I wasn’t as nervous or excited for this year’s Oil Creek 100K compared to my first ever 100K race(Oil Creek 100K- ’14) last year. I knew what to expect coming in to this one. I now have confidence in being able to run 62 miles. I know what it takes.
The weather was spectacular this year. It was foggy and cool in the morning hours and sunny and comfortable in the afternoon hours. I don’t know if the high temperature even reached 60 degrees.
The night before, my heart rate was tested. While unpacking at the hotel we were staying in, I realized I had forgotten my hydration pack. I sat motionless on the bed for about 3 minutes letting all the panic set into my body. When my wife came back into the room, I explained what happened. Luckily, my close trail running family was also at Oil Creek this weekend. Luckily, one of my trail running family friends, Anne, offered me her brand new hydration pack. She wouldn’t need to use it until later on to pace our friend Kristen in her 100 miler. It would end up that another trail running friend, Jen, would loan her hydration pack to Anne!
Anne is a small lady. After about 10 minutes of adjusting straps, I was good to go. I also needed a water bottle for the Perpetuem I was planning to use. Luckily another trail running friend Danny, who appeared 10 times as prepared as I, loaned me a bottle. Danny also ended up coming in 3rd place in the 100 miler. I was now set. I can honestly say that if it wasn’t for my running buddies being so generous, I wouldn’t have been able to complete and/or enjoy the day. Many thanks to them!
The next morning, we gathered inside the Titusville Middle School for a briefing from the race director. Here is a picture of my wife Caryn and I….
The race began at 6:00am. The course is a 50K loop around Oil Creek State Park. I would run two loops around it. With headlamps on, we hit the paved trail for about a mile and a half before climbing our first of four main climbs(per loop). It was a foggy morning. With the headlamp on, mist was making it kind of hard to follow the trail at first. I was also in no hurry, so I settled behind a few people and took my time. Once at the top of the hill, I started to get into a good easy running rhythm. I also realized that the hydration pack Anne loaned me, fit like a glove…even better than my own!
After meeting Caryn and Anne at the second aid station 14 miles in, odd thoughts started creeping into my mind. I had a goal of finishing this race before nightfall. That would be equal to a 13 hr and 30 minute finish, or faster. At about mile 20, I did some calculations with my Garmin and it appeared I was starting to get behind on that goal. Negative thoughts started creeping in. After AS 3 around mile 23, I kind of eased back and told myself that just finishing would be sufficient enough and to enjoy the day. And it was beautiful out there!
It was also around that time that a couple asked me what time of day it was. I told them it was 10:45am. She mentioned something to the runner she was with that she would hope that they would be beyond AS 3 the following morning by that time. They were obviously 100 milers. I wished them good luck on their journey and I continued on up the two climbs leading out of the AS. I then realized that my Garmin watch was a little off, and that I was still on pace for a nice finish. I knew finishing before nightfall was a stretch, so I told myself to try to finish under the 14 hour mark.
I felt good coming in to the middle school after the first 31 miles. Last year the first loop took me 6 hrs, 22 mins…this year I came in at 6 hrs, 30 mins. I felt 100% better than last year. I felt sluggish after the first 31 miles last year, and hesitated going out for the second loop. This year I rushed to get back out there! My legs felt great throughout the day. I ran the Blues Cruise 50K- ’15 the weekend before and I think it helped flush all the lactic acid out of my legs. At least, that’s what I think.
I had been told previously by Ryan, another running friend who ended up finishing 10th this year in the 100K, and Danny, to try to get in and out of aid stations as fast as possible. I was definitely doing that. I was probably averaging less than 2 minutes per station. Last year at the 38 mile AS, I remember struggling and sitting down for a good 10 minutes before forcing myself to keep going. This year I approached the same AS knowing it would be different. As I was there, I couldn’t help but chuckle to myself knowing what had happened last year. After about a minute of grabbing bits of food, and filling up on fluid, I did another circle around, pondering what else I needed. The fact was, I needed nothing else. I mumbled “F*** this place”, and off I went. I wasn’t putting the aid stations down. Oil Creek’s aid stations are the best I’ve seen, with friendly volunteers. But I was hungry, hungry for revenge.
I felt so strong throughout the second loop. Caryn told me afterwards that it was night and day looking at me from last year’s race to this year’s race…other than my massive beard I had last year. She said I looked and seemed great. And I did. While out there, I thought of all the tough runs and races I did this year leading up to the OC 100K. Specifically, I thought of a weekend on the New York A.T.- ’15. It’s tough training runs like these, where the trail consisted of jagged rocks and steep inclines/declines, that made running Oil Creek so easy.
I still had some work to do to complete the 100K. Approaching Petroleum Center around mile 45, Caryn and Anne were there to greet me. Anne filled up HER hydration pack again for me, and Caryn gave me more S-caps(salt capsules) for the final 17 miles. Caryn followed me for a tenth of a mile and gave me the encouragement I needed to finish strong. I told her I felt like I’d be able to finish stronger than I did the first lap.
At mile 47 or so, I started to get a sharp feeling in my left knee. My IT band, it turns out, wasn’t liking what I was doing to it. Each time I would run downhill, no matter how slight the incline was, I would feel it. It caused me to hike more than I wanted. It would feel fine after hiking for a period of time, but then it would re-appear after running on it. At the last AS, I had remembered something from earlier in the day. I remembered giving that couple the time of day…10:45am. I had finished the loop at 12:30pm. That was exactly 1 hr and 45 minutes it took me to complete that last 8 miles of the first loop.
If I were to finish in under 14 hours, I’d have to run the last 8 miles in 2 hours. I continued on, still feeling good, other than my IT band issue. I continued to follow my Garmin watch and estimate the time I would arrive at the finish. I heard the familiar sound of the drill at the Drake Well Museum. It’s a notification for all of us that we are approaching town/middle school. As soon as I started hearing it, it seemed my IT band issue disappeared. This is something I’ve often pondered about. Was my mind just blocking the pain? Was my adrenaline flowing that much that I couldn’t feel my knee anymore? At any rate, I felt fine coming down that last hill. At the bottom, I thought I heard my name being called. I heard it again. It was Kristen ahead of me. How she knew I was behind her, I have no clue. Maybe it was my smell?! I wished her good luck and told her she was kicking a**. She had about 40 more miles to go when I saw her. She ended up cutting more than 2 hours off of her previous 100 mile time! She earned it with all the training she put in!
I still felt good as I hit the pavement for the final mile. I ran that final mile with confidence in 9:46. As I made the final turn and into the straight away to the finish, I turned off my headlamp and appreciated the lit up finish line. I crossed the line at 13:43. I had run the last 8 miles in 1 hr and 47 minutes….2 minutes slower than the first final 8 miles of the loop.
I gave my wife a kiss and she congratulated me. I received my buckle from the race organizer and thanked him on another great experience. Next year I may challenge myself to a new distance.