Old Dominion 100 Mile Endurance Run


Woodstock, Virginia

by Mike Campbell

View some pictures from Mike here

Well its that time of the year again, time to hit the slopes, as a matter of speaking, for our annual OD run, with my veteran crew chief, Themar. Other than the size of our race numbers growing from a 3"x 6" to a 6"x 8"in size, having our pre-race meal at a different place, weighing in 1 lbs. less than last year, the course was literally the same. The amazing story this year is the accomplishment of Ed Foley, who after dislocating his shoulder only three days prior to race, completed the entire journey, arm in a sling, to buckle for 15 times in his 15th 100 mile OD run, finishing time of 23:09:59.

My objectives this year were; 1) Not get lost, 2) Best my last years time, and 3) To finish in the top ten. So I figured after having Lasik surgery, on both of my eyes, in April of this year (the 16th), where my vision went from 20/200 to 20/15. Number one would be taken care of, which most likely could cure number two also; I’d have to really work on the last one though.

The temperature this year was at least 10 to 12 degrees warmer at the hottest part of the day and definitely a lot dryer, due to the lack of rain. The sun beat down on us during the day so staying well hydrated was the key. My PowerBar bottle, which holds about 20 ounces, was empty every 6 to 8 miles, as much as I was sweating. There were several places in the race, thinking I was having an audition for the commercial of Gatorade, which was pouring through me. But all in all, Themar kept my spare bottles filled, and a ready supply of bananas, chocolate chip & oatmeal raisin cookies, baked potatoes, holy water, snicker bars and Powerbars on hand, and needless to say I didn’t go hungry.

Today my bones are aching, along with several black toes; the three on my left foot are still numb. My hamstrings are also cramped up, thinking I will never be able to straighten out my leg completely again. Both knees held up remarkably well, yesterday my Achilles tendons were burning at different intervals and cramps set in now and then, whereas my IcyHot stick came to the rescue.

Everything seemed to go faster this year, the drive to Woodstock, about 1 hour and 20 minutes. We Proceeded to check & weigh in (at 137 lbs.), get my T-shirt, then looking over the course maps, which was the size of a six foot person, hanging on the wall (After a year it still looks Greek to me, although don’t feel bad, cause couple of other runners were scratching their heads too). Our 26 water/aid station lined the perimeter of the warehouse, just like last year, each with two orange igloo-coolers (I call Gatorade buckets), one for water and the other for PowerAde. Lots of 2 liters of Classic Coke bottles, cookies, snicker bars, soup, these are the stops where you were allowed to place drop bags, at predefined stations which were indicated by PC/DB (Pit Crew/Drop Bag Points) there were 10 of these. If you were racing on your own, this would be a convenient/only way to get a change of clothes, socks, shoes, different foods, drinks or whatever you felt could make the race a bit easier.

Proceeded to check into the Ramada and get situated/organized for tomorrow. Took a drive around Woodstock and to the bank, (lasted about an hour, ain’t a big town) and made our mandatory meeting back at the warehouse. Pat Botts, Mike Robertson, Race & Medical Director, and the Park Ranger gave sincere/motivated speeches. Then we were off to supper, selected the buffet at Ramada this year, definitely got stuffed. Back to the room, little TV, couple of Tums and off to sleep.

The Early Bird don’t get the worm at 3am, since he can’t even see ‘em for the next couple of hours…..But a quick shower, Flexal 454 (extra strength) covering everything from my butt down to my ankles. About a month and a half ago before the Pittsburgh Marathon, I developed a hip injury, where it felt like it was out of the socket. The doctor said "take two weeks off from running", and I said "hey, I got a marathon in three weeks". Well you can image who won, rode a little bike, took some overly expensive pills for a week and a half. Returned to the Doc, upon examination, my pain moved down my leg a couple of inches, "I can treat that" he said. After a shot and the ok to start back running again, I got in about six miles the next day and about 70 miles in the week of the race. Finished Pittsburgh in a respectable 3 hours 8 minutes on the 3rd of May, and the next weeks got in 105, 127, 121, and 79 miles with only taking off the Friday (day before) the Old Dominion Race.

