Monday, April 14, 2008

Diablo - Race Report

Just came back from California and the Diablo 50 Miler and it was EPIC! I'm not even exaggerating for effect - this was one tough and challenging course.

My thoughts on the Diablo 50 Miler:

Beautiful scenic course, extremely challenging terrain, great people, devilishly hot (you know I had to make that hot-devil-hellish-diablo analogy at some point), incredibly well organised and for me, FUN! Oh - and it was hot. And tough. And did I mention it was hot? It's called Diablo! The Devil! Ai! Yi!Yi!

Hot and Bothered

Devil Rock

For me, this was my "debut" 50 Miler. My favorite trail runs are the long ones that are scenic and challenging and the Diablo delivered on all counts! It was gorgeous scenery and it was crazy challenging.

First Summit

By crazy challenging I mean a whole lot of great singletrack, some technical, lots of plush rolling trail, but mostly a HUGE elevation gain and a whole lot of elevation loss. And then REPEAT. Fortunately, I like to go up and I like to go down.

Let me rephrase that. I like to descend. Basically, this was the course profile in Leslie-speak: 8 miles BIG up, 8 miles BIG down, 20 miles of shorter but just as nasty up and down in the middle, followed by 5 miles BIG up and for the grand finalee-9 miles of BIG down. A huge descent for the last 9 MILES!

That explains the difficulty I had getting out of bed this morning. It is true at least for me about the "discomfort" being worse on Day 2. I have warned the husband to stay away from the quads, please. They are a wee bit sensitive. But it's all good!!

A Big Descent - It just kept going and going and going......down, down, down.

I wasn't sure how I would do mentally, only because I have never run that far. I was interested to see if my brain would get me to the finish line or if it would question every ache and pain and challenge that it was presented with. I decided to think of it as just another long day of adventure. I knew I would be out there for 12 hours-13 hours-14 hours, whatever. It was going to be a long day and I was prepared for that and I would finish when I would finish. You are done when you are done. I was even prepared to be done, even if it wasn't at the finish line. I think it is realistic on a hot day on gnarly terrain to NOT finish. I'm a realist. With any endurance sport, there always exists a good chance of NOT finishing and I'm O.K with that!!

If you were this baby Diablo cow (it's a special breed), things would be much simpler mentally! Right now it is thinking: I am a cow. I am a cow. I am a cow.

Fortunately, I felt good, the scenery was distracting and I had a great day. I also worked hard at keeping cool - afterall, I'm from frickin' Banff and it was frickin' 85F. Yikerz. I drank a ton and at every single creek crossing or water source I wet my head, my hat and took my shirt off and soaked my jersey. A few people got a good blinding glimpse of this white Banff girl peeling off her shirt.

As always, I met lots of good people on course and at the aid stations. It was great to catch a glimpse of all the faster runners on the out and back, Bev Anderson-Abs rockin' the course at age 44 - how does she do it?? Talent and hard work is my guess. It was excellent to see Scott Dunlap of A Trail Runners Blog also making it look easy and most importantly, the man seems to enjoy himself and his running! A big smile for all.

Speaking of a big smile, I was fortunate enough to also meet Chihping Fu on course and although he was suffering, he was still smiling. I'm not sure who has the better smile: Chihping or Scott??

Chihping takes a lot of great photos on course - I discovered and enjoyed his photos when I was looking for more information on the Diablo.

It's all in the attitude!

I spent some quality time on trail with Nancy, Mark from Redding, Paul Charteris from Davis, Chihping and many others. I enjoyed some brief but quality time with my friends Jamie, Tasha and Hugh from Calgary. Hugh got some great photos as well.

Superstar - Super Hugh!

Tasha and Jamie

I also got to meet Catra who also could be voted least likely to be 44 years old. Last year, I got so much pleasure reading Catras PCT Adventure blog, as she journeyed on the PCT for 2000+ miles. From my perspective as a stranger, it was compelling reading to follow along with someone elses adventure. It has definitely planted the seed of a long through-hike/run in my brain. Thanks for sharing Catra! At the end of the day, I was looking around and thinking: These are good people.

From a visitors perspective, the variety of terrain in Diablo State Park was mind blowing - there were grasslands and meadows of wildflowers, some shaded forests and creek crossings, desert landscapes with sagebrush, rolling fields with oak trees, wild rock formations, dry open exposed rocky climbs and plenty of gorgeous panoramas wherever you looked. I stopped frequently and took lots of photos.

Even the critters were different! I saw a little blue snake, red-tailed hawks, golden eagles, heard the frogs and crickets singing, enjoyed the geckos and lizards, wild turkeys and a raccoon! All that within spitting distance a sprawling mass of humanity. Thank goodness for green spaces in urban areas-it keeps the people connected with nature and helps keep them sane. The multi-use trails were impressive as well: people bird watching, horse back riding, ranching and mountain biking.

