We got to the start about 30 minutes early. It was easy to tell by the crowd and the distances being offered that this was a tough crowd! Distances included, in miles - 4, 10, 13.1, 26.2, and 30. It would have been easy to begin to feel intimidated, but I kept telling myself that no matter what or how long, we would finish....and that Allen said we should get our monies worth and take the full 9 hours....and just like that, there was no pressure!
Speaking of Allen and Diane, I was a bit worried when they didn't show up! I saw their daughter heading out to set up our aid station, so I figured all was well and they were lost, but on their way. They did make it and got a late start, but more than made up for lost time. Diane would end up placing in her age division in the 4 mile, and Allen caught us a little over half way up the climb.
As for Brian and I, we ran the first 2 miles, which had some gentle rolling bumps, but were mostly flat considering what lay ahead. As soon as the elevation began to climb, we were hiking. It just kept going up, there were no real breaks in the climbs, it was just all up. There were steeper sections than others, some looser, some more compact, some sun, some shade....but it was all up. At different points you could make out runners heads bobbing along further up the side of the mountain, at which point I would say "I can't believe we have to go all the way up there"....which is dumb because I knew we summitted and would have to go as high as the mountain would go. I would go as steady as I could and then when I thought I was crazy and couldn't go up anymore I stopped and drank, then headed up again.
Eventually Allen caught us and it was nice to have some fresh company. He keeps a killer uphill pace and I was for sure struggling to keep up w/he and Brian. We hit the aid station around the 5 mile mark (after 3 miles of climb), refilled our bottles, and headed out on the 1.2ish miles to the summit. These were fun(although difficult) miles of running through a campground, single track, and more technical, rocky single track. We came out of the woods into the lower summit parking lot, then into more woods that led to the top summit parking lot where the lookout tower is. Hard to fathom we just climbed 3420 ft!! It felt odd to be there, for many reasons, but one being that we were in serious cyclist territory. Runners don't' run to the top of Diablo, it's just not normal. Cyclists dominate this Mt, and there were quiet a few at the top. We hung out for a minute or two, then headed back down the 1.2 miles to the aid station. I should mention that I don't own trail shoes, and running down the mt proved to be a slippery situation. It was hard to get traction in the gravel and dirt in racing flats, and there's no doubt it slowed me down. Did I mention that Allen summitted probably a good 5 minutes ahead of us?? He took a few pictures of us at the top, and we headed down together. Going down was funner than up, but I have to say I was pretty tense trying not to slip and slide. We refilled water bottles again at the aid station, had a sip of Sprite, and headed out. 5 miles to go till the finish line.
Brian and I were alone most of the way down. We ran the whole way down, but it was a very tense, controlled run. There were occasional pains that would come and pass (sharp shooters in left knee, and the usually pain in lower right calf), my quads were getting shaky by the end, but really, everything held up better than I thought. I was not anticipating how tense I would end up running in my upper body, my shoulders and traps were extremely tight and I knew I would be feeling it the next day. (Its the next day, and I am feeling it!) We stopped to drink when we needed to, but mainly we just worked on getting down off the mt.
About when the steep downhill ended and we were back on the flatter last 2 miles, I let out a scream. I spotted a huge tarantula on my side of the trail. It was worthy of me lengthening my finish time to stop and take a few pictures. I cant' say how much I love living in this area! This mountain really has it all - mountain lions, bobcats, coyotes, scorpions, tarantulas...2 miles from home!!
Anyway, from there it was just the bottom 2 miles to the finish, and just a matter of plugging along. We managed to pass a few people here. That was not a goal, but a bonus that I was happy to take. There were a few small hills that we walked up in the final mile, and then we were at the finish! 3:54!! If you are a road runner, this is not nearly as long as it sounds for trail running, and especially this course. I was pretty happy to finish under 4 hours. There were people out on the half course for more than double that time. In fact, there were people out on the 30 mile course for nearly 12 hours. Kudos to Wendell (the RD) for being there until the end welcoming those runners to the finish. (there was a 9 hour limit to this race that he chose not to enforce, thats a good rd!!). I bet he even had the soup still cooking in the pot! If you are wondering "what about that Allen guy??"....he finished up about 10ish minutes after us, with much more style and smiles than us. Considering that he started after we were all down the trail a ways, (at least 4 minutes ahead of him) I am positive he broke the 4 hour mark.
So at the finish, we had sodas, and I had a cup of lentil soup that was keeping warm on the camp stove. There was also pumpkin pie, and any other post run runner food you could want.
So that's it!! We did it! It was hard, but not as hard as I anticipated it. It hurt, but not as bad as I had imagined. I am sore and tired, but not as bad as I imagined I would be.
A thought - had I been too afraid to register for this, I would still be wondering if I could ever do something like that. Had I seen this race and thought 'I could never do that kind of elevation', I would still be sitting here today thinking I couldn't do it. The only way to change that is to figure out what you want to do that you think you can't.....and go do it!!
There are a few pics in the post below, the rest are on the photo site.