Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Mohican 100 Mile Trail Run

Well, my third 100 miler is in the books.  This is one of the hillier races, but it's actually the flattest of the 3 I've done.  Had a great time, nice trails.  Mentally I wasn't really up for this race, in fact it hadn't even been on my mind until a few days before the date.  It's just a training run for Leadville, so I had no expectations other than avoiding the letters DNF.  Training isn't where it should be (not bad though), and hamstring is still sore from my stupid fence leap last week.  Still, I was using this race to try a few new pieces of clothing (different socks, underwear and calf sleeves), along with drinking water instead of my usual Eload (can't stomach it after awhile).  Plus having my girlfirend with me so she can see what she'll need to assist me with when she comes to Leadville.  Other than that, it's just a gauge to see where I'm at right now with Leadville 2 months away. 

On the Road...
Race is located near Loudonville, Ohio in Mohican State Park.   We were on the road early Friday morning for a long drive.  As usual, I was up late the night before and only got a few hours sleep, so I'd planned on sleeping in the car.  I got about an hour of sleep on the way, but when we arrived at our 6 star luxury hotel (Super 8), Lisa had to log on and do some work so I flopped on the bed and slept for 2 more hours.

After my nap we headed to Walmart for some extra food for my dropbags.  I grabbed a few cans of Starbucks Double Expresso, these are great in the middle of the night.  I got a few other munchies, but I was counting on mainly sticking to the aid station food for this race.  In the past, I always bring way too much of my own food and don't eat it because the aid station food is so good.  That would not be the case this time...

Next we drove 30 minutes to the start/finish for my race packet pickup, pasta dinner and pre-race meeting.  I ran into a bunch of Ontario runners, some I knew and some I was just meeting but we all knew people in common.  We sat down to eat with Adi, Bernie and Angie, they were each doing the 50 miler.

Pre-race meeting was too long (standing room only) and not really informative, I'd already read the course description and maps in the car on the way.  This year they got rid of the horrible hill in the last 2 miles, I'm told it was brutal and the course designer was receiving hate mail after last year's race!

After the meeting I said hi to a few people then headed back to the resort (Super 8).  Along the way we didn't recognize things, so we pulled out the GPS and realized we'd gone 30min in the wrong direction....ugh... As long as I don't do this during the race (again).  We were already getting back to the hotel late, this meant even later now.  By the time I got my shit together and ready for the morning, finally in bed at 11pm.  Good thing I napped in the afternoon!  I set the alarm for 2:45am and dozed off...

Race Day!
Alarm went off at 2:45am, at this point I questioned why the hell I was doing this...  I proceeded with my normal routine: coffee, bagel and banana before soaking my legs in a hot bath while eating Mr. Noodles... I was really hoping to have a 'movement' pre-race so I don't have to find a portapotty during the race, but it was not to be.... I finally remembered to put bandaids on my nipples, I always forget to do this and pay for it later.  I woke Lisa just after 330am and we were out the door just after 4am.

This year they aren't using electronic chip timers, so everyone had to sign in before the start.  This was a bad idea, there was a massive line still at 4:55am, start is supposed to be 5am!  Turns out most of the people signing in are here for the 50 miler, so I manged to get to the 100 mile sign up just before they announced they were abandoning the sign in.  Yeah, maybe back to the chip timers next year would be a good idea so there's no sign in.  Because of the meyhem, race started a few minutes late just after 5am.

100 Miles to go...
The course basically does 4 loops around Mohican State Park.  The first 2 loops are just over 26 miles each, the next 2 loops are just over 23 miles each.

Loop 1 (0 to 26 miles):
The first hour is in darkness, but I knew there would be lots of runners around so I just brought my Petzl Tikka headlamp with a waistclip.  This way I could carry it in my hand, then just clip it to my belt once it got light out.  The start was madness.  There were almost 200 runners for the 100 miler, plus they had the 50 milers start at the same time, I believe there were 400 of them.  That's WAY too many people to be starting together and heading for a single track trail that you can't pass people on.  I started somewhere in the middle, but had I known about this I would have moved closer to the front.  The first hour we were just a big line of people slowly moving along single track.  There were so many people, we'd come to a halt at the start of any hill and wait for people to get moving.  There were even some downhills where we slowed to a walk due to the crowds.  I didn't mind this at first, I knew things would thin out eventually, but it was very frustrating.  This went on for about 2 hours! I got fed up and started to run in the bush beside the trail to pass people.  They REALLY need to think about starting the 50 milers an hour later to avoid this.

