Thursday, October 6, 2011

Oil Creek 100: Race Preview?

Aid Station break while pacing at the 2009 Oil Creek 100

Back in 2009, I had the honor (and good fortune), to pace an incredible runner at the first annual Oil Creek 100 trail race.  I had such an amazing time trotting along for nearly 40 miles with a woman I had only just met.  I needed some volunteer hours, and the race is only about a two hour drive from my apartment.  I figured what better way to volunteer than to literally show up and ask runners as the go by if they need a random pacer.  As luck would have it, Susan (my runner) came through after 62 miles in rough shape talking about possibly dropping.  I convinced her to keep going and that I'd run with her.  She agreed and ended up finishing strong.  I saw Susan again this past summer at the VT 100 where she again finished with a great time.  This year, some time back in June, I got the crazy idea to sign up for Oil Creek...knowing full well I would be running the VT50 and likely the Tussey Mountainback 50 on two weeks either side of it.  I don't know what I was thinking, but I signed up anyway.  There something about the course that I have a very big warm spot for that has a rather historical connection for me.

Back in 2006, when I was dealing with all sorts of negative situations, I found solace in hiking.  I had been toying around with the idea of thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail the following summer but was worried about having so little experience with solo-hiking.  As a test to myself, I set up several long-weekend hikes that summer to shake-down my gear and my ability to simply go alone.  The Oil Creek loop trail was one such hike.  After doing most of the loop, I came back convinced I could do a long thru-hike.  As you all know, the following summer I did complete the entire A.T. and subsequently the C.T. and P.C.T.  So in a sense, the Oil Creek Trail was one of the very first solo hikes I ever did, and one of the first few hikes that started that thru-hiking spark within me.  Now, I have nearly 6000 hiking miles under my belt.

So, back to the race:
The course is a 31 mile loop that is done 3 times for the 100 miler (plus a 7 mile extra loop).  50 and 100k runners obviously just do 1 or 2 loops.  Despite the low elevation, it is a surprisingly feisty little course with lots of undulating ups and downs.  There is actually more elevation gain over the 100 miles, than at Leadville.  Hard to believe, but true.  What's nice is that you can leave a big bin full of supplies and gear at the start and resupply every 31 miles.

I had always told myself that I would never go into a race unless I believed in my heart and in mind that I was going to finish it.  Sure...things sometimes happen and force a DNF, but if I ever truly doubted the completion of a race before I even started, then I shouldn't run it.  This is critical.  You have to believe you can finish, or it will just be that much easier to justify quitting to yourself late in the race.  You'll think something like, "It's ok to quit now, I didn't really think I would finish anyway".

So, I sit here tonight not sure what my plan will be.  I'm tired from a season full of ultras, still weak from the Vermont 50 two weeks ago, and really want to run the Tussey 50 at the end of the month.  I am seriously considering holding back on this one and gracefully bowing out.  As of right now, my heart is not 100% in it.  Unless this changes by Friday, I will more than likely just go up to the race to pace again and cheer for the other runners.  Maybe tomorrow I will feel differently...I don't know.

It is supposed to be beautiful weather this weekend for a change... are some old pics from my 2006 Oil Creek Hike

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