(Mitchell Canyon trailhead-Mitchell Rock trail-Eagle Peak-Meridian Ridge Rd-Deer Flat Rd- Upper Juniper- Summit!- North Peak trail-North Peak Rd- North Peak trail- Zippe-Olympia Rd-Wasserman-Donner-Hetherington Loop-Donner Canyon Rd-Tick Wood trail-Back Creek-Coulter Pine trail-Mitchell Canyon)
As I had said before, I was embarrassed to say that I had never (until last Tuesday) run on Diablo. It's ridiculous, I know. I talk all the time about how much I love exploring new trails (it's true! I do!) and yet I had not explored one of the biggest trail networks in the Bay Area.
However, I can now hold my head up high and toss around names like "Eagle Peak" and "Deer Flat" and "Tick Wood Trail" with aplomb. When people talk about coming down from North Peak (shown in the above picture) and how it's such a tough descent, I can nod knowingly and picture the slippery, twisty, tricky, flower-lined trail too.
In short, I have finally arrived.
Here's the best part about this day, though-- it was a day of playing hooky, too! See, Sarah (of PCTR fame) and Suzanne (of Miwok fame) and I had tried sooooooo hard to find a weekend day to introduce Suzanne and me to Mt. Diablo. (Suz had never run it either, but as someone who claims to get wilty in heat, this is not quite such a surprise.) We tried and tried, but thanks to PCTR events and graduate school and other life happenings, it was looking impossible until someone suggested we just take a day off. What? A day off? Who DOES that? Oh yeah. Lots of people take days off. I don't know if it's 7 years of teaching middle school and HATING to write sub plans, but I am completely trained to not take days off. Even when I can, and the only thing my boss said when I told him I was taking off May 19th was "great!" I still forget that the world will not come to an end if I don't work that day.
Another secret: turns out the world is absolutely STELLAR when you don't work and play hooky on Diablo!
I got to the Mitchell Canyon trailhead late, thanks to finding out my directional sense is 5% less than I thought it was (an important 5%, it turns out), threw on some sunscreen and we headed out.
We ran 16 miles of the marathon at last month's event-- and that 16 miles left me very impressed with the marathoners... and REALLY impressed with the 50-milers! Mt. Diablo is no joke. I'm not sure if we ran more than 1 mile of flat the entire day. But you know what? It's so beautiful, you don't care. Well, you don't care as much. All that climbing means that every time we turned around, there was another scenic vista. I felt like I was in a live advertisement for the Bay Area, because all we could see were views of some part of the Bay Area. We could look up the Delta, over to Mt. Tam, across to SF, out at the hills stretching toward the Central Valley-- really, it gets to the point where you become blasé about the view-- "oh yeah, another view of the closest 50 miles-- haven't we seen that already?"
Fortunately, if you got bored looking out at scenic vistas, there was plenty of beauty on the small scale. Mt. Diablo still has (for probably the next week or so-- get out there!) tons of wildflowers, and looking down was easily as rewarding as looking out to the big views.
Here's the thing about Mt. Diablo though-- the downhills are just as challenging (for me, more so) than the uphills. We ran the famed "all downhill except for little North Peak" route from the summit-- and it's TOUGH. My friend Jen, a notoriously strong athlete (she won the women's division at 24 hours at Cool this year!) had talked about how hard it was, so I definitely wasn't expecting a cakewalk, and running that section with 10 or 34 more miles on my legs? Sheesh, but there are some strong runners out there. I definitely felt like I was picking my way down after Suzanne, a.k.a. "Let's sprint downhill at Miwok" and Sarah, who is also a very strong technical downhill runner. I really *want* to do Diablo next April, but I think quite a bit of training is in order....
The best part about this day though? Finding out that apparently, Sarah, Suzanne and I are a walking comedy show. There were multiple times were we had to stop and walk not only because the trail was straight up (although that happened plenty, too) but because our hilarity made running impossible. (And yes, we *will* spend the day running-and-being-hilarious-for-hire, so if you want to fund our trail-inspired laugh-fest, let one of us know.) All this plus our post-run sushi stop made this day a brilliant introduction to Diablo. Have no fear-- this is the first in many diabolical adventures to come...