Monday, May 20, 2013

Ohlone 50K 2013 Race Report

I have wanted to give the Ohlone 50k a try for a while now, but honestly, it intimidated me a little.  For one, it starts with a climb up Mission Peak(the big hill that we see on the other side of the bay from Sunnyvale).  I feel a lot more comfortable hiking this climb rather than "running" up it.  Oh, and the race only gets more crazy.  Second, this race is held towards the end of May, exactly when things start getting hot in the east bay hills.  So, what does the race have going for it?  A climb up mission peak for one.  And a climb up to Mt Rose for another.  And views forever.  And who doesn't like point to point races where you are actually running to somewhere?  So it was on.

I got a ride with Jean and his lovely wife Agnes to the start at Mission Peak.  There we hung out and mingled with the other runners.  This race is typically a favorite for our running club Quicksilver.  Last year I think we took 1-2-3 in the race.  It got close to the start so we all started to line up at the park gate.  Mission Peak has become an incredibly popular hike in recent years.  I remember when Joanne and I first moved here in 06 we could get a parking spot in the main parking lot.  That doesn't happen anymore, in fact, you have to drive a ways down the residential streets to get a spot.  With that being said, there were already plenty of people on the trail(and trying to push through a bunch of ultra runners to get to the trail).  I am sure they thought this was a silly idea to have a race there, especially when the guy said go and we start our "ultra" shuffle until the first steep section and 90% of us turn into hikers anyways.

I settled into an easy pace, joining that group of hiker/racers.  It was a beautiful morning, already starting to heat up, but it felt good at that time.  The plan was to hike hard on all of the stuff that I wouldn't be running much faster on anyways, to conserve energy.  Then bust it out on the downhills.  The downhills is where I did all my passing(like usual), but to my surprise, I very rarely lost a position when I decided to start hiking, maybe everyone else was doing the same thing except I was going downhill faster...

We got to the top of Mission peak(yay, 4 miles down, 27 to go).  This is when I got to have some of the most fun, hopping on the rocks and jumping around the timid hikers to put a gap on my pursuers.  The next section is a nice long downhill that was perfect for me.  I remember some runners being on my heels right before the summit and then as I cruised down the hill, I looked back, and there was no-one there!  I then caught up to the next group of racers near the Sunol, where we start to head back uphill to Mt Rose.  I kept pace with this group of runners through the climbs, perhaps putting a small gap on them whenever we hit a downhill, but then they might slowly claw back at me on the climbs.  After a while I finally lost those guys and then caught up to the next wave of racers.  I was not pushing the sections at all, and was having a lot of fun actually catching other racers while doing as much "walking" as I was.

I kept moving up through the field as we headed in on the Mt Rose Summit.  I got up there, received my wrist band to prove that I was at the summit, and then bombed down the other side.  I remembered Toshi's advice to me to not go all out until after Mt. Rose.  But I also remembered Marc telling me that it isn't downhill after Mt Rose, like you might conclude from looking at the elevation chart.  I didn't really change anything, just ran down fast, and did a lot of uphill hiking.  There was still plenty of steep climbing involved, but I felt sure I could keep up just "walking" the hills.  I kept closing in and passing some guys on the downhills, but it was around this time that I remember I started to get pretty tired-funny how that happens in these races.  At around 25 miles there is this steepish, semi-technical, windy single track that descends down to a creek.  I had been warned that this was a tough section because of the miles on your legs and the tricky footing.  But I loved this downhill,  I just blasted down it, catching a couple of guys that had blown by my at the last aid station while I was messing around with my hydration pack.  Turns out I might have used myself up on this flash of fun.

Then I saw what was awaiting me on the other side of the creek.  This steep uphill that went straight up.  I buckled down and just tried to hike the thing.  It was crazy, I was huffing and puffing, ready to pass out, just from walking!  I still had a decent gap on the guys I had passed on the downhill, but with every fleeting moment I was just imagining getting caught with the insanely slow progress I was making.  It was bad enough that I would stop and count to 15, not moving an inch, and then get in some more hiking.  I did get passed, by several people actually, at least one of whom I hadn't seen before, meaning he probably paced himself perfectly for this thing.  And then we hit the final down hill to the finish, which you would think I could just let it all out and catch everyone, but I was toast!  I did catch a couple of people, but it was painful.  It is a steep downhill fireroad to the finish, but I was totally out of glycogen by then, running of of fat energy.   When you are running totally off of fat, it hurts.  It hurts less when you can adjust your intensity down and not use "too much" energy, but in a steep downhill like that, you can either use your energy "breaking" so you aren't moving too fast, but you still have to exert yourself pretty well to accomplish that breaking.  Or you can let it loose, but that requires energy as well.  There was no way to keep from hurting this last section, so I just grinded it out.

I got to the bottom of the hill where it turns over to the finish area, and Joanne and the kids were right there to cheer me on.  It was a great boost to get me the last 100 yards to the finish line!  I crossed the finish line in good form, running fast, but man, I was spent!  Some people gave me some stuff, someone handed me a 4 x 4(the famous "big wood" trophies that this race gives out).  Turns out I got third in my age-group, so that was nice.  I think I ran 5:51 or 52, I could care less at the time.  I still don't know what place I got overall.

Coming down the homestretch.  Credit: Joanne Johnson
I laid down on one of the benches and it felt like heaven.  Then my one year old picks up two fist-fulls of dirt and nails me, thanks Blake!  I didn't really reach my time goals for the race.  I thought I was capable of about 5:30 or so, but I guess that just means I have some more work to do.  I am thankful for the wonderful breeze that kept us cool on the ridges.  I am thankful that my body is healthy, no abnormal pains or niggles.  I am thankful for my beautiful wife and incredible kids that support me and take care of me after these things.  I am thankful for a great group of running buddies and community that I get through Quicksilver.  I am thankful for finishing yet another tough race, gutting it out, and seeing what I am capable of.  There is too much to be happy about to dwell on the things that "might have been".

Quicksilver ended up going 1-2 this year.  Another win for Jean Pommier, even after busting his foot halfway through the run.  And then John Burton, turning in an incredible PR for himself on his 40th birthday.


  1. Proud of you! I should have taken a pic of the big wood so people could see what a cool trophy it is. Good race report. :)

  2. Jeremy, congratulations on coming home with "big wood" on your very first attempt. You are now officially a man. Welcome to the Ohlone Survivors Club :)