Sunday, June 29, 2014

Mohican 100-miler Race Report

"IF YOUR DREAMS DON'T SCARE YOU, THEY ARE NOT BIG ENOUGH."

What's the allure of a 100-mile race? Why do people do such races? What are their motivations and inspirations? In the days leading up to the race, which I had signed up for two weeks prior, I found myself trying to answer these profound questions. I think, as a whole, we trail ultrarunners are explorers. Explorers of world, of nature, of mountains, of that next bend around the corner and where it might lead us, explorers of the human body and mind, their limits and never-ending potential. 


The rewarding view atop Observation Point, Zion National Park, Utah after a speed hike/run up.

So preoccupied was I, with wondering why I am following through with what is arguably the worst idea ever in my life, that I did not managed to sleep well the nights leading up to the race. Coupling that with a very tight upper left leg, leftover effects from the 10-hour overnight endurance race Run Under The Stars (RUTS) two weeks earlier, I was not feeling too hot about this race, despite putting in more miles during the week of RUTS than I have ever done in my life, which isn't saying much as the highest I have ever reached is 50 miles per week. (Average 100-milers usually put in upwards of 70-100 mpw.) To make things more interesting, judging by the average finishing times of previous finishers relative to the other MGS 100-milers, the Mohican 100-miler is arguably, one of the harder, if not the hardest, 100-miler of the five Midwest Grand Slam 100-milers with almost 13000ft of elevation change and lovely, unpredictable June Ohio weather. Yes, I really know how to pick 'em. 


Elevation Profile of the Mohican 100. Ascent/descent - 12600ft

2012 Ironman World Champion Pete Jacobs once said, "The key to not being nervous is to be really well prepared. Whatever I can control, I will and not worry about what I can't." With that in mind, I turned into an organizing machine, putting together my crew, pacers and race nutrition plan with instructions for my crew. I think my crew don't ever want to see another nutrition packing list again, a gel concoction recipe or a request for ice, for that matter. 


THE Spreadsheet with predicted times and race data.

Pre-race day was pretty much organized chaos with us driving up, setting up camp, getting settled in and sorting out race stuff, prepping and eating dinner in the rain and attending the pre-race meeting. What worried me were the two to three hours of downpour we got during the evening as it could make for extremely muddy conditions and super high humidity. Sleep that night was a rare commodity in a humid, warm tent. 


OH HAI! Pacer photobomb! Photo: Erin Hazler



The "Backpack full of random crap" demonstration for the crew. Photo: Erin Hazler


Me demonstrating the "best" way to shake up a gel flask concoction ala Shake Weight in case my crew wanted to get more exercise in during the weekend. Photo: Erin Hazler


I got up before my alarm at 3.30am and proceeded to down an Ensure, a UGo bar and a banana. I like getting a good amount of calories in me before the race so I don't feel too hungry too early but it may have been just a tad too close to race start for that amount of calories. Ideally, I would like to have eaten 2 hours before race start but I chose to get slightly more sleep instead. I went over to the shower house to get a warm shower to wake myself up, change, use the bathroom and prep my kit. Erin, Arielle and I departed the campsite at 4.30am. After parking, we proceeded to get ourselves lost on our way to the start line before the race had even started. Yay, winning! Fortunately, we got there with enough time to spare for me to make a last minute pit stop before rushing to the start line just in time for the most uninspiring start of all time.


Foggy walk to the start. Silhouettes in the night. Maybe most ultra races start when it's dark so that people can't see that we are pooping our compression shorts right about now.


This pretty much sums up how i felt at that time. Fuzzy, hazy and things were not quite in focus. Photo: Erin Hazler



A bunch of skinny white legs shuffling along at shopping mall speed-walking pace. Welcome to Ultrarunning! 
(Video credit: Hai Nguyen)

The Mohican 100 consists of four loops - two longer loops of 26.8-ish followed by two shorter loops of 23.2-ish. 

Map of the course. Start from the letter E and work clockwise. The longer loop extends further to the left of the map.

First Loop - (6 hours and 5 minutes)

"I NEVER RAN A THOUSAND MILES. I COULD NEVER DO THAT. I RAN ONE MILE A THOUSAND TIMES."

