Ohlone 50K

The heat sneaks up on you during ultra events. You always feel great in the morning and slowly you begin to heat up, slow down, wonder why you voluntarily punish yourself, feel like quitting, and then resolve to finish what your started as the time goals you so proudly felt you would meet disappear with each passing sun baked hill.

It all started out so great climbing up Mission Peak in 1:02 which was not a bad time for 5+ miles and 2000+ feet of elevation gain. I was running with people I recognized from their blogs that I know I should not have based on their times at Miwok, Mountain Man Steve , but it was early and I was feeling great. The descent down the backside of Mission Peak is where I realized that my prior euphoia would be short lived as my left achilles and ankle stated to hurt and I could not run down hill in that care-free way I wanted to. By the time I hit the Sunol aid station at mile 9.11, 2 hours had gone by. It was only 10 AM, but it was getting really hot out there. They were soaking us down and filling our hats with ice to prepare for the next 10 mile 3000 foot climb that we would face.

Having a weak ankle/achilles I was straining my good leg and running was not very easy even on the easy flats and descents. Knowing that I had 21 miles to go, I could only slog along and try to soak some fun out of this. Finally reaching the Backpack Area aid station the famous Ann Trason was manning the aid station. Meeting some ultrarunner royalty goes a long way to push you along and I faced this hellish hill right after this aid station that mocking me in its steepness. It was horrible, I was walking very slowly, practically crawing as I worked on my 3rd full camelbak. I had taken 2 S-Caps an hour to this point and was drinking copiously. Having a lot of experience from ultracycling, hiking, and a bit of ultrarunning, I know to drink a lot in the heat. I ran with the camelbak for the first time and it was great I did as I needed it today with the high temps. I knew a lot of newbies were in this race, as its a logical jump off point for those wanting to make the next step up from the maration, but with this heat, there was a lot of risk for people not used to being out for this long. The next section to Goat Rock was only 2.5 miles, but it was straight up-hill with no shade at all and the wind was non-existent. I wanted to quit badly during this section, as all of a sudden I started getting pain in my "good" right knee. This game of Ultrarunning Injury Roulette is hilarious. I run American River 50 with a sore piriformis muscle and ended up messing my achilles heel. I entered Miwok with that sore Achilles and ended up tweaking my ankle. And now, I start Ohlone with a sore ankle and end up with a screwed up right knee.

By this time, I am unable to muster but a weak jog on the flats and expect to be passed by everybody left in the race, but I don't get passed like I did on Miwok. I switch out my stock inserts to the Sole Dean Karnezes ones, but that only makes my knee hurt even more and I quickly switch them back. The heat was punishing everybody I assumed as I kept moving. The section from Goat Rock to Maggies Half Acre was brutally hot, but I turned on the David Sedaris mp3 and laughed my ass off. A few times the guy in front of me turned around and I had to point to the head-phones. I was managing to enjoy this, even though I could not run at all on the downhills as my right knee was very painful by this point. I was able to shuffle a bit on flats, but it was pretty much fast walking now. I knew I could hike in from here and make the cut-off easily.

The view from Rose Peak is pretty amazing and the ruggedness of the area is surprising considering how close it is to the Bay Area population mass. It would have been a nice run down from Rose Peak to the Schlieper Rock aid station, but with my knee issue, it was a nice and easy hike with an occasional hobbling run.

On the descent down from Schlieper, I ran into Ramona Vogt, who was having issues descending the steep trail due to exhaustion and I had to help her down the hill by holding her hand on anything slightly steep. She was coherent and nice to talk to, but clearly suffering from the heat. We were hobbling down the hill to a nice spring and back up another nasty hill into the last aid station. The last descent was a nice fire road, so Ramona could handle it on her own. It was the kind of day where just surviving felt ok. I knew my time was not even going to break 9 hours, but by this point, I was just happy to finish. After American River and Miwok, I figured Ohlone 50k would be a piece of cake. Was I ever wrong. This is very tough race. As I hobbled into the finish, I was proud to have made it considering the state of my knee and the fact I had to just tough it out and endure. It ended up taking me 9:10 to finish. One person ended up collapsing at Rose Peak and had to be air-lifted out. This was the kind of day where you could get seriously hurt as this area is very remote, shadeless, and relentlessly hilly. I consider this 50K tougher than American River 50 miler. I look forward to another shot at it, hopefully on a cooler day!


nrmrvrk said…
Nice writeup. I didn't realize that there was practically no shade on the course. Brutal. At least Welch Creek rd. had a good bit of shade.

Love listening to Sedaris when I exercise. The Detective story and "Six To Eight Large Black Men" were my favorites.
Catherine said…
Great job gutting it out. Running injuries suck. I'm waiting to get my MRI next Friday to see what my future holds. I'm hoping TRT50 in July. Do you have any plans between now and your 100 attempt in Sept? Maybe a good rest.
Chris O'Keefe said…
Catherine, I am going to chill out for a while and recover as much as I can. Plan on doing a bit of cycling as well. Good luck on the MRI and hopefully a great TRT50.