Sunday, July 27, 2014

Mohican 100 Mile Run Race Report

What a buckle, love it, wished it was bigger.

This was the run, not to be confused with the 100 mile mountain bike race—easy to do when you are at the event website. It was held in Loudonville about 1.5 hours South of Cleveland. The course is 95% single track and it is comprised of 4 loops; two 26.8 mile loops and two 23.2 miles loop. The shorter loop is just a variation of the longer loop, it cuts out a technical but fun and scenic part of the course. The single track is gorgeous, hardly technical and not too hilly compared to our trails here in the Bay Area. Long sections of soft, tree covered trails to lose yourself in. On the long version of the loop we are treated to Vernon Falls, a small rocky waterfall that is down to a trickle at this time of the year, accessed via a long set of wooden steps. This was followed by running in a creek bed that is more creek than trail with lots of logs and vegetation which eventually led us at the foot of a wall made up of tree roots about one story high. It was a blast to climb. Time consuming section but a ton of fun. From there we made our way to a dam, a river and a covered bridge, the one immortalized in the finisher's buckle. The final 11 or so miles back to the start/finish is mostly downhill. I enjoyed this section the most. There is some road to chew before finally arriving at the turnaround and while this was my least favorite section, especially since we passed by the finish line, I enjoyed the cheering and clapping.

Yours truly, excited to start another 100.

Something wonderful and cozy about a dark start. Hard to get up for but I love it—more daylight hours on the course.

This picture doesn't do it justice but here is the root wall.

Hotels in Loudonville are surprisingly expensive. Well expensive if you don't want to spend over $100 a night. I ended up staying in a Super 8 in Ashland which is about 30 minutes away. There was a Denny's right next to the motel and a Walmart Supercenter only 5 minutes away where I picked up a back up 150 lumen light for $10 (more like 75 lumens but it does the job ). I was set on food and supplies but what I couldn't get was sleep. I was too anxious and my body was on Pacific time. When I finally got sleepy at 3 AM, 12 AM Pacific, it was time to get up. I should have come a day earlier. Thankfully I had caffeine in my drop bags. I was out and on my way by 3:30 AM.

Race morning was a bit tricky but not too bad. When I got to the race venue around 4 AM there were no volunteers with flashlights to show us the way. That's something we do here in the Bay Area and I've gotten used to it. We're quite spoiled. The packet pickup location, which also served as the finish line, was about a quarter of a mile from the parking lot which in itself was also about a quarter of a mile from the start/turnaround point. I found out later that this was new for this year. Finding these places in the dark was a challenge; found packet pickup after I drove by it, found the start line first before I found the parking lot but eventually with the help of other runners I found my way.

It was a dark start, lots of running by light on the first hour but it went very smoothly. The weather turned out great. I worried it might rain as in the previous days and it did but not until we were already under tree cover. I could hear the rain hitting the leaves but almost none of it got to us. The overcast skies kept the temperatures low. I felt really good and I had to work to keep it dialed down. The course felt more rolling than hilly, no major climb that left me breathless. There were a couple of climbs where I felt I was hiking up for 10+ minutes but they were not that bad. The first loop went well for the most part but at the end of it I felt fatigued and sapped. I wasn't worried but concerned I was hitting a low point so soon. The other issue that did worry me was nausea and I traced it down to the gels I was using. I prefer Power Gels which pack a high electrolyte content (200mg per packet)which is great on hot races but the wrong thing to use on this day. I was using two packets an hour with water but with the weather being what it was and my conservative pace, I was barely sweating. I needed the calories but not the salt. When I cut back on the Power Gels things improved a bit. I even started peeing again with my body not needing the extra water to dilute all that salt. My stomach was never the same however and the nausea would gradually get worse on the second half. This was probably due to the fact that since I no longer wanted to use my Power Gels, I used what they had which were Hammer Gels. My stomach also doesn't like Hammer gels but better Hammer than Power Gels at this point. I could have switched to real food I guess but none of it sounded good once the nausea set in. Thankfully, in addition to caffeine, I had also brought Pepto Bismol tabs.

Heading towards the river.

The covered bridge.

