I came back from an injury over the winter and trained my ass off (figuratively, not literally – sadly) with one goal in mind: do well at the Oil Creek 100K. I used a really long training program, got a great base, and did some really good, challenging long runs. It freakin’ paid off!
One of my friends and running mentors, Anne, was kind enough to volunteer to crew for me (and to pace Jen on her 3rd 50K loop). She also did all the driving. I now call her St Anne. We got up to Titusville and went straight to the middle school. I picked up my packet, and Anne and I got trays of the pasta and salad. It was the first time I ever did the whole pasta dinner thing before a race. (Mental note #1 – eat at those pasta dinners.) Then we went to the B&B to get checked in. We made some tea, read our books, relaxed and hit the sack. I got a fantastic 7.5 hours of sleep. (Mental note #2 – go to bed before 9pm for an ultra.)
We were up early, grabbed some breakfast, and headed to the start. While in the cafeteria, I just kept remarking how I didn’t feel nervous at all. I was just excited. Then I started chatting with a big, strong looking runner. He started telling me how tough the course was, and how he was nervous because he knew how tough it was going to be after doing it last year. I mentioned that I trained on the Appalachian Trail and felt pretty ready. He gave me that “you have no idea what you’re in for” look and I started to get a little nervous.
74 of us lined up at the start at 6am. (The 115 100-milers had started an hour earlier.) It was a dark, clear night and you could see tons of stars. It was gorgeous. The first 1.25 miles were on road and the crowd started to separate. By the time we were on the trail we were breaking into groups, except for me -I was pretty much going at this alone. Sunrise came a little before the first aid station. After leaving it, I got behind a group of about 8 runners. I tailed them for about 6 miles or so since they set a good pace. Then nature called and by the time I answered, they were too far ahead of me. I continued on my own.
My right leg was bothering me as it had for the last 3 months, and my lower back was killing me. I was fearful that the second loop would be bad. I was hoping to score some encouragement from Anne at aid station #2 but I ran too fast and she missed me. Thankfully I had to climb a mountain and when I got to the top I had cell reception! I let her know what I needed and she was waiting for me at the end of loop 1. By that point I was feeling pretty good. I finished that loop in about 7:15 (yep, that’s hours:minutes), which was faster than anticipated. She gave me a half of a hummus sandwich and two fig newtons and I was off. This time, though, I hooked up with another runner and her pacer.
Allie is a fellow vegan (though I am now off the wagon), fellow pit bull mama, fellow Brooks Cascadia wearer, fellow JFK finisher, and a very, very steady, strong runner. She and I ran the entire second loop together. She had two pacers who ran with her for a total of 21 miles. We ran half of that second loop with a guy named PJ as well. He left us at aid station #1 and tried to finish faster but bonked. He seemed pretty happy to find us at aid station #3, which was when Allie’s pacers were done with their duties. The three of us were new-found friends and got each other through those last 8.4 miles. Thankfully my legs were still going strong. Running felt great even up until the very end. My stomach, though, was a little on edge, and I am pretty sure I would have vomited after a few more miles. I know for sure that my legs could have handled another loop and could have got me through to the end of the 100 miles. That’s a good feeling to have.
When we started on that 1.25 miles of asphalt (ouch) before dawn, people were talking about their goal times. Many people were shooting for 20 hours or so. I said I was going for 18. As we started the second loop we were on track for 15ish hours, but I tried not to think that we could do much better than 17 hours. With about 3 miles left, though, I realized we could break 16 hours. I told Allie and PJ and then we had a mission. We crossed the finish line in 15:54!!!! I was so unbelievably thrilled. In my wildest dreams I thought that the best I could do would be 16:20!
Anne was out with Jen, but Jen’s husband and kids were at the school when I finished so at least there were some familiar faces to greet me soon after the finish. (S had a family thing and couldn’t make it to the race.) I kept their kids overnight at the hotel while Ryan crewed for Jen (and Anne). We got to go watch Jen finish her second 100-miler in 6 months. Wow!
I’m sorry for the long winded post, but the more miles you run, the more there is to say! I could go on and on about the race. It was great. I am still on a high. Woohoo!!! Amazingly I wasn’t sore after the race. I had a little bit of inflammation behind my left knee but that was gone after about 3 days. I did get some nasty blood blisters under a toe on each foot and didn’t treat them well enough myself. I ended up at the doctor on Thursday for some help and now they are fine. I ran today for a bit and felt awesome. I am taking it easy this time – I swear!