Well, I wanted a challenge to get myself motivated, I got what I asked for. I was really not sure how this race would go. I was averaging 31km per week for the last 2 months, pathetic. Mentally, I was ready to go. Physically, I still felt great dispite my lack of training, but I was worried about how my legs would react to 100 miles with so little training.
On Friday, carpooled down to Titusville Pennsylvania with Chris, Steve and Chris' wife Kim who drove. I was up too late getting stuff ready and only slept 4hrs Thursday night. I figured I'd sleep in the car, but we chatted most of the way so I nodded off for maybe half an hour. Got to Titusville early afternoon and headed over to check out Titusville Middle School. This is the start/finish, also serves as aid station 4 and this is where we'll be coming back that night to pickup our race kits and have pre-race pasta dinner.
We hit a grocery store where I grabbed some breakfast for the morning and food for the race, then they dropped me at my motel, they were staying at a hotel just south of town. My motel was the Caboose Motel, which isn't a motel at all, it's about 20 cabooses lined up in 2 rows of 10 and my room is a caboose! You walk up some steps to the end of your caboose, then go in and it just looks like a long, thin motel room. I flopped on the bed and went right to sleep for an hour. After my nap, they picked me up and we headed to the pre-race dinner and kit pick-up.
Back at my caboose by 7:30pm or so, then brilliantly decided to relax and flip channels for a few hours before I got ready. Idiot. After I got my clothes, food and drop bags ready, I was in bed at 11pm. Where the hell did the last 3 and a half hours go? Oh well, I didn't need to get up until 3am...
Up at 3am, another night with 4hrs sleep. Nice. Had coffee (disgusting, apparently cabooses have horrible coffee), a muffin, banana, Mr. Noodles and part of a cinnimon bun. Kim and the 2 goofs were supposed to pick me up at 4:25am, but didn't get me until 4:35. Only 10 minutes later but race starts at 5am, so I was contemplating whether to start walking when they showed up. Titusville Middle School was only a few blocks away, so we were there quick. I handed in my drop bags, taped up my shins (I'm scared to run without kineso tape after last year's shin trouble), gave Chris some tape to help his ailing shin and we were good to go. We got up to walk to the starting line, as we approached people were running away from it! We looked at each other and said "I guess it started!" We were off!
Out of the two 100 mile races I've done, this course definietly ranks in the top 2. Great scenery, lots of historical crap to do with oil everywhere. Very hilly, total elevation change is over 17,000 feet. Doing HURT first put this in perspective though (26,000 feet there).
The course is basically a short run along a bike path for just over a mile, then a huge loop on trails from the north end of Oil Creek State Park to the south end and back, then to the bike path and back to the start finish, the entire loop totals 50km. You do this loop 3 times, then loop 4 is the 'heading home loop' and is only 7.7 miles to bring the total to 100 miles. Each 50km loop has 4 aid stations: Aid Station 1 is just under 8 miles from the start, then Aid Station 2 is at the bottom of the park (about halfway through the loop), then Aid Station 3 is on the way back and then the start/finish is Aid Station 4. There are also numerous un-manned water stops along the way.
The 100 mile runners were off at 5am, the 100km runners would be behind us at 6am and the 50k people at at 7am. The start is dark for 2 hrs so we've all got our lights out. Except for Steve, he just had some dinky kids flashlight or something because he thought it would be light out by 5:05. The start is along a mind-numbing paved bike path for just over a mile, then we cross a road and head off into the trails (this spot would turn out to be VERY important later). For the first while it's just a long line of crazy people along thin trails, there's nowhere to pass and it's too dark and hilly to try. After we get to Aid Station 1, it started to thin out. I'm still clueless at pacing, I prefer to go out harder and then hang on as I fade. I was still running with Chris and Steve, they told me our pace was too fast. I broke away after awhile, but took my time at Aid Station 2 and waited for them to show up. I got a few extra minutes rest doing this, then we headed out together, now going north on our way back.
I started to go ahead again, I was just running at a pace that felt natural. I ended up running beside a guy and chatting about other races, turns out he is the race director for McNaughton, a race that I've been thinking about for next year (150 miles!). Soon Chris and Steve caught up, they must have been moving. We ran together for a bit, but Chris was starting to have shin and ankle issues so he started to drop back. He gradually dropped back, but little did we know we wouldn't be running with him again. Steve and I ran together to Aid Station 3, then headed on our way toward the start/finish Aid Station 4…at least that's what we thought.
