Sunday, November 30, 2008

Quad Dipsea: we all did it!

For the ones in a hurry or who prefer pictures over narration, you can jump to my online Picasa photo album with comments, photo credit to Agnès (and special thanks for her patience this Saturday!). For the others, here is my race report...
I was thinking of "He did it!" for the title of this post, to capture Erik's feat but, in retrospective, it is more important to say that we all made this special Thanksgiving ultra celebration. From cheering, crewing, volunteering, running, walking, crawling, flying or hopping over the stairs and roots, we were several hundreds to come on the famous Dipsea trail for this 26th edition of Quad Dipsea. And, even if we did not make to the front page, we all either did it (to the finish) or witness a big thing in the Dipsea history...


The days of November leading to the race have been quite buzzy. First my pitiful run at Helen Klein 50-mile with something which resembled more to a pulmonary edema than another asthma crisis. Then a minor surgery on the 5th which ruled out a tumor as the cause of the hematuria of last August after Headlands 50K. 2 weeks of rest afterward where I focused on core and static leg musculation work. Like before Western States, I did many series of sitting with my back against the wall, totalling 85 minutes. A good preparation for the ups and downs of Quad Dipsea. As I told you last week I resumed training 10 days ago and did a good and tough 29-mile QD test last weekend. Some speed work at the track on Tuesday with Bob, a reasonably fast run on Wednesday, under the rain in case we had rain during the race.

On Thursday, I joined my club mates, the Striders, for our annual and fun Thanksgiving Turkey Trot Relays at De Anza College. Max was volunteering at the much more official, crowded and faster Turkey Trot runs in San Jose so I was the only representant from the family this year. (Photo credit of Turkey Trot pictures: Peter Hargreaves.)
Our relays consisted in teams of 3, each of us running 4 300-meter legs on the track. To increase the training, I didn't follow the rule of crossing the field to go to the next relay start but jogged the 200 meters around the track making it 10 laps (Mike, here are the maths: 300 meters for each 3/4 lap relay leg + 200 meters to get to the next start = 500 meters x 4 times for each relay x 2 relays = 4,000 meters or 10 laps! ;-).
Needless to say, I enjoyed the speed on such short distances and first teaming up with Andrew and Angus Beeston, then Angus and his sister, we won the two rounds/relays. Here am I, adopted by the Beeston family! Will my third citizenship be Aussie?? ;-)
Between this late training sessions, two nights under 5 hours, one because of work and one to get up for the insane Black Friday tradition (we showed up at 5:30 am at Office Depot, missed the sale to end up purchasing a new computer at Fry's in the afternoon, at the regular price; so I believe Black Friday works for retailers indeed...). Anyway, quite relaxed without the pressure of having to score to win our USA T&F ultra Grand Prix this year, I was quite relaxed and enjoyed 7 hours of sleep the night before the race. Pierre-Yves stopped by our house and Agnès drove us to the start which was also a great way to alleviate the stress of getting to the start line in Mill Valley. On our way we made the classic pit-stop at the view point right after the Golden Gate, and saw Dave Combs (ultra list and omni present ultra volunteer) and Steve Patt (from Stevens Creek Software and a Quad Dipsea veteran).

What a difference for me compared to 2006! Two years ago, I was a 50-miler rookie at Fire Trails and got a free entry in Quad Dipsea as part of the Dick Collins Rookie award package. I barely knew a handful of runners and was quite intimidated. This year's Quad Dipsea was my 30th ultra race and I really feel part of the local community, with many faces being familiar, from the runners to their crew and the volunteers. Yet, I remain excited like a kid when I have the opportunity to meet ultra elites like the Ashland, Oregon gang (Kyle, Erik, Jenn this weekend, or Hal Koerner at this year's Fire Trails) and Tony Krupicka again. This young and cool guys, with long leds and ultra endurance, how inspiring!

The race
I was in 2nd row on the starting line, just behind Erik, and I reached the beginning of the stairs in 10th or 12th position. With the other front runners, we ran most of the first series of stairs. Jenn (Shelton) passed me half way up the hundreds stairs, hopping from step to step like a gazelle. In the last section of the stairs, each step has a plaque commemorating people and families associated to the history of this famous trail. I recognized a few names from the running community and I found this touching and motivating. As a matter of fact, I don't remember noticing these plaques during my first Quad Dipsea two years ago, nor my three previous Double Dipsea so maybe this section has been "remodeled" recently.

