Thursday, October 21, 2010

Oil Creek 100 50K Race Report.

Yes, that is me, and yes, that is me smiling.  What is wrong with this photo is that I faked the smile, and what you see of the course isn't even close to what 90% of that course was like.  At least this part was flat, did not have a rock, a root, or an oil pipe hidden under leaves and I actually felt like smiling.  Oh, I can smile now, but I don't smile too terribly much when I walk up or down stairs or move around in bed at night. Disregard the grammar and spelling, I'm probably not proofreading it.

The Start

The Oil Creek 100 website offers these nice graphs as a way to get a "feel" for the course.  And that is nice, but the elevation profile is missing a pretty, small, but vital, piece of information.  That would be the switchbacks.  If it were just 150 feet from the bottom to the top over the course of a mile, that would be great, but trust me, it wasn't.  The first 3.5 miles are from the school, through a neighborhood, and then along the bike path.  At the historic Boughton Acid Works, the fun and frivolity really began.  I started out easy, or so I thought, and caught up with a group of about 12 that was moving at roughly a 9:45 pace.  Not so bad, until we hit the trail and the hills and fun began.  The single track trail pretty much kept the order that you entered the woods as the order that you were going to maintain for the next several miles.  The etiquette is, if you are starting to slow, you pull off where its convenient and allow a few people to move ahead and then fall back in line again. I stayed in my group and ran steadily, when we ran, because I learned quickly, and was happier for it, that most ultra-runners will actually walk, although at a quick pace, up the larger and more technical hills.  The 3.5 miles into the AS #1 through the winds was a mixture of rolling up and downs, mostly single-track trails with a lot of roots and an increasing amount of rocks. All this God made goodness was also nicely covered by falling leaves from the lovely trees that seemed to stretch for miles.  But, at least I was surrounded by about 15-20 other racers as we started down a hill, yeah, we'll call it that, that just about killed my knees and made my right ankle just about scream as I hit more than my share of roots and rocks and I probably hyper-extended every other leg joint on my way down that hill into the aid station.  It was also at that time that I came to the realization that there was not one level piece of real estate anywhere.  It all sloped everywhere.  But, hey, I still had a core group of people around me and judging from the comments I was hearing, were all in the same pain boat as myself, or so I thought as we sauntered on into AS #1, or Wolfkiel Run, which had a Christmas theme going and was even playing some Bing Crosby as I came into station.

AS#1 to AS #2:                                                                                       
The key, as I'm told, is to get what you need from the aid stations and then move on. That way your mind can't convince you to stop and throw in the towel.  The previous night, in what I consider an amazing stroke of luck, I won a door prize and chose a Nathan's 2 liter H2O waterpack.  I had taken it home, cleaned it, filled it up and moved my gels and iPod into its really cool pockets and brought it with me instead of my fuel belt.  In the first 7 miles of this race, I had been faithful with the drinking, and really needed nothing from the aid station, but I walked through and gawked at the amazing amount of stuff available.  I grabbed a couple of mints, another Hammer gel, and a package of crackers and struck out for the next phase.  I know I wasn't in the AS for more than a minute, but the 15-20 other runners was narrowed down to 5 and as I left to go up the switchbacks, roots, rocks, and leave covered other dangers toward the next AS,  the rest of the group had seemed to vanish into thin air.  OK, no problem, I'll keep pace with these people and all will be good.  From AS1 to AS2, the distance is roughly another 7 miles.  The water stop is halfway between at the bottom of another hill and before an area that is notorious for rocks, rocks, rocks, and some rocks covered by leaves.  In the distance to the water stop, a mere 3.5 miles away, I went from having others around me, to fullfilling an adage that I have known for years...."No man is an island, except for me in a race."  I wasn't pulling 9:45 miles anymore, but I was running comfortably, and only my right foot, left toes, right knee, and left, lower IT band were singing the joys of the trail so far.  I hit the water stop, alone, and refilled my half empty bag and decided that if I popped an earbud in my ear and no one was around to see it, would I be wrong.  The trail from the water stop to AS2 had only one up-hill, which was surprisingly easy to run, and then a downhill that didn't have rocks, but it did have a couple of oil pipes covered by leaves that caught my attention, and left foot.  It's also where I was photographed in the picture above a short time later.  After running through there, I hit a road that lead into Petroleum Center and AS2, which was really cool because after crossing the bridge over the creek, the short jaunt threw the woods was lined with American Flags and a pretty cool Aid Station.

The Aid Stations are manned by what I would have to say are the best volunteers I have ever encountered.  They were friendly, helpful, great selection of drinks, food, and there were some cute girls at all 3 of the stations.  At this station, I decided to take a brief sit and heard a couple of girls, probably college age, talking in hushed tones.  The one says, "I bet he probably is." and the other replies,"how can you tell," and since I'm the only one within 10 feet of them, I raise my head and ask, "What do you think I am?" and confirmed that I was the topic based on the 5 shades of red that the probably girl turned when I asked my question.  I didn't get a chance to find out because I knew that if I sat any longer, I wasn't going to move.  Total time in AS2: 5 minutes.  Number of runners in AS2: probably 12.  Number that left with me: 0.  I guess that my odor offended.

