At 7:30 before the start it was already like warm. I had a feeling, and knew going in that it was going to be hell. I didn't realize it would literally have the carnage of hell for so many people including us.
I was well hydrated going in, I felt great and positive. I was however, seriously concerned with the upcoming temps of the upper 90's predicted. I did no heat training and I don't do weal at first in the heat. It takes me a bit to get used to these conditions. Here we are having unusual high temps and its race day.
Here is an elevation chart for reference:
We headed up To mission peak which is 2500 foot climb from the base to the peak in a matter of a few miles. It took us 80 mins of run/hiking to get up and we rocked it. I remember asking Morgan how long has it been and he said 30 mins, I thought holy crap it is HOT. I had killed two bottles of water by the time I reached the peak and still had a couple of miles to go til the first aid station but Morgan filled my bottle up so I had one bottle to last. We summited and the view was just breathtaking.
We headed down to Sunol, there was a cutoff for mile 9.11 and you had 2 hrs and 45 mins from the start to get there. We headed down the steep hills which I do not run well. It sucks because this IS the time to make up time but I don't know how to run them properly. It kills the backs of my knees. I had to bring out my knee straps for it (which helped a bit) so I carefully took my time. Morgan pulled way ahead and I just took my time which I knew was not good when trying to beat a cutoff. I was having bad side stitches too which was hindering my running. I finally found my groove and just went with it. It was gorgeous running this section. I made the first aid station (Laurel Loop) and caught up with Morgan, he told me that we had 1 hour to get 5 miles. It stressed me out because I am slow runner on trails, but I sucked it up and started out. I was so hot and I already felt the effects. I was hydrating properly but could not eat solid food at the aid station. I tried to eat a banana but I just couldn't so I stuck with just my accel gel. I was starting to get stomach slosh and felt a little bloated so I took two Salt tabs which I think eventually helped. We started down the FAST and steep downhill to Sunol aid, and the dreaded -behind-the-knee-pain came. IT made me worry and I started to get grumpy because I had to just push so we could make it. BY now I am sure it was mid 80's and mind you its only 10 in the morning. We had to get to Sunol by 10:45am
The run to Sunol was beautiful, even in my grumpy stressed state. As I ran I thought of the upcoming temps and how I KNEW it was going to affect me. I knew I would not do well. I was worried about my stupid knee and how I cannot run downhill well. I thought of dropping and convincing Morgan of going on. I could see he was doing so well and I was already feeling the heat and the down hills. I even told Morgan he should go ahead and he said NO WAY WE ARE A TEAM, We started together and we will finish together. I didn't want to hold him back ya know? I did take time to notice the beauty of the Ohlone trail. So open and the views are to die for.
We ran, and there was a moment where I was about to just say Fuck it and walk to Sunol. We had to cross a paved road/highway and we crossed. I didn't say anything but I had just given in my heart and we were only a little in into the run. Morgan said there is Sunol, we are almost there. That made me hopeful; he said we had 15 minutes so I picked up speed. I was hot and starting to feel nauseated (it had been almost 3 hrs and I had no fuel but one gel pack since I had breakfast) because I couldn't get myself to eat, but I felt hope and CLUNG to it for dear life. I saw a man in tie dye and I thought to myself YOU ARE ALMOST THERE. As I was making the last dash, I looked up and saw a crow sitting on a wood tool shed and he looked at me. It was the way he coked his head to the side, it felt like doom. I didn't say anything but I just had this feeling. I said to myself "Please let me just get there"
We entered Sunol aid at 2:32 WOOO I thought, we did it! ZA lovely man asked if I wanted Ice water sponged on me and I welcomed it. Little did I know it would shock me and literally take my breathe away. It really did. The aid people laughed at me because I was trying to say OMG it took my breathe away but the words came out "O—h—T—t—ha-that Tttttttoooo----kk M---y Mmmmmy BBBBreee-Brrrrrea---Breathe awaaaaaaaay" ahahaha It was funny.
I ate 3 strawberries, 1 gel and 1 potato w/salt, and drank 2 cups of coke. That would be my first and last of my calories until mile 15. I used the toilet; loaded back up on sunscreen and felt ok .I had hope and was so happy to have made the cutoff!! I thought Ok we can do this heat be dammed.
It was hot by this point. The aid people kicked us out. He said we had 1 minute to get out so we high tailed it out and started across the bridge to hit the trail. We were smiling and hopeful at this point. We chatted about how it was hot but we were going to do it.
So there we were entering the most desolate part of the course until you reach the end. Sunol is your last chance to drop. It's the last time you have access to a ride out. We knew that but felt great to push on.
