Saturday, November 29, 2014

Quad Dipsea -- 5:32:32

I had never run any of the Dipsea races -- the regular Dipsea, Double Dipsea, or Quad Dipsea. Some friends from my running club said they would sign up for the Quad Dipsea and I checked the calendar and asked my wife, and it was a go! The Quad Dipsea runs 7 miles from Mill Valley to Stinson Beach. Then we turn around and come back. And then go out again. And finally back again. That's a total of 28 miles. 28 miles might sound like just a little more than a marathon (26.2 miles) but it's the 9200' of elevation gain that make this race special! It much harder than many 50 km (31 mile) trail races.

I met two friends from my running club, Chris B. and Omar, at my house at 6am, and we were parked and in line to get our bibs shortly after 7am. I was grateful that it wasn't raining at the start/finish. I saw other friends there, like Mike (below). My sister-in-law's boyfriend, Matt, even showed up and said "hi". Cool!

As the race time drew nearer, I settled in 20 or 30 feet back from the start line, and finally, promptly at 8am, we were off!

The race quickly goes uphill through a residential area and up three long flights of stairs. The race organizers say there are 686 steps in these first three flights. There was some congestion with the runners in front of me, but I didn't want to go any faster and I quickly hiked up the steps two-at-a-time. We had a long ways to go!

My heart rate quickly climbed into the high 150s and low 160s, which was higher than my target of around 150, but I figured I would recover on the downhills. It didn't quite work out that way....

The trails were gorgeous and lush, and I was thoroughly enjoying the experience. I couldn't enjoy the scenery too much because I had to stay focused on the terrain in front of me. There are many many tripping hazards.

I was carrying one 20oz water bottle, starting with water, and I ran out with about 15 minutes until the first aid station -- Cardiac Arrest. I filled up with sports drink and drank only sports drink for the rest of the race.

We went through a little forested area and I'm still not sure if it was raining or if the trees were so moist, that the rain was coming just from the trees. It was a surreal environment because the clouds were in the tree tops and so it was like running in twilight.

Coming down into Stinson Beach are some of the most beautiful views in the Bay Area. The trail is smooth and very runnable and there are long sight lines down to the beach. Somewhere around here I encountered the first place runners returning. Awesome! I recognized Dave Mackey followed closely by Chikara Omine, and then a little while later, Jean Pommier. I cheered them on.

I got to the turn-around -- 1 hour 16 minutes had passed. Not bad! I was tentatively hoping for about a 5 hour finish, so I was basically on track for that, but I felt that I may have pushed too hard already. Time to go back!

The return trip was fun because I could look out for other friends and we would wish each other good luck. I was feeling the effort. I also started feeling chafing on my nipples, but tucking my totally soaked shirt into the front of my shorts helped a lot. I came across Matt again who was out hiking the trail and he took some pictures. Thanks for being out there, Matt! Unfortunately, the photo was mostly a blur of me:

Going down the stairs was rather treacherous. I slipped a little bit on the first set of stairs and I landed softly on my bottom. No big deal. I got to the turn-around at the start/finish in Mill Valley and that leg had taken 1 hour 18 minutes. Not too bad. I felt good. Time to go back up the stairs! I was feeling good. I think this photo (bought from Facchino Photography) was taken on the third leg, but I'm not completely sure:

About half-way through this third traversal of the course, around mile 18 or so, I started feeling cramps in my legs. Oh no! I took another energy gel right away. I slowed down. The descent into Stinson Beach started getting ugly and at one point, I had to stop, as both quads had locked up. I was in survival mode now, trying to keep moving as best I could while preserving my legs. Other runners passed me. There are a lot of huge steps and rocks on this part of the Dipsea trail and I kept on telling myself "no heroics, just be careful and keep moving". The third traversal took 1 hour 26 minutes -- 10 minutes slower than my first traversal which amounts to almost a minute-and-a-half per mile slower.

The final traversal was more difficult still. At various times I either struggled a lot with uphill running or with downhill running. The final descent of the stairs was especially slow and painful as I didn't feel like I could go down the steps two-at-a-time. I got passed by about 5 runners on these last stairs. The finish line came in sight. Yay! The last traversal took 1 hour 32 minutes. Ouch!

Here are my four traversal times, with each one being 7 miles, 2300' of elevation gain, and 2300' of descent.
1:26 Ouch!
1:32 Double ouch!
5:32 finish time

All-in-all, I really enjoyed this race! Yeah, even though I struggled for about the last third, I enjoyed the scenery, camaraderie, and the challenge. There's plenty of room for improvement and I would like to run it again in 2015.

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