Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Freakin' at the Mohican! 2014 Mohican 100 Mile Race Report

Well, I accomplished my goal of a sub-24 at Mohican!  23:39 to be exact, good enough for 15th overall out of 108 finishers.  Not sure exactly how many started, but there were about 195 registered.  I'm guessing the humidity contributed to quite a few DNFs.  I've wanted a sub-24 for awhile now.  There's just something about being able to cover 100 miles in less than a day. 

My girlfriend Allison and I stayed at Mohican Adventures campground right near the start/finish of the race at Mohican State Park.  It rained pretty much all week leading up to the race, including a downpour the night before the race, so we set up a giant tarp over the tent for extra protection.

In advance of the race, I received an email from a nearby university that was doing a research study during the event on the effect of nutrition and glucose on fatigue and soreness.  I volunteered to participate for two reasons; #1, as a Health & Physical Education student, I'm aware and appreciative of the value of research.  And #2, I figured it would be interesting to see my glucose levels during the race and how they were affected by what I ate or did not eat.  So after we arrived at the campground and set up our tent, I went down to meet the research team and get a baseline blood glucose test.  To make a long story short, they pricked my finger three times, and couldn't get enough blood to get a reading.  Apparently I don't bleed.  Oh well, I guess that's a good thing.  They decided not to include me in the glucose tests, but I still participated in the research to some degree (rating my fatigue and soreness after each loop on the course, as well as pre and post race surveys). 

So a couple hours later we went to the pasta dinner and ate pasta.  Duh.  Then the RD gave his little spiel.  He also mentioned how littering is frowned upon (well, also DUH, only idiots litter, especially in the woods).  He even went so far to say "placing your trash next to a course marking sign does not make it non-trash.  Pack it in, pack it out.  I don't care if you gel wrapper is sticky, put it in your pocket."   I'm really glad he spent a few minutes on that.  I really hate seeing trash in the woods, especially trash that is obviously from other runners, such as gel wrappers, tops of gel wrappers, clif-shot wrappers, etc. 

In spite of all of that, on my last loop, on the last section of the course, I saw a decent amount of trash, including a pile of it near a course-marking sign.  It was probably put there by one of the many idiots talking the entire time the RD was speaking.  Ugh.   However, overall, the course was pretty darn clean and I noticed very little trash during the greater duration of the event.

Okay yada yada, you want to hear about the race, right?

The night before the race, I went to "sleep" at about 10 pm after chillin by the fire a bit, and woke up at about 3 am.  I wasn't sure how much I actually slept.  Maybe a couple hours.  Does it matter?  That's why I slept well the previous night.  Plan for the worst, hope for the best!  So any sleep I got the night before the race was just bonus. (not to mention I had Starbucks DoubleShots, Redbull, and my special custom concoction of 4C Energy Rush and Gatorade all ready to go in my drop bags)

For breakfast before the race I had a ClifBar, Ensure (actually, Equate Nutritional Shake Plus aka liquid awesomeness), and a SB DoubleShots.

5 AM, and we're off! 

I take it nice and easy from the start.  My plan was to run smoothly, efficiently, and comfortably for about 60-70 miles, and then push a little harder for the last 30 or so.  I kept telling myself "smooth and efficient, like a steam-powered machine" (yeah, it's weird, I don't care, it works!)  

The race started on the road, and we ran about a mile on the road before hitting the trail and the inevitable conga line.  Oh, it's fine, I love walking down hills.  MOVE PEOPLE!  Geez.  "but but but but it's dark" Give me a break. 

Okay, calm down, it's okay.  Just warming up, no big deal.  Relax, bro. 

Finally we hit some fire-road/double-track and I can finally pass the culprits holding up the parade.  The trails at Mohican are great.  Definitely not as tough as the trails I'm used to at Oil Creek State Park, but beautiful and very fun to run on.  Or, very fun upon which to run.. or something.    Fun trails!

The format of the race is as follows.  There is a a 26.8 mile loop, and a 23.2 mile loop.  We do the long loop twice, and then the short loop twice.  Both loops are pretty much the same, except the 23-ish loop cuts out a small section of trail and replaces it with a smaller different section of trail.  This difference in the loops comes in the middle of the loop, not at the beginning or the end.  I hope that makes sense.  So to aid station one, its about four or five miles.  Then another four or five to AS2.  And then about five miles to AS3 (Covered Bridge).. except on the short loop, it's 2.5 miles between AS2 and AS3. 

