Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Run Like the Wind for Haiti Halloween 5K

I had been looking for a fun Halloween race for the family and came upon Run Like the Wind for Haiti 5K sponsored by the Warrenton Presbyterian Church to raise money for the Northern Haiti Hope Foundation.  I liked this race because it was on a Saturday evening, local, new course for me, inexpensive family registration, and for a really good cause. 
Really liked the shirt design!

So we arrived in Warrenton early to pick up our packets and to get a good parking space.    Packet pick up was really easy, and the race shirts although cotton were really cute.  I also appreciated that they had kid sizes which a lot of races do not.  We had some time to kill before the race so we went over to Great Harvest Bread Company so JD could grab a coffee since he was sitting out rehabbing the foot. 
Very appropriate sign in Great Harvest

Then we headed back over to the church to hang out and wait for the race to start.  The church was open for use of the restrooms.  I was also very impressed that they were offering free childcare during the race so that parents could run and leave their younger children to be entertained in the church.

The race director (dressed as Dracula) announced that the Kid Dash would be starting.  Nic had inadvertently been assigned a bib for the Kid Dash since he is 6, and the race organizers didn't think a 6 year old could run a 5K.  To quote Zach, "That's just crazy because they don't know how awesome Nic is."  So Nic was going to run the 5K anyway, but he wasn't going to get an official time for it (which was no big deal).  JD and I asked if the boys wanted to do the Dash before the main race.  After sizing up the field, they decided that they would do it.  Some young guys dressed like Erkel (did I do that?) led the kids about 400 yards up the street and got them all psyched up to run, and then they were off.  Zach shot off the line pretty quick, but there was an older girl who was slightly faster.  He tried hard to catch her at the end, but he couldn't quite get her. 
Zach finishing second in the Kid Dash

Nic was right on Zach's tail the whole way.  Zach was second place and first boy, and Nic finished in third place and second boy so they were really glad that they had done the Dash.
Here comes Nic in 3rd!

Now it was time for the 5K.  So Dracula offered up a pre-race prayer, and we got ready to run.  I knew the course was going to be hilly because Warrenton is just hilly all over town so we weren't planning to push the pace and just have a nice run.  After running down Main Street, we started our first climb.  Running through Old Town Warrenton was really nice.  There were a lot of beautiful historic homes.  There were also a lot of runners in costume.  I wish I had taken more photos of the costumed runners.  My favorite was a man dressed as a lumberjack who was running in jeans, flannel shirt, and work boots while carrying an axe (pretend, of course).  He was pretty fast too.  Once we got out of Old Town Warrenton, we hit the Warrenton Greenway.  This was the best part of the run as it was scenic bike path and very flat.  We passed some historic train tracks and even a historic caboose.  After that the course just got crazy!  It was starting to get dark, and there were lots of turns to make.  They also had not stopped traffic in town so I didn't like running on the road with the cars coming to our back in the dark.  The street lights weren't great in this section so I was wishing that I had a headlamp for a little more visibility to the cars.  I should note that there were a lot of course volunteers, and they were doing a great job trying to get the cars to slow down and direct runners to the correct path.  I eventually just moved Nicolas and I up to the sidewalk, but that was annoying as well since some of the sidewalks in Warrenton had big drop offs so Nicolas kept having to stop to step down from them.  The course got really hilly in this section as well.  I had thought that Nicolas maybe had a chance at a sub-30 again when we were in mile 2, but once we hit the hilly section I knew he wouldn't be able to do it.  He did a great job getting up all of the hills and ran the whole way except for one short 15 second walk break on the worst hill.  He hit Main Street and asked if he should sprint now since he saw the finish line.  I told him to go for it.  I heard him whisper, "I'm going to get a PR."  Then he took off.  He obviously still thought he had a chance at it so I let him go.  He did a great job and finished at 31:30 which would have put him at 14/25 in his age group.  Zach finished right ahead at 29:44...another awesome sub-30 finish and 13/25 in his age group; however the age group was 1-16 so all of the kids in front of him were were 10+ with most over 13.  I actually ended up 8/22 in my age group even pacing Nicolas. 
Me and my guys pre-run

Overall we had a really fun time and were happy to be able to run for a great cause.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

You Know You're A Mother Runner When.... (Heritage 5K)

The title is a weekly feature on Run Like a Mother (Another Mother Runner) where moms are asked to complete the sentence about how you know you are a mother runner.  Well, I ended up with a good one this week.

We were not previously scheduled to run the Heritage 5K.  It is our fun local race that is run right on the roads that I train on all the time.  I did the 1/2 marathon last year and PRd and ran sub 2 on the course.  Anyway, we hadn't planned to run this year because of OC100 last week, and Zach was supposed to run in the Glory Days Cross Country Invitational on Saturday.  The cross country race got canceled due to flooding at Bull Run Regional Park because it has been raining since Wednesday.  He had really been looking forward to racing this weekend so I quickly signed him up for Heritage 5K.  Nicolas also had soccer canceled this weekend so he said that he would run as well.  I had a great week of running this week so I figured that I would give it a shot so JD decided to do it too.

