Posted by: runwithgarrison | April 24, 2013

Mt. Diablo Trails Challenge Race Report

Aloha everyone,

This past Saturday, Pauline and I started our trek toward Europe with a nice, quick stop in the San Francisco Bay Area for the Mt. Diablo Trails Challenge 50k (actually a bit closer to 51k). Last year, I came into this race with some lofty expectations with my new found confidence that I gained by running my first 100 miles. In all the excitement, I started out the race a bit too fast for the first 15-18 miles and I really paid the price for that effort with an absolutely brutal last 4 miles. Despite the melt-down, I still finished in 5th overall with a time of 6:03. Heading into the race this year, I felt that I could learn from the past and run faster than I did last year and I worked on a plan to do just that.

Only six days had passed since the North Shore Marathon and I had only run an easy 4 mile run in the time between races. My hip had been hurting following the marathon and I needed a little rest. On race morning, I was not feeling very good and I headed out for a little 1.5 mile warmup to try and get myself going. On the warmup, I felt even worse and I started to really wonder how the day was going to wind up. I started thinking that the run was either going to be a good one, or it was going to be a rough, long run. When I came back from the warmup and told Pauline how i was feeling, she said,” it’s ok, go work it out on the course”. The perfect thing to say to me at that point in time!

I approached the starting line and noticed a few of the top-notch Bay Area ultra runners. This group included Ian Sharman, who ran 12:44 for 100 miles at Rocky Raccoon in 2011. At that moment, I knew I needed to stick to my conservative plan if I wanted to have any chance to be successful at this particular race. Thank goodness I was feeling like garbage, otherwise I might have gone out way too fast and likely melted down at the finish. This year my plan was to try and run as close to even splits as possible for the entire race. I wanted to run 5 hours–a massive improvement over last year, but one I felt was possible. That works out to around 9:39 mile pace over 31 miles with over 5000 feet of climbing. At the start line, the race director commented that the course was closer to 51k, so I set 9:30 as my goal pace. The plan was to stay conservative, walk steep uphills when necessary, and spend very little time in the aid stations. Bottom line, I needed to keep moving forward at all times and not run too fast–especially early in the race.

The race starts and 3 guys are immediately gone. The race starts with a nice climb that can get your heart rate up rather quickly. I relaxed and ran with another runner in 4th/5th place. I ran relaxed even though I tried to keep my eye on the top 3 guys who had an ever-growing lead on me. The scenery is absolutely amazing in the East Bay hills and I tried to soak in as much as I could. There are 2 major climbs in the first 11 miles of the race and I soon found myself with a different running companion vying for 4th place. We traded spots but barely spoke to each other. Little more than a thanks to the other guy as we each took turns holding open the cattle gates that we ran thru. I was focused and in my own head. I still did not feel great and I just wanted to focus on myself. I kept the IRun headphones in my ears and just kept on rolling. It turns out that my competitor’s name was Alex and man he could fly on the steep downhills. I was running in my New Balance 110 trail racing flats and had a very difficult time with the steep downhills. Maybe next time I will run in a shoe with a little more cushioning to help with the descents. I hit the aid stations right on pace, filling my bottle with Skratch Labs each time. Pauline had a much easier time finding the aid stations this year compared to last and she kept commenting on how much better I was looking compared to last year. It seemed that the plan was working.

I finally caught Alex at the Curry road aid station (23 miles) and I thought that I had a chance for 4th. He pulled away on the steep downhills again and I was left to run alone with runners from the half marathon heading the other direction and offering their support. I was starting to feel a bit worked and my hips/quads were pretty beat up from all the descending. I reached the final climb around 27 miles (the scene of my meltdown last year) and I needed to walk a bit on the climb. I had some time in the bank and I knew that if my overall pace fell to 9:25, that I needed to get running. My run up to the final aid station at mile 28 was met by a very relieved Pauline. She said “wow, you look so much better than you did at this point last year”! I started to do the math and I knew that I had a decent shot at breaking 5 hours. So I hustled out of the aid station, down the hill, thru a bunch of creek crossings and made my way to the finish line in 4:58:18. I ran fast for the last 800 meters because I knew that it was going to be close. I don’t think I have ever felt so good or finished looking so good at a trail ultra. In retrospect, this was pretty close to the way I felt after Hilo to Volcano in January. I was stoked with my time, my 5th place overall and my first age group win in a ultra on the mainland. Running conservative and sticking to the plan totally worked out. I even felt like eating afterwards and Pauline, Katherine, and Kathy all went out for burritos afterward.

The race website is starting to post some great photos and I will include those in a post once I return to the USA.

We are currently hanging out outside of Naples, Italy and we are heading to Krakow tonight. I have not run a step since the ultra and I am feeling rested and excited about the Krakow marathon on Sunday. We had a few travel issues and needed to spend an extra day in Oakland prior to leaving for Europe. So far the trip has been awesome and I will fill you all in later on. I am giving thought to running the marathon with my phone so I can send you Pauline race updates like she has so many times for me. We will see.

Thanks so much for your comments and support. We hope to see you out on the trails soon!

Much Aloha,




  1. Mike, I never agreed with your theory of cover ground fast while you can. So I’m glad the pre-race “hurt” made you back off the accelerator and try a more even race pace. Even more glad it worked out very well. Sub 5 on that course is fantastic! Well done!

    Pauline, good luck at your first marathon. Two things to consider; 1) Your body can do much more than it leads on. 2) “If it hurts, hurry up” – Glen Malcolm.

  2. Nice Job, Batman!

    Go get ’em Pauline!

  3. Pauline Good luck on you first run.LOVE.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: