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Tag: trail run

Oil Creek 100 Miler – Mud, rain, and pain…

Why Oil Creek?

Titusville, PA is somewhat close to where I live.  It’s about 5-6 hours outside of Philadelphia.  The past few years my father has run my support crew, which consists of just him.

I did the normal distances before the 100 miler.  2 years ago I finished the JFK 50 Miler, then last year I completed Boulder Field 100K (62 miles).

I decided to do something very different with my training.  If you listen to the Jocko podcast you will hear about the benefits of Jiu-Jitsu.

 Jiu Jitsu is a great workout both mentally and physically. You want to be strong for it and flexible for it. You want to have explosive energy and you want to have endurance. So it’s a very good all-around physical conditioning tool. Jiu Jitsu is probably the No. 1 activity that I could recommend to someone to improve their lives overall.

He speaks so highly of Jiu-Jitsu I decided to see if it would help improve my running.  I decided against the 80-100 mile training weeks that would normally leave me injured.  I worked for years on proper running form, now I just needed the mental side of the training.  I was hoping it would get me through the long night.  I would perform less running in the hopes of learning a new skill.  I knew the race would be more mental than physical.  The saying goes, “An ultra is 90% mental and the other 10% is in your head”.  I signed up forJiu-Jitsu classes at East Montgomery Martial Arts taught by Mr. Exaros.

Was I was going to jeopardize my racing?  There are different types of submissions you perform. Some of them were painful, and I did get injured.  Like any new activity, there is a learning curve, and I just needed to be patient.  After 6 months of Jujitsu, I did notice more strength and confidence, and mentally I believed I could take on anything!  My race times were also improving.  I took that as a sign that it was working, so I was ready for the hundred!

Earlier in the year, I had a very muddy 50K that taught me a valuable lesson about shoes.  Thankfully, it taught me that I need to train and prepare for the WORST conditions whenever I race. Little did I know that Oil Creek would be the worst race conditions I have ever experienced…

Race Conditions  – What 85% of the trail looked like.

This is what the course looked like.

It rained multiple times you were on the course.  Mostly after loop 2, you were wet the entire time.

What worked?

The aid stations that had food were about 8 miles apart. AS #2 and AS #4 allowed you to have a drop bag. Because the conditions were so poor for this race, having a change of clothes and shoes was critical. I made sure to pack 2 aid station bags with a separate pair of shoes and outfit.  I had to change out of wet socks and clothes multiple times to avoid chafing.  Thankfully, the aid stations were only 8 miles apart for food.  This gave you a chance to recharge and pull yourself together.  I had zero stomach issues and was able to keep eating the entire time.  This was important as it kept my energy up.

Sharing the miles 

My best races have always been with complete strangers and this race was no different. It’s amazing how you can create a bond with people you don’t even know.  I guess it is because you are all suffering against the same course. I met Erin around mile 2 or 3 and we ran the majority of the race together. She was a 7-time Ironman finisher and was a WAY stronger trail runner. We talked about everything from family, work, life, and all the things we experience out on the trail.  For her, it was her second time at the race so I looked to her for guidance about the course and what to expect.  Neither of us was prepared for just how bad the weather would get, but we kept going.  We kept moving forward and we didn’t stop, even when lighting struck very close to us.

What went wrong?

I could have gone through aid stations a little bit faster. That would have shaved off an hour. It might have come at the sacrifice to my feet. I was very concerned about blisters so I made sure to change my shoes, shirt, pants, and socks any chance I could. I had read that if you take care of your feet you can get through a 100M. It was just a lot harder to do with all the rain.

One regret was I didn’t bring my small raincoat for my pack.  Apparently, hypothermia is a real concern and I was lucky the temperature wasn’t any lower.  

Are we done yet? Going home loop!

Best race moment?

Sitting on a bench in the middle of the woods with Erin and Gilbert.  We sat there, broken, but we knew aid station 4 was close, and this was our final loop. All that we had left to complete was the “Going Home” loop. The funniest part of the race was when we arrived at #AS 4 and Gilbert’s wife informed him if he completed the race by 10 AM she could see him finish.  She had to be at work.  He sped off, out AS#4 without even saying goodbye.  He really wanted his wife and family see him finish.  I don’t blame him for that.  It made both Erin and I laugh because he kept saying how much pain he was in.  He wanted to quit so bad.  I didn’t understand how he changed it around so quickly.  We did see him after the race and his feet were completely destroyed.

Summary of the race?

You will meet all types of people in an ultra. Everyone is struggling through the race. They can make the difference in how hard you push.  They can motivate you, inspire you, and they might even wait for you if you are slower. Thanks, Erin 🙂

Was it painful? Yes, but if you ignore it long enough you get used to it. The pain came in waves so you just needed to ride it out.  Night racing wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. You just need a good headlamp and lots of caffeine!  I also found it incredible, if I kept repeating to myself, “I feel no pain” over and over again the pain would kinda stop… slightly.  This always reminds me of the Henry Ford quote, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.”

Would you run the race again?

Yes! I want to run this thing on dry trails!

I have to thank my wife first for watching the kids and parenting all weekend. My father for driving and supporting me during the race. He asked for nothing in return, or maybe he did but I just ignored him. 😉

I would also like to thank Erin and Gilbert for being awesome race companions!  Final race time:

28:57:42.30   #32nd Place out of 70 runners and 170 total starters.  62% drop rate!