This is a great race because the kids have a chance at winning age group awards as the age group is 1-9 instead of the normal <14 age groups in most of the other local races.  Nic said that he wanted to try running on his own for the first time.  I thought the women's field might be a bit softer than usual since a lot of the women would be running the half so I decided to let it fly and try for an age group award for myself.

So it is pouring rain this morning, but we are undaunted because it's not even close to what we Resolution 5K in Beaufort.  The kids are both excited to really let it go on the course because it is familiar to them and not overly hilly.  This race is also awesome because a ton of MRTTer's are there so I got to meet up with all of my running friends.

Right before 7 am we toed the line (another reason that I love this race is the early start).  I noticed as we lined up that there were more kids at the front of the line than adults so I was feeling pretty good about my age group chances.  The gun goes off and we all fly out of there.  I was sub-7 for about the first 1/2 mile and then settled into a 7:30 pace.  I knew there were only a handful of women ahead of me, and I was pretty sure they were not in my age group so I was feeling pretty good.  Near the end of the first mile I hear Nic calling my name from behind me.  He had freaked out a little at the start of the race since everyone else in the family took off faster than him, and it was a little dark outside.  Somehow little man managed to throw down a 7:30 first mile to catch up to me to say that he now wanted to run with me.

So now my competitiveness is fighting with my mommy instinct.  The mommy strongly wanted to kick in and slow down to let him run with me, but the competitor was fighting with the mom a bit.  I was really torn.  I slowed down a little and told him that I was going to run right ahead of him and asked him if he could run on his own if he could see me.  He nodded so I settled in at about an 8:30 pace (thinking that I still had a shot at 2nd or 3rd in my age group) as long as I kept an eye on who was passing me and maybe had something left to catch them at the end.  As we hit mile 1.5 with a water stop and turn around, I realized that Nic was really struggling and near tears.  Poor little guy had a bad stitch that he was trying to work through.  That basically did it for me.  At that point I completely stopped and pulled over to the side of the course to wait for him to get to me so we could run it in together.  Zach passed me, and I yelled to him that I thought he might be 3rd in his age group and not to let any other boys pass him.

I was dying as I slowed to a 10 minute pace and watched a bunch of women pass me.  I gave up trying to figure out their ages and just resigned myself to the fact that an AG award was not going to happen.  As we were nearing the high school track (location of the finish line), I checked my Garmin and noticed that Nic had a chance to break 30 minutes.  So I let him know that if he could push it in really hard around the track that he would get a big PR.  This kid gave me everything he had.  I know that stitch was killing him, but he just dug in and gutted it out.  We finished together at 29:25!!! A huge PR for him (last best was 31:44 at Manassas Runway-a faster course in better conditions).  I was so proud and happy for him.

We waited around for the awards to start because we weren't sure about Zach.  It turned out that he placed 4th in his age group because I had thought one of the other boys was a girl (ooops!-long hair and running fast).  He wasn't too disappointed though because the 1-9 age group was super tough today.  The winner ran sub-21!!!  Zach ended up with a massive PR of 26:02 (3 minutes better than his previous time) so he was really excited about that.

Wet and cold, but with PRs!!!
Anyway, the announcer gets to the 35-39 year old women, and I'm inwardly dying because I'm thinking about the award that I gave up.  I've only placed 3rd in my age group once before so it was a big deal for me to let an AG award slip away from me.  All of a sudden, he calls my name for 3rd place.  I was not quite prepared for that so I gasped "Are you kidding me?"  He said that they most certainly were not kidding and that I should come and get my award. Nicolas and I are going to share the award because if he wouldn't have pushed so hard at the end I would not have stayed in front of the other runners.  So the award is a little bittersweet because I feel like the time wasn't good enough to earn the award, but I'll take it and move on.

This race gave me a lot of confidence going into the last weeks before Richmond because it let me know that I still had some speed in my legs after all of those long slow runs that I've been doing.

So today's installment of "You know you're a mother runner...." when you give up an age group win to wait for your little one who is running and still somehow manage to get an age group award because your kid is getting so fast.
My award while warming up at Starbucks

Heritage 5k - Rest just took a backseat to my EGO!

