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June 12, 2006

Dipsea By The Numbers

If you’ve learned anything about the Dipsea race from my previous posts, it’s that numbers are the only thing that matter. Not the clock time, not your age group place, but overall finishing place.

Accordingly, my race report from the 2006 Dipsea will be strictly by the numbers:

96: Number of times, including Sunday, the Dipsea has been run. It’s confusing, because last year was the 100th anniversary. But like the Boston Marathon and so many other sporting events, the Dipsea went on hiatus during the World War years. Could any of us imagine something like that happening today – the whole baseball season being called off, or the most popular recreational sporting events suspended for several years at a time? There’s a war going on right now, isn’t there? For various reasons, we don’t make nearly the sacrifices our forbearers did in supporting our war efforts. In the grand scheme of things, that’s probably not a good thing.

(Sorry, I didn’t mean to turn this into “Meet the Press.” Back to the running…)

9: Rank, out of nine, of this year’s shirt color in comparison to all the other years I’ve run here. The Dipsea changes shirt colors each year –
usually it’s a sharp blue or green or cream color. But this year’s strange yellow hue is undoubtedly the worst. There’s nothing that says “This is a tough race” quite like the color of, um...butter? Dandelions? Lemon zest? I’m just not seeing it.

On the other hand, maybe that’s just a guy thought – because my wife and 5-year-old daughter both commented on what a nice color shirt it was, without even being asked.

22: Number of head start minutes the first runners had before I started the race. There are a lot of ways this race kicks you in the teeth, but I’ll say this: there's no other race that rewards getting older quite so generously.

1: Number of head start minutes I receive. Apparently in the eyes of the Dipsea committee, I’m not very old yet.

3: Number of years I have to wait until I get another head start minute. You know, patience has never been one of my better qualities. I’m not sure how I’m going to get myself through the next 1094 days. Not that I’m counting.

8: Bib number on the guy next to me on the start line, meaning he came in 8th place last year. I exercised some prudence and took a couple of steps backwards so I wouldn’t feel so discouraged when he left me in the dust. It was a humble, but smart move.

2: Minutes at the beginning of the race where I felt completely terrified. I’ve already called this race intimidating, but that doesn’t really do justice to the feeling of dread I have every year when taking off from the start – knowing the pain that lies ahead, and knowing that if I take the easy way out and run conservatively, I’ll feel like a failure. I get so anxious during the first quarter mile that I almost feel like throwing up. Thankfully, after I hit the stairs, I’m usually able to find a rhythm and settle down a bit. But those first two minutes are always horribly gut-wrenching. I can’t overemphasize this.

677: Number of stairs climbed in the first mile of the race. There’s no better way to describe these stairs than as absolute quad killers. The Dipsea stairs are the signature challenge of this race, but after several decades of use, many of them have fallen into disrepair. So this year the race committee started a fundraising drive to reconstruct portions of the stairs, to ensure that they inflict the same misery on generations of Dipsea runners to come.

1000: Number of dollars required to “sponsor” one of the new stairs. A plaque engraved with your name will be mounted on one of the Dipsea stairs for everybody to see. But here’s the thing: these stairs already own me. Every year on the second Sunday in June, I become their bitch. So placing my name on one of them would seemingly send the same message as a girl having her boyfriend’s name tattooed on the top of her ass. It’s not exactly something I would want to be made public. But maybe that’s just me.

4: Number of kids knocked over by me during my 7.1 mile romp to Stinson Beach. For the record, two of them jumped in front of me unexpectedly when I was passing them, so they had what was coming to them. Although they all lost their footing, none of the kids actually hit the ground, at least from what I could tell. I’m sure they’ll be fine. I prefer to think of the whole situation as me helping them build character. Because that's me: I’m all about the kids.

11: Age of the girl I found myself sprinting against during the final 200 meters. With about 100 meters to go, I was finally able to drop the hammer on her, and I didn't feel the least bit of shame in dropping her. Don't feel bad for the girl, though - at least I didn't have to knock her down to move past her.

