Quad Dipsea 2015

Thursday, December 3, 2015

The Quad Dipsea went just about perfectly. I hit the splits I wanted (for the most part) and was fortunate enough to be able to take the course record down by several minutes. Ever since I signed up for the race on August 3, my entire fall training block was dedicated to this singular cause. Every run had a purpose: to get my legs ready to carry me over the Dipsea Trail 4 times faster than anyone else before me. That’s a scary proposition, knowing that all of your training is leading up to one race on one day and hopefully everything comes together at the right time. Thankfully, it’s a lot easier to have faith that it will since I’ve been working with Koop, as things came together at the right times last December at TNF and last April at Lake Sonoma. However, I’d be lying if I said my confidence wasn’t severely shaken during the summer. After a disappointing personal performance at the IAU World Championships in Annecy in May, I ran a sub-par Dipsea (although that was somewhat expected being only 2 weeks after Annecy) followed by a DNF at Western States at mile 30. I finally had to deal head-on with the shin issue that had been bugging me for several weeks and it took longer than I’d hoped to heal, taking me well into August before I was running normally and comfortably again.

The first couple workouts back were rough, but I’ve been doing this long enough to know that you just have to stay the course (a thousand points of light, for those who get the reference :-P). Sure enough, the fitness came around. I raced several XC races which were just plain fun and before I knew it, I was heading into the 5 straight weeks of racing that I’d found myself more and more excited to run. I think that was when I really knew I was back and fit and ready – heading into the ITR Mt. Tam 30k on Nov. 14, I couldn’t wait to race, and several weeks in a row on top of that. I love racing. I race often. It’s fun and it’s a better workout than workouts, so what’s the downside (assuming you can keep yourself under control enough to not overdo it completely). The ITR 30k was a confidence boost, as were the PA XC Championships the following weekend where I ran a completely controlled 10k tempo and finished feeling strong.


Having some fun in XC (I’m definitely doing it wrong). Credit: Bruce Davie

Then it was time for the nerves to really set in. With just 5 days until the Quad, I slept fitfully, had weird dreams, and was just generally at a higher level of stress than normal. Not ideal, but I also think these things are a part of the deal you’ve got one goal and one race to execute. It’s a lot of pressure and so I’m sure I subconsciously put 2 races on either side of it to give myself some excuses should the day not go as planned. But I knew what I wanted – the CR at the Quad Dipsea and if I came away with anything less than that, I’d have been bitterly disappointed.

Two days before the race was Thanksgiving. Rachelle found the time to come down for a couple of days which was great and we had our first big (new) family Thanksgiving my parents and some of her relatives and mother. Friday was spent wandering around SF, doing some shopping and sightseeing and before I knew it we were going to bed on Friday night. Race morning was cold but not quite as bad as I’d anticipated. I was planning on wearing a shirt and arm sleeves over my singlet, but opted to just go with the singlet at the last minute. In the days before the race, I’d hatched a rough plan of how I wanted the race to go. I wanted to be at Stinson the 2nd time (with 1 leg left) no slower than 2h48m, which would give me a full 60 minutes to get back to Mill Valley under the record (3:48:45). Doing that meant running 3 56-minute Dipseas. However, I had a more ambitious goal of getting to the halfway point by 1h48m, giving myself a full 2 hours to run the final 2 legs. That would involve running 2 54-minute Dipseas to start the race. That’s what I went for. The splits I’d come up with were: 17 minutes from the start to Muir Woods Creek, 20 minutes from Creek to Cardiac and then 17 minutes from Cardiac to Stinson. The way back was split into the same 3 sections, just with different time goals: 25 minutes from Stinson to Cardiac, 12 minutes from Cardiac down to Muir Woods Creek, 17 minutes from Creek to the turnaround in Old Mill Park. Here’s how it played out: 16:15 start to Creek, 19 minutes Creek to Cardiac (ate half a PickyBar and waved at the awesome volunteers and cheerers), 18:51 Cardiac to Stinson for a 1st leg split of around 53:45. Awesome. But that last segment took considerably longer than planned. I always forget about the Moors. No time to worry. Time to head back. 24+ minutes from Stinson to Cardiac (ate half a PickyBar, said hi again, but with a bit more tunnel vision), 12 minutes Cardiac to Creek, 16:30ish Creek to turnaround (ate a Gu) for a 2nd leg split of 52:25 (brief aid station stop included) and a turnaround time of 1:45:30.


