Categorized | Primary, Running Races

Race Report – The Double Dipsea Running Race

Posted on 12 July 2010

RaceTwitch.com Pro Team member Laura Demeo recently participated in the Double Dipsea Race and contributed the following race report on her great experience.

As part of a whirlwind trip on the West Coast which included a trail race in San Francisco, hiking in Yosemite, Sedona, and the Grand Canyon, I was most excited about running the 13.7 mile rugged Double Dipsea trail race—our first destination of this 8-day adventure!

The Double Dipsea race runs along the famous Dipsea trail just north of San Francisco;  The course is an out and back starting from Stinson Beach to a suburban town of Mill Valley and back to Stinson Beach.  It is well known for being as challenging as it is scenic –with the Dipsea trail winding through big hills, thick forest of Red Wood trees, and open fields cresting high with magnificent views overlooking Stinson Beach.

The trail has about 4,500 ft of climbing.  Some of the hills were very tough and a killer on the quads—hence the names Cardiac hill and Suicide hill… this should tell you something!  One of the most notable aspects of this course is the famous 671 steps at the turnaround towards Mill Valley.  And what  goes down comes back up… after running down the steps (which was bad enough),  we had to turn around to climb back up all those 671 big, quad burning steps!

On race morning itself, I was full of anticipation and excitement—I could hardly wait to race the Double Dipsea!  It was surprisingly cold at the start—about 40 degrees.  I had an excuse to buy the bright orange Double Dipsea sweatshirt to keep warm until my wave went off.

Another unique feature about this race (besides the famous steps) was that it was a handicap race—meaning that all 570 runners were grouped by age and  gender into waves with different start times.  The purpose of this was to level out the playing field to give the slower and older people a head start.

After we picked up our numbers at registration, I had a chance to speak with other runners who had done this race before.  I got some feedback about their experience the year before…. however, I somehow “missed” learning about the little shortcuts that are allowed along the course—common knowledge for the local & experienced Dipsea runners.   This is all part of the fun and advantage that comes with knowing the course!

For example some sections in the trail forked to the slight right or left;  though either direction would get you to point B—one may shave off a minute or two!  This happened to me on the course.    Towards the end as I was approaching Stinson Beach, I saw a bunch of runners that were running straight, but the course forked around a bend as signified by the pink ribbon (course marking)—- I chose to follow the bend instead of the runners ahead of me.

The guy behind me went straight and ended up in front of me!  I was so disappointed to have lost at least 90 seconds!  At the end of the race that runner who passed me at the fork said “the fastest way is always going straight”!  He was right!  In a tight race, this could make a big difference in overall results and age group award!

Back at the beginning of the race, all the runners were hanging out waiting for their wave to start.   I liked the friendly and casual atmosphere surrounding this race.  It was also very well organized with a great support.

I was trying not to get too anxious about this race—but, I couldn’t help being excited because I love running along the Dipsea trail and this was the first time doing the actual race, the Double Dipsea.  Going into the race, I knew it was going to be very tough, but I was looking forward to the challenge.

Actually, since Jon (my fiancé who also did the race) and I had very ambitious hiking plans that week (hiking the Half Dome in Yosemite, hiking in Sedona and then in the Grand Canyon), Jon cautioned me not to race too hard .  He feared that I would get too sore and not being able to hike the rest of the week— and  mess up the plans!  He spoke from experience as the last time we went on a trip to California, we had done the Stone Cat 50 mile ultra marathon the day before leaving for a trip to California.

That was my first big ultra and I had very little training due to recovery from a bad injury as a result of a cycling accident.  Needless the say, I was so sore that entire week out in CA that I could NOT run at all… including the Dipsea course, a huge disappointment!

It certainly made sense to take it easy during the race; however that is like telling a kid in the candy store that they can’t eat candy.    I wanted to race the best I could and I didn’t think I would get sore this time because I’ve been training for my upcoming Ironman.

At the beginning of the race, I started off slow running up a 1 mile stretch of a steep uphill.   However, as my legs loosened up, I felt really good which encouraged me to run as fast as I could.    I noticed that a couple of the women in my division would fly by me on the down hill.  But eventually I would catch up on the steep hills.   We would keep passing each other depending on whether it was on the up or down hill.

At the turn around (where all the steps were), my time was of 1:15 which I was happy with since I expected to be around 1:30.  I also knew that there was cardiac hill coming up which was my strength and if I could hold my pace up the hills, I could stay ahead of the other two women (who passed me on the down hill).

So the rest of the race, I pushed hard and tried to keep a steady pace.  The last section back towards Stinson beach was down hill and by this time I could feel my legs burning as I ran as fast as I could to the finish.   I knew I was going to be incredibly sore afterwards!

I finished in just under 2:27, placing 4th in my division and two and a half minutes behind the 3rd place finisher.  I did not get passed by the other two women!  I was very happy with my finish time as I didn’t know what to expect and originally guessed about a three hour finish time.

As I realized during the run, I indeed was very sore for the next several days and could not hike our highly anticipated Half Dome trail in Yosemite.

Overall, I absolutely loved this race and it lived up to and exceeded my expectations!   There is nothing better than a very tough race that is equally scenic. Though I had never done an official Dipsea race before now, I make an effort to run this trail every time I travel to the San Francisco.  The Dipsea trail has made such a lasting impression on me over the years that I actually named my beloved cat “Dipsea”!

If you are planning this race, here are a couple recommendations:

1)      Make sure you do hill training (and don’t forget down hill training)

2)      Practice the course so you get familiar  with the shortcuts (and/or follow an experienced Dipsea trail runner)

3)      Carry a water bottle even though there are sufficient number of aid stations—I’m glad I did.

4)      If you are planning an active trip of hiking after the race, factor in at least two days of recovery!

Hope to see you next year!

One Response to “Race Report – The Double Dipsea Running Race”

  1. Laurademeo says:

    This is one of my all-time favorite places to run and visit– Just about everyone I know here at the Jersey Shore know about it and have plans to run the Dipsea trail…. because we rave about it to all our friends. I highly recommend it!

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