90: Minutes my friend Mike drove to see me at the finish line. He and his wife were staying in San Francisco for the weekend, and decided to come see the race I keep badgering him about. It was great to see him. I typically run this race by myself and don’t know anybody at the finish area, so it felt nice to see a friendly face.

Despite my constant pleading, Mike doesn’t have any interest in doing the Dipsea. In fact, seeing countless finishers cross the line muddy, limping and bloodied probably sealed the deal for him. But he came to see me anyway. Now that’s a friend.

Mike also took this picture of me at the finish:

Don’t I look happy? And, um...is that girl in the back laughing at me? She knows I just ran a race, right?

62: Age of oldest man to run faster than me. Last year there was a 68-year-old who beat me, so I appear to be closing the gap on the sexagenarian men. As for the women...

52: Age of the oldest woman to beat me. Remember the 51-year-old woman I wrote about who thrashed me last year? She was back again. I'm not making any progress here.

Actually, I shouldn’t even be writing about this age thing. It’s such a no-win situation. Even if I get faster over the next few years and catch up to some of these 50- and 60-year-olds, I’ll still get myself all tied up in knots worried about...

14: Age of youngest male and female runners to beat me. A girl ran the course two minutes faster, and a boy ran five minutes faster than me. Like I said before, this race attracts some amazing runners on both ends of the age spectrum.

10: Minutes between phone calls to my wife (at home in Carmel Valley) from Mike’s cell phone as he drove me back to the start line after the race. The cell phone got poor reception amidst the tall redwoods and frequently cut out on us. Which wouldn’t have been so bad, except that Mike decided to start the conversation with a joke:

My wife: Hello?

Mike: Hey, it’s Mike. Your husband’s in the car with me. He’s lying in the back seat, bleeding and almost passed out.

My wife: What? Really?

And that’s when the cell phone reception died.

6: Baskets of fresh strawberries, along with one box of cherries, that I purchased from a roadside produce stand in Gilroy on my way home. Have I mentioned before that I like strawberries? For some reason I think I’ve mentioned that already. Needless to say, it was the highlight of my commute back to Monterey County.

25: Approximate number in the batch of cherry chocolate chunk cookies, baked by my wife, that awaited me when I returned home. I’m fairly sure she had made them even before she thought I might be dying. My wife is pretty much a saint in the things she does for me and the nonsense she puts up with on a daily basis. It’s occurred to me lately that I probably don’t say that enough.

And now for the really important numbers…

64: Minutes it took me to do the race. This is almost four minutes faster than last year, and only about 80 seconds slower than my best time here. I was able to maintain a strong effort throughout the race, and I’m happy with the improvement.

17: My relative standing in my starting group, out of 60. In a way, the blogging I did last week helped me in this regard: it forced me to realize that I wasn’t going to be at the front of the group. Therefore, I didn’t feel any pressure to stay with the guys who went off the front. That enabled me to start more conservatively and avoid hitting a lactic acid wall in the middle of the race. Remember what I said last week about humility being a good thing? I was pretty much just making that up because it sounded good. But in this case, it turns out I was actually right. Go figure.

218: My overall finishing place. This is about 150 places better than last year, and pretty close to my best-case scenario of under 200. Honestly, I had been somewhat concerned about my downward drift through the standings in recent years. This year’s race gave me some encouragement that someday I can compete with this crowd. Don’t misunderstand: I still got my annual whuppin', but I’m generally satisfied with my performance.

All of which means that after today, I’m still on track for…

14: Number of years to go on my 15-year plan to reach the top 100 in this race.

I'm determined to do it. No matter how many little kids I need to knock over to get there.


TJ 6/13/06, 9:00 AM  

Excellent report. That looks like a really fun race. I love knocking over little kids and grandmas.

Seriously, congrats on a good finish. And good luck on your 15 year plan.

olga 6/13/06, 9:04 AM  

Wonderful, just great! race and report:) I loved the layout of your recap. Congrats, you are on your way to the goal!!

backofpack 6/13/06, 9:05 AM  

Whew! Finally, a report. I might have carpal tunnel and spastic finger from checking your blog so much the last two days...

