Note: I’m posting all my old, pre-blog race reports.  Here’s how my second 100 Miler went.

What: Oil Creek 100 Mile Run
When: Saturday October 10, 2015 5:00am
Where: Titusville, PA
Distance: 100.6 miles
Time: 26:25:42.70
Place: 24th of 84 finishers (120ish starters)

I’m changing up my standard race report and giving it to you in a FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) format.

You did what?

I ran 100 miles.

How long did it take?

26 hours and 25 minutes. The race started at 5am so this meant I got to see 2 sunrises during the same run.

That’s an awful long time. Did you get tired/sleep?

This is one of the things I was most worried about heading into the run. It’s probably been 20 years since I pulled an all-night-er and I wasn’t sure how I would feel after being up for that long. And that’s even excluding the fact that I’d be running/walking/crawling the entire time. Turns out I got drowsy for only a very short amount of time coming into the last aid station right at the 24 hour mark. Once I arrived, I perked right back up and never had any additional problems.

Can you describe the course?

Unforgiving. Historic. Gnarly” is how the run bills itself. The race was held in Oil Creek state park in Titusville, PA. This is where Drake drilled the first oil well. There were a couple replica oil derricks along the course, which were neat to run by.

The run consisted of three 50k loops (31 miles) followed by a 7.6 mile Going Home loop. There were 4 aid stations per loop that were 7-8 miles away from each other. Crew can see their runners at the second (Petroleum Center) and fourth (start/finish at the middle school). The other 2 were in remote sections of the park that couldn’t handle the traffic.

Each loop started and ended with a 1.25 mile section on roads/bike paths until the trail started. There was also a flat 1 mile loop around the Drake museum at the end of each loop. Other than that though, the trails pretty much went up and down the entire time. This is where the “unforgiving” comes into play.

So how hilly was the course?

The course had 17,785 feet of elevation gain.

That sounds like a lot.

Call it a little over three and a third miles of up. Or a 5 minute drive in your car. Or 14 Empire State buildings.

What were your time goals heading into the race?

I didn’t have any. I just wanted to finish.

Liar. Seriously, what were you aiming for?

OK fine. Goals 1-4 really were just to finish, but I was dreaming of a 24 hour finish time though I knew this was unattainable. Twenty six to twenty eight hours seemed possible. So a 7 hour loop one followed by 8, 9, and 2 hour loops would be a likely best case scenario. Here were my splits for the loops:

Loop 1 – 6 hours 51 minutes or 13:15 pace

Loop 2 – 7 hours 22 minutes or 14:15 pace

Loop 3 – 9 hours 44 minutes or 18:51 pace

Going Home Loop – 2 hours 27 minutes or 19:11 pace

What the heck happened on loops 3 and 4?

I got tired and it got dark. In hindsight, I ran the second loop a little too fast. But I also started spending a lot more time in the aid stations, which probably “cost” me an additional 30-45 minutes on the last loop. I use quotation marks there because this was one of the smarter decisions I made in the race. My aid station strategy is to get in and out as fast as possible. There were 12 ASs on the course and spending 10 minutes in each will add 2 hours to your run. But as soon as I got to the last AS on loop 2, I transitioned to taking as much time to get prepared for the next section as I needed. At this point, an extra 10 minutes is nothing if it dramatically reduces the chances of a DNF (did not finish). I used this time to make sure I got hot food in me (or hot broth), swap out batteries in my headlamp (did not want to risk going dark in the middle of the woods), and get additional warm clothes lined up.

So are you happy with your performance?

Ecstatic would be an understatement. I ran a nearly flawless race from start to finish. I was physically and mentally prepared for the task at hand. I had a solid strategy in place and changed tactics up as I went along as conditions warranted.

I came in knowing I had a strong 50-55 miles in me, but wasn’t sure how much the last 30-40 miles were going to suck. I had a mantra ready to get me through the later miles (“I will survive. I will finish.”), however never needed it. I definitely slowed down as I got onto the third loop and was walking more, but I was mentally strong and hiking at a solid pace. I was having fun the entire time. Even when my quads were causing me a decent amount of discomfort, I didn’t get down or become discouraged.

How did you finish?

