Sunday, October 20, 2002

Humboldt Redwoods Marathon (California)

October 20, 2002
Marathon 21, State #15 (Age 34)
Arcata, California

Five of the greatest fun filled days of my life!   I traveled to California for my first time for a race as a married man.  Homeyra and a co-worker Gary traveled along for the experience.  We flew into Sacramento and headed north for our first day to Lassen National Forest and climbed the Bumpass Hell section from the trail head to the Cold Boiling Lake about 1.5 miles into the trail.  We witnessed a great sunset over Lassen Peak.


From Lassen we drove down 299 east through the mountains to the redwood coast.  This had to be one of the most challenging roads I ever had to drive.  I wish it wasn't dark and I was on my motorcycle!  We finally made it to our hotel in Garberville. 

Saturday morning we tried to locate the start line near Founders Grove where we got our first real experience of the magnitude of the redwoods.  We hiked the 1/2 mile trail taking lots of photos.  From here we traveled to Ferndale to check out the Victorian homes and then our first glimpse of the coastline.   Traveling further north we made it as far north as Trinidad for another view of the coast and a nice hike with great views of the ocean from the hill.  We met a couple that referred us to McKinleyville where we tried to locate seals along the shore.  We never spotted any but had a hell of a time looking and wading past our knees out to an island.

Sunday morning, race day, was splendid.  The course was two out and back 13.1 mile loops for the combined 26.2 mile marathon.  The first half was along the Avenue of the Giants and the second half an offshoot which seemed more of a back road, but not any less beautiful.  The scenery was unbelievable from start to finish.
After the race we packed up and headed to Napa Valley.  We Highway 101 south and enjoyed the sights all the way including driving through all the vineyards along Highway 128 and 29 into Napa.  After a night out for our 3rd month anniversary we retired for our next big day.

Monday we awoke to visit our first winery.  We went to V. Sattui and sampled a wide variety of wines and took a few home for souvenirs!  From Napa we made the hour trip to San Francisco.  The day was full with a tour of Alcatraz, China Town, Pier 39's sea lions, a trolley ride and finally a trip down Lombard St (the Crookedest Street!)   Tuesday we headed back to Sacramento and visited the Jelly Belly factory and Old Sacramento.

What a trip!

Noble, old growth redwood groves provide a protective canopy almost every step of the way in one of North America's best small races, the Humboldt Redwoods Marathon.  The ultimate nature lover's race, Humboldt's fast course offers the perfect setting for inspired running and tranquil introspection as you weave among the creaping giants.  The filtered light cascades down runners like worshipers in an outdoor cathedral.  After the race, explore the rugged beauty of California's northern coast and surrounding parks.  [Craythorn & Hanna]

The Humboldt Redwoods Marathon starts and finishes at the Dyerville Bridge on the Avenue of the Giants (a Hwy. 101 alternative scenic route).  After crossing the south fork of the Eel River, the race immediately enters a canopy of centuries-old redwoods that recedes only for a quarter mile at 2.2 and 10.6.  The mostly flat, extremely fast, completely closed first half contains some gentle ups and downs that impart an interesting illusion.  "The first half seems downhill both out and back!  Really fast," says Jeff Hildebrandt of Roseville, California. Returning to the Dyerville Bridge at mile 13, runners proceed left down Bull Creek Road for the second out and back passing through Rockefeller Forest.  Monitored by CHP pilot cars, this section of the course is narrower, quieter, and more winding and rolling, gaining about 150 feet from mile 14 to 20 and losing the same amount from mile 20 to the finish.   [Craythorn & Hanna]

The undeveloped race site in the Redwoods State Park means facilities in the area are fairly limited.  You will need to drive to the start since lodging is scattered through the area.  If you are traveling north on Highway 101, take the Founder's Tree exit, while southbound travelers should take the second Redcrest exit.  You immediately hit upon the staging area and monitors will direct you to the parking location.  Try to arrive before 8:00 a.m. to avoid traffic hassles.    [Craythorn & Hanna]

Other than the thousands of ancient redwoods witnessing your quest, spectators are pretty much limited to the start, halfway, and finish.  In addition to the usual water and electrolyte replacement drink, the aid stations near miles 17 and 22 carry energy bars and fruit to help you get through the final miles.  Portable toilets are located at every aid station.   [Craythorn & Hanna]

Marathon entrants receive T-shirts, finishers earn medallions, and the top three in each age group receive special medals.  The overall winners are awarded merchandise prizes, and the top three overall, top two masters, and top seniors take home commemorative awards.   [Craythorn & Hanna]

You may want to run in the super fast Humboldt Redwoods Half Marathon which covers the first half of the full marathon course.  The popular half, the USATF Pacific Association Half Marathon Championship, regularly attracts over 1,000 entrants and runs concurrently with the marathon.  In addition, $4,000 in prize money is offered to the top half marathon finishers (must be USATF Pacific Association members to receive prize money)   [Craythorn & Hanna]

Spend some time wandering amongst the redwoods, such as the Founder's Grove Nature Trail for starts.  If you have the energy and time, we highly recommend driving north to Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park (south of Klamath) and hiking the incomparable Fern Canyon Trail with 50-foot precipices covered by immense ferns.   [Craythorn & Hanna]