Two Idiots in the Woods:
Near the end of the loop, we headed across a bridge and a volunteer took down our bib numbers and said it's just over a mile to the start/finish. We ran across the bridge, then turned left and headed up a bike path and turned onto the marked trails. We had estimated it would take us 7hrs to finish loop 1, but now we were just over that. We were gunning it up and down hills thinking the start/finish Aid Station 4 must be soon. Whenever we hit a downhill, I'd think this must be it and I'd pick up the pace with Steve doing the same, we were running our asses off and not getting anywhere. We revised our loop estimate to be 7.5hrs.... then 8hrs.... then WTF? What the hell was going on here? We came to a bridge and a kid on the bridge said "Only 600 yards to go!" I assumed he meant 600 yards until we're out of the woods and near the school and start/finish. Then Steve noticed we were running past these 'walk of fame' stars with past runners' names on them, the same stars we'd run past at about 7am that morning. Did they move them? Then we saw the most beautiful and ugly site....Aid Station 1.
I Wanted a Challenge, Be Careful What You Wish For:
The Aid Station workers were as confused as we were in trying to figure out what just happened. Now that it's over, I'll tell you what the hell happened: When we crossed the bridge and the girl told us it's just over a mile to the start/finish, we were engaged in a deep conversation bitching about our ex-wives, didn't even look at the sign telling us to turn right and we turned left instead, starting the loop again without checking in at the start finish! Steve looked like he was about to shit his pants, he was pissed. My first thought was 'Are we done? Did we come all this way and train all this time (well not really) just to be forced to quit because of a stupid mistake so early in the race?'. I though about the time, we'd have to move but we had to try.
I had one of the voluteers get me a map so we could figure out where we were and what we had to do next, Steve was too flustered to understand what they were telling us, he just wanted to get going. They showed us a paved bike path on the other side of the aid station that headed back to the school, so that was our only choice.
It was now 1:30pm, this friggin loop has taken us 8.5hrs and it's not over. So far, we went approx 6 miles the wrong way, now we were running along this 4 mile paved bike path to get back on track. It sucked running so far in trail shoes on the hard flat asphalt. The entire run had a slight uphill, made you feel more tired than you should. Steve was having some doubts, I tried to convince him by imagining how great it would be if we could pull this off. I told him if we finish, it will be 110 miles (177km), it will be the longest run of our lives! That was enough to keep me going. We plodded along this stupid path for an hour. Eventually, the path comes out at the bridge, and we see where we went wrong. The good news is, the path we're already on is the same friggin mind-numbing path that goes back to the start/finish, so we passed by the exact spot where we went the wrong way thus re-entering the course exactly where we left it. Going by the rules, this keeps everything on the up and up. Steve said he didn't give a fuck.
We finally got back to the start/finish Aid Station 4 at 2:30pm, loop 1 took 9.5 hrs. Oops.
Steve and I started off loop 2 at 2:45pm, it was now very hot running along the mind-numbing bike path to get to the trail. Chris had come and gone a long time ago and was way ahead of us on loop 2. When we got to Aid Station 1, they gave us a big cheer, 'You made it back!' I heard some one shout. It was now 4:30pm, 3 hours after we accidentally showed up earlier. We then climbed the huge hill leading out of AS1, but now Steve wasn't feeling so well. We had really zapped ourselves earlier running so hard to an imaginary start/finish, then run hard again to get back on track. The heat was getting to him, he was retaining WAY to much water. He showed me his hands and they had ballooned up from the water retention, looked like clown hands! If his hands get that big, I wonder what that does to his penis? I gave him some salt pills, this seemed to bring the bloating down, he was now capable of dialing a phone again. He told me to run ahead, but I said I'd stick with him as it would be nice to stay together for the long night run. It was at this point that he mentioned the dreaded letters DNF, he was thinking about dropping. Once these thoughts cross you mind, it's hard to get back. He stuck it out until the bottom of the park at Aid Station 2. He just wasn't feeling great and the loss of 2.5hrs had thrown him off. I asked him if he was sure, but he was. It was just about to get dark, this meant I'd have to run through the night alone. Steve hitched a ride with a bunch of other DNFs in an ambulance back to the school.
