I had a great time running the Ohlone Wilderness 50k which is a challenging point-to-point course stretching from Fremont to Lake Del Valle in the Diablo Range to the Southeast of the San Francisco Bay Area. The relatively cool weather helped me lower the course record by nearly 10 minutes to 4:29:45. Ohlone is one of the toughest 50ks that exist – there is essentially no flat running on the entire course with nearly 8,000 feet of elevation gain on terrain characterized by steep hills covered in grassland and oak forest. The event is also difficult to organize with several remote aid stations, one of which requires the volunteers to hike in with the aid.
More details, photos, and youtube video after the jump!
This area can get brutally hot this time of year but on this day a marine layer kept things cool at the start. We ascended above the marine layer at the 2,000 foot level on the initial climb up Mission Peak and were treated to a magical view across the cloud layer with the Santa Cruz Mountains, Mount Diablo, and Mount Tamalpais rising above the clouds like islands. On the traverse over to the final climb up the Mission Peak Ridge, I lost a shoe in a muddy bog. After retrieving the shoe I dumped the muddy water out and continued up! I also scared a large group of cows who were startled to see me suddenly appear out of the fog. By the time I began the climb up 3,817 ft Rose Peak from Sunol it was sunny, but a steady breeze would hold temps in the 70s throughout the run.
It felt good to reach the summit of Rose Peak, but that summit does not mark the end of hill climbing… not even close! There are several climbs after Rose Peak that become increasingly difficult in the later stages of the run. After a long descent of a technical singletrack known as “the burn” there is one last very steep climb up to Rocky Ridge. I cramped a bit on the first couple uphill steps, but fortunately my body eased back into climbing one last time. The final 2 mile descent to the finish was on very steep downhill and I was able to pick it up just enough to come in under 4:30. I knew nutrition and electrolyte replacement would be important on this run so I made it a priority; I think it helped me stay relatively strong throughout the run.
Jean Pommier, winner of the 2007 and 2008 editions of this race, finished in 4:45:43 for second place, and Joseph D’Alessio was third place (4:59:02). This was a fantastic day for the La Sportiva mountain running team with Caitlin Smith running 5:04:36 to break the previous women’s course record by 12+ minutes. Prudence L’Heureux was the second women’s finisher one minute back. Fellow La Sportiva teammate Mark Tanaka ran a strong 5:09. Everyone enjoyed the best post-race BBQ around with a chef cooking up requests from burgers to burritos, cold drinks, watermelon, and a lake for a cool swim! Congratulations to all the runners and thanks to the volunteers and race organizers for a great event.