Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Diablo Trail Marathon Race Recap

The Mount Diablo Trail Marathon was this past Sunday (they also offered a 4-miler, 10-miler, half marathon and 50K).

You may not have heard me talk about it much, which is because it was a super late add to my race calendar. In fact, after last month's disaster of an ultra (you can read all about the San Francisco Ultra debacle HERE if you haven't yet), I was raring to get back on the horse and have a good race before my fall marathon. As luck would have it, Southwest was having a sale on California flights so I threw caution to the wind, asked friends on social media about upcoming races, checked with my coach to make sure adding the extra run wouldn't impact my goals and signed up for the race.

I love races that still go things "old school"
and have registration by mail (with a check!)

I mean, who can pass up a $60 marathon?! On the trails?! In a new-to-you location?! With one of your best friends?! Not to mention, Brian and his amazing family were kind enough to not only let me crash at their house but grab me from the airport and drop me back off after the race! They are absolute ROCKSTARS to the nth degree!

The trip was a pretty quick one. The hubby was actually out of town running Hood To Coast on an Adidas Golf team (yeah, I'm pretty envious he was able to run that race before I had a chance to, but I'll squash my jealousy for the time being and be stoked and proud he was able to ROCK the relay), so that meant both of us would be out of town and the pup would need a sitter. We have some amazing friends who are always willing to watch Walt, but we never want to take advantage of their kindness so try to keep the days to a minimum when possible. Since my flight out was early Saturday morning, I dropped him off Friday night (no one wants to be woken up at 4am, even if it does come with doggy snuggles).

I promise, Walt was more excited than his face lets on ;)

Like I mentioned, my flight was early Saturday morning (6:40am), but I had to wake up even earlier because I had a run on the schedule and didn't want to inconvenience the Kelley's with having to squeeze it in. My 6:40am flight meant we would board around 6:15, which meant I should get to the airport by 5:30, which meant I needed to get to where I was parking by 5, which meant I needed to leave the house by 4:15, which meant I needed to be home from my run by 3:30, which meant I needed to be running by 2:45, which meant I needed to be up by 2:15. #DedicatedOrCrazyImNotSure

Thankfully my run was "only" a twenty minute recovery run with strides and drills, but I wanted to make sure I got it in.

When I see folks out while I am running at these insane hours I don't know if I should say "Good morning" or "Good night" ;)

Everything ran according to plan and I was to the airport with time to spare. And the fact that I would only be gone for like 36 hours meant I didn't have much to pack or worry about while traveling - just a bookbag with my race gear. #EasyPeasy

I had already been up for 4.5 hours and the sun was finally rising...

Brian was able to grab me from the airport and then we went back to their house to play with the kids, watch some movies (Night School and Murder Mystery), take the doggy for a walk, play cards and just max and relax for the day. It was a low-key sort of day (I never want to be an inconvenience when I am staying with someone, so I told them they did NOT need to entertain me - whatever they normally would do on a Saturday/ the day before a race was absolutely okay with me!).

Seeing as I was up at 2:15am, by the time the sun started to set I was actually getting tired. I think everyone hit the hay around 9 or 9:30pm. 8 hours of sleep the night before a race, what the what?! That like NEVER happens... but I'll take it!

Although I would have preferred an earlier race start (especially
when it started getting hot), the later alarms were nice!

I am not normally one who pours over a race's website (I doubt I will ever come in first at a race, so I guess I just assume I'll always just follow whoever's in front of me and most of the other details are pretty standard amongst races, right?!) and this one wasn't much different. I had seen the elevation chart (which was definitely a little scary, but seeing as the hubby and I will be hiking Mount Whitney, the highest peak in the Continental US in two weeks, I figured this would be some great elevation training), but other than that I was sort of flying blind. Maybe I should have at least read Brian's race recap from when he ran the course before... OOPS! Oh well, it probably wouldn't have changed anything...


Well, I did know that it was going to be toasty... Like the high was in the high 90s... But when Brian ran the race the previous time he thought he finished in around 6 hours so we were hoping we could probably do something similar and hopefully be off the mountain before it got too warm... SPOILER ALERT: THAT DID NOT HAPPEN!


