Saturday, June 2, 2007

070520 Ohlone 50K - 20th Anniversary of the Epic Running

Me at a break in the mid of uphill. Thanks Marc Dube.

Date: May 20, 2007
Race: Ohlone Wilderness 50K
Location: Ohlone Wilderness Trail, from Fremont to Livermore
Distance: 50K
Profile: 7,800ft gain, 7,440ft loss, highest: 3,817 ft, lowest: 390ft, start: 390ft, finish: 750ft (image/data courtesy of Ohlone Wilderness 50K)

Result: 5hr 53min 9sec, 21/139 overall, 1 drop, Complete Results

Photo: 070520 Ohlone Wilderness 50K (206 pictures!!!)


When the RD Rob Byrne sent an email for the volunteering, I figured that perhaps my family can help at the easy race checkin at the start area. It's close to my home and a nice chance for them to experience the race is about.

I told my two kids about this volunteering and they were excited. I woke up my family by 6am so we could get there at 6:30am. After my family completed the first assignment by setting up the banner, they were really into the job. They helped on the checkin table with Pat Wellington.

Patt Wellington and my Family help at checkin table

Our Ultraholics Padma Subbaraya, Kiran Karadi, and Viswanath Vinod arrived by 7am. They are ready for the early start. Off they go. Anil Rao also comes. Yuki Negoro comes with Miho.

Me and Yuki Negoro (my WS100 runner). Courtesy of Yuki Negoro.

Soon a lot of runners arrive at about the same time. They are from the finish area taken by three unprecedented Limo. This is only for the anniversary run today. I just live too close to the start and miss the Limo.

The start area

A few minutes before the 8am race start, Rob Byrne gives a briefing about the run. He mentions that several past year winners are in the race and also a few who ran the first year 19 years ago. Then Kap'n Kirk Boisseree, the course marking captain, talks about the course.

Facing the coming Mission Peak climb bathing in the light morning sunshine, all of us are excited and chatting with friends. Most of us live and work far apart. We see each other only in races, where there is full of camaraderie!

Start => Laurel Loop: 5.43 mile, 1:08:00, last year: 1:13:29

Off we go! The trail starts a slow climb and goes all the way 2200 ft up for 4 miles. We will get to the top of Mission Peak at 2517ft. I am proud to see my Fremont folks, Will Gotthardt and his training partner Ryan Commons, lead the front pack.

Off we go! The front runners. Courtesy of Yuki Negoro.

The course basically follow the main trail shared with park visitors. I run with a few ultrarunners around such as Rena Schumann and Yuki Negoro. Erik/Tera Dube I met in Quicksilver 50M last week. Greg Nacco I meet for the first time. I know Greg from the PAUSATF ultra standing. This is the first time I introduce myself before he passes me forever. Brian Koo who I met every time in Ohlone Wilderness 50K for three years. I also run with Nobert Leinfellner for a while, who gave me a ride to Diablo 50M. I don't know if I am pushing my pace, but I take a lot of pictures to capture the steepness of the hill that most of us are walking.

Up and steep!

At mile 1.5, we switch to less crowded Horse Heaven trail. We encounter some cows and they probably wonder why there are so many people running. I follow Joe Swensen, who seems to know how to deal with them. So does Don Hogue who knows about running with cows.

This is shady part with a view of the Fremont city among the trees. It's a little downhill. There is a meadow at the other side of it and leads to a switchback. Over the switchback, I can see runners ahead and behind me moving harder. Following the switchback is a very steep straight up climb. Only at the tougher trail, can we get a better view. Me legs are fine and I am just keep following runners in front of me and pass them once in a while.

Joe Swensen and Don Hogue on the climb

At the top of the steep climb, we open a gate and get to a nice muddy spot, which is fed from the free flowing water above. It is drinkable and looks like a self-service aid station. It's too early to drink water, so most of us just pass it.

