Race: Mt. Diablo 50k

Runner: Alan R

Race Date: 05/18/2019

Location: Clayton, California

Results: 7th OA, 1st AG

Strava Activity Link: https://strava.app.link/g7GRRsKfUW

mt diablo 50k
Photo: Riley Reynolds

3 Bests – What aspects of the race did you like the most?

So this race requires a strong work ethic due to the amount of elevation gain over 31 miles, which was billed as 10,500. That I could come back from injury to grind out over 10k feet was a feel-good eye opener: if you have something to prove, MT. Diablo is the place. Add the stunning vistas of the East Bay Area from 3,700 feet up and an old-school feel without a big production, and the race really lends a sense of intimacy.

Not so much – Aspects of the race that didn’t do it for you

Every race is hard – or should be. I took the adverse conditions in stride, and so when springtime poison oak leans into the trail, or tourists require you to slow down, that’s all part of the process. Some may be put off. As far as the race support and crew, they did an amazing job despite adverse weather.

Weird factor – What’s the weirdest thing about this race?

Number 7 is my weird factor: I took seventh place this past Saturday, 6 years after I last raced on that mountain…and took 7th place. Add to that the number 6 guy is good friends with a Strava friend of mine – no clue who he was before I chased this guy for a couple of hours. Small world.

Highlights of your race – What did you do well and enjoy about your race in particular?

I executed well. It was difficult, but I stuck to my plan and it paid off. I had no idea prior to race start that I could even finish, after batting a chronic injury for 5 months and a big DNF mountain race last September that insidiously seeded sprouts of doubt, but as I warmed up – and then responded to another guy in my AG sneaking up on me on the first climb, and leaned into it, I was able to slowly move up to chase number 6, whom I finished after by only a minute. So close..

Lessons for others – Share your pro-tips on the race to help the next runner

Have fun and remember that you are capable of more than you expect. I am a joker out there, always clowning, and I find that it both dissipates my own tension and causes others to be more complacent, allowing me to surprise them when I lean into it and take off. Some people are all business and don’t want to chat. My conversations are my way of blowing off steam, hearing people’s stories, and moving ahead in races if at all possible.

Lessons you learned that will help you next time around

Don’t leap 5 feet across an eroded channel to get around a tourist after you have climbed 8000 feet unless you want your hamstring to protest by locking up and threatening DNF.

Most important course specific knowledge to know about the race

Be ready to work hard and enjoy the relatively small, bifurcated field – meaning there will be people who underestimate the difficulty and people you’ll never catch – unless you’re Ian Sharman, who set the course record there in ‘14.

Aesthetics – Is it a pretty course?

Stunning views there. If you look south and slightly east on a clear day, you will see the concord fault and it’s associated land deformation of the surrounding landscape. San Francisco to the west, and Mt. Tam to the northwest. And the bay. Definitely worth a visit to climb that mountain if you’re in the area.

Difficulty – Is it a tough course?

Since that first race, I have always said that if I have questions, Mt. Diablo will have answers. If you’re a lean-into-it trail runner, you’ll appreciate the difficulty of the terrain as well as the well maintained trails.

Organized and well run – Did it feel like a well-oiled machine or were they flying by the seat of their pants?

The RD works hard, and offers chip timing and decent swag, which is notable because the week before, my wife ran Quicksilver 100k and there was no way to follow the race, which was frustrating. The volunteers worked hard, and it really showed.

Competition – Is there a strong field?

Smaller field, but at the race start everyone raised their hand when the RD asked if everyone had run an ultra. I think that spoke volumes.

Logistics – Does it require a special handshake, registration a year in advance, hotels all booked? Give us the low down on the nuts and bolts of making the race happen.

Just register and show up. Pacific Coast Trail Runs is a smaller outfit, and their races are smaller and more accessible. Hotels are relatively close by and there is a Sports Basement on the road out to the mountain, which has a good selection of trail running basics.

Aid Stations – Standard fare or anything special to know about the aid stations in terms of what’s available or when?

Food is not slung out into bowls for runners to cross contaminate each other with, but instead pb&j, chips, electrolyte, snacks, fruit – all are there, but not set out in mass quantities. It was a nice change.

Weather and typical race conditions

Usually hot, it started raining by mile 20 and made for crazy mud and leaning walls of vegetation this year – very Atypical year.

Gear – Did you need anything special or is there anything you’d recommend for the next guy?

Come prepared for steep and technical terrain.

Spectators – Is this a friendly course for your friends?

Not especially good for spectators. 3 OAB loops brought us back to the start after a course change, so I got to see my daughter 3 times – but I had to come to HER.

How’s the Swag?

Nice shirt, great wood medals and coasters, which are way nicer than the usual mass produced junk.

The Overall Score – How many stars do you give this race and do you recommend that others run it?

I would rate the Mt. Diablo race at 4 of 5 stars. They accommodated a blind runner at a shorter distance (there is a 10k, a half, and a marathon as well), as well as a 9 and 13 year old, and the cut offs are commensurate to the challenge. Come run Diablo and be pleasantly surprised.