Way back in 2015 I did this little thing where I finished the 100 mile race at Oil Creek. Dale Hrach, my dad, paced me the last seven miles, and really got me to the finish, since my race-addled, sleep deprived brain only focused on getting back to the school so that he could pace me that last seven miles.
Ever since then, I've been nagging him a little that he should do the 50k with me. He lives in Florida, so though he comes up to visit plenty and hang out with his awesome daughter and grandson, a busy golfing and retirement schedule kept him from the 50k. Until this year!
He's seen the race plenty, and cheered me on a few years, but this year, he said, "Go ahead and sign me up." Though my step-mom called him crazy(like she didn't know that already), I signed him up, and he would report in on me when we would talk on the phone how much he was biking, golfing, hiking, to prepare.
This was going to be a 50k hike, not a run, mostly because I do kind of like my dad, and didn't want to see him injured or deciding that he never wanted to see me again. So he came up a few days before, and the night before the race, we drove down to pick up our numbers and swag, and to mark the Drake Well loop of the course.
Picked up our swag - Purple shirts for 2019!
So we had a good time with Eli, marking the course, seeing some of our Oil Creek friends while helping set up for the race, but as I had been battling a head cold for a few days, we opted out of the pre-race dinner for pizza and an early bed time.
We woke up bright and early, geared up for a cool and sprinkly forecast, and got on our way! Race Day is the best Day!
Race Morning, Ready to go!
Thanks Brian N. for the picture at the start.
It was starting to get light out, but we still needed our headlamps for the first 3 or 4 miles. We jogged the bike trail to start, but once we reached the trail, we settled into a good paced hike. Dad's long legged stride had him keeping up with me easily, even when I was jogging to his hiking. It was drizzling enough for him to be thankful of his jacket, and for me to be thankful of my Oil Creek hat keeping the rain off my glasses, but it stayed to only an on and off sprinkle that was hardly troublesome under the trees.
The trail was in great shape!
The Fall foliage was really starting to pop.
Almost to Aid Station 1! WOOOOO!
Dad took a small tumble in section 1, which had him being a little more careful with picking up his feet. I stayed in the lead most of the day, just so I could let him know where rockier or rootier sections of the trail were. I also led us on a few easy jogs in the spots I knew were smoother. He didn't get hurt on the fall, luckily, but we went a bit more slowly after that.
We got to Aid Station one, and someone knew Dad! The famous Don Harch! I mean, Dale Hrach. We got some Gatorade, some fruit, and some mini candy bars (Dad was impressed with the food variety), and then we got going again.
I was huffing and puffing my way up the Wolfkiel switchbacks. I always huff and puff on these suckers, but with a sinus cold, breathing was much more difficult. I hadn't trained much this year for this, and my head-cold only added to my frustration at my lack of wind on the uphills. Dad didn't mind, though, and we were holding to a steady three miles per hour hike pretty easily.
The big rocks on Section 2 - I told Dad I always make noise in this area, so not to startle bears.
Ok, so I mostly always make noise anyway because I'm talking to people or my dog.
Thanks Michael Henderson for this photo!
Almost to the end of section 2. I think Dad kept wondering where the next Aid Station was.
Some friendly faces at Aid Station 2! Great to see you, Roger and Kris!
We came down into Aid Station 2 feeling pretty good. I hooted and hollared - I think Dad was starting to feel the effects of 15 miles of trail. We ate some grilled cheese, drank some coffee. I had a hard boiled egg, and a couple of mini candy bars. We talked to some of my good Oil Creek buddies and filled our bottles. Brian Newcomer gave dad a bag of Swedish fish for the trail, and after a quick bathroom break, we were ready to be on our way.
The Oil Derrick tableau. The leaves are really starting to change!
Dad didn't really want to stop for pictures, he wanted to keep moving!
Thank's David Schmude for this great photo!
Thank goodness! Almost to Aid Station 3!
That Michael Henderson is everywhere!
Yay, Aid Station 3! Finally!
Fellow Ultra-runner's don't mind sweaty, stinky hugs! Thanks Melanie!
Section 3, the longest section, can be demoralizing. Dad had warned me off of calling out mileage for him - He said he wanted to be surprised. I think he was surprised, alright, especially when we hit the Boy Scout camp and it wasn't Aid Station 3. We chatted about Golf, house stuff, Eli, and all kinds of things. Dad made bad dad jokes, but I guess that's what I signed up for when being dragged around by him.
We finally came to the last downhill before Aid Station 3, and I started exclaiming about all the little painted rocks. We came up with some alternate sayings that aligned more with how we were feeling. I made him take a yellow Oil Creek rock, and I took an orange 50k rock.
Then we came to the road and down to the Aid Station. We took a little longer here. We both had a cup of rice with broth, which really hit the spot. I ate a bunch of pickles. Dad accidentally drank some pickle juice, thinking it was Gatorade, which was pretty funny. They had wraps, more candy, and a ton of great food, so we spent a good handful of minutes eating, hydrating and visiting before hitting the trail again.
The trees in section 4 were really golden in the slowly setting sun.
Dad was ready to be done, I think.
There was a lot less talking in, and more scenery appreciation in section 4.
Section 4 was really a slog for Dad. I did not reveal my 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 trail mileage hints to him, because he REALLY seemed to not want to know how much further he had left to go. So I told him anecdotes about my other races, about roots I had tripped on, places I had fallen, places I had gone to the bathroom, exciting stuff. And we plodded along, keeping our pace pretty good. Dad nibbled on Swedish fish, drank water, and appreciated we WERE at least almost done with the trail part.
Look, Dad, I can see Titusville. No, really it's not THAT far now.
Woo hoo! Made it off of the trail!
Still smiling, and almost done!
The last turn onto the bike trail, the same turn we made together 4 years ago! You can do it, Dad!
We finally came down out of the woods, and were onto the last couple of flat miles. I knew Dad was hurting a bit, but we were still laughing and enjoying the journey. As we were going up the bike trail, I ran into my friend Sally, who was doing the 100k. We chatted a bit, and when I caught back up to Dad (he didn't slow down for my chatting), he said he couldn't imagine going back out again, and that we're crazy.
We made it the last mile, and shuffled through the finish! He did it! My sixty-nine year old dad did a 50k, on some pretty gnarly trails!
We made it! Thank you Tom Jennings and all the volunteers for putting on this amazing race!
I was feeling pretty good, but I'm glad I was done too at a 50k. We wrastled up some soup and gathered up our drop bags, and headed home! Another great year at Oil Creek, and dragging my family into it. Will Dad do the 100k next year? Probably not... but I know he enjoyed himself and will have a great story to tell his friends for a good long time... and if anything, maybe I can get him to pace me again one of these years...
The Famous Don Harch world famous Ultra-runner!! (I mean, Dale Hrach)!