Ever since last year’s ankle debacle had me DNF Oil Creek 100 after more than 80 miles of running, I really wanted to come back and finish this race. However, I wasn’t sure if I was going to run or not after I tweaked my hip at UROC. After taking a couple days off, I was able to get a few nice runs in the two weeks between races. This gave me the confidence I needed, so I felt good enough to go and at the very least finish the race.
We left Friday morning, Anne, the boys, Nana and me for the 5-6 hour drive to Titusville, PA. The Oil Creek 100 consists of three 50k loops and one 7+ mile “coming home” loop. The race headquarters is at the local middle school, so this made it a little easier on Anne to crew for me as there was no need to travel from aid station to aid station. It also allowed the kids to see me throughout the day; Gavin even ran the last couple hundred feet of the first loop with me.
|Running by the Birth of the Oil Boom|
The 5 AM start went off smoothly as we made our way up the 1.5 mile bike path to the trail head. I settled in behind another runner who had assumed the lead and we were about 30 seconds up on a group of runners that included Nick Pedatella (who had just won Bear 100 two weeks prior) and Shaun Pope. At the second aid station, Petroleum Center, the runner in front of me stopped to refill his Nathan Pack, so I led the group back to the school to complete the first 50K in about 5 hours. A little fast, but overall the pace felt good. The difficulty in running a fast time at this course is that you have to be able to run the whole thing, but there is never an opportunity to get into a “groove.” The course is about 90% single track and you are either on a short climb, descent, crossing through mud, or running over rocks and roots. The course is runnable, but the variety can really slow you down quite a bit over the 100 miles.
Nick caught up with me early in the second loop and we ran together for awhile. Heading back into Petroleum Center, a little before the half-way point, Nick had gained a few minutes on me. He was climbing much better than I was (I really wish we could live closer to the mountains!). At this point the temperature had risen to about 80 degrees and was starting to take its toll. I was also starting to have energy issues. I would take in as many calories as I could and would feel fine for 30-45 minutes and then crash. I kept my gel intake very high, but this seemed to be a common theme all day long. I ran the second loop in around 5:45 and had fallen about 25 minutes behind Nick.
|Nick and I on the second loop|
|Trying to make up ground|
Halfway through the third loop, I was still maintaining my place. However it was starting to get dark, Nick had now picked up a pacer, and I was still having energy issues. At this point I was eating anything I could at the aid stations just to try to quell my hunger. I was pretty sure there was no way I could catch Nick, but was determined to keep pressing. As darkness fell it became difficult to negotiate the slick down hills, especially since 1) I forgot to change the batteries in my headlamp so it was quite dim, and 2) my kids had taken my LED handheld as a play toy. I was still running and running well for being so far into a 100, but I just felt that I should have been going faster. At the end of the third loop, Nick had built a lead of about an hour on me. It was just time to finish.
Anne changed the batteries in my headlamp and I ate a couple grilled cheese sandwiches and some M&Ms. In order to finish sub-19 I would have to complete the final 7+ mile loop in a little a little under 1:30. My legs still felt good so I thought I might be able to do it. That is until I came upon the duly named “Hill of Truth.” About 95 miles in, you have the hardest climb of the day – niceJ I tried to run it at first, but it seems to last forever and I was relegated to power hiking most of this climb. When I made it back to the bike path, I ran pretty hard to finish in 19:16. Race Director Tom Jennings was there to award me my 2nd place plaque and sub-22 hour golden belt buckle, as well as congratulations for coming back and finishing what I started the year before. Full results here.
After the race, Anne and I sat with Nick, his Mom and Jay Smithberger (Nick’s pacer). Apparently, Anne and Nick’s mom got to know each other fairly well as they spent most of the day together. Even after the race my energy issues were still affecting me. As we got up to leave I nearly passed out and had to lie down for several minutes before heading back to the hotel. I didn’t sleep much that night as my stomach was in knots and I had the standard “twitching legs.” In the morning, we stopped by the school to say goodbye to some of the volunteers and then hit the road back to D.C.
Oil Creek is a really good event; well organized and Tom is a great race director. The aid stations are well run and stocked with everything an ultra runner might need. The course is challenging, yet runnable, and you get to see the beautiful Fall foliage of Northern Pennsylvania.
|Great Fall Views!|
I am pleased with my results and that my body held together so well, especially with the issues I have had recently. I was able to run the whole time, with the exception of a few of the steeper climbs. But as always, I think I could have done better. I will have to wait until next year to see. In the meantime I am going to recover and get ready for my next race in Alabama Nov. 5, 2011 at the Pinhoti 100. I have heard Karl is going to run – I guess I am really testing my theory that you can only improve when you run against the best…