It has been 4 months since I last posted a running blog. A loss of a family member, a bad bout of depression from another, as well as other set backs with friends and family, left me with no interest in writing about my races. The runs and races themselves allowed me to cope and clear my mind when things were tough. To recap…
On March 26th, I ran the Tuscarora 50K. It’s a local Fatass run that I’ve run before. I enjoyed myself and hung out with friends later on. On April 24th, I ran the Ironmaster’s 50K. This was my first time doing it and I really enjoyed it. There were some nice climbs and some technical sections. The last 10 or so miles I limped to the finish due to an ankle I twisted at mile 8. On 5/21 I ran the World’s End 50K. This would be my favorite 50K. I paced well and ran strong at the end. I love the terrain there! On June 6th I ran the God’s Country Marathon. I ran this marathon back in 2010, but this time it wasn’t so kind. I had to stop multiple times running up the mountain around the 15-18 mile mark and struggled to finish. I still had fun.
Going into my first 100 miler, I felt pretty confident. I had those races I just mentioned and also had some great, long runs on the Appalachian Trail by my house. After a 51 mile solo run on the A.T., I felt I was ready for the 100.
The Mohican 100 is located in Loudonville, OH, northeast of Columbus. It is in between Millersburg, OH and Mansfield, OH and is run in the Mohican State Park. The race consists of two 27 mile loops and two 23 mile loops. My wife Caryn, and trail running friends Anne and Gary would make the trip out. Gary would end up pacing me for the final 43 miles.
The weekend was going to be warm. They said the temperature topped out at 91 degrees on Saturday. I was so anxious, excited, and nervous leading up to it, but as 5:00am approached, I felt rather calm. I knew this would be a long journey and was looking forward to it. I had a carefree mind going into it and I believe that really helped me out when the tough got going. Here is my wife and I at the start…
The first hour was in the dark. Generally for me, the first loop was a “feel” loop. I wanted a good knowledge base as to what was in store the next 24 hours or so. The terrain at Mohican includes very minimal rocks. The only section that rocks play a part is towards the last 5 miles or so of each loop, and that’s only a very small section. The trail has more roots than I was expecting. You are able to avoid most of them, but they are there pretty much throughout. The trail has a total of 12,500 feet of gain, give a few hundred feet. That is not a lot for a 100 miler. I will tell you, though, that these hills are steep. They aren’t real long, but if you are sore, tired, and cramping late in the race, you are going to have issues. Lastly, and overall, this trail is runnable. Runners that are used to climbing over boulders and scrambling, you will have none.
I met Caryn and Anne at the Fire Tower and Pleasant Hill Dam aid stations. Throughout the race, they would tend to me hand and foot. Normally I would plop down on a chair and they would fill my hydration pack with water and my bottle with Tailwind. They would stock my pack with applesauce packs, gels, or anything else I wanted to take along. My go to foods and drinks throughout the race turned out to be the following: water, tailwind(sodium/electrolyte drink), Coke(I may have drunk 4 liters total!!), ginger ale, chocolate milk, gels, applesauce, pickles and juice, grilled cheese sandwiches, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, salt and vinegar chips, bananas, and oranges. I drank early and often as much as my body would let me.
I felt good at the end of the first lap, but the temperature was rising. There is something in my brain early on in a race that triggers some kind of negative thinking. It almost always happens. Thoughts include: “It’s way early and I’m feeling like shit already” “I have ‘this’ amount of distance left, I don’t know if I can finish”, “It’s hot as hell, there’s no way I can finish”, “this snow is making me work extra hard, no way I can keep it up”, etc. And around mile 30 or so, I think I had that feeling. But like I said earlier, I did have, and kept, a carefree and even playful, mentality during the whole race. By mile 35, I was a-okay again…even though this picture says not….
The miles continued into the second lap. And the temperature kept rising. I made sure I wasn’t overdoing anything. I was hiking every hill and conserving energy as much as possible. And lets face it, I was conserving energy almost the entire freaking race. It’s the name of the game for me. Steady and patient…always. I continued to load up on water, Tailwind, and Coke and tried to get as many other food calories in me as possible.
A few years back when all I had under my belt was a few 50k’s, I mentioned about a wall that I hit. Someone told me “people who run 100 milers hit 3 or 4 walls during their race”. Well, at the end of the second loop at mile 54(Mohican Adventure AS), I hit another wall. And I think that wall was the toughest for the whole weekend.
