Old Dominion 100 Mile Endurance Run

6/6/98

Woodstock, Virginia

By Mike Campbell

View some pictures from Mike here.

You can only appreciate, truly appreciate the feeling of Forest Gump after enduring such a feat of a 100 mile race in one day, one would think that’s not so bad, as close as I can recall we covered 14,000 feet of climb, over hills and dales, 11 major climbs on trails/paths, 25 miles of gravel roads, 32 creek crossings getting over them on rocks and logs, 18 miles of hard road (blacktop) surfaces. Traveling on paths overgrown by all types of vegetation brushing your legs from both sides with everything from poison ivy to blackberry bushes, I’m surprised that the ivy didn’t set in and serious scratching would be going on right now, and lots and lots of all sizes of rocks. Thinking the JFK 50 miler had rocks is an understatement, you were out at the 16 miles point there. Here your barely getting started, the highest climb was at 77.8 miles with two climbs after that.

My impression is ouch (exactly the way my feet feel today), what a way to make a living, and the question now is not "why" any longer, but "how" could one endure this task without resting or trying to catch your breath. Stubbornness is probably the best answer, it’s amazing what one can accomplish if determined to. Of the top five starters just Dan the first place guy, was the only one to finish ahead of me.

To cut to the chase here is the ending:

Results: Old Dominion 100 Mile Endurance Run

Michael J. Campbell

Time: 20 hours 44 minutes

Place: 11th out of 88 starters

Oldest of the top 10 finishing before me

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Well you can continue if you like a good Mikey story or stop and thanks for your time.

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Me and Themar truck up to Woodstock on that Friday afternoon in June the 5th it was a dreary rainy day, when we finally found the Fairgrounds, which was merely a warehouse and a horse track. Couple of cars and trucks near the building, you’d wonder if any such event as a prestigious 100 mile race was insight of taking place. Parked on the side of the building and walked around the front of this warehouse, and there was a sign "Old Dominion 100 Mile Race". Well we’re here, inside surrounding the perimeter was number one through 26 (for each water station). At each was two igloo coolers one for Powerade and the other for water, couple of boxes of cookies, miniature snicker bars, bananas, several loafs of bread, peanut butter jars, and jelly. Every one replica of each other, toward the end some soup boxes were thrown in…not too overly concerned since I had a dozen baked potatoes and a couple of miniature Powerbars.

Walked up to the table and two volunteer workers asked me for my name and to step on the scale. So 138.5 lbs was my starting point. You see there will be two weigh in station (33 mile and 74.95 mile mark) and you can only loose up to 7% of your body weight (that’s -9.7 lbs), so I can only go down to about 129 lbs.

Received a brown envelope with my 5x5 race tag number and two identical size florescent stickers (to put on the car front and back windows to show support of the race, when parked roadside by a water aid station), and one sheet of the race entries up to date, 99 listed. You can pick out your shirt from the table by the wall and see you tonight at 5pm mandatory meeting.

We went to the Ramada Inn right across the street, checked in, unpacked and rested for a hour. Returned to the warehouse and maybe 30 vehicle were there now, things are picking up now, a little more life to the place. Checked out the 3’ by 6’ map on the wall of the course, which all looked to confusing for me, think I need a compass or GPS to get through this route.

Meeting started and Pat Botts (founder of the race in 1979) made introductions and thanked the same people for coming back for this race every year. A little history, and had an auction of four or five paintings done by a local disabled man, which took about an hour. Mike Robertson (I’ll call the General) gave us a course description and what to look out for and try to avoid. Orange ribbons are hung from the trees, during the daylight hours and orange kemlights at dark. Whenever you see two ribbons there will be a turn (left or right) and if you go for over five minutes and don’t see a orange ribbon the go back. Try to get through Sherman Gap before it gets dark, cause its only three miles up this hill and three down, but be sure to take two bottle of water, it will take you and hour to go up and another hour to go down. Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, I’ll believe that when I see it (I can run a 10k in 38 minutes) and here it’s gonna take two hours, right??? And if it’s dark you will need four hours of flashlight batteries to get through.