So heather says on Thursday, what do you think about running the Heritage 5k and I said...well, my left foot is still healing but sure, I can run with the kids and jog it out.  Welp, we roll up to Battlefield high school around 6:15...chill out, hit the can a few times b/c it doesn't matter if its a 5k or 100k, nerves always seem to get to me.  Heather meets up with her Moms run this town group, a great bunch of gals who are awesome.  I do a slow lap with the boys around the track one time to get the legs lose and the rain is coming down pretty good.  About 6:50am, we walk up to the line and I ask the boys, are you guys going to run by yourself or do you want me to run with you...both say they are going to run by themselves...well, ok, I figured I would go out with a decent pace and see how I felt...foot has been feeling good and the blisters have healed.  So the gun goes off at 7am and I take off, not pushing the pace at all looking back for zach and nic...thinking, should I stop and wait for them...I actually stopped at one point and thought maybe I should just jog it out at a 10 min pace.  But, my big EGO took over and I saw that there weren't a whole of people in front of me.  So my first mile had to be in the low 6's....There were a few guys in front of me and we came to the first hill and after last weeks 100k, I said, shit, I'll take this and more and passed a few people up the hill (yes, I had a big ego today) - However, we all know that if I ran a real race (i.e. PR race), I would of been middle packing it at best however, I did enjoy being top dog in a small race!...We headed up to long park, rounded the turn on our way back...at this point we are about 1.5 miles in and I am feeling good.  So good, I passed a few more people from the long park entrance to the Battlefield high school road...I saw this older gentleman in front of me and thought he could be in my 40-44 age group, a unusually highly competitive age group and thought I will wait until the track to catch him.  Well, he picked up the pace and I said, stay with him...at the track he turned it on so I stay with him still as we passed another person...rounding the final turn I saw him give a little kick so I turned whatever I had left from the OC 100k last weekend on which wasn't much and nipped him at the line by 1.2 seconds for 8th place overall out of 128 runners.  Here is my final time:

I ran a 6:46 minute mile pace over the 3.1 miles - what was  I thinking...maybe, I was thinking that if I can run this type of race 7 days after I run a 100k, I can do anything...don't know but EGO definitely got the best of me - personally, we all know this was not a smart move b/c I just ran a 17 hour 44 minute and 14 second 100k last weekend...but something happened when I toed the line, the adrenaline started flowing and I felt like, why not give a go and see how you do.  Additionally, it rained pretty hard the entire race but we had a great time.  I was actually pretty selfish in this whole race - heather had to stop and help a crying Nicolas (got a stitch) and ran the final 1.5 miles in with nicolas to get third place in her age group.  Sorry Heather - again :) I should of stopped and helped nic to let heather attempt to get a higher place, possible first place.  Here is a snapshot of my little trophy thing:

All in all, I think I came out of this race unhurt and will take the next few days off - maybe hit the bike instead of run to rest the foot some more.  I figured that since I ran my goal race this year, everything from here on out is gravy...I have some EX2 trail races in November but those will seriously just be training runs for my Seashore Trail 50k in December.  See you when I see ya.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

View from the Pacer's Seat (Pacing Oil Creek 100K)

"I don't know where you're going
But do you got room for one more troubled soul?
I don't know where I'm going but I don't think I'm coming home
And I said I'll check in tomorrow if I don't wake up dead
This is the road to ruin
And we're starting at the end

Say yeah
Let's be alone together
We could stay young forever
Scream it from the top of your lungs"
-Fall Out Boy

This past weekend I paced JD to a finish at Oil Creek 100K.  This was his big goal race for the year.  When he asked me to pace him for the last 50K of the race, I was honored, but I was also terrified.  A pacer's one and only job is to get your runner to the finish, and I was afraid that I would not be a strong enough runner to do this for him.  I was so afraid that I would let him down so after asking him about 100 times if he really wanted me to do this I trained like a mad woman and set a goal to be able to do a sub 8 hour 50K in order to be able to pace him well.  I felt pretty comfortable after Youngstown Ultra that I would be able to handle the last 50K at Oil Creek so we had consistently talked about the fact that he had to do 50K on his own and then we were just going to go out there an enjoy the course.  I also thought this was a great opportunity for me to get another 50K under my belt while getting familiar with the course at Oil Creek.

What I have collected here are lessons learned as a pacer that will hopefully help me and others.

1.  Know your runner's goal.
I knew that first and foremost our goal was to finish, but I also knew that he had a time goal in mind.  In the week leading up to the race, JD had handed me a handwritten sheet with distances and times through aid stations for a 17-18 hour finish so I knew what I had to do when we got out on the trail.   I folded that sheet up and kept it in my hydration pack and was able to consult it throughout the run, and keep us within our goal range even after it got dark.

We also had a few sub-goals.  A big one of these was to hit AS #2 and get some of the way to AS #3 before dark.  I was pushing to run as much as possible during the first section to make this goal.  In retrospect, I see that I ran a little too conservatively on this section because I was so concerned about making sure he had enough left to finish.  Now I realize that it was a lot of hiking once it got dark so we should have made more of our runnable time.

2.  Break the run into manageable chunks.
The size of these chunks will vary greatly depending on your runner and where on the course you are.  At the beginning we started out with getting to AS #2, but by the end of the race we were down to small goals (get me off the trail, get me to the next stop sign).
Focusing on getting to AS #2

3.  Don't lie to your runner about distances, but you don't need to be brutally honest about them either.
JD only wanted to know about really big mile markers.  He wanted to know when we hit 50 miles. Sometimes he would ask about distances to aid stations or how far we had made it into a section.  There were a few times where the truth was not going to help him so I gave vague answers about the distance or remained pretty noncommittal about it until we had made some good progress.

