Monday, July 13, 2009

Diablo Redux

Getting behind in blogging here… After the pains from Quicksilver had worn off, I noticed that PCTR was holding another event at Diablo on June 6th. Not one to leave well enough alone, I watched the weather forecast, and when it was clear we were in for great running weather that weekend (i.e., unseasonably cool even for the Bay area), I signed up for another round of torture in the Diablo 50K!

This was one event I had to do completely solo because David hurt his knee—he hurt it sprinting on the track of all places. That’s what we get for throwing in a little high intensity training! He was having enough trouble just walking, so asking him to run any race was out of the question, and he wasn’t willing to come along as my chauffeur or crew (I can’t imagine why).

Anyone who’s interested in trail running in the Bay Area knows about Mt. Diablo. The PCTR 25K event makes a single ascent of Diablo, totaling 4,450ft ascent (and descent); the 50K event repeats the loop, totaling 8,900 ft ascent. Having opted for the latter, I can say that 25K was really quite enough!

We started out on a similar course to the Diablo 50-mile , but avoided Mitchell Rock and Eagle Peak, opting instead for Back Creek and Meridian Ridge Rd. and then joining Deer Flat Road. From there to Juniper Campground Aid station was the same—just a long climb up the fireroad (with the exception of one steep downhill where you are tortured by having to regain all that elevation you just lost). I had fun chatting with Dianne Forrest (who I met at Headlands 50K, my inaugural ultra), and with Jo Lynn’s friends Christy and Theresa. The leaders and speediest folks passed us going back down the hill at this point (about 90 minutes in!). Since this race is part of the Sportiva Mountain Cup series, there was money waiting for the winner of the series, and some really fast folks were contending this day! I recognized Chikara Omine (who I had met at Quicksilver) moving well (he would come in 4th overall) and already on his way down!

Arriving at the aid station at Juniper, the folks kindly filled bottles and offered us snacks and sent us on our way. The next section routed us out along the Summit Trail, with some gentle ups and downs and beautiful views of the Bay, Walnut Creek, Oakland (pretty much everything actually), until we encountered the rest of the real climbing. Along this section of beautiful single track, we encountered more fast runners flying back down the trail like gazelles. Definitely tricky on such a narrow trail! I recognized a few more faces, like Caitlin Smith and Mark Tanaka. The last couple of miles got really tough though. You could see the tower through the mist at the summit for a long time before it seemed to even get any closer. We just kept climbing and climbing, getting more and more tired, and then finally came out into the parking area at the summit, with its incongruous cars and bicycles and blissfully ignorant persons looking at us like we were from another planet. I don’t know if the bicyclists were impressed at us for hiking the whole way up the mountain or not, but all I could think about was how they were going to coast effortlessly down the mountain, while I had to kill my quads to get back down, working even harder than on the way up!

The view from the top was breathtaking as usual, even with the wisps of cloud hovering around the summit. After a quick breather and stretch at the top of the tower (and taking a picture of Christy), we turned to begin the long climb down. The tricky footing and steep descent was challenging, but very fun! I’ve been pushing the downhill pace this spring, since recovering from piriformis injuries that I had last year this time, and gaining confidence in my balance, agility and hip muscles. The trail included some climbs just to remind us of how much fun we had on the initial climb up. Finally, arriving back at Juniper aid station, we refueled and prepared for the long fireroad descent. I tried my best to make up time here, and eventually worked up enough speed to slip and slide past a few people. It was great fun running down the fireroad, skating on the loose gravel and using the slide to cushion the descent. I am not a fast runner, but I did my best to get the pace down below 8 min miles and keep it there as long as I could. This was enough to get me ahead of a few people, and I came into the 25K aid station/finish area in about 4 hours.

At this point I was seriously hot because of working hard and running in the sunbaked canyons along Mitchell Fire Road, which were not cooled as effectively by the breeze as the heights. I hung around about 10 minutes cooling off, drinking coke on ice (so good in races I have to admit, though I never drink it when not racing!) and hoping some other 50K runner would come in so we could go out together. After a little while, I realized this was not going to happen and I’d better get moving. So I headed back out, climbing the #%$@ mountain again alone!

This time, the ascent was slower. Toward the top of the first leg of the climb, just before reaching Deer Flat Road, I realized my right calf muscle was aching. With another 1000 ft of climb to go, I had to slow down even more to favor it, making the quads and gluts do the lion’s share of the work. The third time through at Juniper, the aid station volunteer accused me of leaving after cutoff time and didn’t help me on my way at all! Just what I needed—demoralizing comments! I continued on anyway after correcting him and fending for myself, and met a number of other 50K runners on the way down from their second visits to the summit. In contrast, they were all encouraging and enthusiastic, and lifted my spirits.

One more time back the way we came…I was feeling pretty lonely, but the weather was nice, the day was beautiful and there really was no problem except for the now grumbling calf muscle. I made it back through the aid station one last time, and made decent speed back down the fire road and toward the finish. Not so fast this time around, but good considering. I managed to catch up to one runner about a half mile before the finish. He was walking, so I stopped to walk with him and ask how he was doing. He was feeling pretty beat up and demoralized at this point. We chatted a bit and soon I broke into a jog again, and he came along with me. When he stopped to walk again, I stopped to keep him company. This happened a couple of times and then when we were approaching the finish, he took off running fast again! I could have tried to sprint past him, but that seemed absurd (the last two runners sprinting for the finish!), so I came in a few seconds behind him. I was really hoping not to DFL this event, but due to my stopping to check on a fellow runner, I got to DFL anyway!

