January: Running in Winter
Running in winter has always been challenging for me. Even though we are in California, temperatures can drop close to freezing on some mornings, making it hard to warm up, even on long runs. So we layer, hope for sunny days, and search for new trails. Some of the new trails I’ve been running on are along the Point Reyes National Seashore. Starting at the Bear Valley trailhead by the visitor’s center, this area has it all — single track, technical descents to the beach, fire roads, and of course the climbs back to the start. From a short 10 mile out and back to longer 19+ mile loops, it’s hard to beat the view of Limantour Beach, and you might not see another runner or hiker for hours at a time.
Closer to San Francisco is the network of trails all over the Marin Headlands. Starting in Tennessee Valley, up Marincello, along Bobcat and SCA, down Coastal, up the Rodeo Beach steps to Wolf Ridge, and down Old Springs, this is a familiar but favorite 20 Km loop. This course has always been a good gauge of fitness, and a great way to prepare for any race. Bonus: it’s close to the San Francisco Running Company, which just opened it’s doors in the neighborhood, and to Sol Food, which always satisfies my post-run hunger.
With a total of 109 miles, mostly on trails in Marin, the East Bay, and Point Reyes, this month has been a slow and gradual start to a busy running season. And though the only race I ran was relatively short, the elevation gain made it plenty tough. The Steep Ravine 25 Km started at Stinson Beach and climbed Mt. Tam up the famous Dipsea trail, only to descend on the other side before having to climb Mt. Tam again for the return trip. After a few solid runs in January, this week will be mostly tapering for the upcoming American Canyon 50 Km in Auburn next weekend.
The inspiration for this winter month came in the form of a trailer for Summits of my Life by Killian Jornet, arguably one of the best mountain runners of our time. To see how he loves the seasons in the mountains made me appreciate running even more, and I resolve to not complain if it’s too cold, or if it rains on the sunny trails I crave. But rather to embrace the land, and the skies above it, with all that they offer.