(Case in point...do not correct him when he thinks he's a little further than he really is)
4.  Be organized.
This is particularly true if you do not have additional crew to rely on.  I had detailed lists of what we needed at each aid station and what was to be in each drop bag.  I had the drop bags organized and also had my hydration pack organized with the gear I would need. I had our drop bags and crew supplies well organized so that part of the day would run smoothly.  I packed and repacked hydration packs to make sure all of the supplies were there.  I had about 500 handwritten lists of what to do when.  What I lacked in physicality I made up for in organization

Bags waiting to go out to AS #2
5.  Know the course.
 This is really important because you may be leading your runner at some points.  You should know what the course markings look like and know the distances to the aid stations.  I had read a number of blogs, studied the course description, and was carrying a one page sheet with all of the aid station distances.  It would have been even better if I could have run part of the course previously, but that wasn't possible so I had to rely on my studying and preparation.
Course markings

6.  Take care of yourself.
 Pacers often forget to do this because they are so focused on the runner.  I was waiting around all morning and crewing a lot of the day.  I made sure to stay out of the sun as much as possible and to eat and keep hydrated so that I was fresh when I went out.  I also kept reminding myself to eat and drink when my runner was eating and drinking.  The terrific aid station volunteers at Oil Creek made my job much easier because they were great about tending to runner's needs so that I could take care of myself when I came into the aid stations.

Had to make time for a quick selfie
7.  Stay positive.
 This was the part that was scary for me.  I tend to go to Negative Town when things get hard on a run.  This particular race was a big challenge for me because I don't run well in afternoon, it was more elevation gain than I had ever done before, it was only my second go at the 50K distance, I was crewing all day, and I had no previous experience running trails at night (probably should have practiced this before hand). I had to work hard to keep any negative thoughts or complaints inside my own head.  There were a few spots after AS#2 where I was in a dark spot.  The first of these was going up Heisman Hill.  This climb was really hard on me, and I let it show.  JD saw that and started to worry about me a little.  After that climb, I vowed to myself that I was not going to let anymore weaknesses show on the outside.  So I cursed Rockefeller and his damn Revenge (Mother Fxxer Jones from Horrible Bosses visited us a few times), secretly hated the Boy Scouts (because I swear they moved AS #3), wanted to throttle Gerard for making the trail go up and down so many damn times, really hated the damn mud before Miller Farm Rd, almost crapped my pants when I smelled bear near the trail (better get that bell out), but I kept it all to myself.

I also used others on the trail to help keep me upbeat.  Tom Lane at AS #2 was awesome at motivating us as we were leaving the and heading out.  Jeff Nelson also provided a much needed pick me up on the way into AS #3.  I was doubting my pacing abilities, and he had some encouraging words that buoyed my spirits to help with a strong finish.  It also helped to know that it took us until AS #3 for the lead 100 miler to pass us and no other runners passed us after AS #2.

Might as well enjoy the scenery!

8.   Do not linger in aid stations.
Although aid stations provide a much needed break from the trail and comfort for you and your runner, they are very tempting.  At OC 100, runners were dropping like flies at the aid stations.  I made it my goal to get us in and out of those aid stations as fast as possible so that JD was never tempted to entertain thoughts of dropping.  I checked on what he felt like he needed as we were approaching the aid station and started working on getting those needs met as soon as we hit the station.  I know it sounds callous, but I also tried to avoid contact with dropping runners.  I wanted to avoid any negative thoughts and keep the focus on the finish.  At one point one of the volunteers got confused about who was and was not dropping and was about to write JD's number down as a drop so I came racing into the pavillion like a crazy person yelling that 635 was NOT a drop.

Along the same lines, don't indulge your runner by dwelling on his complaints.  If JD would mention that something was hurting, I would acknowledge it and then change the topic to start talking about something else or change the pace of the run/walk to help him focus on something else.

Coming into AS #1

9.  Know what motivates your runner and how your runner wants to be paced.
 Since my runner happened to be my husband, I had an in-depth knowledge of what he needed to be motivated.  We had talked a lot about whether he wanted me to run ahead or behind, when and how I should push him, whether I should be tough, how much talking he wanted, etc.  Having said that, remember that things change on the trail.  JD is usually pretty talkative so I was prepared to keep a running dialogue out there for as long as it took.  However, I sensed that he was getting tired of talking at one point so we took a break from the chatter and just ran in silence (except for the incessant ringing of the bear bell-did not want to meet mama bear) for a bit. 

My runner was motivated by the promise of porta potties and noodle soup.

10.  Improvise, adapt, and overcome.
Stealing this one from the Marines!  As much as you study, prepare, and plan, not everything goes according to plan.   Mother Nature threw a curve ball at us and dropped some unseasonably warm weather in our lap so we had to adjust our hydration and electrolyte plan as well as be prepared to slow the pace.  Despite checking the packs multiple times, I forgot the handheld flashlight.  This would have made my night running much easier, but I had to shake it off and move along with only the headlamp.

