The Ghosts of Diez Vistas Past

The Ghosts of Diez Vistas Past

Dear Susan,

There are spirits lurking on the trails that make up the Diez Vista 50K Trail Run.  Not just any spirits – trail running spirits.  And not just any trail running spirits – serious trail running spirits.  Spirits of Lang, Swadling and Sessions.  Spirits of Marcellus, Plamondon and Moehl.  Spirits of Jurek, Koerner, and Emerson!  Spirits of Evans and Greenwood!  Spirits of McKeever, McCoubrey, Reid, Slaymaker, Morrison, and Sybrowsky!  Spirits of Heidt and Downie and Melcher and Robbins!  Spirits of the Forshaws!!  Spirits everywhere.  In the name of humility I think it is best for an aspiring Diez Vista 50K Trail Run runner to pay very close attention to these spirits.  Very close attention.

On Saturday, April 9, 2011 I was privileged to be one of the hundred or so brave souls to awaken the shores of Sasamat and Buntzen Lakes with a zesty eagerness to run.  As this would be el número cuatro for me, my fourth visit to the ghosts of Diez Vistas past, I felt comfortable…and knowledgeable…and confident…and pleased to see so many running friends…and, well, unsure of what really to expect this year.  You see, this run, this race, it has a way of luring its runners into false senses of comfort, false senses of confidence, false senses of security.  The reality is that none of these senses are ever certain to the Diez Vista 50K trail runner.  Nothing in this race can be taken for granted.  Nothing.  The spirits lurking on the trails will just not allow for that.

From my own past experiences with this race I believe, or believed, I knew generally what to expect and generally how to deal with the challenges put forth by the ghosts of Diez Vistas past.  This is what I experienced in Diez Vista 2011:

Stage 1 – Anticipation

Leaving Sasamat Lake at 0730 at the urging of the human form of the spirit of Forshaw, I, along with the other runners ran with great positive anticipation.  I began running with my good pals, Dave Papineau and Dario Herrera, before my eagerness overtook me.  I inched up ahead on the initial hills to stay close to eventual race winner, Justin Angle, one of the excellent contingent of Seattle trail runners in the race this year.  This did not last for long though, as my anticipation waned as I got closer to the Diez Vista Trail.  Although I knew the DV climb was a tough one, I also knew it was runnable on fresh legs (and legs were fresh this early into the race).  I am certain the spirit of Rob Lang was out there today encouraging people, including Rob, to run it.  Saying such things as, “Hey, you’re feeling great, why not go for it and run these switchbacks?  You really have to get up there to see the views!”  Not for me.  Nope.  I do believe that after this climb there is a lot of race to be run.  So I settled in to a relatively comfortable run/powerhike/run groove and had a good conversation with another good friend, the unshakeable Darin Bentley.

Stage 2 – Exhilaration

Upon reaching the high point of the Diez Vista trail I was alone again as Darin and Chase Mueller, another superb Seattle runner, had left me on the climb.  As the downhill progressed, though, I made up some ground and closed in on Chase and Dave Papineau (who was experiencing his first wonderful trip down the DV), while Darin surged ahead.  I believe it was somewhere around this point where I encountered the spirits of Gary Robbins and Chris Downie.  If I remember correctly, they both seemed to say, “Hey, come on, follow us, if you can, and you will have the thrill of a lifetime!”  Um, well, okay, I’ll see what I can do.  Just do not remind me that this descent can be considered downright dangerous and, well, you know it does look like fun, but I am not really into bodychecking trees right now, let alone doing a faceplant into a jagged rock or three.  After this descent I still have over twenty miles to run you know.  Nonetheless, the temptation of exhilaration was too much, and for a brief period of time I did allow myself to try to stay with my visions of Robbins and Downie.  And it was fun.  It was exhilarating.

Stage 3 – Determination

After experiencing the physical and mental ups and downs of the initial third of the race I was more than happy to find myself as part of a quartet (Papineau, Bentley, Mueller, and Myself) intent on tackling the second third of the race with determination.  Mainly because it is my view that determination is a prerequisite for this section of the course.  Here, I am not sure, but I think I did sense the spirits of Sally Marcellus and Gail Forshaw.  These ladies, you see, are tough.  Really tough.  Really really tough.  They’ve run hundred mile races in their sleep (literally) and they represent everything about determination.  Running the trails alongside Buntzen Lake (and this year, the Lakeview Trail) with company this year was good.  In fact it was great.  It allowed for some conversation, some congenial runner support, some laughs, and some challenges.  Occasionally one or two of us would surge ahead while others would attempt to regain some composure.  And then the roles would switch.  Not intentionally.  It just happened that way.  Before we knew it we had twenty plus miles done and were nearing the dreadful or, depending on your perspective, the wonderful powerline out and back.

