Barry Spitz

Saturday, July 11, 2015

105th Dipsea
June 14, 2015

Brian Pilcher comfortably won a second title, runner-up Matias Saari showed he is to be reckoned with in the future, and Rickey Gates snapped Alex Varner’s epochal streak of six successive Best Time trophies to highlight the 105th Dipsea Race.
Since his Dipsea win in 2009, Pilcher’s running career had highs and lows. He had to sit out the 2010 Dipsea with an injury, keeping fit riding an Elliptigo, a mobile elliptical bicycle in which he became an investor. In 2014, after hesitating whether to enter at all due to injury, he finished 22nd. But in 2013, Pilcher was named USA Track & Field’s Runner of the Year (age 55-59). He also finished places 3-5-3 in the Dipsea races of 2011-13. 
Pilcher again entered late, a privilege granted past champions, and was then immediately recognized as a favorite. When he passed, earlier than expected, two-time defending champion Diana Fitzpatrick—she started four minutes before him-- Pilcher too thought a second win was possible. Only Hans Schmid, the 75-year-old champion from 2012, remained ahead. Pilcher passed Schmid at Cardiac, again sooner than expected. “I wondered how far Chris Lundy was behind me,” said Pilcher but otherwise then felt confident of victory. Pilcher’s time of 56:56 meant he comfortably ran “under his age” (58), always a rare and remarkable feat. His winning margin of 1:58 was the largest since 2003.   
“The monkey is off my back. After 2009, I thought I could win every year,” Pilcher told the crowd at the awards ceremony.
Runner-up Matias Saari, 44, from Alaska, had tried, without success, to enter previous Dipsea races. This year, he was not only admitted, but passed directly into Invitational on the strength of three wins in Alaska’s Mt. Marathon Race, which is actually steeper and more treacherous (though shorter) than the Dipsea. Saari justified the Race Committee’s decision. After being passed by Best Time winner Gates, Saari outran Gates down Steep Ravine and on to the finish.
“I ran down out of control,” said Saari in an understatement.
Saari is due to gain a head start minute in 2016, while Pilcher is saddled with a winner’s penalty minute.
The day’s great battle was for the Best Time Trophy. Alex Varner had won the award six years in a row, one of the greatest feats in Dipsea history. No one previously had strung more than three in succession. But Varner competed in the IAU World 100 kilometer championship race in France just 15 days before (May 30). His legs still fatigued, Varner slowed 96 seconds from 2014 and was beaten to the finish line (by three seconds) by his training partner, and fellow scratch starter, Gus Gibbs. (Mark McManus, winner of three Best Time trophies, was one place behind, in 10th.) But swiftest of all was Rickey Gates, who had been runner-up both overall and for the Time trophy in his Dipsea debut in 2014. Starting in the one-minute group, Gates knocked 20 seconds off his 2014 effort, his 49:11 winning the Time prize by 22 seconds and good for third place.
Chris Lundy, fourth, slowed 2:37 from 2013, when she was runner-up overall to Fitzpatrick. Still, her 59:23 won Lundy a record fifth woman’s Best Time award. She had previously been tied with Debbie Rudolf and Peggy Smyth with four trophies. Heath Hibbard, a Coloradan who won the age 60-64 division in the 2015 Boston Marathon, finished fifth in his Invitational debut. Another Colorado runner, Andy Ames, finished sixth. That put four non-Californians in the top six, unprecedented in Dipsea history. 
Brad Bryon, 13th, became the third person to won a 20th black shirt (top 35 finish). He joined Russ Kiernan and Steve Stephens in the exclusive club.
Wyatt Miceli, 14, finishing his freshman year at Sir Francis Drake H.S., where he starred on the mountain biking team, finished 16th and won the High School trophy. He also paired with his brother Johnny Lawson to win the Alan Beardall Family Trophy for a second successive year. Lawson, a past High School trophy winner himself and now running for Cal, had the flu but ran anyhow, finishing 53rd. Quinn Lehmkuhl, 15, who just completed her sophomore year at North Tahoe High, won the girls’ High School trophy. She ran 1:11:07 (10hc), finishing 169th.
Hans Schmid, who led much of the way, at one point by three minutes, ended up 17th. At age 75, he became the oldest black shirt winner ever. Schmid was already the oldest overall winner (72).
George Torgun and Michael Broom, both 37, ended up one second apart for black shirts #34 and #35. But then an unprecedented gap of 41 seconds ensued before Lucas Agricola crossed in the dreaded 36th slot.
It was a tough year for women, with only four finishing among the first 40. The highest placed woman with the minimum handicap of eight minutes was only 98th. 
--The coolest conditions in years led to generally faster times and fewer injuries. Indeed, the sun never shone during the Invitational race, nor did it break through at all through the awards ceremony. There was, however, some mud, particularly approaching Cardiac, from a rare, fairly hard June rain four days earlier.
--Sisters Colleen and Sharon Fox, running and volunteering in more than 60 Dipsea races between them, were presented with the Jack Kirk Award.
--Norman Pease, who has run 34 Dipseas and shared his love for the Race with many others, received the Norman Bright Award.
--Billie Post, who ran the Dipsea for 26 years--often among the last finishers but always cheering others--then became a volunteer, was honored with the Red Tail Hawk Award.
--This writer was inducted into the Dipsea Race Hall of Fame as its 30th member. I founded the Hall of Fame in 1993, when I named the first five charter members (Norman Bright, Judge Timothy Fitzpatrick, Jack Kirk, Emma Reiman and Sal Vasquez) before turning over the selection process to the Dipsea Committee.
--Dipsea Foundation college scholarships were awarded to Isabella Amyx, Frank Gerraty, Adam Harwood, Sarah Seltzer and Meghan Tanel.
--For the first time, the Race was viewable live online. UltraSportsLive, with permission of the Dipsea Committee, streamed the event using cameras at Cardiac and the finish line.
--Just six days later, closer than usual, more than 630 runners ran the Double Dipsea. Gary Gellin had an actual time of 1:55:18 and won by 2:52 over Wayne Best. Lisbet Sunshine, 4th, was first female. The fastest actual times were run by Paddy O’Leary (1:54:31) and Caitlin Fitzpatrick (2:19:40).
--In the 2014 Quadruple Dipsea, Chikara Omine ran 4:12:01 to win by 3:02 over Dave Mackey. Caren Spore, 14th, was top female in a time of 5:00:16.