I started off at a pedestrian pace, settling in at the back of the middle of the pack, not wanting to go out too fast. The result was that, once we hit the single-track, I got stuck behind a pretty slow conga line. I was fine with that though as I was feeling sleepy and tired from the effects of sleeping less than 6 consecutive hours every night for the last 3 or 4 nights. The humidity was high and the resulting fog was also blinding me with the reflection of my headlamp. My breakfast was still sitting a bit heavy in my stomach so I was content to just go slow. When we hit the 2 mile mark after the first hefty climb, someone in my group noted, "Hey, we just have to do this fifty more times!" Hmm, I think I was pretty out of it at that time as that didn't sound too bad! 

I was still taking it easy and passed some people by not stopping at the Gorge Overlook Aid Station (mile 4). My main goal for the first loop was to get a feel for the course, see where my downhill strengths and uphill weaknesses could play in and get my head in the right space of just being present. My mantra for the race was "Presence, Patience and Calm". It saved my race countless times. Thank you, Andy Jones-Wilkins (AJW). I got this mantra from the Trail Runner Nation podcast labeled "Training with Ann Trason and AJW". If you are an ultrarunner, this is a must-listen-to episode. Just listen to it, people. I think it is one of the best podcast episodes I have ever listened to and I listened to it multiple times in the days leading up to the race. 

I was still moving up the conga line slowly and taking my time, taking a shot from my gel flask and a S! cap every half hour and just moving with the terrain. Gorge Overlook to Fire Tower AS (mile 8.0) was uneventful. I was running along and chilling with a Grand Slammer, Shawn Hawk, who unfortunately did not finish. I started feeling better and more settled into the race after Fire Tower AS. Drink, eat, s-cap, run, drink eat, s-cap, run. Rinse and repeat. Patience and Calm. There were some muddy spots from the rain but, all things considered, the trail conditions were amazing - pretty dry and just a touch soft which was great. The rain was staying away and the temperatures were in the mid-60s with 100% humidity. The stretch from Fire Tower AS to Pleasant Hill Dam was probably my favorite. It was a nice, net-downhill, scenic stretch with some rough spots, climbing over and under downed trees and along a creek. I hit Big Lyons Falls soon after passing some other Grand Slammers and wet my head under it to cool off and stay on top of heat management. Presence, Patience and Calm. I decided to take it a little easy and stop to take some pictures. Little Lyons Falls came quickly after some more creek traversing. Right next to it was the famous Hand-over-Hand climb. That was a fun climb up a pretty cool root network. 


Big Lyons Falls.

Cool entrance-way to Little Lyons Falls. It reminded me so much of scenes from Last of the Mohicans.

Hand-over-hand climb next to Little Lyons Falls. Photo: Butch Phillips
A hop-scotch-and-skip across the top of the falls and a climb up and down and I met up with Erin and Arielle at the Pleasant Hill Dam crew access point (mile 13.5). Even though it was our first crew pit-stop, we got through it pretty quickly and I was on my way. At this point, Mr. Tattoo-Guy Alan had passed me after I had passed him earlier. I had recognized him from Dances With Dirt Gnaw Bone earlier this year where i remember him running a super solid race and he looked like he was doing the same this time too. I caught up to him and we ran along the creek, introducing ourselves and just chatting. This was to be his first hundred too.

The run down Pleasant Hill dam in the foggy wee hours of the morning. Photo: Arielle Knudsen
Mr. Tattoo Guy Alan. Photo: Butch Phillips
We hit the Covered Bridge Aid Station a mile later (mile 14.5). As I was fully stocked up from Pleasant Hill, i just ran through the station while Alan stopped to refuel. I wouldn't see him again till much, much later. What came after, between Covered Bridge and Hickory Ridge AS, would be the hardest portion of every loop which consists of a series of hills. There were about 3-4 climbs all about 250ft each over half a mile long. They weren't that long but man, they were almost hands-on-knees steep as there were no switchbacks but they all went straight up. I think what really killed me during this particular stretch, especially in the last two loops, is the lack of a real recovery zone as it would be a relatively short flat or gradual downhill before i would have to start climbing again. I took the climbs pretty easy and tried not to get too winded at the top of each climb. At mile 18, while descending down and climbing up to Hickory Ridge AS (mile 20), I tweaked my right ankle moving through a grove of pine trees. I stopped immediately and walked it off for a minute or two. After it seemed to feel okay, albeit a bit weak, I set off again and hit Hickory Ridge for some liquids on my way through. Presence, patience and calm. 

