Tuesday, May 28, 2013

A Mt. Diablo Three Day Weekend

This past three day weekend allowed for some running around and to the summit of Mt. Diablo. The weather was just perfect, with temps in the low 70's on Saturday and overcast and a slight drizzle on Monday.  

Hard to believe we would be looking down on this point a couple days later.

So on Saturday, my wife and I ran the Buckeye Loop out of Castle Rock Regional Park.  This was an 8 mile loop which meant we ran out Stage Road and up Burma Road to get to the Buckeye Trail cut-off.  I hadn't run the loop since my 50K in April.  I felt so good and strong on this run, and the valley was gorgeous.   The grass is completely dried out as well as some of the creeks.  We expected to see a lot of wildlife, and snakes, but besides a lone deer it was pretty uneventful.  It was a really nice run with my wife.

On Monday, we awoke to gray clouds.  You couldn't see the top of the mountain; however, Weather.com promised that the rain would hold off until 4:00 PM.  My wife greeted my slumber to a suggestion of summiting Mt. Diablo.  Having just dreamed about pine cones and toothpicks (it was supposed to be for a science project, strange dream) I thought why not!
The clouds were low to start off.

We got to the Michell Canyon Staging area and began our run at 9:00 A.M.  The first two miles of the run is a subtle climb, the the real climbing begins.  We were making good time, stopping every so often to taken in the scenery.  Off in the distance we could make out the trails on Black Point, which we had run a couple of months back.  By Deer Flat, we were still feeling strong.  
There was no water in the creek a few feet down stream.

Once we made it to the Burma Road Cut-off we could see what we had run on Saturday.  Being at the 2900 foot level at this time, it is funny to think that we spend much of our time in Pine Valley training.  Don't get me wrong, Saturday's run consisted of 1,500 feet of elevation.  But to see it from this perspective was pretty awesome.

We filled up our water bottles at Juniper Campground.  This was at the base of the Juniper Trail single track we would climb for the next 1.5 miles and 900 feet.  I love Juniper Trail for how technical it can be coming down.  It was about mid-way up the weather started to change with the lower cloud level blowing in as well as a bit of a temperature drop.  

Once at the top, we took a brief break from the wind to fuel up and get warm in the visitor center.  I was really itching to get back and run down the mountain.
The rain coming in.

That said, coming down Juniper was a little more technical than I had planned with a bunch of hikers for some reason wanting to participate in our fun. I can't tell you how many times I had someone ask how much further to the top, knowing that they hadn't gone that far up Juniper in the first place.  Meantime I was launching myself off of rock and gravel to get down.

Once through the campground, it was all fire road.  It is a pretty fast run but you need to know that you are running basically 3,400 feet and 7 miles of it.  Your quads will feel it.  I actually PR'd my time between Deer Flat and the Mitchell Canyon parking lot at 37 minutes.  
Overall, we covered 13.6 miles, with 3,400 feet of elevation gain in 3:45 minutes.  
Getting warm by the "Fire".
As usual, I love that my wife and I are able to do this together and that we can be spontaneous in just saying, lets go run up a mountain.  This is so much different than how I was raised and how much more different it was from when I looked at three day weekends as a time to catch up with my rest.

For the weekend, over 22 miles, over 5,000 feet!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Brazen "Trail" Running on The Embarcadero

I have to start by saying I like my lunch runs along the Embarcadero. However, as I have stated before, the caliber of runners that run at lunch, well can be intimidating.   But to be honest, after slogging 5 plus pavement miles, I really long for the trail.

Don’t get me wrong.  I have one of the most fabulous backdrops for my lunch time runs, with the San Francisco Bay and the Bay Bridge off in the distance.  I even mix it up with runs through Fisherman’s Wharf and through Fort Mason, with Alcatraz, the Golden Gate, and Marin in the distance.

