Thursday, October 16, 2014

Oil Creek 100K-A Beautiful Kind of Pain

After a solid 3 month training block where I had put in a lot more vertical than I ever had before, Oil Creek weekend was finally here.  My coaches at V02Max, Sandi Nypaver and Sage Canady, had put together a solid training plan and given me some great pre-race advice so I felt ready.
I did it all for the sticker!

Video of the race
Race Prep
Let me talk a little about pre-race prep first.  About a week before the race I started packing my drop bags.  At Oil Creek, you can have a drop bag at Petroleum Center and a drop bag at the school so I had to prepare two drop bags.  I had just treated myself to fancy new bags from High Desert Drop Bags, and I was really happy with them.  They were sturdy, easy to locate, and had plenty of room.
Packed drop bags

So drop bag 1 was going to Petroleum Center.  I would see that bag at ~14 miles and again at ~45 miles so I had to have night running stuff in there as well.  That bag contained extra headlamps, knuckle lights, small handheld flashlight, warm clothes for my pacer and me, change of shoes, two sock changes, small towel to dry feet, first aid stuff, lubricant, and batteries.

Drop bag 2 would stay at the middle school.  I would see that bag at the 50K mark.  That bag contained extra shoes, change of clothes, extra socks, main headlamps, lubricant, and small towel to dry feet.  I also had a third bag which contained my hydration pack that was packed with my Honey Stinger fuel supplies that JD would give to me at mile 14 the first time through Petroleum Center. 

There was a final bag that just had extra supplies in it that would stay in the car in case of emergency.  I could send JD to the car to get stuff at mile 14 or the 50K mark if conditions really changed beyond what was anticipated.

I also made a small sheet that I laminated that had the distances, anticipated times, and crew instructions for each of the unmanned water stations and regular aid stations.  This made it easy for JD and I to know what needed to happen at each stop and if I was on schedule or not.  It also helped him know when and where he needed to be ready.  I also made him a sheet that contained pacer instructions (some of which he actually followed-just kidding!).

Day Before Race
The day before the race we went over to Petroleum Center so that JD could familiarize himself with how to drive there, and we were fortunate enough to meet up with some friends and socialize for a few minutes.  Then we headed over to the Comfort Inn to settle in and then get my usual pasta dinner.  I know there are varying theories on the pasta carb load, but it always works with my stomach so I stick with it.  We picked up my bib at the middle school and saw a lot more of our trail friends.  I was feeling really nervous and pretty much just wanted to get back to the room so I could lay out my clothes and rehearse crew/pacer instructions endlessly.  I'm pretty sure that JD was sick and tired of me running through instructions over and over again, but I'm a control freak so it calmed me down.  Finally went to bed around 7:30 pm and actually fell right to sleep and slept pretty well until 3 am after which I tossed and turned until the alarm went off at 3:30 am. 
Bib pick up
Runner love

Race Outfit
I elected to go with the Salomon Exo S-Lab running skirt because that thing is the boss on long runs.  I layered my Moms Run These Trails tank with a long sleeve Saucony tech shirt, added some throwaway gloves, Run Pretty Far buff, Title 9 headlamp (decent for an hour of pre-dawn running), Brooks ASR trail shoes with my usual socks, Patagonia underwear (which I'm now in love with for under that chafing...I can't go commando in run clothes...doesn't work for me), trusty Nike sports bra, Nathan handheld, and Ultimate Direction Jurek belt.
Loop 1 flat mama

The handheld would go with me for the first 14 miles and had my pace chart, Endurolytes, and Honey Stinger waffles in it.  The UD belt stayed with me the whole time and had cell phone (for emergency), toilet paper, plastic bag for trash, small back up flashlight in case headlamp died in the am, and iPod shuffle.

