by Peter Holleran
Standing next to Russ Kiernan at Stinson Beach after the 2005 Double Dipsea I finally realized the key to success on the Dipsea trail. He was holding the ancient pair of Nike's he wore in the race (and always wears in the race) and I noticed the well-worn soles and next-to-nothing tread. “Look like bald tires,” I said - “no braking with those shoes.” “That’s right,” he replied, FULL SPEED AHEAD!” Aha! So that’s it. Already suspecting that was the secret, I tried running in a pair of 9 ounce ASICS trainers, in spite of the advice of one out of shape shoe salesman (not Kees) who insisted the Dipsea was a special race requiring fully supportive (ie., heavy and expensive) trail shoes. (Tell that to Don Pickett, Mr. Dipsea, who a few years ago marketed a light-weight wisp of a thing only a ballerina could love). Well, the gamble paid off, as I made it to Mill Valley on the outleg of the Double faster than I did six years ago and with less effort. The pros and cons of this strategy is that you either go all out and emerge unscathed or risk: (1) killing yourself, (2) breaking a leg, or (3) experiencing extreme DOMS (no, I am not talking about Dell Vikings doo-wop but rather “delayed onset muscle soreness”) from unsuccessful attempts to slow down and protect yourself. My first real test came after cresting Cardiac and heading down through the damp, soggy rain forest, where the inability to create any traction whatsoever guaranteed a fast, hair-raising, and mentally challenging descent. “Full tilt” on the Dipsea trail, I am now convinced, is the only way to go. Visualize your body in the mind’s eye, and have total faith that at the end of the day you will remain standing. Let it all happen, and be the witness. He who hesitates - even for a second - is lost. As long as your weight is over your shoes you will not fall, even taking the “Bonzai” approach, as multi-best-time winner Mike McManus used to say.
Did anyone notice how clean Suicide, Steep Ravine, and the Panoramic short-cuts looked, even though there had been no official, authorized trail crew? Very interesting. Even Swoop was passable (although slower than the trail), whereas a few weeks before all of the above areas were difficult to even WALK through. Now, Frank Ruona told me that Russ feels the course should be as difficult as possible. I’ll bet he does! I’d feel the same if the trail ahead of me was clear-sailing all the way, but for the 1400 other lemmings a small deference to safeguarding life and limb may be reasonable. Of course, I know nothing about all this, or how the trail got into the shape it was in by race day. You see, my mind has been a bit addled due to a strange staph infection on my hand from a pricker or insect bite, a wicked case of poison oak, and a deep gash on my thumb from contact with a sharp pruning implement (some call it a slingblade, mmmmmm, I call it a sling blade, mmmmmm; babble, babble, drool, babble).
I am sure Russ went down the Swoop, but for most of us in the “back of the bus” the trail with its newly stomped diagonal cut was the faster route this year. I went that way and came out below Swoop ahead of others who had reached Swoop before I did. Shirley Matson said she secretly wished the short-cuts were made illegal. (Maybe that attitude is why we don’t see her running trails that often). My personal feeling on the matter is: let’s not spoil a good thing. I would rather have Swoop still be considered the best way to go - even though it isn’t - thereby having the trail, where I can go full speed with less stress or threat of spiral tibial fracture, all to myself.
Will Roy Rivers win the Dipsea next year? Dimitris believes he will. “Babyface” Rivers, who looks and runs like he is 28, not 48, might do just that, if his stellar :52 and 1:45 Dipsea/ Double Dipsea times this year are any indication.
Wildman Dimitris also continues to climb the ranks. Some have attributed his 20th Double Dipsea place to his switching from a hybrid Jack Kirk-berserker ensemble (long pants-no shirt) to a cycling-shorts-basketball-socks motif. Contributions (tax-deductible of course) are being accepted to get him a genuine Tamalpa racing outfit to boost his chances of getting a black shirt next year - and also look better on the podium.
Steve Katz is also on a roll. Leaner and meaner than ever , his :63 and 2:08 Dipsea/ Double Dipsea times show him getting faster every year - which is not supposed to happen. I have been waiting six years for myself to speed up and for him to slow down and have so far had no luck.
Four-time Dipsea winner Matson, who sets a new national or world record almost every other week, demonstrated her mortality and the truth of Lao Tzu’s saying “one cannot always stand on tip-toe” with a self-proclaimed personal worst of 1:12 and change. She went overboard by calling herself a “has been”, however - thus effectively sand-bagging ahead of time for next year! You can’t fool us, Shirley.
After the Double it was an adorable sight to watch Marilyn Kiernan bundling up her hubby in warm clothes, gloves, and a scarf she lovingly wrapped around his delicate, exposed neck, thus creating the deceiving appearance of taking care of a feeble old man, instead of course champion and outright bore who refuses to act his age by slowing down and thereby giving the rest of us bums a fighting chance. I suggested to Russ he could supplement his Social Security by placing his racing hardware on eBay, thus guaranteeing him a nice retirement income stream for years to come.
Thanks to fast shoes - and the good sense of guys like Tomas Pastalka and Danny Dreyer in not showing up - I was able to win my first medal ever since starting to run seven years ago, second place for ages 55-59 in the Double Dipsea, which was a small consolation after having to bail out of Western States. We stealthy Dipsea guerillas may not need no stinkin’ badges, but we’ll take any medal we can get. Roger Gordon would agree, having squeaked by with another Dipsea black shirt in a time five minutes slower than his squeak-by 35th place a few years ago. What a gyp. The race IS fixed. Long live the race!
All those disheartened finding that on their big day or their last day the trail or the mountain emerges victorious, may hopefully take some comfort in knowing that “the only physical proof of consciousness is suffering” (Yukio Mishima). Barreling down Suicide and Steep Ravine without care for health and welfare, I think of Frank Ruona, set back a notch by a broken hip, Hans Roenau walking the trail with a cane, Jack Kirk in a wheel chair. The haunting image of Kevin McCarthy in The Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1955) then comes to mind, where he looks directly into the screen, points his finger and says, “YOU’RE NEXT!”
Hey, we do what we can. Such is the Dipsea spirit, or something.