In our area, Mt. Diablo is one of those hills everyone feels the need to conquer -- usually by bike. I've ridden Diablo to the summit a number of times and on the weekends, the road is littered with athletes just like me.

When my interests shifted to ultrarunning, I ran the lesser daunting hills in our area. But now feeling a bit more seasoned, Diablo is becoming a regular route on my training plan. Not so many folks littering the trails attempting to summit Diablo by foot!

My route starts at an intersection near my house, it begins on a relatively flat section for a warm up but once I enter the park, it's mostly uphill for approximately seven miles. The most difficult portion is near the top but the views are amazing and I think it's helping me improve as a runner.

After finishing the Miwok 100k last May, I felt like I was underprepared. Granted, I had only eight weeks to fully prepare after being cleared by the doctor but even so, I still think I would have found this course to be a big bite to chew.

Plotting the course for my first hundred and beyond that, Western States, I feel like Miwok was a wakeup call and the need for more hills will be a mandatory part of my training.

With that in mind, a couple of weeks ago, I set out for another Diablo ascent but truthfully, I had it in my mind that I would do a double ascent. I didn't know if it was in the cards but I set out as if that were how the day would unfold.

I started off at my normal intersection by the burrito place (my lunch stop) and I ran the first three miles easy. In fact, the pace was relaxed through my first ascent.

Some days, I charge up the ascent but on this day, I walked the steeper sections knowing full well my second ascent would go a little easier by doing so.

Arriving at the top, I refilled my bottles and I started my way back down. As I descended, I considered whether or not I really wanted to do the double. I felt fine and it seemed doable but I just knew it was going to suck.

At the bottom, I paused for a moment. I considered my options but I flipped back around before I had a chance to chicken out and I started my second ascent.

I won't lie, it was hard. It was warming up and my legs were starting to tire. As I neared the top, I saw riders who spotted me on my way down from my first ascent. They realized what I was doing, commented about it to me and that helped fuel my way to the summit.

Up on top, we chatted about their friend who decided she wanted her friends to celebrate her birthday by riding to the summit. When she arrived, we all sang Happy Birthday, then I said my goodbyes and I started my second descent.

Going down was definitely easier than going up but the pounding was starting to hurt my feet. Not in a bad way, just lots of pounding on the bottoms of my feet.

Finally back at the bottom, I followed the road out of the park and got back on the main road leading to my car (and the burrito place!). At this point, I've got about 29 miles and 6700' of climbing in my legs and I've accomplished what I set out to do.

As I started running, I felt cooked but I was pushing on like it was a race to get back to the car. I settled into an aggressive pace and then I realized what it was going to cost me. And for what? A three mile run on relatively flat terrain in the heat of the day?

I stopped in the shade, I reevaluated the situation and I came to my senses. Rather than punish myself for something that means nothing, I slowed down the pace, I walked a few sections and I got back to the car without taxing the mental energy too much.

On a long day like this one, it's easy for me to get stuck on autopilot but I'm getting better at being in the moment to make decisions.

In the early years of my athletic career, I treated every day is if it were race day but I'm a little older and a little wiser or at least that's what I'd like to think.

As I taper down for a 50 mile tune up race, I'm chomping at the bit even though I know it's going to be hard and hot. Mentally, I'm ready to race because I dug deep in my training but no so deep that I've lost my desire to race.

Race week, tick tock, tick tock...