"Between every two pines is a doorway to a new world."
- John Muir

I was loving the 7 mile stretch between Hickory Ridge and the Start/Finish as it had a lot of net downhill and it was a very runnable section. It would also eventually end up being my most despised section too in the end. I was making good time and despite being a few minutes down in the first few parts of the course, I was starting to make up a tiny bit of time and passing a few people. The path would snake through the woods and dump us into the Mohican Adventures campground which we were staying at. The course actually took me to within 100 yards of our campsite, which was a bit of an evil mind game. After snaking through the campgrounds some more and along the main road, I hit the Start/Finish AS for a bit of a good break. 

Me coming into the Start/Finiah Aid Station after the first loop.


Second Loop - (6 hours and 30 minutes)

"BECAUSE WE'RE LOVING EVERY WONDERFUL, HORRIBLE MINUTE OF THIS."

After a quick refuel from my super-efficient pit crew, I set off with a packet of frozen oranges, watermelon and grapes to get some calories in and cool down the internals. Note: don't freeze watermelon. I was starting to get into the flow of the loop and I was not slowing down much, even after a marathon-long loop. The climbs up to the Gorge Overlook AS were now visible and that was kind of comforting and making me slightly nervous at the same time. Comforting that I could now see where I was going in that stretch as we were traversing that with our headlamps at 5am but the steepness of the climbs were a bit daunting. I made decent work of it though, covering that same section in the same time I did during the first loop. 

By now the fog had cleared a bit and the temperatures remained cool. I was feeling pretty good after juicing up on some Coke, water and food. I was starting to flip-flop with a couple of guys, Dave and Greg. They were running strong and were looking really good. As I chatted with them a bit, I found out that Dave was going for his 10th Mohican finish and Greg was going for his 11th. At that point, I was wondering what I was doing keeping up with two guys who had almost twenty Mohican 100 finishers between them. I was either doing something really right or something really wrong but i was constantly doing self-checks and was feeling pretty good about how things were going. Patience and Calm.

Dave (left) and Greg (right) on their way for their tenth and eleventh finish, respectively.
Such great guys and hats off to them!
Photo: Butch Phillips

I was really chuffed about the next ten miles between Gorge Overlook AS and Pleasant Hill Dam. I was running well, working my way up through the mid-pack and my ankle was not bothering me. I was still running mostly by myself, not really seeing a whole lot of people unless i caught and passed them. There were stretches where I would go for a couple of miles without seeing another single soul. I had put in my earphones in the beginning of the loop and started getting into the flow of the section. Relentless forward motion. 

From  Greg and Dave's advice, I was also pee'ing every two hours and the frequency and color were indicating that I was hydrating well. I was happy with my nutrition and electrolyte intake and I was stopping once every so often to stretch out the hamstrings, hips and quads. Everything was going well, I was feeling really comfortable and well within myself and I covered that ten mile stretch in almost the exact same time as the first loop. As I was "flying" (if you can call 13-14minute miles flying), I decided to slow down a bit, stop at Big Lyons Falls and reenact an epic scene from one of my favorite movies of all time. 


video

I will find you! - WOOOOO!


I came into Pleasant Hill Dam AS half an hour ahead of my projected time. As my crew refilled my pack, I told Chris that he may have his work cut out for him. On hindsight, maybe that was not such a great idea as it apparently freaked him out and everything went downhill for me from that aid station onwards. 

Me checking my watch and thinking about my splits at Pleasant Hill Dam crew access point.