So we’re off to the Pizza Hut and two huge plates of salad, another plate of spaghetti, and couple glasses of water and my stomach is ready to explode. Back to the hotel, and ready my gear for the am, wake up call to the desk for 2:30am no problem Mr. Campbell. I tried to sleep, while Themar watch the Bulls and Jazz game, hey its only about 8:00 to 8:30, toss and turn and next thing Themar shakes me and says its 3:20

Ahhhhhhhhh, run to the bathroom and stuck in my extended contacts, Flexall 454 (extra strength) rubbed both legs quads and calf’s, then scrubbed my hands trying to get off the smell and/or taste of this ointment (for later on in the day, just in case I want to eat something besides Flexall).

Got over to the warehouse and checked in time: 3:57am , headphones on, Powerbar long sleeve T-shirt, New York racing hat, white gloves and shorts, flashlight wouldn’t stay on so I gave it back to Themar. Now we’re ready to go temp about 50 degrees, not bad, no wind. The manifest was complete and everyone was ready to start.

Ready go, where the only commands, punched my watch and off we went. Around the fairground horse track and out to the streets of Woodstock. Four of us took the lead and I soon found out that I didn’t need a light, since the Sheriff Department patrol car was in the lead with it’s yellow light flashing, this was cool, me and Mike Mitchell from Utah swapped the lead until about six miles, when Dan Barger broke through and commanded it from there. Winding hill, all on blacktop, up to the peak of Woodstock Gap 10.4 miles, passed the first water station and just yelled out your race number, and the second was the same, but filled up my 24 oz bottle of Powerade, which was empty from the last hill climb.

Down the hill, still on the roadway, my first goal was to get through 20 miles within 3 hours, and I was around 2 hours and 44 minutes. Now headed for Kennedy Peak and the 2450 foot climb, can’t quite remember what mile it was when we hit the woods but it was light, and had no problem identifying the orange flags (my lifeline). You couldn’t always run at much of a pace, since there we a lot of rocks and not a very smooth path but came down and got to the 33 mile weigh in. Now I’m holding my breath, let me see, at the previous aid stations ate bananas, snickers, cookies, and drank 24 oz Powerade between each station, and a cup or two of coke there….that’s 24 times 26 = 624 oz or 39 lbs plus coke, well over 45 lbs of liquids. So yesterday I was 138.5 now I should be about 183.5….and the scale says 1397 , all the numbers were the same size and I asked the medical dude what’s the conversion??? What’s 1397?? he said "your OK", "go", and I went over to Themar’s car and dumped my long sleeve Powerbar shirt, gloves, and race hat took the Holy Water and squirted around my head and shoulders and hands and made the sign of the cross (as I did each time I meet up with Themar), couple of cookies, snickers, baked potato, and fresh bottle of Gatorade we had in the cooler. Since the shirt had 33 miles of sweat in it and the temp was probably close to 60 degrees it felt pretty good running in a tanktop. Now for the next 10 miles I’m trying to figure what type of conversion factor I have to figure out in order to calculate my actual weight, and that’s about how long it took, and a slap on the head told me that the scale was really in pounds and it was 139.7 daaaaaa.

I’m going up Cat Back now, 2803 feet pretty tough, lots and lots of rocks, don’t know how may creeks I’ve crossed with a hop, skip and a jump, going as fast as humanly possible. Now in the briefing, the general said when you see two ribbons there will be a turn left or right, and I here comes up two ribbons, so Naturally turn and run through the woods, but no trail is here, blackberry bushes scratching my legs and really don’t look like anyone has run this route before, at least today, come down a small hill following the ribbons and abruptly came to a halt staring at a big stream with one orange ribbon hanging from a tree in the middle of it, surveyed the area but no place to go, darn, turned around and back up the hill and returned to the spot with the devious dual ribbon markers. Continues on the path for approximately mile and whoopee there is a lone ribbon, back on track, time lost about 15 minutes.

