Now, going into this race, I was really nervous. In fact, the entire week leading up to the race had me very hesitent about what I was attempting. I felt severely undertrained for this event. After all, my last 'long' run on a trail had been over a month earlier at Pirates cove (a 30k), and since then my last long run (road or trail) hadn't been over 13 miles. To make matters worse, I injured my back on monday (probably from lifting weights) and was in quite a bit of pain all week. I seriously considered not doing the race, but everyone I talked to was still assuming that I was doing it. On thursday, it finally started feeling better and it began sinking in that I was really going to attempt a trail marathon come sunday. I told myself that I had paid good money, after all, and really, if I could only do 20 miles, that'd be a great 20 mile trail run and I could be happy with that. I kept in mind dropping at some point as a potentially necessary option for the race.
Now, by the time it got to Saturday, I was really nervous. The best way I could think of to solve this was to make sure I had everything that I could possibly want for the race. So, for most of the day I proceeded to go on a shopping spree of sorts, buying sunglasses, a new watch (a cheap target one, I'm not that extravagant!), lots of sports beans, tylenol, sunscreen, basically anything that I thought I *might* need I got. By the end of the day my purse was considerably lighter, but most everything I could possibly want was purchased. I may have been unprepared physically for this event, but there was no way I was going to be unprepared gearwise!
I tried on the whole race outfit, packed my waist pack (with, as it turns out way too much!!!), had the traditional pasta dinner, and got to bed by around 11:30, with the alarm set for 4:15.
As is usually the case, I didn't sleep that well, waking up lots of times during the night. I actually woke up at 1:30 suddenly, ready to go, only to realize I still got 3 more hours! When the alarm went off, I was ready to get the day started. I decided to get completely ready first before I ate so that I wouldn't be rushed getting my things together end end up forgetting something. I had packed really well the night before so there wasn't too much to do, and I was downstairs for breakfast around 5am. Had oatmeal w/ brown sugar and banana, which ended up being a little heavy. I was feeling a little sick (from nerves) so just ate what I could, made the necessary bathroom stop, and headed out the door.
I had planned to leave my 5:30, and made it out the door by 5:35, so I was great on time. It would take a bit over 1/2 an hour to get to the race site, and I figured I'd be on the early side, which was fine by me.
The sun was just beginning to rise as I drove over and, suddenly, there it was in front of me.
DiabloIt looked huge! And beautiful.
I started getting excited :)
The drive continued and Diablo started to get closer. It started looking a lot smaller too! In fact.....I was now looking at a foothill of Diablo :) I could no longer see the mountain, but got to drive through some very scenic foothills as I made my way over
I passed the "Welcome to Clayton" sign, and knew the race start was getting close. At this point, the sky was just gorgeous! One of my favorite things about getting up early to go for a run is that you are often greeted with an amazing sunrise. Sunrises have to be one of my favorite things to observe. They seem to suggest a magnificent level of potential inherent in the day, and emphasize the innate beauty of the world. To experience such a beautiful morning seemed like a good omen for the race ahead.
I was finally here, but not as early as I thought! A long stream of cars waited to enter into the park. At this point I was just taking in all my surroundings. The mountains looked beautiful but intimidating. Having not even done hikes all that strenuous before, climbing to the top of a mountain seemed amazing but a little scary. I was excited though! Eventually I made it through the entrance and grabbed a parking spot. Just looking around the lot, I was taking it all in. This was to be my first race with anything longer than a 50k option, and, just looking around the crowd, there seemed to be a whole different level of runner present. I went and picked up my race packet (and got to meet a fellow coolrunner Kay!) and then sat back in my car to get organized. I made a couple more bathroom stops (the nerves kicking in) and tried to make sure I had everything I could possibly need.
While in the bathroom, a woman came in who looked instantly familiar. As I tried to inconspicuously stare, I realized she was, in fact Dawn from the "A Race for the Soul" movie! I felt silly being excited by my 'ultra-star' sighting, but I still thought it was pretty cool. I also saw Catra Corbett, just a few moments from race start, when we were all trying to rush though a few last things before we took off.