Me making my way, taking the stairs down out of the crew access point.
As I cruised into Covered Bridge, i picked up some chips and a cup of non-flat ginger ale, as I had forgotten I had a bottle of flat ginger ale in my drop bag. Halfway up the climbs, the carbonation started to have my stomach act a bit funny so i slowed down a bit to fix that issue. The steep climbs were also getting to my hamstrings and calves as I could feel them start to get a bit tighter. At this point, the temperatures started to climb without me knowing. The clouds had cleared and now the sun was out which added the element of sunshine heat where the exposed sections of the trail would be getting a bit hotter. While I was still feeling relatively comfortable, on hindsight, I should have been more on top of keeping myself wet and cool. I mean, come on, who feels really comfortable after 40 miles of running? There's got to be some measure of discomfort but I was feeling much much better at this point than I did at any 50-miler i had previously done so I thought I was holding it together pretty well.

I ran most of the section from Hickory Ridge to the Start/Finish with Dave and Greg and they were really putting the hammer down on the road sections. We passed the 50-mile mark at 11:45 and i thought, "Sweet, I'm still on sub-24 hour pace." On hindsight, that was pretty foolish and very naive. Live and learn. I took a deep breath and decided to let them drop me as it was not smart to keep up with them. I was starting to overheat on the exposed road section. My stomach was not digesting and I was starting to walk on the flat section leading up to the aid station in an effort to cool down and get stuff back to equilibrium. Presence, patience and calm.

I came into the Start/Finish AS about 50 minutes ahead of schedule, proceeded to plop down into the chair and started sponging lots of ice water over my head to cool down. I changed into a light running tank as I was feeling hot and started chewing down some frozen cold orange slices and watermelon. After about 10-15 minutes, I felt much better and set off with Chris in tow, after sitting down a little more to take care of an errant toenail on my left big toe, which was starting to bother me a bit. Luckily, I took care of that one. I took off my Garmin to have it recharge on a portable recharger in my vest and was hoping to rely on Chris to give me split times to replenish.


Third Loop - (6 hours and 30 minutes)

"FIND THE LEVEL OF INTOLERANCE YOU CAN TOLERATE AND STAY THERE. IT NEVER ALWAYS GETS WORSE. THIS TOO SHALL PASS." - DAVID HORTON

At Indiana Trail 100, while I was pacing someone, we were frogging with a mom and her young (by ultrarunner standards) daughter. Mika, by age 22, had already finished the Hallucination 100-miler and was going for her second 100-mile finish. Unfortunately, the last time I saw her was when she had dropped out at mile 75 and staring into the seductive flames of a fire barrel at an aid station. I was a bit excited to actually know someone else who was running the race. It always helps to have company out there or even just to see a familiar face, like Alan or Mika. Misery loves company.

Mika at Pleasant Hill Dam crew access point. Photo: Arielle Knudsen 

We started off the loop slowly with Mika as I had finally caught up to her. She was looking a bit tired but still going strong. The balls of my feet were starting to hurt from all the pounding I was putting them through. The tendons or muscles at the back of my right knee were starting to get tight, even though I was still stopping to do my stretches. That sort of tightness has never ever happened to me, until this race. My stomach was starting to settle a bit but I didn't want to chance it too much by downing a bunch of gels. We just made our way to Gorge Overlook and the Fire Tower ASs, leapfrogging each other. Mika, weighing about the same as a gel packet, was shooting up the hills while we caught back to her on the downhills as she had a knee issue and had to take the downhills easy. 

When we made our way to the Fire Tower AS, "it felt as though Thor himself was thundering away with his hammer on the balls of my tumescent feet!"Thanks Tim Long for that awesome sentence. It is a very appropriate and accurate description of what I was feeling. As a result, I was feeling irritable and was really wanting a shoe change. This aid station, in particular, really loves their trance music so we could hear the bass reverberating for miles through the forest as we snaked our way around to it. That really messed with our heads as we would think that we would be near the aid station only to find that we needed to go miles more.

I burst into the aid station (mile 60), pretty relieved as I was expecting to be able to change to the pillowy Hokas my crew was carrying....except there was no crew there. I was starting to panic and asked the aid station volunteers where the crew would be. No one could really give me a straight answer and I was starting to form several expletives in my mind as I milled around the aid station, trying to figure out where they could be. Finally, someone told me there were a bunch of people further along the trail over a "hill". I took a deep breath and I left Chris who was still refueling at the aid station and went on a bit to check it out. Patience and calm. (Yeah, not quite.) I was quite thankful that Erin and Arielle were indeed there at the base of the fire tower. We did a shoe swap and ate a bit of food as I was starting to feel a bit hungry and went on our way.



