I was honored to be asked by the Save Mount Diablo organization to write a handful of trail running tips for their upcoming Trail Adventure race in exchange for an entry. As I’ve been spending a lot more time running trails lately, I was completely thrilled with this writing & running opportunity so I selected the half marathon distance- my first trail half- happily wrote the tips for SMD’s weekly email blasts and moved on with my life…
Moving on with my life included getting over a nasty post-Nike chest cold as well as celebrating my 39th birthday this past Friday night with way too many tequila shots. Needless to say, come race morning on Sunday, I was still coughing a lot and feeling pretty out of it so I went ahead and downgraded to the 10K. In over 60 races to date, this was the very first time I have ever downgraded! Look at me making the right decision! How very different!!!
Sunday morning, I arrived to Mount Diablo State Park and was lucky enough to get one of the 3 remaining parking spots in the nearby lot- seemed like a good race omen to me- and walked a ways to get to the bib & shirt pick-up and sweat check. It was turning into a gorgeous morning and the weather was about 55 degrees of perfection. I happily got my stuff, checked my stuff, made one last stop in the restroom and waited for the 10K race to begin.
When I checked my bag, I noticed I had forgotten my electrolyte drink. Great. And when I pushed play on my iPod, it didn’t work. Fan-freaking-tastic- so much for good race omens!!!
Save Mount Diablo partners with Brazen Racing for this event which means that everything is very well organized, the field is smaller, and you can guarantee that the course will be challenging. I have run this race before so I knew of the killer uphills, the multiple streams you have to run through, the rocks, the roots, the single tracks and the steeeeeeep downhills. So even though I was taking a pass on the half, I knew I was in for plenty difficulty even with the 10K.
The race started and it took maybe a tenth of a mile to get to the first hill…
And then just hill after hill after hill until we reached the first aid station at mile 1. I was having some trouble with the coughing and something on my left side was starting to bug so I took my time at the aid station, drinking water and electrolytes, stretching, and munching on a few salty snacks. I finally thanked the volunteers for being there and ran on…
Around mile 2, you get to one of the steepest hills I have ever seen. I think I selectively forgot about this sucker. In the 3 times I have done this race, I have never seen even ONE person run this thing. Never. Not only is it crazy steep but it’s also crazy LOOOOOOOOONG! It just keeps going and going, and I kept hiking and hiking and breathing very audibly along with everyone else.
Took a moment to step off into the brush while a few people passed by, I wasn’t at all able to catch my breath so as soon as there was an opening in the line of runners hiking up this ridiculous hill, I re-joined and huffed and puffed until we got to the top. Which, really wasn’t the top, just another freaking hill through a clearing.
And then, finally, downhill. Glory be!!! I was having some issues with that pain on my left side so I stopped again to stretch and take some deep breaths, just enjoying the natural beauty I was lucky enough to run through. A fellow runner came up to me and asked me if I was okay, I said, “Yes, thank you, just feeling really lucky to be here today! It’s so beautiful here!” She agreed, noticed my camera and offered to take my photo, so big smile:
We said good-bye, I lingered for a bit, then ran on, thankful for the downhill action albeit fearful of falling on my booty but I recalled one of the tips I wrote for this race and focused on my form, running on the balls of my feet, not my heels so there would be less pounding and more speed.
Ran around the bend and then, you’ll never guess what comes next…
And the positive self-talk starts…
“Okay, you got this, it’s just another hill, oh I mean INCLINE. It’s okay. No problem. Just get to the top of this thing by whatever means necessary and then I’m pretty sure there is downhill after this. There has to be.”
“Wow, you were really wrong about that downhill! Alright, just remember you are lucky to be alive and here and able to take this gorgeous day and these 6 miles with you when you go home. This is where you get stronger. Just do it. You’ve got this. OHMIGOSH it’s only mile 3.5?!?!?!?!”
Shortly after clearing this hill, we were finally blessed with a downhill and I ran and ran, just loving the view, finally settling into a good pace and zoning out into my run.
And then for all that yearning for downhill, you finally get it, and drop down into an area that is usually a stream (dry this year though, yay!) and covered in rocks. I was trying my best to make up time while running this only flat part of the race, through the huge rocks, so I didn’t snap any pictures from then on, just ran my heart out to that finish line!
I finished in 1:22 which isn’t that bad given all that hiking up hill after hill after hill! When I got home from the race, that pain on my left side had gotten increasingly worse- after some x-rays and a trip to the doctor, they found a slight fracture in a rib from falling down after all those birthday tequila shots on Friday. I have yet to accomplish my first trail half but downgrading was truly the best decision for me this time.
I am very glad I did this race because now I’m not allowed to run or work out for 4-6 weeks, until my rib heals. I am more than upset/unhappy/angry/depressed about that. More on that topic later…
Save Mount Diablo is dedicated to preserving Mount Diablo’s peaks, surrounding foothills and watersheds in order to protect the mountain’s natural beauty and biological diversity. To that end, SMD hosts several endurance events throughout the year including 2 races (this one and the Diablo Trails Challenge in April).
Please consider supporting Save Mount Diablo by participating in one of their future events and let me know if you’ll be there for the challenge in April! For more information on all the other events SMD hosts, please visit their website here.