I decided to do a drop bag with bit of extra food, a handheld water bottle (in case I hated the waist pack!) my headlamp (in case I was super slow) and my watch (in case my garmin died). Dropped that off and ran over to where the racers were gathered as Wendell began his talk. (Photo courtesy of Chihping Fu)
just have to do the Marathon which was entertaining. He, of course, explained the course and the ribbon system, asked about 1st time 50 milers in the crowd (there were a few). And then it was time to go!
I don't even remember how the race started exactly. I think I remember a countdown of some sort, and then Wendell said the words 'Go!' and we were off. (Photos courtesy of Chihping Fu)
I almost immediately started walking. What a way to start a marathon :). At this point the hill wasn't that steep, but I felt the need to be cautious. I was trying to guage how fast to go while sticking with Terry, who was obviously eager to run! I didn't think he'd really want to stick with me the whole time, but I was grateful for the company for as long as I had it. At this point, it was relatively cool, but definitely not cold, indicating that it was going to get warm before too long!
As we continued on our way up, I marveled at the number of people out here, especially the number tackling the 50 miler. I also was thinking about what exactly I was taking on. I knew I just wanted to finish, and was hoping for the best.
We soon moved from this wider trail to the singletrack, which caused a bit of an initial backup. No worries, I was more than happy to slow down ;). Running up the hill I took a moment to look to my left, where some beautiful hills were coming into view. *Oops!* I stumbled as my foot went off the trail. The women behind me shouted a "be careful!" I mumbled something about the distraction of the view and made a mental note to stop the next time I had to take a look! There would be lots of stopping on this course for just such a reason, as it would turn out.
We continued on and reached the ridge that we'd be going on for a while as we headed towards eagle peak (photo courtesy of Terry Ridgeway). I really enjoyed being able to look ahead and see the stream of runners in front of us. While here we ran into Karen, who is a friend of Terry's and who I had run most of Pirate's Cove with last month. "Addy" she said. "What are you doing here?!? Isn't this race a little ambitious for you?" haha....not exactly the most comforting words :). I didn't quite know how to explain my presence at this race, as I clearly felt out of my league, but emphasized my plan to finish close to last and just try to get through the whole thing before the 16 hours were up. She continued on ahead of us and Terry and I continued our run.
Not to far after we reached the first 'technical section'.(photo courtesy of DC Lundell) A fairly short downhill piece that was just covered in loose rock! With some trepidation I followed Terry down. Ack...this was hard!!! As I very slowly edged down the trail (I think leaning back on my hands at one point!) a woman came up behind and mentioned, "I remember this section! I fell here last year. The last 8 miles of the race are just like this!" Okay.....this section is maybe 10 ft long. I had trouble doing 10 ft. You're telling me we have 8 Miles like this?!? I started to worry. Especially since, at this point, I still thought that I might be finishing in the dark! Then I realized, I was only 2 or so miles into the race. It would be a long long time before I had to worry about those last 8 miles. Let's just see if we can get past this first section, shall we?
Terry was indulgent in my 'touristy' need to get my picture taken quite often, and kindly snapped some photos for me at prime locations. My little disposable camera wasn't the best, but it was something!
I've heard from many individuals that with ultras it makes better sense to think of the race in terms of aid stations rather than miles. Now, a marathon may not be an ultra, but I decided to take on this method as well. So, the first goal was to make it the first 5.9 miles. The mileage on this whole race was sort of funny, as we had essentially 4 different sources from which to get the numbers. The most accurate, of course, was from the aid stations themselves, but obviously this wasn't helpful unless we were actually at the aid station. So, we relied on technology. Terry and I each had a garmin, and, in addition, he had the nike plus foot pod thing. The funny thing about all this was that each piece of technology read a different number. The nike was incredibly kind to us, perhaps recording how long it felt like we were running, rather than the actually distance. Thus, it was always ahead. My garmin, as luck would have it, was the most accurate, ending up being behind only 2/10ths of a mile by the end. Terry's garmin, for whatever reason, didn't want to give us credit for the whole race, and so was constantly falling farther and farther behind the actual mileage. We used the differences between the three pieces of equipment as a sort of joke, seeing how big the distances were going to grow.
