It was absolutely gorgeous this weekend, with clear skies and mild temperatures in the 70’s along the coast. A perfect day to take a dip – on the Dipsea trail that is. In preparation for the Trans Rockies next month, Preston and I tackled the Dipsea trail on Sunday for a double, starting in Mill Valley out to Stinson and back. I’ve run the Dipsea race once before, and know it’s a doozy. It’s also one of my favorite races and definitely one of my favorite trails.
The trail starts in Mill Valley, in what appears to be a driveway full of houses. At the end of this uphill drive, the first ascent up the famed Dipsea steps begins. There are 3 separate stair climbs in the very beginning, totaling 672 stairs. The “trail” meanders through the quiet hillside streets of Mill Valley, often losing runners at a wrong turn. But follow the big E in the road to find the next set of stairs. The top of the stairs is far from the top, however. The trail plummets down from the side of Mt. Tam through several valleys, ravines and even Muir Woods, winding it’s way towards the ocean. Each time the trail dips down, be advised, it will be going back up shortly.
This run is tough, 2200′ feet of climbing in each direction, rarely a flat portion of trail to be found. But the views are amazing and it’s this kind of winding technical trail that wakes you up and makes you feel alive.
At the end of the Dipsea, the trail literally spits you out onto Shoreline only a few hundred feet from Stinson beach. A short jog through a residential street and you are standing at the edge of the Pacific Ocean. Then you get to turn around and go back!
I’d only done this trail once before in the race – finishing at Stinson. What I didn’t recall was the quad busting stairs going down steep ravine into Stinson. Not only did it leave me short of breath on the way down, but walking back up this winding trail with wood steps here and there had me hitting zone 4. Walking!
As I headed back over Cardiac Hill, en route to Mill Valley, I visualized running the 14 miles total, then I tried to imagine running 16 miles like this and 18 miles like this. I feel strong, recovered from Ironman, and am getting my trail confidence back. It wasn’t until Monday afternoon that the soreness had really set in, reminding me that recovery is still critical. Now I’m imagining running more back to back high mileage days with more climbing and I’m a bit scared of what the Trans Rockies has in store!