Monday, May 21, 2012

Ohlone 2012: 50K and a plane to catch!

Here we are, 5th and last episode of my Spring ultra madness, 5 ultra races in 5 weekends (4 weeks and one day...)! First, I've not been the only one racing like crazy these past weeks, the season is really heating up! This weekend alone, Toshi did the Silver State 50-mile/Ohlone 50K double, a back to back over 2 days! Now, after winning my Ruth Anderson 50-mile race and the Quicksilver 50K last weekend, with Leona Divide (50-mile) and Miwok (100K) in between, I was raising the bar again by combining a 50K, and not anyone, a tough one, and a flight to Dubai the same day... For that, I really had to rely on Agnès' logistical support, the third of the five races she attended and I'm grateful for her ultra support of this new challenge!

The weather had been relatively cool this week and I was hoping that will stay for the race, although I particularly like Ohlone for the heat, in which I'm usually doing better than in cold weather conditions. Last Sunday, the day after Quicksilver, I was able to squeeze in a 23-mile run to the top of Black Mountain before we went to Layang Layang with Greg and Agnès to celebrate Mother's Day (great Malaysian restaurant on De Anza in San Jose). I ran a short 6-mile flat run in the neighborhood and then took the rest of the week off, that is from running, not from work, with even more hours than usual, in particular to catch-up with local things as I had been on the road for 3 weeks recently, and 10 more days right now. Agnès drove me to the start this Saturday morning and the temperature was already reaching 60F by 6:50 am, it was going to be a hot day again for sure.
We were able to watch the early start (7 am), wishing all the group a great day on the trail. It was then the opportunity to meet with a few local runners, or others who had flown or drove from out of State, such as legend Frank Bozanich from Reno or Ian Torrence from Flagstaff, to celebrate this very special milestone, the 25th Ohlone run! Once the buses from the finish area unloaded their loads, the place became really crowdy  and it was time to get another ultra celebration! Here is the Quicksilver Ultra Running Team contingent for the occasion (minus Chris Calzetta who was still getting ready).
After recognizing and highlighting a few faithful old-timers of this event, Rob sent us off on (or up, as we start uphill) the trail right on time, at 8 am. 2 yellow jackets, a.k.a. La Sportiva ultra team members, took the control of the first miles of our ascent to the top of Mission Peak. Jason Reeves followed the ambitious pace but I passed him as the climb got really steep. I was followed by teammates Chris (Calzetta) and Marc (Laveson) who also passed me before the end of the second mile. We were missing Leor astonishing speed today (Leor smashed the course record 2 years ago to 4:16, but he has been injured since the start of the season unfortunately), but the race was definitely on!
Right after the summit, Marc took the lead, passing the La Sportiva leader (Marc, Chris and I had passed the other one before the switchbacks), with Chris following and me passing him too right after the first aid station (where Tropical John teased me for stopping to swallow a Gu, but at least that's one way not to litter... there were quite a few Gu pockets on the trail at Miwok when I was following the leaders...). It was actually Peter Fain whom I had seen on the entrants list but never met before. Peter climbed to the top of Mission Peak with so much ease, so light on his feet, I was surprised he had slowed down after the summit. He explained that he got a knee surgery last October, so he is only ramping up, not to mention that he lives in Truckee where the snow just cleared from the trails. He is aiming at peaking in September but has offered to pace our group in August when we'll attempt to set a new speed record on TRT (August 13-14), an exciting venture led by Gary Gellin. Anyway, just having gotten the clearance from his surgeon, Peter said he was going to take it easy in the downhills today. But he is such a climber, I expected him to go strong in the long climb to Rose Peak.

