The Ohlone Wilderness 50k, with twenty three years of history, is a challenging and classic point-to-point course travelling from Fremont to Lake Del Valle in Livermore. The terrain of this part of the Diablo Range is characterized by grassy hillsides, heritage oaks, and gray pine forest. With 8,000+ feet of often steep climbing, and equally steep descending, it’s a real test of toughness. Last year I ran the course for the first time in 4:29:45, setting the course record by about 10 minutes. This year my primary goal was to better my time from last year, and in particular, improve performance on the last third of the course which is deceivingly challenging. With unseasonably cool weather helping, I was able to improve my time by over 13 minutes to finish in 4:16:28. I also ran the last third of the course faster, although I still came up with cramping at the bottom of the last steep climb (something to figure out next time!).
The first 9 miles of the course travels up and over 2,517 ft Mission Peak which is just an appetizer for the rest of the course. The climb up Mission is steep and this year the trail was severely overgrown. The meadows on Mission’s slopes are used by cattle and their uneven hoof prints were concealed by tall grass creating precarious footing. Nonetheless, I was able to make good time into Sunol (~1:10) where the long 10 mile climb up 3,817 ft Rose Peak begins (nearly 4,000 ft of elevation gain). There are always points on this arduous climb that are mentally difficult but I did my best to stay focused and work through the rough spots. The steep hills on this stretch are relentless and virtually the entire way is exposed to the elements, usually sun and wind. I finally made it up to the summit of Rose Peak and enjoyed the spectacular 360 degree views from the summit. The cold northerly winds scoured out any air pollution providing remarkable clarity. I could see San Jose, San Francisco, and Sacramento in the same sweep. The San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean were shimmering and the Diablo Range peaks were bursting with green grass and wildflowers. Inspired by the beautiful scene, I cruised down to Maggie’s Half Acre (~2:48) and refueled for the last 11.3 miles of the course.
Rose Peak might be the highest point on the course, but it is far from the end of the climbing. The route drops into at least three canyons which are followed by steep climbs. From Schlieper Rock Aid Station (mile 25.65) there is only one climb left, but the base of this final hill is an all-to-common cramping spot, myself included. The same thing happened last year so I knew what to expect and I took it easy getting up to Rocky Ridge to keep the cramping at bay. Once atop the last hill, the cramping subsided and I negotiated the steep downhill to Lake Del Valle knowing a BBQ and refreshments were waiting!
Six participants went under the five hour barrier today, something that has not been done on the modern course. Gary Gellin finished in second in 4:33:03 and two-time former Ohlone champion Jean Pommier was third in 4:37:39. Beth Vitalis won the women’s race in 5:26:40, her fifth Ohlone victory. Complete results here. A huge thanks to the race directors and volunteers for putting on a flawless event. I can only imagine the logistical issues that are encountered in organizing this point-to-point event that travels through wilderness. In fact, many of the volunteers at the remote aid stations backpacked in to their spots. The BBQ at the Lichen Bark picnic area is always delicious with great camaraderie among participants. Thanks to everyone who helped organize this event and congratulations to all the participants!
For contrast, here is a video of a foot of snow on top of Rose Peak last December and my gallery of one hundred snowy photos!