This past weekend I had the pleasure of running the OSS/CIA 50 Mile Night Run. It made me realize why I love trail running and in particular the ultra community. I’ll start with a small disclaimer. I’ve only been running races for about two years and only a handful have been ultras since I made the jump 8 months ago. This race, while small was hands down the best organized, was full of the greatest volunteers, and was one of the most fun times I’ve ever had while suffering. I highly recommend this race for those on the east coast and really any ultra runner looking to make the leap from 50 miles to 100 miles. It provides a very tough challenge and lets you experience what it is like to run through the night.
The OSS/CIA 50 Mile Night Run is put on by Athletic Equation. I will try to make every ultra race put on by this group. They were fantastic. The race started at 7:30pm and had a 13 hour cutoff. Since the race is pretty difficult they offered an hour early start for people who might need 14 hours (couldn’t place if you took this option). I love a challenge and it was truly difficult and not at all the 50 miles they advertised. As a reference point, the winner is a solid runner and he did it in 8:24. Some of his accolades are an Old Dominion 100 win in 2012 (17:14), C&O Canal 100 win in 2013 (16:06), and Graveyard 100 2nd in 2013 (14:33).
The pre race brief started around 6:15pm. The race directors did the normal spiel and made damn sure you understood would be called an idiot or moron if you got lost. They recognized runners who ran it last year and those who would be running their 10th, 20th, etc. race with the organization. They called it “diming” them out. It was very cool of them and along with the recognition you got your next race fee with them for $10. The best part was when they started calling out first time ultra runners. If it was your first race they brought you up to the front and gave you a lei. Since it was a loop course and you ran it twice you had to wear the lei for the first loop. OK, enough introductions.
We started at 7:30 and I went out very casual. I’ve slowly (or painfully) learned my lesson with going out to fast. I had one good week of running since my 100 miler at the end of April so this was just a fun run. My buddy actually took the early start and my plan was to do the first half in about 5:30 and catch him around the 50K mark and will him to the finish.
I recently read ‘Peak Performance and The Selfish Brain: The Central Governor and Its Role in 100-Mile Performance’ from irunfar and it really hit home with me. I tried to be more aware of my nutrition, fluids, and state of mind throughout this race. Instead of eating all my calories at aid stations or once every hour I tried to take sips of water or perpetuem a few times every 10 minutes. This helped me stay even keel with my intake rather than all at once or in big amounts. I also made sure I dumped cold water or ice on my head every chance I could to keep my ‘central governor’ nice and cool. Overall this worked very well and it is the best I’ve ever felt during an ultra.
The first loop allowed for about an hour of light. This helped because there was really no flat part on the course and it got pretty rocky/rooty on some points. Overall I think the elevations gain was about 5k+ but I’m not positive on that. I got to the mid loop aid station that had food in around 2:45 (this, in addition to the start/finish was the only aid station with food).
I had been running with a great group of guys up until this point but they were taking a little longer than I wanted at the aid stations so I left. I was feeling great and slowly picking off people who went out way to fast. With about 5 miles to go in the first loop I came up on a guy with a lei. This guy had one of those waist belts with the tiny flasks for water and I was shocked to see a first timer. I asked how he was and if he needed any food or water. He sort of grunted at me so I asked if this was his first trail race. He answered ‘leave me alone, I’m trying to focus’. I was fine with that, so I asked him to move and went about my business. Turns out he didn’t make it…shocker. Sorry that was mean.
I pulled into the start/finish aid station and found my DW. She had my new headlamp ready and my bottle of perpetuem. I asked where my buddy was and she had not seen him and he didn’t check in (I also did not pass him...goofball got lost). I was told I was in 13th place so that, in addition to my buddy getting lost put me in competition mode.
I started my second loop feeling great. By the time I got to the mid loop aid station I was in 9th place. I fueled up and took off. By the time the sun came up I had about 5 miles to go. I didn’t push too hard because this was just meant to be a nice long run but I wasn’t walking either. I passed one more person and came up on the sign that said .9 miles to the finish. I dumped the water from my two bottles of my AK UD Vest and started pushing the pace up the last .9 mile hill. With about 400 meters to the finished I passed one last guy who was walking to come in 7th place. 11:08 is slow for a 50 but I definitely worked for it. That course was tough and I had a blast. 87 started and only 35 finished.
