Saturday, March 19, 2011

Mud Diablo AKA the REAL March Madness

I've wanted to do the Brazen Mt Diablo 50K since I volunteered at the 28.1 mile aid station last year (you can read about it here). That year, the weather was great, the creeks were up, and the mud was manageable.

So I signed up for this year's version. March Madness indeed.

The longest real trail race I'd done was 35K, and I had several road marathons under my belt, plus many trail Half Marathons. On a good day, none of these events are worthy to touch a trail ribbon from Mt Diablo. On a day like today, these events aren't worthy know that Mt Diablo has trail ribbons. 7200 feet of climbing sees to that.

At 3:20 AM we were woken to the sound of what had to be The End of the World.

The hail was not large, but it was noisy and plentiful. I tried to go back to sleep for my 4:30 alarm, but that didn't happen. So I left a bit early to catch the bus to the start line.

I was very encouraged to see the moon as I got into my car.

For some reason, it never occurred to me that it would still be dark at 6:15 when I got to the start/finish area. And the moon was gone.

The 50K is a point-to-point race, so most of us parked at the start/finish area and rode a bus to our starting point. The guy facing us is from the Save Mt Diablo group, and he gave us a recap of what all they do, have done, and are doing. It is stunning work. Oh, and they play a huge part in this fun little race.

There were a surprising number of people that showed up for the 50K race. Oh, and the sun finally came up.

We were told there would be a bit of mud. It took all of about 100 yards before we found the mud. This is the always smiling and perky Einre (not his real name) enjoying the challenge. There's something not right with that guy, and I'm deeply envious.

A LOT of time was spent doing your best to NOT walk on the trails directly. (Hopefully this did not result in a bunch of people becoming intimate with poison oak, but it sure increased their chances.)

Mt Diablo in the spring is infamous for its creek crossings. Ironically, the worst of them are located at the end of the 50K race, which means they are encountered by ALL the other runners of the shorter races. We had a couple of relatively mild crossings to deal with in the first few miles.

This bog was challenging though.

At 3.4 miles, we encountered this minor aid station/runner check point. I'm not sure how they got this stuff out here - the roads were impassable to this area.

The guy offered to take my picture. Of course I had to pretend to run. Of course, I nearly fell. Also note that, while it was dry when we started, about two miles into the race it had started raining. We were supposed to have "scattered showers" today. This "scattered shower" lasted the whole rest of the race.

Leaving this aid station led to the first real hill, and it was a killer.

There were a LOT of cows along the trail. These guys were determined to not let us through this gate. I explained that I never eat at McDonalds and that I laugh at all the "Happy California Cows" commercials, and that seemed to do the trick - they wandered off the trail and let us through.

Normally the courses use a lot of flour marks in addition to the ribbons to mark the trail. This was the only flour marking I saw that survived the storms.

The rain made the mud both much more slippery and filled the hoof and foot prints up with water, which just made it that much easier to get soaking wet.

I meant to bring some salt tablets, but there was no way I was tempted to share this cow salt lick. (Maybe if it had been closer to the trail...)

This was the 8.2 mile aid station waving goodbye to me. By my calculations, I was about 10 minutes behind schedule to make the 5 hour cutoff at the next aid station. I needed to pick it up. This aid station was after coming down a bit from the top of the killer hill. Leaving here meant a lot more climbing. "Picking it up" was going to be challenging.

Once we got to the top of that hill, the weather turned much nastier. The wind was absurd - you had to really focus to keep from finding yourself walking off the hill, which had no trees to help you out. So the trail ribbons were tied rocks. I think they should have used bigger rocks - I swear some of these were in danger of flying away. (Also note that my camera was starting to show the effects of all the rain.)

Heading down to the 15.6 mile aid station from the top of the hill was extremely difficult. Trying to run was very challenging since you ended up sliding and completely out of control, and I had counted on being able to run down the hills to make up the time lost slogging up the hills. I did manage to catch up to Lorac (not her real name) about five miles from the aid station, and the two of us managed to get to the aid station without falling (barely).

This was the halfway point of the race. Since the race had a 10 hour limit, we had to be here within 5 hours. We were 4 minutes late, but it turned out that they had already started pulling people out of the race due to the bad weather and cases of hypothermia they were seeing. Lorac and I didn't mind at all being done at this point. With half the race to go, and more than half the climbing still in front of us, there was no way I was going to finish in the 10 hour limit. Maybe not even in an 11 hour limit. (For the record, Lorac did this same race last year, and finished in under 8 hours. She was not a newbie to this.)

The most portable porta-pottie I've seen.

These two were about 20 minutes behind us. The one in blue fell in the mud about half a mile from the aid station. Notice how they are still smiling. This was fairly common among those of us that did not finish the 50K (I think there were about 15 of us all together).

We were driven to the finish line where I ran into Luap, who had done the Half Marathon today after doing the Catalina marathon last weekend. He's an animal. He was determined to wait for me to finish. He was stunned to see me already in the finish area, about 4 hours ahead of time. So he gave me a bowl of soup.

As it turned out, Mrs Notthat had not finished her Half Marathon yet (which I was stunned she did, as opposed to downgrading to the 10K which a smart person would have done). Note that she is smiling too.

That's Weird Haired Mom (our daughter with peculiar hair) on the left - she worked the aid station at the 5K turnaround. She was also smiling.

The backs of my legs. I was very muddy, but there were many others that were muddier.

The angel driving this van gave Luap and I a ride to our cars. The really amazing thing? That patch of blue sky. Yes - the rain stopped once we were ready to leave.

I drove back to the finish area to give Mrs Notthat and WHM a ride to their car, and saw Einre. Smiling.

That's the thing that's amazing about this event, and trail races in general. He we were, pulled from the race, no bling, a dreaded DNF by our names, and everybody was still smiling. We had a good, if absurdly challenging, time. We all applauded as the faster 50K runners came to the finish line the proper way - these people are amazing!

And we all vowed to try again in a year. March Madness is not easily cured.

That's it - move along...


WHM said...

there were 55 finishers of the 50k craziness, pure insanity.

you and mom were such troopers going the distance in today's awful weather conditions. gotta say I do like the creeks :D

and that hail we got, oh my goodness that was crazy when I left at 5:30am there were still piles of it all over the place.

notthatlucas said...

My rough calculations are that those of us that did the first half of the 50K covered about 3200 feet of climbing (700 feet more than the Half people did). We had fewer and less dramatic creek crossings though.

In any case, this meant we still had, in addition to 15.6 more miles to go, 4000 feet of climbing and all those creeks at the finish. Yikes!

notthatlucas said...

BTW, the winner of this race finished almost exactly when I did - he had just gone twice as far though. Wow - there were some real studs in this race (actually, all 50K finishers were studs, and even those who started but didn't finish have lots of studness too).

Beth said...

You and the misses both totally earned stud status!
I talked with WHM at the aid station in the 5k and she told me you were both out there on the half and 50k. I can't imagine getting through 13.1 or 15 miles in the rain, cold, and mud we had yesterday! Props to you both!

mary ann said...

Hmmmmmm, this sure looks like fun!

notthatlucas said...

Hey! Diane got third in her age group! Such a stud!

Mrs. Notthat said...

I only got third because there were only 3 of us older ladies doing it. I was dead last! But I did finish! My word verification is flyates. I like that, flying on Saturday and Yogalates on Wed.