After an excellent single Dipsea earlier this year (excellent for me = 3 minute
P.R. & qualified for next year's race for the first time) and an excellent Double
Dipsea two weeks later (excellent = 12 minute P.R.), it was clear (to me, anyway)
that the focus of the rest of my year would be to complete the picture at the Quad.
I even went so far as to plan to spend the entire Thanksgiving weekend in Mill Valley,
and by July had made a reservation for the Mill Valley Inn, two blocks from the start
of the race.
My entire training pointed toward this race, culminating in October with a practice double Dipsea, two Vista Point doubles (pseudo-Double Dipsea) and Karen Well's Birthday Skyline to the Sea 28-miler, and then capped two weeks ago with my Vista Point triple. I was ready and felt great. All that was left to do was to pace myself right in the race!
I'll cut to the chase - I did it! With an "I'll be satisfied goal" of 6:00 and an "If I have a really good race I think I can reach goal" of 5:45, I came across the line in 5:43:54, good for 62nd place and one very satisfied runner. :-) :-) :-) My pace was hardly even (1:18, 1:23, 1:29, 1:34), but a heck of a lot better than my last attempt (1:15, 1:23, 1:37, 2:23, the last lap including about 10-15 minutes of stationary wrestling with a charlie horse and 5 miles of limping).
After two days of warm weather with absolutely crystal clear views around the entire Bay Area, race day weather was a little bit cooler and, later in the day, had a bit of cloud cover - one could simply not ask for better racing weather. The trails were essentially 100% dry, a rarity at this time of year. All in all perfect conditions. The course was beautiful. All the burned-out sections Dave Couper and I ran through in early October shone the bright and beautiful green of new grass - spectacular.
My race was simplicity itself. I ran conservatively for three laps, which meant a measured but steady pace on most of the uphills, walking where appropriate, and especially meant holding back on the downhills, loping them rather than pushing hard. There were probably 5 or 6 people with whom I was constantly trading places, passing them on the uphills where they weren't running at all, and being passed on the downhills which they were pressing. So it made for an interesting day. With my cramping incident of two years ago firmly in mind, I had potatoes and rock salt at every aid station (3/lap), along with banana pieces, and supplemented that with 3-4 GU per lap, and basically felt great the whole way. I did admittedly take several (2x2) Advil because I felt the advent of some knee pain, and didn't want a repeat of my Skyline experience. Evidently it worked.
Finally on the fourth lap I let go, pushing as hard as I could on the uphills (which even at that wasn't as fast as the first three laps), but then really pressing the downhills. With this strategy I finally pulled ahead of many of those (like Eric Robinson) I had been leapfrogging for three laps. I absolutely hammered the long downhill section from Cardiac to Muir Woods, but I wasn't the only one with this idea, and I was actually passed by two people whose hammering was faster than my hammering. After a slow climb out of Muir Woods, I flew down the stairs and crossed the finish line feeling just great, although I'm sure I had little if anything in reserve. One happy camper.
Because of the double out-and-back character of the race, you get to see everyone at least three times. Just like the last time I did the race, out-of-towners were ahead in laps one through three, but by the final lap, it was the local Tamalpa runners running one-two. Pace judgement! I also saw Stan Jensen repeatedly; I hate to say this but I felt bad every time I did. That's because earlier this year at Skyline, I was ahead of Stan for 18 miles or so, then started slowing down and he with his steadier pace whipped by me, so all I could think of every time I saw him was "he's there...he's coming...don't let it happen again!". Sorry, Stan. ;-) Nice to have something to keep you motivated! I also saw Gary Wang flying along ahead of me, staying just ahead of his age-group competition Ken Ciccinelli all day, and Richard Pon looking like he was having a fine race somewhere behind me. Dave Combs looked fine the first lap, and less fine the second, and he sensibly called it a training run and packed it in after two.
And I wasn't done seeing Internet friends for the day. After scarfing down the post-race goodies, and a long hot shower, it was off to Walnut Creek. For those who don't know, REAL ultra guy (6 hours being a blink of an eye to him) Robert Nagle and his companion Kristin got married recently in Boston, and were out in California for a second wedding party for the benefit of Kristin's family. So we got to see Robert again, and meet Kristin, and have a wonderful evening meeting new friends, eating, and dancing the night away. Amazing, I was feeling not a single ache or pain from the day's exertion, so I was able to hold my own on the dance floor. Trail running is great! I have never felt that pain-free after a 3 1/2 - 4 hour road marathon, that's for sure. Incidentally, Robert's probably been too busy with his wedding to write this up, but he just returned from doing the Southern Traverse in New Zealand where he and his team (team Eco-Internut^H^Het) were the winners, finishing off a great year for them.
Well, I didn't win any races, but it was a great year for me too. I think I'll take a break now. :-)
Steve "The Dipmeister" Patt
still in Mill Valley, CA, savoring