In June 2014, I ran a Double Dipsea for the very first time. Why I went back for a second time in 2015 I have no idea. Only a madman would have gone back for a third time in 2016 and that's exactly what I did.
The course map is below. It's basically an out and back from Stinson Beach on the coast to Mill Valley, which is on the other side of Mt. Tamalpias. The course doesn't go to the summit of Mt. Tamalpias, but it does skirt around the south side of it.
In a majority of instances when you have a second or third go around at something, it tends to get better. But that's not the case with the Double Dipsea. Every year this race just seems to become harder and harder, mostly because of the heat and the humidity. The first year I ran this race the temperatures were in the 60s and there was a cool breeze coming off of the ocean. This year was just like last year; it was hot! And the brutal climbs that this course offers will make even some of the strongest people weep as their legs are destroyed by the 1000 or more steps one has to climb. If I were to believe the data from my Fitbit, it says that I climbed about 440 floors. I don't even think there's a building on the planet that has that many floors! The official course ascent has been measured at 4500ft, and my Suunto Ambit3 measured an ascent of 4200ft, so all three measurements are close enough to each other.
Here's the climb out of the Stinson Beach starting line.
At this point we've all climb at least 500ft within the first mile. You know things are bad when you start walking within the first quarter of a mile because of the hills. And there's no shame in doing that.
Going up further still, you can see the line of people behind you.
This is Aid Station #1, called -- interestingly enough -- Insult. Not sure why it's named that, but when you hit this aid station at the end of the race after having climbed a short hill -- and seeing the aid station at the top of the hill -- perhaps that's why it's appropriately named Insult.
After Insult, there's even more climbing involved until you're treated to a view like the one below.
That's San Francisco in the distance, and that tiny sliver is Sutro Tower. There's a fickle finger of fog trying to sneak in on the right side of the frame, but thankfully the Great California Fog Bank stayed off the coast so that we'd be treated to views like that.
Of course, the view is not without it's downside because with no tree cover, we're completely exposed to the sun. Not a major deal in the morning, but later on the temps and the humidity will rise, and that will make for a very rough return trip to Stinson Beach.
Can you see aid station #2 the distance? This one is called Cardiac, but the name won't be quite apparent until the return trip to Stinson Beach.
Once past this aid station you'll find yourself under a lot of tree cover. There are a lot of dangerous roots and rocks on the trail, and it can get very treacherous from this point on because there is the temptation to run fast downhill.
Here's the infamous Dipsea Stairs. 680 steps in all, broken up into three sections. 680! Can you imagine a climbing a building that tall?
And, of course, that's not counting all of the steps you had to climb out of Stinson Beach, though those probably only number about 300. Yeah, it's enough to make someone bug-eyed...
Here's a photo someone snapped of me as I was headed down the Dipsea Stairs and he was headed up. I definitely had to leave my Fuji XT-1 behind for this race and rely on my iPhone for photos. Any additional weight would have really slowed me down.
Once at the bottom of the Dipsea Stairs, we head back up them and then all the way back through the forest, and we climb up and up and up, back to Cardiac Aid Station. The climb back was agony for me. My quads, specifically the rectus femoris muscles, were screaming in pain! I had about a one mile stretch before reaching Cardiac where I couldn't run at all, but I forced myself to walk. I would have dragged myself along the ground if needed, but I wasn't giving up!
Another view of the stairs, this time going up!
Somewhere at the top of this climb is Cardiac Aid Station. I think...
It's at this point in the race that most people get delirious and run out of water and fuel. This really is only a two mile stretch, but this the portion of the course that breaks a person's will down.
Once past Cardiac, we're on the way back to Stinson Beach. It's a relief knowing that where the above photos was taken, there was about 3 miles left to go.
One of the Dipsea Trail markers. I didn't notice any of the others during my return trip, but I'm sure they were there.
The above picture was taken of me within the first mile of the race, courtesy of WJY, one of Brazen Racing's many volunteer photographers.
There are very few races where I'll not bring my camera along, and this is definitely one of them. One really needs to be awake and alert, paying close attention to the trail. Injuries can and have taken place. If it's not the heat that does someone in -- the medical staff was pretty busy dealing with people who were dehydrated -- then there's always the occasional face-plant or scraped knee. I saw a few of the latter that day.
I finished the race four minutes faster than the previous year, but still 20 minutes slower than my first year.
Would I do this race again? Well, many a mom has told me that after their babies have been born, they forget some of the misery they experienced during the pregnancy, and I'm sure it will be the same way with me and the Double Dipsea. Provided I can get in next year -- and the race does sell out fast -- I'll run it again.
Gear used while on the course: iPhone 4s