Saturday, November 29, 2008

Quad Quad Dipsea

Pre Quad

This was my 4th straight Quad Dipsea (for the uninitiated, out and back and out and back on the 7.4 mile Dipsea Trail in the Marin Headlands), so maybe it's become somewhat of a Thanksgiving weekend tradition for me, along with the many other family traditions going on the same weekend.

I wasn't expecting a PR at my 4th Quad Dipsea this year. I probably ended my racing season with Rio del Lago 2 months earlier. I lacked the endurance base that Firetrails and Helen Klein (both 50-milers) would've provided had I run them. Also, the day's leading to the race didn't provide much rest (yes, I am going to sandbag).

Thanksgiving morning, my family sleeping in one room at my brother's in Marin, my 1-year old was up at least twice, either babbling or at 4 am, crying, which then woke up my older son. Later that morning we went for a hike starting at the Pantoll parking lot on Mount Tam (a key aid station for numerous races in the Marin Headlands), and we ended up doing more than 3 hours, most of it hilly, and most of the time I was carrying one of our two kids. Of course, no regrets, just slightly adjusted expectations.

blowing my taper on Thanksgiving day, on the parallel Steep Ravine trail

After another gourmet Thanksgiving meal prepared by my brother and his wife, I thought I'd catch up on sleep that crucial night before the night before the race by going to bed at 10. No dice. Loud drunk neighbors out until midnight, then woke up at 1:30 (anticipatedly) thirsty and with gastritis from too much wine, when I moved downstairs to sleep in the living room (as a favor to my wife to avoid waking and the kids early with an alarm) on a camping pad on the floor, but for half an hour I couldn't find my cell phone which I needed to wake up in time to make work 50 miles away at 6 am. Scared to call it, in case it would wake up my wife-- turns out I had kicked it under a couch. Woke up at 2, drenched in sweat in the sleeping bag. Woke again at 3:30 when the alarm of my new watch went off. At 4:45 I probably had just fallen asleep again, when the cell phone alarm went off and I had to get ready to drive an hour to work in Fremont, where I had one of the kind of bad shift you'd expect the day after Thanksgiving, compounded by the inefficiency of being too sleepy to think straight.

After my shift I went to the call room, where I hallucinated half-asleep for an hour, then felt rested enough to safely drive back to my brother's where I struggled to stay awake at a wonderful traditional Belgian dinner at their neighbor's. At least I would sleep a solid 8 hours that night.

Immediate Pre Quad

Arrive at 7:30, but takes 15 minutes to park and walk to the start. Like last year, the line to the men's room is 3 times longer than the women's. How come I didn't have the urge to unload when I left my brother's just half an hour earlier? I improvise by digging a hole under the pine needles and leaves. Use your imagination.

Yves-Pierre Couteau, Rob Evans, me (relieved), Jean Pommier, photo by Agnes Pommier

1st Quad (Mill Valley to Stinson Beach)

I feel the effects of the hike 2 days earlier climbing the gazillion steps at the start. Last year Will Gotthardt followed me up the hill, to learn from my pacing technique; this year it takes me several miles to catch up with him. He comments on the benefits of trailing fast women, and I had to agree with him, becoming a partner in crime.

Speaking of being chicked, the only time in 3 previous years I have finished after a woman in this race is when Beth Vitalis broke the old course record last year, 5 minutes ahead of me. This year I am wondering how many women will finish ahead of me.

I run a little with this woman on the first leg, who's put in some great performances this year. She passed me near the end of Miwok, and I talked with her male pacer some, but she seemed really intense and in the zone, and going faster than I was at any rate. As it turns out, she's very friendly and nice.

(this year's Where's Waldo 100k and Cascade Crest 100 mile winner) Prudence L'Heureux

The other woman was this one, the eventual female winner (like Prudence, she wins a lot of races). We run together some of the latter portion of the first leg, until she says that she can't go downhill as fast as I.

