Sunday, September 30, 2007

Running with the Devil

Last Sunday, I decided that for my last long run before Dick Collins I would tackle an old friend and adversary, Mt. Diablo. Ernesto had sent out an email inviting others along for this dick collins training run and, despite the 50k the prior week and my cold, I thought it would be a good idea. Certainly more appealing than a long run solo, and really, I'm in much better shape now than I was in April when I tackled this baby the first time. Surely it would be easier this time around!

The day started with a 4:30 am wakeup call, made all the more difficult by somewhat boisterous roommates arriving home a 2 in the morning (it was a friday night after all). All told, I got about 3 hours of sleep, and woke up feeling a bit sick and a lot tired. I left the house by 6am, to allow myself adequate time for the drive up, but ended up early! I pulled into the lots about 7:40, wondering what on earth I was trying to do. Ernesto and Laura showed up about 10 minutes late, which had me worrying about whether or not I had gotten the day wrong! Should I try to do this by myself? I had printed directions just in case, but really, didn't want to tackle this alone. Luckily just as I was starting to get truly worried, they pulled into the lot and all was well :)

Fall was definitely all around, and the mountain looked entirely different from how it had been back in April. The cool temperature added to the feeling of fall, though a high of 76 was promised for later in the day.

Ernesto and Laura stopped for a quick photo before we began the steady upward climb towards twin peaks, our first 'summit'. Immediately, Ernesto took off running, like usuall, and I trudged ahead with Laura for a bit, until she pulled away as well. They're both much stronger runners than me, which also had me worried.

Wow, what a change from April! Everything is a whole new color now, and a whole different kind of beautiful :)

Ernesto is the blackish dot on the left side, waiting for me. I try to tell him when I finally get to him that I miscalculated the effects of Big Basin and being sick and that I'm not sure this is a good idea. He brushes it off and starts telling me about the technique he uses to run up hills and that I should try it. Walking up hills is near impossible so this seems ridiculous, but at the same time really sweet :)

As we headed towards the steeper switchbacks, I came to the realization that my legs were dead. Not like the first time I did this when they just needed to adjust, but really truly exhausted. They hadn't recovered from Big Basin, and they were hating the climbs. By now Ernesto and Laura were well ahead and I was essentially alone. I was switching off between cursing myself for agreeing to do this, Ernesto for planning it (or at least thinking I could do it) and even Sarah and Wendell a bit, for planning such a hard marathon course ;). I really really don't think this is going to happen for me today. 2 miles in and I'm dying.

We finally reach Eagle Peak, and I'm thrilled but concerned. Only 3 miles in an I'm exhausted. I tell them that I'm just really not feeling it today and apologize for slowing them down, but they brush it off.
Now, coming off Eagle Peak is the first real technical section I ever ran. I remember being petrified of this during the race and it honestly wasn't a ton better this time. I still ended up on my hands during the same section, as there's one part that I just don't see how you can do upright. Oh well, eventually I"ll get it. You can faintly see Laura speeding away on the trail in the picture above. Not only are they better at uphills, but at downhills too. I just don't see how I'll ever keep up!

I think this is entering the trail to the summit, though I'm not sure. It just plainly shows how present fall was up there, and how beautiful Diablo is in this season. As we were heading towards this trail, Laura and Ernesto start telling me about the bands of tarantulas that inhabit this mountain in October, 100s of them running around in packs. Part of me thinks that that would be an amazing sight to see, and the other part hopes not to see it, as that is a lot of huge spiders! No tarantualas so far though :)

The trip to the summit is easy, compared to the beginning climbs, but it's still tiring. I decide that I'll just turn around at the summit for a good 16, as I don't need much more than that anyways, and can't really imagine summiting twice.

We thankfully arrive at the summit to cold and fog. Our high 70s day is definitely not materializing and we're cold up at the top. I tell Ernesto and Laura that I'm out, but they convince me otherwise. Ernesto explains to me "its all downhill for the next 4 miles, You can do that!" I explain back that it's not the getting down to Rock City I'm worried about, its the getting back up again. Laura says I don't have to resummit, I can always stop at Juniper and take the fireroad down. Okay, out of excuses, I'll keep going!