We forgot the knife so we just dipped the bread in the jar.
11.  Celebrate the small victories.
 JD is still laughing about the party I threw when we came off of the trail at the Drake Well Museum.  I screamed and yelled and jumped up and down like he was Wilson Kipsang running a 2:03 marathon.  I knew he was exhausted at that point and that we were so close so I had to throw some energy into it.  I think I woke up the poor tired volunteers at the Jersey Bridge.  I also partied it up when we hit AS #2 with lots of celebrating about how we were headed home.  I also had quite the celebration when we could finally hear the hit and miss engine at the museum because that meant the end was near.

We are also still laughing about how I was sometimes giving him his pace and made the biggest deal when he hit a 15 minute and 13 minute mile back to back.
Pirate party at AS #2

12.   Have fun!
Because if you aren't having fun, then why are you out there doing it.  This was one of the best running experiences of my life, partly because I got to help my husband fulfill his dream, but also because I learned so much about myself along the way.

We did it!

My section of the run was 10 hours 23 minutes with about 6.5 of those hours in the dark using headlamps. In retrospect there were things that I could have done better and a few mistakes that I made, but I am excited to get back out on the trails and learn some more.  I met so many great people from the other crew and pacers to the runners to the amazing volunteers.  My job was made easy by the amazing course marking.  Not once did I ever have to search for a flag or worry that I was off course even in the pitch darkness.  Special thanks to the Boy Scouts for their adorable signs and spending the night in the woods just to keep us going (even though I'm still convinced that they moved the aid station).  Also special thanks to Tom Jennings and the finish line volunteers who made sure to congratulate me on finishing 50K.  Being a pacer can be a bit of a let down as your runner finishes and gets a buckle and applause.  Tom and the finish line volunteers made sure to cheer for me as well which made the finish even more special for me (plus the buckle is in our house so I at least got to go home with it too).

Friday, October 11, 2013

Oil Creek 100k 2013 Race Report

 It really all came down to these six little words - "How bad do you want it".  Like most things in life, you either want it or you don't.  Some people don't want it bad, they just kinda want it...others, there is nothing else.  For me, there was never a time during the race that I wanted to give up.  However, you have alot of time to think during those 62.2 miles asking yourself, did you train hard enough, why are you doing this, did that ankle roll at mile 23 break something and are you just running on adrenaline?

WOW.  That is one word to describe my experience at the Oil Creek 100k Trail race this year.  As someone who had never run further than 31.1 miles (50k), I knew this was going to be a challenge of a lifetime...one that I had no idea how I would feel when I passed that 50k mark.  Just 11 months ago, I ran my first marathon.  Before that marathon, the most I had ran was the Army 10 miler.  In those 11 months, I had ran numerous marathons, two 50ks and a bevy of half marathons and trail 10/20 milers.  My mileage coming into the OC100 was anywhere between 40 and 45 miles a week (some 50 mile weeks), not even close to where I wanted it to be however injuries and life stuff sometimes don't allow you the time you need to put in those extra miles.  One of the things that may have helped me is the climate I live in here near DC...its hot and humid all summer and most of my runs are after work when it is brutal.  So when the temps rose into the upper 70's, low 80's, it really didn't bother me that much.

Getting There
So Heather, the kids, and I headed out on October 4th, 2013 (Thursday) to head up to New Castle, PA.  Heather's mom lives in New Castle and going there would allow her mom to see the kids and give us time to run the Oil Creek 100k on that Saturday.  We left for Titusville, PA on the 5th around 12pm and got there about 2pm.  We were staying at the Cross Creek resort and when we arrived our room wasn't ready so we headed down to Petroleum Center to check out Aid Station #2.  On our way to Petroleum center, we ran into a nice little establishment - called the playhouse...hmm, strip joint  in the middle of the woods???  Bet that has some quality talent - sorry, I digress.  Might have to hit that after the run :)

They were setting up and one of the volunteers (Tom Lane) came up to us and we started chatting - everyone there was awesome and it helped me get an idea of where heather could meet me halfway through the race.  We got back to the Cross Creek resort and noticed the sign when we came in - hmm, OC 150, guess they were trying to tell us something here - I can tell you it felt like a 150k.

So we chill in the room, its ok, not the best room but I thought it would be better than trying to get some sleep in the Titusville Middle School.   Anyway, around 4pm on Friday, we headed over to Maria's Italian restaurant and got the "usual" - meatball and spaghetti (angel hair)...I got it last time when I ran the Drakewell marathon back on August 18th...After going to Marias, we headed over to the Titusville Middle School for packet pickup.  Quick picture outside of Maria's in Titusville, PA.

Packet Pickup

Packet pickup was pretty cool, and was located at Titusville Middle School, when we got there we got the nice little welcome.

