The 7+ mile trip from Mill Valley to Stinson Beach along the Dipsea Trail is legendary. Since 1905, a single crossing race of the Dipsea has been held almost every year making it the oldest cross country running event in the nation. The course is spectacular with sweeping views of the rugged Marin Coastline, San Francisco, and Stinson Beach. The trail entails 671 steps in just the first half mile out of Mill Valley and there are also hundreds more steps in the lush, redwood-filled Steep Ravine. The annual Dipsea race in June attracts thousands of people. The Dipsea is a big deal in Marin!
Fortunately, there are fewer runners jumping at the opportunity to run the Dipsea Trail four times, with a cumulative elevation gain of 9,276 ft packed into only 28.4 miles! The Quad Dipsea is held annually on the Saturday after Thanksgiving and this year was the 28th running of the event. I had run the Quad in 2008 in virtually idyllic trail and weather conditions, but was unfortunately sick before, during, and after the event. This year, I wasn’t feeling sick so it was definitely going to be more fun, but inclement weather would make the course even more arduous than it already is.
There was a break in the rain as the event started and I took advantage as best I could running the first leg to Stinson Beach in ~53 minutes. I felt comfortable and continued a similar pace back to Mill Valley in ~55 minutes for a 1:48 double. I was feeling pretty good at the turnaround, but I knew the trail would not be in good condition after 230 people stomped through the wet surface. Moreover, the weather was starting to deteriorate again with moderate rain showers and a cold wind picking up on the ridge. The trails became a muddy, slippery mess, but I still made it back to Stinson in ~61 minutes. The course record (3:52) was within reach at this point and it was great to have the encouragement of Ann Trason, the most accomplished ultrarunner of all time, at the Stinson turnaround. However, sliding in the mud was beginning to take its toll and I became tired climbing the stairs out of Steep Ravine. I still had a chance at the record at the top of Cardiac, but alas, the trail conditions were not in my favor for a sudden acceleration in my pace. Approaching the steep section along Dynamite heading into Muir Woods I took one of several falls, but this wipeout caused some painful cramping that hindered my ability to run up the final climb up to Windy Gap. An extremely generous participant kindly handed me a couple salt tablets that definitely helped keep the cramping at bay (if you’re reading this posting, thank you!). Heading down the final flights of stairs into Old Mill Park, I knew I fell short of the record by a couple minutes, but I was extremely pleased with the effort on this challenging day, finishing in 3:54:29. I am grateful to join Erik Skaggs and Carl Anderson as the only men to run under 4 hours at this venerable event and run the fourth fastest quad ever.
A huge congratulations goes out to Caren Spore, who broke the women’s record running a 4:38:33 (fifth place overall!). Also, my training partner and co-director of Boggs Mountain Trail Races, Gary Gellin, ran an amazing race for second place coming in at 4:02:32. Congratulations to all the participants for braving the conditions and especially those who have finished numerous Quad Dipseas! It was great to chat with other runners after the event and enjoy the snacks and soup. A big thanks to Race Director John Medinger and all the volunteers who make the Quad Dipsea the classic event that it is.