Sunday, December 5, 2021

Quad Dipsea 2021: back to the ultra fun. And pain.

Oh my, how good it is to get back to running an ultra, to meet the ultra community, and push the envelope again! After screwing up my 2021 season with a weird calf injury after a casual 50K training run in Rouen mid September, and losing the Grand Prix after 13 consecutive wins, I had even envisioned one more DNS or even rather running the Stevens Creek Reservoir half, then flying to France to visit my parents over Thanksgiving like I did last year. Then my dad got sick on All Saints Day and I missed his last breath by mere 100 minutes despite rushing on the first plane and through the Munich and Charles de Gaulle airports in record times, literally (like the 17 minutes it took me between the touch down at CDG and getting on a rental car after clearing immigration!). Long story short, I spent 3 exhausting weeks over there before flying back the day before Thanksgiving. No expectation at all for this race then, except maybe to survive the experience, yes, not kill myself as we say.

If you checked my previous post, I even took more risks the day before Quad, by giving it almost all in the virtual Silicon Valley Turkey Trot 10K at the track, on Friday. Breaking 39 minutes isn't such a fate, except that this is a first for me since getting injured at that same race 3 years ago. And the effort and lack of training resulted in some soreness, even before toeing the line of a race with thousands of stairs, oops! To make the mater more interesting, to me anyway, I got a big blister under my right foot, not such a great idea before an ultra. At least I had time to tape it seriously!

With that convoluted lead to the event, it felt great to get back in the uniform, the routine of my pre-race checklists and protocol, and more importantly, see so many familiar faces at the start.

Stan Jensen was at the check-in like he had stayed under this tent for several years (look at the pic from 5 years ago! ;-) ). Except that he was taking the sanitary measures very seriously and it wasn't a good time to chat, we had to move on and away promptly! He then spent the rest of his day taking splits, like he does masterfully at the loopy Ruth Anderson. But, even at that other post, he wasn't letting us chit chat, he had a big and serious job to do. The model of ultra volunteering! While I'm on the topic, too many volunteers to name but let me highlight William Dai who, short of being able to run this year, omnipresent at races around the Bay, week after week! Way to still participate and contribute to our community, thank you William!

With that, let's get to the race. First, to one of the 4 porta-potties... 300+ registered runners, you do the math! ;-) By the way, the picture quality is suboptimal but it was still peach dark. And I was the only one with a headlamp. Doing your business in the dark,, guys and gals, really...?

Ok, let's switch topic and move on... to the start line.
Quite some vibe with a few out of town participants but mostly locals. Check this video Agnès took of the start, she got everybody (well, on one side, I started on the other):

And then, after a nice sprint down hill on the pavement, it was time for the conga line in the first flight of stairs. That reminded me the start of races in Chamonix, with loud runners making fun about the incongru situation of not able to be running. Because, yes, I did run these first steps back in the days, that is 10 or so years ago. In the light series of stairs I managed to pass a few runners by power walking the stairs two by two. I believe there were still 50 or more runners ahead, good that wasn't aiming or in shape for a top 10!

I few runners passed me in the downhill after Windy Gap but I passed more in the next uphill, Dynamite and Cardiac. By the first turn around at mile 7.1, I counted 43 runners ahead of me. On the way, we crossed the front runners, they had already a 2-mile lead when I was only at mile 6, wow, that made me regret the speedy days!

I traded a few places on lap 2, our first return to base. At the 2nd turnaround in Mill Valley, it must have been hilarious to see me rushing to finish my GU2O bottle and spilling it all over. (Photo credit: William Dai.)

I was aiming for a touch and go but, with the increasing temperature, I made the right decision to get to my drop bag to remove my hat and arm sleeves. Not a hard decision when so many where wearing singlets in this wonderful weather! Guess what, I felt a bit chilly in the stairs after that, that gave me a good excuse to push the pace at bit, at least!

I must have passed a few runners at this turnaround and the Cardiac aid station because I saw less people coming back on their fourth lap. Even better, I did pass a few runners on lap 4, after seeing Agnès at the Stinson Beach turnaround. Not that I was going for a negative split, at all, but I seemed to slow down less than others. When I think I ran the first double of a 4:19 Quad in 2:01 in 2008, versus 2:35 this time, ouch, hard to come back from that injury...


... verso!
At least the weather was perfect and the trail conditions pristine, like in 2008 when Erik Skaggs set a new course record. Speaking of it, after finishing, I went to Alex Varner to ask about his record: quite safe at versus a finish time of 3:48 for Rod Farvard today. Nick Handel was the only other runner to break 4 hours, by a few seconds, then 2 more ran under 4:30 and 10 more under 5, so it wasn't a particularly fast year after all.

This table summarizes well my run (results and splits available on RaceRoster):

And this picture my embarrassment and frustration for not even breaking 5:30...

Still way behind but at least a nice progression among the men in the second half. What about my age group? First, some pre-race stats; go figure, it happened to be the deepest one among the entrants: out of 353 men and women, 110 were in the 50-59 bracket, almost a 3rd. And out of 250 men, 74 in my age group! With that, I was actually pleased that, despite the slow time, that placed me 2nd behind Spencer Punter, 51, of Burlingame. 63 finishers in our age group and 270 total (I don't know how many actually started our of the original 353 entrants). Bottom line I definitely want to get under 5 hours next time! well, if the trail don't turn to mud... yikes!

The injuries a week later? Not so good. Still a bad sensation in the calf but, more importantly, sharp pain on the tendon, even for a half marathon a week later. Was it the 10K at the track, or Quad, or both, I don't know. But, either way, that's why I also included the pain in the title of this post...

Very grateful to Race Director John Catts for offering Quad Dipsea back into our Pacific Association USATF Mountain Ultra Trail Grand Prix. I had dropped it in previous year because it pushes the season way too late in the year when many ultras open registration in September or October. I finally found the trick: what opening using next year's edition as the opening race of our 2023 Grand Prix? A bit fetch, but this famous ultra definitely deserves to be on our schedule!

With Yassine Diboun who was visiting from Portland, OR; time flies...

And with long time friend Victor who doesn't even have to run to remain a local legend and steal the show with Max! ;-) Their Victory Design bags make great ultra gifts for the Holidays, there will be many races in 2022!
The Dipsea Trail was so clean that some people thought I had changed shoes after the race. No, I did ran in this pair of Brooks Racer ST indeed.
Always such a thrill to cross the Golden Gate Bridge to visit up North!
As I said, feeling good to get back in the racing uniform, although our Club team participation in the Grand Prix has been abysmal this year... (There were a few ex teammates but I was the only PA-registered from our Club today. :-/ )

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