Weekend Wrap: Alaskans Swoop Down and New CR

Geoff Roes presented Alaska to ultrarunning and its value for endurance training with his dominance of the sport.  Now other “unknowns” are making the long trip down to the lower 48 to serve notice that Roes is not alone.

Cedar Bourgeois leading the Mt. Marathon Race, which she's won seven times. Photo: Marc Lester

At the 29th running of the Quad Dipsea in Mill Valley, CA Alaskan Cedar Bourgeois, dabbling in her first ultra-distance event, took the women’s win by nailing a sub five hour time of 4:59:18.  Kim Holak from Minnesota ran a strong race for second with Luanne Park of Redding, CA showing how it’s done when you’re 51 years old, charging in for third.

Matias Saari, also part of the hit squad from Alaska, made a strong showing in the men’s event, running in second place for over half the race before speedy and consistent Gary Gellin overtook him for good with eight miles to go.  Of course, by this time, Leor Pantilat was closing in on one of the best runs of his young life and far out of reach of any other contenders.  Leor decimated his own winning time from last year by six minutes, dropping the course record, set by Erik Skaggs, in the process by over three minutes with a time of 3:48:58.  When one considers the 9,276 feet of climb shoe horned into this event’s distance, his performance is staggering.

"Leor was absolutely flying." Leor Pantilat equalling the coast's beauty with his dominance of the Quad Dipsea. Photo: Joel Lanz

In an email from Gary Gellin, he describes his race for Inside Trail:

Leor was absolutely flying.  He got to Stinson Beach in 53 minutes which would be a very good time for a single Dipsea.  I had a good day and ran a tactical race to finish 2nd in 4:10.  In 3rd place was Matias Saari from Anchorage, Alaska.  He is down here for the NF50 with his girlfriend Christy and another woman [Cedar Bourgeois] who won the women’s race today!  Matias took off after Leor from the gun.  I thought for certain he had no idea who Leor was.  I slowly reeled in Matias on lap 2, catching him finally at the Mill Valley turnaround.  We ran together to Cardiac with Matias pulling away a little bit on some of the climbs while I kept the effort steady.  I was finally able to drop Matias on the descent to Stinson Beach and gained a solid minute.  On the 4th leg I had some problems with adductor muscle cramping, but was able to increase the gap to 2:45 at the finish.  4th was Van McCarty – a very good result from him.  5th was Jonathan Kimura, and 6th was Victor Ballesteros.

The Fellas
1. Leor Pantilat, 27, San Carlos, CA, 3:48:58 (new course record by 3:18)
2. Gary Gellin, 43, Menlo Park, CA, 4:10:05
3. Matias Saari, 41, Anchorage, AK, 4:12:45
4. Van McCarty, 41, San Luis Obispo, CA, 4:16:24
5. Jonathan Kimura, 31, Cupertino, CA, 4:20:02

The Ladies
1. Cedar Bourgeois, 35, Seward, AK, 4:59:18
2. Kimberly Holak, 42, Duluth, MN, 5:06:29
3. Luanne Park, 51, Redding, CA, 5:10:04
4. Amy Burton, 38, San Jose, CA, 5:12:59
5. Jennifer Pfeifer, 40, El Dorado, CA, 5:19:00

A familiar view for Leor's competitors (though perhaps not so close). Photo: Joel Lanz

Quad Dipsea – Stairway to Heaven

How do you improve the oldest trail race in America?  You run it four times, of course!

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.

A few of the 2,684 total steps in the race with Leor Pantilat. Photo: http://pantilat.wordpress.com/

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.