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.
February 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.
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.
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:
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.
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.