Monday, June 3, 2013

Sad PCTR Diablo News

I am saddened and a bit stunned to hear of the loss of a trail runner during Sunday's PCTR Diablo Trail run.
The news said Rene Brunet, male age 63, went missing, and was later found, dead, down an embankment near the 2000ft mark. He had been running back down to Mitchell Canyon from the summit.  Hits a bit close to home.  If that is correct, he would have been just below Deer Flat - I took this picture last Monday -
 Below are some shots of one of my favorite sections.....below Deer Flat. When you are running down from the Summit you have amazing views, both of Eagle Peak in front of you, and looking back out the valley towards Mitchell Canyon.

There are some steep, loose gravelish sections, but nothing really technical. You can pretty much hammer this downhill, it's not especially dangerous or anything. the trail is generally hill on one side, and drop off on the other side....but not like cliff drop off...just more like what you see behind me...a steep downhill covered in scrub.

The weather on Sunday was in the mid 80's on the Mt.  80's on the MT can easily feel like mid 90's. There is not much shade on the descent. There's a few trees here and there, but you'd be mostly exposed.  PCTR's Diablo course is about the hardest there is on the mt.  You go up Back Creek Trail, then connect in at Deer Flat and head to the summit. Twice. Our friend "100 Mile Ryan" did the 50k and struggled with hydration.  Talking with him on Saturday, he had said something like "it's only going to be in the 80's, I'm only carrying one water bottle, there's plenty of aid stations", he ended up dehydrated and resting at the summit. He's been logging some amazing training runs in prep for Leadville 50, both in miles and elevation, and has been running parts of the course on a regular basis. He's a solid runner. That said, you summit twice on PCTR's 50k course, and that'll take it's toll on even the best trail runner.

I'm assuming with Mr. Brunet's extensive experience as a trail runner, maybe there was a health issue of some sort??  Doesn't seem logical that he'd fall down an embankment and not be able to get back up unless there was another issue or if he was dehydrated and disoriented and became injured......It really doesn't matter. It's a tragic loss however it happened. Looking at his list of previous races, one thing is clear, he must have loved spending time out on the trails. He must have loved being outdoors, and surely appreciated nature. To get to where he went missing, he would have had already done (at least once, twice if he was on his second loop) an epic, beautiful climb up Back Creek Trail, and made it to the summit. The view on Sunday would have been amazing! It was sunny and clear up there.  He would have enjoyed at least a few fun miles of the descent back down to Mitchell Canyon, where he knew either  a)he had another aid station, or if his second lap...b)the finish line was waiting for him.
This is a great reminder to all of us to soak it all in. "Enjoy the journey". Appreciate that we can get out there, and we choose to do so.  We choose to go out and have these great adventures, not knowing how each one will end, but enjoying every second.
                                   Our thoughts go out to his family and the PCTR family.

 Update - looking at Mr. Brunet's race results, he had finished previous 50k's on Diablo. The Mt was not new to him, and it looks like he had run this course before.

PCTR added an aid station to the course this year. It does not usually have aid at the summit, however they added an aid station at the top this year. Juniper is usually the highest aid station, since you then only have1.5 - 3 miles left to the top, depending on the route.

Also, there are not any pictures out yet in the news, but if you are wondering if you have shared the trail with Mr. Brunet or crossed paths with him at a run, you can see his San Fran Marathon pictures from 2012 here.
That link is hit and miss, but you can go here and just enter Mr. Brunet's last name.


  1. Hello,

    Thank you for your thoughtful blog post about my uncle. My family and I really appreciate it.

    This afternoon, I spoke with Ken Wayne, a reporter for KTVU FOX2, and he asked me to locate pictures of Rene running for a 10 p.m. broadcast tonight. I clicked on your link, but I was unable to access the photos. Could you by any chance email Mr. Wayne any photos that you might have of Rene by 10 p.m. tonight?
    Mr. Wayne's email is

    Thanks in advance,
    Teresa Palkowski

    1. Hi Teresa,
      First, I'm sorry for your family's loss.

      I did not personally know your uncle, however, we share a love of the trail. Diablo is in our back yard and you can find me out there at least 3 days a week. Our Northern CA trail running community is very supportive of each other, and an odd family of it's own. We rally around each other, whether we personally know each other or not.