Grrrrrr.....Men In Uniform!

From an athletes perspective, the crew at Pacific Coast Trail Runs are incredibly well organised. They put on a great show. Everything was smooth, the course was sweet, the aid stations perfectly located and well stocked and there were some down right sexy volunteers waiting on me hand and foot. Thanks!

Anyhow, to wrap it up, I finished. Yay for me! I even finished strong and I had enough energy to work it a little the last 9 miles and play a little game of chase. The temperatures started to cool just a little and I got to chase the sun and a few people, all the way to the finish line. Just in time. It was turning from dusk to dark pretty quickly. I managed to pass a handful of people, maybe 6 or 7 in the last 9 miles of my effort.

Then there was a couple of things that made my day at the end of my long run. It's the little things, right?!? First, there was the last creek I crossed. It was clear and cold and I stood it in it for a looong time and wiggled my poor tired feet. It felt soooo good! I got the giggles. Second, while crossing a meadow not far from the finish line I heard the wild turkeys. When I called back to them, the entire forest erupted in a chorus of gobble-obble-gobble, with me calling and them answering. The giggles again.

Don't you just love that feeling of being totally and completely spent after a hard days exercise? I like it. It's uncomfortable, yet satisfying. It feels like your livin' life.

My tired feet in the creek - also, some great salt stains on my skirt!! Ewwwwww.

Post script - here's what the race organisers had to say about the day:

What a difference a day (or two) makes! As we got ready to sweep the last of the ribbons on Monday, it was 51 degrees outside and the expected high on Mt. Diablo was 68. Quite a contrast to Saturday’s 4:00 p.m. high of 90 – the first hot day of the year, and the hottest April 12th by 10 degrees on Diablo in over 50 years. Even the predicted hot weather didn’t stop 82 marathoners and 113 50-milers from toeing the line on Saturday, although it did add a whole ‘nother level of complexity to balancing food intake, fluids, electrolytes, and effort throughout the day. The finishing rate of the 50, just 73% percent this year, is a reflection of both the afternoon heat and the difficulty of the course.

Many of the marathon runners were lucky, finishing early enough in the day to avoid the bulk of the heat. Jasper Halekas and John Friedman pushed the pace early, with Jasper pulling away as the course took them to the summit for the second time. He came across the line in 4:16, shattering the old course record, with John finishing 15 minutes later. After last year’s fabulous race in the 50, Jasper now holds the course record for each distance. Jody Waters of Ashland, OR, finished first for the women, with Jennifer Hemmen just 5 minutes behind in second. Nearly all the marathon starters were able to finish, coming across the line throughout the day to share in the pizza, conversation, and fun.

In the 50-miler, Erik Skaden and Graham Cooper ran together for half the race, crossing the line together less than 9 ½ hours after they’d started, despite a nasty fall Graham took at about mile 43. Bev Anderson-Abbs repeated as the first place female, finishing third overall in 9:24 and taking 15 minutes off her course-record time from 2007 in the process. Beth Vitalis was back to run with us this year, too, and came in as the last sub-10 hour finisher and the only other woman to finish in the top 10. The rest of the 83 finishers came in throughout the afternoon, evening, and night, most of them commenting on the heat of the day and the seeming endlessness of the last 8 miles. And even many who didn’t make it the full 50 commented that they were most satisfied with their day’s efforts, and that they enjoyed their time on the mountain.


Anonymous said...

You rock Leslie! Nobody makes more new friends at a race than you and I'm so glad you convinced me to carry my camera - it totally changed my perspective and kept me from thinking "race" and possibly even from "blowing up" in the heat, just with that attitude adjustment. I'm going to have to "race" with you more often.

Mike said...

Awesome post Leslie! Your photos really give life to the course and holy crap it looks like a tough one!
That shot of the big descent is just freaky.
Too bad there wasn't any post-holing but at least there were lots of stream crossings :)
Makes me want to go run somewhere else just for the different scenery and new wildlife.
Are you ready for a 100 now?

Backofpack said...

Way to go Leslie! You have such a great attitude, I knew you'd do well. I'm glad you had a great day - that looks like a course to dream about.

Leslie said...

Hi Calgary TT - glad to see you already have "race amnesia" as well! Don't forget you are the ORIGINAL trail trash and I just borrowed the name from you! Thanks for a fun weekend!

Leslie said...

Hi ya Mike! Yeah, it just wasn't the same without the post-holing in knee deep snow. Ah....good times-good times. Maybe we should take a Banff Trail Trash road trip to the thriving metropolis of Invermere? Drumheller? Moose Jaw? Hey-Hey. I am stoked for the next one, that is for sure.
As soon as I can walk a bit better, maybe I will go for a run!


