Sunday, November 29, 2009

Quad Dispsea 09: chasing too many turkeys...

3 races in 6 days, that is quite a way to finish the season, and I am very glad it is over. 17 races from February to November including 12 ultras, that was another busy year (I will post the traditional "year in review" later in December before leaving for Ethiopia).

Busy year and busy week. So busy from a running perspective that I had to do two posts this week. One for the two fast turkey trots (Kenya Dream and San Jose) and one for this Saturday's hilly and much slower one.

Agnès and the boys were too busy with various projects to accompany and crew for me. I left home by 5:40 am to ensure a good parking spot close to the start as it is difficult to park in Mill Valley. As it turned out, there were a few early birds like me before 7 (the time the check-in was opening) but quite a few participants arrived much later. The list of entrants contained 250 names with this interesting distribution (at 45, I am right in the middle of the Gaussian):

Before reporting on this year's race, a bit of history and background. First, here is what Wikipedia says about the single Dipsea: "The Dipsea Race is the oldest cross-country trail running event --and the second oldest foot race of any kind-- in the United States. The 7.4 mile (11.9 km) long Dipsea Race has been held annually since 1905, starting in Mill Valley, and finishing at Stinson Beach, in Marin County, California. Since 1983, the race has been held on the second Sunday in June." As a matter of fact, I never ran this race. I ran the Double Dipsea three times: 2001 (2:11:00), 2002 (1:59:05) and 2003 (2:00:57). After that, I served as Captain of the Last Chance aid station at Western States (2004-2006) and ran Western States (2007 and 2009) and the two events falls in the same weekend, the last one of June. Debuting in ultra in 2006 I ran Quad Dipsea that year (4:20:52) and in 2008 (4:19:19). Last year was quite memorable as we were chasing Erik Skaggs in his attempt to break the long standing course record of Carl Andersen, a goal he achieved by a few seconds (Carl still holding the amazing Masters CR of 3:56). See my 2008 race report.

This year again the weather was perfect: sunny, amazing views cleared up by the strong wind and temperatures above 60F as we progressed through the morning. It had rained the day before but there was actually almost no mud on the course, the humidity just fixing the dust on Cardiac and making the trail really soft (as I could experience it, keep reading...).

Race Director, Tropical John (Medinger), gave us a few pre-race instructions including the firm order not to cut the course (as opposed to the Dipsea race where it is an option, albeit a risky one). I would say that the start was not as fast since Erik was not here this year, but it is really hard to figure out our pace with such a steep first mile and hundreds of stairs. Victor decided to walk most of the stairs and I passed him. I was in second position in Cardiac and, on our way down to Stinson Beach, passed the lead runner from the Olympic Club, who did not seem to know the course as he missed one of the stairs near the start and kept checking behind if I was still here to make sure he was indeed on the trail (despite the abundant pink ribbons as John had announced). Jonathan Kimura stayed on my heels for the next 14 miles. He mentioned he was also from Cupertino and seemed to appreciate the pacing. I reached the turn around in 59' and barely stopped despite Ann Trason's offer to refill my bottle.

On the way back we, lead runners, have the privilege to get the encouragements of the other runners as we cross each other between Stinson Beach and Cardiac. Like at Way Too Cool, most of the runners are really nice and get on the side of the trail to let us pass. As this is a long climb and I kept pushing, it was hard for me to talk back to them, hope they do not mind too much and here is the belated thank you for the ones reading these lines.

Peter Zinsli handed me a pouch of Vespa as I passed through the Cardiac aid station for the second time, just a few seconds before Jonathan. At the end of the road section, Chris Hauth passed us and the three of us completed the Double Dipsea in 2 hours. Just for the beginning of the fun, the second one! I crossed Victor in the stairs as he was in 4th. Jonathan and I kept a reasonable pace down to Redwood Creek in Muir Woods but I had to slow down in Dynamite where Jonathan passed me. I lost him in Cardiac and was not determined to catch him on the way down to the beach. Yet, I was flying in Steep Ravine until... Until I plunged in the same manner that you would to catch a... turkey! I was approaching two gals, hiking up, and was trying to figure out which side of the trail I'll use to pass them when I missed a step. I tried to recovered with the next steps but was going way too fast and eventually felt flat in a short section with soft first, fortunately. Landed on my left side (leg and arm) then right hand, then my chin. It must have been pretty scary to watch for the two hikers whom I'm sure are not ready to try trail running any time soon now. I had difficulty getting up and felt really dizzy, but did a quick assessment to realize that nothing was broken. It helps to be light and to fall on soft dirt... I was leaving when one of the hikers called me as she had found my sun glasses. I resumed my progression albeit slower, and was thankful that only bruises were hurting. Could have been much worse.

Despite this little adventure and an increasing fatigue at mile 21 and after this week's races, I reached the turn around in 3:09 against 3:06 last year. Victor was very close behind, as well as Van Mccarty and they both passed me in the following climb through The Moors. After that, except for the numerous encouragements from the other runners on their second Dipsea, some encouragements in French (merci! ;-), it was a lonely push in the 4th and final leg, until Cameron Berg caught up with me on the road section where I was alternating walking and running, out of steam. I was surprised to see him again in the final stairs as I was catching him back but I finished 6th overall, just 5 seconds behind him, in 4:25:32. That reminded me the close finish of 2006 where Jasper passed me in the very last stairs and did took 3rd place by one second, yikes!