Me and Erin coming in for a speedy finish

When you take on challenges like this in life everything becomes a little bit easier.   On the way home, we stopped by a Burger King for some much-needed junk food.  The cashier said that chicken tenders were going to be an extra 5 minutes to the lady in front of me.  I had never seen somebody get so angry in my life over having to wait 5 minutes.  Her response was, “well I guess this isn’t really fast food!”.  She stormed out of the store while yelling at her husband to wait for them.  It made me think about our expectations, and how we manage them.  If you are able to be understanding, adapt, or change your perspective in life I think you can take on any massive challenge.  Even one like this, where SO many things will go wrong.  It’s not about what happens to you, things always go wrong.  It’s how you respond!

This is what it was all about! A belt buckle I probably never wear. 🙂

Oktober Lauf Fest – Half Marathon Trail Run

I had my first major accomplishment this year, besides breaking my PR for the 5K, I finished 3rd overall in a race. That race was the Oktober Lauf Fest at Pennypack park. I had signed up for the Oktober Lauf Fest, mostly because I thought this race would be similar to the Sloppy Cuckoo which I had a great time running. See I’ve been on the hunt for as many trail runs as I can find in the Philadelphia area. Trail running has become my new love interest. The sloppy cuckoo was 11 miles trail and 2 miles paved bike path. I was expecting the Oktober Lauf Fest to be a similar type of race, it’s my fault for not reading the course description well enough. Regardless, this ended up being without a doubt the most unique race/run experience I have had to date.

I started off changing my normal plan of attack, instead of trying to sprint ahead of the pack. I let a large herd of people get in front of me, physiologically the feeling of passing people is better then getting passed. Going out slower helped me not get overly excited and I ended up pacing myself properly. The course ended up mostly being run on cinder/loose gravel, but it was a relatively flat course. I was able to catch up to the majority of people in front of me.  Passing several groups I finally ended up running with two guys for the majority of the race (Paul Peters and Chris Roberts) . I had headphones on so I didn’t talk to them, not like I would be able to hold much of a conversation running a 6:20 – 6:30 pace. So around the 7 mile mark I pulled off my headphones and asked “Do you know how many people are ahead of us”? There response was “two – and one of them is a girl”.  It was at this point that a new motivation swept over me, realizing that I was fighting for 3rd place overall. I knew at this point I had to do everything I could to hold this position. I stayed directly behind one of the two guys, pacing him as best as I could and just conserving my energy. Having never been in a situation like this I didn’t know what to do, at what point should I make a break for it. My legs felt good, I wasn’t short of breath and didn’t feel like I was giving it everything. I had to make a decision as to what would be the best time to actually push it. Keeping a careful eye on my Garmin GPS watch, I could see we were closing in on the finish. I started to run directly next to the person I was pacing (Paul Peters).  Then with a mile a half left I started to push ahead to see if he would keep the pace. I started to maintain a slight lead. It was when I had only a quarter of a mile left I turned to an all out sprint. I took 3rd place overall, and 2nd place male.

This is why I like the smaller local races, not only are they cheaper, but they provide a different level of excitement over the larger races. They also provide better food and have a more personal feel.  Yes, I know, it’s not that large of a race and that’s why you did so well. Regardless there was still 164 people, and I still ended up running a 1:26:34 for a half marathon. I will never forget this race. A big thank you to the race director and everyone who helped put this race together.

The prize for 3rd place overall was a German cuckoo clock.

Please check out more of their races at http://www.uberendurancesports.com/

Sloppy Cuckoo Half Marathon Trail Run – Pennypack Park

My new love affair has been trail running, the only issue is that I can’t seem to find enough races to participate in that take place on trails.  Enter the sloppy cuckoo trail run, when I first found out about the race, I was excited, because I was familiar with the trails from mountain biking there.  I knew the terrain couldn’t be too technical and it was very similar to where I do most of my trail running.  They pride themselves with the largest starting line in PA, which I would have to agree with.

The race director was late getting to the start, because he was out on the course setting up the additional aid stations.  After he returned, the race started promptly and was off to a frantic start.  It didn’t take much time for people to get into a line, because you quickly had to form a single line to cross over the bridge and head to the opposite side of the creek.  The aid stations had both water and Gatorade.  The course was well marked, which I was concerned about it being my first trail run.  Most of the time I spent running the trail alone, only occasionally getting passed (17 people total).  If I had to run this race again, I would have prepared better with longer distance trail running. Since at the time I was only doing a mix of half trails with hills/half flat trail.  The race director had stated that the course was mostly flat, but that wasn’t what my Garmin had shown.

The food at the finish line was exceptional.  They had: cookies, soda, sausage sandwiches, beer, chips, pretzels, and all the types of bad food you want after running a 13 mile race.  If you missed out on this race, they are having another half marathon trail race on October 31, which is the “October Lauf Fest”.  I hope it is the same course as the last.  There was only one stream crossing that you had to deal with, which you could almost jump over.  I didn’t make it to the other side, and one of my shoes did get wet.  Had there been more rain, the course would have had a few more of these little streams to cross.  I ended up finishing 5th in my age group, so I just missed an age group award.  Hopefully I’ll do better in the Oktoberfest race.  I did receive a nice wooden race whistle that is very useful for annoying my dog.

This race was so much fun that I will be sure to enter it every year.  If you live in the Philadelphia area, it’s definitely worth the trip.  Odds are you will be near that mileage anyway if you had done the Rock and Roll 1/2 Marathon in Philly.

Sloppy Cuckoo 2010 – Race Results

Race Website: Uberendurancesports