Leslie said...

Thanks Michelle - now we both have our first 50 miler under our belts!
It was a great race.


Anonymous said...

Great story telling Leslie. Really enjoy reading and checking out all the pictures.
I agree with your last comment about being in so much pain but feeling so alive. I too love that feeling.
I will be running my debut 50miler in a about 5 weeks at Blackfoot. Not nearly as tough as Diablo. I only hope I could do half as well as you.


Catra said...

Awesome report girl. You are awesome looking forward to seeing you at Mi-Wok 100k. I will only be pacing but it will be fun.
Remeber Mi-wok 100k will be way easier and your time will be faster. My Mi-wok times are faster than my Diaqblo times.

Journey to a Centum said...

Well written and excellent photos! I feel like I've run the course now. Apparently you didn't lose your sense of humor whilst out stomping about California with the blue snakes and wild turkeys.

Ramble on!

Dave - Atlanta Trails said...

It sounds like you had a GREAT time!!

"Don't you just love that feeling of being totally and completely spent after a hard days exercise? I like it. It's uncomfortable, yet satisfying. It feels like your livin' life."

I agree ;)

Meghan said...

Oh, beautiful race recap, girl. And congrats on finishing your first 50 miler! Yeah! You should be proud of pushing yourself through a really tough course in some totally crazy weather.

I have a wild turkey story, too, that I'm going to post in the next few days. So funny about the gobbling!

Recover happy and easily,

PS. Thanks for the kind comments on my blog.

Leslie said...


There are turkeys everywhere in this world!!


Leslie said...

Hi Dave,

I like my quote, too!

The best part is actually the "reward meal" I give myself after those long tough days - mmmmm, steak....sweet potato frys...chocolate....


Leslie said...

Hi Meghan!

It looks like we were both busy girls this weekend! Congrats on your 3rd place finish at your 50k!

Turkeys always make me laugh. A few years ago my dad was all excited because some turkeys were roosting not to far from his place, so we went to visit them. When my husband, the city boy discovered he could call to them and the entire forest would answer back....he couldn't stop. The three of us were there for a looooong time making turkey noises and laughing our butts off.


Laura H said...

Awesome Leslie! Congrats on your debut - you picked a great spot for your coming out party! I just sent off my registration for my first 50M and will read your post over and over for inspiration! Thanks!

Deanna Stoppler said...

yipee on the 50! i'm w/ Caltt, you sure know how to have the right attitude.

what do you do for a living? seems like you're able to travel a lot and do all these cool races. and you live in banff!

Leslie said...

Way to go Laura! Maybe you should try and knit at aid stations to give you the zen...

Leslie said...

Hi Deanna - I am a trophy bride.

Leslie said...

Just kidding. I am really a Intangible Asset Appraiser.

Leslie said...

Actually, I am a Goddess to the People! Ha-ha. It's true. I work at the visitor info centre offering words of wisdom to anyone who is willing to listen to me. I just happen to have a great schedule. I get Fri-Sat-Sun off weekly!


Paul Charteris said...

Well done Leslie

Jeepers, when we climbed the first big hill and you mentioned you were from Banff and this is your first 50 miler, I thought you were nuts to attempt this run. I still do. Way to go. I was amazed to see you come powering past me on the final climb. I was trying to match your foot-speed but could not get my leg turnover as high.

Way to go, you will have a great Miwok!!

Cheers, Paul

Scott Dunlap said...

Great to meet you out there! I think Chihping Fu wins for best smile, although you are a close contender! Excellent work on a challenging course, and I love your pics!

Good luck at should have no trouble after Diablo.


Anonymous said...

My wife rocks!

Keith (She really is a Trophy Bride...)

Leslie said...

Hi Paul!
It was great to meet you out there! You have realize here in Banff, all I ever do is run/walk up and down mountains on trail. It's great. It is the flats kill me....


Leslie said...

Hey Scott! Thanks for stopping by!

That was some awesome scenery out there and you looked like you were having a good time. Just taking some photographs, runnin' along and enjoying the day! I am looking forward to Miwok.

Have fun next weekend at Boston - I love that race!


Leslie said...

Catra, Paul and Scott...thanks for the vote of confidence! Hopefully the weather will be a wee bit cooler for me to enjoy that sweet course at Miwok. Anytime you want to come to Banff, hey, just let me know!


Rob Gendreau said...

Congratulations and thanks for the photos. I met you guys briefly at the start (I was doing the fun run, er marathon) and was wondering how our northern friends would fare in our first hot day...glad to see it worked out.

We’ve got TONS of good running here in the Bay Area, and with our dollar in the tank vs the loonie you should all come on down for some running this year.

Anonymous said...

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