Here I Go, Again On My Own…
I grabbed my lights and headed up the hill out of AS3 at 6:50pm (13hrs 50min now). Heading north on the way back was a few miles longer than the way there, plus there's a bunch of muddy spots that I had to creep around the edges of to avoid soaked feet. It got dark at 7pm, so this also slowed thing down. The first few miles are actually fairly smooth and good for running, but I was tired and sore so wasn't moving very quickly. By the time I got back to the start finish Aid Station number 4, it was almost midnight. Loop 2 took me 9hrs, yikes. Doing the math, I should be even more tired on the next loop, so I figured 10 to 10.5hrs. 10.5hrs would bring me back to the start finish at around 10:30am, leaving me 2.5hrs before the 32hr cutoff to do the final loop 4 which is 7.7 miles (assuming I'm not too exhausted). I had been told loop 4 takes approx 2.5hrs, so this would be cutting it close!
When I got to AS4 just before midnight (almost 19hrs in), Chris, Steve and Kim were all there. I was happy see Chris was there, I wasn't sure if he pulled out after he dropped back earlier, but he gutted it out and was finished loop 2. Chris was now keeled over puking in the chair beside me, awesome. He was trying to aim it on a 1 foot wide strip of grass, but he was failing miserably and it was getting everywhere. Paramedics came over to assess him, they asked if he'd had anything to drink, I said "Well yeah, he's hammered!". He had already been vomiting on the course previously, so he was in rough shape. Ankle and shin problems didn't help, but the stomach issues were his demise. He was considering going back out, but wisely didn't. Steve was great, he was making sure I was ok and he and Kim were getting me whatever I needed. I was feeling pretty good, now 116km done including our little side-trip. I was so stiff I could barely move when I stood up, but I knew I'd loosen up once I started moving. I had some food and coffee, then headed out for loop 3, while the 3 of them went to a hotel for the night. Bastards!
Steve walked me out of the aid station with lots of encouragement, he was pulling for me. We guessed I should be back from this loop at 10 or 1030am, he said he'd be there at 10am and run the final 7 mile loop 4 with me. I headed out at 12:10am (19hrs 10min). I was feeling pretty good once I loosened up, but I couldn't move very quickly. Instead of trying to move fast, I changed my stride and took short quick steps and kept a steady pace. Eventually, this was a little TOO steady, I kept nodding off! The 4hrs of sleep each of the last 2 nights was finally catching up with me. At first I would just lose focus a little and my eyes would drift shut, but then it got worse. Numerous times I'd start to drift off and wander off the trail, this was actually getting dangerous. I was very happy to see Aid Station 1! I had a large coffee and a handful of chocolate covered expresso beans. I also put some beans in a cup to bring so I could pop them along the way.
The caffine woke me up, I was more alert on the run to Aid Station 2. I passed by 2 girls I knew, when they asked how I was doing I said ok but told them I got lost earlier. They said 'We know, we heard all about it, you're famous now!'. Great, word of my detour had spread, now I'd really have to finish! I was keeping the same slow steady pace, it felt great. Problem is, I didn't realize how slow and steady it was, I came into Aid Station 2 at 4:30am (23hrs 30min). This meant I took 4hrs 20min to get here (loop 1 it took 3hrs 15min, loop 2 took 3hrs 30min). I was almost an hour slower than on the last loop. Not a big deal, I'd still have plenty of time to make my way back, as long I'm back by 10:30 or 11am, I've have 2hrs to run the final 7 mile loop. I was still tired so I threw back a Starbucks Double Expresso (we'd grabbed these at the store earlier, they come in a can, fantastic), also had a regular coffee and more expresso beans. That should keep me awake! Then, as I was sitting there enjoying some soup, I overheard someone talking about cutoff times at the aid stations….
Cutoff times? What the hell were they talking about? They told me the cutoff time at the final Aid Station 4 is 10:32am. Oh shit. I didn't hear what the cutoff time was at Aid Station 3, I was busy getting my shit together to get the hell out of there. The way back always seemed to take longer than expected, wasn't sure why. I darted out of there at 4:40am and headed up the steep hill to the top of the ridge. I was freaking out a little, I thought they said the cutoff at AS3 is 7 or 730am, I wasn't sure. When I got to the top of the ridge, I took off like a madman. The trail between AS2 and AS3 has lots of smooth rolling spots, I broke into a fast run and just kept going. It was a mix of the adrenaline, double expresso, the energy I'd saved running like a turtle on the last leg and most of all PANIC, but I kept up a road racing pace, definitly under 5min kms. Slight uphills which we walked earlier, I would run right over them. Muddy bogs, I sprinted right though them without braking stride. People who were plodding along would hear me coming , step aside and cheer me on as I flew past! I had anticipated wiping out for sure at some point as this was all in the dark, but I managed to remain upright. This was actually fun, I suddenly had so much energy! I got to the Aid Station 3 and asked them what the cutoff time is, they said 7:55am. I checked my watch, it was only 6:45am! This leg only took me 2hrs 05min, earlier loops were 3hrs! Ok, so I completely over estimated the cutoff time, but this was great, I have more time now. I kept up a respectable pace between AS3 and AS4, definitly quicker than the last loop. When I got near AS4, my feet were throbbing, I couldn't wait to get off of them. The asphalt bike path for a mile at the end was not helping.