On a mud pit - one of many technical parts on the course

Then we get to the ridge for the last climb to the top of Mission Peak. Erik/Tera Dube are 20 yards ahead of us. I run with Harry Walther for a while. It is interesting that Harry and I summit Mt. Diablo together when we did Diablo 50M three weeks ago. Now we seem to summit Mission Peak together now.

Catra Corbett at the top greeting us

Catra Corbett, aka Dirt Diva, a famous ultrarunner from my town Fremont, and her friends are already there at the top greeting us. Catra used to do 100 miles when we ran 50K in this race. This is a tough course that I can not imagine how we can run the course three times and more, but Catra did it every year. I think I have to do such a training this year for my target race at Wasatch Front 100M. According to its distance and course profile, Wasatch Front 100M is like what Catra did running Ohlone 50K course three times. And Catra has done Wasatch Front 100M five times as well (she can be exempted from the "selection process" in future)!

It take me 53 min to get to the top. This is 6 min faster than the previous two years. I wonder if this is due to the course change or I have been running with fast runners.

I am not fast, but I has trained at Mission Peak for years. This is the time that I like to show off my downhill speed/skill from the Mission Peak top. This 150 yard section is very steep and full of loose rocks. Unlike I passed about ten runners last year, I pass fewer runners now, including Tera/Erik Dube. I think I run faster so far this year, so there are fewer runners in such a faster pace group.

Leaving the loose rock section, the trail keep going down steep on the dirt path. I also pass a few. Then it connects to a rolling single track. Lee Jebian, who is early start, kindly lets me pass. He has run the course since the first time 19 years ago, and still enjoys it at the age of 65.

Single track trail down from Mission Peak to the first aid station at Laurel Loop

The single track continues only a quarter mile. The course becomes rolling for another half mile to the aid station. When the trail turns lower, there are shady spot as it's the place for water to accumulates and plants to grow. I run with David Rhodes for a while until the aid station.

Laurel Loop => Sunol: 3.68/9.11 miles, 24:00, last year: 27:33

Laurel Loop aid station. Marissa Walker is writing down our number.

Marrisa Walker is helping at the aid station and puts down our bib numbers. I decide to pass the aid station as I think I can keep running without drinking or eating until Sunol at mile 9. I pass Mario Jackson who stops at the aid station. Not far ahead is Vladmir Gusiatnikov. I catch up and have a chat with him for the first time although I have seen his name a lot in other races. He carries a set of maps and seems to continue his orienteering hobby.

From Laurel Loop, it's a mostly downhill for 3 more miles to Sunol with nearly 2,000 ft elevation loss. I run faster, but do not push hard. Therefore, a couple of runners behind now pass me, including the Dube trio, Tera/Erik/Marc Dube.

The Dube trio - Marc, Tera, and Erik.

It still a nice downhill. It's partially shady and we are able to see the Sunol Valley, who is getting closer as we are going down. The wonderful but gentle sunshine ahead greets us, but seems to show us the warm condition ahead. We enjoy the speed and have a chance to relax our legs after the Mission Peak climb and get ready for the coming long climb after Sunol.

The shady trail to Sunol

Quarter mile before the aid station is a short switch back across the hill with some trees. When we finish it, we pass the stable, where people come to Sunol for horse ride. Aid station is just over there.

Sunol => Backpacker Camp: 3.37/12.48 miles, 41:00, last year: 40:18

Sunol aid station at mile 9.11

Amy Burton, the co-RD of Ruth Anderson, is helping at the aid station. My bottle is filled. I also drink enough because this section is uphill and exposed.

Adam Blum and I cross a nice bridge immediately. We run on a flat section for a minute or two and turn left to start the steep climb. It is very steep that I have to power walk, but I can see Beth Vatalis running behind and Adam Blum running ahead. Beth was women champion of this race a few years before. She focus on having this run as her 100K training instead of winning it. I can run this section only when I did my training run. Not now because I have 20 hilly miles ahead.

The ultra couple - Padma Subbaraya and Kiran Karadi (7am start).
Mark Williams is behind.

