Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Dipsea Race

The New Year always seems to bring forth a sense of renewal, a time to "do-over" or "start-from-scratch" or  "wipe-the-slate clean" type of atittude. In 2011, I am taking life by the bull horns with a can-do-attitude--at least with my running, anyway. I'm going to try to run races that I've never given a second thought like, mud runs, relays, or gnarly trail runs and maybe even run the Dipsea Race.

Have you ever run Dipsea? I've been asked countless times. As if to say, you're not quite there yet, until you have run Dipsea. So maybe, I might be buying into its prestige.  I have heard of this race before, but never really paid much attention to what it really is.  Runner's World had an article about the race this past summer and it piqued my interest.  After reading the article, it's on my bucket list of races to run.  A scenic and truly challenging course, it is not for the faint of heart.  Runners face uneven footing, single-track trails, a rooty, steep terrain, featuring about 2,200-foot  elevation gain and loss over the 12K course. You don't have to be fast, but you do have to have a strong desire to finish.

The gnarly course is only 7.4 mile long from Mill Valley to Stinson Beach in Marin County.  It is a 30-minute drive through Highway 1, north of San Francisco, via Golden Gate Bridge. It is super hilly and technical in some spots. Talk about 688 stairs and steep narrow trails, treacherously and aptly named: Windy Gap, Suicide, Dynamite, Hogsback, Cardiac, Swoop, Insult Hill, and Steep Ravine.  Experienced runners found shortcuts in order to move up a couple of places in the results.  The race features a handicapped grading system (more on that later). It is one of the oldest trail races in America with the first one run in 1905. Runners are capped off at 1,500 to preserve the trail and due to safety and environmental concerns.  How do you get in, you ask?  Well that's a story in itself.

First, you have to be among the first 750 finishers in the previous Dipsea. Next, from the remaining (800-900 slots): 500 slots are on first come-first serve basis.   The application is downloaded from the official website after March 16, 2011.  Applications must be sent by U.S Postal Service only. No Fedex, UPS, or any other overnight service. This is slightly skewed to local runners. The next 100 entries are held for silent auction. Anything above the $60.00 entry fee, "bribe"money, goes to charity.  The last 300 slots are for randomly held lottery.  All applications must be received by April 1, 2011.   

Back to the handicapped starts. In an effort to level the playing field, some runners are allowed minutes head start before others.  Based on age and gender, they have developed an equitable system of start times. The race's official handicapper submits the data annually to a committee who then reviews the information based on previous years of historical data and actual record of finish times of female and male runners. Last year's first and second place finishers, had a 25-minute head start in the first group of runners. The winner was an 8-year-old fourth grader, Reilly Johnson. She beat out a 68-year-old grandmother of four, Melody-Ann Schultz of Ross.  This 8 year-old is the youngest winner in Dipsea's history. (By the way, she is a local from Mill Valley and her dad was a past Dipsea champ.)  Come March 16, 2011, I'll be ready to download the application and head on to our regional Post Office.   Well that, or find a friend who can mail my form for me in the Bay Area. Yes, I want to experience Dipsea.  I want to feel the rocks under my feet. I won't mind if I trip on roots. I want to feel the burning air in my lungs as I ascend the 688 stairs and feel what its like to climb Cardiac Hill. I want in on this.

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