First DNF At The Ohlone 50K

Ohlone 50K had been on my list for a while and I was looking forward to it this year. A point to point race traversing the entire Ohlone Wilderness Trail, it starts off at Mission Peak, up and over into Sunol and then the monster climb up to Rose Peak through the canyons in the back ending up at Del Valle Regional Park. With a 7,800ft elevation gain and almost entirely exposed trails, this one was definitely looking like one of the hardest 50K I’d ever done. It didn’t disappoint. TL;DR I dropped out at mile 15 along with 40+ others. The hills + the 108°F temperature did many of us in. A neat lesson by mother nature for us crazy brave souls trying to recreate Badwater right here in the Bay Area. My Strava activity:

Ohlone 50K

I’d just come back from a week in London that took away whatever little heat training I had the couple of prior weeks. With the jet lag, I went to bed early and woke up @ 4am. Was greeted by a brilliant Venus in the morning sky when I parked at the finish line. Saw Tim Thompson, Kristen Dymmel, Moises Avila & Jean Pommier at the start. We started @ 8am when it was balmy already. As I ran/hiked up Mission Peak at some point the sun peeked over and instantly could feel the heat. Crematoria anyone?

Ohlone 50K Start

Ohlone 50K Start

Moises Avila working up to Mission Peak

Moises Avila working up to Mission Peak

Crematoria

Crematoria

I summited Mission Peak in just about an hour (selfie city!) and made good time on the descent down to Laurel Loop (mile 5.43). Brief stop and continued on with the descent down to Sunol. Enjoyed every bit of shade along the way and pretty happy that I got to Sunol  (mile 9.1) in 1:40. It was getting warm now and I was popping 2x salt pills at each aid station. The next climb was tough – a 1,000ft gain in just under 2 miles. I had ice cubes under my hat, a drenched buff around my neck and was dousing my face with water every few minutes. Many of us had our backs bent, hands on our thighs pushing up the steep hill, inhaling the warm air that was burning through our lungs. I was close to running out of water and saw the Backpack Area (12.48) aid station up ahead.

Top of Mission Peak

Top of Mission Peak

Del Valley in the distance

Del Valley in the distance

Climb up to Backpack Area

Climb up to Backpack Area

Few glasses of pepsi, more ice, more cold water on the buff and began another 1,000ft climb up to Goat Rock. When I ran the Miwok 100K, I used a fair bit of external motivation (aka mind games) to compensate for the fatigue. The breathtaking views, beautiful redwoods, the cool breeze evaporating the sweat on the skin, the fog rolling in through the hills, etc. But as I was hiking up this hill, all I had were turkey vultures, a merciless sun, countless miles of exposed hills and a furnace that poured heat through every pore in the body. Within 20 minutes after I left the aid station, the water got so warm that dousing was painful. I was crawling so slow that my GPS thought I wasn’t moving. By the time I got to Hawk’s Nest, I knew it was over. I leaned against the sign and asked myself WTF I was doing.

One word: Hot!

One word: Hot!

Hawk's Nest

Hawk’s Nest

Finally made it to Goat Rock (14.96) where there were quite a few runners just hanging out, looking beat. Beyond this point, the only place to drop was the finish line. Unless you got a ride on an emergency helicopter. It was a tough decision and I hated giving up. But with 40oz of water that seemed to evaporate in minutes, I just couldn’t see myself tackling the 5-mile steep climb up to the peak at 98°F. With three others, I began the 6-mile hike back to Sunol ranger station where we could get a ride back to the finish line. It was the longest hike I’ve done in a while. Pride & ego hurt more than the body. It sucked to quit. Luckily the rising temperature (108°F) kept these emotions at check. I knew I’d made the right decision. Live now and come back to run another day.

Near Goat Rock

Near Goat Rock

You know it was a rough day when Jean Pommier can’t make sub-5:00 🙂 Kidding, but Jean had a totally amazing run to place 1st overall (yet again). Talked to another runner at the finish line who after 5 attempts got into Wester States only to DNF at mile 40 because of the heat. There’s always a first time. I do know I’m going back to Sunol to run/hike up Rose Peak to see what I’d missed. Some stats (from memory): 250+ registered runners, 130+ toed the start line and over 40 DNFs.


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