2021 results for all three race distances because it was a record year for DNFs.
50k: 196 had bib numbers assigned. 170 started. 28 DNF’d. Normally a handful of DNF’s at most.
100k: 117 had bib numbers assigned. 107 started. 42 DNF’d. 39% drop is a new record.
100 miler: 94 had bib numbers assigned. 84 started. 58 DNF’d. 26 finished. 69% drop is a new record by far.
Note: The mud and puddles were endless. Unfortunately, the trail was heavily damaged and widened in areas because several racers tried to go around the mud and puddles. Please read and share my article about the importance of going through mud and puddles vs going around.
My brief recap
I missed the cutoff at 100k, maybe I should have at least asked if I was allowed to continue, but my feet felt like I’ve been walking on glass and I was almost hypothermic. Had I continued, I would have probably missed the next cutoff anyway. Cutoffs are there for a good reason, safety. The weather was the worst the race has ever seen. 20:11:30 is what my watch said, which I think I forgot to press stop. I arrived at the middle school around 1 AM and needed to be there by 12:43 AM.
Will have to try a 4th time and pray for better weather. The gnarly and unforgiving didn’t disappoint! Got my money’s worth. Was hurting pretty bad within 8 miles from the end. My feet hurt the worst.
9,111 ft of elevation gain. 9,252 ft loss. My pace got slower and slower due to the weather and needing extra time at aid stations to eat and warm up. I was wearing layers of warm clothes on top and a wind and waterproof North Face jacket. On the bottom, I had on shorts, which I prefer on rainy days. After one loop, 50k, I was almost hypothermic. The constant cold rain, wet feet, and wind almost did me in.
Full race report
Race start and loop 1
Let me back up to how the start of the race went. Terrible. It was dark and pouring. Tom Jennings (RD) called us all to the start line. A few of us wanted to stay back in the shelter of the middle school until it was time to run, which I thought was at least a minute. However, Tom didn’t give much of a warning and just started us. My headlamp was the only thing that wasn’t ready. I started running forward and began tracking the race on my COROS.
Next, I went to turn on my headlamp and something wasn’t right. With my wet hands, I felt pieces were loose. I kept running. We were heading up the road, still not far from the school. I let go of my headlamp, thinking, “well, maybe it’s okay.” The next thing I hear was pieces of it clinking off the pavement and getting trampled by all of us. I stopped to try to pick up what fell, but only recovered one of the three pieces. What the heck!? The headlamp burst apart!
The light bulb inside still worked, it hung out by a wire. I used that once we got to the Gerard Hiking Trail. It was difficult to hold the lightbulb, but I could see. On the trail, everyone found their groove and those around them who are a similar pace.
I met a man who was an engineer and he tried to help fix my light, but it was missing pieces, so it was doomed. Since it was raining, I voiced worry about getting shocked, but he assured me that the voltage wasn’t strong enough. He was a little concerned that I would have trouble seeing in the dark, but I felt comfortable with the trail and could see just enough. My phone was in my pocket and has a good light, as well. I told him that I have back up headlamps at Petroleum aid station.
Lesson learned, check to see if the headlamp is falling apart before the race. I’ve had three or four other headlamp issues at Oil Creek 100, so I always have backup options. Just plain bad luck. I decided that the light issue wouldn’t dictate my race, I was positive about it. It wasn’t an issue, I was going to carry on, enjoy the race, and the sun would begin to rise sometime between aid station one and two.
I met another person. Him and I talked about how to run a business. He wasn’t a business owner, but was curious about how I blogged and did marketing. I shared information on the pros of using various social media platforms. We also chatted about music, we listen to opposite genres. He shared stories, as well.
The end of section three, just before heading down the road to aid station 3, is known for the painted rocks. If you’ve done the race or have read my other two OC100 race reports (here is 2017 and here is 2018), then you know about the fun and beautiful rocks. Volunteers paint them with pictures and motivational phrases, and then place them out on the trail for the racers. Racers can slow down to enjoy them and find one that they really like. I slowed down enough to let someone pass me.