The downhill was fun, though my calf was bugging me a little. I enjoyed feeling like I was moving again though. Plus, on the way down, we ran into a gentleman who was out doing a long run of his own, training for a 100 in a few weeks. He looked at me and said "You look familiar. We met at Tahoe!" Its sort of silly, but I thought it was so cool to be recognized by someone. It really made me feel like I was part of this ultra community. Plus, he called me fast (well faster than him) which made me feel more motivated to run :) Definitely a needed boost!

Heading into Rock City was fun, and nice to do in in the cool air, compared to how warm it got in the race.

The trail through time was fun, and definitely the flattest section of the whole course. It also marked the halfway point, which meant just one more summit and we were more or less done :D.
Looking up at the summit, and all the hills between us and it, I felt intimidated. The legs were feeling a bit better, but there was still lots of climbing ahead. I did something new here. As I was not staying with the other two during uphills anyways, I decided to break out the Ipod I had brought along. I just had one earphone in so that I could still hear some, but boy did those tunes help! It was amazing! The hill was challenging, but went by relatively quickly, and then we got to my favorite part of the course. The trail that connects the fireroad to juniper creek. The field of gold were just spectacular (the picture really doesn't do it justice) and I had the hugest smile on my face. I was so glad I had done this part of the course. It just made me so thankful to be out there.

When we reached Juniper Creek again, there were just 9.4 miles to go, and I realized that I could finish. However, now we were facing a bit of a time crunch, as Laura did need to get back. I was determined to try to stick with them, and so pushed it up to the summit. It was much harder than the 2nd summiting in the race, but I was glad this was the last time I'd have to do it. I was able to stay close to them, and we reached the summit together.

At the top I told them that I didn't think I could stay with them going down, as I'm not that great at technical, and if they thought I'd be okay on my own. They quickly squashed those thoughts and promised that they'd make sure I was with them. They are really such amazing people and I'm so lucky that I was on a run with them.

We headed down together, with Laura taking the lead now, with Ernesto in the back. It was really nice to be sandwhiched between the two as it kept pushing me, and also made me feel safer being out there :) The downhill was going great when suddenly I saw something!

Wohoo, wildlife sighting! I was secretly glad there was only one, and stopped quickly to snap a photo before moving on. The downhill was lots of fun, and somehow I was able to keep up! The technical sections in this first part seemed much easier. When we hit the last major dread uphill, I fell behind a little, but got back to our ealier positions when we started heading down again.
The quarry here is still pretty far away, and far down!

Because of the rain the night before, the dirt was matted down a bit, meaning that it was less slippery. It was wonderful, so much easier than before, and lots of fun. I slipped twice (you could maybe call it falling, except that it was a very gentle slide to the side both times where I didn't even get hurt). I felt so much more confident, and okay with falling, so long as it wasn't a bad fall.

It was so much fun zipping down this section, especially because I kept having flashbacks to the last time I did this, when I had unthinkingly put all my gus in a dropbag, so I had no food, ran out of water, and it was incredibly hot. Plus, we moved amazingly slow, so it took forever. Actually running down this hydrated, fed, and happy was an amazing thing.

The sun did start to finally come out, but it never got too hot, and just allowed for some spectacular vistas. It really was just so beautiful out there.

Finally we entered into the canyons, and I knew it was only a few miles. I remember how hard this section was, and it was nice to be running a lot more. We were all sticking pretty close to each other here, which was nice. I started taking some gus with caffine to give me that last boost to the end. I was getting hungry and tired, and was ready to be done, but I could still make myself run, which was amazing.
The canyon was beautiful and soon it started looking familiar and I knew we were almost back. Finally we saw the gate and the parking lot. As I always like to do, I took off in a near sprint, pushing as hard as I could. I ran all the way to an imaginary finishing banner, where the PCTR one is, to make sure I did the full thing. Finishing time 8:01. A good hour and nine minutes off my April time, which is amazing. We probably could have broken 8 hours if we hadn't taken a wrong trail down in Rock city briefly, but the time really isn't important. The great time we had certainly was.

Ernesto had fabulous sandwhiches for us, and we all sat down in the gravel lot to enjoy them. A woman walked back informing us "there are picnic benches right over there!" We told her it was too far :) Then we explained how far we had run, and she understood.

