drove to the start of the race, and parked my car while I hung out a little before the start. The race director announced “runners, line up!” All I need to do is put on my shoes from the car. I can’t find the car though! I look and I look, and I hear the race starting without me. It’s okay, I’ll start a few minues late, all I need to do is find the car...but there’s a buzzing by my ear, louder and louder, distracting me from looking. Just got to turn off my alarm and go back to sleep so I can find my shoes. Uh-oh. Time to wake up. The missing shoes were a dream, and I need to drive to the start of the Ohlone 50K.
My friend Coach Ken had run Ohlone 50K last year, and he gave me two bits of advice from his own experience: 1) Be on time to the finish to catch the 6:45 AM bus to the start (he missed it) and 2) Pay attention to the cutoffs. At 5:30 AM I’m not the sharpest, and I leave my breakfast at home accidentally. I stop at Starbucks to pick up breakfast, and also have a trying to be quick gas stop. As I pull into Del Valle at 6:46, I see the buses heading out. UH-OH. As I pay, the park ranger asks me how many buses I saw go by “Four”. “That’s all there was”, he says. UH-OH. I am spared a meltdown by a kindly volunteer, Paul, who sees me parking and offers to drive me to the start in Fremont. Paul is the nicest possible guy, and saves the day from my own irresponsibility. I have a bunch of excuses as to why I missed the bus, but everyone else could have had the same excuses, and they were on the bus and I wasn’t. Lesson learned: Bus leaves exactly at 6:45 (if not a minute earlier). And Paul is a super nice guy! THANKS!
After some nervous standing around at the start with fellow Endurables Jen, Todd and Jorge, we started along a fireroad, then UP a big hill. Gillian Robinson chatted briefly with me (she’s running Western States & Badwater), then walked quicker up the hill. Actually, everyone seemed a little quicker than me up this hill. My plan was to take the first hill conservatively. However, I came to the sudden realization that I was absolutely DFL on the hike up Mission Peak. I looked behind me again. I was it! The advantage of being last is that everyone has trampled down all the grass, and I never wonder about where to go.
At the top of Mission Peak after a 2,000 foot climb, and I wished I had more time to enjoy the views. Down on a lovely shaded fire road, as I slowly started moving up the pack, running gently and calmly. I left the Sunol Aid Station at 10:25, with 20 minutes to spare. I started the climb up to Backpack feeling confident. I looked at my watch, and it was 11:20. Where had the time gone? I hustled into Backpack and left at 11:25, only 5 minutes ahead of the cutoff.
Then came the endless climb up to Rose Peak, all 3,500+ feet of it. I had ample time to reflex on why I thought this race was a good idea. I’d chosen this race to get out of my “comfort-zone” of mainly doing Pacific Coast Trail runs where I knew the trails so well. The course didn’t disappoint —views, views, views. Though I’d feared that I would get burned by being out in the sun, there was a surprisingly nice amount of shade. I just wished I had more time to sit and enjoy the views, instead of continued walking, walking, walking. I pondered that noone in the race had an Ohlone 50K shirt—many Skyline to the Seas and Way Too Cools, but noone in Ohlone 50Ks. Did people not COME BACK? Was I going to keep walking up the same hill for the next 2+ hours? (answer to second question is yes).
Finally, long after I had resigned myself to never getting to loll in the sun among the California Poppies like I wanted, I was finally at the lollipop course up to the top of Rose Peak. There was a guy at the top to give a bracelet proving you’d been to the top, then a short run down to the Maggie’s Half Acre Aid Station. Every aid station just had fantastic, fabulous volunteers. Coach Ken had given me advice to be more assertive with the aid stations—instead of stumbling around looking for what I wanted, to start calling out as I was coming in. Maybe the volunteers were more prepared (I’d heard that many were doing their service requirements for 100 mile races), or maybe it was me asking for what I wanted, but this went very well. As I came in I’d unscrew my bottles and say “Gatorade, Gatorade”, and a volunteer would grab it from me and fill it, and put the lid back. All the volunteers were cheery and looked super peppy in their tie dyed volunteer shorts.
I had all this energy for the last ten miles, but my pinky toes were hurting like crazy. I scampered past Chuck Wilson on an uphill, as all the caffeine from my PowerGels all seemed to hit at once. I’d tried two new things for this 50K—my new Sugui Verve shorts to stow all my snacks in, and my La Sportiva Fireblades. I’d run all my prior races in my trusty Nike Air Pegasus, but I had been trying out La Sportiva Fireblades for more traction. My little toes were squeezed. When I bent down to try to adjust the laces, I surprised myself by throwing up on my shoes (almost all Gu2). This was not so fun. And adjusting the shoes didn’t help, my toes still hurt on every down step. Chuck Wilson passed me back on the switchback single track like he was gliding on vegetation.
I was disappointed—I wanted to kick it in the last five miles and finish strong, and instead I was hobbling trying to avoid toe contact. I ran up the last little up hill, and finished just at 8:55. I’d met my pessimistic goal of 9 hours, but was far from my optimistic goal of 8 hours. I still had so much energy! Today, the day after the race, I walked the mile to Tartine Bakery to cheer myself up with a Sopressta sandwich.
1. Sportiva FireBlades aren’t good for downhills (though who knows, maybe I would have had shoe issues with my trusty Pegasus—the downhills were so steep.
2. New Sugoi Verve shorts are great! http://www.rei.com/product/800181 They held 5 ounces of PowerGels in each back pocket, leaving me well fueled for a long race.
3. Ask the volunteers for what I want.
4. Leave more time for the bus—just because the Skyline to the Sea bus left 10 minutes late, don’t assume other buses will.
5. I can get by on one water bottle even on a hot day if I drink up at aid stations.
6. Volunteers have the most fun!