|Photo: Karen May|
As the small cluster of us huddled around the start line, it was actually quite chilly at 7am. After the race began, however, my body seemed to warm up quite quickly. Connor and I settled in together as we immediately began climbing from the get-go. From analyzing the elevation profile, I had this mindset that the climbs weren't that challenging, but engaging this first climb and those which would follow, my preconceived notions were thrown out the window. Connor and I felt in our element though, just finding a rhythm and allowing our bodies to get a feel for the terrain. As we made our way up and up, we gapped the rest of the field by about 1 minute. We could see the rest of the field on open sections below and there appeared to be a small chase pack which included Mark Tanaka (a well-respected and well-accomplished ultrarunner). Connor and I just soaked in all the views, the roller-coaster feel of course as we would whip around corners and switchbacks, and the gnarly climbing we did along some sweet ridges as we inched closer and closer to the summit of Mt. Diablo.
Connor set a good pace on the descent and not a few minutes later, Jorge joined our group. I could immediately tell Jorge was a strong runner and I kept wondering how things were going to play out with ~30 miles still to go. As we wound around the mountain, we came back up to the Juniper aid-station (10.1 miles in ~1:45). I quickly refilled my bottle and got back onto the trail. Due to it being a rather warm day, I had on-hand another bottle but with the heat not noticeable yet, I kept the extra bottle empty and tucked it into my waistband. Jorge, Connor and I geared up for essentially 8 miles of mostly downhill with a few small climbs thrown in there. It felt really smooth ticking the legs over pretty quickly and just cruising this downhill section. Connor was feeling the pace was a tad too hot on the descent so he backed off and focused on taking care of himself (smart move).
Jorge and I just chatted about races we've done this Spring so far and he even mentioned that he just got accepted into TRT as his first 100 as well. As Jorge and I approached the North Gate aid-station, we noticed there really wasn't any water laid out, nor any volunteers present. PCTR did mention they were low on volunteers for this event. I felt they did an excellent job with what they had, but at times it was apparent the lack of support out there. I didn't really mind not being able to refill due to there being some more aid 5 miles further along the course. However, I started feeling the heat just after North Gate and 8 miles with no water can surely pose a mental roadblock. Running thirsty was my real first test of this race. I made up my mind to stay mentally engaged and not focus on my empty bottle, instead, I focused on running with Jorge and enjoying the company. This proved to be a good mental distraction as Jorge was such a pleasant guy to run with. We just cruised along this rolling 5 mile loop and made sure to keep our eyes keen for pink ribbons.
About a mile out from our second trip to North Gate, Jorge put a thirty second gap on me. Although, I noticed I would reel him in slightly on the short uphill sections. As I came to an intersection, I instinctively turned right but didn't see Jorge in front of me. Not a second later I heard, "Jacob, which way?!" The course was confusing at times as to which way we were supposed to go because at certain intersections, there would be flagging in both directions. "I'm pretty sure this way (the way I was going) because we need to go back the way we came in." Thankfully I made the right choice and we rolled into North Gate again (19.3 miles in ~3:05) with more volunteers this time and plenty of fluids and treats laid out. I decided that since I was a little behind on fluids that filling both my bottles might be a good idea from here on out.
It was just after North Gate that my day of running with Jorge was over, he gapped me by about 30-40 seconds. It was here, though, that I entered into somewhat of a rough-patch. As I do from time-to-time, I asked myself, "What would Geoff do?" (WWGD) ha ha.... I know it sounds silly, but seriously, I look up to Geoff so much (for obvious reasons). My mind went back to WS 2010 when Tony and Killian departed from Geoff and he simply focused on taking care of himself in order to turn things around. So that's what I did. I drank, threw down an S Cap, a few ibuprofen (experimenting a little), and ate a few gels. Sure enough, as I was forcing myself to be patient, I started feeling better and the climbs began to feel more comfortable. I would see Jorge on more open stretches and it seems his lead had built to around 1-2min. My legs began to come back around mile 21-22 and I started cruising once again.