As I approached the start/finish Aid Station 4, I realized I was way earlier than expected. I wasn't sure if they'd be there to greet me and if Steve would be there to run with me for loop 4. I figured if they're not there yet, I'll take my time at the aid station, then just go. We had guessed 10 to 10.5hrs, I arrived at 9:17am, did the loop in 9hrs 07min! I'll have to use panic mode more often! As I approached the aid station, I was happy to see Steve, Chris and Kim all there waiting, thank goodness they showed up early, just in case.
So now I'm sitting there having some food and more coffee, giving my throbbing feet a break. Because of my detour, I've now run 103 miles, but it's not official unless I get off my ass and run another 7 mile loop! Arg… Steve was pumped, he was so happy and excited for me he wanted to get going (a good nights sleep in a bed will have that effect!). He was jumping up and down "Lets go, lets go!". I loaded up on food, slowly stood up, stiff as a board. It's now 9:30am (28hrs 30min, should have been done by now!), so I've got 3.5hrs for this mini-loop, no problem. This loop would just be some good conversation and a fun light run, mentally I was already done. Steve and I headed out walking and eating while I loosened up, but I was feeling pretty good so we broke into a run. I told Steve I wasn't planning to take forever and walk, I was going to run this loop out as much as possible. One refreshing part of this loop was we'd be on some new trails we hadn't run on the other loops, but what we didn't know was this would include the biggest hill on the course! The hill was actually fine, the descent after the hill did a number on my quads. The temperature was climbing now too, but I knew it was almost over so it didn't matter.
After that we ran across the bridge, then back to the friggin mind-numbing bike path for the final time! I was trying to run on the grass at the sides of the path where I could, the asphalt was really causing my feet to throb. We did a walk/run the rest of the way along the path. After the path, we rounded the corner to the school and saw the finish line! We ran at a decent pace, but with 100 yards left I told Steve I'm gonna go, then I broke into a full out sprint to the finish, with what was left of the crowd cheering me on! What a feeling, it's these moments we run for. Last 7.7 mile loop took 2hrs 09min, total run time officially 30hrs 39min 18sec. The race director Tom gave me my finisher's buckle, I told him I'd done 110 miles and explained what happened. He apologized but I said no, it was completely our fault, the course was actuially marked VERY well (ok, that one sign could have been bigger maybe). He did say I had the best finish of anyone!
So That Was My Weekend…
So without the detour, I should have finished more like 28hrs, possibly under. Didn't matter, I was the only one to run 110 miles (as far as I know) the longest run of my life (so far!). I was also the only Canadian finisher, although I think only 6 showed up, a few more were entered but didn't show. Although Steve and Chris DNFed, this was probably a good thing as they're both off to the Grand Canyon in 2 weeks for Rim to Rim to Rim, better to DNF here than there. Chris ran 2 loops (100km), Steve ran 1.5 loops (73km), plus our detour (16km), plus he came out for loop 4 (12km), so his total was just over 100km also. That's plenty of running on a hilly course 2 weeks before R2R2R. The winner finished in 18hrs! He's from Boulder Colorado. I think all runners from Colorado or BC should be banned, it's like steroids! Good for him though...
Steve, Chris and Kim were great, so supportive. Steve and I had lots of great conversations to make the hours go by, that was great as I'm used to running alone. What's next for me? No idea. This gives me enough points to qualify for Ultra Trail de Mont Blanc in France next year (well it's in France, Switzerland and Italy). I've never run at altitude, so this intreagues me. Also considering Canadian Death Race, McNaughton 150, and I'll throw my name in the lottery for Western States. I'm more than pleased with my performance on 31km per week. Obviously I carried over training from earlier in the summer, but I was far from peak form for this. This is very encouraging. I'll decide on a big race for next year, then train properly this time!
As usual, I didn't take pics, here's a link to one from the website:
Here's the results page. 114 starters, 57 finishers and 57 DNFs. I came in 43rd, without the detour would have been 31st: