Sunday, May 3, 2015

Drought or no drought - the creeks of Diablo were running!

The creeks were certainly running better than me!

The Brazen Diablo Challenge, a benefit for the Save Mount Diablo group, is also an excuse for Mr Brazen to seriously torture unsuspecting 50K runners. Due to some eagle nesting issues, the 50K course, which was already one of the toughest around, had to be wildly modified. Those modifications meant the runners would climb both Mt Diablo and the North Peak, which made this far more challenging than ever.

Proving that I'm not totally nuts, I chose to stick with the Half Marathon, which was not affected by any promiscuous birds.

Click to see a larger version.
The Half course isn't too complicated, but it is infested with creek crossings. I had never actually counted them before - if you had asked me before this race I would have said there were maybe 15, and that most would be dried up.

As it turns out, I'm not a good person to ask these sorts of things before a race - I was wrong on both accounts. There turned out to be 23 crossings (a lot of creeks are crossed twice) and they all had water. Not a lot of water in some cases, but enough that if you were determined to keep your feet dry, you were going to really have to work at it.

A picture of each crossing. It's possible I missed one towards the end as my brain was approaching toast.

Shortly after we started, Nahtanoj (not his real name), with Racso Jr (not his real name) providing security, was taking pictures.

Picture by Nahtanoj. I've gone maybe 200 feet and I'm getting ready to take my fifth picture. 

My goal was to start slow. This course has two small climbs followed by a big one that takes forever. My hope was to save something for the long, glorious downhill that follows the big climb.

I'm not the only runner taking pictures along the course.

This is the first of the 23 crossings. It's not huge and actually wasn't hard to get around. I was just surprised it was there at all.

The first aid station was at mile 1.1. As usual, I just thanked them and kept on moving since I've only gone 1.1 miles and there's another aid station in 1.7 miles.

The one odd thing though was that my right shin was bugging me a bit. I never have shin issues, and this was the second race in a row that it had acted up early on. This made me a bit nervous, but I knew that I had options with this course - the 5K turnaround was coming up, and worst case I could drop down to it, and later I could choose to drop to the 10K since it shares the same trails. The option I really wanted though was to be able to keep going.

I suspect this was the most photographed trail marking in history. It was impressive and horrifying at the same time.

I decided to keep going at the 5K turnaround since my favorite bit of trail was coming up. These volunteers had the task of making sure all the Half and 10K runners turned here and headed up the narrow, technical Sunset trail.

This trail's a blast. My first goal in this race is to make it to the top before getting passed by the fast 10K runners. Usually that goal is no problem since we are given a 30 minute head start, but I was moving pretty slow and was a bit nervous.

The one good thing though was that hiking up this hill made my shin issue go away.

Once you get to the top of that climb, you get a fairly smooth trail down to the second aid station, mile 2.8. My second goal is to try to get here before getting passed, and to my huge surprise, I had managed to do that. I was on fire!

Everyone loves a smiling aid station volunteer!
The next aid station was five miles away and would be near the top of the big climb - an exposed, relentless climb. So I filled my bottle - a bit alarming was that I realized I hadn't been drinking much. I've had issues with this next stretch when I was a bit dehydrated, and I really didn't want that happening this time, so this wasn't a great sign. I vowed to stay on top of my drinking.

The Blur charging up this hill. For the 10K, this was the last hill.
While heading up the second small climb, I was finally passed by a couple of 10K runners.

"Hi Lliw, not your real name!"
This is the top of the second small climb. A bit of downhill follows. This is a picture of my arrival taken by that volunteer:

Picture by a Brazen volunteer. I love that she made me look like I knew what I was doing - that's not easy.
I talked with Lliw a bit and got passed by Hcir, not his real name. I wouldn't catch back up to him until about mile nine or so.

That's Hcir passing me while getting passed by the eventual woman 10K winner.
I love this view. We head out on the trail disappearing in the trees (where the 10K turnaround is), and will eventually come back on that trail that heads to the bottom of the picture.
The 10K turnaround.
By this point, I was feeling pretty good and knew that I was going to keep on going.

One last creek crossing, then we turn right and start up the big hill.
Meb, not his real name, volunteering to make sure no Half runners mistakenly took the downhill trail to the right.

