Last year, when I decided I wanted to run an ultra, I remembered the Quad Dipsea and thought to myself that I would really like to give it a try someday. Well, this year I vowed to make that happen. I even emailed the race director early this year to inquire about when race registration would open so I would make sure I wouldn't miss it. I wanted in! And I got in. It wouldn't surprise me if I was one of the first to register, as I hit Active.com as soon as I got the notification from the RD that registration was open.
Race day dawned clear and unseasonably warm. As we gathered around the starting area in Mill Valley I ran into some friends and had a chance to chat. I ran into Kate Morejohn and her daughter Keturah (who just got engaged, congrats Keturah!), and her son Justin. If I remember correctly, this was Justin's first ultra, and he rocked it, finishing in under 5 hours!!! There are some running genes in that family. Justin's wife Sara was there rooting on her husband and dad-to-be, as Sara was about ready to give birth to their first child. In fact, her due date was the day of the race so all were ready to bail if necessary. Fortunately, their son held off a few days to make his grand entrance. Kate's husband, I recently found out, shot a few videos of the race and those have been posted on the Quad Dipsea website. Check em out if you get a chance.
Of course, Carol Cuminale was there. We were chatting as the starting horn sounded, and soon enough we were on our way...to the first set of stairs. The Dipsea Trail is notorious for its' stairs. 671 start the trail off on the Mill Valley side (no, I didn't count them, but someone did at some point). Up, up and away we went. After the stairs, the climbing doesn't end. You keep going up. But at some point you begin to go down - into Muir Woods. Only to go back up. Then down again. Finally ending up at Stinson Beach. At which point you turn around and head back to whence you came.
While everyone seems to mention the Mill Valley sides' stairs, and have counted them, in my opinion the Stinson Beach side is tougher going back up, and there just has to be more stairs. No doubt, it's tough going all along this course. The Dipsea Trail is 7.1 miles one way, so the Quad covers 28.4 miles and has over 9,200' of climbing. Which means 9,200' of quad busting descent. I think the name refers to this fact as much as the number of times one must traverse the course.
As is typical for me, I started out too fast, doing the first half in just over 2.5 hours. Towards the latter half of the third leg my stomach soured, and I slowed considerably. The final climb out of Stinson was very tough, and along the way I figured out my problem - too much sugary stuff and not enough plain water. GU's and sweet energy drink made my stomach feel bad, and I really had a craving for plain water, but with only one bottle, and it filled with the energy drink, I would have to wait until the aid station to remedy the situation.
I finally reached the aid station and chugged some water as I took a seat for a break. A very helpful volunteer filled my bottle and checked that I was ok. After a few minutes I felt much better and hit the trail, ready to finish. Amazing what a little water can do!
I was able to run most of the way to the finish, only slowing at a couple uphill sections and taking my time on the stairs going down into Mill Valley. I didn't want to do a header and tumble at that point, as my quads were feeling the burn by that point. I managed to finish in 5:51, coming in just shy of my expected target of 6 hours. My wife was volunteering at the finish line so it was nice to get a hug and a smile from her after I crossed the line. She was still "on the job" so I hung out, grabbed something to eat, and cheered in runners as they finished and chatted with some friends. I met another ultra blogger, Rick Gaston, who came up to me and introduced himself. I have seen him at a couple events, and have read his blog for a little while now. He is a pretty speedy guy, and really nice. The ultra community is just chock full 'o nice people - it's one of the things I really like about going to races.
Well, another challenge I've stuck in my craw for the future is to run all three in a calendar year. The hardest one to get into is The Dipsea Race, which fills most of the race positions through a lottery. Though if you write a good enough sob story, you may be "let in," from what I understand. I'll have to check into that.
This is a beautiful trail, and The Dipsea Race is the oldest trail race in the country - first run in 1905! While the Quad doesn't have quite the same history, it began in 1983, some history was made this year. The longstanding course record, set in 1992 by Carl Anderson, was broken this year by a young guy named Erik Skaggs, who finished in 3:52:16, beating Carl's record by about 13 seconds. Quite a day.