2021 Ultra #38 – The Olemian Rhapsody 50K

I’ve been incredibly lucky so far (after 37 ultras this year!) without a run going side ways. Yeah, there were some ankle twists and other minor injuries, but I suppose it was finally my time. I wanted to run an out and back along the Bolinas Ridge from Olema all the way to Pantol station (Marin headlands) and I thought I’d picked a fairly good day in term of temperature and what not. But hey, ultras are not always about running the distance, but tackling curve balls along the way and solving problems. Here’s my Strava activity:

Bolinas Ridge Trail

I woke up to a 4am alarm and drove out to Olema, not fully awake. It was 43℉ when I got there to the Bolinas Ridge Trailhead. Brrrr. I put on my arm sleeves, got a headband and headed out right before sunrise hearing the sounds of cows in the distance. I had my Garmin inReach dropping breadcrumbs along the way, so my wife would know where I was in case something went awry.

As I ran up the gentle grade, watching the spectacular sunrise, I was remembering my first time I ran this section of the Coastal Marin 50K, thanks to Rob Rhodes (RIP) when he shuttled us from Golden Gate Bridge so we could run back to the car. That was pretty epic! I smiled imagining him running alongside with this GoPro and his infectious love of trails and outdoors. But looking at the cloudless sky and the distant fog out on the ocean, I was a little worried that it was going to get hot.

One of the best parts of this out and back are the coastal redwoods that start right around mile 4 and go on a bit past the Fairfax junction when it connects up to the Coastal Trail. In the back of my mind I knew there were no water sources here, but did notice some muddy puddles of water with ferns growing all around. I did bring my Sawyer Mini water filter along just in case though.

Coastal Trail

As I mentioned, the original plan was to get to Pantol station at mile 17.5 to reload on water, but Coastal Trail has a knack of locking in the heat with an exposed single track along the ridge. I’ve had a taste of this during the Miwok 100K when we would head south on these trails in the mid afternoon. But we had these luxurious things called aid stations, and here I was pretty much by myself. Right around mile 15, it was a difficult choice. Do I make it to Pantol station to reload on water, but have 5+ miles of baking sun or should I turn back?

I made the call to turn back, but all I had was 1.5L of Tailwind (okay, may a liter) and another 15 miles back to the car. I could the feel the heat now and lost in thought about the water situation, of course, I tripped on a rock and went down. Luckily bunch of scrapes on my thighs but nothing more. Not a good omen of what was looking like a long 15 miles ahead.

I could feel the dry heat all around me and being teased by the distant fog hanging out far into the ocean. I was desperately looking forward to being under the canopy of the redwoods. Up until the turnaround, I think I’d seen 4 or 5 people and my chances of bumping water from others looked pretty bleak. I was aggressively rationing water the Tailwind now, knowing it was only going to get warmer. Made it into the Redwoods with 10 miles to go and I had one more choice. Do I run risk running and increasing the core temperature, or do I take the much more painful death march of walking the miles? The latter it was going to be…

I ran into a mountain biker (what a savior!) who was willing to part with 0.25 liters of water, all of which was used to splash sips across the face and head. I was down to 2 sips/mile of Tailwind and I decided to use the muddy water in the puddles to douse myself to stay cool. I tried my best not to get that water into my mouth. There was nobody around in the last 5 miles (a few cows that couldn’t care less) and a few times I came pretty close to hiding in the shadows of overgrown coyote brush to cool down. The last sip of Tailwind was with just a mile to go and I could see the car down the hill. When I finally got there, it was 90℉ and boy-oh-boy, ice cold water never tasted so good!

*whew* that was a bit close. I don’t know if making it Pantol station and reloading on water would’ve been the better decision, but I’m glad that I’m pretty fully recovered and thinking about the 39th ultra for the year. 13 weeks to go and 12 more ultras!

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