Now were was I, oh yea, Themar and me got over to the start 20 minutes before 4am, checked in with the race director, and saddled up for the next hmmm twenty hours. Didn’t take a flashlight, since last year the pace car (sheriff) lead us all the way to the woods, that wasn’t until light last year, this is around miles 11. So running at a pace between 7 to 8 minutes per mile would make it be around 5:20am.

Off we started, around the horse and over the railroad tracks, through Woodstock, crossed a bridge and on our way to Woodstock Gap. Jim Garcia and me were in the lead, chatted most of the way up the winding hill (climb of 2000 feet). Noticed that Jim was wearing glasses and I explained my Lasik surgery to him. Mono-vision is what I have now, my right (strong) eye for driving (distant vision) and my left for reading. Now I don’t know if Jim was pulling my leg or not, but he asked me if I got tired of keeping one eye shut all the time when I was reading!!!….(daaaaa!?!?), I shot back, "you get used to it" (now who’s leg being pulled?).

My most memorable moment, as I ascended the peak, looking down the mountain. You could follow the winding trail of flashlights, looking almost like the mouse tails on the computer screen, a funeral procession (not a good choice of words, at this point of the race) or a string of fireflies from the bridge to the top. Ain’t wasting no time, entering into the George Washington National Forest were Joe Hildebrand caught us and we all descending into Fort Valley up and along the West Ridgeline, a rugged 2 mile overgrown trail, still in the dark, encircling the Massanutten Mountains.

On the Lavender Trail Joe had a flashlight and I followed him, but not before running through a Raspberry/Blackberry throne extending across the trail, and drawing blood in about five, three to four inch scratches across my thigh, eeeeeouuuuh. This is actually where I fell in behind him, and likewise followed Joe for the next several miles until it got light. The rocky path slowed us down a bit, but not for such a long stretch that we were contending with here. Got to the 20 mile around 2 hours, 45 minutes, good enough pace, quick look around, no Themar, since it was heating up, thought about dumping my long sleeve T-shirt and hat. Still had quite a haul on the dirt/gravel roads before we started up Kennedy’s Peak (2450 feet climb). Now my truck was in lower gear, chugging away, couple of trees down and across the path, at least waist high, I didn’t exactly hurdle them, but got across without a problem. Ran smack into a deer on the path (first of the five I saw during the day), boy they look big, especially when they are up higher on the path then you are, the big doe wasted no time in jumping into the thicket.

Coming back down off the back side of Kennedy’s Peak, stretching out those hamstrings, got to about the 33 mile mark and linked up with Themar for my refuel/baked potato. Looked around for the scale, the race officials stated that it was around the forty-mile mark this year. Got my shirt and hat off, think it weighed at least 5 to 6 pounds. What a relief, to get that monkey got off my back, put it in cruise control for the next 2 to 3 miles before starting up Cat’s Back (2803 feet). Had to really gear down, almost to super-low, this is the highest point of the race, not the steepest, but in altitude. My bottle was empty pretty fast on this hill, but we got a pit stop near the top, so filled up with PowerAde, grabbed couple of cookies, and half a banana, to keep me going. Finally over the top bagging another hill, hmmm three down and seven to go. Got a long trek on the paths now, can makeup some time and with an 8 minute mile pace. Then about six miles until we start climbing up Short Mountain (2200 feet). Around the 42-mile mark I found the scale, 133 lbs., well only four-pounds down. Got a baked potato from Themar, couple cokes, cookies, douse in holy water, and off we go.

Reach the 50-mile mark (time 8 hours 10 minutes), not bad. Along the road, notice there was a snake stretching about two feet from the middle to the side, it had a diamond head, and funny looking tail, but no, there ain’t no Rattle Snakes in this part of the country??? Maybe a Copperhead, oh well, I just avoided it anyhow. When I meet up with Themar, who asked me if I saw the rattlesnake, yup, and was informed that they do have those types of snakes, in this part of the country, where it is rocky. Not too much farther, on the road, a speedy Tarantula looking bug, about the size of a golf ball, crossed my path. Maybe he/she was after the snake or vice-a-versa, I definitely avoided confrontation.

