Monday, April 20, 2015

Birthday and Diablo 50K

Fun weekend!

Saturday for my birthday we tried an "on your own" puzzle hunt around the Stanford campus.  It was an easy set of puzzles but a nice introduction to the concept of using the Clue Keeper app on our phones for hunts that people can do on their own time.  And it's always fun wandering around the Stanford campus, we have enjoyed our multiple visits there this winter.

Favorite spot - the Rodin Sculpture Garden.  And the Gates of Hell, ahhhhh!

An "h" sculpture near the Hoover Tower:

View of the pretty campus from the top of the tower:


Thai food and a trip to REI to top off an excellent birthday  :)

On Sunday we got up early and drove over to the foot of Mount Diablo for a day of racing.  Kip and I ran the 50K while John did some speed work in the half marathon.

Fuzzy photo in the early light, but you get the idea:

50K buddies:

John was sort of photo-bombing this couple that Kip was taking a picture of.  Also of note, the woman in orange in the left side of the photo, the woman in light blue behind her, and the woman with a pigtail next to me.  They will play a part in the story of my race.  Also hard to see, but the woman in the background standing next to the guy in green.  It was neat seeing them all captured in one pre-race picture without knowing it at the time.

Checking out the race map, not realizing I'd be seeing the woman in lavender later in the race:

50 miles last weekend, 50K today, I guess at one point I thought this was a good idea!?

Pre-race announcements at the Brazen archway:

And we're off!  Kip in the middle of the shot:

You can also see me if you look hard enough:

John at the half marathon start 2 hours later (he would move up in the field quite a lot, finishing 10th overall!):

It was a gorgeous morning for a race.  Bit of a breeze, cool but not cold, no direct sun yet.  We could see down to the fog covering San Francisco and up to the top of the mountain and all around at the beautiful hillsides.  Just lovely.  I heard several birds singing, maybe one of these (John's photo from later):

Fog lower down:

My plan was to take it super easy for the first two sections.  I speed-walked up the hills, but none of the ascents were very long at a time.  The short downhills were fun and my legs felt good.  So good that I started thinking maybe I should treat this more like a 50K, i.e. more like a race.  Well, I didn't push the uphills but I let fly on all the downs and started moving up in the back part of the field almost right away.  The rollers through here were fast and fun through the fields.

Climbing up some sandstone:

I saw someone I was pretty sure was Catra Corbett but she was talking with a friend so I decided not to bother her.  Catra later in the race:

The hills got steeper and longer but my legs were still happy so I continued with the moderately-paced speed walking.  A couple mountain bikers rode toward us and it was a surprise to see them out on the trails so early.  I can understand them not being thrilled to see the large group of us, as they seemed to be losing patience with people walking uphill in their lane.  Sorry guys.

I passed Kip briefly then he passed me back, and we saw each other multiple times through here.  Hi Kip!  Both of us had started slowly and then increased our velocity, passing other folks here and there.  He was a bit ahead when I reached the first aid station at mile 6.9.  That was slightly chaotic, as the trail marking seemed to suggest going over some rocks but you could go around them, and then everyone was trying to get water and snacks but get out of there quickly.  I had a Spiz baggie filled and then left, a quick in-and-out.

I heard someone else say that it was 6.3 miles to the next aid station, hmm, maybe I should get more water in my bottle (half full now).  Oh well, I have liquid with my Spiz and it will be mostly flat or downhill for a while.  And it was still nice and cool.  So I decided to keep going.

The downhill right out of the aid station was rather crazy!  But fun!  It was suddenly singletrack, flowing and winding downhill next to a creek.  A couple guys stepped out of my way immediately and then luckily the group ahead of me was going at an excellent clip.  All I had to do was follow.  Which was good because I quickly noticed that there was poison oak on all sides and the trail was quite narrow.  I clung to my Spiz baggie (it was getting a good sloshing/mixing), danced around anything green sticking out into the trail, and hung on for the ride.  Whee!

At the start of the next climb I stopped to drink part of the Spiz, glad that no one was right behind me needing to pass.  I got going again, dodged a bit more PO, then popped out at the road on top, happy to be back on a wide trail where I didn't have to worry about the greenery.  Well, that was exciting.

Runnable road, gentle grades, plenty of shade, I was enjoying this.  I saw Kip a couple times ahead of me again, lost him when I stopped to finish the Spiz, then caught a glimpse again as we started a winding traverse through some fields.  Through the private Curry Canyon Ranch (which was very pretty) we were mostly in sunshine for the first time.  We passed a couple women as the trail started a bit of a downhill slope, then it turned significantly downhill and Kip was gone.  Nice job, Kip!  I didn't push the descent, just took it was it came.

