Friday, June 10, 2011

Old Dominian 100

Old Dominion 100M run in VA. To say the important thing, it is the second oldest 100 miler in the country, in it's 33rd year of running. It came about as a follow-up of Western States 100 and has the same beginning as a horse race. The challenge the RD's put out was to not only finish a 100 mile trek, but to do it in one day, under 24 hrs. The organizers are not runners - it is a family in it's 3rd generation right now (well, 2nd, but the youngsters are already in it), and the aid stations, as well as most volunteers are not runners either - just local family who have houses on properties through which the run goes, and they set tables out (very often and very much appreciated, I must add) with water, coke and a few small items. I liked how simple it all was. I only ask for water and ice at the race anyway, because I go on gels, and only on Power Gels, so I never rely on AS for anything else. The price was absolutely right too - $135, I believe it is the cheapest 100 besides Cactus Rose and Rocky. Can't beat that. To stress one more point, as I said above, the run has to be completed sub-24 hrs, and while they extended the finish time to 28 hrs at some point (not sure when), the buckle goes only to those who make it in 1 day. And now I know even more - what a sweet buckle that is! It is a real silver buckle, just like WS provides to sub-24 finishers, and to my knowledge it's the only second 100 to do that. I might be wrong, please correct me (Tahoe?). All this said, there are a handful of things I also knew. The race fell off the Earth (a.k.a. competitive running) somewhere around 2001 due to 9/11, and the OD Memorial came to replace (and Vermont started a few years earlier too), and due to various reasons I have no clue about the participation was down to a dozen of finishers some years. Now that we have 100M races popping like blisters on our feet during a long haul, some do have shortage of runners. I kind of felt responsible to bring attention back to "old and true" (nothing wrong with new stuff). And, it fell well into my wounding-down the season. It listed about 14,000 feet of elevation gain (plus same for loss) and I think it is about 80% done on either rural country asphalt roads or gravel roads. The hills are nice, rolling, through beautiful area East Coast style, reminded me of my days living in NYC and hiking/backpacking Upstate NY (my true background to taking this trail ultrarunning thing), and it was lovely. The smells of blooming tress and flowers were overwhelmingly awesome. The hospitality of volunteers was unmatched - they learned your name and as they moved their help around (or simply you moved in circles around their AS's), you've been called up on very personally.
Now, because the event is put on by regular folks, names of runners are unknown to volunteers (besides "repeat offenders"). It was cute to be asked at the sing in if I ever run a trail, ever donw a night run, and have an idea what to eat when I do this thing. I just smiled. You also don't know who else is in the race until you show up - and get a print out of participants. Only 7 female were listed this year, but the total was the biggest in a decade, 70 runners. I came with a goal of 22 hrs and, obvioulsy, a belt buckle. I collect belt buckles you know:) I knew only a handful of folks - and I mean a handful: Keith Knippling, Greg Loomis, Dan Brendan, Bedford Boyce and Levy Rizk. Levy and I scouted the first/last 7 miles the day before the race and were glad we did.
Usually the weather plays a huge negative role at OD100, but we lucked out so much, I have no words. Some did complain on the heat, but for this newly-Texan, 80's and humidity way below 50% felt a paradise. The race starts at 4 am, but it goes through the town of Woodstock for 3 miles and then ventures on a road up, so lights are not necessary at all. Then the grey starts coming up. The field spread out some, but still kept close. After 7 mile AS you hit long steep-ish downhill and make a loop on half-trail and half-road for Boyer. Besides this little thing (about 2M on trails) first 32M are all road-run. I wore my old road shoes, to get rid of them was about time (2 years old?). Actually, come to think about it, the whole thing can be easily done in road shoes, in fact, trail shoes are contra-indicated. I was smack on time on my predicted splits, and despite running roads, was extremely happy. I felt awesome, I didn't breathe any hard at any point, I was hydrating and eating gels on cue, I ditched my old shirt (ran first marathon in it, 9 years ago) at AS and was running in a sportsbra for cooling effect (Texas teaching), and I was listening to my music. Talked to an "Alabama" guy (who happened to be Dink Taylor) just past mile 25, I think, told him how I always happen to have some serious thing happen to me in the last 20 miles or so (like, rolled both ankles at RR, broke tail bone at Cactus, explosive pooping at WS..). What an idiot, jinxed myself! Was passed a few minutes before 20M AS by a woman, and learned from volunteers we are 1-2. She pulled away. I could care less, besides, it was mile 20, for God's sake, who races that early! Had some stomach loose, visited woods couple of times, hit Immodium, was ok after.