On the down stretch of the mountain now, stubbing my toes going down this darn hill actually seen stars, bottle is getting mighty low, next mile or so getting to be a struggle. Brian Vanoene from British Columbia at a good clip down the hill, asked if everything was all right, "out of water" for awhile now, no problem, Brian gave me a shot of powerade and that did the trick, back on course. In the next mile he was out of sight and watching the rocks very closely, picking up those feet not to hit too many pointy rocks. Here’s a marker ribbon wrapped around a bush with the path right there, no problem, a little more flat and not as rocky, picked up some speed, and up comes the two ribbons but don’t look like a turn with a path/trail to run on, check it out and definitely just a surveying markers, so keep on the beating trail, and see a ribbon, OK, keep on trucking a mile or so and crossing creeks haven’t seen a ribbon in awhile but some orange markings on the trees look as though they could pass for the mark, (that’s the way they marked the trails for the JFK 50 miler), saw one ribbon so think I’m still OK, but here is a "T" in the road, oh oh, no ribbons either way darn, out of the way about three miles, turned back and retraced my tracks, back to the survey point and some more, out of Powerade for more than a hour, dehydration is setting in, ran into three hikers, and got a drink of water off of them, no problem, thank you, thank you. Down the hill come two more racers, so back on course again, the trail took a dog-leg to the left that I didn’t see before, time lost 1 hour 30 minutes, within the next mile or so I got to station number 12 at mile: 42.2, after checking my number, immediately asked what number in the pack I was, the last check station I was running fourth. So only one person passed that I saw before getting lost, the station keeper said your number 50. My heart dropped about two feet, and at this point upon analyzing the situation, if my legs were killing me or anything else hurt, this was the lowest point of the race, I could of said to heck with it, but I came to far and trained to long to drop out. On the positive side, I was ahead of the other fifty, got my Holy Water dowse (little extra this time) drank two full cups of coke and little PowerAde, cookies, snickers, baked potato, and fresh bottle and told Themar if Aleka calls tell her I’m running at least an hour and half late, so not to hurry coming up, since the best finish would be around 11pm.

Head down and a more determined look (if that was possible), straight away gravel road now, felt like I was cranking away 7:30 mile pace (most likely 8 minute though), for the next three aid stations. Caught up and passed about seven fellow ultra-runners, each about a quarter to half mile apart. Themar informed that I made up about an half an hour.

Up and over Short Mountain, filling up at each aid station after calling out the race number, name, grabbing a banana, snickers, topping of my 24oz bottle with Powerade and gone. Long haul up to Edinburg Gap (56.57 miles) and my massage, but now around forty instead of 4th don’t know if I’ll wait and waste some more time. Got to where my table (no one on it) and massage volunteer (Rebeccah Getz) was waiting and the five to six minute break was well worth it and my legs refreshed, squirt of Holy Water, three cookies, couple snickers, miniature powerbar, new bottle. Rebeccah promised to be at the finish area when I came in, and off we go though the woodsy rocky trail, not much of a break and continuing up to Opechee at 2521 feet. Pasted up my buddy from Utah from the start, Mike Mitchell, he was walking, I said is that you Mike, yup, what happen, my legs are gone, this was around the 70 mile point, wow hope he don’t have to walk the next thirty. As I ultimately gained ground on each runner, that I pasted, my ditto quotes were "how’s the legs", "done this before" and "what your best time". Each answer was "OK", "yes", "two or three times", and "22 to 23 hours", I said keep it up and bye, was hoping to get to someone who ran a 17 or 18 hour finish, so buzzed on by, looking for my next victim to bag.