(Angeles Crest 100 female record holder, this year's Cascade Crest 1o0 winner) Suzanna Bon & me

Right before the aid station at the Stinson Beach I do a first-- I miss a short turn to the left and go straight. What throws me off are some orange cones in someone's driveway, along with a woman walking straight carrying some pink ribbon in her hand. When the houses and cars just didn't look right, I turn around and see everyone turning left. I lose about a minute, and 8-10 places, and a little pride, but compared to some wrong turns I've made, this is minor.

me after getting back on course (the man in the back is facing my detour), Prudence L'Heureaux, Bruce LaBelle (Western States 2nd place Western States 1984ish), photo courtesy of Agnes Pommier

split time 1:08

2nd Quad (Stinson Beach to Mill Valley)
The views are great--it's a clear day and no fog to obscure the coastline and a at times San Francisco in the distance.
I catch up to Suzanna Bon after the midway aid station at the top of the hill near Pantoll, where Kevin Rumon for the 2nd of 4 times greets me and asks what I need, and fills me bottle with Gu2O (thanks Kevin, you were great!) I trail her for a while. She asks if I want to pass, but I decline, saying that I want to pee anyways, so might as well be modest and stay behind. Pierre Yves Couteau, who finished right after me at Stevens Creek, does loudly take note of my time-saving technique up uphill micturation.
I think 2 people pass me descending the steps. I took off my Julbo sunglasses since the stairs are all shaded, but ironically find my vision impaired because my eyeglasses shake up and down with each step, loose from all the times my younger son has affectionately grabbed them and refused to let go. Mental note to myself-- make sure you get them readjusted and snug before every race!

I toss my arm warmers at Mill Valley.

split time 1:09, cumulative 2:17

3rd Quad (Mill Valley to Stinson Beach)

Suzanna isn't far ahead of me, but during the 3rd leg she charges way ahead and I soon no longer see her. At the top of the shaded trail descending to Stinson Beach, I see the leader Eric Skaggs heading back up. It seems like this is the farthest up the hill I've crossed paths with the leader ever. As it turns out, I'm right, since he would break previous course record by less than a minute, after barely missing the record last year.

bench of speed: Anton Krupicka, Kyle Skaggs, Erik Skaggs, Jenn Shelton. Anton & Kyle weren't running the race.

I notice that I accidentally stopped the timer on my Garmin Forerunner, so don't know my splits at Stinson Beach until after the race. I manage not to miss the turn again-- damn, I'm getting good.

3rd leg split time 1:14, cumulative time 3:31 (though I'm really not paying attention)

4th Quad (Stinson Beach to Mill Valley)

As I head back up the hill, I realize that I only have 7.4 miles left, and maybe am feeling better, so I actually push the pace and run more and walk less up to Pantoll. In the process, I overtake several runners: Suzanna Bon (since I haven't seen Jen Shelton, I congratulate her on being in the lead). Jady Palko--normally he sprints at the start and then I pass him about 1/4 of the way through the race. Today it took me until the last 5 miles near the top of the hill. So either he's gotten faster, smarter, or I'm having a slow day.

Jady having an ecstatic moment near Stinson Beach, photo by Agnes Pommier

Then after the Pantoll aid station: Will Gotthardt (I thought he finally had me this race) Celebrity endurance athlete David Goggins, repeating my passing him near the end of Miwok in May. I actually ran into him walking around Kona before the Ironman Championships this October, where I was attending a sports medicine conference, and where David, in a Navy promotion previewed in the official race booklet, jumped out of a Navy plane, parachuted into the water and then started swimming-- pretty cool. For what's it's worth, I get to say I beat him--twice.

After I Kevin Rumon hands me my bottle one last time and start down the long hill, I feel my tibialis anterior (main ankle extensor in front of ankle) start to tighten up, so I have to stop several times until the finish to stretch it out. Luckily no one ever approaches me from behind, lest I spasm it accelerating out of fear.
As it turns out, had I not taken that wrong turn early, I would have caught up with speedster and fellow Sportiva teammate Leor Pantilat, who fell apart the last leg. He was half an hour ahead of me at the 2nd visit to Stinson Beach (3:01), but finished less than a minute ahead of me. Had I caught site of him, it would've inspired me to endure some extra pain.

Leor Pantilat finishing the 1st leg, then in 2nd place, photo courtesy of Agnes Pommier

Last leg split time 1:15, official finish time 4:46:33, 20th place overall

comparison times and place
2005 4:51:39, 13th place
2006 4:40:08, 12th place
2007 4:44:46, 11th place

It would've been cool to finish in 10th place, but I guess couldn't expect to WIN in 2017 at the age of 51...

