Monday, May 19, 2008

Ohlone 50k

Yesterday I was a volunteer for the Ohlone 50k. It was inland, about an hours drive from San Francisco. Away from the fog and into the heat. We had a heat wave during the past week, even here in SF we reached the mid-90s. So warm that on Friday evening I was along the water at a bar with outdoor seating, drinking a glass of wine with a good friend dressed only in a shirt and shorts - maybe it's time to move to Southern California. By Saturday the temperatures have begun to drop but it was still warm during the race on Sunday. The station I worked at was at the 12.5 mile mark and the first runner came through around 9:30 (early starters) and we stayed open until the cut off which was 12 noon. As usual the leaders looked good and strong and so did a bunch of participants. However, there was also a good number of folks who did not look so good and my heart went out to them. Here they were at the 12.5 mile mark of a 31 mile race with the hottest part and toughest climb still ahead of them. Watching their backs as they marched up the dusty trail I could only wish them the best, at the same time I feel a lot of pride and admiration "you go runner, one foot in front of the other until you wisely can't continue anymore or until you cross that finish line". Mark Gilligan, one of three sweepers, came through just after 12 which officially closed our station for the day. When he first appeared on the hill we didn't know he was a sweeper and was debating on who would give him the bad news that he was out of the race, having missed the 12 noon cutoff. It was a sigh of relief to know he was a sweeper. Thankfully we did not have to cut any runners at our station.

Our aid station at Backpacker, 12.5 miles in and hanging with 4th place finisher Kevin Swisher at the finish. All volunteers were provided with the tie dye shirts. Both photographs shamelessly lifted off of Mark Tanaka's blog. Aid Station shot by Chihping Fu and finish shot by Mark Tanaka.

I'm big on the race volunteering thing, it's a lot of fun. Those of you who have followed my blog for awhile know how much I enjoy that part of the race experience as much as racing itself. I've built up my experience over the years, always moving around trying different jobs in different races. I've manned barricades on a triathlon course to riding as a bike marshall on a multiple scelerosis fundraising ride to directing volunteers as an aid station captain in the Nike women's marathon. I've set up aid station drops for a marathon, paced runners in an ultra, handed out Gatorade and shuttled hot pasta sauce and pasta to the finish line food tent of a triathlon race (never, ever again!). Sunday I was back as an aid station volunteer and this time I was the youngin in the group. The kid amongst the adults and wisely I kept quiet for the most part and just listened, at least I knew that much. It wasn't just the fact that the people I worked with was older than I was, it was also because they had more experience than I did in the sport/community of ultra. Our aid station captains were none other than Carl Anderson and Ann Trason (File needs expanding). I learned a lot. Ann personally taught me the wonder of Payday's, the candy bar. "Ann what's this, it tastes good, one of those new fancy Mojo bars, peanuts, sugar and stuff?", I inquired. "Nope just good old Paydays" she replied, then she added "The best part about Paydays is that they don't melt like Snicker bars". She continued on about some triple bike century where Snicker bars made a mess but my eyes glazed over after the words "triple century" (300 mile bike ride). Briefly I regained my senses and I asked if the ride was all in one day. What do you think the answer was? I was a child next to these people.

A lot of friends came through and as each one came by a part of me wanted to go chasing after them. Some of these guys were at Quicksilver the weekend before, a few like Gary Wang and Mark Tanaka was at least on their 3rd week of racing and still holding up very well. Mark however is the only one I saw who was still running around after the race; running to the car, from the car, to his kids and back to the car to prevent it from being towed. His kids have a dad who can keep up with them. After my stint at the aid station I stopped by the finish and caught up with a bunch of folks. I envied their after race race glow. Kevin Swisher's 4th place finish at 5:27 truly surprised and amazed me. I met him here on this race 2 years ago, it was his first ultra and finished 6:17 on a much cooler, easier day. He was injured last year after a fast time at AR50 but now look at him - amazing. I also got to meet new people, always in these events. One of them was Glorybelle, a speedy Boston marathoner type who was doing her first ultra. Placd and was the female rookie of the event. Lady, your feet look just fine but keep a bottle of your favorite nail polish handy if you do decide to do more of these events and I hope you will.

Finish line food was another feast with a professional cook manning the grill. There was a spread of fruit, pasta, burgers and sausages but this guy also had Carnitas and his own special homemade blend of bbq sauces. I wanted seconds but since I didn't run I wisely refrained. Actually it was the sight of Gary Wang feasting on a big plate of fruit that killed the thought of another plate of Carnitas with the special home made Hawaiian bbq sauce.

