Monday, June 04, 2007

Devil in the Mix

Mt. Diablo wasn't on my original plan for the year though I've always wanted to race it since I do still consider it "my mountain". So, when I had to bail on Ohlone I decided to throw the Mt. Diablo 50K into the mix. Ohlone is a tough 50K with 7800+ft of climbing. The Diablo course adds more than 1000ft of extra climbing over the same distance. That's 8900ft of climbing in just 31 miles; only 600ft less than Miwok which is twice the distance! Add in some nice warm temps, a body still in recovery, a dive in the dirt and your usual mix of brain-dead ultra errors and you've got the making of an epic! So, join me as we take a voyage where I mix it up with the mountain named after the devil and learn that....


Sunglasses and Shade don't mix

The race started innocently enough. I stayed at my sister's house just 2.5 miles from the start so I got to sleep in a bit. I still arrived at the start early enough to hang out and chat with some ultra friends and put some faces to people I have only met on the PCTR Forums. I started the first loop at a nice pace. I was doing a nice consistent shuffle-jog, not much walking, but not pushing and no heavy breathing. I was among a lot of 25K runners so I knew my pace was probably a bit faster than it should be, but I knew it was going to get warm later and so I wanted a good time buffer under my belt for the first lap. A couple of the 25K runners seemed to be working much harder than me so I was pretty pleased with how I was moving along. I really never felt like I was working and I made it to the peak in a little under 2 hours.

It was warm and I was drinking well, but got a little hint of things to come later when I felt like my calves were cramping as soon as I started the downhill. I was
surprised because I didn't feel fatigued or dehydrated. However, I had been sick for a week and I did have spasms in my calves when I tried to run through it. I stopped and stretched and took an S!Cap (and decided to continue taking them every hour). I also put my sunglasses on for the downhill. I don't usually wear them in my races, but for some reason decided to try. They became too fogged up on the climb, but I figured they'd be OK going down.

One of my favorite trail names in all of California is on Mt. Diablo. It is called "The Trail Through Time". I was somewhere in the upper Jurassic / Cretaceous Period up above Juniper Campgrounds heading down towards the only on-course aid station. I actually really like this section of trail that winds around a bit and dips through some trees. I liked it so much that I failed to pay attention to the fact that wearing sunglasses in the shade made it impossible to see the rocks and roots along the trail. I went down in an instant and did a nice forward plant in the dirt. Luckily, it was a relatively soft landing, but hard enough for some nice long scrapes on my shin and beautiful skinless bloody patch on my upper left leg. I cursed, but continued. I cursed some more, but mainly at my own stupidity. I stopped at the aid station, but decided to wait until the bottom to clean off as I didn't want to deal with it until I had finished my first loop.

The leg slowed me down a bit on the downhill and I finished my first loop in a little over 3:10. I spent some time cleaning up at the bottom and it definitely hurt more once it was clean. However, I was trying hard not to be distracted and wanted to get back underway or I would end up staying down there way too long. I saw Miki and had her take a picture of my leg for posterity. I then headed out almost tripping over an orange cone as I left.


Conquest and NUUN don't mix
I should have realized that the trip over the cone was my addle-minded brain trying to tell me something. I wasn't thinking straight. I really didn't spend enough time at the aid station to hydrate and eat properly for the second climb on this, now quite warm, course. I also made a really, really dumb mistake which I have made once before. I was running with my normal two water bottles. One in which I would mix a NUUN tablet with water and the other with plain water. I was about 10 minutes into the second loop when I took a sip of my "plain water" to realize it was not so plain. I had filled with Conquest. This meant that my other bottle was a syrupy sweet mix of two different hydration formulas. I avoided it as long as I could. The climb got warm and hard. I really needed all the hydration I could get so I forced myself to drink it. It was disgusting.