Race Goals
1.  Finish
2.  Sub-24 hour finish
3.  Stretch goal:  sub-20 hour finish

Race Morning
I got dressed and ate 2 slices of raisin bread with peanut butter (my go to long run breakfast).  We got to the middle school at 4:30 am.  Thankfully they had coffee that tasted like petroleum, but I needed the coffee to get the bathroom issues working.  We nervously chatted with the 100 milers, and Ron's wife, Elyse, was kind enough to give me one of the motivational sayings that Ron's friends had made for him.  It said "Suck it up buttercup!"  which was perfect for me because it reminded me of my Moms Run This Town group.  I tucked it into my handheld water bottle.  The 100 milers left to start at 5 am, and I lined up to get my ankle chip for timing purposes.  I got a big hug from my friend, Allison, who also sent me an awesome pre-race card.  We got pre-race instructions, went outside, and we were off.  The nerves were gone once I got to the line.  I was excited to finally get started.  JD almost missed me crossing the start so I was jumping around and waving to get his attention on the way out.  It was still dark when we headed down the bike path.

Loop 1
Section 1-Titusville Middle School to Wolfkiel Run Aid Station 1 (7.1 miles)
 We do about 1.75 miles on the bike path until we enter the Gerard Hiking Trail.  I only had my Garmin to use as a watch so I have no idea what my pace was on the bike path.  I was just trying to run comfortably.  Once we hit the hiking trail, it turned into a conga line of hikers as the trail is a little tricky to navigate in the dark and no one wanted to risk running and getting injured 3 miles into the race.  I passed a few people as I was hiking pretty well.  I hit the Boughton Acid Works unmanned water station at 6:50 (3.5 miles), and I had planned to be there at 7 am so I was really happy with my progress.  The sun was up by about 7:15, and the temperatures were starting to move into the upper 40s.  I made really good progress and soon saw the sign for Wolfkiel descent which meant that I was coming into Wolfkiel Aid Station.  I hit the aid station at 7:50.  The goal had been to get there by 8 am so I felt really good as I had been keeping an easy sustainable pace.  I had about 1/2 banana and two boiled potatoes washed down with Mountain Dew, refilled my water bottle, and used the portapotty before heading out.  I tend to mess up my hydration so it was a good sign that I was already using the toilet early in the race. 

Some gorgeous views (photos by Charles Houpt)

Section 2-Wolfkiel Run to Petroleum Center Aid Station 2 (6.8 miles; 13.9 cumulative)
Aid Station 2 fully stocked
My goal had been to get out of aid station 1 before getting passed by 50K runners (who started an hour behind). Just as I was starting up Switchback Mountain out of the aid station, Jeff Nelson, the 50K winner, flew past me so I just barely made that goal.  The good news was that he was so far ahead that I didn't see any other 50K runners for quite a while.  I handled Ray Gerard's Never Ending Hill with not much of a problem.  I made good progress to Pioneer which had unmanned water and was 3.4 miles ahead.  I reached Pioneer at 8:45 am which was 15 minutes ahead of my plan. (should probably note here that these splits were calculated for a 19 hour finish).  I refilled my water bottle quickly at Pioneer.  Somewhere in this section, Ashley Lister passed me, and told me that I was doing a great job.  So I was a giddy fan girl for about 2 miles after that since she is amazing and course record holder at all three distances at Oil Creek.  Soon I started hearing whoops through the woods.  This meant Tom Lane and his crew at aid station 2 were not far off.  I picked up the pace and got into Petroleum Center at 9:39 (a full 21 minutes ahead of schedule).  JD wasn't quite expecting me that early, but he started hustling as soon as he saw me.  I quickly changed socks, relubed my feet, grabbed my hydration pack, handed off my headlamp, stripped off my long sleeve shirt as it was warming up, used the bathroom, ate 1/4 banana, 1/2 grilled cheese, 1 boiled potato, cup of Mountain Dew, and took 2 Reeses cups for the road because I was having a peanut butter craving but they only had PB&J sandwiches and I hate those.  JD walked me out of the aid station and then sent me on my way up Heisman Hill.