I pass Vinod, Kiran and Padma. They start an hour early. They walk on the hill but are great. I can see they'll have great time and get to the finish!

Marc Dube, Beth, and her pacer are getting closer. They are moving fast and I am surprised that Beth starts with such a speed and plan to run 100K today, i.e. double Ohlone 50K. I can't believe this, but this is the beauty of ultrarunning. Ultrarunners are only ordinary people doing extra-ordinary things. We just keep exploring our limits. Perhaps someday, I'll feel surprised (but my running friends) and do the same. They kindly take a picture for me. They and Adam pass me.

On a right turn, we get to an area of mostly downhill with some rolling hills. After a few minutes, the aid station is seen down below under a tree. I quickly get ready for my camera because the ultra legends Ann Trason and Carl Anderson are there helping.

Backpacker Camp => Goat Rock: 2.48/14.96 miles, 41:00

The ultra legend - Ann Trason

My kids have watched "A Race for the Soul" many times with me. They know the Western States 100M 12 times women champion Ann Trason well. I promised my kids that I'll take pictures with Ann. Another Ultra Legend Carl Anderson is also helping there.

The aid station is crowded and everyone is very busy. Marc Dube and Vladmir Gusiatnikov are there. I quickly take a few pictures without interrupting everyone. I tell Ann that I'll see her at Firetrails 50M this year since I have signed it up right away when the registration is opened early this year.

Leaving the aid station is a steep uphill immediately. I catch up Mark Williams and pass him. He and I have mostly run nearby since the Laurel Loop aid station.

Beth Vitalis and another runner working hard on the climb.

About 100 yards ahead are Beth Vitalis and Miles Welze. I first met Miles at Quad Dipsea in 2005. Behind are Mark Williams and Marc Dube working hard on the hill. Then I catch up with Miles but still have some distance from Beth. Beth now runs by herself. I imagine that she some how fired all her pacer as she wants to run at fast pace. Denise Basso is also there taking a break on the long uphill and enjoys the view.

I'm getting closer to Beth and have a chance to run together for a while. She is doing 100K today as a training for Bighorn 100M on 6/15. This reminds me that another fellow blogger and endurance athlete Rick Gaston will also run that race. I wish her has great time at Bighorn 100M and wins it. When we talk about our works, I somehow trip my feet and nearly fall down on four. I guess my work is not comparable with running at such a pretty place. I pass Beth later as she decides to slow down to wait for her pacer.

I run by myself now. Now I have a chance to look back and see how far I have gone through after leaving Mission Peak for two hours. I remember Scott Dunlap and I talked about this last year at the same place. In the absence of Scott, I have to take more pictures :-)

I spot Mario Jackson not far ahead. I feel great even after a great amount of hills. I guess I can catch up with him as I'm getting closer from behind. After the last hill before the aid station, I pass him.

Goat Rock => Maggie's Half Acre: 4.74/19.7 miles, 55:00, 1:36:00, last year: 1:27:03

Goat Rock aid station (mile 14.96)

At the aid station, there is a volunteer taking pictures. I have my bottle filled and get everything ready for the coming climb to the highest of the course - Rose Peak. This is a tough section by thinking about the Rose Peak climb at this nearly 5 mile section. The trail is mostly exposed.

Even it's hilly, the trail is still mostly runnable. As we go higher the view becomes wonderful. We seem to be at the top of San Francisco Bay Area. Mission Peak becomes lower and we feel like getting to the same height of Mt. Diablo (3,849ft or 1,173m) and Mt. Hamilton (4,360ft or 1,330m), two highest mountains here.

"I spy" a runner behind me - Matt Anderson in blue....
Mission Peak is far away with Santa Cruz Mountain even farther.

I move farther away from the runners behind, but I notice Matt Anderson is catching up from far away. He is very strong and finally catching me before the last quarter mile to the Rose Peak summit (3,817ft or 1,163m). With the performance in today and past races early this year, I believe he will run his best in Western States 100M.