Coming down off Short Mountain onto Edinburg Gap, and first thing looking for the massage table, hahhh there it is and no one on it. Climbed aboard for my five to six minutes of pleasure, Rebecca Getz is working out the cramps in my hamstrings. Instant replay of last year used my stick of IcyHot and worked it into my muscles. During this time Themar is trying to replenish me with nutrients enough to get me through the next 45 miles. Jumped off the table (didn’t actually jump) and back on the road again, full water bottle (PowerAde) in hand, with baked potato, and powerbar.

Opachee at 2521 feet, the surprising element on this haul, wasn’t the rough climb, looked like a motorcycle path, but noticed some tire tracks, thought it was an ATV. As this hill was about 45 degrees, identified ahead of me a black SUV (Jeep), where the lady holding a baby stood along side the path. The young man was throwing big rocks, filling up a hole, so he could drive over it. I just thought, man, you are watching too much TV, thinking a Jeep can go where no one else can. Just wonder how many times he will have to do this before he gets back down the mountain. During this jaunt I also spotted a hen turkey (standing about 4 feet tall at his beak, running up in front of me for about 25 yards before she decided to fly up and get out of sight. Pretty steep coming down this path, not going too fast, my ankles are twisting big time, avoiding most of the large rocks. Still managing to stub a toe or two, that still sting, can’t understand why, though they’d be pretty numb by now.

Up to Mine Gap only 1000 feet and 63.5 mile mark at the top, then got over Mudhole Gap didn’t slow my pace down to terribly much, and didn’t really catch maybe one runner, got to the next weigh in station #19 Elizabeth Furnace at mile 74.95. Scale tipped off at 131, cool. More Holy Water (bath), cookies, miniature powerbar, also took a peanut butter and jelly half sandwich, hmmmm not bad, chilled on the bake potato, washed it down with coke and off again, nibbling on the cookies and snickers bar.

This is the only point going up Sherman Gap where your Pit Crew member could accompany, although this is the steepest climb of the day, not the tallest at 2265 feet, but definitely had to crawl up this hill with rocks, and not much running here. The Mike Robertson stated last year, to take two bottles of water, cause it’s three miles up and three down and it will take you two hours. If you’re lucky, try and get through before its dark. Themar and me both had our required two 20 oz. bottles full. As we ascended, Vassili Triantos caught up, and helped me up, just after I slipped on the rugged path, and my knee hit a rock. My bottle rolled partially down the hill, but got hung up in some bushes, thank you, retrieved without a problem. Knee just a minor swelling. Guess what, Mike was right, the sweat poured off of us climbing this hill and in some spots you had to grab a tree to pull yourself up and likewise couldn’t run any faster or run period, coming down. We got through this tough spot, with a lot more light than last year, don’t know if Themar will be volunteering again.

As we hit the bottom with a water stop, then on the open road for about a mile or so, through the last woods for the day, hanging in there. Got to Veach East mountain, (only 1891 feet) still in the light, and dropped off Themar to return to Edinburg Gap and retrieve his auto, see you at the end.

After running about 85 miles, and now getting dark, this climb is around 45 degrees, ended up hiking up, this is a gravel road, and like I said earlier, we haven’t had much rain. When the cars past you only at 25 to 35 miles an hour the clouds made me look like a dust bunny, and couldn’t see for 20 feet in front of you, thank god I don’t wear contacts any longer. Armed with my Duracell flashlight, trucking on over Veach West and onto my last quest of Woodstock Gap (2000 feet), even though it was quite dark the temp only dropped about 10 degrees, so didn’t even bother in putting back on my tank top shirt. I had it tucked in my pouch along with my flashlight at Elizabeth Furnace, when I picked up Themar.

