Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Finally Home Again: 2011 Oil Creek 50K


This year's Oil Creek 100s was different for me for a couple reasons. 1- It was the first year I was only doing one loop AKA the "fun run." 2- I got in several training runs this year especially on sections 2 & 3 and I finally felt like I knew the course. 3- The biggest and most important reason being I knew so many more of the runners and volunteers. It is amazing how much of a difference it makes having people you know out on the course.

The main reason I knew so many people this year is thanks in very large part to the Katie Peterson and the Warriors!! training group. I can't recall exactly when I was added to the group this year, but I do know I have Shannon Gallagher to thank for it. Thank you, thank you very much, Shannon! I came to find out that from doing Oil Creek the previous 2 years and from all the ultras I have done in the area I had probably seen and even talked to some of the other Warriors before, but now I know them and they are a part of my running family. I also met other running friends from outside the group through my Warrior friends.

To tell you a bit about myself and my training, I usually train alone and go to races by myself where I might run into some people(mostly Eric and Dannielle Ripper). I still mostly trained by myself, but occasionally I would actually make the 2nd 5 mile loop of the Warrior Wednesdays at Jersey Bridge and get some speed work in with Adam Peterson and Jeff Nelson. I am thinking I might have made only 2 of those nights and both times there was food after(cake once, cookies another) so that was added bonus to getting to know the other Warriors. Anyone who knows me knows I love to talk so hanging around afterwards and talking was one of my favorite parts. It was also nice to know I would see some of the Warriors at other races this year.

As we all know the biggest and best race of the year is the Oil Creek 100s. It is a running family reunion except you actually want to see these family members. I saw so many running friends at the dinner the night before. Roger Niethe(100M) gave me one of the best compliments I have ever received as a runner when he said, "Mick you look like you should be wearing a helmet and shoulder pads instead of running ultras." I have always said I would rather look like a football player who runs instead of a runner who played football. As an added bonus this year my wife, Vicki, came along with the kids so she could meet all these running friends I am always talking about from Facebook.

I got to the Middle School early enough to talk with some of my friends in the 100K, wish them luck, and see them off. I then did the same with my friends in the 50K while we waited for our turn. I had no idea what time goal to expect as I had never done only a single loop of the course in the race. I had DNF'd at Miller Farm on loop 2 in the 100 Miler in 2009 after some wrong turns and last year I ran 2 loops to complete the 100K in 17:44:24. My honest expectation was anywhere between 7 to 7.5 hours.

At 0700 we started. I followed my strategy and went out slow for the first half. I talked with Mike Gallagher while on the bike trail, but let him go on ahead while I walked the hill leading up to the trail. I eventually fell in behind a couple guys. We passed a few people, but more people passed us. I didn't care and I said to myself, "We will see most of you when I pass you on the second half." We stayed together to Wolfkiel and their Hollywood Stars aid station. There I saw Bill Masters and Dan Bowersox. It was early, but I ate some fig newtons and had some heed and trail mix before setting out.

I caught back up to the 2 guys after the switchbacks before meeting back up with Mike Gallagher. I stayed with Mike through the long climb, but he said his hamstring was still tight and to go on ahead. I cruised right on along and made my way into Petroleum Center around 2 hours 45 minutes to be greeted Tom Lane AKA the "mayor of Funkytown." I had taken it easy to this point and was excited to see what I could do on the second half.

On the hill out of PC I saw Katie Peterson(100K), who looked to be having a great day. We chatted briefly and then I was on my way, passing runners left and right. I liked the trail taking us to the scenic overlook this year. I was greeted by some great signs as I approached the Boy Scouts aid station. Their aid station was a pleasant surprise this year. In the previous two years this was just water and Endurolytes, but this year it was a full aid station. I hope they keep this cause I'll need it next year in my 100 Mile redemption.

Before leaving the aid station I caught my first glimpse of a group of about 4 runners that seemed to keep steadily gaining ground on me. The only thing that kept them from passing me was my downhill running and my fast hiking on the steeper uphills, but they seemed to gain on me pretty well during their runs on flats and slight uphills. In hindsight I guess this was good as it did help me keep pushing the pace. I passed Dannielle Ripper(100K) in this section on my way to Miller Farm and the Flamingo aid station. I was glad to see she looked good at this point and seemed to be in good spirits. There I was greeted by Amy McCracken. I also talked with Brian Newcomer(100K) and Scott McCray(100K) here. I fueled up and headed out. The best flamingo was the skeleton flamingo,which I am told glows in the dark, on the hill by the cemetery.

I passed Brent and Patty Henderson(50K) on that hill out of the aid station and got back to cruising. This section flew by for me and after the early hills I never saw the group of 4 again. At this point I looked at it like I was in the 400 meter dash, though considerably longer, and I had just rounded the the last turn into the straightaway. I passed Ken Zellars(50K) during this point. Having done the Warrior Wednesday's I really kicked it in after we passed the top of the "Hill of Truth." Oh and on the second half I am pretty sure I passed back most of the people who passed me in the first half. I know I didn't get passed by anyone the whole second half and I am really proud of that.

It had been getting hot during this section and I really felt it on the dike loop around the museum and the bike trail back to the middle school. Regularly drinking water and taking S-caps on the hour every hour helped keep the cramps at bay all day. On the bike trail Eric Ripper passed going the other direction on his second loop of the 100K and I passed Adam Peterson(100K) here too. I crossed the bridge, rounded the corner, and sprinted in to the finish line in a time of 6:16:08. Of course I was greeted by Tom Jennings at the finish and I saw Shannon Gallagher and Jeremy Johnson there too. Out of the 17 5oKs I have done this was my 3rd fastest 50K.

I far exceeded what I thought I might be capable of. To God be the glory! The downside of finishing well ahead of what I thought I would was that Vicki and the kids missed me finishing. They came soon after and would have seen me if things hadn't gone so well. Of course I ate some. I also kept going back and forth between the finish line and the aid station to see my friends come in and wish the ones heading back out well.

Finally I left and went home to shower, eat some more, and return to work the aid station and pace Dannielle in. Tiffany Hrach, who ran an awesome first 50K, picked me up and took me to the aid station 3 after a detour to AS2 to check on Dannielle. At the aid station it was a great to see all the runners, especially my running friends come in and to be able to help them out, give them any encouragement, and send them on their way to the finish. I got to pace Dannielle for several miles which was a good time. I learned some things from this first time pacing and I look forward to the chance to pace a friend again.

Knowing that I would be seeing my friends along the course and at the aid stations along the way made a huge difference this year. I kept looking forward to who I would see next and this would carry me along all day. Thank you friends and thank you Tom and all the volunteers for making Oil Creek the best event every year. I look forward to running with many of you throughout the year and I can't wait till next year's reunion at the the Oil Creek 100s! Thank you Warriors for finally giving me a running home again.

Run Like a Horse,

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