Sunday, May 22, 2011

Ohlone 2011: double pair!

This is my favorite race in the calendar. First, it's a 50K and that still the distance I'm the best at among the ultra races. Second, it's a tough and hilly one, and I'm a "no pain, no gain" type of runner... Third, this is the only race I won twice, in addition to placing 2nd and 3rd the following years. Last but not least, I love the connection to the Native American legacy, and really understand why the Ohlone tribe settled on these hills, with gorgeous views, a few creeks and grassy hills.
So, when I got called to do a roadshow in May, I was really glad that the timing worked out for me to fly back this Saturday, just in time for Ohlone, and just after Miwok. Yet, flying 15,000 miles, visiting 6 countries in 10 days (Spain, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Norway, Germany) wasn't the best way first to recover from Miwok and get rest before Ohlone... The only positive thing is that, with the jet lag, I was sleeping like a baby by 8 PM last night and managed to sleep until 4:15 AM, my longest night by far for the past 2 weeks (with several nights under 5 hours between late international flights and early client meetings). At least, the trip was fruitful from a business standpoint. And, since I couldn't fit in runs anyway except last weekend (Madrid and Stockholm), I did taper.

Agnès was kind enough to drive me to the start in Fremont this morning (7 AM), even managing to find a parking spot next to the registration table, couldn't get closer and better! That allowed me to catch-up with a few volunteers and runners and take pictures of the bus unloading. The buses left Del Valle late and arrived after 7:30 creating a huge line at the 2 port-a-potties. For this reason, the official start got delayed by 7-8 minutes. In the meantime, under Stan Jensen's supervision, 11 runners took the early 7 AM start to make the cut-offs.

I was hoping that we'd take the opportunity to have a minute of silence in memory of Tom Kaisersatt who left us last September. Here is Tom with Stan, at the check-in, last year. Tom was so supportive of all the runners and always keeping his joyful smile despite the pain in his lungs and difficulty to breath. Even last year, Tom hike the last hill at the finish to support her friend Christina and cheered me up when I was flying down to take 3rd. I thought of him many times again today, looking at LiveStrong bracelet I'm wearing in his memory, and saying in my mind Tom's most famous quote: "Keep the rubber down, my friend!" Between Tom and the Ohlone people, that's always a spirited run for me which helps pushing up in all the up and down-hills.
After setting an amazing course record of 4:16 last year, Leor had strong ambitions and was shooting for close to, if not under, 4 hours. For this reason, it was best to let him go right off the start line.
I saw him for the last time at mile 3, I had already a 4-minute gap on him. And I was actually in 5th place. I could see Ron Gutierrez and Mark Tanaka behind but, not killing myself in the steep climb to the top of Mission Peak, a sinigificant gap was created and I would not see anyone behind in the long climb to Rose Peak. Carrying two bottles, I didn't stop at the first aid station but just told Hollis Lenderking, the head of our Pacific Association Ultra Grand Prix: "Geez, it gets faster every year...!" He replies with "Yes, getting older but faster," but I was actually speaking of the 4 guys ahead of me. But, this is a long race, and we were only at mile 6 so, read on...