As I'm sure you could have guessed, Brian and I coordinated our outfits, sticking with the "black on black" theme for our clothes and yellow for our socks. Maybe black clothes weren't the best route to go when it was expected to be hot (or yellow socks when you are running trails), but we went with it nonetheless ;)

This race's #FlatCarlee included: Yellow PRO Compression Socks, Unicorn and Rainbow Sparkle Athletic Skirt, Do Good. Be Kind. trucker,
Nathan VaporHowe Hydration Vest, PROBAR BOLT chews, Handful Bra muscle tank, elite Road ID, black QALO silicone wedding bands,
watermelon nuun hydration, black Momentum Jewelry wraps, COROS APEX Watch, beam CBD salveEpic Wipe and Brooks Cascadia 13.

As with most trail races, the vibe was pretty chill. The parking was a little chaotic (or maybe the volunteers helping out just weren't super versed with where the runners should be parking), but we were able to snag a spot and join the crowd.

They had a kid's fun run (the final 50 meters before the finish line) that kicked off the morning before we all walked over to the starting line for the longer races. It was definitely a smaller field of runners (which is normally to be expected with local trail races), but surprisingly there were more runners registered for the 50K than the marathon.

Ready to get the dirt party started!

The race director gave us some final directions (which flags we should be following for the different race distances, which flags meant wrong way, which flags signified turns, etc) and then he was counting us down and sending us out.

On your mark, get set, GO!

Since Brian had run this race in the past (and is familiar with the area), I let him dictate what we should do. He said our game plan would be be run the first two-ish miles before the elevation started, then we would run the runnable sections but would have to hike a lot of the next five miles of uphill. I told him my only two goals were to get in time on my feet/ elevation training and to make it to my 6:30pm flight - whatever else happened was totally fine with me.

The views along the way definitely didn't suck!

Although I was expecting elevation, I don't know I was expecting THAT MUCH elevation. I mean, I should've expected it, seeing as the name of the area is Mount Diablo, but wowzer. I'd say between Mile 2 and 7 there was very little time we spent running. Thankfully the views were stunning and the temperatures were still mild so taking the extra time to hike up wasn't bothering me any (and I was assuming taking it easier on the climb would save our legs a bit for later in the race).

We were hoping to be done before the heat got too high...

The first few miles were on more of a dirt road (with rocks and gravel, but wide enough for people to not feel too bunched or crowded -- the slower pace of the climbing definitely helped thin the herd and spread folks out as well). When we got up to the summit there was some single track trails which were fun but also difficult because there were runners coming in both directions so you really had to keep your eyes peeled so you didn't get in someone's way.

Brian brought his GoPro along for the run and snagged a couple shots along the way.

At the summit we took some photos, enjoyed the views and grabbed a rubber band to prove we made it to the checkpoint.

We made it to the top!

How close is too close?! The camera felt like it was right in my face...

And we were still smiling at this part!

I have a thing for signs ;)

Made sure we grabbed what we needed before we made our way down.

At this point Brian had already mentioned he was sort of toast. It's possible the first two miles of "flat" were actually more of a false flat and we took them too fast, it's possible his lack of sleep the previous two weeks was catching up with him, it's possible it just wasn't his day. Whatever the case, it made for a long race... Like 8 hours long... Yep, although we were originally thinking it would take us around 5-6 hours, we finished in just over 8. But, you know what, we did our best to keep our spirits high, our attitudes appreciative and our energy positive. We may not have succeeded every single second, but once we would catch ourselves in a dark spot, we would try and mention things we were thankful for ("I am grateful for the shade", "I am grateful I am not running the 50K", "I am grateful the course didn't go by the parking lot at any point or I would have stopped this silliness already", "I am grateful for Otter Pops", "I am grateful to be outside", "I am grateful we saw a deer with sticks (aka a 4- or 6-point buck) and a pack of wild turkeys", etc).

There is always something to be grateful for... you just have to find it!

We enjoyed the times we could let loose and cruise downhill!