Being funny at Fire Tower AS. Photo: Arielle Knudsen
Chris waving bye as we continue on. Photo: Arielle Knudsen

The shoe change indeed did help relieve the pain on the balls of my feet but I think it spurred on a whole hosts of other issues that never crept up before. More on that later. As I felt pretty good with the shoe change and the calories from the pit stop were kicking in, we proceeded to make really good time through the next section to Covered Bridge. At one point, we were even doing 8.30min/mile pace. I noted at one point to Chris that, if we continued this pace, I was not sure if Miranda would be able to keep up. Hah! That was pretty stupid. What I don't think I noticed at the time, as we were quite in the flow, was that, as the fatigue was starting to accumulate, I was starting to eat less and less and that would come back to bite me. 

We came into Covered Bridge (mile 63) and I dug into my drop bag for my ginger ale and ate a peanut butter energy ball for some more food. As i was still feeling warm, I also dumped a cup of ice into my water bladder. I should have eaten more but the fatigue was not making me very hungry. Luckily I still had the presence of mind to continue to sip Coke and my gel concoction, albeit probably not enough of it. Still, something is better than nothing. We started up the blasted climb up the hill series. As my right leg was starting to lock up from a really tight posterior chain, I decided to improvise and scavenged around for a makeshift hiking stick to assist me in sticking it to these hills that we were climbing. I SHALL PASS! 

The Chris's at Covered Bridge.
Reference chart. I love the disclaimer.

As we made our way to Hickory Ridge, the light was starting to fade quickly and my presence of thought with it. We turned on our headlamps and continued to trudge on towards the Hickory Ridge aid station. As the muscles on the back of my knee continued to tighten and deteriorate, I felt my left Achilles tendons as well as ligaments around my right ankle, which was tweaked earlier, start to feel a little strained. I started to feel like a pirate, hobbling along on a full peg leg. As we rolled into Hickory Ridge AS (mile 68.5), I ate half a slice of pizza to stave off the hunger that was starting to become a bit more intermittent and drank some broth. That's when I spotted the ultimate piece of heavenly unicorn poop - a foam roller on a really nice soft blanket. (I imagine when unicorns defecate, they produce these godsend recovery devices, in pink, blue and all other colors of your desire, no less.) Rolling on the foam roller did ease the tightness but only marginally. It took all my strength of will for me to make myself get up from that blanket. To be honest, that blanket could have been made of rocks and i would have found it to be as soft as unicorn fur.

They say the darkest sections are always after mile 70 and they were right. The last section from Hickory Ridge AS to the Start/Finish AS (mile 68.5 to mile 75.5) was one of the hardest as the cumulative fatigue, lack of sleep and pain and stiffness was starting to hit me during the dark. Even though it was still relatively early, I noticed myself starting to get tired and wanting to shut my eyes around 10.30pm. This was probably due to lack of sleep and just wanting to ease the fatigue somehow. The caffeine or influx of sugar from the Coke was helping somewhat to ease that but only when i remembered to take it, which was becoming more and more spaced out. It also really didn't help my mood when I realized previously that this particular section was about a mile longer than what they had stated in the course guide. I tried to stop looking at my watch as the pace was starting to be depressing and the miles weren't ticking away as quickly as I had hoped but just focus on putting one foot in front of another and find out ways of walking/running that would ease any discomfort. Relentless forward motion. Presence, patience and calm.

My muscle/tendons behind my right knee would occasionally seize up after a period of shuffling along, forcing me to walk even the the downhills. Trying to stay on top of that issue, i decided to take more 2 more S-caps (salt capsules) every half hour to see if that would help. I was quite aware of the issues of taking too much or too little salt so, before I upped the intake, I would wipe my brow with my hand and lick it to see if my sweat was too salty or not. I was also monitoring the color of my "beer-dispensing" and it seemed okay. The frequency had dropped off a bit but the color was still constantly reassuring.

