Yesterday was a great (but very long) day. I ran Oil Creek 100 km race, and earned my belt buckle.
The journey started on Friday. Dan picked me up around 5 or 5:30 pm and we hit the road toward Titusville, Pennsylvania. It was an amazing 4 1/2 hr drive through the most beautiful autumn countryside that Ohio and Pennsylvania had to offer. The treetops were a mixture of all the great fall colors: red, orange, yellow, brown, green, tan, etc...
About 45 minutes into the drive, we were approaching a little storm cloud in the road. Along with this storm cloud came a beautiful rainbow. The rainbow stretched all the way across the sky in front of us. Eventually, we found ourselves directly underneath a "full on double rainbow".
How cool is that!? We could see both ends of the rainbow from the highway. I've never witnessed a rainbow where I could see both ends. The second rainbow was a little less vibrant, but it was visible nonetheless.
We witnessed this for about 10 minutes, and then shortly thereafter the sky slowly turned from yellow to orange to red to maroon all the way into darkness. This was a great way to start the weekend. The rest of the drive was pretty uneventful in comparison.
We arrived at the hotel around 10 pm and immediately got settled in and tried to get some sleep before the 4:30 alarm clock...
We woke up around 4:30 and got suited up in all of our trail gear. It was pretty chilly, but I knew not to bundle up too much, for I'd be warmed up in no time at all once I got moving. We stopped at McDonalds and ordered 2 McGriddles each and a small coffee each to get us moving.
We got to the Titusville Middle School around 5:30 to checked in and get our bib numbers and race packets. There were some last minute announcements to be made before we all headed out to the starting line.
The first hour of the race was pretty dark. The sun wasn't up yet, so all of us runners were running through the streets of Titusville with our headlamps and reflective gear. From the street, we made our way onto the bike path for a mile or so before ticking into the woods for the rest of the day. I was feeling great through here, so I separated myself from Dan and ended up running some pretty fast paced miles. I made it to the first aid station about 3 minutes before Dan and hung out to wait for him.
The next section was a series of switchbacks up the side of a mountain. Not only was it steep, but it was also pretty narrow path, so each step had to be given some attention. We made it to the top of the hill and then came into some really cool big rocks deep in the forest:
Shortly after this, we separated again. Dan was starting to experience some knee pains and stayed back a little. However, I was still feeling pretty strong so I pushed ahead. As I approached the 2nd aid station, I went looking for my drop bag. As it turned out, I had put my drop bag in the wrong group at the middle school, and it was waiting for me at the last aid station. Oops. :) Luckily I didn't have anything in there that I really needed. I ended up putting my toboggan, gloves, and headlamp with Dan's drop bag. I pounded a steaming cup of ramen noodles and a chilled cup of Pepsi. A minute or two passed by, and once Dan arrived we headed back into the woods.
Around this time I separated from Dan, because his knee was really acting up on him by this point. I pushed ahead for about 2 miles, and then my conscious got the best of me. Dan had stuck it out with me at the Forget the PR 50K earlier this year when I was hurting real bad. It was only fair that I show him the same respect and help him along. I hung out at the top of a huge mountain for a couple of minutes. Once he arrived, we jogged together for a while. About 1/2 mile later, we hit some downhills and Dan came to a crawl. I tried to wait for him, but he insisted that I move on and run my own race. I wished him good luck on his race and pushed on. I wouldn't see him again until after the finish. He ended up toughing it out for a solid 50K! He limped 15+ miles on a bad knee to make it back to the middle school... Tough as nails!! Congrats Dan!
After leaving Dan and all guilt behind me, I was free sailing to run my own race. I only walked on the steep uphills. The rest of the time I was running, jogging, or shuffling. My plan was to do the first loop like I would any 50K, and then wing it on the 2nd loop since I had no idea what to expect after that... I'd never ran more than 38 miles, so shortly after the halfway point I would be moving into unchartered territory. Ultimately, I had one simple goal today: Finish.
I ran through some extremely beautiful areas. Pennsylvania is so beautiful this time of year. Here is one picture that I took at the top of a big mountain side. If you look close enough you'll see the derricks on the other side of the hill. I would eventually be running under these 12 miles later.
It worked out great. I hooked up with various runners and passed the time with great conversation. I came back into the Middle School around 1 pm and felt very strong still. I ran my first 50K in 7 hrs 11 mins (a new PR for me by +1 hr!). Instead of grabbing a bunch of snacks and heading right back out, I decided to sit down and sip on some hot soup and drink some Pepsi. I wasn't fighting any cut-off times and I didn't have anything else on my "to do list" today besides run this race. :) I just took my time and didn't rush it.
I spent about 5 minutes at the aid station and then headed back out for the second loop with high spirits and sore quads. I jogged for about 2 or 3 miles and then hit the forest again. Once I got to the forest, I walked on the uphills and shuffled the flat sections. Depending on the grade of the downhill, I would either jog down it or gracefully walk down it if it was too steep. The steep downhills were starting to really hurt my quads.
