Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Most of a Marathon

After Saturday's successful (though frustrating) jaunt up Mission Peak, I was ready for some big hills on Sunday. My mother called on Saturday to remind me that I don't come visit enough so the simple answer was Mt. Diablo. I would head over there and get in a good 20+miler and then hit the parents up for dinner. Big hills and big food. Perfect.

I didn't really want to do multiple trips up the main road or anything and I didn't have much time to plan a particularly creative route. That's OK, my good friends Sarah and Wendell over at PCTR had already done most of the work for me. I took a look at the map for the Diablo Marathon (I'm running the 50 miler later this year) and decided that I would do a modified version of the course. Instead of going up to the peak twice I would make only one trip by heading down to Rock City after Juniper and then taking the Peak Trail all the way to the top. It would cover most of the trails, but cut out about 3-4 miles and over 1000ft of climbing allowing me a chance to finish the run in less than 6 hours.

I printed out a trail map and the course directions from the web site then packed my gear and headed out leaving the map and directions sitting in my bedroom. I didn't realize this until I was at Mitchell Canyon trailhead. Ah well, I would have to run by memory. While I grew up on Mt. Diablo, we lived on the "back side" and most of my youthful wanderings were over unnamed trails on private land. I am not actually that familiar with the trails in the park itself though I knew a few of the people (or their descendants) for whom some of the trails are named. It's hard to get too lost on Diablo since everything goes up and the views are so good. I had a pretty good idea of the route.

The first part was to go up and over Eagle Peak. I'd heard of this peak and knew it by profile, but had never been up. It's a grind, but a really nice one that offers rewarding views in a very short time. I think I mostly covered the correct route here heading up the switchbacks to Mitchell Rock then on to Twin Peaks and over to Eagle Peak at just over 2350ft. Covering this in less than 3 miles was a bit like the run up Mission Peak. The trail then headed on a short, but fun single-track downhill before going back up over Bald Ridge and then down to meet the Meridian Road firetrail. This shortly intersected with the Deer Flat firetrail with which I am very familiar. I followed this up to Juniper Camp where I refilled my water bottles. It was actually getting to be quite warm and with my lack of acclimatization, it was going to be a bit like a summer run.

From Juniper I headed off on the Peak Trail, but then turned right and headed down towards Rock City. I wasn't too sure about the trail here, but just tried to stay on the main trail. When I reached a sign pointing towards Curry Canyon I knew I'd gone a bit far and made a turn right towards Rock City (as a side note, Curry Canyon goes all the way down near where I grew up). I arrived at Rock City and mostly just wandered around. It was crowded with picnickers, day hikers and people just driving through. I hadn't been here since a field trip in grade school. I stayed on the "Trail Through Time" until it came to the Devil's Slide trail. I followed this for an out-and-back not knowing if it was part of the marathon course. It's a beautiful trail and it was fun passing through the climbing area. I turned around just passed the bridge.

Now it was time for the long grind up to the peak. Its a haul, but there are a few portions of shade that make it not so bad. I made had another missed turn as some hikers were standing and sitting in front of the trail sign around Pioneer Camp. I realized this quickly and headed back up. I'm quite familiar with the last steep gravel section up to the South Peak. However, at this point I started to feel some intestinal problems. I was hoping it was just some gas, but knew the top (and restrooms) were near. It was great conditions at the peak even with the crowds. I chatted with a couple of bikers as I filled my bottles and then went to hit the restrooms before my trip down. I was deterred by the long line and decided to risk that maybe my stomach wouldn't be an issue as it felt OK at this point.

Heading down was nice especially since I knew there was only one more big climb to North Peak before the final downhill. However, the jarring of the winding downhill let me know that my body definitely needed attention. I passed a couple of hikers going down and urgency started to turn into emergency. With steep hill on either side of the trail there was no way to venture off in search of a useful bush or tree. Finally I made it to Prospector's Gap and shot off into the trees. Taking care of business was a huge relief. I felt better as I started on the trail up to the other peak. As I moved along I realized that I just wasn't feeling well overall. I started to worry a bit, but then a look at my watch told me that I was a little over 4 hours into my run. Ah...our 4...always a transition point. I sucked down my last gel, drank some water and headed up the firetrail determined to push through, but also take it at a nice slow pace.