The final climb to the summit is steep. We'll do a loop to the summit and come back. We see fast runners coming back from the summit - Suzie Lister, Mark/Tera Dube, Lee McKinley, and Jeff Bell. Both Suzie and Tera won women group before.

We patiently walk toward the summit. At the summit, Ryan Commons is there for me to take a picture.

Matt Anderson (and I) seems on the trail to the sky!

We go down from the summit to complete the loop and meet more other runners. Don Hogue heading for the summit. Behind are Beth Vitalis and her pacer. Mario Jackson is happy to get the final climb to the summit following with David Rhodes. Miles Welze also arrives to start the loop.

A few minutes after I finish the loop, I can see the aid station ahead. It's great after this nearly 5 miles climb!

Maggie's Half Acre => Stewart's Camp: 3.9/23.6 miles, last year: 48:44

Arriving Maggie's Half Acre aid station

I stop at the aid station and have enough supply because I want to skip the next aid station. Here is 3,500 elevation. There are some steep rolling hills coming. This is a beautiful part with some shady primitive trail. There are fallen trees/branches, water spot, pond, etc. They look unmaintained like our civil trail, but, actually, maintained by Nature and it's pretty!

On a downhill, I twist my ankle badly. I slow down and patiently get to the coming uphill. Walking for a while, my ankle pain becomes better.

A scenic downhill

It's very nice to run alone without seeing any one for a while at such a pretty trail. After a while, I spot a runner ahead. It is John Burton, the Ruth Anderson RD. He has some muscle issue. We start to run together. He seems to get better so he picks up the pace.

Stewart's Camp => Schlieper Rock: 2.05/25.65 miles, 1:09:00, last year: 1:13:00 (24:18)

The self service Stewart's Camp aid station at mile 23.6

I'm still running with John. We decide to skip the self service Stewart's Camp aid station. The trail becomes a climb and we are happy to take a walk break. As we climb higher, we are happy to see the Del Valle valley for the first time. It is the finish and we know it's only one more hour.

John Burton runs with smile

John is getting better on his muscle, so I can find out his smile with his solid running. He is kindly take a picture of me. I try to smile to hide my exhaust body, but it may not look working when I check my picture.

Me, a little tired, producing smiles

John an I are happy to take some walk break on some long steep climb. We finally spot the aid station at the other side of the hill.

Schlieper Rock => Stromer Spring: 3.35/29 miles, 40:00, last year: 33:16

Great volunteers at Schlieper Rock aid station (mile 25.65)

I make sure to drink enough and go because I plan to skip the next aid station at Stromer Spring, two miles to the finish.

Thanks Larry England (co-RD) for the event and being here taking pictures.

It's a single track steep switchback downhill from the aid station. The co-RD Larry England is there taking pictures. This downhill leads all the way to William Gulch where there is a nice shady creek. Then the scary Rocky Ridge climb comes after it. It was wet last year and the trail was full of Poison Oak. It caused me itchy for a week when I came home. It is dry so I hope there will be no Poison Oak.

John Burton is in front of me at fast pace and I follow him closely. We are all the way down. The pace is fine, but near the bottom, John let me pass. At the bottom, we cross the creek. There seem always some hikers enjoying the creek every time I got here. I have a desire to try the cool water there - sprinkle my heated body. It seems that I have no spare energy for doing so in face of the scary climb.

When I get to the other side of the creek, my legs somehow nearly stop working even at the relatively flat beginning. The coming Rocky Ridge trail is so steep and exposed that even walking is difficult. I remember when I got here for the first time in my Ohlone hike. I had to walk up in the zig zag way. Like switching to the lowest gear before a climb when riding a bike, I quickly take one Gel. I power walk with all my strength. I don't even have anything left for taking pictures. Now I regret this after a few days when writing the report. Next time I should take some pictures there.

The lake is our finish!