At the first aid station we had to shout out our number so someone could write it down (again, electronic chip timers would alleviate this).  I made sure to find a volunteer and give my number, but over the next few minutes I would run by people heading back after they realized nobody had taken their number down.  Not a problem later in the race, but with hundereds of people passing by over a short while, there's no way they can write down everyone's numbers fast enough.

Early on my hamstring was sore.  I'd pulled it jumping over a fence a few days prior, dumb idea.  I was very worried right away, if it hurt 1 hour in how would it feel in another 25 hours?  Stupid fence. I tried to put it out of my mind and not worry about it.  I just made sure to take my time climbing over any obsticles instead of trying to jump anything.

Temperature stayed cool for awhile.  There's some beautiful scenery on this course.  Near the far end of the park, we head along a creek at the bottom of a valley then climb up some rocks and roots near Lyon's Falls.  I enjoyed this part, but this was part of the long loop so we'd only come here on loops 1 and 2.

Near the last of 5 aid stations, I caught up to fellow Canadian Scott Garrett and we ran together for awhile.  I'd met Scott briefly before at some Ontario running events.  Scott turns 50 this year, so to celebrate he's running a 100 mile race every month this year.  This would be #6, and one of the toughest on the list.  At this point my pace was a little faster than his, so I stayed with him for awhile and saved my energy.  It was nice to run with someone and chat for awhile.  Eventually, I told him I was feeling good and I went on ahead.    I felt good during this loop, temperatues stayed low, I managed to stop myself from running too hard.  Loop 1 took just over 5 and 1/2 hours.  Probably would have been quicker if not for the slow crowds near the start.  Back at the start/finish aid station Lisa wasn't there yet (enjoying a sleep back at the hotel!), so I started to eat and get ready for loop 2.  I was about to leave after 10 minutes but then she arrived, so I took my time and chatted for 10 min before heading back out.

Loop 2 (26 to 53 miles):
So after a 20 minute rest (obviously not racing this one), I started loop 2 about 11am.  Temperature was starting to really heat up now.  The good thing about this course is it's almost all shaded, that helped with the heat somewhat.  I was feeling good near the beginning of this loop, but by mid-day the heat was getting to me.  At each aid station, I'd get my 2 bottles filled with ice and water, then take off my hat and get it filled with ice also.  This way I could rub the ice in my hat over my head and neck for the next 30 min or so, I'd also munch on some of the ice trying to keep my core temperature down.

The 10km between aid station 2 (Fire Tower) and aid station 3 (Covered Bridge) was gruelling for me on this loop.  By the time I got near station 3, I was overheating and exhausted.  When I arrived at the aid station, they had a mist they would spray on you as you arrived.  This felt great for about 0.5 seconds, then you're hot again.  Brilliant idea. "This is how cool you could be if you weren't running all day".  The previous aid station had a bucket of ice water and sponges, that was awesome.  I sat down for a few minutes here to collect myself.  I ate a bunch of fruit, then asked them to fill my bottles with ice.  Food was brutal at this race, lots of sliced turkey sandwiches.  WTF?  I heard they had these last year, I thought that was an accident but apparently they're serving this crap on purpose.  I grabbed a bunch of watermelon and oranges, then asked the dude with the mist gun to shoot me in the face and I was on my way.

I was still exhausted, hot and a getting light headed.  Humidex was in the low 30s now. As soon as you leave this station you head up one of the biggest climbs in the race.  As I was heading up the hill, I realized I completely forgot to fill my hat with ice, this was the worst time to forget but I wasn't thinking clearly.  When I got to the top of the hill I felt like complete shit.  I reached for one of my bottles of ice water to cool down and...huh? No fucking ice!  The guy who I handed my bottles to had just put water in them, which wasn't even cold at this point.  This was my low point of the race.  I just kept going, knowing it would cool off later.

I kept my pace slow and just kept moving.  It was about 9km between the last and next aid stations, it always seemed like forever between these 2 for some reason.  When I finally got to the next station (Hickory Ridge), I went right for the ice bucket and cooled off, then sat down for a few minutes.  I was coming back to life, ate lots of fruit again and cold drinks.  This time, I made sure to fill my bottles and hat with ice before heading out.  I started to feel better over the next 8km or so back to the start finish.  Lisa was there waiting for me, so I just plopped down in a chair she'd brought and she got everything for me.  Maryka had arrived and came over to say hi, she was here to pace Scott on loop 3, he wasn't far behind.

