Sunday, May 31, 2009

Ohlone '09: 1, 1 and... 2!

It was unusually cool at the start, at least for me who got acquainted with this race three years ago. The web site of the event is called, but we were surely under the fog this morning. Not something I was not accustomed for after the night run of my local Memorial Day weekend, but I did not know what to expect later in the day. I'm doing better in the heat and do need some heat training before Western States, but it did not seem that was the day for that. I had even put Moeben sleeves on, but decided to leave them to Agnès at the start after I heard Leor saying that we will be out of the fog before passing Mission Peak.
If you read my previous post, you know that I was expecting a front competition between Leor Pantilat, Lon Freeman and Graham Cooper. Well, with Lon and Graham not showing up, I wished Leor a great race and a successful quest for a new course record (CR - Sorry Kevin!). I lost sight of him in the first switchbacks at mile 2, in a thick fog. I was in second then before Andrew Sullivan caught up with me. Andrew is a triathlete that I had never seen in our races and Lon advised him not to try to chase Leor. Andrew knew that I had won the previous two editions so he definitely had done his homework. When I proposed him to pass me because I was not going to chase Leor, I mentioned that Leor was 20 years younger than me and Andrew replied he was 41. That got my attention because we were then competing in the same age group. And, seeing him running strong, I told to myself I will have to have a strong run up to Rose Peak to avoid a confrontation in the last miles...
Andrew passed me just before the top of Mission Peak. By the second aid station, Sunol, mile 9, he had just over one minute lead on me. Ultra elite Jasper Halekas who was crewing for Prudence L'Heureux told me Leor was 4 minutes ahead. I closed some of the gap on Andrew by the third aid station (Backpack Area). This is my favorite aid station because, among all the nice volunteers, you are welcomed by ultra legends Carl Anderson (check-in) and Ann Trason, with Ann always making fun of saying my name the French way! ;-) Working behind the buffet, Ann proposed me some strawberries (yummy) which, shame on my French taste, I mixed with potato and salt, to Ann's surprise. Then it was my turn to be surprised when Ann said to me: "don't try to pass him on the way up." I think she meant I should not rush, unless I misunderstood the whole piece of ultra wisdom. But that kind of puzzled me because, while I did not feel like pushing that much, I was closing on Andrew pretty fast in the next hilly miles (I would learn later from him that his quads had already crashed and were cramping badly by mile 12).

I mixed running and power walking on my way up to Rose Peak and increased my lead on Andrew to 9 minutes by the end of the loop at the 3,800-ft summit (mile 18.5). At the 5th aid station, Maggie's Half Acre, the volunteers told me Leor was 10 minutes ahead but then said he passed through at 10:55 when I was out by 11:09 (14 minutes). Just before the station, I crossed the volunteer who was rushing to place the box of bracelets that we were supposed to take at the summit, and he gave me one (and, my GPS be my judge, I swear I completed the loop and looked for the box at the summit).

It helps having run this race before, to realize that you are far from being done once you passed over Rose Peak, which was what I thought during my initial run in 2007, with Graham Cooper on my heels. I cramped so bad back then but kept moving, led by the motivation and excitement of being unexpectedly in the lead. Last year was a different story because it was so hot (you may remember two helicopters came on the course to evacuate a runner suffering from overheat, and who ended up being hospitalized for three days and making it, fortunately). This year, a nice breeze helped keeping the temperature reasonable, despite the bright sun (got a few sun burns on my arms...).

I skipped the unmanned Stewart Camp's aid station, mile 23.5, flying in the down hill, but starting realizing that I may be too short to improve the age group course record I had set back in 2007. I had in mind the remaining challenging parts of the course and, indeed, had to walk some of them. At the Schlieper Rock aid station, volunteers indicated a 18-minute lead for Leor. I was obviously not trying to catch him but I wanted to see if he was on his way to set a new CR. Before Mission Peak, I told Andrew Leor would finish under 4:30...

