This Saturday will be the third running of the Oil Creek 100 Trail Runs. There are three events: the 50K, the 100K and 100 Mile. The races have been around only since 2009, but thanks to the efforts of the race director, support from the community, hiker-friendly cutoffs (especially for the 50K), and the general growth of the sport, the 50K sold out in 2 1/2 hours and the 100K in 28 hours.
The race takes place at the birthplace of the American oil industry, Oil Creek State Park in western Pennsylvania. The course is a 50K loop around the park, mostly on the Gerard Hiking Trails. I'm expecting some big hills, roots, rocks and even ancient oil pipelines slowing me down out on the trail. The elevation change is roughly twice that of the Finger Lakes Fifties 50K, but I'm expecting it have slightly less elevation change than On the Rocks. 100K runners will make two loops and 100 Milers will make three with an added out-and-back section.
This summer I haven't been particularly happy with my training. A combination of my schedule, the weather and general fatigue has kept me from getting the time out on the trail that I would have liked and my longest run was just shy of 22 miles. So my expectations aren't especially high, which in the long run may actually help me enjoy the race a little more. If nothing else, this will give me nice baseline for my training this winter and spring for the HAT Run 50K (which I signed up for just in time) and the Finger Lakes Fifties (distance to be determined).
My plan is start slow and try not to stress my body much for the first couple hours. With full aid stations 7-9 miles apart and water-only stations spaced at fairly regular intervals between them I'll carry just one water bottle (assuming the temperature isn't forecast to rise over 70), some saltstick capsules and several gels which I'll restock at the aid stations. If I can put down two gels an hour when I'm feeling good, and not less than one per hour as the race progresses, I should be in good shape nutritionally.
I'll be wearing the New Balance MT101 trail runners, Drymax Maximum Protection Trail Run socks and my Running Funky gaiters. Right now the days leading up to the race are expected to be dry, so I'm not expecting a lot of mud, but running trails in the northeast in October, usually means plenty of leaf litter that I'll want to keep out of my shoes.
I've spent some time analyzing race times at RealEndurance.com and times for the HAT Run and Finger Lakes Fifties 50K. It seems like times for the HAT Run and Finger Lakes tend to be generally comparable. But Oil Creek seems to take runners about an hour longer. So if I can run Oil Creek in less than 7 hours, that will set me up nicely to finish the HAT Run in under six hours, considering the relative difficulty of the races and assuming I will be better prepared in March.
My 50K PR is 6:46 - from my only 50K race and last ultra in 2009. It would be great to beat that number - at the beginning of the year I thought that was all but assured - but now I'm not so confident. The primary goal is to finish and finish well. Hopefully that will be in under 7 hours, but the priority for me in this race is the experience. I can think about time goals in March.