Sunday, October 13, 2013

All fired up for Diablo

Coastal's Diablo Half Marathon is a bit unique, which is probably why I get such a kick out of it:

• It's an out-and-back. OK, that's not very unique.

• There's only one real climb. But it's a doozy (you end up climbing almost 3500 feet). Basically, you start from Mitchell Canyon and keep going uphill until you run out of uphill. Then you turn around and head back down. Even better, the last mile and a half of climbing is mostly amazing trail.

• You will probably see spiders the size of a cereal bowl.

Two other things made this particular edition of the race special:

• The race had to be postponed from its original date due to a massive wildfire that ravaged a large chunk of Mt Diablo State Park. It would be interesting to see just how close the fire got to the top.

• And lastly, and most importantly, last year's running of this race turned out to be the last race that Pete the Perpetually Perky would run; tragically, he passed away a week later leaving a huge hole in the Bay Area's trail running community. I was determined to run this race this year to celebrate his love of these sorts of events.

Unfortunately, Mrs Notthat had a conflict and could not run this race, so I was on my own. Which meant she would not beat me. For once.

"But I REALLY want to park on that gravel pile. How about if I trade you all my GUs?"
The weather was sunny and promised to warm up later, but for the start it was reasonably cool.

The Blerch twins. Well, except that one of them is a proper runner and the other is me.

All distances (4M, 10M, Half, Marathon, and 50K) started at the same time. There were fewer runners than usual due to the postponement, but there was still a fairly large and enthusiastic group that headed out. The race starts with about two miles of rolling hills. Which means the 4M runners miss out on the Big Climb.

The 10M runners end up going most of the way up the Big Climb, but stop about a mile and a half short, and miss out on the fun single-track trail that takes you to the top.

All of the remaining distances go all the way to the top of Mt Diablo. The trail is moderately steep in places, but for the most part, it's just a relentless climb up a mostly exposed fire road.

Mik, not her real name, flying back down after the 10M turnaround.

The 10M turnaround, which is a bit over 5 miles into the race, is at a campground. One huge benefit of this is that there is a nice bathroom very close. (This would be important when I came back down.) The brave volunteer on the left took this next picture.

I was a LOT tireder than I look in this picture. But I also knew that I only had about a mile and a half to the top, and that I would be going on some fun single-track to get there.

Shortly after I left that aid station I came across this guy. These tarantulas are SO cool! And huge!

The trail to the top is a bit vague in places. And a bit steep and treacherous. Like I said - it's fun!

This picture shows how the trail we were running on actually ended up being a fire break. It was odd running along with normal green stuff on one side and burnt stubs on the other. (The long distance runners ended up spending a lot more time on trails through burned out areas.)

I love how the trail looks more like a prank in some bits.

Eventually I made it to the top. It's always interesting once you get there; there are tourists that drove up that are looking at the crazy guys that rode their bikes up that are looking at the crazier ones that ran up.

"OK - make this look like it's tough, miserable duty." Heavy sigh…
After wandering around on the top for a bit, I stumbled back down to the 10M turnaround aid station (actually, to the bathroom that was there since I was in dire need of some, umm, relief). From here it is a bit over five miles to the finish, and three miles of that is seriously downhill on relatively smooth trail. The big difference is that that trail is now bathed in sunshine - it's warming up.

Shortly after that aid station there is a turnoff for the Marathon and 50K runners. I have to work pretty hard to not giggle as I go past that turnoff. (I really do intend to run that Marathon some day, hopefully next year.)

Eventually I made it to the finish line. My time was not nearly as good as I had hoped, but other than being really tired, I felt pretty good. Which makes this a win in my book.

Picture of my stunning finish by Coastal Trail Runs. Note the salt lines. It was seriously warm by now.

Baby Coastal (who is quickly outgrowing that name) gave me That Look. I had missed him before the race, so he had to make up for lost time. (Actually, he waved at me and gave me a high-five. Then That Look.)

There were several notable Half finishers, but this was one of my favorites. I had battled Ynohtna (not his real name) up the hill and beat him to the top, but he wasn't far behind me. When I stopped at the bathroom, he saw his chance and blew past me. I managed to pass him for good a bit over two miles out. This Half was Ynohtna's taper race before he ran Skyline to the Sea the following weekend. Nice taper choice!

Mrs Coastal, trying to suppress her surprise, presented me with my 2nd place age group medal! (And no, I'm not going to admit that I got this by default since there were only two of us in my age group.)

This is one of my favorite races, and that is one of my favorite Coastal shirts ever. (They have always used the flames logo, so that wasn't something added just for this race. But wow was it appropriate!)

Sadly, this is the best picture I have of Pete the Perpetually Perky before this race last year, with his trademark tubes of baby food in the tops of his socks (I believe he's eating one here as well). For a year I have missed him at these races, but I run with him often. When things get tough and I start getting down, all I have to do is think of how PPP would laugh and tell me to stop whining or challenge me to a sprint to the next tree.

Thank you Pete for continuing to hang with us!

That's it - move along…

PS: You can see more of my pictures here.

1 comment:

Beth said...

Man, it was a bummer to not be able to be there this year! I've been running a lot out of Mitchell Canyon and it's so pretty, except for the heat, I really enjoy this part of the mountain!
You didn't get in the new trough up at Deer Flat to cool down??