The trails are more runnable than the trails at Oil Creek.  And less technical too.  And less camber. There are some technical areas, some rooty areas, some rocky areas, but all very fun.  There were a few decent climbs, but nothing epic.  Much of the hills were rolling.  A lot of up and down, up and down. 

There's a certain section of trail that is only on the long loop that I found to be especially interesting and scenic.  After going down a bunch of stairs (stairs suck), we came out in a creek gorge underneath a waterfall.  It wasn't a real big waterfall or anything, but it was pretty cool because it was falling directly in the center of the gorge opening.  It's kind hard to explain without a photograph.

Oh wait.  Google exists.  Here ya go:

photo credit: whoever's page I took this from

So I stuck my head under the waterfall (it was very humid, and I often also poured water on myself to stay cool during the race.  It never really got very hot, just very humid).  Then I moved through the gorge, along the stream, over a bunch of logs and rocks and more logs and log rocks and rocky logs.  And then up a fun little root-climb.

Google saves the day again.  Sorry, I'm not a camera-carrying runner.

Thank you Mr. Picture-taker

I started the race with a single handheld bottle, and I picked up a second bottle from my dropbag at the Covered Bridge aid station at about mile 15.  I'm glad I did, because it started getting pretty humid after that. 
Everything was going to plan.  As I mentioned previously, I wanted to finish in under 24 hours.  I ran the first long loop in almost exactly six hours.  If I could maintain that pace, I knew I would be fine since the last two loops are a little bit shorter.  I really wanted to be done with the second long loop (mile 53.6) at the 12-hour mark.

The second loop felt a bit tougher than the first.  I figured I would be faster on it since I didn't have to deal with the conga line, but I was feeling a bit tired and my right knee felt a bit sore.  The closest I came to a mental low spot was on the second loop.  For a couple seconds I thought "eh, I don't really feel like running all day. I could go sit in the pool instead".  When I realized I was having such a thought, I immediately sprang into action and downed a gel.  Mental low-spots are always due to low blood sugar.  Within seconds, I was back in the game! 

The second loop took a little bit longer than the first, hitting the 53.6 mark at about 5:25 (12 hours, 20 minutes.. so about 6:20 for the second loop).  However, I knew I would finish at this point. I always tend to create a certain mileage threshold in my mind during ultras, and once I pass that point, I know I'll be fine. The format of the race made it easy to make the point after the completion of the second long loop.  Now I just had to do two short loops!  Piece of cake! (mmmmm, cake)   And, I got to see Allison after my second loop! An unexpected surprise and icing on the cake!

Piece of cake

So I started on my third loop at about 5:30.  My right knee was pretty sore, and my quads were getting sore as well.  I picked up two acetominophen at the first aid station, and it made a huge difference.  I was getting adequate calories throughout the race, and my hydration seemed to be spot on.  For the third loop, I kept moving smoothly, efficiently, and strongly.  When I walked, I walked hard.  When I ran, I ran comfortably, within myself, sustainably, but hard enough to make a difference. 

On the third loop is when I started passing people, as planned and expected (insert evil Mr. Burns laugh).

And on the third loop, the aid stations started having pizza.  Magic time!!!

I kept pushing, kept moving, kept passing people.  A couple miles from the end of the third loop, I got to see Allison again since the race goes right through the campground!  She always provides me with a great boost and positive energy to keep pushing!  I finished the third loop at about 11:00 pm, so it must've been about 5:30 for the third loop. That gave me exactly six hours to finish the last loop.  I think I spent a good portion of the race doing time and pace calculations in my head!

So I head out on the fourth loop, and I was a little nervous.  I knew I could definitely finish in six hours, but I also knew I had to remain strong and consistent, and that nothing could go wrong.  My knees were still sore and my quads were definitely not 100%.  I also felt a twinge of a cramp in my hamstring when I was pounding down a technical downhill on the third loop, so I was afraid that it might pop back up.  Regardless, I pressed out and stayed positive. 

On the fourth loop I passed quite a few runners.  Not a single runner passed me on either the third or the fourth loop (except once at an aid station, but I quickly caught up and passed them back).  That was a huge mental boost.   Some of the runners looked really bad.  One guy was groaning to himself as he stumbled through the woods like a zombie.  I asked him if he needed anything and he just groaned some more.
Okie dokie, see ya later dude.

It was fun chasing down the runners at night because I would catch glimpses of their headlamps in the darkness.  And sometimes they were farther off than I thought because of the meandering of the trail, but I kept catching them.  Woot woot!

