Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Old Dominion 100 Miler -- tips from an expert

One of my best running buddies, Jay Finkle, talked me into running the OD 100 coming up on June 7. This will be my first hundred in over a year and a half, so I'm a little nervous about it. Jay and I got into ultrarunning at about the same time, but Jay has taken his running to the next level. He used to tell me back in the day that he wanted to get "super fit" to the point where he could just go out and run 100 miles whenever he wanted. Well, he is there. I don't know how many hundreds he's run, but I know he's run over 100 ultramarathons (as has his equally great running wife, Anita). He's run several hundreds on back-to-back weekends, and the man is indeed, super fit. I take his advice whenever I can get it, and I take it to heart.

This morning Jay sent me a very detailed list of tips and tricks to help me do well at OD 100. I plan to start the run with him, and rely on his crew. My only goal is to finish healthy in under 24 hours. Jay has done that 5 times.

Anyway, here are Jay's tips to running the OD 100.

- don't go out too fast. the early miles, up to mile 32.55, are generally the easist. a little bit of trail, but mostly country dirt roads in the early morning. very scenic and pleasant. but the heat of the day and the hard trails are waiting.

- at mile 32.55, fill up on water and calories and fill your camelback or bottle or whatever you have. this is a good aid station. the hard trails are next and the next two aid stations are small.

- after mile 32.55 you go to camp roosevelt and climb a trail to the top of the mountain and run a paved road back down to camp roosevelt. then you enter Duncan hollow trail. the aid station at the entrance to duncan hollow trail is minimal. I think last year it just had sports drink and i declined and went into duncan hollow with about 20 ounces of water. i bonked in duncan hollow and never fully recovered.

- duncan hollow trail is many a runners undoing. it is long, hot and hard to run. you need to run as much of this as possible without burning yourself out. the race organizers try to set up an aid station halfway through this trail, but the volunteers have to bring water in on motorcycles and usually run out by the time I get there.

- after you get out of the duncan hollow trail, you get to an aid station with the first weigh in. hopefully you didn't dehydrate and lose too much weight in there, because you will have to sit and gain weight at the aid station.

- next you run back to four points aid station again and after that you pass the 50 mile mark. the 50 mile mark is written across the road. you need to pass this no later than 10 or 11 hours into the race to make 24 hours, although i think one year i passed this at 11 1/2 hours and still squeaked under 24 hours.

- from four points #2 to edinburg gap is in the heat of the day, exposed dirt roads. much of it uphill. some people bonk here.

- after the edinburg gap aid station is a bigtime climb. very steep with false summits. but after the summit is a long, fun to run, gradual downhill on a jeep trail.

- next is little fort aid station. good food here and a good place to eat.

- more dirt roads and trails until elizabeth furnace aid station at mile 75.

- you want to get to elizabeth furnace asap because after that is shermans gap and veach gap. the more of these two gap trails you can do in daylight, the better. i usually get to elizabeth furnace at 8:30 pm. this is a weight check in so drink all of your camel back before entering here. get food and drinks here because the hard trails are next. this is also where i get my lights and maybe a long sleeve shirt.

- shermans gap trail is awful. it is steep and long both up and down the other side. then you get on a short but very hilly road to veach gap. veach gap is about 70% as hard as shermans gap.

- after veach gap west aid station, there are no more trails. you do have to cross fort valley and woodstock mountain though. you need to leave veach gap west aid station by no later than 1:00 am to have a chance at being under 24 hours.

- these last 13 miles are where the course marking vandals usually strike. You may want to have your turn sheet directions or run with someone who knows where they are going for these miles.

- the climb up woodstock mountain is torture and the run down woodstock mountain is worse. you have to run down the mountain to break 24 hours. your legs won't want to, but you have to. no one who walks down the other side of woodstock mountain breaks 24 hours.

- once you get to the dam at the bottom of woodstock mountain, you will probably know if you will make it under 24 hours or not. you still must run the course back in. don't go off course. runners have been disqualified in this portion because of going off course. it doesn't matter if vandals took took the ribbons. i think race leaders have been disqualified because of this. this is the root of some bad publicity for old dominion.

- the last part of the course is the 1/2 mile circle of the horse track. Factor this into your time estimates.

- other than the vandals, the course is the best marked, point to point race I have run. you still need to pay attention. it seems like runners go off course each year.

Thanks Jay.

Run hard out there.

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