AS2 to AS3:

After leaving AS2, there is a hill behind the state park office that just plain sucks.  It was at this point that I realized that running was not going to be an easy task from here on out.  I power walked that hill and actually passed 2 groups of other racers, one group belonging to the 100 mile race, and the other were part of the 100K, and I exchanged the normal pleasantries and it was on that hill, and almost tripping for the 1000th time over a rock hidden by leaves that I realized that 100 milers were my new heroes and that I can honestly lead a happy life should I never do a Century Ultra.  This half of the race had quite a few wider trails, some really nice rock formations, with trees growing out of them, and at one point reminded me of a Jurassic Park with some huge ass ferns and a lot of pine needles.  Oh, and the ever present ankle and foot grabbing roots and rocks.  It was on this leg that I noticed that I had not seen an animal at all, and this in a park where there are bears, deer, porcupines, and bunch of other critters that I might have punted off the trail had I been able to lift my foot that high.  And I say that because as I saw the oil pipe across the trail I had a hell of a time lifting my leg and actually smacked my already aching left toes on the stupid thing.

I kept my iPod bud on my ear (I'm still marvelled that the battery lasted all 8 hours too,) and since I was by myself, I started singing, and as I hit the chorus of LifeHouse "Halfway Gone" I ran into the Cow Run Shelter Water Stop and a group of Boy Scouts that were manning it.  I checked in, and stopped long enough to re-tie my shoes and find out that there was a girl in her 20's that was competing in the 100K who had a heart condition and was supposed to get checked over at every checkpoint, by orders of her doctor.  The rest of the trip into AS3 was a case study in power walking at roughly 15 min a mile, because I running just wasn't happening.  Were there hills? You bet!  Roots? Sure. Rocks? Check.  Leaves covering all the above?  Wouldn't have been complete without them.

 AS3 to Finish:
This Aid Station was not the fanciest, but the volunteers, like everywhere else, were awesome, and it was here that I lingered for roughly 5 minutes while I figured out that the concept of running the last 9 miles or so was a figment of my imagination.  It was also here that I got my pocket filled with a bunch of M&M's and
headed up the worse hills of the whole race.  They weren't long, but it was steep.  And my legs let me know it was steep.  I belted out some more tunes and munched the chocolately goodness that was filled to 3/4 of my pocket.  It was also at this point that the course trails grew wider and the rocks and roots a little less numerous, but still present, and still covered by leaves.  I was maintaining my power walking pace and I caught by a lady who was doing the 50K and was making up the time she had lost earlier in the day. For roughly a mile, we talked long enough for me to find out she had a couple 100 milers under her belt, several 50's, and was doing this while a friend was running the 100 mile herself.  She did mention that this race was not the easiest and that she would probably not be doing the 100 on this particular course.  She also mentioned that she had 4 teenagers and that she was pressed for training.   Anyway, I lost her at the Toy Run water stop, when I stopped to re-fill my bag, but I did pick up a fellow 50K competitor who power walked with me the rest of the way.  Reed, from New Jersey, and I put up a good pace and we passed several competitors, including a 100 miler who flatly told us that he bit off more than he could chew and that he was done.

The last mile and a half in the woods is a steady downhill trek, followed by a steep downhill section that completed the assault on the knees, IT bands, inner thighs, and ankles.  And within sight of the main road, I found one more leaf covered rock to twist my right ankle and this one did the real damage to some ligaments.  In fact, it's still pretty swollen.  Reed and I powered through the mile loop around Drakes Well, where oil was first discovered in 1859 I think, and then it was back to the school.  We picked up a girl in the residential neighborhood and she convinced us that we had to run down the drive to the finish line.  As we got down the drive, I saw my awesome support crew, wife and kids, and my only regret now, is that I didn't let my oldest two run across the line with me.  I'm so used to the pricks at triathlons who don't allow it anymore that I just sort of had that in my head.  I crossed the line, got a hug by the girl, shook hands with Reed, and got my belt buckle from Tom Jennings, who is a really good race director.
The obligatory "stopping the watch" finish with Reed from New Jersey.
Afterwards, I hugged the kids, apologized to them, and they were ok with that, and kissed the wife.  The post race massage was awesome, so very, very thorough, and then I waited for my brother and dad.  My brother came in a little more than an hour later and dad about 45 minutes after that.  My wife had left and I stuck around to get a shower, eat and cheer on a few of the other competitors for the other races and the 50K.

Epilogue:  My ankle is still swollen, but my daughter wants to run the Turkey Trot (5K edition) so we went on a training run today and she did 2 miles with no problem. I was proud of her.  The foot was even fine with it.  All other leg issues are working out with some stretches and I went to the pool Tuesday before I realized that the rest of the week is for nothing.  Nothing more than stretches until Monday.  Been a long season, and I need a couple days off.

As for racing Oil Creek 100 50K edition again, well, I'll see you next year.  I highly recommend it if your interested in a trail race, an ultra, or a challenge.  Or you like roots, rocks, and leaves that cover them.