Thursday, May 2, 2019

Lessons Learned on Mt. Diablo

In my ramp up to Miwok 100K (which is now in 2 days!) I wanted to get a good 50K effort in a few weeks out from race day.  The calendar and my schedule matched up best with Brazen Racing's Diablo Trails Challenge, taking place on April 13th.  I was excited as I've only run on Diablo once, back in 2015, and I knew it offered longer climbs and descents than we have here in Marin.  And even though this would be my 23rd ultra, many of them in the Bay Area, I'd never run a Brazen event.  I've met Sam (the RD) here and there, but was glad to finally be toeing the line at one of his events.

I'll admit I took this race a little casually.  It was just a training race, after all, and I've run a bunch of 50Ks at this point.  So my race-specific prep was pretty minimal.  Which meant I wasn't as prepared for the day as I should have been.  Which meant I was bound to learn some lessons, sometimes the hard way.

Still green after a wet winter in the East Bay

  • Race morning went fine with coffee, UCAN bar, and an easy hour drive over to the East Bay.  I arrived at 5:30 AM to give myself an hour to check in, hit the bathrooms, etc.  And of course I had the thought that I should grab a headlamp for that hour (sunrise was 6:35) but forgot, so like a newb I'm walking around using my iPhone flashlight.  It was about a 10 minute walk from the parking lot to the registration area, so I headed down there, got my bib, hit the bathroom, then went back to my car for 15 minutes or so to chill before walking back down and doing my dynamic warmups.  A quick talk from the RD, and the 150 or so of us doing the 50K were off.  Lesson:  Think through your gear not just for the race but for before...and do it before race morning.
  • About 1/2 mile in we hit a creek crossing.  People are starting to do the rock hop to get across without getting wet feet, and I figured I'd do the same.  Luckily someone who knew the course said there were 10 more just like them coming, so we might as well get wet.  So I just started plowing through the 6"-2' crossings.  After about the 7th or 8th one I had so much sand and little rocks in my shoes I had to stop to empty them out.  Lesson:  You bought them for a reason so just wear your gaiters for an ultra, even if they don't look cool!
    Running through some wildflowers.  Really was a beautiful day out there (pc Jay Boncodin)
  • Otherwise the first 12 miles or so were going fine. Other than all of the water crossings this section wasn't very technical with mostly doubletrack, and then right after the first aid station dumping us onto a section of really nice and shaded singletrack.  Of course this is where the poison oak was, and I hadn't replenished my supply of poison oak wipes in my trunk gear box before the race.  I cleaned off the best I could post race, and got dodged a bullet with that one.  Lesson:  Keep your car stocked with what might you need after the race!
    Why do the photographers hang out at the top of the little climbs?  (pc Jay Boncodin)
  • Right after aid station 2 we start the long climb to the summit - 2,836' over 6 miles.  It starts off fairly mellow, but then just goes straight up the damned mountain.  I had changed my Garmin to show just time, distance, and average pace, as current pace is really irrelevant.  But I don't normally have it that way in training, and at one point I kept looking down thinking I wasn't getting anywhere because I keep seeing 13:xx, and I was thinking that was the distance.  I knew I was going slow but come on!  But of course that was my average pace.  Lesson:  Practice everything in training that you're going to do on race day, including Garmin settings.
  •  I obviously signed up last minute for this one and while I read over the website, course description, elevation profile, aid stations, etc, I didn't really internalize it.  So we come off the climb and descent to the second peak and go through a gnarly, rocky, overgrown section with lots of branches grabbing you.  It was really warm now, and I had gone through a lot of my fluid already on the climb and recovery coming down from that peak.  It was slow going as even the downhills were too steep and technical to move very quickly (15-17 minute pace).  About an hour into this section my bottles were dry, and I did remember that there was one more climb coming, which turned out to be about 1000' over two miles.  With no fluid, I can't take a gel.  So now I'm getting both dehydrated and bonking as I slowly worked up this hot, totally exposed fire road. Forty-five minutes after running out of fluid I finally stumbled into the aid station at the top and drank a whole bottle of GU Brew, filled up both bottles again, doused myself with water, and headed back down the trail.  Lesson:  Always figure out how long it might take to get from aid station to aid station and plan water capacity accordingly.  And bring S-caps, not every race has them!
    Aid stations and volunteers were great (pc H.Dallmann)
  • From there it was another really steep descent, 2,300' over 3 1/2 miles.  My quads were getting tired by then, and it's just too steep in sections to really run.  Poles would have helped here as they're as important for the steep downs as they are the ups.  But I knew I was in the last 6 mile stretch and was going to get this thing done.  I did get passed by a few people through here that had been behind me the entire race, which shows I'm still better climbing than I am descending.  Then we were back to the initial 2 miles of multiple creek crossings, which at this point were great as I was able to dip my hat and arm sleeves to help keep cool, and ran it in for the finish.   Lesson:  You have to specifically train the downhills more.

The day was a great reminder that I'm still relatively inexperienced at this ultra thing, and there are always lessons to be learned.  One of my favorite things about this sport is the planning and the prep, and I let that slide here.  Lesson learned....hopefully!

I finished in 7:27:16, 5th out of 13 in AG and 52nd out of 151 total finishers.  Props to Sam and the Brazen crew and all the volunteers, a really well run event.  It may have been my first Brazen Racing race, but I don't think it will be my last.

No comments:

Post a Comment