To continue with my birthday celebrations, I
tricked talked my fellow trail adventurers Jojo and Jessica into exploring my favorite Bay Area mountain with me. Kind of a “it’s my birthday and we will run where I want to” kid of thing. Both girls had been to the summit with me on separate occasions, but this time I had bigger plans for us.
I happily sat down for weeks before with my huge Mt. Diablo map (I have a thing for maps) and started brainstorming. I had specific trails I wanted to take them on and was so excited to show them around! I just had to figure out how I wanted to connect them all and what new trails I wanted to explore, which can be a difficult task with so many options. We all have a 50k coming up very quickly, so we wanted to get a pretty long run in as well. I suggested around a “marathon” but promised we would play it by ear as we went.
The girls spent the night Friday, and early Saturday morning we were up getting ready. I planned a point to point run, so we dropped a car off at the “finish” in Walnut Creek and drove over to the “start” in Clayton. It was pretty chilly, with temps hovering right around 30, so we layered up and we were off onto the Tour of Mt. Diablo.
The last time both of them ran with me here was in the summer when it was hot and very dry. I was excited to show them how different it was this day! The hills are so green and the streams are all full of water, a very different picture from August and September. We ran along a couple of my favorite trails to start, and began climbing very quick. We wound around the Falls Trail which of course was beautifully full of waterfalls.
We continued climbing and found some snow left over from the weekend before (which I still haven’t written about) and carefully played around running through it. We were all taking our time, enjoying the scenery, and making sure to pace ourselves, because these first 9 miles were tough.
We continued to get closer to the summit and I told them stories about past runs here. I remembered the day Chris and I got to one point pretty high up (but still 1,000’ away from the summit) and I thought I would never get that high up again. Oh how times have changed.
We found frozen puddles and tons of ice and did our best to break through them, which never happened. There were a couple of tricky spots on icy single track, but we made it through unscathed.
We all stopped to gasp as we turned the corner on the North Peak trail and could see for miles and miles and miles.
All those trails and hills, I still have left to explore.
We continued to push upwards, with the summit now in sight. My legs were burning but I knew it was getting closer.
Until finally we made it to the top. We took the long way up, but about 9 miles later we reached the summit at 3,800’.
We stopped to fuel, de-layer, and check the map before we headed back down the other side. We were going to take a new way down and I was very excited to run on some unfamiliar trails.
It had turned into a warm, sunny, incredibly beautiful day. We went from long sleeves, ear warmers and gloves to tank tops.
We wound our way down the mountain and definitely had some high and low points. There would be a mile here and there without many words said where we were all in our own heads, then there would be miles full of confessions and soul bearing. It seems the further you get into a long run, the more you learn about someone and the more you open up. I have always said the best way to get to know someone is to go on a long run with them. Even some of your best friends, you learn more about during these moments.
My legs were aching at this point. A very familiar ache, but one I haven’t felt in a while, and I welcomed it back. That feeling you get so used to in ultra-training, where your legs just want to stop, but you learn they can just keep moving.
As the miles ticked on, we got closer and closer to the finish line. Once we got to the trails I know very well, I realized that we were going to be awfully close to a marathon by the time we got back to the car. I might have slipped that into a conversation around mile 23.
Sure enough, just as we turned the last corner, my watched hit 26.2 miles. I have had this weird luck with my routes, in that I can have a general idea of distance, but somehow it always works out just like I hope. Sure I had mapped this before the run, but if you know trails, you know mapping beforehand doesn’t really mean much. Plus, I took us back a different way then originally planned. One of these days that luck might run out in a bad way, but it’s pretty fun when it does happen.
26.2 miles, a lot of elevation gain and 3 tired girls later, we were done. The Diablo birthday marathon had been completed.
Sometimes I wonder why I get these crazy ideas to do things like this. But as we sat there chowing down burritos, covered in sweat and dirt, laughing and smiling, I knew I couldn’t have picked a better way to celebrate 31 than running on my favorite mountain, with two of my favorite trail runners.