As we approached Juniper, a runner in orange just flew past! Was that the leader of the 50 miler? Where was the turn around for the 50 miler? How does this make sense? Jasper was on fire Sunday and definitely looked it here.
Finally, we saw some cars and knew we were almost there. There was a bit of a hill, but we were finally at aid station one: Juniper Creek
you doing here?!?" This would seem to be a common question for the day. I ran the second half of my first trail race (Woodside 17k this past February) with Gail, and we really got along. I then ended up running the last 5 miles of Pirate's Cove with her husband, Pete, and learned then that Pete and his son John would be at Tahoe this summer as well, doing the 50 miler! I got to see Gail after that race as well. She's super sweet and always great to see, so it was a very nice surprise to see her at the aid station. I had seen from the list that her son was signed up for the marathon as well and asked about him. Apparently Jon (the son) as well as Pete were just a bit ahead of Terry and me. After a bit more chatting and grabbing a few squares of pb&j terry and I were off. I decided to stop and use the portapotties, since they were there, and then we headed up to the summit, via the "trail through time".
Up and up and up we went. We could see the radio towers up in the distance, and with that point of reference continued the climb. The great thing was that the higher we went, the better the views became! There was still some morning fog hanging out in some patches, but it was still really spectacular. First we reached the lower level parking lot for the summit. I realized that I had forgotten to get wet my cooling bandana (from zombierunner) and so ran over to a drinking fountain to get it wet. "Hot already?" Terry asked. Not that much, truthfully, but we still had a bit to climb, and I honestly was eager to see how well it worked. I was like a little kid with all my new toys!
(Photos courtesy of Terry Ridgeway)
Down and down and down we went. Luckily, it wasn't that technical, so we could run most of it. We had figured out that it was much more like 4 miles than 1 mile to the next aid station at rock city, but knew we were getting closer. We went through a pretty meadowy portion were lots of runner were heading the other way. A slightly demoralizing moment for Terry I think, to realize he was so far in the back ;). I had made a few half-hearted attempts to 'set him free' but he wouldn't have it. Lucky me to have such a dedicated running buddy :). We continued on, walking the hills and running down when we could. Eventually huge boulders came into view. *ahh* this is what they meant by "Rock city". We went down a short steep part, and then hit a divide. Rock city zig-zag section, go right. A runner heading back confirmed our move, so we headed right and into a really pretty section around some truly spectacular boulders. Most of this part was under the cover of trees, making it a very comfortable temperature. I was happy to note that my bandana was still wet (I'm impressed!) and I was feeling pretty good. Some rocky parts of the trail, but nothing too bad. Finally, we reached the aid station. One of the runners there inquired if I was Addy, and when I answered in the affirmative, he introduced himself as "Dirtrunner" Yay...another coolrunning person! He was just running the aid station, explaining that he lived near here and so was smart enough not to race here :)
right trail this time and on our way. The next aid was only 3 or so miles away, but it was all up hill. It was starting to get closer to midday, and was definitely getting warmer. We went back up the trails we had come down earlier and then turned onto the 50 miler turnoff to head back up to Juniper Creek. Having completely forgotten about my drop back on the first trip to this aid station, I was determined to remember it this time around. I was starting to get some hot spots on my heels and wanted to put some more stuff on them to keep them happy.
We got to the aid station, and Gail was still there :) A very nice man filled my water bottles with conquest (and ice!!!! how wonderful) and Gail helped me put ice into my bandana (such a cool concept!) Pete and Jon were actually still at the aid station, so I finally got to meet Jon, which was cool. When Pete saw me he exclaimed (can you guess?) "What are you doing here?!?!" Gotta love the shock of people seeing me trying to attempt this marathon ;) They were on their way out, so we wished them luck.