Came to mile 32 spot on, changed into my Fireblades (trail shoes), re-supplied and took off, happy camper. Passed a few guys, was told Linda (that turned out to be woman's name) was 5 minutes on me, could care less. There was a long ATV climb, and when we got to a motor-biked in AS, water was sparse to offer. But I was peeing fine and did ok to manage one bottle per person request. Kind of got a bit tired of those ATV rocks, and also started feeling weird pain in my right lower shin, right above my ankle. Thought may be it's my shoes too tight. I never had my shoes tight before, but who knows, I had no other ideas. Kept plugging away and passing a guy here and there, was a nice ridge stretch, hot and open and with a bunch of flies, but nice smelling blooms. Finally came down some road, passed Levy and entered mile 48 AS (same as 32, it was a loop) while Linda was getting tended to by her spouse (or friend). Could care less. Got ice, re-supplied, took off on a 4.5M climb on a road.

Linda caught up with me in a mile, I was rocking my best music selection, hopefully she didn't think I am a nut case. Dancing, you know. Depending on music, either swaying hips (pop) or throwing fists in the air (rock, hip-hop). She didn't say much (I pointed to a sign to a house with wedding and proposed we should stop by there). I think she mentioned she doesn't do well in heat. I was just running my own race, and yes, I did think that I might come back to her if I still feel good, and if I don't catch her - it means she is a better runner, that's all. Besides the ridge before, that was the only open section. Everything else was in a shade, so I felt great in this regard. There was a line on the road saying "50M", and I was there at exactly 10 hrs - not even funny. And it was exactly when I thought I should be there. Got to the top of the hill at mile 51 - and suddenly that pain in the shin got unbearable. Had to step aside, loosen up laces (still thought it was the cause). Felt some relief (now I understand the swelling started, so yes, there was a relief). But shortly after, as the downhill started, I couldn't run from pain. My mood dampened. Took Ibuprofen. Not much help. Took Aleve. When course goes up, I am fine, strong and almost don't feel anything. As soon as we go down (and road at that) - I am in tears. Still think it's from shoe laces and simply an aggravation, like an anterior tibialis tendonitis. You don't stop for tendonitis. So I went on. By Elizabeth Furnace, mile 75, the pain is really, really bad, and I am loosing the ground on Linda (I was given updates). I weighed in (same exact number as at the start, good thing) and yelled out for a duct tape. The woman came in and asked "What's wrong, I am a doctor". I said "I am a doctor too, I need duct tape". The RD Ray was there and later at the finish said it sounded very funny. I don't know, I wasn't much smiling. I taped my leg and walked out. We entered a bitch of a climb, but it was only bad last mile (straight up). The whole 6M section was on an extremely rocky trail (worst Massanutten memories imaginable), but when going up, I was so full of energy and almost no pain. The other side was a completely different story. I left Elizabeth Furnace still on predicted split, but all hell got loose here, past the top of the climb. It was very steep and very rocky way down, and it just got dark a few minutes ago (just about 9pm, I put headlamp on), and I couldn't put any weight on my right leg without crying, screaming and remembering every mother of God (and many, many more choice of words I could come up with in English). I actually made a cane out of a stick and basically hopped down on one leg. At the bottom the un-manned AS ran out of water. Sucks for us. Another 2 miles up the road was a regular AS, but I was in pain and on a "get the F* done" mode. Just got water. Another trail section, up and over Veach Gap. Again, my climb was awesome, gave me hope, I was just so pleased of how strong I felt and how well I took care of myself. On the way down I repeated the crying and swearing - but no stick. It was a somewhat "milder" trail downhill with "fewer" rocks. We wandered more on roads after that, and I even tried to shuffle some mild mellow decline parts (besides flats), calculating and re-calculating what is possible to still come under 24 hrs. That was all I could focus on. Ran many parts with a guy Juan on his first 100 - when he finally left me at 93, he was done in 22:40. At mile 93 a nice volunteer enthusiastically told me the next 4M are almost all downhill. I knew that (repeat beginning course back) and I still almost killed him:) I tried to run, then gave up and hobbled. It was way too steep for my leg. Left ball of the foot developed a mother blister due to putting all that weight and pressure on only one leg, and walking downs. At this point I had no leg that could take any pressure (right or left). Took me 1:05 to make 4 miles downhill. At last AS (which didn't have water, and I kind of wanted it) I almost quit. I was positively sure I will not be able to make last 3 miles at all, in any time. And I couldn't scream (it does provide mental release when the anger gets out) - we were in town, and people are sleeping in their homes! So, I just walked and cried quietly. 50 minutes total. The last 3/4 mile is on a gravel horse track, a really cruel joke - you can see the finish line, but can't go straight to it. I was in so much pain, I knew even if another woman comes from behind with 2 feet to go, I will let her go. It didn't matter anymore. But - it was a guy who came up on me mid-way, and asked if I'd like to run in together. I looked up and said "Do I look like I am eager to run?". Sorry, I can be very moody like that. I walked through the finish line in 23:11:23, good for 29th overall and 2nd gal, a bit over an hour later than Linda (who ran a great, consistent and strong race). Would I have caught her? Nothing is a garantee in life, but everything is possible. All things considering, I am thrilled with physical aspect of this race.