I had my music off for most of this third loop until now in order to save battery. At one point, in trying to make conversation or maybe it was just drunken rambling in the silence of the woods, I asked Chris what were we doing out here. He replied, "You are running a hundred miles. I am just going for a walk in the woods." I didn't really know how to respond to that so I decided to just turn back on the music to see if i could get back into any sort of flow. I had been playing the same seven songs in my playlist for the last 10 hours but that's how much I love every song on that playlist. Unfortunately, it was not having the same effect it had during the smashing second loop. Every problem i was having was a new one I have never had before (throbbing pain every step for balls of both feet, left achilles strain, back-of-the-knee tightness, front tibia strain, that much cumulative fatigue) so problem-solving was going to have to get real interesting. I had just found my level of intolerance that I could tolerate. Famous ultrarunner David Horton says, "It never always gets worse." No, it did not really but it basically stayed there for the majority of the rest of the race.

My headlamp was dying as we came through the Mohican Campground but we were close enough to the aid station that I decided to just change the batteries there. I was hungry but both Chris and I had run out of solid food to offer me and my hydration had just gone dry as I had been drinking more due to me taking more salt caps now. My butt cheeks had been chafing together for the last section and my glutes were now working doubly hard to hold in certain soiling solids for the last couple of miles of the loop in addition to running. I was so relieved when i finally managed to sit down in the aid station bathroom. Sitting down on that porcelain throne in solitude was the most welcomed five-minute reprieve from everything that was going on in the last 19 hours.

Lightened and lubed, i went back out to face the last loop... only to promptly collapse back into a chair to be nursed by my crew.


Fourth Loop - (7 hours and 40 minutes)

"ONLY THOSE WHO WILL RISK GOING TOO FAR CAN POSSIBLY FIND OUT HOW FAR ONE CAN GO."




Coming into the Start/Finish aid station, I was still ahead of schedule by 50 minutes but I was just so decimated that, after my pit stop to the bathroom, I had to collapse into a chair and stayed there for about 15 minutes or so which ate into my time. During that time, Erin (who is the best crew chief and member, by the way) was using a lacrosse ball to try to massage out the rock-solid rear knee muscles that were preventing me from being able to bend my knee. Being able to bend one's knee is apparently very important for running. That's why zombies, with their rigor mortis and all, don't run well. I also just sat there to gather my thoughts and to massage the balls of my feet to relieve some pain.

I changed into my BARA shirt, changed out my shoes to my Pearl Izumi N1s (hoping to alleviate some of the issues the Hokas were causing me), switched out the batteries in my headlamp and had a couple of Pringles to eat but just didn't feel all that hungry. At this point, I was trying to troubleshoot my cramps and decided to mix up a mixture of EFS, which had a lot of potassium and magnesium as I was hoping that boosting my levels of those particular electrolytes would alleviate the cramping/tightness. Arielle, who was such a dear and trooper, sprinted back to her car where the EFS was kept, and brought it back to get me a drink mix of that which also help boost my calorie intake. After evaluating my hydration levels and kidney function, I deemed it safe to take an Excedrin to help with the pain management. I have heard horror stories about how NSAIDs are particularly dangerous to be used when someone was dehydrated so I wanted to make sure I was still being cautious and smart about taking painkillers. Presence.

It was starting to feel chilly so, with much resignation, i stood back up gingerly and decided to walk over to the aid station for some pieces of banana. I decided to just keep walking. Just five minutes later and I knew I had made a mistake of not eating more while I was sitting down as I was getting a bit hungry and wanting a chip or something. At this point, I was pretty much done with the butt-chafing that my compression shorts were instigating. As there was no one around with pretty much no lighting anywhere, with Chris many meters away, I killed my headlamp and decided to make an impromptu shorts change right there and then in the open. If there was any light to see by, which there wasn't, I am sure that would have been a sight to see - me dropping trou and changing my shorts completely by feel. With that problem solved, we soldiered on.

