Sunday, November 25, 2007

Giving Thanks at the 25th Quad Dipsea

As every year, the Quad Dipsea race comes 2 days after Thanksgiving. Perhaps because of this timing, even the most competitive ultrarunner probably approaches this race less intensely, aiming only to run off some of the T-day feast, meet up with old friends, or enjoy nature before winter holiday demands get out of control.

For me, my off-season began weeks ago after Firetrails 50, 6 weeks earlier. I signed up for the up and down and up and down (link to see course map and elevation profile) Quad Dipsea to stave off a little of my fitness decline, as well as to collect some of the promised 25th anniversary swag. Mostly to have fun.

I actually had to work 10 1/2 hours on Thanksgiving Day until midnight. All the staff was getting paid at 2 1/2 times the normal rate-- everyone except the physicians. Lots of people happy to be ending up in the ER while they were missing their feast... Do I sound ungrateful? Well, what did YOU do? Enjoy friends and family and stuff your face, right?

Okay, now that I've vented, I will devote the rest of this blog to tell you many things for which I am thankful, not that I can even cover a fraction of them. Good fortune is just exuding out of me, my soul and my every orifice.

I caught up with my family the next day at my brother's, who lives less than 8 miles from the start and finish. I could not find any of the 5 tech fabric caps I've won as swag. Luckily my sister-in-law had this fluorescent green one with "SFMOTC" (the formerly named San Francisco Mothers of Twins Club) that I borrowed, which matched well with my green Jed Smith 2007 shirt and my green INOV-8 305's I won as part of the race series last year. I had recently decided that I would try to show up at every race color-coordinated. Since I'd already decided in August that I was in inexorable precipitous physical decline (link to my blog report), this will be my sole goal for 2008.

Notice: No smile, per my wife's advice, because smiling makes me look like a dork, at least on this blog. Do I look like a lithe color-coordinated bad-ass?

I am thankful I had the experience to know parking is a real bitch in the Mill Valley neighborhood where the race starts, so I left earlier than I did the last 2 years. And my sensitive nipples were thankful I had the foresight to plant some band-aids in my car, since they, along with my Injinji socks, didn't make it into my bag. My toes were thankful that the $1 socks I bought at Costco sufficed for a relatively short race with only a single 2-foot stretch of mud.

I went to relieve myself (type 2) 15 minutes before the start to find a rare sight-- a long line for the men's room, and no line for the women's. The only explanation I could think for this is that the women's room had more stalls than the men's, which had urinals, but what guy is going to wait in line to do something he can do behind a tree? I am THANKFUL that the women using the restroom gave me and a few other guys permission to use their side. And that when I walked out, none of the women in the line that had just formed gave me dirty looks. Thank you women! I love you! Just so you know, the seat stayed down.

Despite not feeling rushed before the race, as soon as John Medinger starts it, I bolt down the street and around the corner to hit the steps. Despite my better judgement and awareness that I've lost some aerobic fitness with far too few quality workouts, I bolt up the 1st flight of stairs. Eventually I slow down, but keep breathing really hard all the way up the other 2 flights. Hard enough that I know I'm over my lactate threshold. Whoops.

I am thankful that I'm involved in a sport that gives me plenty of opportunities to realize I am an idiot and have room for improvement.

Little did I know, but this guy was pacing off me, telling me post-race that he was learning a lot about tackling steps. I'm flattered, Will, as long as you realize that the pace was stupidly fast for me. Thanks for the volunteering this year, and your supportive blog comments, and congrats on coming back so soon after the injury.

Will Gotthardt & watermelon. You can't tell how ripped this guy is from this photo.

I am still hurting going up the trail to the Cardiac hilltop aid station. There Kevin Rumon announces "Here's the guy who kicked my ass at Firetrails," fills my bottle and sends me on my way before I remember it's him. Kevin would graciously and efficiently fill me up 3 more times. Thanks, Kevin, you were bonus crew!

Heading downhill to Stinson Beach, it's warm and beautiful, great views. I'm starting to feel a little better. I'm probably in 16th or 17th place at Stinson, but don't really care and am not really counting. PR will not happen. I can't nonetheless help noticing that Beth Vitalis, a great climber whom I expected to dust me up the stairs, is several minutes ahead of me at the turnaround. She would stay running strong and break the women's course record by half a minute. I asked her after the race how many course records she'd broken, and she humbly replied that they keep falling (to others). It's awesome she can keep setting new ones,since she a little older than...20. Chick me anytime, Beth!

click for action photo of Beth at finish line

So, my split at the turnaround is over 1:07, which I think I vaguely remember is the same as last year, but I know that I shouldn't be trying to match last year's time, when I'd trained better and kept my fitness up with Helen Klein 50 mile. Running goddess Ann Trason fills up my bottle and I head up.