I then remembered the drop bag. Now, at this point some faulty thinking came into play. With only one aid station left between here and the finish (at the summit) I decided that the race was practically done anyways. So I decided that I should just get rid of any extra weight I didn't want. I haphazardly began shoving things from my waist pack into the drop bag, and happily replaced the waistpack a few ounces lighter. We grabbed some food and were off to climb back to the summit! As it was still midday, I definitely didn't need that headlamp that I had packed. Thank goodness! About 5 minutes after leaving the aid station I reached into my pack to take a salt tab (I had been taking them about every hour to every hour and a half) only to realize that I had left them in the drop bag! Ah...not a smart plan. Now, one of my worries besides dehydration was hyponautremia, and I was quite worried that without the salt pills I'd be in trouble. Well, nothing I could do now, so we continued on.
The mental boost of having already done this trail today was awesome. Really a great feature of the race, in my opinion. I already knew what was ahead of me and, even though it was challenging, at least it was familiar. We continued up, and finally reached the summit once again. Pete and Jon were just heading down to do the final 8 mile section. Pete warned me that one section in particular would be incredibly slippery and difficult, and to just be really careful. I thanked him for the advice and wished them luck on the finish. We headed over to get some last snacks. At the summit aid station someone had left behind salt tabs so I took one there as well as dipped a potato in salt. Now, I know these things are supposed to be amazing, but I didn't fall in love with them like it seems people do. Oh well, maybe I need to have more experience with them :)
After getting our picture taken, we were ready to tackle this 'technical' section. All downhill. Just 8 miles. I was curious about how hard it would actually be!
We headed down the trail we had done earlier, and made the appropriate left turn to go down the new trail. Lots of pretty views and wildflowers to admire, but definitely a section that needed concentration!
(amusing myself a little more while Terry was reading the trail signs)
While I took my pictures, apparently Terry took his :)
Then we got to a long steepish slippery spot, and i got a better idea of what they meant by technical. Luckily there was some grass to the side of the trail, and that seemed to have more grip, so we went down the side. We made it to the bottom, I had Terry snap a shot so that I could show the 'slipperiness' of the hill, and then we headed to, an uphill?!?
Now we were told many many times that it was all downhill for the last 8 miles. So what on earth was this uphill doing here? That was the wrong direction. That would not help us get to the finish line. But obviously, there was little choice here. Up we went.
Looking up we could make out the observation deck above, where we had been only a few miles before.
Looking out, we could make out the quarry, our finish line destination. Wow...it was still really far down and really far away!
Soon, though, we discovered exactly what was meant by 'technical'. Oh my god, it was hard. Now, I am a timid person. I have always been a timid person. Especially outdoors. So, this kind of trail was pretty intimidating. I kept wondering, "was this the technical section that Pete was talking about?" It just kept getting harder. One mile in here took 36 minutes to complete! I was grabbing onto trees and shrubs when I could to make the turns on the switchbacks, which were the worst part. Occassionally we'd get runnable sections and timidly move faster, only to slow down to gingerly walking when it got too technical. At one point Terry stopped turned to me and said, "Close your eyes and keep moving. Imagine that you're doing the 50 miler and its dark right now" Aah!!! I was suddenly very relieved I was only doing the marathon and hadn't needed my headlamp after all. I cannot even imagine how I would have gotten down this section in the dark, of even If I could have done it. I had enough trouble in broad daylight! We kept trucking along. I shouted out every 1/2 mile accomplishment, to which Terry compared his own garmin and nike. ("nike says we're at 28 miles! But my garmin says we're at 18. I wish the nike were accurate!").
Terry kept pulling out the course directions, letting us know when the next trail would appear. We celebrated with each striped ribbon, knowing that they would be bringing us closer and closer to the finish!