This whole first 5 miles looked totally different in the daylight. It was like running a totally new part of the course. For example, I didn't even notice that this huge power line section showcased this much beauty when it was dark:
I made it to the first aid station and had some pizza and more Pepsi. I got to see a bunch of runners I knew from other races. It seems like every race I go to, I run into Roy Heger. I just saw him at RunWoodstock a few weekends ago. I also met up with Brian Hart who I just saw at the Indian Run a few weekends ago also. It's amazing how small (but spread out) this runner community is. We can almost predict who we'll see at the various events.
From the aid station, Brian and I stuck together for a few miles. We made our way up some crazy-steep switchbacks to the top of the mountain again. About this time, I was fighting with my stomach and was forced to keep a slow trot / walk until I could get it back together. It was like I was on the verge of throwing up for a few miles... Not a good feeling. It went away once Brian and I got to talking about something. Simple conversation is really all it took to take my mind off of it. Once I shook the nausea, he and I were able to jog for about 5 or 6 miles together. We had a great time and learned quite a bit about each other.
Brian got ahead of me around mile 45 as I stayed back because I had another wave of nausea coming back again. Grrr... As we came into the next aid station around mile 47 or so, Brian was trying to wait for me. Instead I shook his hand and thanked him for sticking with me while he did. He hung around for a few more minutes and sipped some soup with me and then off he went into the dusk. I'm sure we'll be crossing paths again soon.
I shuffled out of the aid station with my headlamp, toboggan and gloves. The sun was starting to settle over the hills and the sky was beautiful. I snapped a bunch of photo's while I still had the chance:
This was the last picture that I was able to snap before the sun officially fell behind the mountains. The woods got dark again. However, this time I found myself alone for extended periods of time. There was no longer a line of head lamps in front of me or behind me like there were this morning.
Off and on, other runners would come up on me or I would come up on another runner and we would stick together for short periods of time just to keep conversation as we jogged through the trails in the dark. I spent quite a bit of miles with a fellow named "Bob" who was running the 100 miler. I really enjoyed his company. He has ran a handful of 100 mile races and was telling me lots of crazy stories about his adventures on these runs. My favorites were the hallucination stories, because I'm simply amazed at how the mind works after running for so many hours non-stop. We eventually got separated somewhere in the dark and he became just another headlamp in the woods.
My nausea was gone for the moment and I was running again. I picked up a lot of time through here for about 2 or 3 miles with this new spurt of energy. My feet felt light again and my breath was nice and steady as I churned my legs up and down the hills. If only I could run the whole race like this...
Shortly before the last aid station, my stomach got sour again. I'd been moving for about 54 miles and this nausea has been the only thing that has really "beaten" me down today. The thought of food or water was enough to make me want to chuck. I walked about a mile to the last aid station and let a lot of people passed me through here.
Final Aid Station:
Once I arrived at the final aid station, I sat down by an open fire and began force feeding myself mashed potatoes and some pretzels. The volunteers got me hooked up with some sea salt in my mashed potatoes as they assured me that it would help my nausea. I had some more Pepsi too. Believe it or not, I don't drink much Pepsi, but this run I drank a lot because it was really helping me get out of these slumps. Perhaps it had nothing to do with helping me feel better, but it tasted great. :)
I spent way to much time here. A lot of people came and went while I was sitting by the fire talking to a few other runners who were fighting similar problems. There were a few 100 milers taking a short mid-race break, and there were a few of us 100K runners there trying to gather a final spurt of strength for the last 8.4 miles.
I hobbled out of the last aid station at a snails pace and a very deep chill that I couldn't seem to shake. The fire pit was great, but turned out to be a bad idea. It warmed up my outer "skin layer", but my inner "core layer" was still pretty cold. My t-shirt and shorts were damp from sweating off and on all day and it was about 50 degrees with a clear sky showcasing all the stars. I had 8+ miles to go in the dark with nothing more than two gloves, a wet t-shirt and a wet toboggan to keep my mohawk tame.
I was literally shaking like crazy. My teeth were chattering and every muscle in my body was tense while my body tried to warm itself back up. My muscles were so tense that it was hard to breath at times. I was out of energy and here I was in the middle of the woods with two soggy handheld water bottles, a headlamp, and a pocket full of Combo's trying to calm my body down enough to take some deep breaths. This was an extreme case of the cold chills. I can't remember the last time my body was this pissed at me... ?
Luckily I had a huge hill to climb and it eventually warmed me back up so that I wasn't shivering anymore. The darkness became very peaceful again and I wasn't so nervous about the next 8 miles. I just focused on the reflectors through the trails and saw head lamps from other runners every now and then.
Eventually I came upon a runner that I'd been playing leap frog with all day. His name was Mike and he and I ran together for the remainder of my race. He was running the 100 miler and was trying to convince me to pace him on his last loop through the night. He said that he was on pace to finish around 12 o'clock noon... I could only chuckle and wish him good luck. He claimed I helped him back to the aid station, but I'm convinced he helped me because I didn't think about my stomach anymore after meeting up with him.
I crossed the finish line at 11:19 pm.
17 hours 19 minutes - OC100.org
I crossed the finish line and Dan was there waiting for me. I got my belt buckle and sat down for a while. I ate a few pieces of pizza and talked to some other runners before we headed back to the hotel.
I was pretty excited to talk to Jennifer and tell her the news. I called her and we talked for a few minutes, then I took a shower, stretched a little, and shut down.
Dan and I hobbled back into the CR-V that next morning and drove home...