I passed Jenn before the top and she passed me at the end of the road section as she was flying before we got back on the trail.

At the Cardiac aid station, I got a boost with the encouragements from my fellow club mates, the Striders. Chuck (Wilson) took care of my only request: a cup of water (I was carrying enough GUs for the whole race, and a pouch to refill my GU2O bottle at the first return to Mill Valley).

The section from Cardiac to Stinson Beach is my favorite, with a variety of trails, blazing views over the Ocean and the coast, and a nice downhill to the beach, where the Double Dipsea starts from. My GPS was showing 6.4 miles when I crossed Erik on his first way back to Mill Valley and encouraged him on his quest for the course record (sorry, Carl...). Based on the fact that the course is given for more than 7.1 miles, I thought "Geez, he already put me 1.4 miles!" However, my GPS had the turnaround at 6.8 miles so that made only a 0.8 mile lead. Still... I was in 5th position at the turnaround and just under the hour (59 minutes). Feeling good although a bit concerned not to see Victor (Ballesteros) and Roy (Rivers) in front of me to name a few. Two years ago my splits where 59-63-67-71 so I thought the pace was OK.

I felt good on the way back. I passed Tim (Knudsen, from Denmark) and almost caught up with Fritz who was in third place in the technical section after the Cardiac AS (quite a few roots and slippery switch backs). Tim negotiated the stairs better than me (not my strength indeed), so I reached the Mill Valley turnaround still in 5th and in 2:01 (I ran Double Dipsea in 2001, 2002 and 2003 with a PR of 1:59 in my third. Unfortunately, between volunteering as the Captain of Last Chance aid station since 2004 or running Western States in 2007, I have missed the race since, because of the conflicting date).

Among Agnès' picture series, one which I particularly like is this one from Erik where you can see him leaving Stinson Beach for the second time, under three hours, and rushing out before his cup of water even touched the ground. When every second counts in an ultra...

On the third leg, I walked more steps than in the first one. Not too far from the start I saw Roy Rivers and I thought my lead on him will not resist for long. I kept pushing the pace, trying to stay close to Tim alternating the lead on our way up to the Cardiac AS for the third time. At Cardiac I found Leor (Pantilat) who had run in 2nd for the first two legs but was not feeling good at all (dizzy and cold), with the volunteers now advising him not to drop and keep on for the last 1.5 legs. I first met Leor at the finish of Fire Trails in October after he won the Golden Hills Trail Marathon and set a new course record. Leor followed me for a mile or so but it is another runner who reached the Stinson Beach turnaround with me. I was pleased to see Graham (Cooper) volunteering and Stan (Jensen) told me I was doing great (3:06, as opposed to the 3:01 reported in the splits published as of this Sunday night in the results sheet; with special thanks to John and Stan for the prompt publish!). Agnès was there of course but, unless the first time at the turnaround, Kyle and Anton had already left the station to rush to Mill Valley to see Erik's finish.

Except for some walking in steep stairs and uphill sections, the last leg was eventless as I maintained my third position until the end. Seeing Chris Hauth closing the gap on me before the last descent into Mill Valley, I thought he may catch up in the stairs like this hectic finish two years ago when Jasper (Halekas) passed me in the very last stairs and we finished 4th and 5th, 1 second apart! I crossed the finish line in 4:19:19, one minute and 32 seconds faster than in 2006. Farther Faster, yeah! Still, an impressive 27 minutes and 3 seconds slower than Erik who, finally, did beat Carl's record by merely 13 seconds! 16 years later... Like Erik told me "close but feeling much better being on this side of the record!" (Erik was referring to his first attempt, last year, when he missed the record by 48 seconds).

Although Erik is today's hero, Carl remains the King of Quad Dipsea for me, for so much consistency in the nineties. And, if anything else, his Masters' Course Record of 3:57 seems very safe to me (when I think that I am 20 years older than Erik, I feel old... But Roy Rivers did beat me in 2006 at age 49 and today's oldest runner was 82, so age is not the main factor. Still, long legs do help, and I have short ones, oops! ;-).