This loop took about 7hrs or so.  This was between roughly 11am and 6pm, by far the hottest loop so I knew it would get easier from here.  Plus loops 1 and 2 are longer (each about 43km), the next 2 loops would each be about 37.5km, so I was looking forward to that.

Loop 3 (53 to 76 miles):
I was feeling better when this loop started, somewhere around 6:15pm.  I grabbed my flashlight and headlamp, I'd need them in a few hours.  I was excited to be doing the shorter loops now.  The distance between aid station 2 and 3 was 10km on the last loops, now it would be closer to 4km.  My hamstring had loosened up a long time ago, so it wasn't a problem.  I was moving well now, enjoying myself.

The shorter 4km route had some steep downhills to the bottom of the valley, but then it's just a bunch of wooden bridges along the bottom before climbing a bit up the other side to aid station 3.  I ran some of this loop with a guy I'd met name Karl, this was his first 100 and he was doing great (also his last he would say later).  The 2nd half of this loop was in the dark, but most of the trails are rolling and not to technical, so you can keep moving pretty well.  Karl preferred to slow down in the dark, so I went on ahead and ran for a bit with a guy I met who'd done Leadville.  It's always great to chat with someone who's done it, I get a different perspective and tips from everyone.  This guy was way fast and just taking it easy.  He said after loop 2 he took a shower and changed, he was just taking his time and was going to go harder on loop 4.  He just signed up on Wednesday because a friend had dropped out so he took his place.  It's too easy for some people.

Speaking of too easy, not long after this guy pulled away, I could hear 2 runners coming up behind me, fast.  As they passed one guy asked what loop I was on, I said "Loop 3, why?  What loop are you on?" They guy said I'm just pacing, but he's on loop 4".  This was the leader passing me on his final loop.  I asked him what time he figured on, he said he should finish in about 18hrs.  I said "That's great, I'm going for 28hrs!".  Then they kept up their easy pace and eventually disappeared... Nobody else would lap me by the end of the loop, so he was way ahead.  In the end he finished in just over 19hrs.

I finished this loop feeling good in about 6.5 hrs.  This was a bit quicker than I'd anticipated, so Lisa hadn't arrived yet.  Scott had set up a tent at the beginning of the race near the start finish where the Ontario peeps would hang out, so I headed there and relaxed for a bit.  Jocelyn and Keegan were done their 50miler and were cheering everyone on.  Unfortunatley Drew was here, the heat got the better of him and he had to pull out of the 100.  Ken was here in rough shape, he was sleeping under the tent.  He got there way before me, but likely went too hard in the heat earlier.  He was waiting for Marylou to finish loop 3, then they'd go together on loop 4.  Marylou and I had been leapfrogginging each other the last 2 loops or so.

I relaxed for about 15 minutes and waited for Lisa (obviously not a strategy for racing!). I was already ahead of where I thought I'd be, so I didn't mind waiting.  It was about 12:45am, I didn't want her to drive 1/2 an hour from the hotel to meet me here and then I've already come and gone.  Then I though about it, she never said she was coming after this loop for sure, she said she might.  I was just about to get up when she arrived, all was well.  I chatted with her and ate for another 15min or so.  By now Marylou had come in and woke Ken up, they were on their way as I sat there.  Ken saw me still sitting there and said "What the hell are you doing?", I just told him I wasn't in a hurry. Then Karl passed by, I said I'd catch up to him later.  I left about 5 or 10 minutes later, my total stop was just over 30min.... Ok so that's a little long to be stopping but things were going well and I had no expectations, I just wanted to get the last loop over with.

Loop 4 (76 to 100 miles):
I headed out at 1:10am, felling pretty good.  I had a good rest, lots to eat so I moved along at a decent pace.  I had just downed one of my Starbucks cans to keep me awake.  The start finish aid station had no hot food, not noodles or soup even.  They certainly had turkey fucking sandwiches though.  I changed into a t-shirt and arm sleeves, but 5 minutes later I was way too hot so pulled the sleeves down.  Now I'd have to wear the sleeves scrunched up on my wrists for a few hours until I got to aid station 3 which had my drop bag.  Never should have put them on...