1. Brian Pilcher (58), Kentfield, 56:56 (11 minute handicap), 1:58 victory margin
2. Matias Saari (44), Anchorage, AK, 50:54 (3hc)
3. Rickey Gates (34), Madison, WI, 49:11 (1hc) fastest time
4. Chris Lundy (44), Sausalito, 59:23 (11hc) fastest woman
5. Heath Hibbard (62), Montrose, CO, 1:02:38 (14hc)
6. Andy Ames (52), Boulder, CO, 55:51 (7hc)
7. Alan Reynolds (51), Sausalito, 55:22 (6hc)
8. Gus Gibbs (29), Ketchum, ID, 49:33 (scratch) second fast time
9. Alex Varner (29), San Rafael, 49:36 (scratch)
10. Mark McManus (41), Mill Valley, 52:10 (2hc)
11. Diana Fitzpatrick (57), Larkspur, 1:05:16 (15hc)
12. Darrin Banks (49), Berkeley, 55:17 (5hc)
13. Bradford Bryon (57), Penngrove, 1:00:31 (10hc)
14. Cliff Lentz (50), Brisbane, 56:57 (6hc)
15. Galen Burrell (35), Mill Valley, 52:01 (1hc)
16. Wyatt Miceli (14), Forest Knolls, 56:17 (5hc) first high school
17. Hans Schmid (75), Greenbrae, 1:15:20 (24hc)
18. Ryan Matz (28), Ellensburg, WA, 51:38 (scratch)
19. John Litzenberg III, Glen Ellen, 55:45 (4hc)
20. Jerry Edelbrock, Corte Madera, 1:08:46 (17hc)
21. Thomas Rosencrantz (49), Mill Valley, 56:49 (5hc)
22. Wayne Best (47), San Rafael, 55:56 (4hc)
23. Sissel Berntsen-Heber (51), Boca Raton, FL, 1:04:57 (13hc)
24. Bob Murphy (62), Spokane, WA, 1:06:16 (14hc)
25. Bradley O’Brien (53), Novato, 59:26 (7hc)
26. Kristen McCarthy (41), Mill Valley, 1:02:29 (10hc) second fastest woman
27. Stephen Donahue (37), San Francisco, 53:37 (1hc)
28. Thomas Taylor (39), Brentwood, 54:43 (2hc)
29. Jared Baririlleaux (30), Petaluma, 52:48 (scratch)
30. Wes Thurman (43), Colorado Springs, 55:54 (3hc)
31. Michael Woolford (57), Jefferson, AR, 1:02:57 (10hc)
32. Roy Kissin (58), San Francisco, 1:04:00 (11hc)
33. John Hudson (52), Mill Valley, 1:00:01 (7hc)
34. George Torgun (37), Berkeley, 54:04 (1hc)
35. Michael Broom (37), San Francisco, 54:05 (1hc)
36. Lucas Agricola (33), Sausalito, 54:46 (1hc)
37. Greg Nacco (55), Larkspur, 1:01:47 (8hc)
38. Preston Sitterly (67), Sonoma, 1:11:54 (18hc)
39. John Lundy (52), Penngrove, 1:01:02 (7hc)
40. Victor Ballesteros (45), San Rafael, 58:05 (4hc)
41. Sid Bagga (17), Orinda, 56:08 (2hc)
42. Alastair Lawrence (36), Oakland, 55:14 (1hc)
43. Patricia Shore (48), Mill Valley, 1:06:20 (12hc)
44. Tim Wallen (51), San Rafael, 1:00:33 (6hc)
45. Jennifer Foster (41), Mill Valley, 1:04:44 (10hc)
46. Edward Breen (33), San Francisco, 55:54 (1hc)
47. Steven Katz (64), Larkspur, 1:10:01 (15hc)
48. Sarah Tabbutt (56), Mill Valley, 1:12:11 (17hc)
49. Chris Knorzer (46), Rocklin, 59:16 (4hc)
50. Mark Helmus (61), Davis, 1:08:24 (13hc)

1,419 finishers; overcast and cool throughout
Team: Pelican Track Club; Saari, Gates, Reynolds, Gibbs, Varner