There was a volunteer manning the intersection where we started an out-and-back to aid station 2.  He told me I was 6th female.  Really?  After last week at Lake Sonoma where the field was huge and ridiculously competitive, I hadn't been paying much attention to the number of women around me.  I knew I had passed quite a few getting to this point.  But only 5 ahead of me?  That's curious.

Along the maybe ~half mile to the aid station I started counting.  A lady in fluorescent green happily greeted me.  A woman in light blue wasn't far behind her.  I'm pretty sure I counted another woman next but for the rest of the race I couldn't recall what she looked like.  Then a lady in a colorful top and tights (tights, wow, that looks like it will be hot later).  And finally, right at the aid station was a woman in gray.

I grabbed a banana and decided to see how many women I could track down.  If I just saw all of them, who knows what could happen.  I started pressing the pace, yep, it was on.  For the first time in 2 races, I was actually racing.  Not sure that was very smart, with the big climb ahead of me and all, but what the heck.  I passed Kip and told him I had just seen all the women ahead of me.  Go get 'em! he said.  I will definitely try.

First was the woman in gray, that was the easy pass.  I saw a bunch of ladies coming toward me as well but couldn't worry too much about them.  I did make a note of the woman in orange who was looking strong.  I ran a good portion of the first part of the climb since it was an easy grade.  I started seeing the colorful top lady not too far ahead.  As it got steeper I switched to mainly speed-walking.  She kept looking back as I slowly reeled her in.  I worked on my posture and breathing, concentrating on finding a sustainable yet strong pace.  Go legs go.

Right before aid station 3 (16.3 miles) the woman stepped aside for me to pass.  Thank you!  I got a quick fill of my bottle and my Spiz baggie at the aid station and took off up the next rise.  It seemed like there might be 3 women ahead of me now, if all the info was correct.  Our course merged with the half marathon for a brief ways but I didn't see John.  Apparently he was only slightly behind me (he started 2 hours later and was at mile 8 or so) and actually met up with Kip at the aid station.  Cool!

We all saw our friend Jason who was taking pictures near the aid station.  Hi Jason!

Excellent pictures courtesy of Jason:

Lots going on, that was exciting.  One or two half marathoners passed me, then their course took off downhill and we were left with the long haul up to the top of the mountain.  I climbed up to a spot of shade to drink some Spiz, noticing plenty of people just in front of and behind me.  Time for a hike up the hill.

View of the peak from around aid station 3:

I mostly remembered the climb from when I was here last year for training, so it was nice to have a few landmarks to watch for.  Yep, there's one road crossing.  Yep, that's a steep section.  A short traverse.  More angling upward.  Several strong runners passed me, including Errol "The Rocket" Jones, another long-time ultra runner whom I have heard of but never met.  Running in the company of greatness!

The lady in lavender (Roberta) passed me, mentioning something to the effect that we would help each other get there, working together.  She could definitely walk uphill!  I was working to maintain a decent pace, waiting to see who else would pass me.  I caught glimpses of a couple other women not far behind, including the one with the colorful top, but managed to hold them off.

At the start of the up-and-back to the summit, the trail angle lessened just enough that I felt better and had a good solid march up the final section.  The first two ladies (Clare in light blue and Ashwin in bright green) were coming toward me as I crossed the road for the final time, and both were still smiling and encouraging.  I didn't see a single other woman until I got to the aid station and Roberta was there - huh.  I missed something somewhere.  We told each other, "Nice job!" and I believe we both really meant it.  It was fun being in the running for an actual placing.

With a full bottle, a big drink of soda, and several mouthfuls of cantaloupe and watermelon, I headed back across the parking lot to see a couple ladies right behind us.  The woman in orange (Julie, I think) was still looking great, and colorful top (Lydia) were right there too.  Time for some downhill speed.  I took off,

Roberta let me go and I passed several people on the drop down, then got to greet Kip, Hi Kip!  I ran great to the trail intersection where we started across toward North Peak.  It was a nice little singletrack trail with a view of where we were headed next:

I passed a couple more guys and thanked a few hikers who stepped out of our way.  Soon there was the start of the last out-and-back, the climb to North Peak.  One guy coming toward me tried to describe that section, the gist being "the last part is steep."  Good to know.