Overall, I was very glad to have picked my Brooks Racer ST flat for this race as they hold very well on this soft ground, were very light and precise on the stairs and over the roots. And, despite the brutality of the course, I really enjoyed the race and had fun as John asked us to, at the start. I was a bit disappointed not to break 4:20 again but, as mentioned in the title, I was probably chasing too many turkeys this week... And, as the Chinese say: "if you chase two rabbits, both will escape..."

As I write this post on Sunday, I am really soared, not only the muscles but with several bruises and swelling here and there. I think the fall might have increased the soareness too (contraction and stress). But this is the good and easy pain, the one resulting from an effort you decided for yourself. I'm mentioning that as I think of people with similar pain, with the same difficulty to walk and move except that they know it is not going to pass after a few days. My sincere good luck and healing wishes go to them as I am thankful for my good health and ability to do this sport with such intensity.

Thank you to John and the Ultra Running Magazine family for setting such an event up. Despite being only an ultra by 2 miles, this is really a special event cherished by the local ultra community, and the famous Tamalpa Runners club in particular who dominate this event. They must be quite upset at our RhoQuick (Rhomobile/Quicksilver) team which won the men division of the ultra Grand Prix this year. Our team was represented by Adam, Keith and Andy this Saturday. Adam (Rhomobile CEO) dropped at Cardiac and ran back to the start covering 23 miles of the 28 (Adam figures in the results posted this afternoon, but should not), Keith finished in 5:31 and Andy in 6:12.

It was good to see so many familiar faces helping out at the aid stations, for instance: Quad Dispsea veteran, Tom Kaisersatt (doing much better than last year), Penny Beeston, Chuck Wilson and Chris, Peter Zinsli, Ann Trason, Dave Combs (on crutches after some "foot maintenance work"), Rob Byrne (back from Amsterdam!), Stan Jensen, Tia Bodington, George Miller, Mark Gilligan, and many others whom I may not know yet or have not noticed because going to fast through the aid stations. Thank to all of you!

Check my Picasa photo album out with post-race finisher pictures (thankfully I was not running with my camera on this technical course). I am also including a special photo collage with all the pictures. It is quite "Greg Nacco-ish" but he really deserves it as this was his 16th run, with an amazing and exemplary consistence across all his runs (see Garry Wang's statistics on
Again, season over, until February 2010. In the meantime, I'll spend 3 weeks in Europe and almost 3 in Ethiopia, with the whole family joining a humanitarian project led by Alex, our second. We are going to Gara Dima, a small and poor Ethiopian village with 15 teen from Cupertino High School and 7 parents, in collaboration with a local organization, The World Family. We will do projects with 500 children (6-12) and we are looking for school supplies (see list below) and a few used latpops in case you can help out (you can leave a comment to get in touch or you can find me in Facebook too). Happy Holidays to all!

PS - The list of suplies Alex and our group are looking to assemble before we leave for Ethiopia:

Laptops (working condition)
Blackboard Paint
Colored Pencils
Sewing Machines
Tempera & Acrylic Paints
Origami Paper
Soccer Balls
Knitting & Sewing Needles
Pencil Sharpeners
Manual Ball Pumps
Jump Ropes
Blackboard Erase


Anonymous said...

Quelle émotion, cette chute!
Bravo pour ta réactivité qui a permis un si bon résultat tout de même.

Anonymous said...

If I want to mail some of the supplies you need for Ethiopia, where should I mail them to? Please email me at thanks!!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the excellent race report. As an out-of-towner (Mississippi Gulf Coast) but an original Californian, I truly enjoyed this race and wish I was local to enjoy more of the CA runs. :-) Don Alexander

Baldwyn said...

And, as the Chinese say: "if you chase two rabbits, both will escape..." Don't know that proverb, but I really like it! Sorry about the fall, I really hate those, and hope you've recovered by now. The Ethiopean trip sounds fantastic, I'd love to help with some school supplies.

Anonymous said...

I went to elementary with your son(s). I believe I am in the same grade as Alex and I vaguely remember being with him and your wife in the Garden Gate GATE program. I joined cross country for Mountain View HS and have gotten into running. Your blog is really great and full of detail.

Jean Pommier said...

Hi Spartan, and thank you for visiting. What another season you had as a team in cross-country! My son and I, and most likely many others, are wondering what is your secret. Probably your coach... and lot of work... right?

Run Happy in "twenty-ten!"

Anonymous said...

Just spent the last 2 or so hours catching up on your amazing blog! It's really great reading about your experiences.

I can honestly say that our success is the product of lots of hard work and great coaching (which pushes us to work even harder). A lot of our faster runner's not only run extremely high mileage 6 days of the week but also work with other trainers outside of school. I am honestly awed by their success and also amazed by the team's extremely great work ethic.

I really never knew how much running could bring out in a person, but doing XC for Mountain View and reading your blog has really opened my eyes about this great sport.