Monday, June 9, 2008

Updated: Old Dominion 100 Mile Endurance Run

Results are posted!

The 30th running of the Old Dominion 100 Mile run is in the history books as one of the hottest on record. It hit 99 degrees around 3pm, just after we crossed 50 miles. I was able to get out to a good start, back off a little in the heat of the day, then finish strong. At both medical checks my weight was up 3 pounds. That was a first for me, but the medical staff said that was great, so I kept up with my hydration and kept on running.

Memorable Moments (or moments I wish I could forget)

Watching the weather forecast in the days prior to the run, my fear grew along with the projected high temperature. On Friday morning, the final race-day forecast was for 97 degrees, with a heat index of over 110. And I'm supposed to run 100 miles!?!?

I tried to relax and get some sleep Friday night, but that's a tough job when it is still 80 degrees at 9pm. I sweated so much that evening that I was sure I would be 2 pounds down before we even started.

I looked at my watch at 3am and thought, "Good, I can finally get up now."

We started with an easy jog through Woodstock, reaching the beautiful and familiar river crossing (which I could not see because my glasses were fogged up from humidity) before I knew it. I felt relief as we started climbing Woodstock Mountain. I also felt a hint of a cool breeze.

Jay and I ticked off the miles for the first couple hours. When Jay stopped for a bathroom break, I got a competitve bug and actually sped up a little. I told a few people over the next hour that I wasn't sure what happened to Jay. "Don't worry, he'll catch you," was their reply. And he did.

We crossed 50 miles in 10:31. All systems were go. Very shortly thereafter I took my first dip in a stream. Actually laid down and let the water flow over me. I almost felt chills when I stood up. It was 99 degrees with no shade. I was feeling fine.

Jay was struggling with stomach issues. On the switchbacks up the ATV trail, I yelled down to him. "You okay?" I asked. "Just threw up," Jay replied. "Do you feel better now?" I asked. "Don't know yet." Jay had talked me into running the OD100, and I asked him to help get me in under 24 hours (he's done it 5 times). If you finish under 24 hours you get a sterling silver buckle. If you finish over 24, but within the 28 hour limit you get a duffle bag. No thanks, I already have a duffle bag. Jay got me this far, but I knew from this point on I was on my own. His last words of advice were to enjoy the nice gentle descent after reaching the top of the ATV trail. I was off and running.

After reaching the top of the ATV trail I started what seemed at the time to be the rockiest, muddiest descent I've ever run. Jay must have been really sick.

Running just minutes ahead of Jay's 2007 splits, I came into Elizabeth's Furnace aid station, grabbed my spare flashlight and some food, and took off for the climb up Sherman's Gap. A climb I had heard a lot about in the previous 24 hours. I had a marathon to go, and I felt okay. Really.

The first couple miles of this 6-mile Sherman Gap section were not too bad. "What's all the fuss about?" I thought. Then the real climbing started. Look above you, just where the wall meets the ceiling. Now imagine you are climbing up a trail in the dark, and the next chemlight (marking the trail) is 50 yards ahead up there where you just looked. You finally get there, and another 100 yards ahead, just as high in the air, is another. This happened again and again and again then I was at the top. I hit the windchime (at least one other person mentioned the windchime, so I was not imagining that), and took off on an equally steep and treacherous descent. Next stop, Veach Gap.

The climb up Veach Gap was much like Sherman's Gap. As Kent Gallup said at the awards breakfast, he now knows that if it has the word Gap in it, it's going to be bad. Look up at the ceiling again, imagine the chemlight, and move on.

Jay had told me that in 2007 he reached Veach Gap West (87 miles) at midnight and had to really run to make it just under 24 hours. I knew I was cutting it close. Tom Worthington caught up to me just as we crested Veach Gap. We discussed it briefly and decided to push each other to the finish. He was determined. So was I. I already have a duffle bag.

We reached the Veach Gap Aid Station at midnight exactly. Jay was there, showered, napped and dressed since I saw him last. He gave us some words of wisdom and Tom and I were off. Thinking we were still cutting it close, we ran the next 3 miles at near 10K pace. I'm not kidding. Some of my fastest miles came between 80 and 90, when I thought I was in jeopardy of missing the 24 hour "buckle" cutoff. It's amazing how motivating a silver buckle can be. Before long we did the math and realized that if we pushed it to the next aid station, we would have 3 hours to cover less than 10 miles. Oh man. We were going to buckle.

We enjoyed the 90.95 mile aid station (2 cups of coke for me), then walked briskly up Woodstock Mountain for the last time of the day. We ran most of the road down the mountain, met up with Kevin Dorsey on the roads into town, and had a real good time over the last few miles as we literally walked and talked our way to a sub-24-hour finish. Tom, finishing his first hundred, took the honors of finishing first. Kevin and I crossed together. We were done.

It is amazing how quickly the body shuts down. 12 miles earlier I was running 8-9 minute/mile pace comfortably. As soon as I knew I was going to finish, my body began to revolt. Within minutes of crossing the finish line, I could hardly walk to my sleeping bag. Tossing and turning for the next couple hours took more effort than it was worth. I found more comfort sitting in a chair in the cool night air, watching as the next few runners trickled in. 50 runners started. In the end, 12 of us buckled. 10 more finished under the 28-hour limit. Many of the finishers were first time hundred milers. That says something. I'm just not real sure what yet.

Congratulations to all who toed the line on that warm Saturday morning.

Run hard out there...


bgill said...

Awesome! Congrats on the sub-24 finish. I can't imagine running that amount on Saturday. It was unbearable even for my measly 6am 14-miler to beat the heat. Looking forward to hearing more details on how it went and how your heat-coping techniques worked out.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations! I've been following your pre-100 posts and had hoped that things would go well for you.

Anonymous said...

STUD - after your Hellgate runs I had no doubt you could do what you needed to do! Congrats - share some secrets man!


Neal Jamison said...

Thanks Guys. Nick, I updated the entry after you posted your comment. If you don't find the secrets you are looking for there, then I have none to share. Thanks for your support.

Coach Spencer said...

I barely managed 90 minutes in the heat that day. Amazing work!

Bedrock said...

Great job on a tough day. recover well.

ultrastevep said...

Good job, Neal....welcome to the OD club. I finished in 2000 in 23:03 and I swear it was just as hot, but sure it wasn't. I'm just a nawthuna anyway...;-)

Old Dominion remains as one of my most memorable 100's...


cogito said...

Congrats, Neal! You did an awesome job on a tough day. Having the confidence to go easy during the hottest part of the day really paid off. Next time will feel easy after this....

Scott B

Sophie Speidel said...


It was cool to see you at Elizabeth's. In fact, I was about to ask you if you needed a pacer over Sherman's (I was supposed to pace Bill Gentry but he had dropped at Edinburg), but you were on a mission to get your buckle. Glad to read you had some company out there! It was a gorgeous night. And yes, share some of your training secrets!!

Congrats---still up for the July 12 training run at Grindstone? Lemme know.

Anonymous said...

Neal, very impressive run, Sniper told me about your run and I was in awe over your buckle. If I ever make another 100 attempt, this one may be the one I attempt. I remember hearing about ODU 100 from Bob Boeder back in my days at Fayetteville, NC. This race was always on their calendars. Hopefully it will be built back up to it's old self. Nonetheless, you've inspired me to enter Hellgate once again, only this time, i'll be out there to do some training on that particular course. Recover well, see you at the Fat Ass.