The Ohlone Wilderness 50K is a point to point race traversing the historic Ohlone Trail from its origin at Mission Peak in Fremont, California to the terminus in the Del Valle Regional Park in Livermore, California. Between these two points lay a cumulative 7,800 feet of climbing and 7,440 feet of descent, which are highlighted by climbs over Mission Peak (2, 517 feet) and Rose Peak (3,817 feet). Ohlone often shows up on the training schedule of many Western States aspirants, and for good reason.
Race day started cool and clear, but with a blustering wind strong enough to topple the starting line banners. Once the race started, the wind ensured that everyone kept a hand on their hats until they cleared the top of Mission Peak. Once they started down the eastern slope of Mission Peak, the runners enjoyed a spectacular display of wildflowers that just seemed to keep getting better as the day went on. One runner later pondered “Where did all those wildflowers come from?”. The hills this year were simply blanketed with California poppies, Ithuriel’s spear, lupine, owl’s clover, Mariposa tulips, blue dicks, fiddleneck, Chinese houses, and red thistle blooms.
Our competitors included Simon Mtuy, who finished third in last year’s race and evidently planned to better his standing this year. Also repeating this year was Doug Gallagher, last year’s runner up, Jeff Reifers who was fourth in 2002, and Tim Putney who previously finished sixth. Something about Ohlone keeps them coming back year after year.
On the women’s side, Beth Vitalis returned to defend her 2002 title. She was facing strong competition from a great women’s field that included Jennifer Pfeifer, Jennifer Johnston, and Rena Schumann. The race also attracted five ultrarookies who would be taking their inaugural journey beyond the marathon distance. The most notable of the new comers was Albert Rodriguez who, at age nineteen, picked Ohlone for his first ultra. At the other end of the spectrum, we had two seventy-six year olds, Ray Piva and Mike Tselentis, vying for claim to the 70+ division.
From the moment the gun went off (well, until Rob said “go”), Simon Mtuy took off in the front of the pack. At the 10 mile checkpoint Simon held a seven minute lead over eventual second place finisher Brad Leal, and by the time he hit Maggie's Half Acre at mile twenty he was twelve minutes in front. As he entered the last third of the race he stretched out his lead to twenty minutes, and eventually finished with a thirty seven minute cushion. Simon breezed across the finish line in 4:57:03, breaking five hours on a very tough course. The real race of the day were for the second and third positions. It was a five way race for second between Brad Leal, Andy Black, Joseph McDonald, Doug Gallagher, and Tim Putney. This five man weave finally sorted itself out with Brad Leal capturing second in 5:20:14 and Tim Putney finishing close behind at 5:22:40.
Like the men’s race, the women’s eventual leader started at the front and never relinquished that position. Beth Vitalis ultimately bettered her time from last year by a minute, and set a new women’s course record (5:38:48) in the process. The race for second place was a spectacular duel between Jennifer Pfeifer and Utahna Cligny. Jennifer overcame a seven minute deficit at the ten mile mark, and came from behind in the last four miles of the course to take second place by less than a minute over Utahna Cligny. Last year the Olhone course was lengthened by 1.2 miles to bring it to a “true” 50K distance. With that course change came the establishment of new course records for the new distance. Beth Vitalis’ time this year broke her own record from 2002. In addition, this the following people also established new course records for their respective age groups: Tim Putney, Beth Vitalis, Rena Schumann, Dana Gard, Roger Dellor, Margaret Curtis, and Ray Piva.
No race report would be complete without acknowledging our outstanding volunteers. We had over fifty individuals that helped contribute to the success of this event. That’s better than one volunteer for every two runners. The list is too long to enumerate here, but the efforts of each and every one are deeply appreciated.