Training leading up to the race was so-so, as it usually is with me due to my overall lack of discipline and hectic schedule. Regardless, I had some decent runs the months prior to the race, and I felt relatively confident going into the race. Unlike last year, I started this year's race with a "finish at all costs" mentality (which I also had in 2012).
The first 80 miles went by without a hitch. I was eating about 200-300 calories at every aid station and a gel every 45 minutes between aid stations. Later in the race I tried to increase my water intake as I noticed I was urinating less frequently. Quick side note.. I no longer blindly take endurolytes or S-caps, and I determine my appropriate water intake first by thirst and then by frequency/color of urination. It might sound weird, but I think it's really the only thing that works for me. Finding that perfect balance of fluid and electrolytes is so delicate and so personal that I don't think there is a one-size-fits-all approach. So if I were urinating more frequently and it was clear every time, I would have increased my electrolyte (primarily salt) intake.
Anyways, everything was going well. Oil Creek is three 31-mile loops followed by a 7-mile "coming home" loop. I like to think that the mental barrier for this race is the completion of the second loop and start of the third loop. Once I'm past mile 62, it's "just one more loop", and then, as I like to think of it, the "celebratory seven mile fun run!".
|Second time through AS2|
Sometime around the end of the second loop and beginning of the third loop I met some new friends Judy and Lesa (and later, Lesa's pacer Jocelyn) out on the course and ran with them for awhile as they were keeping a consistent yet reasonable pace. My goal was to reevaluate how I felt halfway through the third loop. If I felt good, maybe I could pick it up a bit. However, about halfway through the third loop is when I started to feel a little bit tired. The night before the race I got three hours of sleep. Thursday night I slept pretty well, but the rest of the week prior I was getting between 4-5 hours of sleep per night, so I knew I was not as rested as I should have been.
Legs were getting a little bit achy, and my mind and body was just starting to feel tired and lack energy. I was getting plenty of calories and water. It got to the point near the end of the third loop where I was literally falling asleep anytime I was walking. It was very hard to keep my eyes open. I had a Starbucks double shot, a 5-hr energy, some chocolate-covered espresso beans, and even a few 200-mg caffeine pills. (another sidenote.. I probably consume way too much caffeine on a regular basis so it has less of an effect on me). The only thing that seemed to work even slightly was the espresso beans, and after awhile I couldn't bear to eat anymore. Coming into toward AS4 at the end of the third loop was difficult, and the downward spiral I was in accelerated quite rapidly. By the time I reached the aid station, I felt like absolute garbage. I never felt that bad before in a race. Actually, it was probably the worst I ever felt at any time in my life. It was also getting very cold by that point which I'm sure didn't help matters much.
I decided to do something that I would have never considered doing previously, and something that I would have probably discouraged anyone else from doing during a race. I took a nap. I told my girlfriend and amazing crew Allison (check out her blog!) my plan, and she seemed very concerned, but thought maybe it was worth a shot. So after I changed my clothes, put on some tights and a few more warm layers, I laid down on the hard gym floor, covered with a blanket, and asked Allison to wake me up in thirty minutes. Thirty minutes later, I asked her for another ten minutes. Ten minutes later, she came to wake me up. I stood up, still felt pretty bad, and was seriously considering taking a DNF. However, between Allison, and my friends Rob and Steve (and I think my other friend Rob was there as well), they would not let me even consider DNFing at mile 93. I sat down, put on another layer of clothing, and ate two cups of hot Ramen noodle soup.
Is Ramen magic or something? Maybe it's the MSG. Maybe I needed salt? Maybe it was the support of my awesome friends sitting at the table with me, providing me words of encouragement. I don't know what happened, but within a minutes I felt immensely better. Allison suggested that I asked Steve to pace me for the last seven miles, so that's exactly what I did, and he agreed. Despite how much better I felt after eating the soup, I still expected to be walking most if not all of those seven miles, so I told Steve to make sure he was bundled up! From the time I came into AS4 to the time I left was approximately one hour.
I had a sip of some pretty bad coffee, I put on another pair of gloves, and off we went walking from AS4 into the darkness. I started running slowly, trying to warm up my leg muscles. About halfway down the paved bike trail prior to the trail-head we were running at a slow but reasonable pace. I felt overdressed and warm, so I shed a couple layers near the beginning of the trail. Once we were on the actual trail-trail, we were moving at a pretty good pace, all things considered. We walked the ups, ran easy on the flats and downs. Soon we approached a woman with a bear bell. The sound of a bear bell drives me absolutely nuts. Ironically, Steve was thinking the same thing, and we picked up the pace considerably. We ran a strong pace to the point in section one where we turn off onto the side trail to head down toward the Boughton Acid Works and the swinging bridge. We kept running a pretty good pace down to the bridge, crossed the bridge, and started up the Hill of Truth. We hiked a good pace up the hill, passing a few people along the way.
Once we were up to the top and back onto section four, Steve noticed that we were making great time, and mentioned "We'll probably get to the finish way before anyone expects us back. You looked like a zombie when you left, they won't be expecting us for awhile". This motivated me to run even faster, so we bombed the downhills and crushed the pace for the last mile of section four. It felt amazing! We passed a few more people along the way. It reminded me of my first time running Oil Creek back in 2012, when I was pretty beat up going into the "coming-home loop", but felt great toward the end of it.
We made it out of the woods and back onto the road. Luckily, this time I didn't have to run the dreaded 1-mile Drake Well loop, and we headed straight for the never-ending bike path (it's really only a mile or so, but it feels never-ending) back toward the finish. We came to the finish and my friends were outside waiting for me! Allison knew there was a good chance I'd be back sooner than expected since she paced me on the seven-mile loop back in 2012 and knew that my legs magically come back during this time. I crossed the finish line in 26:54, 36 minutes faster than my 2012 finish!
|Steve and I at the finish|
I often hear and even spread the cliche advice that it's best to expect the unexpected during a 100-mile race, and that with that many miles, there's a good chance of having issues that must be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. My last 100-miler at Mohican went by as planned, with not a single issue. Prior to that, at Western States, again, nearly no unexpected issues to deal with. I would have never expected to have to take a forty minute nap and a regrouping of sorts at mile 93 in order to get the motivation to finish the race. I'm also not so sure I would have finished at all without my girlfriend and friends there to encourage me, support me, and to kick my ass when needed. Sometimes things happen during a race where, yes, you should probably stop and take a DNF. But generally feeling like crap is often not a valid reason for dropping, and I know from experience that using it as the reason is a regrettable decision. In such a situation, a good crew can make all the difference, and for that I am very grateful.
|Rob, Me, Steve|
|RD Tom presenting me with buckle (in bubble wrap) and decal|
I would also like to thank Race Director Tom Jennings and all of the wonderful volunteers and sponsors of this great event! It went flawlessly as always (at least from my perspective), and I'm sure all of us 400+ runners are extremely grateful!