"It never gets easier, you just go faster." - Greg Lemond

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Mohican 100 Report

Spoiler alert - I finished.  Thanks to my awesome crew

Well its over, its done.  Another 100 in the books.  Mohican was everything advertised; challenging and scenic terrain, with a great sense of community.  And lots of beer. 

Following Gnawbone, my preparation for Mohican was going fantastically, logging weeks of 120 miles, 150 miles and 115 miles.  But it was at the end of this cycle, that I believe I made a mistake that put my race in jeopardy.  Coming down with a sinus cold, I raced the dexter-ann arbor half marathon, in the middle of a heavy training week, at about an all out effort.  I had hoped this would be a good speed workout, but in retrospect, it took too much out of my legs.  Maybe it sounds strange to say that, considering I feel like I am recovered from racing 50 miles after 2 weeks, but I guess my body just isn’t adapted to recover from a high intensity effort like a half marathon.  Anyways, every run after the half marathon, my quads would begin to ache after about 40-50 minutes.  To me, this was a classic sign of being overtrained, although maybe not severely.  I figured this would go away after a few runs, but it persisted all the way up to my last run on Wednesday before Mohican. 

Well, two more days rest and I figured I would be good to go, but in the back of my mind, I felt not 100% confident, very dangerous when approaching a 100 mile race. 

My crew and I arrived with plenty of daylight to spare on Friday, packet pick up went smoothly, and I had plenty of time to say hi to everyone I knew before dropping off the drop bags and hitting the hay.  

I woke up at 2:45, well ahead of my 3:30 alarm, but decided to go with it, and ate my two bagels with peanut butter and a banana.  I thought that would give me plenty of time to digest my breakfast as well as focus my brain.  The start came sooner than I expected, and before I knew it, I was saying adios to my crew, and trying to figure out where to stand in the masses. 

We took off into the darkness, headlamps slowly becoming helpful as we headed into the woods.  I chatted with Jason for a while, passed some people on a road section before heading into the tight single track, and settled in for the day.  In my short pockets I was carrying 4 gels, a ziplock baggy of salts, a ziplock with pretzel M&Ms, and I carried two waterbottles, one 26oz and one 20oz.  The 20oz contained my coke/sports drink mixture with about 300 calories while the other bottle contained water.  My crew was going to meet me at aid stations with fresh bottles, one containing water and one with sports drink mix.  

Shortly before the firetower aid, I found a couple guys to chat with and time moved rather quickly.  Past firetower, we began the 1st of our 2 long loops.  This section of trail had some nice descents, as well as a section of two gravel two track that allowed for the field to spread out a little more. 

Thanks Wikipedia
I made sure to keep eating, gels, and M&Ms on the first loop, along with a couple bottles of mix.  With the group I was with, we moved though some of the more interesting sections on the long loop, came into the Covered Bridge aid station, where I was happy to see familiar faces in Jay and Seth.  In and out, quickly onto what I thought was the best section of trail all day.  Lots of uphill, and smooth winding downhills to compliment.  Hickory ridge aid station was next, and I was in and out as quick as possible, and headed towards the start/finish.  On this section I was moving well, but started to notice some tightness or soreness in the vastus medialis of my quadriceps muscles.

At the start/finish aid I complained briefly to anyone around me that my quads were hurting too early, and was reworded with encouragement and a reminder from Farra that there is more to a leg than the quads.  Use the rest of your muscles dummy.  So I ran on, and tried to settle back onto my haunches a little to utilize my glutes and hamstrings more.

It is hard to express the sort of mental state I was in.  I was worried, disappointed, and unhappy that my quads were going so early, somewhat angry with myself for pushing too hard too close to such a big race, and soon thoughts of dropping and saving myself for another day were creeping into my brain.  I mean, at about 30 miles, if you're not feeling good, its easy to get overwhelmed with the thought of 70 more miles of torture.  Here, my crew saved my day.  They never let the thoughts of quitting become more than thoughts, anytime I saw them, they were cheery and genuinely encouraging.  That, and I am a proud S.O.B. who didn't want to let his friends see him quit. 

So I ran, and ran some more.  Then I ate some gels, drank some pop, and ran some more.  As it heated up, I popped S!caps every 45-60 minutes, and drank lots of water.  I caught some 50 mile guys and ran with them for a while.  It helped pass the time.  Soon I was at Covered Bridge again, always gaining some momentum from seeing familiar faces.  Here I grabbed my hydration pack, and dropped the faithful bottles that had served me well so far that day.

By mile 50, I had caught several more people and was told I was 3rd male, with Connie Gardner, David Lister, and someone from the West coast, out in front.  Surprised, as I was being somewhat negative still, I slipped past a couple more 50 mile or marathon runners, and headed for the start/finish aid station.

54  miles down, only a few more to go
I think it was here that my day started to turn around.  I saw a lot of friendly faces.  Ryan Case was there, reporting he had crushed the 50 mile in under 8 hours, which got me a little fired up and motivated to get my own race crushing done.  Hydration pack filled, Mountain Dew in my shoulder bottle, I was out the door, and finally starting to accept that my legs were going to fight me all the way to the finish line.