On another positive note, my back wasn't an issue during the race. I have been using a combination of acetaminophen with caffeine and CBD salve, which seems to be a winning combo for the time being. I packed both in my hydration pack but didn't need more than what I took before the race, which was a major relief and answer to prayer! I am not sure how it would have felt if we had been pushing the pace more during the race, but for what we were doing my body was surviving.


Let's be real, when one of your best friends is struggling, it's never easy. For most of the second half of the race we would be trying to make it from shade spot to shade spot, with a breather in-between so we could catch our breath and hopefully get our core temperature a little lower. (Yup, in case you don't remember the elevation chart I share at the beginning, it wasn't all smooth sailing after we hit the summit around Mile 7, nope, we had more climbing until at least Mile 21 or so.)

Trying to keep this pain train moving forward... one step at a time...

Not sure if you can tell how steep that downhill is in the background, but I felt like I was tippy-toeing down it...
I do NOT enjoy feeling out of control so I took it very, very slowly.

I wish we could have been "making up" time on some of the downhill, but it was all sort of rough going...

We were very thankful to have the aid stations on the course that we did. Having the ability to grab some ice (TMI, but I always grab an extra handful to fill my sports bra), refill our hydration, munch on watermelon or M&Ms, etc was a life saver at times (okay, that may sound dramatic, and it is, but at times it was the main thing that kept us putting one foot in front of the other). With the temperatures being as warm as they were, we would've loved an extra aid station or two, but understand they had to make it work with the layout (putting them at campgrounds so you could drive supplies in and out).

Get in my belly!

Similar to my apologizing to Brian during the San Francisco Ultra, Brian apologized to me a few times during this race because the day was unfolding much differently than we were originally planning. I continued to remind him that I didn't care about our finish time. I was just happy to be outside, enjoying time in nature with my friend.

Someone was cruel and sprinkled stairs throughout the course... 

During the final major climb (we had about 6 miles of uphill from Mile 16 to 22), I told Brian that if we made it to the final aid station and he wanted to throw in the towel that we'd call it a day. Thankfully by the time we got there and refueled with some salt, sugar and electrolytes he decided to see it through to the end (the promise of "no more uphill" helped).

Let's finish this thing! 

We ended up crossing the finish line in just over 8 hours (the cut-off for the marathon was 9 hours, but had to taken the full 9 hours I would have missed my flight). We grabbed our finisher medals, tried to find some ice cold water (unfortunately there wasn't any, but Brian was able to find some cold pop) and snapped a couple quick pictures.

I don't think I would have ever expected an 8-hour marathon finish time, but you take what the day
gives you... and on this day, it gave us the devil (Diablo, get it?!) but we still were victorious! 

Yup, by the time we finished it was almost 100*... so I'd assume
it was probably in the triple digits while we were out there...

We knew that with our longer race time we were cutting it close with being able to make my flight. Thankfully we were able to get back to the house, change clothes (fortunately I had packed an Epic Wipe in my bag and used that to wipe down before putting on some clean clothes), grab some leftovers for the road and jump in the car for the airport. We lucked out because traffic wasn't an issue (who knows what would have happened had their been an A's game or an accident along the way) and security was super quick in the Southwest terminal. I ended up getting to my gate about 15 minutes before my flight was set to board and I even had time to chow down on my noodle dinner.

Am I the only weirdo who prefers pasta without sauce?!

Before I knew it I was on the plane and headed back to San Diego. It was definitely a whirlwind of a trip, and maybe a little different than we had originally expected, but we got in some miles, had some smiles (okay, I may have had more smiles than Brian...) and made some memories, so all-in-all, I'll call it a win! Marathon #24 is in the books!

Peace out, Oakland - I'm off to see my boys back in SoCal!

#RealTalk: I probably won't return to run this race again in the future because it is freakin' hard with a capital F, but it was an experience I probably won't forget (at least not any time soon). PS I super appreciate you can opt-out of the race shirt and save $5 on your registration! You know I took advantage of that option. I think all races should do something similar!

How do you keep yourself going when things get tough?

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