Sunday, May 18, 2008

On Fire in the Ohlone 50K

It was glaring down at us
When I got off the bus.

The Sun was soon to have his way:
Struggling to keep his heat at bay,

I almost slowed down to a plod.
But I dug deep and clawed
Up climb after long, dusty climb.
Came and slowly went noontime:
Just past halfway into the run yet?
Gosh! I have so much more to sweat!!
Finally came the blessed descent!
With flying feet down the slopes I went.

Just after half past four I was done
With this tough, very tough run.

Race: Ohlone 50K
Date: May 18, 2008
Time: 8:38:11

(With Carol Cuminale and Barbara Elia just before the start)

My race pictures at

This was one of the toughest races I have ever done. Even my 4 100 mile races do not come close to this. Not at all. It was more physically tough than mentally.

I had spent the previous 2 months heat training as and when I could. 10 days in hot and humid Fiji at the end of March had helped as had the recent hot weather. The Quicksilver 50M the weekend before had been run in the mid-70s and had felt comfortable.

I don't believe that it was the heat that slowed me down. It was the relentless climbs in this race. I am not the fastest of uphill walkers and this fact was partly reiterated when Nancy Warren and, later, Lisa Huerta walked with me for a bit and then forged ahead as though I was standing still. Of course they are both amazing athletes but that's not the only reason they ascended faster than me.

The race started on time at the foot of Mission Peak in the parking lot at the end of Stanford Avenue. I spent the first 10 minutes taking pictures and slowly running up the gentle slope. The course would soon get steeper and I wanted to run what I could when I could.

The long line of runners wound its way up the first 1.5 mile climb, taking me along in its midst.

The course soon went off to the right and descended for about 0.25 miles before beginning the longish climb up to Mission Peak. This path wound up the mountain in a serpentine fashion and it was fun to spot a familiar face ahead every now and then. It was along this climb that I got missed a turn and a couple of ladies behind me had to yell to get me back on course. Thank you both!

It was towards the top of this climb that I hooked up with Nancy Warren. She soon surged a bit ahead of me and crested the mountain to begin the trip down the trail to Sunol. I soon caught up with her on the technical (read treacherously rocky here) descent and, as was supposed to be my fate for the day, went off course again! Nancy yelled to get me back on course and we spent the next few miles surging towards the Sunol AS.

John Medinger and the others were extremely helpful in the Laurel Loop AS that came 4 miles before the Sunol AS.

Nancy and I made it into the Sunol AS around 2:10 into the race (cutoff here was 2:45). We gladly accepted the offer of ice in our bandanas and began the long, long climb to Rose Peak. Never having done this race before, I had no idea what to expect.

The one thing I was sure of was that it was going to be an extremely hot day so I decided that I would take a Salt Stick capsule every 30 minutes and a gel every 45. I pretty much stuck with this plane for the next 4 hours or so.

The Backpacker AS came soon enough. The first thing I had noticed leaving the Sunol AS was the fact that there was not a cloud in the sky and that the course had absolutely no shade. Now I know what a slice of bread feels like in the toaster!

Rick Gaston was in the Backpacker AS as were Ann Trason and Carl Anderson. They filled up my bottles with water and had me out of there in no time at all. Nancy was a few hundred yards ahead, a gap that was gradually widening. Lisa Huerta and I walked up the climb out of the Backpacker AS together and I told her how much in awe I was of the fact that she had done the Silver State 50K the day before!

She too left me and was soon a figure that got progressively smaller up ahead. I had, by now, decided that I was going to enjoy the amazing views and the utter remoteness of the course as much as I could. So up and up I went.

About 0.25 miles before the Goat Hill Road AS disaster of sorts struck. My left Posterior Tibialis tendon, quiet until now, decided to wake up and scream for attention. What the f**k? Where the f**k did that come from???? A few acute spasms went through my left leg and I "limped" into the AS. The volunteers in this race were simply amazingly wonderful. They would come yards
out of the AS to tend to our needs.

I considered DNFing the race for fear of aggravating the injury but that thought was fleeting. "What won't kill you will make you tough". Great thought. Sometimes. I got lucky in this case. A few miles out of the AS the tightness slowly dissipated and before I knew it I was walking/running with my normal gait. This of course was brought about by my sending energy and breath to the affected area along with performing ho'oponopono on it. Look that one up if you are interested in learning more about it.

I was now looking forward to the top of the mountain. I had heard a lot, from other runners, about this long and brutal climb. Long it was. Brutal too. Also beautifully scenic. Also very remote. That alone was worth the price of admission. I felt privileged to have been given the opportunity to see a face of my beautiful Bay area that I would not have normally ventured out to see.

Just before the top waited a volunteer who, in a British accent, informed that I would have to go up the small but steep climb and pick up a band (to prove that I had reached the top) before beginning the descent to the next AS, 0.25 miles away. Being an obedient animal, I duly retrieved the bracelet (shades of Barkley) and made my way to the Maggie's Half Acre AS.

I had not been peeing much during the first 19 miles of this race. A highly unusual occurrence for me. Having noticed that, I was taking extra care to drink 2-3 cups of water at every AS. I peed for the second time a few hundred yards out of the AS. I heard voices of a couple of runners coming up towards me but then they faded once I started my own run. The next section was some rolling hills followed by a short but steep descent that had us cross a small stream.

That stream was surrounded by a cloud of ladybugs that had just hatched and were probably looking for a place to stay in for the next few days. Some of them briefly contemplated my face and arms but found the salty, Indian skin not to their liking. Gosh! All ladies are the same!! :))

It was soon after I had left the ladybugs in my wake that I met up with Phil Penna. He was bent over at the top of a small climb, looking almost out for the count.I could not just pass him so I asked him if he was doing OK. He replied that he was feeling dizzy. I asked him if he had taken any salt tablet and if he wanted any. He said he would welcome some so I filled his hand with 7-8 tablets. I asked him to pump 2 in right away and then another 2 every 30 minutes.