During this section, I got quite a surprise when I saw Mr. Tattoo Guy Alan come up behind us and pass us. He was looking strong, good and steady. We chatted a bit and he said his legs were holding together but his headlamp was dying. As I had just changed the batteries in my headlamp and I had a spare set of batteries, I insisted on lending him my spare headlamp so he could keep going on strong. He ended up having a great first hundred, finishing in 25:59. What a trooper. So much respect for that guy. We came into Gorge Overlook AS (mile79.5) with Dave and Greg, still leapfrogging around with them. I sat down for 8 minutes or so, trying to get some chicken broth and ramen in me for electrolytes and sustenance and recover from the uphill stretch we just did. I took another Excedrin and we left Greg and Dave, who were still trying to recuperate at the aid station, and continued walking on.

The next stretch to the Fire Tower AS was pretty uneventful except for me cursing my the disco party music reverberating through the woods. I mean, seriously, how long can they keep playing the same type of music (asks the guy who has been playing the same seven songs on loop for twelve hours). I was pretty loopy at this point but not quite hallucinating yet. There were times when i saw a shadow and think that it was a black cat waiting to jump out at me. Since this stretch was not really technical and there were some pretty straight sections, I was also playing fast and loose with the idea of sleephiking, trying to see how long I could get away with walking in a straight line on the trail with my eyes closed to get some shuteye to try and reduce fatigue. That was not really effective so i decided to keep drinking Coke instead.

At Fire Tower AS (mile 84), I stopped for 10 minutes or so to change back to my Peregrines after massaging the balls of my feet some and swapped out Chris for Miranda as the pacer. Dave and Greg and Mika had already passed us while I was recuperating. I started working on a UGo bar and told my crew that I would see them at the finish line as I started walking away. We made steady pace to Covered Bridge AS (mile 87) and managed to catch up to Mika and her mom, Steph, who was pacing her. We had a good rhythm going between the four of us as they would get ahead on the hills and we would catch back up on the downhills but I think we were just glad for each other's company and that there were other people nearby for motivation. At one point, we started debating the lyrics to Sixteen Going On Seventeen from The Sound of Music and singing it. That was pretty fun! A moment of high spirits in otherwise a really long dark patch.

We hit the Covered Bridge AS and stopped there again to refuel and regain something for the next section up ahead. I picked up another hiking stick and we proceeded to grind up the hills to Hickory Ridge. The 24-hour mark came and went. I have now been on the move for more than 24-hours. We started out first and Mika and Steph, being stronger on the hills, caught back up to us pretty quickly. Relentless forward motion. One foot in front of the other. Patience and calm.

Miranda and I had a quick stop at Hickory Ridge AS (mile 92-ish) where I downed a cup of Coke and Heed and pressed on. By now, the sun was starting to peek through the pine trees, casting a warming orange glow into the sky. I thought there was something special about being awake long enough to see a second sunrise at an event. At this point, I was determined to keep moving and just get it done so I did not really want to spend any more time at the aid station. At this point, muscle tightness, strains and general fatigue had reduced me to pretty much walking almost everything, except for some of the more smoother downhills, where i could just coast a bit. We had dropped Mika and Steph somewhere on a long downhill stretch earlier in this section where I pulled out a good wind and actually managed to hit 11min-miles, even if it was for a few seconds.

We had some stretches where I would run for as much as i could as stop as soon as we hit any sort of incline. At this point, "running" was a very generous term for the 14-15min/mile pace I was hobbling out. I would run for what i felt like was forever, only to find out that I had only ran for 2 minutes and we had covered only a sixth of a mile. By now, i had developed what I would like to call hundred-mile tourettes, where I was incapable of holding an actual conversation and was having long stretches of silence, where I had to concentrate on making forward progress, punctuated by single exclamations of various expletives meant to vent my fatigue, pain and frustration at how slowly we were moving and at this course, which just seemed to wind and wind around the forest.

I knew I was going to finish. It was only a question of when. Hence, my motivation to run much had pretty much hit a race low. I had a short sit break on a rock to massage out the balls of my feet and that's when Mika and Steph zoomed by us. Mika just had on a mask of pure determination and focus. Steph joked as they went by that Mika must really be pushing it as she hadn't spoken a word to her in the last hour. It is pretty great to see someone that you shared so many miles with rally that late in a race. She would go on to finish eight minutes ahead of me.



