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June 27, 2012

Inside Trail Racing - Marin Ultra Challenge Preview

A few weeks ago when I passed along news of the demise of Pacific Coast Trail Runs, I also mentioned that there was a new company who was moving into the void left by PCTR’s abandoned race calendar – and this weekend, I’ll get a chance to see the operation firsthand.

If you happen to like birth analogies, think of Inside Trail Racing as being born in the combustible engine room of a freight train just as the whole thing is veering off the rails and crashing in a fiery heap.  The company’s two co-owners, Tim Long and Tim Stahler – who both also happen to be outstanding ultrarunners - relocated to the Bay Area last fall in an attempt to help PCTR avoid their looming train wreck, but the partnership didn’t work out as planned, so “The Tims” parted ways with PCTR to form their own company just a few months before PCTR officially went over the cliff.

Obviously it wasn’t the most auspicious way to launch a trail racing company, but fortunately for Northern Californians, The Tims are extremely industrious and dedicated to the trail running community.  They ended up taking over a handful of PCTR’s old courses, but have also developed some cool new locations and events all their own.  As of this writing, they have 24 events on the calendar for 2012, varying in distance from 10K to 50 miles.  They even took over supporting a racing team comprised of many previous PCTR teammates.

I had the opportunity to speak with Tim Stahler while he was scouting out a course in one of my favorite hometown stomping grounds, and it’s clear that his vision for Inside Trail Racing is something pretty extraordinary.  He also extended an invitation to ITR’s most ambitious race offering to date: the Marin Ultra Challenge, taking place this Saturday in the Marin Headlands north of San Francisco.  

In addition to doing grassroots outreach with idiot bloggers, Inside Trail Racing has also established solid partnerships with some of the most prominent companies in trail running, such as CLIF Bar, Hydrapak and La Sportiva (not coincidentally, both Hydrapak and La Sportiva sponsor Tim Long in his own racing exploits).  All these figure prominently in the Marin Ultra Challenge, with CLIF stocking the aid stations, La Sportiva providing race shirts and sponsoring shoe giveaways, and Hydrapak offering free swag and even designing the course.

Pirate's Cove, part of the Marin Endurance Challenge 50-Mile course

Hydrapak Brand Manager Jim Vernon is a member of the Bay Area’s Endurables trail running club, and was the point person for developing the 50-mile course, which features 10,000’ of climbing, and utilizes many trails that haven’t been used on other Marin County ultra courses.  It promises to be a day of challenge and adventure – which, in the final weeks of my countdown to Leadville, happens to be the best possible thing I could ask for.

There’s an old saying that when a door closes, a window opens – and for California trail runners, the window that opened in the wake of PCTR’s doors closing is certainly worth looking into.  Check out Inside Trail Racing’s event calendar, and check back here later next week for a race report from the Marin Endurance Challenge.

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James 6/28/12, 4:51 AM  

I will be running on Saturday and hope to see you there! I am certainly intimidated by the 10000 feet, but since I don't know the trails I'm glad to hear it should be a beautiful ride.

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