The climb as always is long, but actually more runnable than the climb from Mill Valley, plus this time I cross paths with most of the race entrants. I'd swear 30-35% know and greet me by name. I'd be thankful that so many people know me, but I either don't recognize and can't remember the names of more than 1/2 of them, incurring guilt and shame and the uncanny feeling that someone is stalking me. Sorry, I'll get everyone's name down eventually.

Atop Cardiac, Kevin Rumon is so fast and efficient at filling my bottle up that I neglect to snarf the Gu packet I picked up and opened there. As I hit the single track, I notice that I've hand-jobbed myself, and mint chocolate Gu is not just all over my hands, but creamed onto my rolled-up arm warmers, my bottle, my shirt and my shorts.

Uh, guess I got too excited from being serviced by Kevin...

As put-off as some of you are, I am thankful to be able to blog without a scatological theme.

I suspect the guy in first, whom I've seen before, might have a shot at the course record, as he's cleared the Mill Valley side Dipsea steps when we cross paths. He's on the right in the photo. Dunno, looks like he snowboards too. Can't remember his name, but I think his first name is Eric. He would end of missing the record by about half a minute-- but no problem, this was his first shot.

click for finish line photo of Eric

Back to me: my right knee is not hurting outright, but I'm worried about injuring it and I'm not the best technical downhiller. A few guys who do have this skill pass me coming down the Highway 1. My split, as expected, was very much higher than my first, on the order of 5 minutes more, 1:12, for a total of 2:19.

Going back up the steps is painful, but at least I don't have the clatter of someone right behind me, making me go faster than I should.

At the Cardiac aid station I ask Kevin to fill it up 1/2 way. He fills it up all the way. But based on the fact that I've hardly had to pee, I'm glad he didn't do what I asked. Thanks, Kevin.

I cross paths with the guy in first way up the hill. I yell at him "course record, man, keep it up!"

Several minutes later, Victor Ballesteros, last year's #2, comes up, having passed last year's winner Michael Buchanan for what would be 1st, except for the faster guy, so he's in 2nd. Even though I put his photo in last entry, let's do it again, they're so photogenic. His girlfriend's name is Jena, with one J.

After Ballesteros, I'm expect Buchanan and not this guy, whom I edged last year and whom I gapped maybe an hour at Firetrails this year. He would bonk a little and lose two places during the last split, but 5th place and almost 4:30 was an amazing performance. Jon, omedetou, man, that was awesome.

Jonathan Kimura

At the Stinson Beach turnaround, I get continued encouragement even though I've done another 1:12 split and know I'm not performing at my peak. Ann Trason tells me I look good. Maybe I mutter something about going out too fast. She repeats it. And I swear, I think she tells me a third time, you're looking good.

Whether she means it or not, or even if I'm hallucinating, this is Ann Trason, all-time women's ultrarunning queen, telling me not once, not twice, but three times I look good. Okay, so the least I can do in appreciation is run like I'm feeling that good. I scurry up the hill, walking only the steps. Thanks Ann!

I pass 2 guys coming into the Cardiac station. One of them is Eric Clifton in his jester shorts, whose record I thought I could catch at Kettle Moraine in June (I wasn't really close to doing this). I wanted to get a picture with him at the finish, but he must've split. The other is some guy whose name I forget who tells me post-race he runs 70 races a year. After climbing the last set of steps toward the 3 long flights going down to the finish, I catch sight of still another guy and set out in pursuit. I pass him just before we hit the downward flights, then we take turns passing each other. The last flight I stop trying to hit the every 2nd or 3rd step and starting running blindly, my feet hitting or missing steps randomly.

I am thankful, dude from Truckee (another Eric?) that you totally pulled away, because honestly, that wasn't just too rough & risky for my ankles, but close to suicidal. I have a wife and 2 kids to support. I'm also thankful for not realizing we were racing for 10th place, because maybe I would'n't've backed off. As if there were some prize for coming in 10th.

At the finish, after a very long walk-it-off cool down, it's a good time.

I can't remember this guy's name. After grazing and mingling for an hour, I thought I'd take a finish line photo. I just missed photographing this shirtless guy with tatoos all over his chest, so had to settle for someone more typical. If you know this guy's name, please tell me in a comment.