Changing socks

Fueling up

Split 1:  3:39; 15:46 pace
Love running under the derricks

Section 3-Petroleum Center to Miller Farm Aid Station 3 (8.8 miles; 22.7 cumulative)
This section is the longest on the course, and Heisman Hill is the worst for me mentally.  I was feeling really good and power hiked the hill pretty strongly coming out of the aid station.  I was actually shocked when I hit the top so quickly.  The next section is fairly runnable, but it was also very slippery and muddy with lots of wet leaves down so I would do some running and then have to slow down in sections to avoid falling on the wet slippery rocks.  I hit the Cow Run unmanned water station and started seeing the Boy Scouts signs.  I love the Boy Scouts because they put these funny signs up all the way into their camp and then you can hear them for at least a mile.  I came through the Boy Scouts and didn't really stop since I was good on water.  The next section was mentally hard on me especially because you can hear the next aid station and see the train tracks, but then you have to climb Ida Tarbell's Wrath and descend again to get to it.  It's about 3.9 miles from the Boy Scouts to Miller Farm, and I was dragging a bit.  Brian Newcomer passed me somewhere in here and offered encouragement which got me going again, and I came into Miller Farm really strong.  Somehow Miller Farm is a bit of a blur to me.  I know that I ate stuff likely grilled cheese and potatoes, but I was just really focused on getting back to the school.  I did not look at my watch here so I don't know what time it was.
Coming out of section 3 onto Miller Farm Road (courtesy of Charles Houpt)
Aid station 3 was my favorite this year captained by the excellent Adam Peterson

Section 4-Miller Farm to Titusville Middle School Aid Station 4 (8.4 miles; 50K cumulative)
I'm pretty sure that I took some potatoes with me as I hiked up Cemetery Hill and then pushed through Rockefeller's Revenge.  I had my ipod on during this time and was trying to stay focused.  Lots of 50K runners were starting to pass me which was annoying as there is a lot of narrow single track so I kept having to step over.  It was really muddy for the first 2.5 miles into the Toy Run unmanned water station, and then it dried up.  I really pushed it in the last section in an effort to get off the trail.  I came off the trail and got a whoop from the Jersey Bridge volunteers.  I called out my bib number and headed for the Drake Well 1 mile loop of hell.  It feels interminable to get dragged around the museum because you are so close to the school.  The wind picked up during this time so even though it was flat I was running into the wind the entire back half of the loop.  Finally finished the loop and checked in with the volunteers again and headed off across the bridge to the bike path.  I mostly ran the bike path although the asphalt was killing my right knee at this point.  I saw Katie as I came off the bike path, and she came me some encouragement.  As I came in view of the school, Brian (who had finished the 50K) was there cheering me in with Mary.  I saw JD in the distance starting to pull the drop bag and I ran as hard as I could over the timing strip to check in at 2:41 pm.  I was 34 minutes ahead of where I anticipated being.  I was estimating 9:15 for the first loop, and I had just thrown down a 8:41 loop.  This was an incredible high.  I grabbed my stuff and ran into the school to change into warmer clothes.  It was still in the mid 50s, but I was expecting it to drop to the high 40s before I got to Pet Center to get my warmer stuff.  I changed socks, relubed, put on running tights and a new tank layered with long sleeve tech tee.  I had been planning to throw gloves into my hydration pack, but I forgot those (bad idea).  I grabbed my headlamp and some food. I think I ate grilled cheese, banana, and potato again (I can't even look at banana, grilled cheese, potatoes, or peanut butter cups 4 days later because I ate so many of them.).  I grabbed a cup of flat Mountain Dew to get some more caffeine in me, and we headed out.  I felt great.  I had no blisters or chafing issues, legs felt decent, and I had my pacer.
Drake Well Loop (courtesy of Mike Markiewicz)

Split 2-8:41; 17:35 pace

Loop 2

Section 1-Titusville Middle School to Wolfkiel Run Aid Station 1 (7.1 miles; 38 cumulative)
My legs were a little stiff on the bike path, and I was trying to digest what I had just eaten so we did walk/slow jog on the path.  I was actually too warm in the clothes that I had on because the sun was beating on us.  We saw Cody headed into the school so we were happy to see that he wasn't far behind us.  At this point, the 100 mile winner blew by me starting his third loop...yes, you heard that right, he ran 100K in the time that it took me to run 50K and he looked fresh.  We turned onto the trail and resumed some power hiking.  I was trying to run, and JD was doing his best to get me moving.  I was having trouble getting the turnover in my legs to run, but I was OK with strong hiking.  I also felt like I was working really hard cardiovascularly when I was running so it didn't feel sustainable for long stretches.  Despite that we hit Boughton Acid Works unmanned water at 4 pm still 15 minutes ahead of schedule.  I was still moving pretty well into Miller Farm and pulled in around 5 pm.  We grabbed a little more food and took off.

