Sunday, November 23, 2008

QD Test and Birthday Trail Party

Back on my feet after a two-week break! Initially the surgeon had talked about 3-week off exercising but, when I saw him this week, he claimed he never said that and I could resume training as quickly as I wanted. Enough said, I went for a run on Thursday and it felt good (7 miles at 6:18 min/mile pace). Too much work on Friday, so the weekend was welcome. With, as a result, two running-related stories in one post: a QD test and a birthday "trail" party.

QD Test

No, it is not yet another test to get through before College (SAT, PSAT, SAT2, ACT, CBEST, GMAT, TOEFL, NMSQT, CLEP, GMAT, ...). No, QD test it is not a medical one either. QD stands for Quad Dipsea, the shortest but one of the toughest and most grueling ultra in the PA USATF series (Pacific Association USA Track & Field). 28 miles of technical trails, 9,200 feet of cumulative elevation, 2,680 stairs! The race is held each year on the Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend, and this will be the 26th edition this year. "Tropical" John Medinger is the current race director (John is also the Publisher of UltraRunning magazine, "the voice of ultra running since 1981").

The Dipsea trail is well known of runners and hikers in the San Francisco area. Between Mill Valley and Stinson Beach, and around the summit of Mount Tamalpais, it is the course of 3 popular races which all fill in very quickly:
  1. Dipsea (the single),
  2. Double Dipsea (one out and back, the same weekend as Western States so, between being the captain at Last Chance and running WS, it has been a while since I didn't run it),
  3. and Quad Dipsea (2 out and backs, starting from Mill Valley).
Quad Dipsea is also the last race of the PA MUR (Mountain Ultra Running) Grand Prix. As it turns out, despite my counter-performance at Helen Klein 50-mile 3 weeks ago, the other contenders in my age group did not show up so, thanks for my hanging up to the finish, I was able to take the lead over Mark (Tanaka), with enough points to win this year's Grand Prix again, unless Mark beats Carl Andersen's age group record of 3:57:08. I know Mark must be very frustrated with his decision of not participating in HK. As a matter of fact, his hectic work schedule could have permitted him to join us, but he ran a local non official race in San Francisco instead, so he could stay closer to his family that first weekend of November. Anyway, that means I won't have to kill myself at Quad Dipsea, it releases some pressure. Which is good because of three key reasons. First, I want to enjoy the show with a few top guys coming to beat long-standing course record set by Carl Andersen. Second, this is a tricky course and I'd rather not injure my ankles in the stairs. Third, it has been a long season, with little breaks since last January's Coastal Challenge, and I look forward to the winter break in December and January. At least to stay off competition for a couple of months because, as you can guess, I am not going to remain inactive for 2 months!

Anyway, Saturday had perfect conditions for testing my fitness before Quad Dipsea, hence the name of QD Test: agenda open until 5 pm, bright blue sky, temperature on the cool side but a warm sun and light breeze, trail in perfect conditions with just enough moisture to eliminate the dust. I used one of my long and reasonably hard routes, climbing up to Black Mountain along the Stevens Creek Reservoir and Monte Bello Road, then down on Old Ranch, Bella Vista and Canyon trails, followed by the long and steep 1.5-mile climb up to the campground and summit, on Indian Creek trail. A nice tour through the Monte Bello Open Space Preserve (see map).

From Black Mountain, I switched to the nearby Preserve and got on the Rancho San Antonio side (map), going down on Black Mountain trail to the Duveneck Windmill Pasture, then to the farm on Chamise and back home via McClelan Ranch Road. That's about 50% road, 30% dirt fire road and 20% non technical single trail, so very far from the Dipsea conditions (meaning, much easier). Furthermore, for 29.6 miles, the cumulative elevation is 3,450 feet versus more than 9,200 for QD, as indicated on Stan's run100s website, for "only" 28+ miles.I was so happy to get on for a long run, my first since the pathetic Helen Klein, that I got quite excited on the way up to Black Mountain (2,800 ft). Not overly but enough to PR by 2 minutes at 1:34 for the first 11.5 miles. However I hit the wall at mile 17.5, 1 mile into the 1.5-mile climb back to the summit. I was doing great, imagining and visualizing Erik Skaggs going light in steep uphills (I never saw him or met in person, but I can only guess from his performances). Erik is the main favorite for Quad Dipsea this year (Erik won last year with the 2nd fastest time ever, 1 minute behing the record Carl set in 1992). Well, I might have pushed the engine too far because the last 12 miles were less pleasant than the first ones, albeit the negative elevation going through Rancho San Antonio and the flat section in Cupertino. I had lost 5 pounds, taking only 3 gels (actually doing an experiment with a mix of Cliff Shot, Hammer Gel and GU (I need to write a comparative review on them, there certainly are differences between these brands). It took me three hours and a good dinner to recover.
Nonetheless, it was a good QD test. I had set a new PR on this loop, by 4 minutes, just getting under 4 hours. And I know that my legs are back but I'm still not super fit after this 2-week break in my training and the end of a long season. Now, looking forward to the weather we will get next Saturday...

Birthday trail party
After the hard work on Saturday, a very different format for my run this Sunday. Chris had organized a "trail party" to celebrate Chuck Wilson's 60th birthday. Like yesterday, the weather was perfect and 20 of us were off on the trails to celebrate Chuck's milestone.

More friends joined us for the following pot-luck, hosted by Joe in his house with wonderful views over South Bay. We all shared stories about Chuck, how we met, funny anecdotes, crazy runs, personal connections. With more than 25 years of ultra experience, and races all over the World, Chuck has a lot of stories to share himself and is also an "ultra encyclopedia." Like one runner told me a few weeks ago about Chuck, "insert a coin, and he will not stop talking about ultra for hours!" You could not miss the birthday boy today in his bright Ohlone shirt (a nice way to think of Rob Byrne, Ohlone RD, who could not make it from his exile in the Netherlands):Congratulations, Chuck, and long life on the trails. See you at Quad Dipsea next weekend, and good luck at the North Face Endurance Challenge 50-mile in Marin County on December 6th. Your real birth date, what better way to celebrate your 60 years than that!
PS: I posted 90 pictures of our nice run in my Picasa album: check them out!


Anonymous said...

Bien contente pour toi de ces 2 bonnes courses.
Grégoire se laisse pousser les cheveux?

Anonymous said...

Great photos from Chuck's party. Thanks for sharing, and good luck at the QD!

Dave - Atlanta Trails said...

Good luck at QD this weekend!

Anonymous said...

This is not a "QD Test." It's certainly a QD training run. A real QD test is to go to Rancho San Antonio, park in the Horse Trailer parking lot, and do three reps (24M total) to Vista Point and back on the Powerline (PG&E) trail, aiming for even splits.

Do not attempt this between now and race day!!

Jean Pommier said...

Thanks guys for the encouragements for Quad Dipsea. The rain hit the Bay Area this week, at least South Bay, so it promises to be interesting (slippery...). We'll see what Erik can do in these conditions.

Steve, good point about PG&E. You may want to have a look to this previous post: in the middle of the post, I mapped a 4xPG&E run with QD and Miwok. Unfortunately, I only resumed training this weekend, so it was too late for that many PG&Es...

See you on Saturday!