Volunteers, thank you for taking the time to do this for the race, it means a lot. I find myself trotting along, looking forward to the next aid station, and then when I see the bright spots of colors on the trail, I perk up. Then, I’m usually occupied by the rocks and smiling.
The first loop went very well, despite the headlamp crisis and weather.
Aid station 4, the middle school and beginning loop 2
50k, back at the middle school aid station, my friend Mark was there waiting on another runner. He greeted me and I almost broke out into tears. I’ve never had one loop tear me up. Things got bad during section 4. I was hesitant to go begin loop 2. I stood just inside of the school hallway with Mark, the wind would blow inside, it was terrible. There was no escape. Everyone was trying to stay warm.
Mark offered his help. He wanted to get me warm. I borrowed his jacket and gave him my Jeep key. He ran out to grab my bag of warm clothes, which I didn’t plan on needing. That was so kind. When he came back, I added layers.
I got out my sweatpants, and he helped stretch them over my caked in mud shoes. Not having to remove wet, muddy shoes to put on pants was great.
This is where some runners would probably change their shoes and socks, but I’m okay with keeping the same ones on. In this case, as soon as I’d leave the aid station, I’d be confronted with the rain and puddles. There’s not much point in changing shoes. The amount of time it would take to change them would be more than the amount of time my feet would be dry for.
Mark was a huge help and saved me from calling off my race. After the race, I messaged him and thanked him for his support. The picture below is part of the conversation. Mark is a good friend and very humble about his running… he has completed a 200 miler. He is also the person who introduced my husband and I to the Gerard Hiking Trail and to a few new Oil Creek area friends.
Aid station 2, Petroleum Center, still loop 2
Reaching aid station 2, Petroleum Center, again, I came in with my plan. I was going to refuel and make sure that I had chocolate covered coffee beans and a gel or two that contained caffeine. I knew that I’d need the caffeine because I struggled greatly to stay awake in the previous years. Oh, and the new headlamp and it’s backup.
My spirits were bright, it took convincing myself that I was okay and having fun. Katie, my pacer, whom you may remember reading about in my article on Baker Trail UltraChallenge 50 Miler, was there waiting for me. It was a pleasant surprise because I wasn’t expecting to see her until I finished the second loop. She was on it, helping me get everything I needed and made sure I ate.
I told Katie that I was motivated to finish and that I had to because I found the painted rock that said, “Give to RD Tom J.” Talk about pressure! Katie was all about business and wanted to get me on my way. She said that she was going to head home to rest and that she’d see me at the middle school.
I met Joel somewhere along the trail, he’s one of my online friends. We happened to be around the same pace, so we spent a good portion of the race around each other. It was his first time doing Oil Creek 100. We enjoyed chatting and joking about the view at the top of a hill being another hill to climb. We had fun and shared misery.
On loop 2, Joel and I hiked part of section 3 and all of section 4 to the middle school. It took everything for him and I to not drop at AS 3, we were motivated by the same goal of timing out vs dropping. Neither of us have ever dropped from a race and we wanted to continue that streak.
Trudging on from AS 3, it took forever. This is that 8.5 mile stretch. We were plain hurting. It rained again and got windy. We were very cold. 40° F at night. The rain was as cold as snow. The wind cut through my wind and waterproof North Face jacket.
We heard porcupines squeaking all through the woods. We saw two during that trek and man, they are so stinkin’ CUTE. The one in the pictures was right on the edge of the trail and didn’t mind us much. He or she arched up their quills to warn us.
Joel was concerned that it would fire quills at us, but I let him know that they don’t do that. I can only imagine the scene if they did, we’d become human cacti.
Spotting porcupines and having good company made the night miles less miserable.
Gotta get back to the school
As we stuck together, we called the journey back to the middle school a death march. It was night, cold, stormy, the mud was up to our shins in spots. We felt defeated because we knew our race was over. We wondered where the hiker check-in box was, we were looking forward to seeing it, it felt like the trail was never ending. We cheered when we saw the box.
The next landmark we were looking for were the steps that were at the end of the trail. Getting to the steps also felt like eternity. We cheered at the steps and cheered again when we stepped under the trail sign and onto pavement.
