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  • Writer's pictureSteve Szakal


"If you get up and out now, you can probably be in the top ten, but you gotta go" said the very sweet old lady, who got me soup and helped me change my socks in the 93 mile aid station. My body and mind didn't have much left. I was so fucking tired. The rain turned the whole mountain to mud. The top of my foot near my ankle was on god damn fire from having to constantly push off the muddy ground.

I wasn't able to take in any more gels since the 50 mile mark. The high heat and humidity played havoc on my gut. As soon as the disgusting slop hit my throat, I threw it up. Thats was it for gels. Now I had to depend on Aid Stations only to get my food. Sometimes in your tongue and brain work in unison and come up with a genius idea. A volunteer gave me a cup of ramen, but it was mostly broth. My eye caught a glimpse of a large tub of mashed potatoes over near the water station. I threw two large clumps into the broth and made a fucking delicious slurry. It had everything I needed. This would get my through the next 50 miles.

100 miles is a really long way. I've never run that far before. I've run a 100k before and thought that was one of the hardest things I ever did. This was a whole new ball game. Oil Creek 100 is in a small town outside of Erie. The race is primarily run on the Gilbert Trail. A rocky, rooty, hilly trail. It has about 17,000 ft of climbing but none of the climbs are especially long. Its more of "run a little", "climb a little". Over and over and over again, and it is a looped race. You do three 31 mile loops and then a 7 mile "coming home loop". The race is tricky. loops are good because you know whats coming, but it could also be the death of you, because you will want to get the first two loops out of the way, by going out to fast, and then most likely you will bonk hard and not be able to finish.

I finished the first two laps in about 13 hours. I felt pretty good, I managed the heat well and took in plenty of water. I forced myself to drink 16 ounces every 30 minutes even if I felt I didn't need it. Sometimes gagging because I didn't feel like drinking. I did not want to get behind on my hydration. It can end a race quickly.

As I came into the 100k aid stations, I quickly grabbed my headlamp, filled my water bottles, drank a Whole Foods version of a Monster energy drink, had my mashed potato flurry, and shoved a extra shirt in my vest.

Just as I was about to leave the sky opened up, made a loud bang, and rain dumped down like a god damn waterfall. Fellow runners who were about to leave the tent, suddenly jumped back, rethinking going out. This was crunch time. You had to go. I grabbed a rain shell, and headed out on the trail.

The next 40 miles seem a blur. I can remember my foot hurting, the mud, my headlamp losing power, and the rain. I can remember running past a sign telling me which way to go and 200 yards later I thought I went the wrong way. So I ran back, I had to. The last few miles in the dark, muddy woods seemed like an eternity. I never thought it would end. I still wasn't sure I was going the right friggin way. But I was. I was going the right way. I came out the trail and finally hit road! I was so glad to see houses, and concrete, and the volunteers with flashlights guiding me towards the finish.

A million different things roll though your brain on that last 100 yards to the finish. The training, the early mornings, the sacrifices, the planning, and the fact that no matter what, I just ran a hundred miles. I thought about the runners who are way better than me had succumbed to the heat, rain and mud and dropped from the race. I was still here running. I fucking made it.

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