The Quad Dipsea is held annually the Saturday after Thanksgiving and completes the legendary Dipsea Trail four times. The Quad entails over 9,276 ft of ascending including literally thousands of steps as the runners traverse the slopes of Mount Tamalpais from Mill Valley to Stinson Beach and back. While the trail is arduous, breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean, San Francisco, and Stinson Beach inspire and delight. The trail also features enchanting redwood groves, lush ravines, and the iconic staircases. This year was the 29th running of this classic event that has been directed by John Medinger since its inception. The event quickly grew and established a loyal following among new and veteran ultra runners and has sold out for 17 straight years. Last year there were no views as fog and rain hugged the mountainside and made the course increasingly slippery and muddy as the day progressed. This year, conditions were great with relatively dry trails, mostly sunny skies, and pleasant temperatures rising into the low 60s.
In 2010, I pushed through challenging the conditions as hard as I could but came short of the course record by a little over two minutes. This year I hoped to maintain my form on the last leg and lower the course record. The difference in weather and trail conditions surely helped my effort. My splits on the first half were similar to last year as I came into Mill Valley in around 1:48:30 for the double Dipsea. I knew I was in a position to go for the record if I could maintain a good pace. I felt pretty good ascending the staircases out of Mill Valley for the second time and running up dynamite hill back to Cardiac. One of my favorite sections of the course is the short stretch after Cardiac that travels through an open meadow area with gorgeous views in every direction. This section also happens to be the only flat section so it’s fun to open up the stride a bit. My split for the 3rd leg was 58 minutes and I began heading back up from Stinson Beach in around 2:46:40. It was mentally helpful to know that all I needed was a 65 for the fourth leg in order to lower the course record so I could focus on running steady, preventing cramping, and keeping up with hydration and nutrition. The climb out of Stinson Beach is never easy, especially after three Dipseas, but I made steady progress. It was a great feeling to crest Windy Gap knowing it was all down hill from that point. I headed down the final flights of stairs as fast as I could (with a few slips for good measure) and finished the last few meters strong to come in just under 3:49 for an official time of 3:48:58, a new Quad Dipsea course record by 3:18 (previous record was 3:52:16 by Erik Skaggs in 2008, who lowered Carl Andersen’s 3:52:29 from 1992). Gary Gellin came in second in 4:10:05 emerging on top of a close race with Alaskan Matias Saari who was third in 4:12:45. Cedar Bourgeois of Seward, Alaska was the women’s champion in 4:59:18.
Big congratulations to all the participants and the 233 finishers (a record)! It was great to see fellow participants three times throughout the course and it looked like everybody was thoroughly enjoying the picturesque views and pleasant late-fall weather. It was great to chat post-race and enjoy soup, hot dogs, snacks, and drinks under the cool redwoods of Old Mill Park. A huge thanks goes to the race organizers, including Director John Medinger and Assistant Directors Errol “Rocket” Jones and Lisa Henson, and all the other people who put in many hours behind the scenes to make this event a success every year. In addition, all the volunteers were absolutely fantastic – their spirited support and enthusiasm was invaluable. Complete results are here or here.
Footwear: La Sportiva Crosslite 2.0
Nutrition (~1,100 calories): 4 servings of First Endurance EFS Drink Fruit Punch; 2 packs of Clif Shot Bloks (tropical punch & margarita); 1 EFS liquid shot gel; 2 SaltStick caps (carried a few more just in case)