Talk about getting chicked. In the last 5 miles, I got passed by only three women, one of them being Mika. No men. I was passed by a Grand Slammer who was just motoring along, still running really well after 26 hours. Kudos to them. They all fully deserve it. 

As for me, it was a real relief to finally burst into the Mohican Adventures campgrounds and realize that we were less than 2 miles to the finish. We saw some deer having breakfast as we snaked through the campgrounds through a light misting rain. On the finishing mile-long stretch of tarmac, within sight of the finish line, we tried to muster up a slight jog, only to have my aching feet stop me abut half a mile to the finish. That was okay, though. I was content to be walking and chatting with Miranda about this special occasion, sharing this wonderful experience. When we were about 3 minutes from the finish line, we were laughing as I pulled out my phone and started playing M83's Outro to give the experience the atmosphere it fully deserved. We both love that song and it was an epic accompaniment to a great journey.  

Crossing the finish line, receiving the belt buckle and hugging my crew, I had only feelings of fatigue and relief. The elation would come later. Much later.

Funny GIF of me finishing. I'm going much slower than the GIF implies. :P
Thanks Erin for the pics!

I think they said the final distance was more like 101.4 miles or something like that.
My finishing time was 26:54:42. Link to Strava data.



Post-Race

I sat down and had breakfast, next to Mika and Steph, surrounded by my crew. Endurox had never tasted better. After a good long hot shower, we struck camp and packed up. Many big hugs and thanks were given and we went home... but not without stopping at a Cheesecake Factory for lunch. Now, THAT Oreo milkshake and that apple cider just tasted like pure heaven. Nom nom nom...zzzzz.


My wonderful crew and I. Thanks for everything guys!



Reflections and Musings

I don't know if the elation really ever truly came. Relief, content and acceptance were probably the more appropriate emotions. It was truly a very humbling experience. I learnt a great deal but i think the fatigue just overwhelmed me for several days after.

What would I do differently?

- I think i would like to try to do it sans pacer. Unfortunately, brutally honestly, I think where the race started going south was when I first picked up Chris. I think, when I did that, I had mentally checked myself out to some extent and never regained the full presence of mind that I may have had when I race alone.

- Refueling during the second half of the race. I think i definitely need to do a better job of eating during the second half of the race or have the presence of mind to eat and drink, which goes back to the first point. I think several of my mental slumps and general fatigue could have been not so severe if I had some more calories in me.

- Try to stop for shorter periods of time at aid stations. I think I totaled almost 2 hours, if not more, stopping at aid stations to recover. That is pretty substantial. Considering that I had completely forgotten to account for aid station stoppage time in my estimated time spreadsheet, I think it is pretty amazing that I finished within ten minutes of my predicted/expected time.

- Pace myself better and not be overenthusiastic in the first 50-70miles of the race. I think the second loop got the better of me for the rest of the race and sapped more energy out of me than it should have.

- Make better decision regarding equipment. I wonder if i wouldn't have had knee and achilles issues if I hadn't switched out to Hokas. Up to that point, all that were aching were the balls of my feet. Oh well, c'est la vie.

Would I do another one again? I have already started looking for other different ones to explore... After all, there are so many more places to run.



Thank yous

I would like to thank my amazing crew Erin, Chris, Miranda and Arielle. I don't know if i would have finished without you guys there. Thanks for everything you did.

Thanks to Dr. Mandy Smith at Indiana Spine and Sports for putting me back together before and after every event. Thanks for your patience, help and advice.

Thanks to everyone else that has been with me on this running journey, especially all my running friends in BARA and triathletes. This is only still the beginning. There is still so much more to explore.



3 comments:

  1. I've enjoyed your review of this race. My husband is running it this weekend for the first time and it's cool to hear about what really goes on out there!

    ReplyDelete
  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I just read this post and really enjoyed it! One of my friends was talking about doing this race, so I started poking around and found this. Congratulations on your finish!
    I've "only" done a 50-miler, as my longest distance, and don't know that I have the courage to attempt a hundy.
    Cheers!
    Donna

    ReplyDelete