We started up the first climb, which had to be about a 15% incline. I joked about someone forgetting to turn on the "AC" …..We climbed and climbed and I noticed both of us were silent. We were passed by the last climber and we were DFL. That's ok I am a proud DFL'ER I though. But soon I had to keep stopping. It was so hot. It felt like a oven. The sun was everywhere and there was no way to hide from it. We climbed and climbed
………………and then everything and I mean EVERYTHING went downhill from there.
We had just about 4 miles to go until the next aid station at backpacker's camp (with the one and only Ann Trason running it…WS100 & ultra Legend) and all I could think about was ice. I wanted to put one bottle with just ice .I thought ok it will melt into a icy cold drink and I can drink it PLUS it will keep my hand cold.
Those miles were awful. It was blisteringly hot it HAD to be in there 90's I am sure. It was hindering. Every step up the hills was awful. I would get dizzy and have to stop and squat down for a second. I was drinking, but by now my water was hot. It was time to take a gel and I just couldn't stomach the thought. I was getting dizzy and I felt as if I was going to go insane from the fact there was no cover or anyway to get out of the sun. I would have crawled under poison oak at that very moment if it meant getting out of the sun.
I tell you I cannot put into words how I felt. I felt like I was going to burst into flames. But still I had forward motion. Then the ringing in my ears would start. It would come and go but I didn't say anything. MY muscles felt fatigued only because I had no fuel in my tank at that point I had not had any real fuel for hours( I had breakfast at 5am and a banana nut muffin before plus 1 gel at 7:45 or so) and I could feel it. The heat plus calorie deficit was torture. Still I climbed. Step and shuffle. Stop and squat. Whine and cry. That is what it felt like. I saw fuzzy catapilers, squirrels, beetles, snakes and lizards all looking as if it was the most perfect day. I thought I want it to be perfect and this is not it. I was going through a mental breakdown and I felt sick to my stomach, and lightheaded, I felt my ears ringing and as like I was about to collapse. I was drinking so much but I was suddenly super dehydrated. I was still peeing so that was good, but I felt bloated and my fingers felt like sausages. I noticed I had stopped sweating and then I knew it was bad.
We FINALLY reached backpackers aid at just about mile 13. I swear I ran in staggering a bit. I was being asked all these questions I had no answers for. All I could ask is "Ice, do you have ice" they said I was living in a dream world which made me upset. IT was probably my state of mind but I was so mad at that answer. I was at a point where I needed some support not a dry sense of humor. I knew Morgan was feeling bad because we didn't talk to each other really. We usually are cheering one another on but we had nothing to give because we were both at such a low moment.
Ann asked me if I had been drinking and I said yes, I had drunk 6 bottles by then. She asked me if I had been eating. I said I can't seem to eat. She made me eat some potato, and asked me what I could eat that would be so bad if it came back up. I asked for coke and I drank 3 cups. (I love coke on ultras) it was so tasty. It was the only thing I wanted. She asked if I wanted PB sandwich and I just about gagged at the thought, she offered Oreos (which I love by the way lol) and I said god no. I did eat one single chip and it seems to never go away as I chewed it. I could barely swallow the potato which I usually rely only on at ultras. They kicked us out and said we probably would not make the 10 hour cutoff but I wanted to just finish.
We started up the climb 2 miles or so to the goat rock aid station. Holy crap was it a climb. If you look at the elevation chart or ran it you know what I mean. I was frustrated because 2 weeks before we ran this section (13 miles of it) and it felt good. Yes steep but so do-able. Today it was like it climbing a vertical surface lol. It was hot, I felt like I was going to puke. Morgan was at the lowest I have ever seen him. He just stopped and sat and I kept climbing telling him we have to move. He said the aid people said the next aid may not be open when we arrive. I got nervous. Why would they close if they know we are still out?!?! So we moved doing slug speed and reached the troft of water and spigot where we soaked our head, hats & face. It felt great I could have just stayed there and hugged that water spigot. We climbed a short distance and Morgan had to sit again, I was at a ok spot by now. The water made me feel cooler, and I notice a sweeper coming. He walked up asking if we were ok and if we had enough water. I could tell he was sent after us or had been told we didn't look good and to expect these sad looking runners.
We hiked with him with what felt like hourrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrs along a hot no shade single track. Up and over hills, down around and back up with no shade. It was super hot and I was officially not sweating. My heart rate was outrageously high. I was walking super slowly and it was racing. I actually got scared thinking OMG I am going to have a heart attack. I took my pulse at one point when I had to sit down because of dizziness and it was 180. I wasn't even really doing anything.
I told Morgan I can't do this. I don't feel good. I felt like I was going to just faint and shrivel up in that heat. My mouth was dry, I was getting chills. I noticed I had Goosebumps. I wanted thow up. My ears were ringing. I had to keep shaking my head to keep with it. I was spacing out and getting clumsy almost tripping.
