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 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 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 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 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 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, 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 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 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 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 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 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, 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 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:


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.

1 comment:

  1. Awesome race report. Glad to hear you made it to the finish in one piece!