I power hiked anything remotely technical or steep.  It seemed to be helping me save  my quads for runnable terrain.  I grabbed a turkey sandwich and it somehow lifted my spirits.  This was my que that I needed more real food, and began searching aid stations for ramen, chips, and the occasional sandwich bite.  By the time I came into firetower aid, grabbed pizza and Ensure from Jenny and Ryan, and I was running like a mad man, and went tearing into the woods, finally finding a mental high and determined to ride it for as long as I could.  This next section was a technical series of short ups and downs, with an overall cumulative decent, which finally pushed my quads over the limit.  Soon after Covered Bridge, I tripped and did what I called turtle-ing where I landed on my full hydration pack and was stunned/stuck on my back with my arms and legs sticking out at angles.  Laughing a little bit at myself and glad I didn't sustain any serious injuries, I moved as fast as I could.  I was now 2nd male, and only had Connie Gardner and West Coast ahead of me.

Alas, I was not meant to keep moving up in the standings.  A runner who must have also been struggling early on, came flying by me on a downhill near mile 75, as I gingerly gimped my way down the steep decline.  He looked great, gave me some friendly words and I wished him well.  By this point in the race I was rooting for everyone else, and I hope the feeling was mutual.  

The plan had been, that at mile 76 I would pick up my pacer, Ryan, for a 10 mile stint until I reached firetower.  Most of it was hiking, and I didn't have a lot to say, but Ryan did exactly what a pacer should do;  remain positive, give your runner small goals to run towards, and help motivate them by finding other runners to catch.  Now on my fourth and final loop, I managed to reel in Connie Gardner, with what was destined to be some of my last real running of the day. 

 I also ran into my Mom, who had picked up more pizza for me.  I dunno what it is, but a slice of pizza on the run just works so good for me. Everything else after mile 90 was a shuffle/jog/power hike.  My Fenix headlamp worked great, but because I was not lifting my toes well, I stumbled quite frequently when attempting to jog.  In retrospect, my power hike might have been just as fast as the shuffle/jog.  I was power hiking past many runners on their 3rd loops without having to run.

The last downhills to the finish were brutal.  Painful on the feet, painful on the legs, painful on my brain.  But I knew I was going to be done soon, and was so close to the finish.  And then it was over.  I sank into a folding chair, exhausted, legs so tight I couldn't even manage to pull on my sweat pants.  After a good 6 hours of sleep, we headed back to the race start and cheered in the other runners and sat around making small talk. 

The next morning I hung around, had a beer, 2 quarter pounders with cheese and a large fry.  So good, something that I hadn't eaten since Kettle Moraine, over a year ago.  
Jason looking good after running 100 miles

Now looking back on what was Mohican, I can honestly say I gave my best effort that I was capable of that day.  I still am not sure if I ran the best race I could have, and definitely feel like I made a few mistakes leading up to the race.  Racing the Half was fun, but stupid, so I will learn from that.  Otherwise I was pleased with my race prep.  After Oil Creek going so well and experiencing few lows, I was slightly afraid to run another 100, as Kettle was such a learning experience.  Mohican, similar to Kettle, beat me down hard, but I survived, and maybe learned that just because I have some mental (and physical) lows, I can still perform.

3rd place!
Maybe a little more scouting would have helped.  I underestimated the terrain at Mohican.  It was quite a bit rockier in parts than I expected.  It seemed to have very runnable sections, and then sections that were incredibly steep and/or rocky and/or stupid. 

Things that went right:  stomach only annoyed when I took a couple bites of a krispy kreme pie, hydration was spot on, salt intake adequate, headlamps worked nice, 2toms anti-chaffing worked amazing.

Things that went wrong:  quads went too early, feet weren't prepared for rocky terrain (shoes mostly), had some GI issues early on, mentally was not excited about racing for the first 30-40 miles.

Food:  mostly gels and clif bloks, 2 ensures, 2 slices of pizza, 3 cups of ramen, 1/2 a turkey sandwich, 2 bags of pretzel M&Ms, 15 Scaps, 3-4 bottles of Mtn Dew, 3-4 bottles Gu Brew.

I really like to think I can run under 20 hours on the course, and next year, I am going to find out.


  1. Congratulations on a great race! You're on a roll!

  2. You killed it. Totally nailed the nutrition, pacing, effort, everything. 3rd Place! I mean, damn man. That course was a monster, red in tooth and claw and you went Aragorn on it, straight slayin' and marchin' on.

    1. Some 100 mile LOT inspiration

      "From the lowest dungeon to the highest peak I fought with the Balrog of Morgoth... Until at last I threw down my enemy and smote his ruin upon the mountain side... Darkness took me, and I strayed out of thought and time... The stars wheeled overhead, and every day was as long as a life age of the earth... But it was not the end. I felt life in me again. I've been sent back until my task is done."
      -Gandalf the White