Ashwin running down from North Peak:

Clare not far behind Ashwin - and still a few minutes ahead of me:

It was the 2nd-to-last big climb, my legs were still game to push, so that was helpful.  Then I came around a bend and saw the "steep part".  Wow, that guy wasn't kidding!  It was quite a thing, straight up the hill - here are Roberta and Lydia on it a few minutes after I was there:

I focused on getting up, climbing up the right side while listening to guys making their way down and occasionally sliding and falling.  I was sure out of breath at the top of that one!  When I got there, I exclaimed, "What The F**K?!" but didn't get an answer from the runners around me who were also out of breath.  The guy at the turnaround didn't seem concerned about all the fuss, he was focused on getting everyone's bib number.  Yes, please make sure I'm counted for having made it up here!

No time to think, just turn around and go back down that slippery thing.  There were actually enough pebbles to make a mini scree slope down the first half, so I did that.  Then hung onto branches, looked for solid rocks, made my way down.

The first woman coming toward me was Julie - here she is going down a minute later:

I was impressed to see her, she was obviously still doing well and Roberta was just behind her, then Lydia.  Apparently I was leading the "chase pack".  OK, gotta keep working.

I saw Kip again as he was heading up, letting him know that "the last pitch is a doozy!"  It was fun seeing him several times during the race, and he was still looking strong.

The trail around the back side of Mount Diablo was a bit gnarly - narrow, steep ups and downs, through lots of vegetation (I was happy not to see any poison oak at least), and slippery in places.  More a place to focus on getting through instead of on making time on anyone.  I tried to remember that I'm somewhat trained as an East Coast runner and might have a slight advantage on more difficult terrain in CA, but there is no guarantee of nothing.

Several hikers were kind enough to step aside for me to pass (thank you all!) and finally I popped out into the open again.  It wasn't quite clear where we were going, but it was almost certainly downhill. The trail heading down Bald Ridge:

The trail continued to be rocky and steep in places, and my calves started twinging at any not-normal movements like stepping over rocks.  I took a salt tablet in hopes of staving off any leg cramps, then focused on staying relaxed and moving efficiently but not too strenuously.

When the trail ended at a wide open road I was able to run well down to the bottom so I made use of that.  One runner that I passed asked what mileage I had, but I had no idea.  All I knew was that we were about to make one last big climb.

I was kind of hoping it would switchback up through the trees.  The switchbacks were there, just not so many trees.  It was getting warm.  I was about out of water.  Hey, there's the aid station up there!  Great, just a few more turns up the hill.  The last part was steep and I was heating up, but eventually I got there.

Kip arriving not long later (I believe that's where this photo was taken), still smiling:

And a picture of Lydia:

Aid station 5, a welcome sight!

They refilled my bottle, poured cold water over my head (ahh!), and fed me soda and fruit.  Much, much better.  Along with the breeze in my face as I headed out, I immediately recovered and was ready to run.  Or mostly ready.  The flat-ish road was great, and I could see Julie climbing the last switchback up to the aid station.  Starting the downhill, various muscles in my legs warned me against doing anything too extreme.  I hoped that would be enough to maintain my placing in the women's field.

I focused on deep breathing, relaxing my body and then strengthening my core, staying upright.  This got me down the long, long hill with minimal concerns.  I couldn't see Clare anywhere in front of me, so I didn't feel the need to chase.  I mostly looked ahead, but when I glanced back I didn't see anyone either.  My pace down to the next aid station was an easy 10 minutes/mile, nothing spectacular but not bad.

One last bit of fruit and soda, thank you!  The trail continued downhill, finally reaching the canyon bottom.  From there the trail was mostly in the trees, much better.  The challenge of this last section involved creek crossings.  Little rock-hopping, nothing too difficult, but each time I had to be careful with the legs.  I asked a hiker coming toward me how many of these there were left? but he didn't answer.  If I had known that there were perhaps another 20 (OK, that's probably exaggerating by a few) I would have just waded through and gotten my feet wet at the first one...

Almost there, almost there... One guy passed me near the end but that was fine.  Then I was done!  Yay!  It was a day of good effort and I was pleased with the results.

I found out that a lady named Magdalena (whom I have also heard of) was so far ahead of all of us that she placed 2nd overall with a new course record.  Wow!  Here she is near aid station 3, running uphill like the speed demon she is:

So I was 4th female instead of 3rd, but still, that was fun.

Our finisher medals that turn into coasters, what a neat idea:

Chatting with Clare - she had worked to stay ahead of me, which was fine by me.  I'm not sure my leg muscles would have allowed me to race anyone at the end:

Kip finishing a short while later - go Kip!

Yay for a fun day!  Now let's go get out of the sun.

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