Carrying 2 bottles, I didn't stop at the second aid station (Sunol) and caught up with Chris, with Marc not too far behind. After a very fast and aggressive climb to the top of Mission Peak, Marc was experiencing some issues in the steep climbs and Chris and I caught up with him in the 10th mile. I felt good pushing the pace and leading the QSURT charge now that we the three of us were now in the front. A short stop at the Backpack Area aid station to get my bottle refilled before the big and long climb. Chris is a real diesel in the climbs and he was still just a couple of minutes behind after the following aid station, and I could see Mark's red cap not far behind. I summitted first in 3:01, got my bracelet from 2 volunteers up there, saw Chris entering the summit loop as I was completing it (about a 4-minute lead) and Marc just before I turned left down to the next aid station.

The first year I ran Ohlone (2007), I had passed Graham Cooper after the Backpack Area AS  and was in the lead but cramped so much after the summit, believing that we were done with the climbing after Rose Peak. Well, as anyone who has run Ohlone can say that this isn't at all the case, with 10 more miles alternating steep downhills and uphills! It took me a few years to manage to run this section correctly, the best being 2 years ago. I kept running most of the uphills despite a few cramps in my quads and, sure enough, they passed with more drinking, a few S!Caps and a second Vespa concentrate, allowing me to even fly down the Schlieper Rock aid station, where I was welcomed by co-RD and IBM colleague, Larry England (a Distinguished Engineer too!). I got my Gu2O bottle refilled one last time by the very efficient volunteers who wanted only one thing, get me out as quickly as possible; you... rock guys!

I passed a few hikers with huge backpacks in the technical switchbacks going down Williams Glutch. Just before crossing the creek, I was greeted by Gary (Gellin) who was getting an easy run after his great Zion 100 a week ago. He gave me some encouragement, said I was 4 miles from the finish and that I could make it under 5 hours. With 45 minutes left, I surely was hoping to, although I realized that I was much slower than last year when I did my Personal Best in 4:37. I walked part of the next big climb to the ridge then flew down the last 2.5-mile steep downhill to the finish, not without stopping for a quick bath at the last aid station, one my favorite spots of this run! Here is a great shot from Joe Swenson, who couldn't race this year (injury) but still managed the perfect marking of the whole 31-mile course, just as I turned into the downhill from the ridge above Lake Del Valle:
I crossed the finish line in 4:49:05, good enough for first overall this year, without fast guys such as Leor, Gary or Jesse. 3 wins (2007, 2008, 2012) out of the 25 editions, that was completely unexpected on my end! 6 sub-5 (hours), 6 podiums (1, 1, 2, 3, 3, 1), no wonder this is still my favorite race in North California, such an homage to the Ohlone people, Native Americans who were peacefully leaving on these exposed hills a few centuries ago.
After a few minutes to realize what just happened, the countdown started, 40 minutes to cool down, stretch, ice my quads, get a drink and some food, and take a shower at one of the nearby parking lots. Chris took 2nd in 5:09 and Marc 3rd in 5:12, the top honors for QSURT this year (quite an appearance from our club, including a scary helicopter evacuation of one of our team members, collapsing from heat exhaustion less than half a mile from the finish. As of Monday night, he is better but still in an ICU).
We left at 1:40 and Agnès dropped me at the airport just in time to check in, spend 50 minutes standing in line at the security check (yes, I prefer running than standing...) and board a crowded flight toward Dubai, or rather India given the folks sitting around me in Coach... Good that I wear compression socks to get the blood flowing for 16 hours...

A big thank you to all the volunteers who made this 25th celebration possible and another ultra success. From course marking (Joe, Chihping, ...), to the remote and exposed aid stations, the great burgers at the finish, the trophies, the flashy hoodies, Zombie Runner's support, course sweepers and marshals, all of them under Rob and Larry's leadership.

As Agnès put it, time for some vacation, from racing. Talk to you from the Middle East next weekend then, a great opportunity for some serious heat training again! Anyway, it's midnight here in Dubai, time to post the race report, get a real shower and go to bed while the sun is shining in California... And, if you have read the report that far, you may want to see a few additional pictures in Picasa, mostly from the start.

With Agnès, and Catra, photo courtesy of Noe Castanon (Facebook)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Papa a été ravi aussi de reconnaitre les lieux.
bon "repos" et bon courage pour le travail
Papa et Maman