Old Dominion 100 was a great experience for me. I had a lot of fun, learned a lot, and was able to finish well. I headed out to Woodstock, VA on Friday to attend the race briefing and pitch my tent at the fairgrounds; where the race would start at 4 AM on Saturday. The race has a real community feel to it. I really liked the simple race organization and the exciting encouragement given to the runners to try to finish 100 miles in one day. I spent some time talking to other runners about the history of the race, the course, and recovery (a few of us had run MMT only three weeks ago).
I woke up a little after 3 AM on Saturday, got my gear together and walked down to the start. After a short prayer we were off and running around the horse track, through the town, and up the first climb toward Woodstock Tower. A couple guys took off from the start; I stayed back a bit and ran this early part of the race with Neal Gorman, Eric Grossman, Jon Loewus-Deitch and Patrick McGlade. Somewhere around mile 14 I started up a section of trail that was well marked, but that we had already run…I discovered my error when I came upon some middle-of-the-pack runners. I quickly turned around and corrected myself, but I had lost several minutes. As I worked to catch back up, my stomach started disagreeing with me. A quick stop in the woods and I felt a little better, but now was getting nauseous when I tried to eat. In my head I was thinking “slow down, pull it together, you have plenty of time.”
|Kept forgetting to take off the headlamp|
At the 50K mark I had caught up to Sean Andrish (who amazingly finished the race in a great time, despite recently having pins removed from his thumb and minor brain surgery). Running through Duncan Hollow I fell a couple times and started getting frustrated. Then the heat of the day started rising. Luckily it never got very hot, but it was hot enough to get dehydrated if you were not careful. There was supposed to be a water station along the trail, but it had not yet been set-up. After this section is the first medical check in and I was disappointed, although not surprised that my weight was down quite a bit. There is a lot of road running in this race and as I headed off the trail and back onto the roads, my right knee started to lock-up making it very difficult to run. As I came into the Four Points aid station at mile 47, I really wanted to drop. I had not been running the race I wanted, was well off the time I was shooting for and it seemed that everything that could possibly go wrong was going wrong. I decided to press on and walked for a long time. It was very depressing to be walking across the big "50" painted on the road. Halfway through and I felt like crap.
|Yeah, that's how I felt mid-race:(|
I kept walking for awhile and eating as much as I could. At some point I started running again and it didn’t feel great, but I was moving. I came up on Ron Shriver and Jon, who was having quad problems and slowed to talk to them for a few minutes. Around this time I started feeling really good and began really running again. As I came into the aid station at mile 55 I had caught back up to Patrick. I quickly headed out on the ATV trail section and was moving along very well. Around the 100k mark I came up on Dave Ploskanka, who had been leading the race earlier. He was having some stomach issues, so I offered him some ginger and kept pressing on. A little while later I passed Jon Allen – through 65 miles I was back into 4th place. The next section went very well and I was cruising along until I started coming up on the road before Elizabeth Furnace and realized I did not see any course markings. I ran back up hill to where I saw the last one, but there was not another marking to be seen. Apparently, vandals had ripped down two miles worth of markings. After about 25 minutes of wandering, a race official came out and started remarking the course and told me the right way to go. This 25 minute detour ended up effecting 3 of the top 4 runners (Karsten Brown was familiar with the course and luckily knew the right trail).
|Feeling good again!|
Heading into the Furnace at mile 75 I saw Anne and the boys for the first time; this was a big boost after the demoralizing effect of my 25 minute detour. I quickly refueled and headed up over Sherman Gap. I can’t complain about this section too much after MMT, but it was much steeper and rockier than I was anticipating. I saw Anne again at mile 87 and from there to the finish it was all roads. These rolling hills took a bigger toll on me than I would have thought, but I was able to run them, albeit slowly. I came back into town, ran to the fairgrounds, did a big loop around the horse race track and crossed the finish line, where Anne and Logan were waiting for me. This was by far the best part of the race – finishing early enough for him to see me cross the finish line in 18:10.
|Best part - sharing the finish with Poker|
Lessons Learned: MMT helped with this, but OD really put a stamp on my belief that it is possible for me to run all day long. Also, I guess three weeks is enough time in-between 100s - not that I want to make a habit of it. I also have a lot more confidence moving forward in actually racing the distance. If I didn’t go off trail and had run better in the first half I could have run sub-17. I know I am capable of it, and hopefully I can use this experience at Vermont next month.
Gear Talk: I had a hard time deciding which shoes to wear. The course is mostly roads (gravel, paved, jeep or ATV), but there are a few technical sections as well. The NB 101s worked at MMT, but I do not like running on roads with them. I decided on the Montrail Rouge Racers, they are a little more shoe, but still lightweight and do have some cushion. They worked OK – I am just glad it was fairly dry on the course, because my biggest complaint with this shoe is that it does not drain well at all. My feet held up well and just like MMT I had no blisters or toenail issues. I really attribute this to Balega socks. Since I have been running in them I never have foot problems; despite many 100+ mile weeks and running 90% of the time in minimalist shoes.
Overall, I think OD is a fun, low key race that has a great community/family feel to it. It is a race I would recommend and will probably come back to in future years. My hope is that it can reclaim its spot in the Ultra community as one of the traditional, premier 100s in the country without losing the genuine nature of the event.
Special thanks to Bobby Gill for all the great pictures. I swear every time I made a turn on the course there he was snapping pictures:)