We saw a man heading back and he said it was too hot he had to turn back and walk out the 5 miles it took to get back to Sunol from goat rock aid. I though poor guy, smart guy. Morgan said maybe we should go with him. I said no we have to just get to the aid; I need cold water or something. I wanted a coke.
Finally we reached the aid at mile 15. We saw it coming and I could hear them ringing a cow bell for us and screaming at us. There is a downhill and then a freaking sharp uphill. I got so grumpy at that hill for being there hahaha. I don't even recall walking into the aid; I don't think that's a good thing. All of a sudden I am being asked if I want a drink of Morgan's coke and I took one. Then I asked for my own and they had sprite and I drank and drank. It was so cold and yummy. I was saying I need to eat, I don't feel well. I looked at Morgan and he looked as if he was going to be sick. I got him a banana he reluctantly ate it. The girl at the aid station (DOT) asked if I wanted pretzels or cliff bars. I took pretzels but couldn't eat them. She had me put them in my pack. I now realize we didn't look good. I may have been a bit delusional as I just wanted to head out. She asked me if I was still sweating and I said no. She asked if had ate and I said no not yet. They asked if I was dizzy and I said yes. They said we could take the time we needed while they started to pack up.
So there we sat. Heat exhausted, sick and looking at each other like this is literally the last chance to drop. Its 5 miles out. We looked at each other and didn't say anything. We were both struggling with what to do. I was so hell bent on moving on. It was ONLY 16 miles. So close. It was so hot but so close. I even picked up my stuff and all the aid people looked at me like Ummm no you are in bad shape don't go. Morgan said he was done and he asked if he could hike out with aid people and get a ride back to the start (it was point to point. You parked at the finish and were bused in to the start) and I was suddenly felt with panic. I wanted to keep going but I knew that was my ego talking. My runner brain thought ONLY 16 MILES DAMN IT!! My logical brain said you are not going to make it. You are just about to heat stroke. You are in bad shape. You need to stop but I just couldn't make the call. I suddenly burst into tears.
That was my way of dropping. I cried and cried. Totally broke down. I knew I couldn't go on. Yes, 16 miles but at what stake? It was heart breaking. If you have never had to drop from a race then you just do not get it. An aid guy asked me how long I had been training and I said since Jan. That's a long time to train and then have to stop.
I was broken. I felt broken, like a complete quitter. I don't quit! It's hard for me to admit defeat. So the decision was made, we were going to get a ride back to Del Valle with the aid crew but had to do the 5 mile trek back to Sunol……….and we set off. Re tracing out steps we had just done. I cried and I felt awful. I felt relieved and I felt frustrated. We saw a life flight helicopter flying and wondered what was going on.
We hiked out with one of the awesome aid crew(Dot) pretty much in silence until we reached Sunol, only stopped a couple of times. Once at that fabulous spigot and once at some picnic tables where she offered me and encourage me to eat a Zbar and pretzels.
We got to Sunol parking lot an sat. I sulked, lemme tell you I sulked like I never have before. I questioned my decision. I though we just hiked out we could have just hiked forward. I thought we made a bad decision. All I wanted at that point was something cold to drink and something to eat. I was starving. It was like 5 ish by now 12 hours since I had eaten anything real.
We got a ride from 2 of the Goat rock aid people back to Del Valle. We were told a man had to get life flighted out and that he had died on the heli, but was revived. Nobody knew what had happened. That was scary and awful to hear.
We arrived at the Del Valle parking lot; it was a surreal and stinging feeling. I felt sad and frustrated that we were at the finish but by car not running in. I wanted to cry. Talk about pride crushing and bruised ego, but I felt lucky that I had at least walked out and were in a car. Unlike the guy who was in the ER.
We checked in with the time keeper at the finish. Told them we dropped. We spoke with the race director who gave us our shirts and said we did earn them. He told us he was grateful we stopped. They airlifted 2 people out and got someone out by jeep. He then told us to go eat. They had a BBQ chef and some of the best food! We grabbed some food and I ate so fast and was still hungry. I ate a HUGE pulled pork sandwich and wanted more.
Eventually after talking to people and friends and hearing that the one man was in critical condition, I was grateful we pulled out yet it doesn't make the sting go away. That is just my ego, which just need to be put in check. There are many more Ohlone to come and damn it next year will be the year.
Today I feel great actually. My butt is super sore and I feel tired but overall great. I went for a 2.25 mile short run and the fact that I am able to run after 20 miles of hell is a great sign….that brings me to Sunday of this weekend. Morgan and I are going to do our own 50k. We are calling it the rise from the dead 50k at the American river…………so until then. Thanks for reading my rambling…….Michelle AKA ultrarockstar.