Sunday, November 02, 2008

Wet and Muddy

The view outside my bus, you can barely see the Golden Gate Bridge. It made me think of my warm bed.

Downtown Mill Valley, this is pretty much it. There's some shops behind me and on the right more shops and the local grocery market but for the most part this is it. This is the town square. The street on the left, take a left on it and 1/8 of a mile down you'll be at Old Mill Park, the start and finish of the Quad Dipsea - going on it's 26th year.

It was a gloriously wet, windy and muddy day on the Dipsea trail Saturday. Frankly I was surprised how well the trails have held up since it had been raining since Thursday. It rained the whole time I was out there, all 7 hours of it. There was only one section where the mud was thick enough that I was slipping and sliding for a bit. For those of you in the know, it's the short downhill section as you're heading towards the wooden foot bridge and into the parking lot of Muir Woods as you are heading back to Mill Valley. The rocks, roots and wooden steps along the trail were definitely slippery and that more than the mud was what slowed me down considerably. I was thinking 1.5 hours for each crossing for a total of 6 hours for the entire run but slowing down and ultimately taking an hour longer was probably the smartest thing to do. Twisting an ankle or suffer some crash related injury would have totally sucked especially 4 weeks from the race. My legs were definitely feeling it on the last crossing. Having to check my speed on the down hills was a lot of work on the quads and all the dancing around obstacles wore me out but it's all good training in the end. Imagine traveling down a flight of small stairs which you could take 2 or 3 at a time but you are forced to take them one single step at a time the whole way, move left to right as you come down. It's kind of like that, slower, safer but a lot more work.

In addition to the rain, wind and mud was the heavy fog that covered the whole area. Thick fog that took out the views and made you feel isolated and alone. It was eerie and beautiful all at the same time. Because of the weather it was quiet on the trails for the most part, most of the people I saw was on the first double crossing. There was a trail race earlier in the day but it was mostly done by the time I was running. The trail runners I saw actually outnumbered the hikers:) Ran into a runner I actually knew, Karalee Morris, heading the other way with three other runners. Undoubtedly training for the Quad Dipsea. She's a fast one. I haven't seen much of her this year, caught up with her for the first time at Firetrails three weekends ago. Last year I raced with her three times and finished behind her each time. At the Quad Dipsea I finished way, way behind. Her 7:37 at American River 50 last year was particularly impressive too. She's one of a dozen or so runners who has inspired me the last couple of years to work harder and race better. My recent obsession on speed is largely due to these friends and their great performances; Kevin Swisher, Scott Dunlap, Will Gotthardt, Brian Wyatt, and Donald Buraglio just to name a handful more in addition to Karalee.

Striving to always stay inspired, always chasing.

On this last photo, the young Redwood trees, there were a couple of runners so taken of the view that they stopped running and laid down on the slope clutching their water bottles, oblivious to the rain and mud around them. If I knew them I would have joined them for a bit.

By the time I finished the lights in the surrounding homes were already on; inviting warm yellows and oranges to the surrounding cold blues, blacks and grays that I was moving through. The smell of firewood burning was in the air and it made me think of warm blankets and cold beer. By the time I finished cleaning up and changing in the park bathroom the street lights were already on, the rain hadn't stopped but the cafes were still open. A good thing because I was starving. After 7 hours of energy drink and energy gel I was hungry for some real food. I had to apologize profusely for my very, very wet money though. It was inside the pack but the whole thing was soaked. Maybe my next one will have waterproof compartments. As I walked around I really felt the coming of Winter and the Holidays. No more Indian Summer weather and on to Northern California Winter weather.

I'm back again next week for another Quad crossing. Next week I'll talk a little bit about the history of the trail and races held there. If it's not raining I'll take pictures of an interesting set of stairs on the Mill Valley side. This is old hat to some of you but you may still find it interesting.

I forgot to add, the new gear works nicely. The Vasque VSTs worked like they should, water drained well in the shoe, no sloshing around in there and the treads kept me on the trail. The Drymax socks, despite being soaked for most of the run also worked. Not a single blister. What I would do differently for next time however, for days like this, is to wear the trail version. I used their regular running sock, cut low and ended up with a lot of junk inside the sock. The trail sock goes up to the ankle and keeps stuff from getting in.


  1. Wanna hear something weird? I was supposed to run the Dipsea trail yesterday with a couple of friends. I had to to bail of course, because of my stupid IT issue. One of these days I'll get out there. Your pictures are beautiful. Thanks for sharing.

  2. I love running in Marin in the rain. There's something about the mud that is less sticky than the mud over here in the East Bay, if that's possible...

  3. Marine Corps Mantra:

    If it ain't raining, You ain't training! :)

  4. Wow, way to break in your new gear, Rick! :) That had to have been a pretty good field test. Those must have been some challenging conditions to run in. I will bet a warm meal tasted pretty good after running in that all day!

    The photo of the redwooods in the fog is particularly beautiful. Great photos of the trail conditions as well!

  5. Squirt =P8:15 AM

    I JUST saw your sugar logo and I'm soo lovin it!
    I might order one =]
    It should be on a maroon background like you had it, but whatevaaa, it's still pretty badass that she got it on a tshirt!
    Anyway, as always, your pictures are great and we definitely have a lot of candy leftover from halloween. I don't think it'll be attacked much unless

  6. wow - you ran in that rain on the dipsea? i did a couple of hours along alcatraz course, out to ocean beach and back through presidio and thought i was rugged for braving the rain/wind pelting me on the beach. you set the stud bar so high, rick gaston. beautiful pics.

  7. Wow ... I'm totally jealous. That's still one of my favorite trails of all time. 7 hours of Dipsea sounds like a dream.

    Curious - how'd you keep your camera dry?

  8. Never been on the Dipsea but I always hear good things. I need to come down and run the Quad one of these years.

  9. I LOVE this trail- been over there a few times, too, training for Quad. LOVELY weather!

  10. Ah finally I'm let back in again. Whatever the issue was, it is now gone and I can comment away.

    Jo Lynn: I hope the IT issue goes away soon!

    Victoria: I agree, East Bay mud is more clay like and sticks to your shoes, here it doesn't stick but can also be very, very slippery.

    Dave: We all have to do it sometime. Just glad we don't have to deal with icy snow too.

    Jean: Yeah it was a good day. I hope it's raining again for next time.

    Squirt: Alas they didn't have maroon. You can send some of that candy my way. Don't let Dad eat it!

    Samantha: Thanks. Well one of these days you should join me out there. I would say that running the alcatraz course is no easy task either.

    Donald: I kept the camera in a clear ziplock bag. It worked for the most part. When the rain was light or I found shelter under a tree I risked shots out of the bag. It's definitely my favorite trail. If I could only run one trail this would be it, it has everything I need.

    EvanAK: It's a great trail and a great race. You'd have a great time.

    Kate: One of my all time favorites. Good luck to your training and say hello at Quad.