Sunday, May 23, 2010

Ohlone 2010: older yet faster

I could have titled this post "Unusually chilly" or "He did it again!" or "Not further but faster", but "Older yet faster" is what came to mind naturally, and to Gary's mind too, so here it is. Read on! Or, if you don't have time or the patience to go through this race report, skip to my Picasa photo album...

I like this race. Actually I love it. The course is tough, it is usually very hot (and not only do I do better in the heat, but I usually need heat training in May), and I won the race twice! I also love the Native Indian connection and the spectacular views of this wilderness. It is also very easy access from Cupertino and my parents have happened to be at the finish twice in the past. This year was my 4th run and I got assigned the bib #2 after placing second last year, to Leor.

Agnès was nice enough to drive me to the start which we reached at 6:30. While I chatted with Stan, Tom, Chuck, Lee and a few other early birds, Agnès was correcting copies from her 120 French students (Lynbrook High School). And I also helped her for a few copies too. Here is Tom Kaisersatt and Stan Jensen (
By 7 AM, the early starters were sent on the trail with Chris ringing the bell:
Then, around 7:30 the three school buses off loaded hundreds of runners who had parked at the finish line and formed two long lines: one for the check-in, and one for the bathrooms.
We took the start at 8 AM after listening to the last instructions from Race Director Rob Byrne. The weather was unusually cool but the sky was so clear that I expected a lot of sun and chose to only wear my Quicksilver/RhoQuick singlet. It proved to be ok although the wind was really chilly especially at the top of Mission and Rose Peaks. I was expecting a duel between Leor and Gary and that is exactly how it started, with Leor charging up the hill at an amazingly fast pace. Simon teased me that he will let us go and catch up later (Simon has been coming every year for a while now to run Western States and a few other local races in the Spring).

After a few hundreds yards, I was in 6th and that is how it will stay for a while, something I had not really planned for, not knowing the three runners who settled between Gary and I, except that Jim Magill had met with one of them and told me he was a rookie on this distance but a 2:32 marathoner.
The last 2 miles before Mission Peak were so "grassy" it was hard to see the uneven trail and, wearing my Brooks Racer ST5 flats, I decided to slow down to make sure I was not twisting an ankle. The pace of the leaders was too fast for me anyway in these steep miles, so it was better this way. When I passed through the first aid station, I told Hollis Lenderking, our Grand Prix Director: "All these guys make me feel really slow this year!" Again, I was in 6th, something which never happened to me at this race before.

I briefly stopped at the second aid station to get some food and one S!Cap and could see the 5th runner about 90 seconds ahead, but no sign of the front runners. At the third aid station (Backpack Area), I missed the coaching advice and encouragement of ultra stars Ann Trason and Carl Andersen but the volunteers helped me refilling my GU2O bottle and get some food before the long climb to Rose Peak. I didn't dare to ask how far Leor and Gary were, I did not need any discouragement before the climb.

After the fourth aid station (Goat Rock, mile 15), I kept pushing the pace and started closing on the two runners ahead of me. One was wearing a blue Tamalpa jersey and I thought it was Brett Rivers. I passed this runner just before the summit and the 2:32 marathoner fellow one mile after the 5th aid station (Maggie's Half Acre, mile 19.7), in the section which I call the roller coaster, in which I cramped so bad in my first run, and moderately today.

I then started to see the runner in 3rd in the hill after Stewart's Camp and closed the 5-minute gap we had at the top of Rose Peak down to 90 seconds by the 7th aid station (Schlieper Rock, mile 25.7). I did stop to mix more GU2O in my bottle for the final 5 miles and get more salt to take care of the cramps and lost contact with my new "prey" in the tortuous switchbacks down Williams Glutch. No sign on the steep climb on the other side in which I was cramping pretty bad so I thought I lost him. I passed Catra and her pacer just before the ridge. Catra was finishing her 4th Ohlone today for a total distance of 132 miles in 47 hours! The previous years she was "only" running 100 miles on the course while we were doing our short 31-mile trot...
On the ridge, I pushed the pace again and finally saw a runner about 60 seconds ahead. I rushed in the downhill, literally flew through the last aid station (Stromer Spring - Sorry guys, I usually really enjoy the water pool there when it's hot), and pushed, pushed, pushed, until I finally caught up with him, right before the final steep down hill to the finish. In my flats, my heel where burning with the speed, but I was not going to pass on this opportunity to take on 3rd overall, since I knew Leor and Gary were out of reach today. I crossed the finish line in 4:37, my Personal Best on this course (my best was 4:41 on my first run/win when I set the new age group record for M40-49). Placing 1, 1, 2 and 3 for my first four Ohlone editions, I am a happy man tonight! Happy too about running faster. Apart from Way Too Cool in March where exercise-induced asthma kicked-in, it has been a great year so far, given that I don't get younger... Yet, faster!

As it stands out, Leor did a phenomenal performance in this cool weather, clocking 4:16 and improving the course record he had set last year of 4:29 (CR which Kevin Sawchuck had previously set in 2002 with 4:39 and which held for 6 years, if we don't count the off-the-chart times of Dave Scott in the nineties on the previous course). Gary took second in a no less impressive time of 4:33, setting a new age group record.

Agnès, Greg and I stayed for 90' and left as Charles Stevens was finishing. See my Picasa photo album for today. We left most of the pictures of the top finishers although quite a few pictures are blurry (sorry about that).

Overall, a very unusual chilly weather for this race which allowed for some good times today. Ohlone is on my must-run list for next year (and beyond!), I will be back. Now the question is when are we going to get our heat training before Western States...??

A big thank you to the race directors, Rob and Larry, the many volunteers in such remote aid stations and with their cool blue tie-die t-shirts, the chef and his assistant, the generous sponsors, especially: Zombie Runner, GU (my favorite brand!), Johnson Lumber for the great awards (I like my collection of posts), and Succeed! (I used many S!Caps today). See you all next year!


Scott Dunlap said...

Wow! The top three really rocked the course this year. Congrats!

Unknown said...

Jean, this is an awesome speed especially with the heavy distances in you previous weeks! Very inspiring. I hope the momentum stays with you all year... -Gus

John Fors said...

Great write up and great photos. What a brutal course. I will be back next year!

Mark Tanaka (Ultrailnakaman) said...

...and nice predatory running at the end. congrats on your PR!

hey, did you notice this result at the bottom?

178. McWaid, Fred (M80) - 10:39:34 - Age Group Record

only a few more decades...