The big climb is long and exposed, but it does have a few breaks, and it is rarely steep. One thing that helped this climb in the past was that we would see the lead 50K runners coming towards us. The 50K course change removed that though, so we were all alone on our uphill slog.

ACK! A downed tree, and so close to the aid station!

Once I hurdled the downed tree, I was at the third aid station, mile 7.8.

It turned out that this aid station had a secret that the Half runners didn't know; there was a cutoff. Maybe.

This aid station was also mile 16.3 of the 50K course. And because it was about the half point for them, it had their first cutoff, at 11:30. That meant they had five hours to get here.

With the old 50K course, the Half Marathon had no cutoff time (well, actually you needed to finish in nine hours, which effectively is no cutoff, even for me), and Brazen did not need to offer an early start. This meant that the Half runners this year assumed that all of that was still the case, and it's possible it really was the case, but the search and rescue people decided that the cutoff applied to all runners, and as far as they were concerned, no runner should pass after 11:30. (For the record, this meant the Half runners had three hours to cover nearly eight miles, which seems pretty reasonable until you remember that they had just covered by far the toughest eight miles of the course. My suspicion is that it had not occurred to Mr Brazen that Half runners would show up here after 11:30.)

I had no idea about any of this, and flew through here after filling my bottles. At about 11:12. Others that came behind me weren't so lucky, and ended up needing to have a lively conversation before finally being allowed to continue on.

As I headed out of the aid station, I managed to pass, for about 30 seconds, these two - Aicirt and Acissej (not their real names). It turned out that Nosaj (not his real name either) was taking pictures at that aid station, and he got this proof that I was ahead of these two.

Picture by Nosaj.

After a bit more climbing (and getting passed by Aicirt and Acissej), I was finally at the top of the hill. There were a few more minor hills between here and the finish, but 95% of the climbing was done.

This is a very happy spot to be for the Half race.

Volunteer Nom (not his - surely you get this by now) making sure the runners didn't hurt any of the cars driving up to the summit.
The good news was that I had managed to mostly catch up on my hydration, and had managed to save something for this long downhill.

I was totally stunned that I ended up passing about a dozen runners on this downhill. (To be clear, I was not a blur, but was able to jog slightly faster than these other runners. It wasn't that impressive in real life.)

Some things that happen on the trail, stay on the trail. (They were just stretching, or so they claimed.)
Some things that happen on the trail, stay on the trail. (They were just cooling off, or so they claimed.)
"Hi Xela, not your real name!"
If you are following along on the simplified course map, this was at the point where we started going back to the finish and getting serious about crossing the creeks.

This is the bottom of that second little hill. It felt great to get to go straight ahead.

The fourth aid station, mile 12.4. A bit over a mile to the finish. Aicirt and Acissej were busy rehydrating so I waved and kept on going. There was still a chance I would beat them!

Sadly, my "sprint" past that aid station pretty much drained me, and Aicirt and Acissej easily beat me to the finish.

Picture by Nahtanoj. Again.
When I started this race, my realistic time goal was 4:15. My dream was something less than four hours. I ended up at 4:00:18.

I had a pretty rough finish, and it took me a bit to recover before I felt normal enough to drive home.

The shirt, bib, and medal, all proudly based on a really irritated sparrow.
I actually felt pretty good about this result, especially considering the previous week's result. What I didn't enjoy was running yet another race without Mrs Notthat. Her PF is still keeping her from running, and that reduces the amount of fun that I have at these races.

But this is still a great event that is a big fundraiser for the Save Mount Diablo group, and has some great trails and views.

And a monster of a 50K course.

That's it - move along…

PS: You can see more of my pictures here.

PPS: Mrs Notthat and I ran the Sasquatch Scramble 10K the following week, and her PF was still a big issue. Her next scheduled event is Bay to Breakers, and that's looking a bit dubious. Hopefully she will heal fast!


Nafets said...

As always, very nice writing. Made me feel running it again. I enjoyed stepping into each of the 23 creeks. When I saw the most noticed trail marking, I thought it would appear on Allen's blog. And here it is. Looking forward to see you at Bay to Breakers and/or Wildcat.

mary ann said...

You are so good about photography - can you deduct time for that? It is beautiful there...