Section 2-Wolfkiel Run to Petroleum Center Aid Station 2 (6.8 miles; 44.8  cumulative)
We hiked Switchback and Ray Gerard.  There was much more cursing this time around.  I was not happy with Ray Gerard on the second time through.  I was looking to come into Pioneer unmanned water by 6:15.  Around 11 hours, I started crashing hard.  I just couldn't sustain any running.  The temperature was dropping rapidly and dark was coming.  I was dying to get to Pioneer.  When my watch hit 6:15, I started crying.  JD asked me what was wrong, and I said that I just wanted to get there even though there was only a big pile of water bottles.  He kept trying to encourage me that we were close, but I was discouraged because I couldn't remember landmarks and didn't really know where we were.  Finally at 6:25, we got to the water bottles.  JD was getting frustrated with me because I was being really negative through this section, but I was really falling apart in a big way.  Eventually we had to go to head lamps to finish the section.  My hands were extremely swollen, and I could barely use my fingers from the cold.  My long sleeve shirt wasn't warm enough since the temperature had dived down into the 30s, and I was desperate to get to Pet Center.  Finally around 7:30 we pulled into the aid station.  This still put me right at a 20 hour finish, but I was really out of it.  I used the bathroom while JD pulled the drop bags to get warm clothes on me. I was shivering, nauseated, confused, having trouble talking, elevated breathing and heart rate, and really just wanted to sit on the picnic bench and sleep. Google the symptoms of mild hypothermia...yeah...that was me.  The aid station was understaffed and in slight disarray when we pulled in. This aid station is usually amazing, but I think we caught them at a bad time when darkness had just fallen.  They were trying to get the propane heater going, and they were short on volunteers to help me.  I sat on the bench and finally told JD that he needed to tell me what to do because I was confused and didn't know what I was supposed to be doing.  He got my clothes out and told me to start layering them on.  I added a thermal Nike half zip and a windbreaker in addition to gloves.  Someone filled my hydration pack and made me eat some hot Ramen noodles.  Then they got me to stand over near the propane heater.  JD was having whispered conversations with other crew.  I think he was really worried about me at this point.  I told him in no uncertain terms that being cold was not a reason to DNF (that's why I had a pacer instruction sheet), and that I was leaving that aid station.  I think I kept mumbling, "Sandi says that cold isn't a reason."  I could see the medic starting to give me looks like he was concerned.  I was getting frantic to get out of there.  One of the other crew members told JD to get me back up to the top of the hill because it was a lot warmer up on the hill than it was in the valley.   We must have spent 30-45 minutes in this aid station.

Split 3-????-timing mat malfunctioned and missed a bunch of runners at this split.

Section 3-Petroleum Center to Miller Farm Aid Station 3 (8.8 miles; 53.6 cumulative)
 So we took some noodles and started hiking Heisman.  JD was trying to get me to eat noodles while I was hiking, but I was still feeling sick to my stomach.  As we hiked, I started to come back to reality and resumed a fairly strong pace.  I was getting warmer and was almost too hot with all of my layers. I did pretty well through this section and was able to resume a decent hiking pace.  I had built some cushion in here so even with the long stop in the aid station we were still into the Boy Scouts by about 10 pm.  I needed to be there by 9:30 for a 20 hour finish, but I was still feeling OK.  The Boy Scouts had a fire and were watching a movie and cooking steaks.  I briefly thought about spending the night with them, but we got out of there quickly.  Then wheels came off again in the next section.  The temp was down to 28 degrees in the valley and every time we got near Oil Creek we were getting coated in mist. I had no dexterity to navigate the rocks and roots in this section and was picking my way through everything.  I was dying to get to the road that would take us into Miller Farm.  JD kept offering me Gu because he was desperate to get me moving.  This was just irritating me because I can't stomach Gu.  Finally he forced a Snickers on me which I secretly stuffed in my vest after one bite because it was frozen.  I am not a good runner to pace.  Clearly I don't listen when I need to.  Somewhere in here we spotted a big fat porcupine.  The area is legendary for porcupines so I was hoping that we would see one.  He just wandered out onto the trail and took his sweet old time crossing in front of us.  We paused to let him pass. This perked me up a little, and we finally got to the road.  I tried to run as best as I could down the road.  When we got into Miller Farm, JD was really at a loss with how to motivate me.  I had less than 10 miles to go, but it seemed like 100.  Thankfully, Katie was there.  She got me hot noodles and flat Coke and got me warmed up by the fire.  There were a number of other runners there as well.  Aid station 3 was really hopping, and the volunteers there were amazing.  Katie asked me what she could do.  I told her that I was just so cold and was frustrated with moving so slowly.  She looked at me and told me that this was where I figured out what I was made of.  She said that she knew I could do this.  That was what I needed to get out of there.
All of the clothes that I layered on once I got into the aid station

