spanish for “kiss”), like our prior dog, is a Portuguese Water Dog. This finish felt really satisfying.

Video streaming by Ustream

Thanks UltraSportsLive.TV for being out there and sending me that clip. Here’s Allen Lucas’s photo album of the event, and Mark Tanka’s report. And here are the results. Big congrats to a FB friend whom I finally met in person, Bob Shebest, for setting a course record (3:44) in the 50K.

Your Comments

5 Comments so far

  1. Allen Lucas says:

    It’s funny – I wasn’t sure that was you handing out bibs until later (I’m woefully unperceptive). Congrats on a great race and finish!

    I was reluctant at first to do any Inside Trail events because of the PCTR past and not knowing what had really happened there, but caved in on their first Lake Chabot race.

    I’ve ran and volunteered at many ITR races since and can say that they are as professional and fun as any of the other race companies in the area, which is high praise since we are blessed with so many! And I love that Tim is trying to dig for new locations and fresh looks at old locations.

    The Bay Area is ridiculously spoiled with so many fine events!
    Allen Lucas recently posted..Some sand and pavement, but oh the views!My Profile

  2. John Nguyen says:

    Good to see you running happy again! And going sub-3 on a 18.4 miler with that much elevation gain is an impressive comeback run! I haven’t done any Inside Trails runs yet, but I’ll have to try one sometime soon.
    John Nguyen recently posted..Western States Training UpdateMy Profile

  3. David Lavender says:


    Great to be reading a race report once again–even a truncated and overly humble one (you don’t mention that, despite coming back from an injury, you finished 2nd in your age group!). Mostly, I appreciate the embedded clip, as the last one you sent had me staring at a static shot of the finish line for, oh, five minutes before I gave up. Wonderful to see Beso getting so big and taking on the Tesdter’s former role.

  4. Jen says:

    Congrats on a great race! I also ran the 30K and really liked the section on Goldenrod — it made the climb up Ranch well worth it!

    Saturday’s race was my 3rd ITR event. I ran Skirt n Dirt last August and Woodside in December. I’ve really enjoyed all 3 and intend to volunteer with them soon.
    Jen recently posted..What would it take?My Profile


  1. Daily News, Fri, Feb 28 - February 28, 2014

    […] Sarah reports from her first race back after an injury (it’s good news, don’t worry), and discusses the life of one of the Bay Area’s major trail racing companies. […]

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My 2014 Race & Family Travel Calendar

Lake Chabot 30K, Feb. 22. Race report.
"Uncool 50K," March 8
Night Sweats Marathon, March 24. Related post
Diablo Trails Challenge 50K, April 19. Race report.
Miwok 100K, May 3. Related article
Pacing at Hardrock 100, July 9 - 11. Report
Family trip to Honduras and Costa Rica, late July. Costa Rica report
Crystal Springs 50K (pack training run), Aug. 9. Report
Grand to Grand Ultra self-supported stage race, Sept. 21 - 27 Race report.
Rio Del Lago 100M, Nov. 8 - 9
North Face Endurance Challenge 50M, San Francisco, Dec. 6

Proud to race on the team of Inside Trail Racing. Check out their calendar of great trail races.

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My 2013 Race & Family Travel Calendar

mid-February: Telluride
Way Too Cool 50K Mar. 9. Race report.
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Lake Sonoma 50M Apr. 13. Race report.
mid-April: exploring Vancouver for Spring Break
East Bay Triple Crown Series: Tilden Tough 10M May 19, Lake Chabot Half June 2, Woodminster 9M June 16. Short recap.
Marin Ultra Challenge 50M training run, June 22. Story & pics.
6-day Maine biking trip, trip report.
8-day Colorado River rafting trip! Trip report.
Aug. 11: Skyline 50K in the Oakland hills. Injured.
Pine to Palm 100M Sept. 14 Injured.
Berkeley Trail Adventure 50K Sept. 28. Finished 1st F!
Rio Del Lago 100 Mile Endurance Run Nov. 9 Injured.
Quad Dipsea, Nov. 30 Injured.

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