When I left the final aid station, I still knew it was going to be close to the 24 hour mark, so I ran really hard for about 1.5 miles.  There's about a half mile of smooth wide double-track coming out of the aid station, and I kept pushing a hard pace for a little while after that just to give myself some breathing room.  Finally I get to a point that I know is about three miles from the finish, and it was 4:00 AM (23 hours in).   I was really excited because I knew the hay was in the barn at the point.  I could walk 20 minute miles and still make it. 

Finally, I come strolling in toward the finish.  I turn off of a sidewalk, go under a bridge, and through a path of tiki-torches to the finish in 23:39:13!

Random thoughts:

Despite the huge amount of rain that fell in the area in the days leading up to the race, the course was actually very dry.  It apparently drains extremely well, and there were only a few slightly muddy areas.  Kudos to whoever maintains these trails. My feet stayed dry all day. 

I feel like I was better trained for this race any previous race, but also an easier course than the other hundreds I ran.  So perhaps a combination of the two contributed to my success at this event.  I also feel like my pain threshold has gone up a bit, as I'm beginning to realize that pain in a joint or muscle doesn't necessarily mean that the joint or muscle is no longer capable of what you want it to do.

The race went exactly as planned.  I often hear "something will go wrong in a 100-miler, it's not a matter of IF but WHEN).  That was not true for me.  Other than some real bad chafing toward the end of the race, everything went to plan.  Ughhhh the chafing was so bad.  And I don't want to blame it on my shorts.  I always wear RaceReady shorts, and never had an issue, but I've also never run this far in this much humidity. 

The itchiness of mosquito bites can be quickly rectified by spreading mud on the area!

The Firetower aid station was the best because they had really loud techno music playing throughout the night, and everyone there was super helpful.

All of the aid stations and volunteers were great, and all were very helpful and supportive.  Watermelon is delicious.

I ran this race with no pacer and no crew.  However, Allison became my crew halfway through the race, and provided me with what I realized is the most important thing a crew can provide: moral support.  Everything else is either in the drop bag or at the aid station.

Sleeping in a tent after a 100 is difficult and painful.  

This is a great race on an awesome trail and I highly recommend it to everyone. 


here's what I remember...

GU gels and Hammer gels.  (about 20-25.  One or two between each aid station)
Watermelon (a 1/4 slice or two at each aid station)
one bottle of Equate Nutritional Shake Plus
one Starbucks doubleshot
one Redbull
one secret concoction (3 packets of 4C Energy Rush / half scoop of orange Gatorade powder / water)
about six S-caps
three or four endurolytes
six acetominophen
1/4 cup Great Value Mountain Mix trail mix
pizza.. maybe 5 or 6 slices
salted baked potatoes.  Probably the equivalent of a half of a potato
about 4 cups Coke
about fifteen 20 oz bottles of water
about ten 20 oz bottles of diluted Heed
some candy
about six quarter-sandwiches (usually turkey and cheese, maybe one PB&J)
about 10 orange slices
cup of potato soup
two brownies
one Stacker2 energy shot
one ClifBar


RaceReady LD Easy Running shorts
UnderArmour HeatGear Flyweight singlet
Injinji Trail 2.0 midweight mini-crew socks
Saucony Peregrine 3 shoes
Buff UV Half-Buff
Black Diamond Storm headlamp
Amphipod insulated 20 oz handhelds
$8 Walmart watch

More pics:

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Hundo Weekend!

I will be attempting my fourth hundred miler in two days at Mohican State Park in Loudonville, Ohio.  Yes, the Mohican 100 is what they call it.  I feel better trained for this race than I have for any other past 100, and I'm feeling pretty confident about reaching my goal of a sub-24.  My plan is to just flow through the first 60 or 70 miles, and then race the last thirty.  Earlier this year I ran the Glacier Ridge 50 in 10 hours and change on very little training leading up to it, and I felt pretty damn good doing it too, so I think a sub-24 is definitely doable.  Anything beyond that is just icing on the cake. 

I've been training pretty well.  Definitely not to my potential, but I've been somewhat consistent putting in miles on the trails.  I had a nice few weeks of peaking, hitting just over 100 miles for one week, and I recovered nicely during all of it. 

I also feel very excited for this weekend's race.  It's been awhile since my last hundred.  I attempted to finish Oil Creek for the second time last October but dropped out 30 miles in because I just felt like crap and wasn't having fun.  So my last 100 finish was Western States, almost a year ago.  Needless to say ("So don't say it asshole!"), I'm just itching to run this event!  There's nothing I enjoy more than a day on the trails with a bunch of other crazy people.  And, there's a buffet every 4-6 miles!!!  Running and eating are my two favorite past-times, so it should make for a good weekend.