This raises a running etiquette question: if you happen upon someone in a race who is obviously flagging, should you just blow by them (assuming you are feeling strong at the moment) and let them deal with their problems on their own, be it injury or just being tired? Or should you slow down to check on the runner’s status and offer help and encouragement if needed? And if you are the flagging runner, should you show your appreciation for the other’s concern by speeding up and blowing past them once you get your legs back or see the finish line? Or do you bring it into the finish together, so that neither one gets left behind?

Maybe this is just a girl thing, but I would have thought showing a little bit of concern warranted being shown some tiny amount of appreciation! (He did thank me afterwards, but that did not make me feel better!) This is not the first time this has happened to me either!

The aftermath and lessons learned:

The day never became warm up on the mountain, and the breeze was strong- it was truly a glorious day to revisit Diablo, even though it is a hard mountain in any weather!

For nutrition, I enjoyed coke on ice, a few potato chips, cytomax, a quarter PB&J sandwich and 3 gels. I also supplemented the dearth of protein by eating a piece of ham (a little too salty, but it might be just right on a very hot day). Again, not very much food. I don’t really know that taking in carbs early in the event was helpful. We’d have to measure blood glucose levels and insulin levels to really know what was happening. I can say that after a recent 12 mile run drinking nothing but water, my blood glucose was up at 123 mg/ml—certainly not hypoglycemic! Actually this is in line with what we would expect, since adrenaline causes the liver to release its stored glycogen to pump up the blood glucose levels, and 12 hilly miles isn’t nearly enough to deplete total body glycogen. It’s possible that for me at least, taking in carbs early in an event is counterproductive (promoting insulin release and inhibiting fat burning), or at the very least unnecessary. It doesn’t seem to help maintain my energy levels all that much, since typically after about 4 hours of slogging up and down steep hills, I’m tired anyway. I either need a whole lot more than I’m getting, or something else entirely (perhaps protein instead). In my past days of running marathons, I never supplemented with anything at all, and didn’t feel any need for it. So perhaps the current obsession with gels and carb supplemented drinks is really all about creating a market and not about health and performance. I will just have to keep experimenting to find out what works best, or at least better.

I gave my muscles 3 days to recover before trying to run again. The quads were definitely quite sore from all the ups and especially the downs! I went out after the 3 days of rest and felt better than ever.

The sore calf made its presence known for a few weeks, particularly if I tried to run faster, and complained about how it had barely avoided injury and berated me for my mistreatment. I had to massage it quite a bit and intentionally decrease the kick-off phase of my stride (slow down more) so as to let it to rest a little more for a couple of weeks.

The foot injured at Quicksilver a few weeks before held up ok, though it still hurts occasionally.

Only one blister—on the top of my foot where it was pressing against the laces during the downhill stretches! The thick calluses on the balls of my feet were fine though definitely warm, and one of them peeled completely off (but the skin underneath was also calloused!) so there was no injury. Again, I think Drymax socks really help (I also used vasoline as a lubricant).

I am still lousy on steep uphills. I’m just not a very good powerwalker, and not strong enough to run them either, though my gluts (and later one calf) were screaming that I was working them too hard. I guess Diablo still kicks my butt!


Danni said...

Good job! I don't know if I need carbs early on but I know I need them later on. I think people who are feeling really awful and feel too awful to really run probably also feel too awful to give thanks and appreciation to people trying to help. He may have felt embarassed too. You never know!

Jo Lynn said...

You have a great memory!! Every little detail of a race over a month ago.
When I did PCTR Pirate's Cove 30K back in March, I had kind of a similar situation. (Don't know if you read about it or not)
I came upon a young girl, struggling a bit but so was I. We decided to help each other to the finish. There came a point when she couldn't run AT ALL and told me to go on ahead.
At first I fought it, saying I would stick with her. Then, not wanting her to feel bad (I've been that person, telling someone to JUST GO), I went ahead on my own. I finished a good 30 minutes later than I would have (and very near DFL) if I didn't hang out with her but knowing I had helped her as much as I did, I was okay with it all. It's only one run. And since I blogged about it, I can look back and remember why my time was so slow for that particular event.
Congratulations, btw, for finishing that 50K. I had a major melt down that day and couldn't even finish the 25K.

Drs. Cynthia and David said...

Jo Lynn, if my memory was so great, I would have put in that I met you for the first time at that race, which, by the way, was a highlight of my day! And I started writing the blog a long time ago, just dilly dallied...

Danni, I think you're right- he was embarrassed about his performance and disappointed in himself. Not that I was thrilled with mine either, but I think he expected better from himself. I would have been happy to go on ahead of him- I was tired but in a steady cruising mode, and this was the easy part! And maybe I should have once I knew he was ok. It's not like it made a big difference in time though, I just didn't want to be last (boo hoo).