 We got there around 4:45 pm and saw that most of the people would be camping outside that night.  I met up with Katie Peterson who was a volunteer at the event and who was running the 100 mler the next day.  Heather picked up her pacers bib and I picked up my 100k bib as well as some freebies they were giving away.  Here is a pic of me after picking up the 100k bib:

Shit just got real!
Additionally, I met up with the lumberjack  and Ron who were running the 100k the next day as well...it was nice to see friends you had met online but never met in person.  After picking up some swag, we bullshit for a little bit and head back to the room by 7..., showered, nestled into my flea-ridden bed and tried to get some sleep.  Here is a shot of the bib pickup for the 100k race.

Back to the room, we started laying everything out for the morning...heather was in full prep mode and did a great job getting everything together.

3AM Wakeup
"Whose fucking idea was this anyway" were the first words out of my mouth when the phone alarm went off at 3am.  I wanted to get up early, eat some peanut butter and raisin bread in enough time to get the dump going..nothing worse than heading to the starting line and squirting out a shit with 300 other dudes/dudettes...however, I was going to be running for 18 hours, who really cared and the funny thing was, I wasn't as nervous about the race as I had first thought.  I was thinking to myself, I get more nervous for 5k races than the 100k...crazy, I know...I got dressed; red CEPs, under armor shorts, "run for independence neon shirt", and my ASIC's artic cats.

Here is a shot of me at 4am, barely awake....

Pre-Race briefing

Tom Jennings got up around 5:45am and said a few words about the course.  He said the "bears" should not bother you, just don't come between them and their cubs - check...oh, and watch out for the porcupines, they sometimes come out at dusk and don't like to get off the trail - check, oh and this is the first day of archery season - Whaaaaaat - so some redneck with bad aim is going to derail my chances at my first 100k?  After the briefing, we all went outside and heather got some nervous shots of me with my headlamp on.

Here are some more shots of the race pre-briefing:

Here are some more pics before the race had even started:

 Nervous wave to heather, can you see the humidity...

Stretching for a 62 mile race, huh?



Ok, so the 100 milers started the race at 5am, 100k'ers at 6am and the 50k'ers at 7am - We lined up and he did the countdown and we were off out of the school, down the bike trail.  We went down the bike trail for about a mile and then make a right hand turn into a WALL of something...it was pitch dark and the head lamp was ok but I assumed it was a hill of some kind :).  I mean this trail  went up and up - plus it was dark as hell...it became a hike...a few brave souls took off like it was a 5k but most of us settled in for about an hour until light came up.  About 3.5 miles in, I roll my left foot inward kind of like you jam you ankle in between a hole...I was like, you have to be fucking kidding me...3 miles in, really JD...But I stopped tied my shoe tighter and told myself I would look at it at AS #2 which would be 13.1 miles away.  I hit the first AS (aid station) in about 1:43 minutes which was 7.1 miles away. The AS #1 was ok, had some nice eats but the hill after it was a motherfucker...and that is no hyperbole  - this bitch was like the Vail mountain climb complete with switchbacks....I didn't have that tough of a time initially with it but was thinking on the second loop, this is going suck!   Here is a quick pic of me going up AS2 hill:

 So my plan of attack was to carry a handheld until AS #2 the pickup a hydration pack from AS #2 till AS #4...eat a gel every hour and make sure you were taking your endurolytes.    During my run from AS1 to AS2, I saw (what I thought to be) Sandi Nypaver but it was her sister Rachel.  Based on her speed, she had to have been running the 50k b/c she was hauling ass up some hill and eating up the technical sections.  Not being a very technical trail runner, I picked through some of the sections a little to conservatively but my goal was to finish, not burn out in the first 50k...plus, it was getting warm quick.  After a shitload of ups and downs we finally got to AS2 which was ranked as my favorite aid station.  Here are some shots of me coming into AS2:

Coming into AS2 on the first loop.

Heather got a quick pic of me coming in to AS2.

I stopped at AS2 where I met heather - took off my left shoe to see if it was swollen or bruised.  Nope, looks good so I grabbed something to eat changed socks and put the shoes back on.  I must say, all the volunteers at all the Aid stations  were incredible...when I came into each AS, they would refill my bladder or bottle immediately which was quite helpful given by the end of I could barely even function.  After consulting with Heather, she said it looks fine and to "get back out there" - now that is the wife I know, tough and all business when it comes to the race.  That is why I picked her as a pacer, unless a bone is sticking out of your leg, she probably would of said, "get the fuck back out there and suck it up"...ok, so after the new socks went on, I headed back out from AS2 to AS3 which was a 8.8 mile jaunt...
 This is me coming out of AS2 about 13.1 miles into the race.

 Walking out, still trying to feel if the left foot is ok.

 Absurd climb awaits me after my first visit to AS2.

