If you want to hear about the Oil Creek 100 miler and not about my sorry excuses and baby talk of a summer of running, skip the first two paragraphs.
The last time I posted was a few days after my first 100 miler, the Mohican 100, back in June. Since then I’ve staggered through this summer in regards to running. After Mohican, I ran the remaining N.Y. AppalachianTrail(20 miles) and two-thirds of the C.T. Appalachian Trail (33 miles), I paced my friend Gary at the Eastern States 100, I ran a 35 miler on a rail trail, ran the Baker Challenge 50 miler(tough stuff, I baked on the roads), DNF’d at the Pine Creek Challenge 100k(glute, an excuse to finish Oil Creek), and ran the Boulder Beast 26 miler. Before the Mohican, I had 5 other marathon or more races I completed. I simply love the race atmosphere.
And each time I ran after the Mohican, my glute got worse. Wah and sniffles all around! But you see, I could still run, so I did so. Just like any other year. And like any other year for the past several years, I had no training plan, no set schedule for training for a particular race. I simply used a few long runs and a lot of races as training for the next race. And that leads me to what has become one of my favorite events, the Oil Creek 100.
I’ve run the 100k the past 2 years and I’ve loved it. It starts at the Titusville Middle School and takes the Gerard Hiking Trail around the Oil Creek State Park for 31 miles. Check out last year’s blog for more details….Oil Creek 100k ’15.
Saturday morning at 5 a.m. came very early for my wife, Caryn and I. Here we are at race start and finish headquarters in the Titusville Middle School…
We walked outside to the starting line and somehow Caryn caught me smiling. I don’t recall smiling, but maybe it was just an instinct. I was going to be running/hiking for more than a day straight….sounds like fun to me!
The first loop was what I like to call a feel loop. In my Mohican 100 post, which explains that the Mohican was also a looped course, I just wanted to get to know the trail. Feel it through. “Take my time. Hurry up. The choice is yours, don’t be late. As a friend. As a…” Alright, I’ll stop. Kurt Cobain, rest in peace.
The morning was rainy, foggy, and somewhat humid. At 7a.m. my shorts were sweaty and wet. That isn’t a good thing when you have 90 more miles to go. That was because of the humidity. Thankfully when the rain stopped, the humidity dropped. By mile 14 aid station, I was starting to get into a grove.
It was between mile 14 and mile 31 that I realized my legs simply felt sore. Heavy. Not the way legs should feel in the first 20+ miles of a 100 mile race. I pondered that. But I didn’t have to ponder long. It was obvious and I knew it. I was a burned out runner. How can my legs go through a 100 miler if I don’t allow them to rest? I made a pact with myself that in 2017, I would sign up for less races and shorter distances overall.(I promise there isn’t much wining at all after this).
After the first loop, 31 miles, I was right on pace with where I thought I would be. This is Caryn and I searching for a toilet…
My pacer, Gary, who paced me at Mohican, was once again going to pace the last 38 miles with me. I had met up with one of his trail running friends, Mandy, and we ran together for quite some time between in the second loop. It would be her first 100 mile finish. To me, it seemed like she had done it times before. She seemed unfazed. You would think the 100 mile distance would be intimidating to first timers. Mandy said “Fuck It”, and she did her own thing….and completed it with more than hours to spare.
In my mind, loop 2(mile 32 to 62) was going to be the test. I knew my pacer Gary would help me through the 3rd loop and the finish. Yes, that is how good Gary is as a pacer. I knew I was going to finish this race with the help of him. But the middle miles I still had to run by myself. I had heavy legs to begin with, so I knew I had to conserve as much as possible. In marathons, I always cringe when I use the term “run/walk”. But in ultras, most times it’s a necessity. As frustrating as it was, I did the run/walk thing for another 8 hrs and 29 minutes to complete the second loop. My brain said go, my legs said no. I think if I would have proper training and rest, things would have been different.. It was still exactly where I expected to be in terms of time.
Loop 3 (mile 62 to mile 93) started at about 9 p.m. Saturday night. Gary and I seemed like old pro’s. He didn’t have to say much this time around. At the Mohican, he was consistent on making sure I had enough fuel and energy. This time around, we just moved forward….on a mission. At Mohican, I seemed to be wide awake the whole time. Let’s say it was consistent adrenaline. This time around, I became very tired. I blame it on the weather. It was hot as hell at Mohican. Here at Oil Creek, it dipped down into the low 40’s/ higher 30’s. I was very comfortable. I mentioned about falling asleep to Gary a few times, but he just laughed. And I came back to my senses. This is what it’s all about.
If you want to complete a 100 mile race, it’s not done during the day time. It’s done at night. It’s when your animal instinct should kick in. It’s when you show how much you want to finish it. It’s when the weak fall to the ground, and when the strong keep standing and moving. And that’s all I did. I kept moving.
At the 3rd aid station(about 84.5 miles in and at roughly 3 a.m.) of the last loop they had the following…. hot coffee, romen noodles, grilled cheese sandwiches, burritos, and other kinds of good food……and A HOT FIRE. After chowing down on a grilled cheese, I HAD to go over to the fire. Gary then joined me. I stood there almost within the fire itself. And at that time. At that specific moment for me. It was quit or keep moving. The fire was complete heaven. It felt so good and warm. My legs warmed up within seconds. But I wasn’t moving.
So I simply took a few steps away from the fire and kept moving. Gary eventually followed me. We continued up the trail and after 2 and a half more hours of moving, we finally approached the last aid station, mile 93. I got to see my wife Caryn and a few other ultra friends who would encourage me to get the job done.
The last 7 + miles were new to me. The 100K only followed the 50K loop. The last few miles I had not traveled. After the first 3 miles(mile 96), we crossed a bridge over Oil Creek, and continued up a switch back trail that never ended…finally getting to the top of the mountain. Thank goodness the adrenaline was pumping or else I may have been done for. It led to a familiar trail that led out the top and back down to the bottom of the mountain, and led to the familiar paved path. Here I am with Gary on that path 28 hours later…
That path led to the finish at the middle school. I had finally finished my second 100 miler. Here I am crossing the line….
Here’s another angle of me, giving a fist pump to one of my ultra running friends, Earth Girl….
Here I am with probably the best race director I know, Tom….
…and here I am with my awesome pacer, Gary, AKA Stonewall…..
…and the buckle…
Oil Creek has been a great experience for me the first 3 years. I can’t say enough about the race director, Tom, and all of the volunteers. So much work was put into the race. All the runners have to do is…run. And for that I am thankful.
I can’t wait until next year!