The Dipsea trail race began in 1905 and is still going strong after 106 years (missing only four years due to economy and war). It starts in Mill Valley, CA and finishes at Stinson Beach. With 671 steps leading up the side of Mt. Tamalpais to the highest point of Cardiac Hill, the course is challenging, to say the least. A unique aspect of the race is the ability to choose from a variety of connecting paths to reach the finish, so familiarity with the area trails pays off. Lovers of the event were likely sitting around in November pining for June to roll around and the popular event to take place, so they came up with the Quad Dipsea in 1983, held initially as a fun run in ’83 and ’84. The race is directed by UltraRunning Magazine publisher, John Medinger.
The Quad Dipsea, 28.4 miles, runs the Dipsea course in an out and back fashion, beginning in Mill Valley. If you can believe it, there are 9,276 feet of climb packed into the bloated marathon-ish length course. Imagine bounding down wet, wooden stairs after 4 hours of climbs and descents with your quads humming with fatigue. Three men have run under four hours: Carl Anderson (four times), Erik Skaggs (twice), and just last year Leor Pantilat. Leor’s time of 3:54:29 was good enough to be the fourth fastest time in the event’s history, which has seen big named runners compete throughout the years. Caren Spore, from Davis CA, broke the women’s record in 4:38:33 last year, a year that saw the additional challenges of a muddy, slick course.
This Saturday’s race will see both Leor and Caren returning to defend. Last year’s 2nd place finisher, Gary Gellin, will again be in the mix, likely gunning to strip away the 2 mins 32 secs from last year’s finish to reach the coveted sub four hour time. Consistently fast Leigh Schmitt should keep it interesting but the structure (CLIMB) of the course doesn’t play into his normal strength of fast, rolling courses. Rumor has it that Leigh will pass up Quad Dipsea to be fresh for the North Face 50 the following weekend.
Unlike her “runaway” race last year, Caren Spore should be challenged by fellow Californian, Jennifer Pfeifer, and by midwesterner, Kim Holak, as long as Kim is healthy and fit. She hasn’t raced much this year but is a fierce competitor when she does.
Happy Thanksgiving from Inside Trail to our American readers. I’m thankful my resting month is almost over and I can begin training and racing again! Have a great weekend on the trails.