Diablo Trail 50k

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Last Sunday I did the Diablo Trail 50K put on by Save Mount Diablo.

This was a fairly tough course, a bit over 32 miles with 8518 feet of climb, point-to-point from Round Valley Park to Castle Rock Park in Walnut Creek. The way this works is that you drive to Castle Rock and park your car, take a bus to the start, where you register, change if necessary and dump your bags which are carted to the finish.

It was raining hard Saturday night and windy and cold Sunday morning, so I opted for a tank top (Race Ready Ares trail shirt) and a long sleeve shirt (Brooks Dryline; you can't get these any more, unfortunately), plus some light gloves. The first rest stop was at 10 miles, so I decided to carry a hydration system (Patagonia Houdini) instead of a race belt, with a bunch of gels. Even so, it was really cold standing around at the start, and it never warmed up much. It was fine down in the valleys but as soon as you got up to the ridge line it got super-cold and windy.

To make things harder, it was pouring rain Saturday night and the first 10 miles of the trail was incredibly muddy. Even with trail shoes and walking the uphills, people were slipping all over the place. As soon as you got to a downhill your shoes would pick up about an inch of mud making it real difficult to run. I would say about 40% of the first 10 miles was serious mud, and since we were running on trails that went through pastures, cow manure. By the first aid station around mile 10 I was over 2 hours and starting to feel seriously tired. In retrospect, even knowing that you have to take it easy in a race this long, I think I pushed it too hard. It didn't help that I'd been sick the whole previous week and hadn't really completely recovered. All in all, I probably lost about 5-8 places from the start to the finish, which suggests I went out too hard.

On the other hand, I hate DNFing and while I was still tired by the time I hit the 17.2 aid station (a bit over half way), I figured it was mostly a matter of sucking it up to finish. I was starting to feel nauseous and looking for something a bit more substantial than the energy gels I'd brought and switched over to some pretzels I picked up at the aid station. It took me a while to get them down, but my stomach finally settled a bit and I made it to the 24 mile aid station without any real problems. Around mile 24 I ran into Joe McDonald, who I'd never met before but turns out to be a legend in ultra circles. We ran the next 7 miles or so together, just taking it moderate and I had an opportunity to quiz him a bit about how to improve in the sport, which was great. The intensity level in ultras and the way you get tired is a lot different than it is in triathlon (remember, you're running for a lot longer, even if the total event time is shorter), so that's something I have to get used to.

The three miles from the mile 29 aid station to the finish were pretty tough. It wasn't so much that I was tired but Joe and Jennifer Ray (advertisement: the RD for Skyline 50K, who seems pretty nice), who caught up with us at about mile 30, decided to pick up the pace a little bit, and while I wasn't quite able to stay with them, I did pick up the pace myself, running rather than walking the uphills, and did the last mile or so fairly hard. Finishing time 7:13:05, which puts me 21st out of 48.


we bow before you, ekr

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