      My husband, as I type, is going through Rene's races, looking through the race photos of each one. We have one picture so far, and will keep looking for more. I sent an email to a friend who has run many of the same races as Rene has to see if he has any photos as well.

      I'll email the one we have to Mr. Wayne, and any others we find as well.

      I'd be happy to send any we find to you also. In addition, it turns out our friend, Ryan, spent quite a bit of time with Rene during their run on Sunday. Rene got him through a rough patch or two. I'd be happy to put you in contact with Ryan if you'd like.

      You can email me directly at

      If I can help in any other way, please don't hesitate to contact me!

    2. Teresa, we sent in 20 pictures to Mr. Wayne.
      Your uncle was smiling in nearly every one, even at the finish of his 50 milers. Very inspiring!

  2. Hi Teresa,

    I didn't know your uncle either, but it just so happens I was taking pictures near the finish line of a race he did last year (the Inside Trail Racing Marin Ultra Challenge 50 Mile race). You can see and download the pictures from here:

    There are about six of them - just keep going forward through them and you'll see him get closer, go past, and finish.

    I'll say this about your uncle - that dude was tough and amazing! That was a VERY hard 50 mile race and he was in great shape at this point (many other runners were really struggling by now). Those pictures aren't quite full resolution - let me know if you would like the full resolution version of any of them ( I sent an email to Ken at KTVU with the link as well.

    My condolences on this tragic news. Hopefully these pictures will help a tiny bit.


  3. I was running the 25k and passed and said hi to Rene on the way up...and then on my way back down. He was very pleasant and said hi and good job to me, very positive energy from him on the trail yesterday.

    - Justin

  4. Thank you so much for your condolences. Below is the information for Rene's viewing. I hope you all can come.

    Rene’s family welcomes everyone who knew Rene to come see him for the last time and to say goodbye.

    Halsted N. Gray – Carew & English Inc.
    1123 Sutter Street, San Francisco
    Tuesday, June 4th: 3-8 p.m.
    Wednesday, June 5th: 12 (noon)-6 p.m.
    Thursday: To be announced

    The mortuary may be contacted at (415) 673-3000 for further details.

    Given the diversity of Rene’s friends from all walks of life, we hope these hours will accommodate everyone.

  5. In case Teresa or others read this, I wanted to share my interaction with Rene.

    Coming in to the second loop I assumed I was refreshed and refilled with enough water to get back to Juniper at the ~21 mile mark. About two miles into the Back Creek climb I was already halfway done with my 20oz water bottle and losing energy fast. I couldn't get my heart rate down below 175/180, and that was walking. I sat down in some shade on the side of the trail an older gentleman (I now know was Rene) came around the corner. We both remarked on how hot and difficult the second loop was and he offered to refill my water bottle if I needed it. Giving me some of his water (he had two 30 oz bottles), I felt completely refreshed. I offered to let him lead the way but he wanted me to go first.

    This interaction provided me not only liquid refreshment but also boosted my morale to get me to the Juniper aid station where I met my pacer.

    We saw Rene on our way back down from the peak and we exchanged greetings and encouragement. I am sad that I was one of the last people to see him however his remarkable generosity is particular noteworthy, even in the last hours of his life.

    I wasn't able to attend yesterday's viewing and was hoping something would be announced for today. The funeral home said there were no further arrangements. In some way or another, I wish this story to be passed along to his family, especially to his wife.


    1. Hey Ryan,
      Thanks for sharing your experience with Rene.
      I will see if I can get an email address for you for the family.

    2. Ryan, I contacted Ellen from the SF Chronicle who wrote the piece on Rene. She has contact with the family and will forward your comment to them directly.

    3. Thanks so much for letting me know!