On the other hand, it was worth waiting for - an exciting and interesting read! Sounds like you ran a good race, and even though you trampled little children, you spared the old ladies. Nice!

stronger 6/13/06, 9:15 AM  

Again, great write-up. Can't you hurdle those kids?

Robb 6/13/06, 9:40 AM  

That's a great photo of you Donald. I don't know about the rest of your readers but personally, I think you need to show more gore; more blood and guts. Hardy-har-har!

I love how you love the kids. That's funny!

Deene 6/13/06, 10:19 AM  

i was kind of looking forward to pics of bruised, bloody knees and knuckles. wonderful report!

Cliff 6/13/06, 10:27 AM  


Good run. Great to see your placement improve from last year. Oh those cookies your wife made....man...i am drooling here eating my veges :0

DREW 6/13/06, 12:24 PM  

So we have to read to nearly the end to find out you did it "almost four minutes faster than last year, and only about 80 seconds slower than [your] best time" ever. AND that your 218 finish was "about 150 places better than last year, and pretty close to [your] best-case scenario of under 200."

Sandwiched between these awesome stats is of course your little lesson on humility. I think you have much to be proud of.

Incredible race so soon after Big Sur. Congratulations.

matt 6/13/06, 12:39 PM  

donald, i definitely spotted you on the freeway the other day...there was a man in a compact vehicle who had an elderly woman sitting up front...her seat was pushed up all the way so that her knees were hiked up against the dashboard. she was also holding her walker. if there had been a little more room, i think there may have been a couple flats of strawberries stacked on top of her lap, too.

you are hilarious with your love of children and the elderly :) i love the Harper's Weekly format with the 'numbers' telling the story.

all kidding aside, you must be very pleased with your performance and jump from last years numbers. great job, donald! what kind of time difference separates 217 from 100?

Anne 6/13/06, 3:57 PM  

Bravo! Bravo! A great performance, even though a couple of kids might disagree. And as Drew mentioned, the feat is all the more amazing coming so close after that grueling Big Sur marathon. You deserve every one of those strawberries (and maybe a few raspberries from the fallen children in your path).

angie's pink fuzzy 6/13/06, 4:39 PM  

I am snorting with laughter, I absolutely *loved* this race report. And you don't look nearly as bloody and dirty as I thought you'd look at the end of Dipsea!!! Way to go on your improvements.

robtherunner 6/13/06, 5:26 PM  

I enjoyed the numbers format of the report and was entertained as usual the whole way through. Any race that you can knock over little kids and not have child protective services called should be a must do.

Sarah 6/13/06, 5:54 PM  

A very enjoyable post! Don't get too good, because I have a feeling you wouldn't enjoy Dipsea quite so much if you weren't gettin' whupp'd! ; )

Seriously, great race!

craig 6/13/06, 10:18 PM  

Donald -- this is perhaps the most enjoyable race report I have ever read. I was cracking up all the way through it. Congratulations on your great finish.

Mike 6/14/06, 12:30 AM  

Donald- congrats on a great race. Two thumbs up on your race report- hilarious!

Darrell 6/14/06, 11:22 PM  

They should sign up as promotions director. You made this race come alive. Your report format was the best. You had a great run. Congrats.

Thomas 6/15/06, 8:51 AM  

This must be the funniest race report I've ever read. Congratulations on a good race, too. Be careful with those kids, mind; in a few years they'll be able to knock you over instead.

Brit 6/16/06, 1:26 AM  

You are hilarious. I'm terrified, and will never enter a run you are in for fear of being trampled. Thanks for sharing this report

jeanne 6/17/06, 2:32 PM  

i had never heard of the dipsea before reading all about it here, so thanks for all the great history and stats about it. A terrific race report (although while reading it I was secretly thrilled that i am neither a grandma or 14 years old)...hilarious about pushing thru those kids...they must know what they're getting into, right? every man for himself!

Great time and I LOVE your 14-year plan. You rock.

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