Below is a synopsis from the VA Happy Trail runners:

The 33rd Old Dominion 100 was an epic year with great weather, a packed field, and fantastic volunteer support. Neal Gorman won in 16:16.47, Linda Gaudette was first woman in 22:03.22. Of 68 runners from 15 states, 54% were awarded the silver, sub-24 hour buckle. 72% finished under 28 hours. Neal, Eric Grossman, and Jeremy Pade lost 25 mins due to missing course markings heading into Elizabeth Furnace. Karsten Brown was second in 17:20, Eric third in 17:40, Jeremy fourth in 18:10, followed by David Ploskonka in 19:14 and Keith Knipling in 19:25. Sean Andrish finished near 22 hrs. Many other VHTRCers finished the challenging course. Bobby Gill photo credit.
The travel was really bad. The pain was getting worse, the swelling, hotness and redness on my leg, I couldn't walk a step...the airport people are the best, wheeled me around, put me up with no folks so I can elevate my leg, people giving me Ibuprofen, flight attendants giving me bags of ice, the first pilot announcing I am a "bad ass". I had to keep apologizing that not all 100's end up like that, it is really not a bad thing to do. I don't think they believed me much, I did a poor job explaining we are normal...well, kind of...
I hobbled to a doc for x-ray Monday morning - no serious fracture. Got to MRI - and yes, indeed, a hairline stress fracture about 2 cm on the anterial/medial side of lower part of tibia (about 1 cm above distal end). There is also some soft tissue trauma, hematoma and tendinitis. Seems that the soft tissue was giving more pain than bone crack itself.

Bottom line? As an event, it is awesomely organized, very pretty and really historically important - both for American history and for ultrarunning history. For me, personally, roads just don't do it. Nor super-rocky trails where running is imapred (at least somewhat). I like to glide mindlessly. I am still glad I checked this run off my list, and I still recommend it. You can run a great PR on the course, if you will take good care of yourself. I am thrilled to have done just that - take awesome care of myself, the whole day long, even as the pain become excruciating, I never lost sight of my hydration and fueling. Body-wise, I felt great. Like, better than many other 100's by a long shot. And that's with 45 mpw. Speaks volume of wisdom: patience, pacing, taking care of yourself, and experience, along with weight workouts (yes, those helped). My muscles are not sore. And while I was fitted for a boot to not have me walk around much, if you know me, I ain't wearing it. I will, though, keep my leg wrapped, elevated, iced and not run on. It's an off-season time. Lets the other challenges begin.