On Saturday at 5:00am, I left Titusville Middle School in western Pennsylvania on a 100-mile adventure. Titusville is an interesting place. In the 1800s, it was home to the first oil exchange in the United States. At one time, due to the discovery and extraction of oil, it was home to more millionaires per population than anywhere else in the world. However, times have changed, and Titusville now has the feel of a gritty, industrial town that has seen better days. With that being said, the town was very welcoming, and the race had some amazing volunteers!
The race draws a lot of people from Pennsylvania; however, a few of my friends from New York were also in attendance. There was a light mist falling at the start, and it would continue on throughout the morning. I started running with Daven Oskvig. Daven and I seem to cross paths regularly – this was actually our third race together just this year – but I figured he was out of my league at the one-hundred-mile distance. We ran the bike path section together and chatted a little bit, but once we entered the woods, I let him go ahead.
This race was just what I wanted. Hills. Rocks. Roots. Mud. And they were all in perfect proportions. I had never been on the course before, but I could tell we would get along just fine. The aid stations were about seven to 9 miles apart on the course; however, there were also water jugs every three miles or so. The organization of the race was definitely solid. Speaking of organization, the course was marked perfectly. It would be impossible to go off course. I know this is something people worry about during trail runs. I can tell you that it would take a tremendous effort to go off-course in this race.
The course is broken into three 50km loops, and there is also a 7ish mile loop at the end to get you over 100 miles. I wanted to hit the first 50km loop in around five hours and I did. Officially, I came in at 5:05. I switched out my bottles, ditched my headlamp, grabbed some snacks and headed back out. I was running well at that point and I wanted to keep moving. I was in second place overall at that point – Daven was 15 minutes ahead of me and third place was 20 minutes behind me.
My second loop went pretty well. It was nice to be running while it was light out even though the course was getting a little sloppy from the rain. My second loop was a little slower – 5:41 officially – but I still felt really good about where I was at. Daven was 28 minutes in front of me, and I was 37 minutes in front of third place.
Until Saturday, I had never run more that 62 miles at one time. At this point in the race, I was at 62 miles. Every step from that point on would be uncharted territory. Just like that, I headed out for my third big loop. I think I did pretty well over the next 14 miles. Daven’s lead got a little bigger and my lead over third place shrunk, but I still felt that I was moving well. I was at 76 miles and daylight was fading fast. The rest of the race would be in the dark.
Here is where things get tough. I was at about 76 miles in 13 hours and 57 minutes. I still felt okay, but when I completed the large climb out of the aid station, my legs were rubber. I kept trying to run, but I was getting little or no cooperation. I ended up staggering all over the trail, and it was actually quite counterproductive. I decided I would run the sections that were less rocky and rooty (of which there were few), and I would hike the others as quickly as possible. I really just wanted to keep moving.
At approximately 89 miles, Mark Frey, the runner who had been in third place, caught me. He offered some words of encouragement as he cruised by looking really strong. I finally made it to the end of that trail section, and I was able to run again, as the course had a few miles of grass and pavement. I hit the final aid station (about 93 miles) in 18:53. I was hoping to be done by now, but instead, I had 7.7 miles to go! I put on some dry, warm clothes, and I headed back into the chilly night. The temperature was dipping into the low 40s and it was definitely brisk. I still had a 31-minute lead over fourth place, and I felt pretty comfortable with that position.
The “going home” loop takes you over a pretty cool suspension bridge (pictured above). The sky was clear and the stars were stunning. It was a bit of a surreal moment – it was the middle of the night, pitch black, silent, stars above… and 95+ miles into a race.
A bit after crossing the suspension bridge, we hit the hill of truth. This is the last major climb on the course – it goes up about 500 feet in one mile. I made it to the top where it rejoined the rest of the course, and I started the final descent. My legs were still jelly, but I was determined to run a little, because I was certain that fourth place was closing in on me. I made it to the bottom in one piece, and I ran the final pavement section to the finish. I snuck in just under 21 hours and took third place overall.
Full results of the Oil Creek 100 are available here.
As I said above, this was my first 100-mile finish, and I’m definitely happy about that! I wish I could have run a little quicker, but I’m definitely not complaining. As I reflect over the next few days, I’m sure I’ll come up with things that I could have done a little differently.
Big thanks to Mike, Ron, Chris and Jamie for the support on the course and to Daven and that Australian dude for the support at the finish. I’m pretty sure I’d be wandering around Titusville with hypothermia right now if not for you guys.
Also, I saw a porcupine during the race, which was pretty cool. And I definitely heard many others! If you’ve never heard them before, this is what they sound like.
I’m going to take a week or so off and see where things are at. Overall, this was a great experience, and I think there may be more 100s in my future!
How was your weekend? Have you ever seen a porcupine?