It's good to have been here for a few times that I know the climb is not long. I only need to push myself for some short time, I'll get to the top meaning the finish. Finally, I get to the top. The trail becomes flat, but my legs are sore that I can not pick up my speed right away. I slowly increase my pace at seeing the entire view of the Del Valle valley. The lake down below 2000 ft is the finish. I expect such a downhill speeding, but it does not come right away. At the top here, there is half mile flat trail with strong head wind. I think the breeze at the noon becomes windy as we get to the afternoon. This will be great for other runners who have to stay at exposed trail later.

With no one around, I'm happily to set up my pace. The welcome downhill is coming. It's steep and I enjoy it with the finish line image in mind. Not far ahead is the Stromger Spring aid station.

Stromer Spring => Finish: 2/31 miles, 11:09, last year: 13:57

Arriving Stromer Spring aid station at mile 29 after surviving the William Gulch switch back downhill and brutal Rocky Ridge climb.
2 miles to go!

Since there is only two miles to the finish, I decided to skip this aid station. It's all down hill from now. My speed is not as fast as last year because I don't want to get more ankle twists.

Perhaps due to my desire to make it finish, the two miles seem longer than I expect. In addition, there are two slow hills that I'm familiar with. I planned to run all over them, but have to power walk for one minute or so in order to save energy and maintain my speed after the hill.

The final short climb before the finish

After the hills, it's a half mile to the finish. In no time, I finish the run just under 6 hr, although slower than last year by 5 min. I'm very satisfied with this given I have ankle issues bothering for months. I also had some good timing in the beginning. These give me confidence that I'll make some progress next year. On the other hand, I'm happy to set a short period of my intense series of ultra's so far this year. It's time to fix my issues and take a month break until WS100 safety patrol and pacing.

Finish Area

Me and Rob Bryne greeting other finishers. Courtesy of Yuki Negoro.

At the finish area, need to mention about the food not available in the run. There is a long table of all kinds of food. Even after two bottles of water and a can of Mountain dew, I am still so thirsty and missing of sweet to swallow a lot of watermelon slices and strawberry. Sorry for not helping cut those watermelons, but I won't forget to help while taking so much great food.

Rob Byrne (RD) and John Vonhof (the race founder) working at the finish timing tent.

The fourth place Mark Tanaka and his family have great time even he has finished 4th place, nearly one hour than me. So are Jean Pommier, the new Ohlone 50K winner, and his family. They all play around the big nice green field at the finish area. Catra Corbet also walks with her adorable Rocky.

Thanks for grilling my burger!

Joe Swensen arrives without any issues like last time he had in Diablo 50M. Yuki Negoro gets to finish when I finish the fruit meal. His wife Miho arrives in a few minutes, we go ahead to the grill area. I normally don't eat burgers so often, or just grab a small $1 burger from a fast food restaurant with my family at weekend. Only after a race did I feel deserved to get ready for a big juicy burger. Onlone 50K and Quicksilver 50M are two races I'm looking for.

Thanks all the volunteer to make this event so great every year. In particular, this race runs through such a remote area so we can enjoy the places that are unseen by average people. I am very touched that the volunteers have to work much harder at such areas to cater us runners. In particular, some of the volunteer (like the RD Rob Byrne) have to sacrifice their joy of running to help the event succeed. Right now, I don't know how I will not run this race in future, but I will definitely join the volunteer when I "retired".

Other Reports/Photos

Yuki Negoro - 2007/5/20 Ohlone 50K

Jean Pommier (the winner) - Ohlone Wilderness 50K: Chasing... myself!, Ohlone 50K 2007

Jurek Zarzycki - 2007 Ohlone 50K - Almost every runner at Maggie's Half Acre

Jurek Zarzycki - 2007 Ohlone 50K Maggie's crew - the volunteer crew at Maggie’s Half Acre

Jurek Zarzycki - Sunol, California - Beautiful course at Sunol the day before

Chris Marolf - Ohlone 50k 5/20/07 - A slide show

Larry England, Ian McFaden, Ken Howell, and Bob Hallam - Photo Album from Schlieper Rock, Stromer Spring, etc.