Mentally, I was not in a great place. I was not at all heat trained. My fall had taken more out of me than I wanted to admit. I was under-hydrated and feeling crampy and, to top it all off, I had to force myself to try and drink this awful mix which made me gag with each mouthful. Some of it wouldn't stay down and I had visions of my stomach issues coming raging back forcing me to drop at the next aid station. For some reason, I had it in my mind that there was a water spigot at Deer Flat, but I don't know why. Perhaps I just didn't want to deal with the fact that I knew all my fluids would be gone by that point and the steep climb up the the aid station was still ahead. I trudged along dreaming of that aid station and just sitting down.

Heat and Empty Water Bottles don't mix
I managed to get to that last climb and, somehow, was able to shuffle up it. I could feel that I was pushing and my legs were on the verge of seizing, but I wanted to be at the station so bad. I couldn't take in any gel without water nor could I take my (overdue) S!Cap without it. I came to the station, sat down and started drinking, eating and trying to cool down in the shade. The front-runners had past by on their way down earlier and I dreamed of feeling a small fraction as strong as they had looked. I probably didn't sit as long as I thought, but I made myself just keep eating and drinking. I also dumped water on my head and this seemed to help more than anything. It was at this point that I realized I really hadn't been taking proper care of myself and decided to up my sodium level. I had plenty of S!Caps and vowed to start on a 1/2 hour regimen for the remainder of the race. So, I guess that's it. I was going to continue with the race.

I continued along towards the peak, walking a lot more than I would have liked to, but resigned to finishing this thing. I made it to the peak and took another look out over the area where I grew up. My first trip up here was under the 2 hours mark, now it was about 6 hours into the race. My second trip up had taken more than 40 minutes longer. As I was filling my water up, I met Fred Ecks and we headed down together on the section back towards the aid station. I was on my second S!Cap since my last visit and was feeling pretty good. It was here that I realized that I had really not hydrated properly throughout the race nor had I taken enough electrolytes to compensate for the relative heat. If I had this race to do over again I would probably carry a pack or do as I did at Miwok and spend some extra time at the later aid stations drinking my fill.

Finally, getting the mix right
My last visit to the Juniper AS I almost made the same mistake again and started filling with Conquest (doh!). This time I caught myself. I got my mixes right, drank some extra water, took my final S!Cap and vowed to run the downhill as best I could. I was, after all, a downhill runner.
A low-7 hour goal had long left me, but a 7:30 was still in sight and it is this sort of goal that always helps me focus on getting to the end of these races. Fred had headed out before me, but I caught him on the initial downhill as I forced myself to get my legs moving. I passed a woman not long after that and then another guy further down. I was feeling like my old self a bit. Truth be told, I would still rather run down the singletrack as I had to push to make myself go at a good pace in the hardpack dirt road. I ran on the side in the gravel as much as possible since it didn't hurt my feet as much.

I got to the bottom and knew I was gonna finish, but the last two miles of this trail are my least favorite. I think I would rather end on an uphill like at AR50 than on the flats. I'm just never quite sure how much I can push at the end on flat ground. It always seems so much longer than it is and my biggest fear is to push myself over the edge before I even get to the end. I just tried to stay within myself and looked for that last sign post. There it was, one mile to go and I had just enough water left to keep me happy. Not that it really matters at the end, but somehow it always seems psychologically important to me to keep drinking during my final miles. I dropped my bottles once I saw the finish and kicked it in a bit as I didn't know how close to 7:30 I was. I managed to cross the line at 7:27.

Mixing it up
I decided to hang out at the finish for a while and chat and cheer on others. There was a really great group at this race and everyone was enjoying sharing the tales of finishing a hard race. Sarah (the RD) even told me that Beverly Anderson-
Abbs had called the course "tough". Somehow it is reassuring to hear that someone who just knocked over an hour off the womans course record and came in only 8 minutes behind the mens record also felt that this was a tough course. I had vowed off ever running this again numerous times while up on the mountain, but now I can't wait until next time it comes around. Isn't that always the case?