After a little downhill, I came into the Rock City aid-station (24.5 miles in ~3:45). The volunteer told me Jorge was about 3 min up and also, that a tattooed man who was running the 60k must have gotten lost and rolled in here before we did. I immediately thought of Connor and was hoping everything was ok with him. After Rock City, it was pretty much a continuous climb-fest as I made my way up the mountain for the 2nd summit of the day of Mt. Diablo. At this point, my climbing felt decent, but not that great. I just continued to stay focused and locked into an ideal rhythm.
As I came upon a more open section, I spotted Jorge up ahead and figured that his lead was about 3-4 min on me. After a solid 6 miles of climbing, I came into the Juniper aid-station once again (30.7 miles in 4:55) and followed the same path as earlier to the summit. The second time, the 1.2 miles to reach the summit definitely felt longer than it did earlier. Just below the summit, Jorge came flying down the trail and I gave him a high-five and told him to finish strong. I tagged the summit in 5:06 and for the first time in an ultra, chugged a Coke (my lord that hit the spot).
Now it was a pretty steady 8.5-9 miles of downhill into the finish. My quads were still feeling pretty good so I pushed the downhills pretty hard to see if I could cut into Jorge's now 6 minute lead. I definitely was descending like a madman because I ate it pretty hard four times. With freshly scraped hands and knees, it didn't phase me as I was having such a blast out there.
After a solid 1/4mi climb, I noticed once again some conflicting ribbon placements. One that led downhill, but one that went uphill. For some reason, I chose the uphill route up to North Peak and after a few minutes of grunting up this K2-like climb, I thought no way it goes this way. I turned around and back at the intersection, bumped into Galen Farris (who was running the marathon and was the men's winner). "Any idea which way?" I said. "Pretty sure we go down, I think someone F-d with the ribbons." Going downhill was the right choice and I started feeling really good on this descent. It was so zig-zaggy and with the loose dirt/rocks under my feet I would literally slide around each turn (yes, I did fall a few more times).
About 3 miles out from the finish, for the first time on the day, I felt like I was on the verge of bonking. I thought I was out of gels and was just going to have to suck it up, but decided to check my extra pocket just in case. Lo and behold, I had one left. I yelled out "Thank you God!" (There was no aid the last 8-9 miles of the race). A Cliff Shot never tasted so good. The remainder of the course was more or less the same, and as I approached the finish, I saw my Dad, mom, and grandparents there to welcome me into the finish. I briskly cruised into the finish in 6:28, 2nd place overall (Jorge won by 8 minutes. He ran so consistent and strong all day. Seems like he had a near-perfect day).
After finishing, I kept wondering when Connor was going to roll in. But then I saw his Blue MT 100's laying on the bench. My immediate thought was oh no, did something happen? Apparently Connor was the one who veered off course, cutting out the back 4-5 mile loop. He took it like a champ though and was simply thrilled to have gotten 34-36 miles in for the day and some much needed confidence in his running heading into the Silver State 50 which is quickly approaching.
All in all, a pretty quality day out there. This was the first time finishing an ultra where I felt as though I had another 20-30 miles of decent running in my legs. Besides my mini-rough patch, I never really had any issues out on the course physically or mentally. I stayed strong in regard to both and it seems it paid off today. And, my quads held up quite nicely which is a testimony to the harder downhill efforts I have been putting in. Pretty sure I was made to run in the mountains and am quite content doing so.
Besides TRT in July, nothing really is a guarantee race-wise. I'm not too concerned about it though. If anything, 3-4xMichigan Bluff to Last Chance and back would be a quality pre-TRT training run. As always, super thankful to be healthy and I feel blessed to be able to get out on my feet for 6+ hours, racking up 40 miles and 11k+ of vert in one day.
Full results here
Some photos my mom took:
|Coming into the finish|
|chillin' post-race with Jorge and Connor|