Much like the first it went fairly well at the beginning. It had been raining during the week but despite that the water level on the creeks were low and the trails were fairly dry. There was one section that was especially slippery and I slipped and fell on that section but I came away with only a dirty backside. I made 50 miles in 11 hours which was good and it gave me a reasonable shot for sub-24. As I was finishing the loop however I got a familiar pain on the right side of my left knee which greatly worried me. It's right on the side, a small muscle surrounding the joint. The first time this happened was 2008 at the Kettle Moraine 100, mile 95, and it left me hobbling the last 5 miles to the finish. The second time it happened was at the Tahoe Rim Trail 100 six weeks later. This time the pain came on around mile 78 and I walked the last 22 miles to the finish. Running at any speed was painful. I massaged it, had a volunteer tape it at the turnaround but to no avail. As I left for the third loop the knee locked up and I was forced to walk.

Loved all the greenery.

Wonderful singletrack.

Vernon Falls, down to a trickle.

I didn't panic but I was probably sweating. I just couldn't fathom walking the next 46 miles but I didn't want to quit either. I had never dnf'ed a race and moreover this was my only qualifying race for the Western States lottery on my race schedule. It was this or nothing. Walking back to the trail head I resolved to give it my best effort. I tore off the tape because it wasn't helping and hobbled along at my best speed. I tried different foot strikes, different postures, and I found that bending over and running on my toes helped with the pain but not a realistic viable solution as you can imagine. Wouldn't you know it though, after 1.5 miles of this, it loosened up on it's own like a cramp. I beat that sucker down to submission and I would run well for the entire loop, finishing strong and at 18.5 hours for 77 miles.

I had 5.5 hours to do the last 23 to attain a sub-24 but I knew then that it wasn't going to happen, not unless I had some untapped reserves that was ready to go. I had slowed down a lot and the pain on my left knee was coming back. Darkness had settled in and under the cover of the trees it was quite dark. It made me sleepy despite the constant infusion of caffeine. There is something cozy about the darkness, like a blanket over your head, shutting out a lot of stimuli. The lack of sleep caught up with me. I played with the idea of taking short nap at the next aid station despite never having done so at a race. I'm a napper though, give me 5 minutes and I'll be 100% better. I was pondering this very thing when it happened, for sure it was the fatigue. I blew by a sign telling me to turn right for the aid station and continued down the gravel road I was traveling on until it met back up with the course further down. I cut out about .5 to .75 miles. I didn't realize my mistake until I could hear the music of the second aid station. The miles on my Garmin confirmed it. It was frustrating and heartbreaking but at least it woke me up. There was no question I was going to go back and make it right. The last thing I wanted was to finish the damned thing knowing I cut the course. I'm no podium runner, the finish is my reward and I won't taint that. It was demoralizing running into people going the other way but what could I do. The first runner pacer pair I encountered estimated they were 30 minutes from the aid station I missed and that was accurate. The pride I took in doing the right thing gave me a warm feeling but it was still a shitty situation. My inner voice was kind and kept silent the entire time, it wasn't the time for self-recrimination. After making it to the aid station, I wasted no time heading to the second. When I got there I followed through with my plan to catch some sleep. I didn't think I could fall asleep with all the cheering and clapping but I did. A volunteer was going to wake me up after 10 but I was up at 9 and out there as soon as I could gather myself. Cold, with a sore knee and nausea, I wasn't looking forward to the remaining miles but it was what it was.

The sun rose halfway through the loop, thank God because the caffeinated gels only made me more nauseous. The pepto tabs helped but only so much. I was dry heaving by mile 90. With the goal of sub-24 long gone I was content walking in the last 10 miles. My only regret was not being able to take full advantage of the great singletrack. What a waste! I finished at 28:12 and relieved it was over. Happy to have finished but… I really wanted another sub-24.

Finishing at 9 AM in the morning doesn't leave you much time to clean up, nap and check out of the hotel but what the hell, at least I finished that sucker. I went back to get my drop bags after checking out and caught the awards ceremony. I wasn't in a social mood so I watched for only a little while then left early. Made my way to Cleveland and another motel, glad to be back in a city. My flight the next day was not until the evening so I hit the town and checked out a few sight. Walking around a natural museum helped loosen tight muscles as well as entertain.

I had a great time and I wouldn't mind coming back. Such a great time and I liked Cleveland.

That's me, all legs no arms. Working on it though, hitting the gym again. At the natural history museum in Cleveland.