So I am walking up the steep switchback after crossing a wooden bridge in the middle of the woods and I look back over the trail I had just traversed and catch a splash of yellow moving fast through the trees. With about five miles left to go I decide that I need to rally now if I am to hold this guy off. I stay ahead for another mile or so and finally hear him behind me. What a relief to find out it is Richard Cook, the leader of the one hundred mile race. I don’t know if relief is the correct word, as I am getting lapped by someone who has already run almost sixty miles, still has forty to go and is going by like I am standing still.
The wheels fell off a few miles back when I was catching up to Rich Vrboncic and another hundred miler on the descent to aid station #1. I still had my downhill legs and was moving well when I came upon them. As I leaped off a rock to go around them, my right calf decided to cramp upon impact. It was one of the most painful that I have had and it stopped me in my tracks. As I am trying to bend over and grab my toe, yelling in agony, Rich is telling me to walk it off. I like Rich, but if he was close enough to grab, I would have choked him, I was in that much pain.
The concern began back at the Middle School aid station at thirty-five miles. I cruised in feeling good, but beginning to feel the calf tightening up. After refueling my camelback I decided that I needed an extra bit of salt. The elixir of choice was chicken broth, but it was too hot to gulp down, and I did not want to waste too much time at the aid station, so I grabbed the closest cold item to cool it with. That cold item happened to be a cup of strawberry HEED. Strawberry HEED mixed with chicken broth, sounds like something they make you drink on one of those reality shows. But it worked. Too bad I did not have more of it midway through the last lap.
Overall, my race strategy worked well. As I had explained to no one in particular, I had run a few long training runs without eating, in order to force a bonk and work through it. I find this type of training works well. If I begin to feel lousy during a race, I know that I can work through it, even rally. I carried everything I needed for the race in my camelback, and did not stop at any of the aid stations for more than a few seconds, running straight through most of them. While I had a little extra weight to carry, I feel that I more than made up for it by not stopping.
I had the fifth place finisher in sight right before I cramped up, and he put too much trail between us by the time I was able to run again. When Richard came by, I decided to turn it up a notch, and to my surprise, did so without any cramping. So I got back on track and finished strong, coming in just a few seconds under the ten hour mark, but still four minutes behind the fifth place finisher. When I talked with him after the race, he stated that he had a similar predicament, as he was not able to run downhill. After he saw me approaching, a miracle occurred, and he was able to run downhill again. I guess I have that effect on people.
My sixth place finish was very rewarding. The course, race management, aid stations (even though I did not use them) and post race were all first rate. The free massage was especially good. The weather even cooperated, staying cool all day, with cloud cover for most of the day. The trail was beautiful, as the leaves were beginning to change color. If the race were held any later in the month, the leaves on the trail might be an issue.
There were many finishers from the Pittsburgh area in all three distances, 50k, 50 miles and 100 miles. Check out the Oil Creek 100 website to see a list of the finishers. Everyone I talked with had a great time, I think this race will be on many runners’ calendars next year, and no doubt it will fill up again.
Richard Cook ended up winning the 100 mile race. Check out the other finishers and drop them a note to congratulate them for a great effort. If any of you have a race report, please send it along, and let me know if you want me to post it on the blog.
See you on the trails,