Dipsea 2013: Race Report

The Dipsea is a crazy race. It’s handicapped by age and gender, run on not-really-trails and shortcuts and trails and stairs and down the middle of the highway, and is (in theory) an any-route-counts race. It’s the oldest trail race in the country and they still operate via mail-in paper form registration. It’s also a stupid amount of climbing and crazy steep descending. Here’s my report from last year and from my first year, 2011.


My goals this year were outside chance at top 100, re-qualify (top 450), and try to run faster than my shitty race last year. It was rainy and foggy this morning running from Mill Valley to Stinson Beach, so that was better than the hot hot it’s been the last few days, but it also meant it was slippery and muddy and dangerous. I started with the last women’s group — 17′ behind the first group of very old and very young and 8′ ahead of the fastest guys — and as we headed up the 600-whatever number of stairs, the girl who ran the fastest time last year was right ahead of me walking up the stairs. So, I decided walking was good enough for me too.

At the top of the first climb, I knew I needed to push as hard as I could on the downhills, since it takes less fitness to run downhill hard, so I flung myself. But, when we got to the intersection that says “Suicide” one way and “Safer” the other, I took Safer. I lost maybe 10-15″, though it was hard to tell going back and forth with people, but I didn’t freak myself out or die, so that was a plus.

Pounding across the log bridge in Muir Woods, Steve was there cheering. And, then, I climbed and climbed and climbed. Walk, shuffle, jog, walk. There’s lots of shortcuts in the race, but I don’t know any of them, so I just follow the people ahead of me. We got to a point near the top of the climb out of Muir Woods where the fire trail separates from the single-track. The fastest guys passed me then and took the fire trail. OK, good enough for me!

On the fire trail, a girl ahead of me stopped to check on a guy walking and holding his head. When I passed him, it was someone I know from Tamalpa and he was bleeding so very much.But, he was also talking and walking. He told me to just tell officials that he was back here. When we finally got close to the top and passed the medical patrol, I thought the girl in front of me would tell them, but either they didn’t hear her or she didn’t. So, I yelled: “George is back there. He hit his head and is bleeding a lot. He’s on the fire trail. He’s waiting for you.”

They sprang into action. I crested the hill and kept running. The next section is my favorite part: the long false flat trail on the side of the hills above the ocean. I started pushing again. Passed some people, got passed by others. Re-passed someone I had already passed who somehow ended up ahead of me again.

When we hit the long, steep downhill it got insane. The section isn’t even really a trail. You’re going straight through a bush, where the trail is only a trail because people have trod on it before. Trees, grasses, bushes are hitting you on both sides. There’s nowhere to go, so you’re more or less stuck behind whoever is in front of you. That works fine usually — I tend to run the same speed as whoever is in front of me anyway — but I got stuck in a huge group there. We were basically jogging, even walking down some of the stairs, because there was no way to get around. The faster men catching us at that point were getting angry and aggressive. They started yelling “Come on, go faster.” So, I started yelling back at them. Then, one guy pushed ahead of me and then just got stuck right in front of me, because I WASN’T THE ONE HOLDING THINGS UP — which I let him know. Loudly.

Then, there were parts where it opened up again and you could get past people and fling yourself down some more stairs, but in the mud and rain I basically just started slipping and sliding. At one point, someone stopped suddenly, so I had to pull up and run into a tree and the guy behind me ran into me. The hold-up seemed to be that there was a 7-year-old girl trying to get down the stairs safely, but people were still pushing. So, I started letting them know my thoughts: “Look, you’re not going to get a black shirt [aside: top 35 across the finish, no matter the handicap, get black shirts; it’s a big deal]. We’re in 140th. Chill out.”

I also chatted with another girl along this point. ‘Hey, how’s it going? Kinda crazy.’ ‘Yeah, I have your prize from the Human Race. Email me.’ ‘Sure, cool, I’ll get it from you later.’

Then, we finally got on the road again. I put my head down and pounded as hard as I could the last 600-800m. Ended up 147th and ran the whole thing in 1:08:30, which is almost exactly what I ran it in two years ago — when I was training significantly more. I think we’ll call that a victory.

After the finish, Steve pointed out that I had blood on my arm. I looked down and wiped it off and told him: “I don’t think it’s mine.”

And, that pretty much sums up the Dipsea.

18 thoughts on “Dipsea 2013: Race Report

  1. Heh….I have this secret fantasy of maybe running it some day, but I am not really a trail racer to begin with, so I have a feeling it might be a bit too intense for me!

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