For the next 9 miles, I didn't see anyone neither ahead nor behind so I had no clue if I was pushing enough in the climb to Rose Peak. At mile 15, I saw two runners which I pointed about 4 minutes ahead of me. Although I was alternating walking and running in the last part of the summit, I finally caught up and passed one of them (Gas or Gaz?) just after picking up the bracelt at the summit (proving we reached the top) but Jesse seemed untouchable and I was not closing on him. I entered the summit loop right under 3 hours (2:59:35) and completed it in about 9 minutes. (Photo credit Chihping Fu)
A quick stop at the next aid station (Maggie's Half Acre, mile 19.7) and I was on the roller coaster, managing to run most of it this year. I got cheered up by Keith Blom who, like Chihiping Fu earlier, was checking the course marking. Both took pictures of the runners and shared them on Facebook this afternoon. As opposed to previous years, I was not really cramping but it was not far so I maintained a conservative effort. The main challenge on this course is pacing yourself and maintaining a sustainable effort as you are always either going up or down, for a short section or miles at a time. (Photo credit Keith Blom)
I saw the red cap of Scott McClennan around mile 21.5, Scott was about 2 minutes ahead. On the long way down to Johnny's Pond, I was barely closing on him but I also saw Jesse Haynes a few minutes ahead. They were in 2nd and 3rd and, at this point, I was thinking that was just fine with fourth overall and first Masters, and tired enough to push more and try to catch them. I did a short stop Schlieper Rock to get my GU2O bottle refilled for the second time, then rushed onto the tortuous trail down Burn canyon. This time, I was closing quickly on Scott who seemed to have trouble with his quads, going down. We saw Greg Lanctot after crossing the creek and Greg told me that Jesse had just reached the ridge, and that he was just 3 minutes ahead. Well, I knew it was going to take me more than 3 minutes to cover the very steep climb and, indeed, I believe it took me about 9 minutes. With his long legs, Scott was keeping a good pace on the uphill, alternating running and power walking. Once we got on the ridge, he actually increased the gap as I was starting cramping badly on every uphill section. We eventually reached the final 2 miles, which are mostly downhill to the Del Valle Regional Park. Like in Burn, I was really much better than Scott in the downhills and was just behind him when we reached the final aid station, Stromer Spring. To my surprise, Scott stopped at the aid station and I rushed in the downhill, now in 3rd. I was going really fast, yet was trying to see if I'd see Jesse ahead but there was no one to be seen. I crossed the finish line in 4:55:35, in 3rd overall again! And first Masters indeed (special thanks to Gary Gellin who ran Silver State 50-mile instead, yesterday). Jesse had finished about 9 minutes ahead of me, and Scott came in about 2 minutes after me. As for Leor, after taking on very aggresively as he was trying to get sub 4 hours, he cramped badly too and couldn't run in the down hills, yet finished in 4:31 for his third consecutive win of this event.
We chatted with Leor after the finish about some explanations of our slower times. The temperature was perfect, in the 65-70F range, the sky was partially overcast therefore not as sunny and exposed as some other years. There was some competition. And there was no change of course. As others were actually very much pleased with their performance (e.g. Mark Tanaka and Gary Wang), the only plausible explanation was that we were tired with previous races (my 3 ultras of the past 4 weeks, and Leor's amazing course record at Quicksilver 50-mile. Not to mention work (for both, now!) and travels, for me.

Back to the title, I owe you some explanations unless you were already thinking about poker hands. It was my fifth run of this race and that now makes 1, 1, 2, 3, 3 as overall finishes. Not quite a royal flush, but a nice hands with two aces.

Our Quicksilver team did very well, placing 3rd, 5th (Mark Tanaka), 10th (John Burton) and 21st (Harris Goodman), with Scott Laberge and Adam Blum also running. On the women side, first, the top 6 came in within 15 minutes and our team took 4th (Bree Lambert), 5th (Adona Ramos), 6th (Clare Abram), with Kat Powel also finishing.
My first thanks to the volunteers. The point to point format and use of very remote locations for the aid station in this wilderness, make their job very difficult. Yet, the aid stations were fully stocked and all the volunteers were very helpful and suportive. At least, on this course, I do stop at most of the aid stations to ensure I get my fluid and energy levels correct. This is a race with several race directors and one was missing this year, Rob Byrne, stuck in the Nehterlands for work. Anyway, the race organization was perfect and ran smoothly! And the BBQ and its buffet were very well stocked. I also want to thank the Park Service and Rangers who seemed very involved and suportive of this race, quite a few of them being present at aid stations, in particular the remote ones. And the sponsors (Zombie Runner, GU, Succeed!, Johnson Lumber Co for the nice trophies) with a special and new one: here is Chris introducing me to the Mara's Pastas, a product of his company, Cook Natural Foods.
With that, I'm taking a break with ultra racing until August, and will now concentrate on two shorter distances, yet not two short ones: 10K and Marathon, distances which I registered for at the upcoming World Masters in Sacramento mid July. I'll get back to the track more consistently then, between work and more travels at the end of June with our family trip to Croatia and France.

In the meantime, good luck to the already lucky ones in Western States, for your final preparation and training camp. And to anyone else running either another 100-mile or any other/shorter distances, and to all of you, blog readers! Since we thankfully made it through the stupid prediction of the end of the world yesterday... ;-)

PS: a few more pictures in my Picasa album, credit to Agnes, my nephew Aymar.


Greg said...

Awesome day it was! And, since we are plugging pasta... I too loved Mara's Pasta samples from Ruth Anderson. Congrats, Jean!

Scott said...

Jean, Nice write-up and congrats on a great run. It was motivating to have you chasing me over the last few miles. My quads were too far gone to keep up with you on the last descent though. Nice finish! Looking forward to doing this again next year. -Scott

Mark Tanaka (Ultrailnakaman) said...

another sub-5 at your age is awesome. glad to finally run a race with you this year. great report. enjoy your summer vacation from long distances.

Anonymous said...

Quelle régularité!
Revu avec émotion les photos de cet endroit plein de bons souvenirs...
Bravo et merci

Anonymous said...

Great run