Here's my splits from 2005, the first year I did this:
1:11, 2:21, 3:33, 4:51:39 (13th place)

and last year:
1:07, 2:17, 3:29, 4:40:08 (12th place)

This year:
1:07, 2:18, 3:32, 4:44:37ish (official results pending, but on the list I was in 11th place)

link for official results

guess my watch was off-- ugh, missed 4:44:44 by 2 seconds!

I guess I was pretty even after the 1st split, but I'm convinced had I gone out slower, I would've finished faster. But how's that-- minutes slower and another place up? Next year, maybe I'll make top-ten...

3-month newlyweds, Robert Evans (just 18-houred Javelina) and Kate?

Lots of traffic crossings. Thank you all the volunteers preventing our being run over, as well as the aid station volunteers (especially Kevin), and sorry, forgot your name (Kate? Was everyone named Kate?), for cheerfully serving me 3 cupfuls of spicy black bean soup at the finish:

I'm so thankful that I have too many ultras to choose from, and for the first year, had the sense not to sign up for a road marathon, after 3 straight years paying too much money for the San Francisco one, now hosted by Ultramarathon Man Dean Karnazes.

Swag gallery:Yellow shirt, I think my first. Bright colors are in! My wife and sister-in-law liked these:

And the very nice orange fleece, with "25 years 1983-2007" embroidered. Orange-- the new black!

Plus, a Quad Dipsea tote bag (reverse says, "Ultrarunning"-- the RD is the new editor). Best swag is the spiky-haired baby, I can't describe how awesome it is when we have our alone time and say "Ha!...Hoo!..." to each other.

I am thankful I got to race 3 times since he was born. And for being able to run 3 races this year that celebrated their 25th anniversaries with extra 25th anniversary swag (Ohlone and Firetrails and Quad). I can lament all the races (especially this fall) that I wanted to do but couldn't, but I think 14 ultra races this year is still a lot, so thanks to my wife and family.

Apparently domestic political capital was spent this morning, since my toddler threw multiple long fits. But thanks, Peter, for waking up only after I got home so mommy could run her errand as soon as I got back, and for being a great, fun kid for 2 hours at the playground. And, yes you were right, when you saw the stuff on my shorts and noted "OOO that's NASTY!"

Yeah, whatever, Daddy, I wanna hit the tennis ball now...

Last of all, thanks I could get this done before I lose access for 3 days for a special assignment for work. Maybe not as polished as I'd like, but I'll try to add links and clean up the yypos soon. (But the Gu passage stays!) Thanks to everyone who actually read this to the end! You ARE what Thanksgiving is all about and I love you all. Thank you thank you thank you thank you (Quad thankyous). xoxoxoxo


Barry Spitz's article from the Marin Independent Journal.

Alan Gerardi's blog report.

Rick Gaston's blog report.

Paul Charteris' blog report and his awesome race photo gallery.

YouTube video of all of us crossing the bridge before ascent up Cardiac Hill.


HoneyLuna said...

Hey Mark - congrats on another successful finish. I met you (briefly) in Yosemite last year - we (Jim Schollard and I) were running down the trail and you and your wife were hiking up. I was also the gal at the top of cardiac with the red pom poms.

Anyway, the guy in the yellow shirt at the finish line is Jack Meyer for Foresthill. Jack is the first ever (just this year) to complete all 6 California 100 milers in one season.

Paul Charteris said...

Quad thank you too Mark

Nancy just beat me to it - Jack is the inaurgual Cal-Slam runner.

Nancy and Mark, I have all those promised Quad Dipsea photos posted online, link here:

Cheers, Paul

Jenny H. said...

Mark, another great blog! You are so funny! And I love reading about my running heroes like the running goddess herself, Anne Trason. She is so much more of a celebrity to me than that Paris Hilton chik. I also idolize Beth Vitalis, nice to know what she's doing since I know longer see her at the Chabot half. I tell you what, if you ever wrote a book, I would definitely buy it. If Anne Trason ever wrote a book same thing. However, I can totally relate to the ER references. Have you ever asked yourself why your drawn to such demanding and adrenaline filled interests? thanks for the great read.

willgotthardt said...

Yeah I spent an hour and seven minutes trying to figure out what SFMOTC meant??? My best guess...

San Francisco Men's Oriental Track Club

A ton of respect for the competitor/person you are...appreciate the kind words in this entry.

Congrats on a terrific year.

Will G.

willgotthardt said...

[Oh and I thought the shirt was from some rodeo or 4H event].