 First stop, a devastating climb up Heisman hill...now this hil was a son of a bitch given you just filled your belly with some food and heed and now your climbing and climbing and climbing...after about 2-3 miles, I saw Alison, a friend I met at the YUTC about 3 weeks ago.  I was supposed to run the YUTC (Youngstown Ultra Trail Course) but I had PF and sat out in prep for the OC 100k race.  During that time, heather ran he first 50k so I crewed the whole day and met alot of cool runners, one of them being Alison.  However, Alison was having a rough day, first she was not feeling good at all.  We have all been there - just for her to show up to the 100k sick took major sack but I think being sick led to what happened next.  She tripped over a huge root and massively rolled her left ankle...another local and I stopped to see how bad it was and it was bad.  We talked for a little bit thinking of which way was better to go - meaning, the trail was one way, either you go back the way you came or you go forward...no side trails, no helicopter coming to get you, no ATV, nada...Alison told us to go ahead and at first it just didn't seem right but we kept going...we knew the boy scout camp was about 3 miles ahead so we ran ahead and told them at which time I am pretty sure someone met her to help her get back to AS4 (Note - I found out later she just sprained it really bad, oh and she had pneumonia too).  At the boy scout camp, we told them about Alison and kept going...I finally got to Miller farm road which led to AS3...knowing that I only had 8+ miles to go to complete my first loop, I was feeling better.  Right out of AS3, you hit cemetery hill which goes up and up and up....

 I saw the camera dude and picked up the shuffle!

 It actually looks like I am running, damn!

At this point it was almost 80F - to give you some perspective, last year on Oct 5th in Titusville, PA, it was 35F...hmm, just a small change in temps...ok, so I am picking my way over the rocks and roots and I skid off this one wet rock and completely roll my left ankle...I said "NOOOOOO"...I seriously thought it was broken...however, b/c I rolled it back at mile 3.5 I had been favoring it a little even though I didn't need to...when I rolled it, my weight was on my right foot which was good.  I stopped, pulled over on the trail and assessed how bad it was...I looked at the foot, it didn't swell so I knew that was good....I also tied my shoe tighter...I said, OK, I should be able to get back to AS4, it as about 6 miles to go...the next 6 miles were uneventful except the canopy in the forest that had been protecting us for so long had disappeared and the sun was blaring right down on us.  I finally got to the road and it was 2.5 miles to complete the first 31.3 (50k)...for the last 2.5 they drag you past the drakewell museum and down the bike path back to the middle school. 

I finally get back to AS4 where I finished the first 31.1 in 7:34:49.80...I had been planning to finish in about 8 hours so this was ahead of schedule.  When I got there, I couldn't find heather and thought...where is she...so what had happened is she thought I would be coming in around 8/8:30 so she went to go pee...Initially, I was upset however, I got over that quickly given the fatigure.  We did a quick change of shirts, socks and grabbed my hydration pack.  A little note on bottle vs. hydration pack....I went with a bottle for the first 50k, not the best of ideas...I should of switched from bottle to hydration pack at AS2 given the length between AS's and the heat had risen to almost 80 degrees. 
So heather gets her shit, I put on my pack and we "roll out" - at first heather wants to run and I tell her we are going to have to walk part of it out just so I can get my legs under me....after about 1.5 miles, we hit the entrance of the state forest again and start up the nasty technical ascent on our way until AS1.  AS1 to AS2 is highly technical and was tough going but I was telling heather this little phrase, "JUST GET ME TO AS2"...because at AS2 we would be at mile 44.8 and only 18 miles from the finish.  Another goal was to make it to AS2 before it got dark because we both knew once nighttime came, it would be hard to run these rocky and rooty single track paths.  Funny thing happened - I had started the day running behind Elen and Dale, two runners from the Ohio area...somewhere during the first 50k, I lost them but there they were back on the way to the start of the next 50k...We got to the first AS on the second loop and they decided to drop as did another gentelmen.  I never ask why people drop b/c the race was hard enough, I just didn't need to hear any negativity - it could of been one of 10 reasons but it was ashame b/c they had been running with us the whole time.  Actually, when I heard people were dropping, I would hurry my shit up and get the hell out of there before I even thought about it...its to easy to quit and I really wanted this one, being my first 100k.  We left AS1 to AS2 and hit the Vail hill climb transplanted to Western PA...this bitch was rough and windy and long...all you needed was 8500 feet and you would be in Vail.  Anyway, we plateaued that thing an hour later (just kidding) and kept trucking for AS2.

