Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Diablo Trail Challenge Half Marathon

Diablo Half Marathon
Distance: ~13.4 miles
Time: 3:10
7/18 for age group, 
Weather: 90 F

I'd originally planned to do the point to point Diablo 50K, as the course looked very interesting on new to me trails, and I'd heard that Brazen puts on great trail races that were "just like road races!".  When the forecast soared to the high 80s, I second-guessed myself.  Diablo is exposed and sunny, and the warmest it gets in San Francisco is usually 67.  I decided against a suffer-fest and that I'd drop down and do the loop half marathon.  

I left plenty of time to get to the start, and needed it as I confused Walnut Blvd (first turn) vs Walnut Ave (second, correct turn).

Walking to the shuttle from the parking lot to the start, I saw Ken Brunt, a fellow Endurable.  He'd also signed up last minute as a shakedown run before Miwok 100K in two weeks.  Also on the 5 minute shuttle bus was a confused father with his son in a baseball uniform.  They were looking for a Baseball Photo!  Somehow they'd followed all the other runners and just got on the bus.

Brazen was like a road race--rock music blaring at the start, and even D-tags for "official chip timing".  I started off mid-pack.  But in the first downhill a half mile in, I'd filled my Hydrapak with water almost all the way up, it bounced out of my pack.  I lost about 90 seconds trying to stuff it back in. 

We crossed about 5 streams, with me delicately avoiding the wet.  Then we veered in a "mini-loop", hitting the first and second aid stations at ~one mile and 3 miles in. At the 3 mile aid station, I asked for "coke or pepsi".  They said they "might have some back at the car, if I wanted to wait.".  "Nah", and I walked out. A ranger hurried after me to ask "Are you diabetic?"  "What??" "Do you need the Coke because you're diabetic?"  "no, I just like caffiene!".  

 Then we started the big loop, and the hurting began.  I hadn't looked at the elevation chart http://brazenracing.com/DiabloHalf%20elevation%20chart.pdf for the half marathon, as I'd planned to do the 50K.  We climbed to me, an interminably long way, when I started to be concerned we would actually summit Mount Diablo.  Nope, only up to 1,965 feet.  Mt Diablo is  3,848 feet.  

There were beautiful views down to the wealthy estates below us, the grass was green, but it was really, really hot.  I was happy I'd dropped in distance. I contemplated that the name of the race was "Diablo Trail Challenge" and not the "Bay Breeze".  There were no breezes today! I concentrated on just walking forward, and managed to pass about 5-8 walkers. I drank all the water in my Hydrapak right before we hit the aid station at mile 9. 

Then, a delightful downhill back to the finish, where I managed to pass about 10 people.  I wanted to drop the hammer, but it was just so hot.  Even at a plodding pace I was passing people, including a guy I recognized from other races-he always runs in jean shorts, like he's in an old Western States Documentary.  The streams I'd avoided before I now splashed through, trying to wet as much surface area on me as possible.  

I crossed the finish line and got a HUGE medal.  I ate an It's It sandwich while I watched the people behind me finish.  There was an announcer! for their names and hometowns.  

Things I did well:

  • Carried pack instead of bottle
  • Took hot day conservatively
  • Left extra time to get to start so not stressed about getting lost, shuttle time
  • Dropped to a shorter distance--Mike Weston ran the whole 50K and said it was "brutal".  I usually finish around him, and it took him 9:14.  ouch!!  127 starters, 109 finishers, which is a high DNF (15%) considering the ultra-generous 10 hour time limit.  They kept the finish line open till 10:46.  So only 104 (82%) below the official finish.  It was nice of them to keep the finish line open.  
  • Remembered the name of the Jeans Guy (George) and looked him up later.  He ran Western States in '82!!  Wow!!!

Things to improve on:

  • Could have gone out a bit faster (?)
  • Forgot medal in pack, ran 7 miles with medal on Sunday.

Brazen Racing-Wow, they have it dialed in.

  • Ample remote parking
  • Multiple shuttle buses (with no wait) to get to the start
  • Color coded bibs to the race ribbons!
  • Names on bibs if pre-registered
  • Extra porta-potties at start
  • Mile markers (in a trail race!!)
  • Race monitors at key turns/intersections
  • Ice cream sandwiches and a full BBQ at the finish

All of this adds up to a race fee that's about $15-$30 more than my usual low-key trail races.  But I could see where the money went--it's a different scale when you have a 1,000 runner field than a 300 runner field.  Some aspects I found jarring-I didn't like the rock music at the start/finish, and the mile markers seemed out of place at a trail race.  Overall, Brazen puts on a great race, and if it's in an interesting location, I will do one again.


  1. Loved the writeup, Edie!! Did you notice that George also carries an Aunt Jamaima (sp?) water bottle?!?!? Old school!

    I love that you had your medal in your pack on Sunday!!
    All Day!

    1. Didn't notice an Aunt Jemina water bottle.

      I did notice my pack was heavy on Sunday, but thought it was just extra water. When I emptied it at home, my medal fell out.

      All day!

  2. My time was 9:14:14 (the slowest of my 35 50K's). The BBQ was pretty cold by then, and the ice cream sandwiches were liquid. Brazen was fine, but not as good as less expensive 50K's from more ultra-oriented companies like Coastal Trail Runs.

    -- Mike Weston

    1. Mike, I fixed your time :) Sorry the BBQ and ice cream sandwiches were way past their prime. Maybe they should have just re-set up the finish line area completely around 6 hours in.