Will G.

rick said...

Ummm...yes guilty. I was invited to dinner by other folk who couldn't / wouldn't travel for Thanksgiving. It was football, wine and lots of food. A little orphan dinner for the family-less. It was a blast, sorry Mark you were saying:)

Ok not smiling makes you look too serious or somewhat psychotic. By the way Will and I were talking about you before the race, all good things of course. I didn't realize he was pacing off you:)

Anyway Mark it was good to see you as always. Sure many people know who you are. Not only do you finish well in races but you also spend time hanging out, people respect/like that.

willgotthardt said...

Absolutely I'm with Rick on the pics, sort of like that one kind of hard to reach guy in every math or science club photo...

Will G.

Peter Lubbers said...

Very amusing post, Mark! Somehow, the green Jed Smith T-shirt with the smiling buffaloes does not quite scream "bad-ass"(maybe it is the color), something to keep working on ;) Actually, I was expecting to see pictures of you in your new La Sportiva outfit.

Michael Kanning said...

Congratulations on the third consecutive crazy-fast permormance! Nice photos and glad to hear it was fun.

Good to hear of Kimura's success-I had the pleasure of running with him at Firetrails. He's an awesome guy.


P.S. Smiling buffaloes/"chick me any time"/ripped Will Gotthardt-funny stuff.

Donald said...

Fantastic race report, Mark! Based on your progression, I'd guess you're about 10 more years away from winning the thing, right?

hao said...


i am one of the 1/2 of the 1/3 of the people who called out your name on the trail, but you don't know mine. :) i swear i don't stalk. it's hard not to know you when norm picked you out of the line up to make fun of your 30 min long cell phone call to your wife. :) just thought i introduce myself properly. my name is hao. i am from san jose. i'm definitely a newbie and have seen you a few times at different runs.

another great report. the previous one had me rofl.



Michael Kanning said...

By the way, Mark, if you are going for the "bad-ass" effect, I recommend wearing sunglasses, crossing your arms, and getting a dark colored shirt that says something like "100 Miles. 2 Feet." or "You Ran A Marathon? How Cute." :)

Anyways, congrats again.


Mark Tanaka (Ultrailnakaman) said...

In the past, I haven't responded to comments by posting a comment on my own blog. Is there an etiquette about this? Does anyone check to see if the blog author responded to their comment? What do you all think? (Is anyone even reading this?)

Thanks everyone for the positive feedback-- warms my heart! (Please don't feel offended if I don't respond to your comment specifically.)

Yes I remember talking with you guys. Thanks for the heads-up on Jack.

Will, you always crack me up-- love the photo.

Michael-- Since you beat Jonathan, and Jonathan beat me, according to the transitive axiom of race finishing, guess what I expect of you next race?

Jenny-- my real goal when I started ultrarunning was to party with Paris (and Brit), but after reading what you wrote, I think I may have to find another way onto her list.

willgotthardt said...


From what I understand, there are legal ramifications if you fail to respond.

See you (mainly your back) in 08, have a great holiday season with your young family.

Will G.

Peter Lubbers said...

Blogger just added the "Follow up Comments" feature, which sends you an e-mail when someone else adds a comment on the same thread. So, yes, some of us are listening :)

Michael Kanning said...

Very funny, Mark. Now that I've just picked myself off the floor, I must say that Jonathan actually beat me by about 2 minutes at Firetrails; we just paced together for most of the second half.

Look forward to seeing you in '08!


Anonymous said...


I am the 70 race guy you passed with about 5k to go in the Quad. I hope you knew I counted 5ks and 10ks in that total. I'm sure I'll see you at some ultras in 1008.

Jason Reed

boring animal said...

Thanks Mark, That was exciting. And I feel energized by the fact that I was not there with you running god knows how many miles. The human interaction sounds really excellent. I am still rehabing a twisted ankle but I'm in no hurry. As someone famous once said, start slow and taper off. Happy Holidays to you and yours and many happy returns (The second part, I've decided is a library greeting.) : ) Willy

Scott Dunlap said...

Dude, I just tagged you. Gotta answer six questions now. ;-)


willgotthardt said...

Crap, I'm afraid this blog has surpassed the allowable update time frame window.

Oh well.

Will G.

Mark Tanaka (Ultrailnakaman) said...

okay, okay, Will, I will post, since I've been tagged by the blogman himself

Alan said...

Darn!!!! I was just going to tag Mark!!!!

BTW - yet again, an awesome performance at the Quad Mark.