Now, at this point, it was hot, we were tired, and i was starting to get hungry. And though I had packed enough food for a small army at the beginning of the race, I had put all of it in my drop bag! Arg!!! The second part of my 'big mistake'. Just 10 miles left is a really silly way to look at the time between Juniper and the finish. That's almost half the race! Why oh why did I minimize that distance to myself?
Well, nothing I could do about it now. Just had to get to the finish. I kept drinking my water (though tried to be sparing with it, since I was worried about running out). I also had to go to the bathroom at this point. But, as we were not too far from the finish, and I wasn't quite ready to try out my squatting skills (I've read about how this works for girls, but really, didn't feel up to experimenting) I decided it was more mental and that maybe it would help me rush to the finish.
Less than 3 miles left now, and we were entering into this meadowy part. And then, the trail starting going up and away! This isn't right. We began grumbling. At this point, how can we be heading away from the finish line? It just doesn't make sense! Still, we continued on, and it became a very lovely trail. I was hot, and luckily, we had reached stream crossing. I untied my bandana, placed it in the water, and retied it around my neck, instantly cooled. Honestly, this was such a great investment!
2 miles to go, and we were on some great trails. Terry could taste the finish and started running longer sections. I tried to keep up, but still walked most of the hills. I was eager to finish, too, but I was tired! He go fairly far ahead at one point, but then stopped and took my picture with his camera :) Such a nice guy to keep waiting for me!
1 mile to go, and Jasper comes flying by! Well, there go our hopes of finishing before the 50 milers :) We knew we were close now, and tried to pick up the pace some more. We got a nice downhill, too, and tried to use that to our advantage. I still tried to be careful though. I could just see myself, with less than a mile left, tripping and getting hurt. So, on we went. A man walking the other way told us we were almost there. We passed a group of hikers. On and on. Finally, finally, we saw the finish!
Terry looked over his should and told me that we should run it in. I immediately picked up the pace. "Are we racing now?" he asked. Oops. Got ahead of myself :) Together we ran over the grass and under the banner. After 9 hours and 10 minutes we finished!!!!
Elated and exhaused and with a huge smile on my face, I headed over to the table. Sarah came up and gave me a big hug and a hearty congratulations and presented me with my t-shirt and coaster. I was so so so happy. Really, just overjoined. I couldn't believe that I finished!!! The Zisko family was still at the finish, so I got to congratulate Pete and Jon and say goodbye, until likely Tahoe!
I ended up hanging out at the finish for almost 2 hours talking to people. Everyone in this community is just so nice. Not too long after I finished, Beverly Anderson-Abbs came in for a new women's course record. I got to congratulate her and talk to her just a bit, which was pretty awesome.
All in all just a fabulous experience. I had such a great time, a great running partner (Thanks again Terry!!!) on a great course. I can't really think of much of anything I would have changed.
What's even better, having done this race gives me such a confidence booster for Tahoe this summer. Tahoe has almost 1000 ft less elevation gain over the longer distance. Granted, it's still at altitude, but the course itself should be less challenging. I've done technical now, and I've done steep hills. I feel ready for anything :)
Sarah and Wendell have been my source for learning how to run on trails over the last semester, and I've been just so overjoyed with all I've seen and experienced through their events. The crazy thing is that I felt so much mentally better after this race than after The Sequoia 20k in February. I remember just being completely demoralized by those hills. And now, I'm willing to bet those hills won't seem nearly as bad.
I'm graduating in just over a week and heading the mysterious life after college. With all the stress and uncertainty surrounding finals and graduation and summer, it's so amazing to be able to having running as this awesome constant in my life.
A lot of my friends were just shocked that I'd take on a marathon in the middle of finals, but it was really one of the smartest things I could have done. The mental boost it's given me will hopefully carry me through the next week and a half and the memories will boost me even longer. When I'm feeling overwhelmed by my thesis or by my last final (ever!) I can think back to climbing up to the summit, and think of how I accomplished the seemingly impossible (for me) diablo marathon, and then I'll know everything will be okay.
I'll I can think now is that I can't wait until next year when I get to go back :)