Saturday, May 23, 2015

Ohlone 62K: A mere consolation

After such a dry winter for the past 4 years, leading to a dramatic drought in California, it has been an interesting weather in May... It rained a few days before Miwok 100K and we ran the first half of the course in the fog. It rained a few days before QuickSilver 100K and we ran the first half of the course in the fog. And it rained last Thursday, 4 days before Ohlone 50K and I ran the first half of the course in the fog. Do you see any pattern?

Well, what does some --way not enough-- rain do on dirt trails? It softens the trail and help contain the dust which is typical at this period of the year. All good, right? Well, it can also create some sticky mud but nothing of a concern for us, ultra trail runners. But a concern for some Park Rangers apparently...

So, 4 days before Ohlone, the East Bay Regional Park administration pulled out the permit that we needed to run this race, damned, I was so so much looking forward to running Ohlone for the 8th time! Who am I to comment, I'm not a Ranger myself and I don't know all the rules they operate this amazing park under but I will say this: it would be a minimal etiquette to handle the situation very differently for the sake of the partnership required to have such Grand Prix events.

First, it would have been wiser to issue a warning to the Race Director, for instance stating that if the rain was going to keep coming, then there was a chance of making some sections of the course inaccessible to support and emergency vehicles. Who knows, the rain precipitation may not be as much and the trails may dry in the coming days.

Second, given the convoluted nature of the course, the park administration could have worked with the Race Director on some options, like Tia did for Miwok 60K 2 years ago.

Third, at least, if you are taking such a hard decision for people who have trained for so long for this event, registered months ahead or even flying from out of town, then you provide many details and use transparent communication.

We had a large team signed up for this event, with other teammates driving to Reno to run either Silver State 50K or 50-mile the day prior to Ohlone.

As for me, I was scheduled to fly back from D.C. on Saturday evening, after attending Alex's graduation at Georgetown on Friday and Saturday and client meetings in Delaware on Thursday. Then to Geneva this Monday to celebrate the life of Agn├Ęs' mother who passed away in Annecy on Saturday morning during Alex's graduation.

As a way to cope with all these events, to log some training miles after another tapering week and also by curiosity to see from my own eyes the reason of the cancellation, I decided to run from Fremont to the top of Rose Peak and back, a good 38-mile training run. Out of more than 200 registered runners, we were 8 to line up for this informal fat ass organized by Chihping Fu and Joe Swenson, both volunteering many hours for this event, for course marking (and un-marking in that case) for instance.

I had to park half  a mile from the parking lot and started running just after 8:30. I saw Chihping as I was reaching the parking lot, he was going to setup an aid station at Sunol (mile 9).

I passed Joe and two other runners in the first climb, before getting into the misty cloud at the top of Mission Peak.
The climb to Mission Peak had two patches of mud where cows enjoy getting some water, so really nothing unusual.

Great views of the South Bay while still being under the cloud/fog.
 Some traces of recent mud but completely dried on Sunday:

Getting in the cloud...

There was already a line at the top of hikers waiting to get their picture taken at the summit. Since I wasn't racing this year, I enjoyed a stop up there although I tried to make it short as I was already sweaty and it was chilly in the cloud.
On the way down to Sunol I missed a turn and almost climbed back to the top of Mission Peak on the other side, adding 0.8 miles. After getting back on course, I paid my homage to Rocky Ridge, one of Catra's dogs. Flying down this section on race day, I had not noticed this sign in 2013.

And, no, this tree and sign doesn't indicate that you are entering Catra and La Trail Diva's territory, the entire East Bay Park is her territory! ;-)

I was happy to see Chihping, Catra and 3 other runners at Sunol. I wanted to see how much I could do without support so I didn't use Chihping outstanding services, except for some water after I told him that I had refilled my bottle at the faucet of the horse table and he advised against drinking it.

And that's the end of the pictures for this post as, with the moisture, my camera stopped working...

I had so many great memories coming back from my 7 runs on the next climb that I was excited to run the whole way again. However, without much of a goal and no pressure at all, I started doing some walking and I must admit I never climbed to the top of Rose Peak so slowly... I stopped to chat with the aid station captain of Maggie's Half Acre (mile 19.7) who was hiking back to Sunol with his Boy Scout troupe since the race was cancelled.

As much as there was a few patches of dried mud between Mission Peak and Sunol and really nothing to prevent a vehicle to drive on them, the climb to Rose Peak was as dry as the past years, not a single trace of recent rain. I didn't check the last section down to Del Valle, but what a shame to have cancelled such an event as there was at least enough dry trails to organize a 50K race, if not the traditional course, at least from Fremont to Rose Peak and back to Sunol, which was very close to the 50K distance.

Anyway, like many others, I feel I got stolen from an opportunity to run Ohlone this year. Nothing comparable to when Western States was cancelled in 2008 and the forest was on fire (when I also ran a fat ass instead). I'm not arguing there was some mud on the fire roads on Thursday but the area is so dry, it dried very quickly. Anyway, the worst is for the Race Director, Larry, who has to deal with this Park Administration and is still struggling negotiating a potential reschedule of the event. Which is unlikely to fit all registered runners.

Still some good time running these 38 miles on the course before my long flights to DC then Geneva on Monday, but really not the same as racing and completing my "May triple" (Miwok 100K, QuickSilver 100K and Ohlone 50K). Looking forward to hearing from Larry then of there will be a Ohlone 2015, if I will be able to run it, or if I need to wait for next year...

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