Now the miles are taking their tolls, and I finally get to the 90.95-mile mark. Now from the peak you can see the town of Woodstock and I know the Fairgrounds is very near.

So from here it’s non-stop until the finish with a winding way down this mountain, and across the bridge to town. Approaching route 665, just passing a Chemlight when a car spun around the corner, with his bright lights on, I missed the turn. With my bionic eye, though I saw an orange Chemlight about a quarter mile up the road. After approaching the light, it was a reflector on the driveway, dope, turned around to the last turn and saw a flag there where the car passed me. Only lost about 5 to 10 minutes.

Another mile passes and noticed a runner up ahead, coming back, Michael Kent. Who said "I think I’m lost, just ran about a mile up the road and didn’t see the water station", I informed that I just passed a flag, and he said he saw a flag but no Chemlight??? Hey, Mike you’re ok, if you see the flags, we waved a car down and asked if a water station was up ahead, and the lady said yes about a mile up the road. We are off again, hitting about 8 minute pace, until the water hole appeared. Themar was there and I gulped down a cup of coke in about a two-seconds, hit the road, knowing I only had 2 miles left.

Trying to get back into the 7 minute pace is quite hard after running 98 miles, but with a determined look on my face, kept picking ‘em up and down. At one point, glanced around to check on Mike, but didn’t see him since that last pit crew point. Just kept track of the flags, as I came up to the Fire Station in Woodstock, confronted a wedding party, must have been a good one, not only could I see, but smell the Bud Light, flowing freely here.

After crossing the tracks, then Ox Road to the fairground, where my support team was. My wife (Aleka), great friends (MaryAnne & Jason), and my two daughters (Andrea & Jamie) who ran with me around the horse track. As the girls and I approached the finish line, there is the guy in the back of his truck with the computer. After my hot dog finish (my girls made me do it) I sprinted across the line and got my time and sheet with the finishing results so far.

I hobbled into the warehouse, and got in line for my final massage, where Rebecca and her Aid did their magic. Got a bottle of water, but don’t feel like eating, my stomach is like in rumble city, drank a little soup. Definitely more finishers here this year than last. Jim Garcia came back after a shower, he finished couple of hours earlier and talked about the high and lows of the day. The awards will be at 9am after the final finisher and the race closes, guess who’s not staying to get his belt buckle. All loaded up and drove home, around 2am took a shower, weighed myself, 127 lbs and crawled into bed.

So, what can I say after today’s accomplishment. First don’t ask if I will do it again next year, its like asking a mother, after nineteen hours of labor, if she wants to have another baby, please give me couple of weeks to think about it and heal up first. I guess you look at yourself thinking, what have I done? There are only a few people in the world who have done this in the same time frame that I just did with the same conditions, WOW!! Although you give up the hype and fan fare of the crowds, this race is definitely just for you. So I hope you can be inspired, as I am and be left with some good impressions for my fellow runners to take up the Ultra’s. This next year I am really getting excited, due to the fact I’ll be 50 (in a new age group) and were are also coming to the millennium, all I can say is "are you ready?"

I want to thank my wonderful and lovely wife (Aleka), Maryanne, Jason, Themar, and daughters (Andrea and Jamie) for all their support, and belief in me. Encouragement, when times get rough and when injuries seem to run your life, but some how it’ll all work out. As my wife always says, "we all have to put up with a little pain", just keep on trucking. What doesn’t kill you will make you stronger…. Good luck!

Well here my finishing results: I didn’t get lost (too much), finished about 1 hour 15 minutes faster than last year. Buckling in my second consecutive 100 miler, my race strategy paid off, but as with experience there’s still things I can change.

Note: Get mountain shoes (Mon-trail).

Results: Old Dominion 100 Mile

Endurance Run

June 5th, 1999

Michael J. Campbell

Time: 19 hours 37 minutes 7 seconds

Place: 9th out of 96 starters

Oldest of the top 8 finishing before me

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