The OC100 is an Ultra Marathon event held in October on the Oil Creek State Park trails in Titusville PA. The event consists of the 100 mile/100k/50k events. Most say and I agree the event has the best aid stations in trail running along with the best volunteers. the race director is a real class act, he works tirelessly on this event and is at the finish line to greet every single finisher and hands them their buckle and the coveted OC100 sticker.
There are 4 aid stations in this race and 2 are crew accessible. The race headquarters, start/finish line and aid station 4 are at the Titusville middle school. The Friday prior to the race there is a dinner at the school along with packet pick up. Lodging is limited in town but you can pitch a tent on the school grounds or just roll out a sleeping bag in the school gym ( lights out at 9 PM Friday). But you can also stay in near by Oil City if you cant get a room in Titusville. There are no running stores in the area so make sure you bring everything with you.
The race consists of loops on a 50k course and the 100 mile runners will have an extra 7ish mile loop (going home loop). This is run primarily on the rocky rooty single track of the Gerard hiking trail inside of Oil Creek State Park. Each loop has about 4600 feet of gain. You will see relics from the oil drilling era of the 1860's along the course.
I have run the 50k and dropped from the 100k event here and swore I would never try the 100 miler. I train on these trails and know how they grind you up, I wanted no part of it. However my June 100 miler at Mohican didn't end the way I would have liked and since I was signed up for the 100k I sent an email to the RD and asked for an up grade since the 100 miler was not sold out. I now had another chance to prove to myself I could go 100 miles.
Unfortunately I don't have as clear of a memory of this race as others, so this may not be as detailed as in the past.
Since I had a base built up from Mohican my training would not have to be as demanding as the build up to Mohican, I just needed to get more gain weekly and maintain my fitness. I have been working with Damian Stoy most of the year on my training and diet and he helped me work up a great training plan that I pretty much followed to the letter. I did a lot more body weight strength training during this cycle which was great because I didn't have to go to the gym, I worked on it right at home. I also included my new Jacobs Ladder on strength days, which was a huge help in climbing hills.
As the race was nearing I was getting heel pain and figured it was the Achilles tendon, so that would be something I would have to manage over the 100 miles, but was confident I could get it done without any major issues. I had no crew and the pacer I had lined up backed out. Pat Krott and I were talking and he didn't have a crew or pacer either so we decided to just run it together like a 100 mile training run until one of us dropped the other. So now the plan, training and location were set, only thing left was I just had to get it done.
On Friday we went to the school for the dinner, my wife came along and she worked at aid station 3 on Saturday. After eating and picking up my packet we went to the hotel and hoped to get to bed early, as I only slept about 3 hours before Mohican and I didn't want to do that again. Pat stayed in our room, and while getting things ready for morning we watched Unbreakable: Western States 100 because its awesome and motivating. He and Denise fell to sleep around 9 or so, I know because they both snore VERY loud. I tried to sleep but could not, I laid there till at least 12:17 AM ( last I looked at the clock). I did get some sleep but got woke up around 2:40 to the shower in our room, Denise got up first to get ready, I fell back to sleep till about 3:30 when the alarm went off.
We got our gear on and went over to the school got our race instructions and were ready to go. At about 4:50 everyone started moving towards the starting line and at 5 it was go time. Since the plan was to stay conservative early we settled near the middleish of the pack, may even have been towards the back for all I know.... it was dark (HA HA). So we start out on the 1 mile of black top bike path from the school to the trail head and as always the slinky effect started on the first climb right at the trail head. this did get better quickly as the packs started to form up and the hill separated folks some. Section 1 ends up around 7.5 miles to the aid station, which was awesome they had lights strung on trees as you got closer to the AS. We were in and out pretty quick after saying hello to everyone there ( nice running on your home trail) and started up the switchbacks that start section 2.