It was a very, very good day to be out on the trails again and thinking about other people and not myself. Racing is a selfish thing, you have to put yourself first. Volunteering is a stretch in the opposite direction and refreshing. As we were getting back to the car, I was giving a ride to Will Gotthardt who had a great race placing 7th and to Chihping Fu who was a fellow volunteer who did pre-race sweep, making sure all the markings were at the right places for all 31 miles, we saw race director Rob Byrne running to his car which was parked right next to us. "Another medical emergency" he yelled. Another?! This reminded me of two things the ultra-community knows very well. You can get hurt in these events and secondly that the community owes an enormous debt of gratitude to it's race directors. For the most part these events are labors of love with most of the proceeds going to some cause or another. Ultra-Marathon race directors are heroes and there is no DNF option for them once they get the ball rolling. They work hard and deal with a lot of crap year after year so runners like me can volunteer, set PR days and have a good time. The ultra running community would not be where it is without the service of it's race diretors. Thank you Rob and Larry for another great day at the Ohlone 50k trail run.

I've got some Poison Oak issues to deal with, our aid station was set right against a huge bush of it. We had no choice really, it was the shadiest most level ground for the table. Ann volunteered to be back there since she was immune but eventually when it got busy I jumped back there and kept brushing up against the stuff. I figured if I can do it racing I can do it volunteering. I've been scrubbing, let's hope the minor rashes I've been getting don't develop into major ones.


  1. And don't forget you were the everyone's favorite mail man ;-) I thought that was the cutest ;-)

    You so rock! It's so awesome that you put in as much time volunteering as you do racing :-)

    Dude, sorry about the Poison Oak. Hopefully that doesn't turn killer on you :-(

  2. Rick, I wish there was some emoticon on these blog sites that would signify me hailing you with praise! I seriously want to be like you when I grow up... the sad part is I'm SURE I'm older than you already. :)

    Thanks again for all the encouragement as I came into the LEGENDS aid station that you manned. And thanks for the good post race conversation. I'm going to learn a lot by reading your blog regularly.

    My feet actually feel a lot crappier today, and my legs are pretty much toast (worse than yesterday), but my mind is more positive and now I'm thinking about what other ultra I can sign up for.

    Hope that poison oak clears up fast!

  3. Hey, that's one cool volunteer shirt! You are such a stellar volunteer! I admire how much you give back to the sport.

    P.s. I hope you are scrubbing with Tecnu. That stuff is the best for poison oak.

  4. Rick,try over the counter cortizone ointments,there's one for anti-itch/antibiotic...don't wait till it gets bad.

  5. Definitely important to give back to the sports you love. Sounds like a good day with the exception of the poison oak.

  6. Rick-

    Thanks again for volunteering, and going out your way for the ride back to the start...much appreciated.

    Always good to see you.

    Next up for me: PCTR Mt. Diablo 50K, PCTR Pacifica 50K

    Will G.

  7. Poison oak strikes again! I managed to get a nice rash of it this weekend as well running up on the Mt. Home Inn trail - it is all over my shoulder and neck. Who knew it grew that high!

    Enjoy the taper!

  8. Not only do I feel appreciative, I almost feeling guilty now that you're itching. I take it personally when that stuff gets on me.

    Nice tribute report. Steal my pics anytimes. I think it's mutual.

    Great to learn more Ann Trason trivia/lore-- triple centuries, Paydays and she's immune to poison oak. Great stuff.

    BTW, since you've known her longer, maybe work on gb so she doesn't wait until next year to run another ultra. Too much talent, don't you think?

  9. I am envious of all this stuff...awesome time spent with a purpose and passion!

  10. Hey Rick. Thanks for volunteering. Seemed like you were having a great time out there minus the evil bush lurking behind you. Try Zanfel for the poison oak - works really well. Takes care of the oil and the itch.

  11. Rick, I have long been impressed with your volunteering. Every race I go to, I come back with memories of how great and selfless the volunteers are. They are the ones who make it happen. My hat's off to you!

    On another note, I am drooling at that finish line spread! Homemade carnitas? Wow! :)

  12. Hey Rick thanks for being out there volunteering when Andy and I came through early.
    It was a tough day, but seeing you and all the volunteers smiling face's made it a fun day for me.

  13. Way to give back & Volunteer !! love the shirt!!

    hey ummm just in case u haven't been over to my blog

    15days 44mins 13sec










    see ya soooooooooooooooooooooooN!!

  14. You think Bob is obsessing much? ;>D

    Sorry about the poison oak! Eek!

  15. Hey Rick, I love your blog. I hope to meet you out on the trail soon. I have seen you a million times running, but we have never met. Thanks for all the volunteering that you do!