I finished like a freight train! My last split (0.83 miles) was my fastest of the entire 100 miles and done at a sub 10 minute pace. Kate saw me run it in and barely had time to get out of her sleeping bag and grab her phone to take a picture before I was across the finish line. She figured I picked it up just in the last finishing straight, but I was able to run almost the entire 1.25 miles at the same pace.

You said “nearly flawless”. . . .

I doubt it’s possible to run a perfect race. There’s always going to be things that can be improved upon and I came away with 4 things to work on.

  1. Protect the quads. The downhills beat my quads up pretty good. Unfortunately, it wasn’t until about mile 55 that I realized what was going on. At this point, I started mixing in some short hiking breaks on all downhill sections but it was too late to undo the prior damage. I need to start this before mile 40 to be more effective.
  2. More even fueling later in races. I need to rethink my fueling strategy, which has typically been based on miles. This puts more time in between my nutrition though as I slow down. I noticed during the night more low points and think this was due to lower caloric intakes. It was amazing to feel my legs ready to run again almost exactly 30 minutes after taking in an Ensure or gel. I either need to switch to a time between nutrition strategy (i.e. each hour) or shift my calories into my water bottles and take them in more steadily. I’m thinking the latter is the way to go, but will need to experiment on what to use.
  3. Better uphill hiking. Besides the very early part of the race, I was getting passed and/or dropped on almost all the steeper hill sections. I ended up making back time usually on the downhill parts of the course (likely contributor to #1 above), but I could still stand to improve this part of my “running”.
  4. Better prepared drop bags. I made huge strides with this issue from my last 100 miler, but there’s still work to be done. I was short an extra pair of gloves at AS #2 though luckily Kate bailed me out with a pair. I also should have had hand warmers in both drop bags even though Kate gave me hers at another. A warmer hat would also have been beneficial at one point, but I didn’t have that in either. I had extra batteries and flashlights in both drop bags, but probably should have another headlamp as well. I’d score myself a 6 or 7 out of 10.

I want to emphasize that these are more nit-picky type things than major problems. If all of these were non-issues during the race, I’m guessing I may have been able to claw back an hour or ninety minutes at most.

You mentioned your quads. How much damage did you do to your body?

My quads were the biggest casualty. Four days later and they’re still sore, but not devastatingly so. My feet were a little swollen the day after, but that’s it. I had a small blister on my little toe, which I didn’t even notice until the next day. There was also some slight chaffing issues, which I will not detail.

The oddest thing though was my shoulders (especially my right one) got really sore late in the run. It wasn’t from my normal running motion, but from how my arms swung low as I walked. So I ended up having to walk with my elbows bent the entire time. Yes, that’s right – I was mall walking! Thank goodness no one was around to see my indignity.

What surprised you most?

Cemeteries are not very scary at 2am in the morning. Right after AS #3 is a hill called Cemetery Hill. They call it this because there’s a small little old cemetery right next to the trail about halfway up. I was kinda dreading this since I thought it would be very creepy in the middle of the night. Turns out your brain doesn’t frighten very easily when you’ve been up for 22+ hours.

Did you listen to music?

I usually listen to music on all of my runs. This time I decided to go without music on my first loop. I got my mp3 player for the second 50k, but only listened to it for about half the time as I was around other runners and chatting away part of the time. I listened to it off and on during the 3rd loop, however I don’t typically like to listen to music in the dark as I like to hear when people/animals/monsters are creeping up on me. I didn’t take it at all on my last little Going Home loop.

It must have gotten pretty lonely out there. Did you have a pacer?

I was surprised how many people were running around me the entire race. I don’t think I went more than 30-45 minutes without seeing anyone. I was in a pack of 5-10 off and on for most of the second loop. The third loop was fairly spaced out, however I passed a couple 100k hikers later on along with a couple other runners.

I did not have a pacer or someone that ran with me. I did have the best crew ever in Kate. She was a great help at each of the aid stations getting me whatever I needed and helping with gloves, hand warmers, etc.

What’s next?

Well, I did not spend all this time learning how to run long distances only to stop now. And last weekend taught me that I enjoy running 100 miles. I know that not all runs will be like that, but I’m sure enough of them will to keep me running long for the rest of my life. And Eastern States 100 registration opens on Sunday. . .

 

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