But what always gives me that added kick is when I see someone coming up towards me in a Brazen Racing shirt.  Unlike runners with other race shirts, there is always a sense of pride and comrade in identifying yourself as a Brazen runner.  They are always looking for ways to make what is basically a flat concrete trail just a little bit harder, jumping up cement embankments or the occasional stair. While other runners may be in their own world or engaged talking with their lunch time running group, a Brazen runner always will acknowledge each other with a nod or a thumbs up.  
Photo: Brazen Racing

In fact I get the biggest kick when a Brazen runner is with his lunchtime group, gives the thumbs up and watch the rest in the group as they wonder how this person knows you.  Of course he probably doesn’t, but we share the common experience of being part of the “Brazen Family” and Bay Area Trail Community.
Keep in mind, the trail running community in the Bay Area is huge.  And there are plenty of trail racing companies around:  Inside Trails has a faithful following as does Coastal.  And we have some pretty awesome trails in Marin, the Peninsula, and the South and East Bay.  
What is interesting when you run the Embarcadero, though, is very few of the other companies shirts, less even the marque trail and ultra-marathon shirts – like North Face 50, Miwok 100K, Dick Collins 50M, or Skyline to the Sea.

It could be that Brazen has really catered to the group of trail runners that are looking for a challenge in the 5K to half-marathon range, not to mention a couple of marathons, a 6 and 12 hour timed event, and an awesome 50K on Mt. Diablo. 

Photo: Brazen Racing
The race directors, Sam and Jasmin, have awesome attention to detail to make the running experience the tops.  Every runner gets a shirt and a medal.  For some traditional trail runners, the added bling may be too much, but it just further adds to the loyalty to their events for most.  Add that there are a lot of regulars to their events (which are selling out on a more regular basis) have created a community within the Bay Area trail running community.  Even when we may meet up at other company’s events, we sit around and talk about our races back at Brazen.

So yea, I miss the trails every time I am putting in miles during lunch.  But that wink, nod, or thumbs up during those runs definitely make, at least for the moment, feel like I am on those trails giving and receiving encouragement from the fellow runners at a Brazen event.  I then pick up my pace and I am good for a few more miles.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Mitchell Canyon: Black Point Trail

Post Diablo Challenge, I am getting back to a normal running and cycling routine and looking forward to the next major event on July 6th, a twelve hour timed event. This meant that last week I was able to get in 23 miles of running, including exploring a new trail out of Mitchell Canyon: the Black Point Trail.
My wife headed out early on Sunday for what ended up as a 6.6 mile run with close to 2,000 feet of elevation gain.  Our ran began through the single track grasslands on the north side of Mount Diablo, past the frog pond we discovered last month on our Eagle Peak run in April, and up to Mitchell Canyon Road.  About a mile and a half up the canyon, we made a left up White Canyon to connect with Black Point Trail.  
Black Point Trail is all single track and loops back from White Canyon back to Mitchell Canyon Trail with a serious climb up Black Point.  The south side of the trail is more creek bed than trail, with plenty of loose rock.  The climb continues up through scrub brush with views of the Diablo Valley, and overlooks much of the trails in Castle Rock we normally run.  Once we summit, I was looking forward to some serious downhill; however, the first half mile of this part of the trail was not groomed, which meant climbing through a serious jungle before we could really start running.
Once past the jungle, it was a nice run downhill with pretty well groomed switchback.  The views of Mitchell Canyon were spectacular.  Two thirds down we stopped for a little break and my wife commented that she wondered if we had picked up any ticks.  At that moment I saw one climbing up my running shorts, which I quickly flicked off, followed by another running across my shin, and a third embedded in my gaiter.   Now, since experiencing ticks is new things to our family, my fear of these terrible pests is starting to wane.   However, while I have respect for these creatures, they show up in the most peculiar places, like at this point in the run we were standing in a wide open space and I am not sure if I had picked them up while we were in the jungle or just standing in the wide open.  They clearly liked me over my wife.

Once down, we ran back the way we came, through the grasslands and back to the car, again checking each other for ticks (queue Brad Paisley).
We probably won’t be trying that route again, even though it has some nice single-track in some areas.  But it was nice just to get out and run a bit in the hills.

For more photos of the run and the trail, check out my wife's blog here.
submit to reddit