Well Done at the Ohlone

Well Done…to Catra for finishing her Ohlone solo 100 mile run — this year was #5 for her.

Well Done…is how I ended up after getting cooked in the 100+ degree temperatures out on the course.

The plan was for me to pace Catra the latter half of her solo 100, which consisted of 3X The Ohlone 50K course + a 5 mile dog leg in Sunol + a 2 mile roudtrip to Jerry’s house for aid near the starting line at the Mission Peak trailhead. Sounds easy enough…but what was not supposed to be in the picture was the heat wave that put temperatures both days in the upper 90’s and low 100’s.

The course consisted of a 4 mile 2000′ climb from the start, right up to Mission Peak, then dropping straight down into Sunol (mile 9). From there, we would start one of several climbs, passing the Backpack Area (mile 12.5) and Goat Rock (mile 15), culminating 3000′ later at the top of Rose Peak, the course high, where we would ultimately descend down into the finish at Del Valle, interrupted by 2 steep climbs near Stewart’s Camp (mile 25) and out of Satan’s Pit (mile 27).

When I picked Catra up at Sunol around 9pm (about 16 hours into her run) Saturday night, she was doing extremely well, considering by the time I joined her, she had already gone through an extremely hot day, and 50-ish miles. We would do a 5 mile out-and-back past Little Yosemite in Sunol, then return to the course to head back to the start at Mission Peak for the final 50K.

We were having a great time between our respective bouts with issues — hers being a re-occurrance of her UTI, and mine was struggling with the heat and accumulation of excessive race mileage over the last few weeks. Nevertheless, we managed to maintain a positive attitude, and enjoy each others company as we trudged closer towards the finish.

Along the way, I was acquainted with many landmarks and trails that Catra had mentioned so often — now, it became real to me, instead of just being a fictitious part of her stories.

There was:

  • her favorite tree, which gave us energy when we were at one of our low points
  • Mission Peak, looking out over all of the east bay, watching her hometown of Fremont waking up
  • Sunol, where many of her ranger friends work, and one of her favorite trails (Eagle’s View) is located
  • Hawk’s Nest — where Catra camped out during her PCT training last year
  • many interestingly shaped trees — the checkmark, seahorse, the pope, the two friends, and my very own weiner log
  • and finally, Rose Peak

When we eventually got down into Sunol, just after 7am and over 27 hours (only 10 hours for me) into the run, it was somewhat of a relief, yet we still had 20 miles to go, including the climb up to Rose Peak. After dropping off our night gear, refueling, and patching up Catra’s feet, we were on our way. When we reached Goat Rock, Chiping caught up to us — he started at 6am to mark parts of the course. He snapped some photos of us, then took off.

I thought we were almost to the top, but didn’t know it would be another 3 miles and 1500′ of climbing. At this point, we were getting a bit delirious, or maybe it was just me, as I began seeing various formations in rocks and trees, one of which was Winnie the Pooh. Just before we got to Rose Peak, we were passed by Jean Pommier, who had a sizable lead, and was on his way to victory. Not far behind was Mark Tanaka, Kevin Sawchuck, and Catra’s friend Will. After we got our bracelet at the top, we started our descent — 10 miles, and 2500′, with a couple steep climbs in between. Shortly after the turn-around, we saw Beth Vitalis on her way to a new age group record.

As we were around Stewart’s Camp (25 miles into the 50K — 75 for Catra), we saw one of Catra’s ranger friends in a jeep flying down the trail. He stopped briefly, and we asked if everything was ok — he abruptly responded, NO, and sped off. We knew then that it was serious, and hoped that whoever it was would be ok. Turned out that a runner collapsed, and had to get air lifted out (see below). One of the other casualties occurred near the finish as a runner from TX collapsed, and had to get assistance from medical personnel — she was also air lifted out, but her injuries were not as serious.


I just spent the last hour talking to my friend Karen who is the
sister in-law of the runner who collapsed at Ohlone 50k this past
weekend. I got a bunch of details from her and her permission to
share to the rest of the group.

First and foremost she wanted everyone to know that the quick
response saved his life. It was pretty bad and there was a point
where they were not sure if he was going to make it. The family is
extremely thankful and grateful to all of those who came to his aid.
He has a wife and two children, ages 8 and 4.

The details as I got them. He had thrown up before he collapsed and
doctors know that he had ingested some of it and may have been
without air for sometime. They were worried about brain and kidney
damage. On Monday morning he regained consciousness but was still
confused by his surroundings. By Monday night this improved and
doctors ruled out brain damage but remained concerned about his
pneumonia, kidneys, liver and heart. This morning the doctors stated
that his kidneys are functioning much better. He’s still in the ICU,
will most likely spend another day there and will be in the hospital
for the rest of the week. They are breathing much easier now. Good
news indeed. Again they just wanted people to know how thankful and
grateful they are.

I was a volunteer at the race but had heard nothing of the incident.
It just so happened that I attend the same church as Karen and had
heard through friends about her brother in-law collapsing at a 50k.
After reading the emails today I put the two together and called her
and got all the info. If I hear anything more I’ll be sure to share.

Rick Gaston

Some photos of the incident.

Another account of the incident.

After our first of two final ascents, we started down the steep and narrow switchbacks to the bottom of Satan’s Pit (area coined by Catra, but officially known as William’s Gulch), where there were several runners cooling down in the water. It was nice to know this would be the last of our major climbs — only 3 more miles to the finish, which were mostly downhill. As we neared the end, Catra looked at her watch, and yelled we could still make it under 36. Before I could even react, she took off in full stride — you would’ve never guessed she had run a 100 miles over the last day and a half. We crossed the finish at 4:10pm — 35 hours and 50 minutes after Catra began.

If you saw both of us afterwards, I think I looked more like the one who ran a 100 miles — I was exhausted, sore, tired, sleepy, burned, and hungry. Next year, when I join Catra again, I think I’m going to need a pacer myself.

Anyone wanna pace a pacer?

Top of Mission Peak (25 hours into the race)

Catra’s favorite tree.

Start of a new day (29 hours into the race)

Checkmark tree near the Backpackers area.

Top of Rose Peak (31 hours into the race)

More photos here.

One comment

  1. I never posted on your blog so here’s my first. I want you to know you were a awesome pacer I had no clue you were having issues. I had so much fun with you. It really was the best time ever.
    You did an amazing job.
    I hope you actually run the whole thing with me next year that would be fun.
    I need to go out and look for winnie the poo in the shape of a tree. I just couldn’t see him 😉
    You’re the best Sunshine.

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