Section 4-Miller Farm to Titusville Middle School Aid Station 4 (8.4 miles; 100K cumulative)
The wheels really came off here.  JD kept reminding me that we only had about 6 miles until we got off the trail, but it seemed like it was forever.  I fell three times in this section including one spectacularly scary fall where I nearly slid down one of the embankments.  There was lots of crying including one embarrassing moment when I looked up at this tiny hill and just started sobbing that I couldn't do one more hill....why are there so many freaking hills??? <insert hysterical drama here>  JD was so patient and just kept telling me to put one foot in front of the other and that I would get there.  Finally we can start to see car lights that mean we are getting near the end.  We hit the sign that said 1.6 miles to the trail head.  This section was really annoying as well because the sub 24 hour 100 milers were passing me so again we kept having to step off the trail to let them go so it was stop/start all through here.  Finally we hit the trail head.  JD called out my number to the Jersey Bridge volunteers.  He gave me a half hug, but I just wanted to keep moving.  I had to do that annoying Drake Well loop, but now I knew that I was going to finish so I found renewed energy and really started moving.  We hit the bike path, and I said that I would run when we got to the neighborhood.  I was more in a fast shuffle on the bike path.  We hit the neighborhood and I started to run.  By the time the school was in sight I had summoned up a pretty good pace.  I crossed the finish line in 21:17 according to the official race time (although the clock said 21:15 when I crossed so don't know what the difference was.)  Tom Jennings was bundled up and handed me my buckle and sticker and congratulated me.  I was tearing up, and I thanked him and said that I just wanted to go in the school and get warm. 

Final time:  21:17; 20:36 pace; 11,000' elevation gain
Second loop took me 12:36 compared which was way longer than what I had planned for.

The 100K had a 28% DNF rate this year so I was happy to get a finish.

Post race
As soon as I got into the cafeteria I started shivering uncontrollably, and my hands hurt so badly as they were warming up.  JD went out to pull the car around and get our drop bags.  He must have only been gone about 10 minutes, but I fell asleep sitting up in a cafeteria chair.  When JD woke me up, I was excited to see that Cody had finished as well.  Major kudos for a solo 100K effort!  I finally warmed up in the car and got something to eat before showering and going to bed.  I had one tiny blister on my heel which I think came from getting a tiny pebble in my shoe near the end. No major aches or pains and most of the soreness is gone 4 days post race.  The only lingering effect is that the tips of my fingers got frostnip, and I still have numbness and slight pain on the very tips of my third and fourth fingers.

I am super excited that I got closer to my reach goal than I thought I would, but the most important thing to me was the finish and not the time. 

Lessons learned:
1.  Take more layers with you than you think you are going to need.  I think the biggest downfall in the second lap was getting into a hole with the cold.
2.  Listen to my pacer better and trust my pacer to make things happen for me.
3.  Do more vertical training and practice downhill running more.
Course profile


  1. OMG ~ CONGRATULATIONS Heather! You are a badass BAMR in my book!!

  2. You are amazing! The fitness and logistics and mental toughness to complete this is just awesome. Congrats Heather!!! I am also very intrigued by the patagonia underwear, lol...runners always are looking for the next best thing :)

    1. I got them this summer for hiking, but then I tried them on a long run and they were awesome. Check I have the Barely Bikini, but they also have barely hipster and active hipster as well. I also have the active brief which was awesome for hiking, but it wasn't as great for running. I'm also a big fan of the UA seamless pure stretch underwear.