Thursday, June 09, 2011

California Adventure Day 4: Double Dipsea

On the morning of our fourth day, we got up, checked out, picked up a rental car and crossed the Golden Gate en route to the Marin County Headlands. We stopped for breakfast at the Dipsea Cafe - a very planned, very apropos choice.
We stuffed ourselves with stacks of pancakes (mine were blueberry-apricot-poppy seed with strawberry butter; YUM) and fresh squeezed orange juice. We would need all the strength we could muster. We were off to do the Dipsea.The Dipsea is the second oldest race in the United States, second only to the Boston Marathon. It's a quirky trail run that happens the second Sunday in June (so the 101st running will be this weekend!) and there's a lottery to get in because it's so popular. The reason it's popular, aside from the gorgeous scenery, is that there is a crazy handicapping system that sets runners off in waves. The very oldest and youngest runners go first; then the next oldest and next youngest batch; and so on, such that there is a lot of leapfrogging going on and it's possible for almost anyone to win.
Last year the race came down to a matter of seconds, and in the end an 8 year old girl became the youngest winner ever, edging out a 68 year old woman.
The trail is 7.5 miles long and runs from downtown Mill Valley to Stinson Beach. It starts with almost 700 steps up 3 staircases, the equivalent of climbing a 50 storey building within the first half mile.
And from there, it continues in pretty much the same way. Sections of the course have names like "Cardiac" and "Suicide" which pretty much indicate how intense the climbs are.

What better way to spend your vacation, huh?

Off we set... we were going to do the Dipsea. The trail is well marked in some spots... in others, not so well marked, but local residents do their part to help the hikers and runners out:
The trail climbs from Mill Valley, up through the golden hills of Marin County, down through a ravine to the edge of Muir Woods, back up through some open hills, into a redwood grove, and then finally starts to edge down toward the ocean. Kind of like this:
It was pretty, and once again we really lucked out with the weather.
Self-timer on a rock. This was at the top of "Cardiac", the highest point of the course. I like how you can scarcely tell where the ocean ends and the sky begins.
Each mile of the race is marked, though we missed a few of them along the way. I'm guessing they may have been overgrown since it had almost been a year since the last running of the race.
Finally, Stinson Beach is visible below, and we start logging more downhill than uphill.
Woot! I was pretty happy to finally stumble into Stinson Beach. It took us 3 hours and 2 minutes. The 8 year old girl who won the race last year did it in 1 hour, 12 minutes. It boggled our minds.
We bought a chicken sandwich from a shack on the beach. Quite possibly the best chicken sandwich on the face of the earth. We hung out on the beach for a little. I was rooting for the shuttle bus for the return trip... was hoping if Chad rested enough, it would be hard to get going again, and he'd go along with the idea. No such luck. Chad wanted to make it a Double Dipsea and hike back. And because he'd been such a good sport about getting up at 4:30 a.m. to watch me swim a few days earlier, I felt like I owed him one. So we did the Double Dipsea.
I put the camera in the backpack for the return trip - we were no longer sightseeing. It was all business. About halfway through the return hike, I think Chad regretted not taking the shuttle. I know I did. We were very lucky to find a water fountain at the outskirt of Muir Woods - we'd run out of water by that point and were parched. We finally made it back to Mill Valley and the car, drove to the nearest gas station, and bought the first cold drink we could find. It was heaven!

That pretty much wrapped up Day 4. We left Mill Valley, hot, sweaty and exhausted, en route to our next destination. Here is a hint for days 5, 6 and part of 7:


Kathy said...

a double Dipsea....impressive!