After the clock hit 13 hours they started the awards. If someone came in to the unofficial finish while this was going on everyone stopped without cue to clap and cheer on the finisher (gotta love ultra runners). I walked away with a beer mug and an awesome t-shirt. The volunteers where cooking made to order eggs…could not believe it. Did I mention everyone should run this race? After I was good and full the DW drove me home but not before I called my dad to wish him a happy father’s day.
Thanks for reading...sorry it was so long. I'll get used to these RR things eventually.
Congrats on the race (and great finish!)-- you're so casual about it, but those trails at Prince William are tough, especially at night, on a humid June night. And thanks for the RR.
Nice job! Sounds like your did great on a tough course with so few finishers. You make it sounds easy!
Follower of Forrest
Nice work...the RR wasn't too long, well worth the read. I wouldn't call 7th OA, 11 hours, 3k elevation gain in the dark slow at all. Did you get to keep the Lei? Sounds like a really fun race and I'll second that you made it sound easy. Congrats...what's next?
6/21 - Manitou's Revenge 54mi
A man may never run the same trail twice for it is not the same trail and he is not the same man
Faster Than Your Couch!
Congratulations, awesome race!
I should have looked up this one, could have been a great training run for my 100M in October. Night running is slower than day running anyway, and considering it was a difficult course, your time is great!
Run for fun.
Jamezilla- my next race is the Baker 50 mile up in Pitt, PA in August. I've never run it but I read a RR and it seems cool. It is a 150+ mile trail and each year it is run on one of the three 50 mile sections. You get 1/3rd of a puzzle piece medal for each 50 mile section completed until you get the full medal. Pretty neat.
FTYC- yeah I would have loved to have you there. Only 4 women finished and the top 5 male/female all got super huge beer mugs!!!! I'm really surprised more people don't use the night run format. It was a blast. What 100 are you doing in October? Please say Oil Creek (because I'm doing it too).
Nice job, and great finish. Pretty high DNF rate. Was it due to people dropping after first loop, or was it from from being timed out? I love the Prince William NF area. Some great trails.
Great job out there, nice finish. You make it sound so easy.
Tmo, Oil Creek it is. Maybe I'll see you there then!
running under the BigSky
Wow- great finish! That is a high attrition rate, makes the finish that more impressive
have to ask what headlamp you used and how well it worked?
“Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up, it knows it must outrun the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning in Africa, a lion wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the slowest gazelle, or it will starve. It doesn't matter whether you're the lion or a gazelle-when the sun comes up, you'd better be running.”
11 hours at night is slow?! Damn! I'm a turtle!
Congrats on a great run and finish!
3/17 Shamrock Marathon
4/20 North Coast 24 Hour
7/27 Burning RIver 100M
8/24 Baker 50M
10/5 Oil Creek (distance to be determined)
Brands I Heart:
Altra Zero Drop
Congrats on a great race! Sounds like a fun event. Gotta love a race that gives out beer mugs!
Awesome race report, sounds like a good time, and beer mugs to boot! I will see you at Baker, it is a good race and well supported. As the disclaimer states; expect to get lost. I added about a mile to my run last year. This section will only have a small portion of trails around Crooked Creek Park. The rest will be road.
AT-runner: A group of 20 runners got lost the first loop and added about 5 miles. They all dropped. The rest were probably the various cutoffs (6 hours first loop, 10 hours 38 mile cutoff).
FTYC: Awesome. I'm excited for that race. I know a bunch of people doing it.
mtwarden: So I'm in the military so I just grabbed one of our headlamps from the armory. Nothing special. I did notice something cool that other people were doing though. Two head lamps, each on low or medium. One on the head and one around the waist. It looked very solid. I'm going to give it a try. The one on the waist doesn't bounce as much and is obviously lighting up the trail full time. Whereas the one of your head moves whereever you are looking.
simple running: Thanks. I look forward to seeing you there but that is terrible news. 50 miles on the road????!!? I was not warned.
I will be at Baker too! Yay! This is my rolling pin year and I have yet to get lost at Baker. I think the trail markers are pretty darn good in most places.