Very long, very rambling…
I had the most excellent, wonderful weekend.
Short version: I completed my goal of running 52 miles at the Mohican 100 Trail Run.
I also reached goal # 2, which was to run a bit further than 52—I finished up at 61 miles.
So I have run my first 50 miler this weekend, and my first 100 K!!
The weather just got hotter and hotter for June 17. We had a predicted high of 90 degrees for Saturday.
I arrived at the campground around noon on Friday, immediately met up with Sherry Meador from Alabama, got my tent set up. I gave Sherry a driving tour of course loops then we went back to pick up registration materials and talk with everyone. This was my first real socializing with other ultra-runners-what a friendly, nice group of people. How obsessive-compulsive we all are. I saw people with computer spreadsheets, handwritten pace charts of various times, course maps redrawn—all wonderful fodder for us runners. We even got into the “what’s in your drop bag” conversation. I heard about lots of other races (I heard enough about Massanutten to not really want to ever run it!!!) and got lots of advice. (I don’t know if it was good advice or not, but advice.) I felt good because I felt like I gave people not from the area good intel about the race course, having ran it before.
Even though we all were hyped to stay up and keep chatting, most of us were to bed early. My 330 am wakeup was the only cool part of the day. I kept thinking, ‘this is the only time you would be cold today’.
Race started right on time at 5am. It was already a bit humid at this point. The course was on the road at this point, country dirt roads, all ups and downs. We’d already been warned again and again of the temperatures, and all of us were walking the uphills.
We finally hit trail, which is the ‘green loop’ and were pretty much off on the adventure!
I had a good time. I felt strong, and kept drinking. I monitored myself, making sure I was sweating and peeing at least hourly. I was taking Suceed Capsules every hour. Probably most importantly, I was hungry at every aid station. I was eating with no problems.
I got through the first portion to the Covered Bridge. (Actually I’m still trying to figure out time splits, but they’re not very important.) Then we go out a short 4-mile loop, which includes a hand over hand climb up roots to a waterfall, a bit of an uphill road march, down to another waterfall, and back to the covered bridge. It was fun encountering tourists out for the day and politely asking them to step aside. I encountered some hikers asking how far we were racing. When I replied “100 miler” they said, “You’re crazy!” Well, yeah!!!
I grabbed two sandwiches (still hungry!) for the big hill that starts the orange loop. This loop is 17 miles long, and at one point, 7.5 miles between aid stations. This, on the hottest day of the year so far, probably did a lot of runners in.
I hit the aid station on this loop, load up with food and water, and start on this long 7.5 mile stretch between aid stations. This is where I am glad I know the course. I know how long it will take me to get down to the road section, and keep eating all my food I have brought with me. There was also a breeze blowing through the woods, and although it was hot, the wind was keeping some of the humidity away.
So I finally hit the road section about 2 pm. It’s very hot. It has to be 90+, and we’re hitting about a ½ or ¾ mile of pavement. I take the bandana from around my neck and place it over my head and plop the ball cap over it. I feel like I’m getting ready to run Badwater.
It’s very hot. I walk some, and then run as I am closer to the Gristmill, which is the next aid station. I turn into the driveway, and I see people coming out to see me! It’s Regis Shivers, his wife Diana, Wendi Babcock, who is crewing for her husband, Rich, in the race, my running buddy from Erie, Tom Jennings, who is waiting to pace Jim Fitch later that evening! Wow! How nice! It was totally unexpected! I knew I would see Regis and Diana out there somewhere, but really hadn’t been thinking about it. That was a great boost to my spirits at this time. They bandaged up my elbow better (I fell once, a great face plant, cut by arm up, got it bandaged at an aid station, then fell later and reinjured the same spot). I had a short ¾ mile loop up the side of a mountain and reunited with my friends for the short spot of hell on the highway. I had wet my bandana to put over my head this time. So I ran back toward the woods, energized after seeing my friends. By the time I was about at the woods, though, I started getting chills, which is the start of heat exhaustion (or heat stroke, I don’t remember.) I immediately slowed into a walk, and keep drinking. I knew I would be beside the river shortly, and I could always refill my water bottles there if I needed to.
This short section starts with a steep hill, then levels off, then has another steep hill. I started calling it suck*ss hill as I went up it. I heard a noise behind me, and I turned, expecting to see another runner. But it was a deer. Who didn’t want me to call it’s home that name. So I relented, took a pic of the deer, and thought more kindly about the hill.
In no time I’m down to the river section which is two miles. This has dried out greatly since we ran it two weekends ago. Another reason I’m glad I’m familiar with the course, I know landmarks, I am not just running on and on. It seems like no time when I’m back to the Covered Bridge. This time we cross the river, and this is wonderful! Because I’m wading through the water. It’s nice and cold and refreshing. Since I’m already soaked with sweat, I crouch down and get my entire body in the water waist deep. It feels great. I wade the rest of the way across and ask “can I stay here in the water for awhile?”
The workers say I am the only one who has asked that!! They plop me into a chair, bring me my drop bag where my dry shoes are, and ask me what I want to eat! The aid works are great! I ask for two turkey and cheese sandwiches-I am still eating and drinking just fine. I’ve also discovered V-8 juice is tasting wonderfully to me (which is good, with its high sodium content). Regis and Diana have also popped up here at the Covered Bridge to see me, which is so great to see!
