Monday, April 8, 2013

Mt. Diablo - Oyster Point Trail, Twin Ponds Trail, and Eagle Peak

Well we are definitely getting close to the Diablo Challenge 50K.  In just  under two weeks we will be heading out on a bus to Brentwood to complete the race that was our first DNF last year.  To prepare, this past week we ran up the one section of the 50K course we haven't run, ran the Twin Ponds Trail in the Diablo Foothills Regional Park and back through Castle Rock, and finally did a hike/run with the kids on a new trail up Eagle Peak and back down Mitchell Rock Trail. Before all the running, though, we also made a trip out to Mill Valley to check out the new San Francisco Running Company.  Included is the recap.

Oyster Point Trail - Mount Diablo State Park

Last year, due to the heat, Beth and I made the choice to DNF at the 15 mile mark.  It had been in the 90's and, well, didn't train like we should have due to injuries from the Napa Marathon a month and a half earlier.

This year has been different, with Beth putting in between two and three hours, three to four days a week up on Diablo and me putting in miles in at work as well as running trails with her on the weekends.  We also have run a couple of races recently.  So we feel prepared to finish this time.

One of the items on our check list however, has been to run the one section of the trail we haven't run, being between Old Finley Rd. and Curry Point.  More specifically the trail out of Old Finley. 

On Friday, we set out for our run.  Due to the nature of the parking situation, you have to park 0.75 miles from the trail head.  The goal was to run 8 miles and back.  I was breaking in my Cascadia 8's  on the trail as well as the gaiters that I had bought the day earlier at the San Francisco Running Company.

The beginning of the run was good and we felt strong.  We quickly ran into a bit of a challenge with how muddy the hill was.  That, and the realization that the trail is now pretty overgrown with poison oak.  The trail is an awesome piece of single track and the hill out of Old Finley is not as challenging as we had thought it would be.   We got to the top in no time. 

The views are spectacular, especially of Jackass Canyon and compared with other areas around Mt. Diablo, it is very shaded.  In fact, if we had known this part was as shaded, we probably would have decided to continue last year!

Just past the 3.5 mile mark we made the decision to turn around due to the poison oak.  We didn't want to risk further exposure to it, with me having really bad reactions in my previous encounters.  We had achieved what we had set out on this trail, getting to the top and running along the ridge, so we decided to drive back to Castle Rock and run some of the single track Beth had discovered a week or so back in the Diablo Foothills Regional Park.

Twin Ponds Trail - Diablo Foothills Regional Park

We reached the Twin Ponds trail running through parts of Castle Rock, and into Diablo Foothills Regional park, right above Borges Ranch.

Twin Ponds Trail, for the most part is some pretty awesome single track.  Fully exposed, it provides views of Shell Ridge and runs past several ponds.  Definitely cattle country,  the trail is a roller coaster between oaks and grassland.  With the recent rains, the hills are a beautiful green and mustard yellow.

In fact, I was so caught up with the scenery, I missed a root and took a face plant.  Nothing like dirt and last weeks cow E coli to bring you back to your senses.  The funny thing was that my wife also fell at the same spot the week before.

The trail wraps back around above Buckeye Ravine.  I continued out past China Wall and down Little Yosemite to Stage Road and Stage Road to the car.  So all miles in total, we did 13.5 on Saturday.

On Sunday we decided to hike/run with the kids out an unmarked trailhead with access to the north side of Mt. Diablo.  More single track, it began running the Clayton meadows at the base of the mountain.  The emerald green grass was blowing in the wind with sparse oak trees dotting the rolling landscape. We also came upon a pond full of tadpoles, the kids loved it.  Most of the time we bypass the field when we park at the Mitchell Canyon trail head, so this was a real treat.

Our destination was the Eagle Peak trail.  We are pretty familiar with Back Creek Trail; however, after recent pictures from 100 Mile Ryan (who is training for Leadville 50) we thought that it would make a decent hike.  And for our kids, a hike up means a run down.  Our intent was not to go all the way to Eagle Peak, but we kept climbing to the ridge.  This again a nice single track but I can’t see running down it with the amount of sage brush overhanging the trail.  Also, there are areas where the two foot track drops an off a cliff on the downhill side.

Once we got to the ridge we decided to head down the Mitchel Rock trail, which also took us over the Twin Peaks.  This is at the 1,700 foot level.  After a little bit of dicey downhill we past the rocky promontories and down some pretty sweet single track.  The wildflowers are in bloom, with orange, red, yellow, blue, and purple flowers.  We had a great time running down the mountain.  While you can see Clayton, Concord, and the Delta in the distance, you still feel extremely remote.  The kids had a great time, swinging around the turns and up and down the dips.  This two mile trail took us past Mitchell Rock and back to the meadows below.  It was a wonderful hike.  Overall, this was a five mile loop back to the car.

The San Francisco Running Company

Besides running trails the past couple of days, we discovered the San Francisco Running Company in Mill Valley.  I have seen twitter posts and other Bay Area trail runners comment about the store’s opening but didn’t know much about it.  Boy was I surprised to be greeted by VictorBallesteros and Brett Rivers.  My wife and I recognized Victor from meeting him at the Footfeather’s hill clinic we did back in October.  While Brett Rivers (one of the owners of the store, the other is Jorge Maravilla) looked really familiar, I felt extremely embarrassed not to know who he was until I got home. This was especially awkward after calling out the pictures of the different runners on the wall.

The San Francisco Running Company is an awesome trail running store, with everything that you will need.  Nicely situated at the base of the Marin Headlands and the gateway to many of the trails, I can see a lot of runners stopping by after their runs for supplies.  Having access to the wealth of knowledge provided by Brett, Jorge, and Victor is priceless.  

I bought my sorely needed gaiters for Diablo as well as some freshly baked bread that was recently delivered from the MH Bread and Butter Bakery.  Nathan Yanko and Devon Yanko, also ultra-runners, have started a bakery up in San Anselmo.  While it isn’t open yet, they are doing bread deliveries to different Marin spots.

While Brett was taking care of the purchases, Victor asked us what we would have done different on Diablo differently so that we could have finished.  As with the trail running community, it is so nice that everyone is open to this type of discussion.  We gave us some suggestions related to hydration as well as some validation to our approach this year to our training.  Thank you Victor, we really appreciated it.

Next time you are in Marin, I would highly recommend a stop at the San Francisco Running Company.  It is definitely worth the trip!

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