Now I was told that multiple people dropped from this race. I can see why. The final 2 miles of each loop consisted of a couple hundred feet climb up an open (sun soaking) stoned road, followed by an immediate short steep downhill, followed by an immediate short/steep uphill, then a flat portion down to the main road. At the main road, you take a very open and sun soaking paved trail(similar to Oil Creek) for a little less than a mile before heading into the woods again until you get to the aid station. I crashed.
Caryn and Anne were there and they assisted me as best they could. I didn’t really tell them how bad I felt. I knew I could get through it on my own. I also believe Anne, being an experienced runner who very recently went through a form of torcher at the MMT 100, sensed I was struggling. I knew others were struggling too. I looked around and saw people with heads between their legs, and others who were flat on their backs. I decided to switch up my sneakers, shorts and shirt and continued on. Gary was to meet me at the mile 63 aid station, but as I approached the 57 mile aid station, Gary was there waiting with a smile. I think he was told by my A-team crew that I wasn’t doing so good. Here we are at mile 57…
It was incredible how fast my mood changed. Gary and I ran the next 20 miles with ease. We talked about life. I had him running ahead of me…about 20 or 30 yards. He would stop and hike when I did and would run would I would run. I ran a lot of it and had good energy during that time. This was also during the night. I’ve heard many stories that people dread when daylight turns to night. Your confidence goes down and it is harder to run and navigate the trail. Well, for my first 100 miler, it was the opposite. It felt great. We rattled off the miles. I was waiting for that hallucination that people have talked about and it never came. I was normal and aware. The only wildlife I remember seeing was probably around 2:30am when a bat swooped down close to my headlamp for a split second. Other than that I didn’t see anyth…..wait. I’m lying.
At one point Gary and I were approaching 3 runners with headlamps. When we came upon them, the woman in the back had on a string bikini, with bunny ears on and a bunny tail on her…”tail”. We greeted each other with a kind of snicker. I could not think of anything really to say, so as we passed I said “thank you very much and you folks have a pleasant evening”. We all laughed. So….Gary and I also saw a rabbit.
As we came into the Mohican Adventure AS for the third time at around 4:00am, we looked for Caryn and Anne but could not find the Jeep. I then pointed out to Gary that I thought that was the Jeep over there. Gary ran over and told them we had been at the AS waiting. When they approached, I apologized to them for waking them up and told them Gary and I were working on our night moves. They must have liked those comments. I was still feeling good and had one more 23 mile loop to go.
Gary and I continued on. Unfortunately throughout the race, crew were not permitted at aid stations 3 and 4. So when we saw Caryn and Anne at the Fire Tower AS with about 15 miles to go, it was the last we would see them. I gave a final kiss to Caryn and said I’d see her at the finish. Here we are at mile 85, still feeling somewhat good…..
Between Fire Tower and the next AS, Covered Bridge, I hit another wall. I was trying to eat as much calories as I could, but it just wouldn’t happen. Gary was a champ of a pacer. He consistently asked if I was eating enough and what I needed before we got to an AS. I couldn’t have asked for a better pacer. Towards the end, I did not eat. I was too tired and really couldn’t get food down and I was out of Tailwind. The last 10 miles we basically hiked and was blurry and hazy for me. With about 4 miles left, we were hiking with 2 other men, one was a pacer for the other. I was keeping track of time and I wanted to finish under 31 hours, but was concerned we wouldn’t finish under it. I told Gary that I wanted to run and we took off. Of course I hiked the climbs that I explained earlier during the final 2 miles, but we ran the rest. Even when I thought I was completely exhausted, I still had enough to run to the finish. I saw Caryn with her camera ahead of me on the paved trail and as we passed by them, they cheered. Gary directed me past, then under the bridge, crossed the stream, onto the lawn, along the side of the pavilion, and into the finish shoot. I had finished my first 100 miler. There is Gary in the background leaving my side….
I had so much support behind me, including my wife and family. There was no way I was not going to finish this race. The Mohican 100 miler met all of my expectations.
It’s weird. I’ve thought about my feelings towards my first experience with a 100 miler. The only thing that comes to my mind is that it feels like it’s home to me.