In no time, they send me on the red loop, which I now remember why I have conveniently blocked the memory of it! It kind of stinks. It seems like relentless uphills. I get to a stream crossing, where I can’t cross without getting my feet wet. I really make my first mistake of the day. I’m thinking of taking off my shoes and socks, and another runner advises against it. So I splash across the stream and continue on.
I catch up to two runners, who are locals from Ohio too, and I actually slow down to their walk to chat with them. They are also only running the 52 miles, so I tease them and try to get them to run farther-because, by this time, everyone has told me I need to go farther than 52 and I’ve agreed I will go as far as I can!
This red loop seems never ending, even though I remember some of the landmarks. We finally hit the road to Rockport, which is the 52 mile point, my official “50 miler” spot, and I see my peeps-Diana, Regis and Wendi, just walking up the hill in front of me!
I get the official “Welcome to Rockpoint” bellow and get nice pics taken at my first 50 miler!! I also sit down to change shoes and socks. I’ve developed blisters from the wet socks and shoes and really don’t have anything to treat it with. So I change socks and shoes and decide to just gut it out to the Covered Bridge where there is podiatrist help.
I thank Wendi and Diana and Regis for being there at the 52 miler spot for me, and then talk to Regis for a final second, and tell him “I gotta go, I’m going to cry” and run out of the aid station (where I had to ask if I was going the right way). So I run down the trail, have a short little happy cry of celebration and set off into unknown mileage territory for me. I’m pretty good for a short while, the little celebration euphoria is still with me. But then it seems like I’m doing a bit more walking that running, and I’m feeling pretty fatigued now. I’m still ahead of the cut off times, but it seems like forever before I hit the next aid station. I don’t stay too long, and keep going to the fire tower. I know I have a really steep ravine to go down and then up, and I’m tired. My quads are pretty tired, and now my attitude is “I’m not so cheerful now”.
Let me explain. I’ve been happy since I started exploring the idea of running Mo. I was happy and cheerful on Friday, and so pumped and ready Saturday morning. I really felt good for the whole run. I kept meeting other runners who commented on how good and strong I looked-and that’s really how I felt! So actually, I was still happy to be out there, but just not quite so happy. It looked like the ultimate fantasy goal of running 100 probably wasn’t going to happen which was also okay. I wasn’t set up for a night run, I had never done a night run; I had flashlights, but they weren’t good ones and not tested, so I really would be out there in inexperience. So I decided out on the trail to drop at the Fire Tower, which was 7 miles further than 52, to put me at 61 miles, which I was wonderfully happy with! I walked the rest of the way in, just enjoying my time alone in nature. I saw a fawn, still with spots, just standing and looking at me. It probably had never seen a human before and had no fear.
I get to the Fire Tower and Regis and Diana are there again!!! I officially drop, Diana and Regis congratulate me, Tom is there also, Wendi is there waiting for Rich, so we have another celebration! Then Tom surprises me and says Jim, his runner is there. Jim ended up dropping at RockPoint behind me. We take some pics and chat about next years run-I’m sure Tom will be doing the whole 100 by then! And maybe we can scare up a pacer or develop some strategies by then.
Regis and Diana offer to take me back to the campgrounds, but first we have to get Rich through the aid station and beyond. He’s tired and not wanting to go on. Regis offers to walk down to the Covered Bridge with him (2.5 miles) and Diana and I drive over. As we are walking to the Covered Bridge, I cover my race number so they don’t think I’m still in the race-in fact they recognize me, but I reassure them I am out so they don’t need to get excited. I get some more soup here and we sit and chat with others while we wait for Reg and Rich to emerge from the woods.
We get Rich shoo’d out of the aid station for his second trip up the orange loop, and Reg and Diana deliver me back to the campgrounds for a wonderful shower. I have a really bad looking big toe, having smacked it good on a rock back at mile 18, but I figure there’s nothing that can be done at midnight, so I crash in my tent. I think about a beer or a glass of wine, but decide against it. Which was good, because I got nauseous about a ½ hour later, got outside my tent, threw up, of basically nothing, then felt better and went back to bed.
Sunday morning I was over at race headquarters with the rest of the walking zombies-I swear that’s what ultra runners look like post race. As bad as some of look during the race, we could do our own movie! It was a really nice morning of race reminiscing, cheering in the folks still out on the race course, finishing up!!! There is also a nice award for the “Last of the Mohicans” who came in at 29 hours 45 minutes.
I left for home shortly thereafter with some great memories and a great race experience.
I learned a lot of lessons too:
1. Although I don’t blister a lot, I need to learn how to tape my feet and have the products available to treat blisters.
2. Mental attitude is everything! I ran this race with my longest run of 2006 being 23 miles-here at Mohican. I knew I could do the 50 miles, though, because I knew the course and was confident.
3. More attitude-I was happy to be here-and it showed! I had a positive attitude all day long. It was something everyone kept commenting on, how good I looked. I felt good. I wasn’t going to let myself feel bad. I was still happy after I dropped. I was happy the next morning!
4. Make sure you hydrate and deal with the conditions. There were people out in the hot road section with no head covering.
I’m really really pleased with my performance. Hey, with some actual training and maybe a bit cooler conditions, I’m feeling really positive about doing the whole 100 next year!!!