I didn’t think the pavement felt much better than the trail, but at least there was no mud and rocks. We saw where we’d be heading back to the middle school, but unfortunately, had to do the annoying loop around the Drake Well museum, first, lol.
After the little loop, we were on the bike path. Runners were coming towards us on their third loop. I was feeling a mix of wishing that I was one of those runners and that I’d feel relieved if we did indeed miss the cutoff time. The runners passing by encouraged us to keep going and that they’re see us back out on the course. One man’s words gave me a bigger mood boost and I imagined myself on the third loop.
100k and we’re done
With 100k on my feet, I was back at the middle school. A 3rd year that I missed a cutoff time. Previous years, I actually made it way further than 100k. 76 and 85 miles. I was disappointed, but not too disappointed. The weather was awful. There are no guarantees with 100 milers. There are no guarantees with Oil Creek 100. It is gnarly and unforgiving.
Joel and I stood around the heater outside of the middle school under the cafeteria loading dock. His wife came over and we said hello. Katie, my pacer, also came over, carrying poles and a vest. She didn’t appear to be dressed warm enough. She’s an awesome friend, she stayed waiting for me.
For a second, I thought we were going back out for our 3rd loop, but thought out loud that “I missed the cutoff and don’t think they will let me go back out.” No one confirmed that I missed the cutoff, but Joel seemed to think so, as well. A lady volunteering came over and tore off the bottom of my bib. It was official, another DNF.
I said goodbye to Joel, and Katie and I went inside. We sat in the cafeteria for a little, she made sure that I was okay. I was alright, mainly needing to warmup and sleep. Katie made sure that I had what I needed and then headed home to rest.
Stephen’s 100k race
After the race, Stephen shared a wild story. Stephen did the 100k distance and while he was running, he came across a man and a woman searching through a huge mud puddle. They were scooping mud around with their hands. The man said that he slid down an embankment and into the mud and his shoe came off when he tried pulling out, so he and the lady were looking for it.
Stephen shared that the man’s sock was soaked and covered in mud. The man didn’t see where the shoe went in the puddle because it was dark. Kindly, Stephen stopped and used his light to help him see. Took the man 3 minutes to find his shoe!
My husband had a good race experience, but admitted that this year was very hard. He wasn’t sure that if he did the 100 miler this year that he’d be able to finish it. He finished the 100k in 20:25:48.
Stephen’s 100 mile finish in 2019
Stephen finished the 100 miler in 2019. That was his third attempt at the 100 miler. The weather was perfect, if I remember correctly, it just rained a little. I paced Stephen on the Heading Home loop and took a video of him crossing the finish line. It was also his BIRTHDAY!
One more unfortunate thing happened
During the race and even when I was in the cafeteria with Katie, I was looking forward to sitting in the Jeep with the heater on and sleeping while I waited for Stephen to finish. That unfortunately didn’t happen because the heater broke!
Due to the broken heater in the Jeep, I ended up going back in the school and explained to the volunteers my situation. My drop bag with warm clothes wasn’t back from PC. They took care of me like a queen. I got a folding lounge chair, space blanket, hot water to drink, and a lady gave me fuzzy blue socks that she said she wasn’t too attached to. I was still pretty cold.
Stephen was able to sleep some in the Jeep, I don’t know how. Another wonderful volunteer drove to Petroleum Center and brought my bag back for me. People in our community are so awesome. Thank you so much!
We were able to get the Jeep heater fixed a few days later.
Stephen got a nice finisher award. For me, I got nothing, lol. I may not have reached my ultimate goal of finishing, but I achieved all of the sub goals that I told my coach I’d be pleased with. Oil Creek was a SUCCESS.
Thanks, everyone, for your support. I appreciate you. Special thanks to Katie and Mark for believing in me and for being there on race day. Thanks to my parents for watching my daughter, so I could trudge around in the woods for hours. Thanks to Tom (RD), his wife, and the volunteers who also braved the weather and supported all of the runners as we tried to stay strong. It was not an easy year for anyone. Us racers really appreciate you and what you do for the state park.
Everyone, thanks for reading! Let me know if you’ve done Oil Creek 100 or would like to give it a shot.