Reaching the last aid station, Stromer Spring, in 4:32 or so, I knew I missed my goal of finishing under my 2007 time of 4:40:59 so I decided to make a quick stop there to splash cool water from the spring on my head and singlet; that is such a treat! I then sprinted down to the Del Valle Park to finish in 4:45:53. Good for second overall and first Masters.16 minutes earlier, Leor set a new overall and Men < class="blsp-spelling-error" id="SPELLING_ERROR_24">Sawchuck will be glad to know that he is keeping the M30-39 CR (the first thing that Kevin inquired upon finishing was news about the CR, like he did in 2007 and 2008). On the same La Sportiva ultra running team, Caitlin Smith won the women division improving Caren Spore's CR by 12 minutes to an impressive 5:05. She was followed by Prudence who finished just a minute behind. It is interesting to note that both Leor and Caitlin are new to ultra (first or second year), belong to the same team, are under 30 and won their respective division at Way Too Cool; and they are both very nice of course! What a great entrance in the ultra world and community!In our Rhomobile/Quicksilver running team, Sean finished just below 5:30 followed by John (5:36) and Pierre-Yves one minute later. I left before seeing Andy and Jim.Simon took it easy after a very busy week on the Western States course. If some feel that my 122-mile Memorial Day weekend was crazy, listen to this: Simon ran 173 miles over the three days of the Western States Camp (Robinson Flat down to the river and up, Forresthill down to the river and up, Foresthill to the finish)! And if it was not enough, he ran 20 miles on Wednesday and a another tough workout on the track later this week. With such a regimen, he will surely be ready by States, although he is now on his way to visit the East Coast with his wife and boy before coming back to Squaw for the big race.
Overall, I am very happy with today's race, a reasonably fast performance thanks to the reasonably cool temperatures. Hydration and food intake was good, this is definitely a course, profile and distance which work for me. I plan on doing some heat training (at lunch time and wearing several black layers) over the next two weeks to fine tune my form. Several people reminded me that the Mount Diablo 25 and 50K were coming next week, this is tempting... Maybe I will see some of your there... In the meantime, you can visit my Picasa album where you will find pictures of the top 25 finishers (sorry, Leor, you were too fast, Agnès missed you!), including Catra who completed her own partially supported 100-miler in 33 hours. Way to go Catra!
The race was perfectly organized, with an outstanding marking of the course this year, including yellow and black "yellow jacket" ribbons to pre-announce each turn or trail junction. Congratulations to the three co-race directors, Rob, Larry and Helmut, especially as Rob is in "exile" in Netherlands. And a big THANK YOU to all the volunteers, especially the ones manning remote aid stations, and our Chef for the great post-race barbeque. Merci!!!

Before I close this post, and for those who could not join us today, we were running in memory of Kris Graham, whose family and friends, Team Kris, celebrated in a race that Kris has run 7 times between 1998 and 2006 (our paths did not cross on this course as I started running ultras only 4 years ago and Ohlone in 2007). You can find a picture of Kris and his family on the race web site. On this weekend of Pentecost, you could feel an amazing spirit floating around, mixing joy, smiles, respect and reverence. Not to mention the spirits of the native Ohlone Indians.
It was also very nice to see Tom Kaisersatt joining this ultra celebration, volunteering at the check-in, at Sunol, cheering me up 1 mile up the final hill, and waiting for Christina at the finish. Tom you are an inspiration to us all!See you all again next year!


Michael said...

Great RR and strong race. Congrats. Please FedEx some of your mojo to the East Coast (my way) :) Good luck and enjoy your 'taper' into WS.

Nancy Miller said...

Good job, Jean!! I'm out of breath. Great pictures, too. How nice that your Mom could be there,also.

Jean Pommier said...

As a great complement to my coverage, check Chihping's video and pictures.

THANK YOU, Chihping and Steve (Shultis) for contributing to such a precise marking of the course.


Anonymous said...

A nouveau un tres bon souvenir!

Scott Dunlap said...

Nicely done! Your first masters record remains intact. ;-)


Mark Tanaka (Ultrailnakaman) said...

Great run (and you only added 5 minutes to your PR & master's CR) and write up. With two straight well-run races, I hope you are convinced you have broken any bad spells. Thank Agnes again for the photos.

Baldwyn said...

Great report, and nicely run race, Jean. You are in superb shape for the party in two weeks! I'm looking forward to reading about how you do!

wcaitlin said...

Jean great run, congrats! And thanks for the super kind words. I will not be joining you guys at WS this year, maybe next... will see. I do plan to go up there and cheer you all on!