While in Section 2 it stated getting light and we could see that Autumn was starting to take over Oil Creek and the green woods were becoming a mix of greens, yellows, and orange. Thankfully the leaves had not fallen much yet and the trail was pretty clear, well except for the rocks and roots that is. This section has 2 big climbs one of which is the switchbacks at the beginning the other is known as the never ending hill but they are both pretty early in the section and the rest is very runnable. Section 2 ends up being about 6 miles. As we came toward the end of the section there is a set of steps that are fairly tough to climb and I said to Pat these are gonna suck on the 3rd loop aren't they, of course he said yes. As we exit the trail we head down a dirt road towards AS 2 (crew accessible) and find our drop bags, get some food, fill our bottles and grab some Hammer gels. I dropped my head lamp, long sleeve shirt and buff but put on a visor and we set out for section 3.
As we started on our way to section 3 we had seen a couple of our friends come in that I didn't figure would be near us but they looked to be in good shape and not pushing hard. As with every section at OC, we started the climb up into section 3. Section 3 is the longest of the 4 at 9ish miles but the local Boy Scout troop sets up at Cow Run Camp Grounds with water and a Ham radio, and that is about 5 miles in. Most of section 3 is very runnable, which is nice because you can really make up time if you need it but its so long it seems it takes forever to get through it. I really enjoy the section except for about 1.5 miles of it near the end. its a huge climb with most of it in what seems like a creek bed, thankfully it was dry. Once to the top of that hill though its pretty easy going to the aid station. The last bit of section 3 is a technical decent to a dirt road that you run down hill on right to the aid station. This happens to be the one my wife was working at and again we knew all the volunteers which makes it nice. We ate, filled the bottles, grabbed more Hammer gels and we were off to section 4 but as we were leaving the aid station my friends Bill and Tiffany were hot on us again, this time I talked to Bill. I said how far a head of your plan are you he said 40ish min. so I said isn't that about how far a head you were last year and he said yep. In 2014 Bill went out too fast and paid for it in the end with a DNF by not making a cut off. He assured me he felt good, I was worried for him but I had myself to think about so off we went.
Section 4 starts with a climb named cemetery hill, there is a cemetery on the hill, dating back to at least 1812. During this climb is when my heel really started to bother me. after we ran through a good part of section 4 I had to sit down and do some massage work on the Achilles to relieve the pain and tightness. I made the decision at that point to stop every 5 or 6 miles and hit it real quick to keep it at bay and not have it impact the run. At the end of section 4 we came out to the black top road and crossed the tracks to start what is known as the Drake Well loop, which is about a 1 mile loop around Drake Well and along side Oil Creek back to the tracks and to the bike trail back to the school for the end of lap 1 and AS 4. Before we were able to leave Bill had come in right behind us again, I talked to him and he said he still felt great so that was good to hear.
We got some food, addressed any thing that needed it, like my heel, got our gels and were on our way back out the bike path to start the 2nd loop. The 2nd and 3rd loop follow the same line as the first loop. Section 1 was pretty uneventful we just kind of moved a long at a slow pace put still within my personal goal, stopping once to hit the heel. We came into AS 1 and it was not too busy at all, we just got what we needed and started the climb up the section 2 switchbacks, and on to the never ending hill. It had become a great day, sun was shining and it was in the mid 60's, perfect for what we were doing. Some time in section 2 my knee started to hurt a bit, I think it was compensation due to my heel issue, but it wasn't bad. We got to the steps that I spoke about above and they were a treat, I could only imagine how loop 3 was going to feel. We came in to AS2 which had some activity but not too busy and we grabbed our drop bags as it was late evening at this point and starting to cool. I grabbed some trail mix and a couple fig bars to eat later put on a dry t shirt and long sleeve shirt, a buff and my headlamp. We got some food and I addressed my heel and knee for a bit before heading back out. On our way out we did see Tiffany but no Bill.
