Saturday, April 28, 2012

Diablo Challenge - My first attempt at 50K

To say my first 50k was epic was an understatement.  To end up getting my first DNF was awesome!!!  Let me explain. 

My wife and I have been looking forward the Diablo Challenge 50K for months.  Last year we had run the 5K with our kids in the rain. Now our best laid plains included training for the Napa Valley Marathon, which was at the beginning of March.  This would be followed by continuing training past the marathon giving us a three week tapper.

However, we ran into a couple of problems.  Both my wife and I ran Napa injured (I ran with Achilles tendonitis, for my wife it was her hip). That, combined with warmer than expected temperatures, meant that we increased our Napa time a full hour from the last time we ran it, to 5:45.

That was ok.  We learned our lesson.  The biggie here though was that we finished.  And we knew there would be that race that we would know it would be time to call it.

The following weeks, life got in the way of our training schedule.  We were recovering from our injuries.  We both got the flu.  Followed by an "extended vacation" (a month of unemployment). 

Not to say we didn't do any training.  It just wasn't at the level that we had wanted, and definitely less than we would have for a standard marathon. That said our legs were fresh and ready to go.

We were alerted a few days before the race that we would be running our first Ultra in the high 80's to low 90's.  The good news though was that I got a job offer a couple days before the race, so we could focus on the race itself.

On race day, we were stocked with extra water and salt tabs and felt ready to go.  The course begins in the Round Valley Regional Preserve, winds just north of the Los Vaqueros Reservoir, then through Morgan Territory Regional Park, into Mt. Diablo State Park, then finally into Castle Rock Regional Park.  The 50K (31.6 miles) had 7,142 vertical feet.  Find the course description here.

Most of the run through Round Valley went well.  That is until we got to the first hill.  We knew that this would be the toughest hill with a total elevation gain of 1,400 feet. By the time we made it through the lush green Round Valley, it was already well into the 70's.  By the time we got to the top of the ridge, the heat had completely zapped our energy.  The views from the top were beautiful and definitely worth the climb.  You could see the windmills of Livermore to the south, the Delta to the northeast, and Mt. Diablo to the (far) north.  

We got our second wind and ran down to Morgan Territory Rd. to the first aid station.  We had at this point successfully completed 8.2 miles.  By this time though it was now into the high 80's and we now faced our second hill, a climb of  800 ft of vertical feet.  Most of this part of the course was fully exposed with very little wind.  The country was beautiful; however the heat was unbearable.  My biggest concern though was for my wife.  She has problems at time with an irregular heart beat.  This typically occurs when she is running in 80-degree plus temperatures.  She actually did pretty well this go around.  However, we knew that we would be running into the danger zone if we pushed past the half-point marker.

So that said, we called it at 15.6 miles.  We knew that this was the time to have our first DNF.  The decision came easy.

We also got a scare, one of our fellow runners also was having heart problems and needed medical.  We had a little over a mile to go, so I left my wife and kicked in to get help.  The search and rescue went out and got her.  My wife followed a few minutes behind.
Source: Brazen Racing

Back when we ran our first marathon, we said that we wouldn't do another.  Since then we have run 6 marathons and attempted now one ultra.  So I can say that we will attempt another 50K again.  It comes back to determination and the proper training and conditioning.

Will we run the Diablo Trails Challenge 50K again? Most definitely.  Brazen Racing, which is the race organizers, and the Save Mt. Diablo foundation have truly created a course that is wonderful, if a bit challenging.  With the right weather, we would have conquered the mountain.  We know it.

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