The other hero of the day should have been Fritz. For his first Quad Dipsea, Fritz took second overall, in 4:15:28, a time similar to Michael Buchanan's win in 2006 (4:15:25). But Fritz is still unknown in our local ultrarunning community. He won the San Jose marathon in October in 2:37 while fighting cancer. Two weeks ago, I informed John about this amazingly inspiring story which you can read here: He is beating cancer and winning marathons. When I reached the finish line, Fritz was resting under the tent, with a friend, but apart from the excitement reigning among the crowd around the finish line. I could not find the words to approach him so I hope to see him again in races to touch base and catch up. Like for Tom Kaisersatt who is also battling cancer, ran Quad Dipsea 10 times and came to the start to encourage his son who was running this Saturday: keep it up, guys!

Runners kept coming in, Suzanna Bon finishing first in the female division, after Jenn dropped at the Mill Valley turnaround. Suzanna was wearing Brooks' Cascadias and hope to join me into the Brooks Inspire Daily group. With 3 overall win in 100-milers over the past 18 months, she well deserves this recognition and support. As for me, I ran in Trance this time, which I thought was a better choice on the stairs and dirt sections, despite the lack of the Cascadia's grip on the few slippery sections.

GPS-wise, my Garmin 205 Forerunner indicated 27.11 miles at the end, versus the "advertized" 4x7.1=28.4 miles. Although I did not verify it, I'm sure the count of steps is correct (4x671=2684); but the mileage is almost impossible to check with a measuring wheel, on such a convoluated course. As for the cumulative elevation, SportTracks reported +7,278/-7,323 feet versus the disclosed +/-9,300 feet, but I concede the Forerunner is not the best instrument to measure this data given the resulting simplified elevation chart below:
Also the elevation/time graph shows that I did slow down in the second part but not too much:

Before closing this race report, special thanks to the volunteers, especially my club mates, the Striders, who saw and helped close to 1,000 runners at the Cardiac aid station (237 starters, 4 times). The management of the race was as great as usual and the perfect weather brought the final touch to a wonderful "ultra" Thanksgiving celebration.

So, it is now certain, with this new age group win, I am extending my lead in the Pacific Association USA T&F Mountain Ultra Trail Grand Prix, M40-49 age group, winning for the second year in a row. It has been a big fight with Mark (Tanaka) and a long race season which I am happy to see ending (10 full months since last January's Coastal Challenge in Costa Rica, 14 ultra races and 7 sub-ultra ones!). And I look forward to as much competition next year... Farther, faster...
PS: again, don't miss my Picasa album with Agnès' pictures augmented with my comments (and let me know if there are inaccuracies or missing info/names)!


Unknown said...

Great race and wonderful report, Jean! Fabulous photos, too - you're right that the one of Erik and his cup is excellent!

Congratulations on your fine run!


Dave - Atlanta Trails said...

congratulations on your Grand Prix win!

Also great finish at QD, of course. Btw, Fritz is a second year in my program here at Cal.

kate said...

GREAT job, Jean! I was one of the slow ones- with my daughter. My son did a sub 5- he was happy. Good write up and photos!

kate said...

Picture 55 with Suzanna Bon following Will Gotthardt (black hat) has Justin Morejohn, our son- #200. He tried to break 5 and did.

Anonymous said...

My new Forerunner 405 gave 27.3 miles. The advertised distance of 7.1 (28.4) is nonsense. The DIPSEA is 7.1 miles, and that starts in downtown Mill Valley, about 0.25 miles away from the Park, and it finishes inside Stinson Beach Park, at least 0.1 miles away from where the Quad turns around. It's true that the Dipsea allows shortcuts, but the "official" distance of the Dipsea doesn't include those, and in any case, the shortcuts don't cut THAT much distance off the course.

The final set of steps was definitely redone in the last year or two; I can't remember exactly when it was finished. It was certainly like it is now for this year's single Dipsea in June, but I can't remember before that.

And as for Cascadia's, chalk up one slip on the bum for them. They are indeed not the greatest shoes for traction, as I found out going down Dynamite into Muir Woods on lap two. That was the only slick (not muddy, but slick) section of the entire course, and at one point my legs just went out from under me and down I went. No harm no foul, fortunately; it's a lot nicer to slip on your rear than to fall on your face! But I'll definitely rethink Cascadia's for next year's Dipsea. Going UP Dynamite I also found myself slipping in them.

Scott Dunlap said...

You just keep getting faster! Glad to see you are healed and doing well.

Anonymous said...

un peu sévère pour moi mais je constate que tu interesses les spécialistes!
Bravo en tout cas pour la place et les photos

Unknown said...

Jean, Great race and report! You inspired me to run further and faster at each turnaround:)

Thanks again to Agnes for the awesome pictures,