Thursday, May 26, 2011

Ohlone Wilderness 50k Block of Wood #7

Very specific goal for this race:  Win a block of wood.  These trail post awards are given to the first three in each age /gender division, not counting the top three overall.  I was 6 for 6 (four 1st place and one 2nd place division, and one 3rd place overall), but Men 40-49 is always the largest category including lots of kind-of fast guys around my speed, and each year I creep toward the older end of the cohort.

If you don't win the thick block of wood, you get a thin wood finishers award that I'll bet would be easy to chop in two, even without any special martial arts training.  While finishing this race should be enough (this is one of my favorite races, a must-do for any ultrarunner living in Northern California), I cannot be content with what pleases the masses.  Realizing that how well I do at any of these races has no impact on making the universe a better place to live for anyone including myself, I made this goal of getting another thick block of wood into a cause larger than life.  I was prepared to ambush, maim and if necessary, even kill (myself included) to get another award.

This was my first race wearing my blue Quicksilver PAUSATF team blue shirt (with the Sportiva logo specially emblazoned on the front and back).   I've sort of been doing my own thing all spring so hadn't done any races with the team this year.

Personal Ohlone 50k annual tradition:  my family sees me off.  This allows me to avoid taking the early morning shuttle from the finish at Livermore.  Thanks guys!

photo by Agnes Pommier
Starting in the front row means I have to finish top 6 or else I am a dork
or I am a dork anyways because I'm the only one smiling and not looking at my watch?

link to Chuck Wilson's video of start.  I had no idea what 202 runners starting a race looks like.  I'm always running these things.

The big error in this race, whatever your level, is to go too fast up the initial climb to Mission Peak.  I paced myself behind Charles Wickersham and John Burton until the summit, where it was cold, foggy and windy.

Charles Wickersham miles later by Chihping Fu

half-naked John Burton by Chihping Fu

 Atop Mission Peak I caught up with Ron Gutierrez, whom I hadn't seen all year, and we chatted all five miles down to Sunol, Ron setting a good fast pace.  At Sunol (mile 9.1) I handed my bottle to a volunteer, sat my ass on the ground, undid my gaiter that was supposed to keep rocks out of your shoes (but I guess not if your shoe goes deep into one of the many puddles on the Mission Peak climb due to all the rain we've had this spring even into May), pulled off my shoe and poured out the big-ass rock that was bothering me the last 6-7 miles.  Ron was still tired from his 9:30 at Miwok two weeks ago so I was able to quickly catch up and overtake him on the first climb out of Sunol.

I saw Chihping checking course markings a few miles later.  He's been doing this for several years, a new tradition.

He took two pictures of me and I think even did this short interview with me as part of his race video (I'm from 1:11 to 1:46).  I felt like a rock star at the time, though I need to work on talking more like a rock star.  To give myself credit, I think I'm the only one who actually made a good effort to talk while he was filming.

According to Chihping, Quicksilver teammate Jean Pommier was in 5th.  I was counting on him finishing top three, but if he was 4th or later overall, he would count towards my age division.  This got me a little worried.  Plus I didn't know who else was ahead of me between 40 and 49.  Jean's race report

As it turned out, the next guy I caught up to approaching Rose Peak, the high point of the course, was 48 years old, a Jeff from Grass Valley.  Pressure was one.

ZombieRunner Rookie Award winner Jeff Boutte

The other guy I caught I hadn't seen in 5 years, but amazingly, I recognized him right off as Truman Long, who as a cyclist, always climbs fast, but whose quads sometimes give out on the descents like the first time he ran it in 2005 when he had to walk the remaining 10 or so miles to the finish.

Note that he did win the race in 2006.

Truman flanked by Graham Cooper on left, and Simon Mtuy on right
from race website

Keith Blom catches me coming into Schlieper Rock (mile 25.65) looking happy

I was a little worried I hadn't seen Catra Corbett finishing her 131 mile run, and Andy Kumeda, pacing her the last 60+ miles.  But they were there, descending to Williams Gulch, both in great spirits.  This photo says it all-- Andy later admitted to being more tired than Catra.  She told me this would be the last time she does 131, and will cut back to a more reasonable 100 miles next year.  I always get inspired when I see her on the course, thinking how sleepy and tired she must be-- so speed up Mark and make it hurt some more!

by Tony Leung

Although it seemed that I was widening my gap on both Jeff and Ron whenever I looked back from the top of a ridge, I got scared by this guy in a bright orange shirt that appeared behind me climbing out of Williams Gulch (mile 27).  Turns out it was another course checker, Keith Blom (I should have remembered him taking my picture at the previous aid station).  I docredit him with saving me 20 seconds on that climb.  Fear can be a good thing.

course checkers Chihping and Keith at the finish

Earlier in the week, I had done a short run and had no time to stretch out my calves before having to work in the ED.  That night half asleep in the call room, I plantar flexed my foot and spasmed my left calf.  Then I repeated it the next night.  During the last 10 miles of the race, I felt my calf start to bother me, so I had to hold off at times.  The other thing that probably slowed me a couple of minutes was the fear of injuring myself two weeks before my next 100-mile race, Kettle Moraine in Southern Wisconsin, while I saw no one running ahead or behind me (other than Keith).