Norbert said...

when we met on your second way done (and my second trip up) you looked freaking strong! At that time I knew you could make a 7:30 finish, and hey, it was even better!
As for the picture, we are all thankful that the scar isn't a little higher ;-)))


Chihping Fu 傅治平 (超馬阿爸) said...


Thanks for the report. Congrats on your finish this tough 50K even with the fall and other issues.

One of my experience is that I'd rather taking more electrolyte than getting caught by muscle cramp, stomach problems, etc. Then I'll run well. To compensate this, I can just drink more at the aid station. I usually take two salt tablets per hour. Perhaps you can try more salt intake next time.

This looks like tougher than Diablo 50M. I think I should try this next time. (love pain)

Rest well,


Eudemus said...

Norbert, when you saw me coming down I was finally recovering from my low-point. It was good to meet you and I enjoyed hanging out after the race.

No one is more glad that the injury wasn't higher than I am :-)

Eudemus said...

Chihping, thanks. Glad you enjoyed the report. It definitely was a tough race. I can't compare it to the Diablo 50M since I haven't done it. The 50K is slightly more elevation gain per mile, but I think what makes it most difficult (especially on the calves) is just the sustained uphill with almost no break. I also think the fireroad is easier to go up and want to go and run the course in the opposite direction some time.

As for the salt, I agree, I need to take more especially when it is warm and I am not acclimated. I also think that having been sick the week before didn't help much. Hope your future races go well and I'll see you at Tahoe!

Scott Dunlap said...

You definitely get the "best battle scar" award! I'm with you on the "heat and empty bottles don't mix". Two just wasn't enough.

Way to tough it out, wounded and all. See ya at TRT...


Sarah (PCTR) said...

"I also think the fireroad is easier to go up and want to go and run the course in the opposite direction some time."

Yep, Wendell and I agree with you - if you've got to be on a fireroad, you might as well be hiking up. And we LOVE coming down Back Creek Trail - we just did it today, as a matter of fact! But lots of runners complained about coming down that way over the years - and emphasized their displeasure by taking dives on the loose sections - so we felt we had to reverse the loop direction.

Hope you can make it to the Diablo 50 next year - it's got a lot of great singletrack, including our favorite trail on the whole mountain, which goes up over Eagle Peak. In fact, if you go out there to run one of these days, you should follow the marathon/50 course directions to get up to the top - you'll love it!!

Thanks again for coming out, Steve, and for all your kind words.

See you soon!


Eudemus said...

Scott, my struggle on that mountain was nothing compared to your own. Thanks for the kind words.

Eudemus said...

Sarah, I am definitely going to have to do a solo run in he reverse direction. I have gone up the fireroad numerous times, but have always come back down the same way. I had once planned to head down the singletrack, but after missing a turnoff up coming down Summit Trail and adding an extra mile or two to the run, I opted to finish on the path I knew.

It looks like I may have the 17th free and since it is Father's Day, I get to do what I want so I may design a route up on Diablo for myself unless I can think of someplace else I want to run. I definitely want to run the Diablo 50 next year.

Gretchen said...

Nice job on what sounds like a tough course Steve! There is a TRT training run on the 17 if you're interested. It goes on part of the race course and a bit on the Flume Trail which is incredible, I definitely recommend it. I won't make it to that one myself, but perhaps we'll meet at Tahoe. Good luck with your continued training.

angie's pink fuzzy said...

hey, you did it! even with the mix-ups and "ultra brain". good job!

Jessica Deline said...

way to go! But yeah. Conquest and Nuun. Ewwww...

Eudemus said...

Gretchen, I saw the info on the training run and while I am interested, I won't be able to make it due to family time. I do hope to meet at the race. Good luck with your own training.

Eudemus said...

Thanks Angie. It's always good to give oneself a little extra challenge in these challenging races :-)

Eudemus said...

Jessica, you have no idea how bad it tasted and how un-thirst quenching it was! :-P

olga said...

Steve, great run, thirst, mixes and all! And I liked your recap below on goals and meeting them - very smart - and very well hit!