Overall, this was fabulous mental as well as physical training for Dick Collins. There's more elevation in this than DC, for almost half the distance so that's great. Also, continuing on when I felt pretty badly for a lot of it was good practice. I finished saying, "That was so much fun!" but then thought back and realized that for a lot of it, I wasn't feeling that. Just goes to show that it gets better in the end and is worth it :)

Only downside, my left calf, which had been giving me issues the past month or so, really started bugging me this week. I tried to run wednesday and felt like my leg was going to collapse, so I haven't run this week. I've been icing and bought 'the stick' and did 3 hours of cross training and weights yesterday. It is mostly better I think, but I just want to be careful. I figure taking time off is better at this point than trying to get in some more miles, so I'm going with it. Last thing I want is to be injured for Dick Collins. I might try running today, or I might just do more crosstraining. We'll see.

Overall though, glad I finally faced the Devil again, and I didn't let it beat me :)


Sarah said...

The pictures are sooo beautiful! This run just goes to show that you are mentally tough!! Stay healthy and you'll rock the Firetrails course!: )

Greg said...

Wow, I want to run there!

Anonymous said...

Yeah, Addy! Good for you to keep on going when your body had different plans - your mind showed it who's boss. I've no doubt you're gonna do awesome at DC! Rest that calf - you're ready now.


Addy said...

Sarah- Isn't it gorgeous out there! I sure hope Firetrails goes well :)

Greg- You totally should! PCTR does a few races there every year, and they'd definitely be challenging enough to make you happy :) The Diablo 50 miler is particularly hard. You'd totally rock it!

Mimi- Thanks! I can definitely use the reassurance right now :)

Jamie said...

Beautiful area! Doesn't get too much more ideal than that for a long run. Nice.

Dave said...

Awesome read. I felt like I was right there with you. Those tarantulas looked kinda scary. But you guys out west are more used to potentially harmful wildlife with all the snakes, spiders, coyotes and mountain lions.

We're more restricted to (harmless) snakes and stray dogs... :)

Anyways, congratulations on a strong run. Way to persevere!

mtnrunR said...

good read. have a blast at dick collins, you're going to do great.

Donald said...

AWESOME training run and beautiful pics! You'll do great at Firetrails.

matt said...

you make me want to get up there and try that run some time. way to finish it out and hang so tough out there. good luck at firetrails!

Your father said...

Enjoyed your post, as always. I like your pre-race injury-avoidance strategy. Glad you will have familiar face at DC finish. Your mom and I will be thinking of you.



Addy said...

jamie- How true

dave- lots of hazards out here. Its what makes it exciting though, right? And I don't think tarantulas are actually poisenous, from what I've heard, just sort of scary looking :)

tom- thanks!

donald- can't believe the race is just 11 days away!

matt- you should definitely do this race sometime. Its still in my memory as the most awesome thing I ever did (when I did it the first time). Hardest thing I've done to date

Dad- I'll miss you guys there, but it was super nice having you guys at big basin, and I know you'll be there for other races :) and there should be lots of friendly faces to cheer me on at the race!

Sensationally Red said...

Gosh Addy, I felt like I was reading a National Geographic adventure. Beautiful pictures. I would have given anything to have a picture of a band of roving tarantulas! How cool! Most important, was that you faced the Devil again and showed him who was boss. Rest up.

Jean said...

Wonderful run, Addy. I have to believe you are ready for your big race! You compiled a great report, and you are an excellent photojournalist as well. Gorgeous pictures!

Wow, tarantulas are scary looking! :)

rick said...

There are Tarantulas in Mt. Diablo?! Makes me skin crawl a little, ok a lot. Yeah, pictures of grand scenery never do it justice, you never get the scale of things. Well I hope that calf is doing fine. Rest is good.

The bike ride was great! And really it is a kind of taper, I mean I didn't run a single mile the whole weekend. Plus no pounding on the bike. I will be tapering much more from here on out though.

Anonymous said...


It was a great pleasure to have you in Mt. Diablo with us. Your company was enjoyable, and your enthusiams was SUPER!!

DC is only a few days from now and I know you will do great.