I hadn't been up the North Peak since my mountain biking days and even then I recall pushing my bike quite a bit and eventually dishing it for the final climb. I soon realized why. The trail is steep and loose most of the way up, but the final few hundred feet are just ridiculous. It is pretty much a scramble to the peak and I was moving all of 1 mile per hour. I didn't recall if the race went all the way up here, but if it did this would be hell at mile 43 of a 50 miler! I wandered around up there and took in the views before the even more precarious downhill. One near slip was all I needed to remind me that this was no place to take a fall. Slow and easy were the word. From the North Peak the route headed over to Mount Olympia. I had never been over there an was looking forward to it. It was also some more downhill trail, but not necessarily the most runnable sort.

Arriving at Mt Opympia was amazing. It just a little peak hanging out off the ridge from the north peak, but it was so quiet and peaceful out there. The views were a little different and I decided that I would just take a little break and enjoy it for a few minutes. I sat down looking out over the delta to the east and then I noticed the Sierras poking through the clouds far in the distance. A wonderful way to spend mile 19 especially knowing that I had about 4 miles and 2300ft of downhill ahead of me. I eventually headed out and was looking forward to no more climbing. There was some real runnable downhill here though without knowing the trails I couldn't go all out. I remembered a bit of this section Zippe Trail, Olympia Road, Olympia Trail, a few others and eventually hitting the Donner Road firetrail. I knew that I was somehow supposed to get onto Back Creek Trail, but I wasn't sure how far along the fireroad that was so when it started heading down I just continued. I was also out of water at this point and had used up all my fuel as well so I wasn't really interested in anything that didn't head downward.

When I started seeing signs giving mileage to Regency Gate, I knew I was on the wrong trail. However, I was hoping that there might be water at that entrance so I just kept on going. Regency Gate is a no facilities entrance. Bummer. It did have a trail map kiosk so I could see that there was a pretty direct route over to Mitchell Canyon. The only question was how far. I headed out in that direction shuffling up the first hill. A family of hikers came down towards me and I stopped to ask them how far to Mitchell Canyon. The response was "about a mile and a quarter". I could make that even dry as I was. Then I was offered a water bottle and I felt like someone had thrown me a life line. I thanked the guy profusely and picked up my pace knowing that a I could do a mile and a bit with ease now that I had hydration. It turned out to be even shorter than expected and the parking lot came into view and I was happy. So happy that I even managed to miss the final downhill to the lot and started going up again! Oops.

As I made the final jog to my car my Garmin told me that I had covered just about 25 miles for the day. A little more than I had planned, but I actually felt pretty good. This put me over 32 miles for the weekend with a total ascent of just about 9000ft. Why, that's almost 1/3 of the mileage and climbing I will be doing in a couple of weeks. Completing this with a 50 miler the previous weekend gives me pretty good confidence that I am as well trained as I can be (given the circumstances) for the 100 miles. Now it's taper time!


olga said...

Taper smart, don't jump off the bridge:) Wirte good report on C2M for future crazies!

miki said...

Ah, the truth comes out. You grew up on the backside of Mount Diablo. No wonder you turned out the way you did.

Congrats on the 1 mile per minute part. That's...just....amazing!

Eudemus said...

Olga, the taper has begun. I don't tend to get "taper madness" until just a couple days before the race.

Eudemus said...

Miki, my childhood home on the mount isn't much of a secret since I mention it right there on the top of my blog :-). Oh, and I corrected that sentence to read properly 1 mile per HOUR. Hmmm...I might be able to achieve 1 mpm going DOWN that hill if I just threw myself into a somersault!

Donald said...

Thanks for the great, very descriptive report. I'll be there with you at Diablo next month - this was very helpful.