10 minute quick clock at the turnaround. Credit: Jorge Maravilla

The clock was 10 minutes fast at the turnaround for some reason (it read 1:35), but I knew where I was and that I was certainly not running that was, so it wasn’t an issue. Others, however, thought it might be, so they made sure a volunteer at Cardiac told me it was fast the next time I went through. It was great to have Rachelle and her family and my family at the turnaround. It provided a big boost and I was back up the stairs before I knew it. 3rd leg splits were: 16:10 turnaround to Creek (ate a Gu), 19 minutes Creek to Cardiac (hi again, more tunnel vision), 18 minutes Cardiac to Stinson (ate a Gu) for a 3rd leg split of around 53:45 (woooooo!!!). Hit the Stinson timing mats in just under 2:40, which gave me 68 minutes to get back. I was quite optimistic that I’d be able to run the final leg in 56-57 minutes, since I’d felt so good the first 3 laps, but immediately upon starting back up, I realized it would be slower than that. My legs were tired and started to threaten cramps, particularly in my VMOs, which felt it most on the stairs and steep descents. Thankfully, they held together, but it was quite painful at times. Home again home again. Stinson to Cardiac: 28:30ish (woof, not much of a hello, just straight pain face this time through). Cardiac to Creek: 14+ minutes (yay downhill!). Creek to finish: 18 minutes. The last climb, from Creek to Panoramic was really rough. I stumbled and fell right below the mailboxes and was just barely able to run between Muir Woods road and Panoramic. Thankfully DeNooch was there cheering which spurred me to up as best I could. Once I was dropping down Walsh Drive, I looked at my watch and knew I had it barring any catastrophic cramping. I told myself to savor this. It was the culmination of a long, hard training block and it had paid off. I had executed on the right day and I was ecstatic. Coming down the stairs for the final time was a little dicey, but Paddy and Lucci kindly let me pass and I was met at the finish line by a huge group of friends and family 3 hours, 41 minutes and 1 second after I’d started.


Top of Cardiac for the first time (~35mins). Credit: Yoko Senga

2015-11-28 09.18.34

Top of Cardiac the second time (~1h18m). Credit: Brett Rivers (I think)

The nice thing about this course is that you’re continually seeing people on different legs and the camaraderie and cheering that goes on between runners is awesome. I was able to see where the 2-3-4-5 guys were in relation to each other on each crossing and knew that Ezra, Yassine, and Dane were running strong. It turns out that Ezra had dropped back a bit in the middle legs but made a big charge in the final leg to take 2nd, with Yassine and Dane rounding out 3rd and 4th respectively. Great runs by all of them. Their words to me as they were heading down to Stinson for the last time definitely helped me up Steep Ravine.


Paddy and Lucci let me pass on the final descent. Credit: unknown


The stoke is high, bro. Credit: John Medinger.

This week has been completely focused on recovery. I didn’t run Sunday or Monday and have run very slow and easy the past 2 days. I’m planning to toe the line at TNF on Saturday, but if I feel crappy as a result of the Quad, I won’t hesitate to drop. I’m hoping that I can be smart enough to listen to my body. That and I’ve got Club XC Nationals next weekend.

On a final note, thanks to all out there who organized (John Catts et al), volunteered, and cheered. Everyone was incredibly supportive and gracious in sharing the trail and I apologize if I didn’t return the favors adequately. It was one of those races where I was in the zone and my external focus is generally less-than-present when that’s the case. If I slighted you in some way, find me at The Deuce on Saturday night, tell me about it, and I’ll buy you a beer.


Family makes a huge difference.

Strava data: https://www.strava.com/activities/441111088/overview

Results: http://www.quad-dipsea.com/2015.html



Shoes: Nike Zoom Kiger 3

Shorts: Nike Tech Half Tights

Singlet: Nike Pro Kit

Buff: Nike

Handheld: Amphipod 20oz with surgical rubber strap

Sustenance: 1 PickyBar during (2 before), 6 Gus (ate roughly every half hour)

About afvarner

Runner. Donuts. Sneakerhead. Not necessarily in that order. Nike Trail Elite. Picky Bars. Gu. Vicory Sportdesign.
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3 Responses to Quad Dipsea 2015

  1. bobshebest says:

    Nailed it. Hellava year Alex!! Lookin’ forward to sharing some miles [behind you] on Saturday. Cheers!!

  2. thedenuch says:

    Crushed it buddy! So awesome.

  3. Pingback: 2015: A year in review | And miles to go before I eat…

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