One and (Not) Done-Oil Creek 50k

Never in my wildest dreams, would I have thought I would be a trail runner.  I had no idea that such a thing even existed.  Beyond that, I could not even fathom the concept of being an ultra runner.  To quote Joseph Campbell, “You must give up the life you planned in order to have the life that is waiting for you”.

I started as a triathlete.  My very first race, of any kind, was a sprint tri on Grand Island.  I did it for my dad.  The man, whom all other men are compared to, was the one who taught me to swim, and to bike.  Running, well, Dad wasn’t a runner. I had to learn that on my own.  I ran in tribute to him. I expected it to be one and done.  I took third place.  I was not done.

I moved on to a 5k, just to try one.  I won my age group.  OMG!  I WON my age group!  Maybe, I should try another…

Eventually, I decided to try a marathon, because that’s a once in a lifetime thing.  I did ok.  I did another.  I was 10 minutes off of a Boston Qualifying time.  Those ten minutes changed everything.

I trained relentlessly.  I moved up in tri’s and was now nailing Olympic and Iron distances.  I was running more and more marathons, but, I was still minutes (in one case, SECONDS) off of the elusive BQ.  I was frustrated.

I remember the moment I saw the link for this new race in Pennsylvania.  Some trail race, named Oil Creek.  My exact thought was, “Screw it.  If I can’t get faster, I’ll go further.”  I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

The 50k didn’t seem like much of a challenge.  That’s only 5 miles longer than a marathon.  I boldly signed up for the 50-miler.

I started doing my research.  I assumed I had the fitness to complete the race.  I figured I had some gear to get.  How hard could it be?  I was clueless.

Then, I got an email from some guy named Roger.  He saw my name on the entrant’s list, saw we lived in the same area, and he offered some advice. I thought, “Who the hell is this guy?  What a creeper.  I need to stay away from him.” 

Long story even longer.  Race day arrived.  I was running with this guy.  I remember three things about him:  His name was Gene;  He was a ballroom dancer.;  He was with me when I ran across my first bear. I thought it was cute.  Wait, what?!?!?

The race progressed.  It was a loop course.  When I was starting the second loop, I met up with Roger.  Of course, we became fast friends, and bonded like we were brother and sister. 

We did a lot of complaining that day.  We suffered.  We were battered and bruised.  We were muddy and smelly.  I swore NEVER to do this again.  This girl needed to be on the roads. This was CRAZY!  We did finish, and I was DONE!

On that trail, Roger told me that someday I would do a 100 miler.  In fact, he predicted, I would not only do a 100 miler, I would do one on that very course.   I knew I was trapped in the woods with a crazy man.  The 100 miler was not even a concept I could wrap my head around.  I was seeing the athletes that were doing it, and knew they were out of my league.  Nope.  Not for me.  No way.  Thanks anyways.

The NEXT day, Yes, the NEXT day, Roger reached out to me and told me about this race coming up in January.  He was going to do his first 100 miler, and encouraged me to do the 50 miler.  It was called the Beast.  Great, now I’m back in my real life, talking to a crazy man, and he wants me to be a beast.  I didn’t have time for this foolishness.  I was set on a Boston Qualifier.  Trail racing was a nice diversion, but it was time for me to get back to business.  Again, I swore, one and done.  By the next week, I was registered.

I did qualify for Boston…several times.  I also ran the Beast…several times.  And, I kept doing ultra races, eventually, yes, I did a 100 miler, several of them actually.

Oil Creek discontinued the 50-mile option after that first year, so only the original registrants would ever be able to claim the lusterless honor of holding a buckle in all four distances.  This weekend I accomplished that.

But, I had to give back.  After I completed my 50k, I rested, and then paced two runners on their ways to their very first 100 miler finishes.  My role in their success was small, but my smile was as big as theirs as they crossed the finish line.  For me, it was coming full circle.
Heartfelt congratulations to you, Bill and Amanda!

This sport is crazy.  I am called crazy on a very frequent basis.   It has given me a fear of bears, which never would have materialized if I had taken up tennis.  It has been suggested that I find another sport.  My bucket list has many non-running adventures, and I will attempt them.  But, ultra running is the one, and I am not done.


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