This is me coming into AS2 around the 44.8 mark.
 We finally got to AS2 and I needed to get some work done on my feet.  The feet were starting to feel the pounding of 10 hours of running and I had two giant size blisters.  An EMS guy helped put something on my foot, I had no idea what it was but I had to give the guy my complete heatlth and medical info in front of 30 people before leaving, not exactly HIPPA compliant??  Either way, there were another 4+ drops sitting there waiting to be taken back to AS4...Heather said, lets get the fuck out of the here...well, something like that - she saw that every AS had tons of people dropping and didn't want me to be influenced by the drops.  One person I want to thank is Tom Lane, that guy is a beast and one hell of a motivator.  He was one of the nicest guys at AS2 and was really pumping up the runners that were coming in and going out.  So on to AS3 and another climb up heisman hill....so we head out trying to beat the coming darkness...we get about 2+ miles out before we broke out the headlamps....thats when things slowed down big time...I swear AS2 to AS3 is 10 miles long, not the 8.8 or so they say :)  In the dark, that bitch must be 13 miles however, Tom Jennings says its only 8+ miles so it must be.  So the new mantra during this section of the run was "JUST GET ME TO THE BOYSCOUTS"...the boys scouts were this camp that had been setup in between AS2 and AS3.  We could hear people talking but there was no camp so we kept running and running and running...no camp...running in the dark was starting to make me loopy.  On our way to the boyscouts, we hit a section and it smelled like bear shit...now, I am no survivalist but given that bears are out there, I kind of figured this was home base.  We picked up the pace through here :) So we finally get to the boyscouts camp and some dude says, only FIVE more miles until miller farm road which is AS3.  That was a low point for me - it felt like it had taken us forever to get to them, now another 5 miles at tortoise-like speeds power hiking up and down crazy terrain.  Heather even got a little quiet during this period - I think we both were having a tough go of it here...well, we finally get to Miller Farm Road and we see these lights behind us....No shit, its the 100 miler leader...it was some scrawny kid being paced by Jeff Nelson (a local who still holds the 100k course record).  Jeff, who I met at Drakewell this year was nice enough to give me and my wife words of encourgement - hes a solid guy.  So I get to AS3, lube up b/c the sack is getting so raw from the sweat and humidity I can barely shuffle...hit some heed, eat 2 grill cheese sandwiches and soup....grab two more grill cheese and put them in my pocket as well as M&M's and anything else I could fit in there...oh and refill the bladder with some water - and we are off....8+ more miles to go...This stretch seemed like it took even longer than the last probably b/c it did...we were averaging 20 min miles, about 3 miles an hour...we finally hit the bridge and were only 2.5 miles away from the finish...About 4 miles from AS3, I started having visions that this owl we have been hearing is now hunting me and has been following me since I entered the woods.  That and the large brushing noises I was hearing behind me - it was most likely fatigue but if I had to bet, there was something else there.  At this point, I am peeing once every 15 minutes b/c I am keeping myself up just by drinking water....I am making little goals for myself like, ok, jd, run to the big oak tree and then you can walk.  Next, make it to the bike trail, then you can walk.  Ok, JD, run to the green sign in the neighborhood....and finally I can see a glimmer of the Titusville Middle school...Heather runs ahead to get a picture of me as I finish...I make the turn and Tom has the finish lit up like a runway...I slopped on it in a time of 17 hours, 44 minutes, and 14 seconds.  What a race - I still can feel the pain in my feet days later.  The longest I have ever run was a 50k which is 31.1 miles and the longest time I ever ran was at North Face DC and it was 7 hours and 8 minutes.  Here is a snapshot of me at the finish line:

I finished in 17:44:17.
Also, Oil Creek put together a nice video of all the finisher which can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lFSNFJ7Q2eg.


I came in 31st out of 82 that started the race.  27 people did not finish the race and 55 did finish (33% of the people.

Here are my splits:
Bib number 635:
Loop1 start:

Start to AS2 (13.9 miles):  3:13:50.90
AS2 to AS4 (17.2 miles): 4:20:58.90

Loop 1:  (31.1 miles) - 7:34:49.80


Start to AS2 (13.9 miles) 4:16:12.70  (total time/distance:  11:51:02.50/44.8 miles)
AS2 to AS4 (17.2 miles) 5:53:14.50  (total time/distance:  17:44:17.00/62 miles)

Finish time:  17:44:17.00

My feet were pretty much destroyed after this 17 hour jaunt, feast your eyes on these small pigs!  The left one was rolled twice so you can see its a little bigger than the right....

It was all for the sticker and the buckle:


Kudos to Tom Jennings for putting on an awesome event.  Everything from the aid stations to the course markings was fantastic.  I never had any trouble following the trail even in the middle of the night.  Also thanks go out to all the OC100 staff and volunteers, you guys did a great job.  Oh, and I loved the soup and grill cheese - I would think about it as incentive for each AS I was running towards.

Final comments

I just wanted to thank my wife Heather for helping me complete my first 100k race at Oil Creek, PA. Personally, I don't think I could of dealt with me over the summer months and into fall complaining about whether or not I can do this. Well, we did it together! It was an absolutely sick course and had an approximate ~33% DNF rate this year b/c of the abnormal heat wave coupled with the absurd terrain and hills. Running for 17+ hours and through the night at Oil Creek State park was a unique experience I will never forget. Why I picked one of the hardest 100k's on the east coast is probably the same reason I like running ultras, its ultimate challenge and and takes you out of your comfort zone. Additionally, thanks to all my running friends who I run with on training runs, various marathons and 50ks, you guys are the best - #fearnodistance

 Heather and I before the start of the race around 5:30am.