Mine Gap and Mudhole Gap didn’t slow my pace down to terribly much, passed around seven fellow racers, by the time the next weigh in station #19 Elizabeth Furnace at mile 74.95, pounded in around 134, cool. More Holy Water, 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 highest climb of the day 2265 feet, all rocks, and not much running here. The general stated the day before to take two bottles of water, cause it’s three miles up and three down and it will take you two hours, if your lucky and before its dark to get through. Guess what, he was right on, the sweat poured off of us, in some spots you had to grab a tree to get up and couldn’t run any faster or run period coming down. Themar got his money worth, I tell you, probably thinking what in the world did I volunteer for here??? We got through all this before it got dark, or did I say that already?, but I’m on a roll, and through couple aid stations before we came up to Veach East mountain, only 1891 feet but guess what, it was dark now and the kem lights were on but really had to squint to see them, and the moon was out but when in a lot of trees it got very dark, did I mention we had no flashlight (next time remember a bring a good flashlight). Slowed down to almost a walk, you couldn’t see where you were going, trying to find the next kem light. Listen, I hear running water, next fear is to cross a creek in the dark, another runner coming up running with a light, followed them across without a problem. But he was a goner, could not keep up, then couple of more runners coming up and asked how it was going, I said "OK", but can’t see "s---" he said "you need a flashlight", I said "aaaahh yea it’d be nice", and he pulled out an extra light, and said "here", whoopeee we’re saved, then we got into a running pace and time started to flash by again. Finally got to the aid station where Themar was going to get a ride back to his car, and would see me at the finish this was at station #22 mile: 86.58 Themar hung in with me for about 12 miles as tremendous help.

All I got left is road running now, up the last hill called Mountain Top/Woodstock Gap, tugged up that stretch to aid station #24 mile: 93.15 only six to go and mostly down hill. Topped off my bottle, peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and cookie, I hear someone struggling up to the aid station, can’t let them catch me, so I better get burning. Down the windy road, were the general told us to stay on the left, since 200 of the supporters and racers cared about what we did, but farmer Brown on his tractor and wagon was only concerned in feeding his cows and chickens, four wheeler, and 3,500 people in Woodstock don’t think you need very much room to run on this road. Here comes the 26th Aid Station (did I mention, my favorite stop, that I don’t stop at), and only 2 miles to go….Themar goes by in his car and yells that 10 have finished before me. This brings a sorta smile on my face after at one point being 50th. Though town and finally up to the fairgrounds gate, and here is my daughters Andrea and Jamie, wife Aleka, and good friend Maryanne cheering and all taking the last mile victory lap with me, still cranking 8:30 pace without a problem. Come down to the finish line now and here’s the guy in the back of his pickup truck, with a camper shell, a monitor and think a laptop computer, as I go across the line, he asked for my number "15" and name "Mike Campbell", he said "thank you have a nice day"…..looking at my watch 20 hours and 44 minutes a good days workout.

Now my four companions cheered and we walked up to the warehouse, now just the chairs are left, and cookies, snickers, soda, and soup. The only person there was my friend Rebeccah, and as I approached the table, Andrea gave me a good bottle of water and asked if I wanted anything to eat, no not really. Rebeccah pried off my shoes, one big toe looked like a ripe plum, and the other stubbed on was swelled the size again and only one other black toe, not bad considering. After a good 30 to 40 minute massage, felt great, although not really ready to do another 50. Couple more finishers lined up for their massage and we swapped some stories of the day, not too exciting. Finished my water and cup of chicken soup. Bid farewell and maybe see you at another race.

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 3:30 took a shower, weighed myself 130 lbs and crawled into bed.

Now in synopsis, after finishing the Boston, New York, Disney, Marine Corp., etc. marathons and tens of thousand people cheering and yelling, guess I’m spoiled, this race was definitely for yourself, and maybe meant to be, having completed such a feat that only a handful of people in the world have done, is just good enough. My body will mend and I’ll be running again soon, but this experience will certainly last a life time, and when I’m old and gray telling my grandchildren about it do you think they will believe me?

Everyone is asking, "Mike what’s next", and I’ll tell them first to give me some time to think about it and just wait and see.

Thanks go out to Themar and his great support, I couldn’t made it through this day without you, my lovely wife, Aleka and best friends Pat, Maryanne, and daughters Andrea and Jamie, waiting for about six hours for me to finish, never having a doubt and being behind me all the way.

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