Stage 4 – Aggravation

With over two-thirds of the course done Diez Vista runners are treated to a grueling out and back section that can be filled with aggravation – if you allow it.  My training buddy, great friend, and most favourite ultrarunner in the world, Ellie Greenwood, strategically placed, I do believe, her spirit here this year.  You see she is a bit strange.  She absolutely loves this section of the course.  She thinks that running a steady uphill on loose rocks on tired legs late in a race is fun.  She pushes aggravation out of the way better than anyone I know.  But Dave Papineau is pretty good at it too!  Hence, with seven or eight miles to go in the race, and with the spirit of Ellie observing it all, Dave and Darin pulled away from Chase and me.  Dave then pulled away from Darin and the battle with aggravation was on.  I am sure Ellie was saying, “Suck it up buttercup!  Run this out and back as fast as you can and, whatever you do, do not let it bug you.  After all, this race is supposed to be fun and, anyway, once this part is done, there is an awesome downhill ready to be run.”  I did notice though that she did not mention anything about the encounter(s) that runners may (will) have the spirit of George Forshaw soon.

Stage 5 – Confirmation

Successfully completing the out and back I was now alone again.  Dave and Darin a few minutes ahead and Chase a minute or two back.  To end this race one is rewarded with an exciting downhill return trip to the last aid station where the wonderful vollies greet you with smiles and encouragement and best wishes and congratulations and…noticeable silence about the few remaining miles that just happen to be heavily guarded by the spirit of George Forshaw.  I think he instructs them to be so silent.  I think he wants his spirit to greet the runners along this section when they are unsuspecting.  But I have done this race before, so I was not unsuspecting.  I was expecting to see the spirit of George!  And I did.  But I also saw both the spirit of Suzanne Evans and the real life Suzanne Evans.  As I was plodding my way up the final ascent of the course known as “FU George” I was greeted by an effervescent Suzanne as she proceeded to bound by me with a “Hey, I always like getting to this part of the race and, hey, do you like those compression socks?”  Um, yeah.  Looking up, I am certain I saw Suzanne high-five George as she made the left turn at the top of the climb.  When I looked up again a few moments later all I saw was George standing at the top, larger than life, arms crossed, face cinched, and eyes glaring.  I think he shouted, “Well, are you strong enough to get up this little itsy-bitsy hill or not?”  I resisted shouting out the name of the hill and instead mustered my way up to the top where the spirit of George grinned and confirmed his approval to me.

Making my way down the steady downhill to Sasamat Lake I was able to pick up some good speed and I occasionally caught a glimpse of Suzanne in the distance.  She was running steady and she was running strong.  I knew this race was over and I was satisfied with my performance.  I was happy to both complete and compete in this race just six days after I had run the Yakima Skyline Rim 50K.  I was happy to take another step forward in my quest to be ready for the Western States 100 Mile Endurance run this June.  I was happy to have run the trails that are so richly filled with the ghosts of Diez Vistas past.  So I ran hard to the end where I knew Justin Angle, Bill Huggins, Dave Papineau, Darin Bentley, and Suzanne Evans would be waiting for me and the rest of the runners of the 2011 Diez Vista 50K Trail Run.  Oh, but yeah, I did have to get by George or his spirit (at that point I was not sure which was which) again at the top of those stairs he uses to signify the end of the race:)

Big congrats to the stellar Seattle duo of Justin Angle and Bill Huggins who, in their words, “took it to Canada” (and they did) and big congrats to my buddy Dave Papineau who completed his first Diez Vista in a spectacular fashion (although I am not sure he will be back:)  Big congrats also to my very good friend (and Western States pacer) Ran Katzman who improved his time this year despite the fact that this year’s course had a considerable increase in elevation gain.  I am very much looking forward to running portions of the way from Squaw Valley to Auburn on June 25th with Bill and Dave and, of course, Ran.

Special thanks to Kintec, Smartwool socks, Udderly Smooth, George and Gail Forshaw, Martha and Bruce Grant, Wendy Montgomery, the Ghosts of Diez Vistas Past (some I know, many I don’t), and all the cool volunteers and runners of the 2011 Diez Vista 50K Trail Run.

  • Nancy Tinari

    April 16, 2011 at 8:49 pm Reply

    Wonderful writing Mike! Your exhilaration for running shines through and I like the way you humbly acknowledge all the inspiration and support that the “spirits” of runners past and present have given you.

  • Airzelhaa D Herrere

    April 17, 2011 at 2:11 am Reply

    I love it Mike great running ghost story, and nice blog thank for
    Making all detail love it Miky

  • Justin

    April 18, 2011 at 2:52 pm Reply

    Great racing, Mike…and a fantastic report. Lots of ghosts out there indeed!

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