As we were climbing the hill into section 3 we heard the familiar WHOOOOO from Bill, he was still not far behind us. Section 3 seemed much longer this time and it was nice to get to Cow Run and take a bathroom break. We finished section 3 a bit behind but well under cut off so there was no concern, just running easy. I think we were in and out of AS 3 pretty quick and into section 4 again. During this climb my knee was really starting to bother me, I took some fish oil in hopes of keeping it reasonable. It seemed to work ok, but it was getting colder, and I was getting sleepy. We got through section 4 pretty fast and I was on the lookout for zombies. Zombies as I found out from Pat along the way since dark were the folks that were in rough shape and could hardly function. We got into AS 4 around 10 PM, still on pace for a 28-29 hr. finish. We spent some time here ate some soup, addressed my heel and knee. Oddly Pat was having knee issues as well. I had 2 cups of soup and 2 cups of coffee. We got out of there in about 20 ,min, which was far too long but much needed. We started the 3rd loop and somewhere early in section 1 I could hardly keep my eyes open, it was crazy. Pat was having the same problem so rather than get injured stumbling like a zombie ourselves we thought lets nap for 15 min. Pat set his watch, we pick out our spots just off the trail and too a nap. All of a sudden someone is waking us up....... it was Bill. Its funny now but man I lost 5 min of sleep. He introduced us to his pacer and new friend from Canada.
We hiked with them for a bit but wanted to start running, so we went around and really started feeling good. The nap was a huge success! We had passed a few folks rather quickly and one guy said " Hey you guys woke up" and we all laughed then we never seen them again, maybe they took a nap. We got to AS 1 for the last time and took care of what we could and ate. I had a bunch of strawberries, which were awesome. The climbs in 2 were rough and seemed far longer than earlier in the run. I don't recall passing anyone in section 2 but we might have. The hellish steps were tough but it was the last time I had to deal with them and I was thankful for that. AS 2 was buzzing and we got to see Allison ( Pats girlfriend) which lifted out sprits, she crewed us there and I ate whatever fresh fruit I could find. I took a trick from a friend and laid on the ground and elevated my legs on a picnic table while I ate. We took a while at this AS as well, but it was needed. We had heard that Tiffany was not feeling well and she had slowed down considerably. We got out of there after far too long and started the climb up into section 3.
Section 3 was LONG, wow it was a huge mental challenge and physical beating. Towards the end of the section Pat had his lowest low of the night, we managed everything pretty well but it was tough. We came into AS 3 and there was a few folks at the fire and another set of people just taking of into section 4. We ate and sat down for a bit, I did close my eyes and slept for like 5 min. Pat called out to me and we went into section 4 and started the cemetery hill climb for the last time. Section 4 took a while, we were beat but we got it done. The sun had come up during this section, which was nice and it was another great sunrise with a blue sky. We got the Drake Well loop done and headed down the bike path, mostly walking it as the black top was putting a beating on me knee. We came into AS 4 to both Denise and Allison. We dropped some gear ate real quick, filled the bottles and got out for our last 7ish miles. Once we got into the trail I felt pretty good and kind of took off a bit, we passed a good number of folks so that was very cool at that point. We took out time the rest that loop, all we had left was the last climb of the day. Its called the Hill of Truth, very long and at 95 or 96ish miles it was very tough. But once we got to the top it was a couple small rollers but over all down hill and 1 mile on the bike path ( which we walked most of) and crossed the finish line at 30:23. Much slower than planned but the over all goal was to make it, which we did.
What I learned:
- A nap isn't a bad thing and could save your day
- eating fruit as much as possible is very refreshing
- 100 miles is a long way
- seeing 2 sun rises within the same run is pretty amazing
- not changing socks and shoes if what you have is working ( learned at Mohican, tested at OC)
- have a plan but prepare to toss it out, don't be a slave to the race plan, take what you can and let the miles come to you.
- Suunto Ambit 2 watch
- Montrail Mountain Masochist II
- Injinji sock liners
- Ice Breaker socks
- Race Ready shorts
- Nike Long Sleeve shirt
- Hanes long sleeve tech shirt
- Nike short Sleeve shirt (2)
- Pearl Izumi wind breaker
- 20 oz Amphipod handheld
- Buff, and Half Buff
- Sugoi visor
- Pearl Izumi gloves
- Nike gloves
Food and Nutrition:
- Hammer Endurolytes - since the temps stayed low I only took about 1 every 3-4 hours
- Hammer Anti-Fatigue Caps- took 2 each loop
- Fish oil as a pain reliever
- couple Tylenol on the 3rd loop to help with pain
- Aid station foods- fruit, pizza, grilled cheese, spinach wrap
- 25-30 Hammer gels
- 3 Natures Bakery fig bars
- trail mix
- 2 bottles of Perpetuem through out the day