Hmm, I felt like I was really cruising up that hill, but I ran the fourth leg a full 6 minutes slower than the second leg. Such is the Quad Dipsea. If you examine the split times of finishers, you will notice a lot of people slow down quite a bit the last fourth.
Post Quad

As always, the race is so much fun and the post-race picnic particularly festive, maybe because it's during holiday season and the race season is winding down. It's chilly in the shade, but not as freezing as I remember last year. I thank Race Director John Medinger and his great group of volunteers put on a great race by taking this mugshot.

Ultrarunning Editor-In-Chief John Medinger and RD for this race

Among many conversations before I take off to get back to my family staying at my brother's is one with enduro-stud David Goggins, concerning my apprehensions about registering for a 150-mile trail race next April. What do you think tells me? He meanwhile will be shifting gears, so to speak, by doing the (bicycle) Ride Across America.

I may try to post more photos or link to them later. (I think it's a miracle I could actually finish this report!)

Other blogged race reports of which I'm aware:

Rick Gaston (PR, cracked 5 hours, congrats), photos
Sean Lang (11th overall, kicked my butt again)
Jean Pommier (3rd overall, I think his strongest finish, very nice!), photos taken by his wife Agnes, several of which I used in this post, thanks!
more photos by Craig S. up on the hill

1st poster Thursday, December 11, 2008 at 1:20 pm

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Workers Comp Fraud While Ultrarunning?

Okay, this is juicy, filler article while I continue to struggle to find time to complete my backlog of 4+ race reports.

We're supposed to assume innocent until proven guilty, and I was thinking the shoulder and thumb might not be needed to run an ultra, but the 6.2 mile swim as part of the super triathlon will probably blow that defense.

I've never met her, but many I know undoubtedly have; I can safely assume only one degree of separation.

Robert Mathis of is quoted too. Here's the link:

Friday, November 7, 2008

Another Election Victory for Ultra Trail Running

In addition to all the national and California issues and races on the ballot, I was eager to see the results of one local measure receiving much less press coverage.  As an ultrarunning trail enthusiast, I was relieved that Alameda and Contra Costa County Measure WW passed with 72% of the ballots cast.  This measure was a half-billion dollar 20-year bond extension to fund further acquisition and development of parks and trails for the East Bay Regional Park District. There was organized opposition from the usual "all taxes are evil" crowd, and one pathetic website seemed to be spearheaded by a bunch of anonymous disgruntled mountain bikers, who used specious arguments and took pictures of cow manure piles in the beautiful Chabot Regional Park where I often run as examples of why voters should reject the measure.  Sorry, I enjoy running through Grass Valley, even with the cows.  Despite the fact that this measure will result in a lot of cool mountain bike trails.

As a homeowner, I am more than happy to continue to pay $10 per $100,000 of the assessed value of my home (more than I could sell it for) each year.  I won't whine too much that renters don't have to pay this tax.  Had voters during the Great Depression not approved a property tax measure the East Bay Parks would never have been formed.  From the ultrarunning perspective, great runs like Firetrails 50 Mile, Skyline 50k and Ohlone Wilderness 50k Run would never have been possible.  Voters approved a similar measure, AA, in 1988, with tangible results improving the quality of life for everyone in the area.  Had Measure WW been shot down, I would be extremely depressed.

Here's some of the improvements resulting from the measure:
  • Completion of the (mostly southern parts) of the Bay Trail so it runs continously from Martinez to Fremont
  • East Bay Greenway Trail to run from Richmond to Fremont along the BART line
  • The completion of the Bay Area Ridge Trail through Palomares Ridge, connecting Anthony Chabot in Castro Valley and Garin/Dry Creek Park in Hayward/Union City, and further south to Mission Peak.  Also completion of the the northern segment at Wildcat Canyon Park up to the Carquinez Strait.  End result:  continuous trail from the Carquinez Strait to Mission Peak
  • Completion of parallel trail segments in the I-680 corrider resulting in continous trail from Carquinez Strait to Sunol.  This includes connection to Las Trampas Regional Wilderness, which I think has some of the best and most beautiful trail running in the East Bay.
In other words, completion of 4 parallel trail segments running north to south in the East Bay.

In addition, a trail running from Dublin to Mount Diablo, and a trail connecting Garin to Pleasanton Ridge.  

The measure includes a total of 67 projects.

Of course, no instant gratification here-- these improvement will take years to happen.  But inevitably some of the new trails will give way to some great trail ultras in the years to come.  I've already got some great ideas, so once I hit retirement, assume I'll be founding race director of at least one....  ; )