I was happy enough with my time even though I probably should have been able to run faster given the perfect weather.  Fourth fastest time, so my median.

by Noé Castañón

After my wife showed up with my kids at the finish in Del Valle Regional Park in Livermore, she spent a while talking with this year's 3-peat winner, Leor Pantilat, who, despite having a bad day, still beat me by 45 minutes.  My wife, due to not moving, also got to hear Leor's race account at least 10 times, as numerous people came up to congratulate him.

Once again trying to look cool hanging out with super-fast Sportiva teammate Leor Pantilat.
Leor had just slashed 14 minutes off Chikara Omine's Quicksilver 50 mile record three weeks earlier, then, in pursuit of breaking his own Ohlone record, probably climbed Mission Peak too fast.  He still won in 4:31.
photo by Keith Blom

One of the people who came up to ask about Leor's race was the incredible David Scott, who won the race 8 times on the old pre-2002 course (1.2 miles shorter).  I had seen Dave Scott's name in the Ohlone 50k website page of archived race results.  Dave somehow knew who I was, but I hadn't realized who he was.  It was good to get the scoop later on both, since I spent a lot of time running around (see next paragraph).  David used to run the course as a training run several times a week.  His wife would pick him up at the end.  This impressed my wife, to whom I am most grateful for dropping me off in the morning and picking me up at the end.  He also mentioned to her that he would hold back on the initial ascent up Mission Peak, so that it took him 40 minutes.  (Leor climbed it in 37).

Usually my 3-year-old is the out-of-control one, but my older son graduating from kindergarten soon, was the manic one.  His frenzied rampage included insisting I drop whatever I was doing to see each runner finish and cheer them on.  Actually a very polite thing to do.  But as a result, I didn't get to continue any conversations more than 2 minutes.  Both my kids also enjoyed imitating my end-of-race  face plant at January's HURT 100.

vintage Ohlone 50k, with Mark Lantz, who I never see anymore.  Mark usually beats me but has never in this race.  I hadn't met Scott Dunlap yet, and he maybe wasn't as famous as he is now.  My son is on my lap.  Completely calm and content, though maybe less interesting than he is now.....

Apparently the women's race was pretty intense, as the first six finished within 18 minutes of each other. Numbers 4 through 6 (Bree Lambert, Adona Ramos and Clare Abram) were Quicksilver teammates.  Bree Lambert made the excuse of having stayed out late at the Prince concert the night before, but I imagine this might provide an unfair advantage.

left to right from me:  John Burton, Adona Ramos, Greg Lanctot (our manager/coach/cheerleader), Clare Abram, Bree Lambert, Scott Laberge, Harris Goodman

Sarah Lavender Smith was leading until mile 26,

by Jørgen Randrup 

but Keira Henninger from Southern California ended up winning.   Sarah's race report on the exciting women's race

by Jørgen Randrup

I have to say that this was perhaps the most generously marked course I've ever run.

Kirk Boiseree, former Kourse Marking Kommisar.
My only name problem was thinking Mike Palmer was Kirk several times.
Joe Swenson assuming this role for the first time
doing the 50k two days straight
Chihping for a third photo here

As much as I'd like to redeem myself, lubed, at Masanutten, I love this local race too much to miss it.  Wait, I take that back!  It's not about the race, the beautiful course, the great people, runners and volunteers and runner-volunteers like Joe.  Duh, it's about the trophy.

The thick block of wood, along with the race shirt and Zombie Runner bracelet given out atop Mount Rose as proof of doing that short loop.

Mission accomplished, crimeless, as I hurt no one trying to get it. 


Chihping Fu 傅治平 (超馬阿爸) said...

Very nice report Mark. Congrats on winning your another wood. Jealous but I'm happy with my few pieces for I don't need much space to display it. However, one day, I got to win a wood!

Good luck at KM100! A week later, I'll follow your step last year to go on SD100.


John Burton said...

Hi Mark,

Hey, great race report! Very thorough. Congats on adding to your collection of lumber. Keep it up for another couple of years and you might be able to build a cool piece of home furniture. Or, if you feel like giving back to the race, perhaps you could build a nice bridge that goes over one of the stream crossing on the course.


Greg said...

Great race. You look good in blue. Hope La Sportiva is happy. That was fun!!!!

Jean Pommier said...

Mark, cool to have finally ran a race with you after last years' Firetrails (7 months, time flies!). Great job, or should I say woodwork...? ;-) And good luck for your upcoming 100!