My presence boosted his spirits and he started running behind me. I stopped again to talk to him and that's when I decided that I could not leave him alone. I would stay with him at least until the next AS.

So off we went, walking and running as we felt like, talking about our lives. He had done 97 ultras in his 30 years of running. I was in awe of his accomplishments. What a tough man! He also informed me that he had a pacemaker! More and more wondrous I say!!!!!

We both remarked on at least 2 occasions that it was surprising that there were not any runners passing us. It was at the foot of the longish climb to the AS that he told me that we would definitely see runners now. He was so right. There came Mylinh Nguyen and Ramona Voght behind her. Joe Pham too made his way a few hundred yards behind. They passed us eventually on the first part of the climb. About 0.5 miles from the AS (about 0.25 miles from the top of the climb), Phil asked me to go ahead and that he would be fine. I felt a bit guilty leaving him but there were a few runners around him, walking at the same pace, so that made my decision to go a bit more palatable.

I passed Joe Pham and Linda Hurd on the last climb before the descent to the Schlieper Rock AS. I had them wet my bandana with ice cold water before beginning the push to the Finish.

I flew down this hill and quickly crossed the stream only to run headlong into the short, steep climb. No breeze. Hot as Hades. Painful blister under my right toe. Need more problems? Throw in difficulty breathing. My breathing had been lousy at best all through the race and it got worse up this climb. My heart rate was way up so I chose to sit down on the slope and wait for it to come down. I decided to take that opportunity to treat the blister. The bandaid would not stick so I quickly abandoned that plan and got up again.

My heart was beating at a happier pace by now so I "powered" up the hill and reached the top. A sign there stated that the next AS was 0.5 miles away. Again I flew down the hill and reached the Stromer Spring AS where I was duly informed that I was the most jovial runner to come through today.

The Finish duly arrived 8:38 into the race. I chatted with Catra and Andy, asking her about her amazing 100 mile run of which the Ohlone 50K forms the last 31 miles. That is one tough, tough lady.

I left after an hour or so and made my way back to Milpitas where I ate food in an Indian restaurant. Sleep that night was amazing.

Rob Byrne and his volunteers put on a superb race. Thank you all for carting all the supplies to those remote spots and lifting our spirits with your smiles and jokes.

Steve Shultis, a runner I had briefly chatted with on the climb up to Mission Peak, was airlifted out and rushed to the ICU where he still is.

(Steve Shultis in the Sunol AS, mile 9.11)

The latest news is that he is "safe" but they are keeping him there for the rest of the week. I wish him a speedy recovery.

Be safe.

Other reports of this race
Jean Pommier (overall winner)
Mark Tanaka (3rd overall)
Rick Gaston (he volunteered in the Backpacker AS)


Mark Tanaka (Ultrailnakaman) said...

"This was one of the toughest races I have ever done. Even my 4 100 mile races do not come close to this. Not at all." (?) Whoa!

Great job then! Way to work out your posterior tibialis strain, as well as helping out Phil.

Now you can go run a few 100 milers as "cool down"...

Rajeev said...



The 100 milers were truly not as tough as this one. The fact that I had NO knowledge of the Ohlone course made it harder. I had studied the 100 mile courses for months before the race. For Ohlone, I let it slide reasoning that it was only a 50K!

Go figure.


Baldwyn said...

Fantastic run, Rajeev. All these reports about the brutal conditions for it makes me really want to run it :)

Eudemus said...

Rajeev, nice job. I know what you mean about course knowledge. I think my experience with this course is one of the reason's I had a better than expected race with the tough conditions. Congrats on toughing it out.

Rajeev said...


Thank you. :)

See you tomorrow in Rancho.


Rajeev said...


You had reckoned on a 7 hr run and that's about what you did. Good for you.


Chihping Fu 傅治平 (超馬阿爸) said...

Rajeev, I enjoyed reading your report. Congrats to your finish of such a tough short run!

I felt nervous when you said "off course" twice. I'll check with you where they happened. Perhaps I missed something :-(


Rajeev said...


You missed nothing! Your course markings were perfect! It was me!! I was busy talking, as usual, and missed a couple of turns.

Rest easy. :)


Rajeev Char said...

Congrats Mr Patel! You said it was hot...really? I did not notice ;-)

I can't imagine running 50 miles - let alone running in 95F+ heat!

Congrats - stay safe & stay healthy.

Rajeev said...

Mr. Char,

You did not notice? You were either in a cool pool with an ice cold beer or zipping along at 20+ mph on your bike!

Thank you for stopping by.


Jean Pommier said...

Great to run with you again today at Rancho, Rajeev. What a poetic account, thanks for sharing. When poetry rhymes with effort, pain and persistence... More and you are going to compete with the Troubadour (an ultra legend I still need to know about)...

See you again on the trail for more stories,

Farther Faster

Rajeev said...


Thank you mon ami. It was fantastic running with you today :)

Have a great Memorial Day weekend.


Andy B. said...

Hi Rajeev,

It was great to meet you out at Ohlone - you did great. I also appreciated your enthusiasm at Quicksilver. Every time I saw you on the trail you had a smile and encouragement to share and it certainly picked up my spirits! I look forward to seeing you at future events.

By the way, I tagged you. Visit my blog for details ( :-)

Rajeev said...


Thanks for stopping by.

I'll anser the tag questions in the next day or two.

Good job in Quicksilver - 9:14 for your first 50-miler!


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