After a little while I passed Ken and Marylou, Ken was a bit wobbly trying to get his legs back.  I started for get woozy just after this, I was fading and needed some caffine.  When I got to the 1st aid station I asked for some coffee but they didn't have any.  Not surprised.  Then one of the aid station volunteers told me he had some Starbucks ice coffee mix (this wasn't offered at the aid station, he happened to have his own).  You're supposed to mix it with water then add ice and cream, but we had no ice or cream so he poured the powder into a bottle of water for me.  This was a little gross, but it did the trick.  I carried it with me along with some watermelon and left.  I asked them how long ago Karl had passed by, he was the runner right before me by about 8 minutes.  I knew Karl slowed it down in the dark (he told me earlier), so I kept plugging along until I caught up to him.

We stayed together for a bit but he's in and out of aid stations much faster than me, so I took off and told him I'd see him at the next station.  When I got there, I sat down and ate a bit.  Sure enough, a few minutes later Karl came by, grabbed some food and kept going, as I sat there. I said I'd see him soon and finished my noodles (this station had some!).

I caught up to Karl hiking up the big hill.  We stayed together for a bit longer, but I told him I was getting antsy and just wanted to get this over with, so we said goodbye for the last time and I sped up.  By the time I reached the last aid station it was light out.  It's always a good feeling when the sun comes up (for the 2nd time!), it rejuvenates you.  Problem was, now there was also dark clouds and thunder.  It started to rain for a little while, but it wasn't too bad, just refreshing.

I picked up the pace for the last few miles, knowing it wasn't much further.  The thought of sitting down and having some food and beer was driving me along.  There's one point near the end when you come out of the woods and see the start finish area off in the distance.  You're still up on a hill (and about to climb another), but you know you're not far from the finish.  In fact I timed it on the last loop, it's 15min from here at the most.  I picked up the pace more and finished it off.  As I ran along the final road, I did my usual routine and turned it into a sprint for the last 150 metres or so and flew across the line to cheers from all of the Ontario people there along with Lisa.  I got my finishers buckle and took a few picks, then sat my ass down and had a beer.

2 minutes and 2 seconds later, Karl came strolling in!  He turned it on as soon as daylight returned.  His wife was waiting at the finish with his newborn son, so before he crossed the finish he picked up his son and ran across with him, he'll have some great pics to show his son later!

Well, That's That...
So I finished in 27hrs 18min. There were 191 starters, 101 finishers, I came in 37th. Fine by me as I had no goal for this one.  I did want to keep it under 28hrs, but that was just a number I pulled out of the air.

Great course.  Similar to Oil Creek, but Oil Creek had more up and downs, less rolling trails.  Oil Creek was definitely tougher, not much more though.  The heat is the difference with this one, but if you wait it out and stay positive it's not too bad, there's lots of shade at least.  Sounds like it was way more humid last year, so we lucked out there.  Aid stations were the worst ever.  I was warned but I really thought they'd fix things....nope.  Voulnteers were great, it's just the food selection that's so poor.  Plus the stations should be more consistant, some have ice buckets, others don't.  Some have coffee or noodles, others don't.  They all consistantly sucked at least.

New calf sleeves were fine, I was worried about them rubbing on my shin but they didn't.  New shorts/underwear combo was great, a little more breezy to keep things dry so there's less chafing.  New socks worked well, almost no blisters.  Glad I tried all this on a long one before Leadville.

My feet weren't nearly as sore as at Oil Creek.  I made an effort to run on the balls of my feet and not slam my heel down so much, maybe that helped.  I was way sleepier at Oil Creek too, I would wander into bushes at night.  This time not so much, I think the afternoon nap on Friday helped.

Having Lisa there to assist was a big help, but it was new to me and I wasn't prepared.  I could have had a cooler there for her to keep stocked, I could have had her meet me at a few points along the course where crew is allowed to give you cold drinks also.  I've never had someone there to crew for me so I didn't really plan for it.  Glad we did it now instead of Leadville for the first time.

What's Next?
Leadville you dumbass!  Haven't you read any of my posts in the last 6 months?  I just took a week off and ran for the first time yesterday.  Knees a little sore but legs are coming back well.  I even ran back to the fence I jumped over and pulled my hammie on 2 weeks ago.  I jumped over it again, just to say "Fuck you, fence".  Thank goodness I did not pull my hamstring again, then the fence would have won.

So now begins 7 weeks hard training , then 1 week off before I head off to Colorado for Leadville 100.  During this time I'll do Creemore Verticle Challenge 50km, possibly Limberlost 56km also if it fits in my schedule.  Other than that, keep running and try to enjoy some summer!

Take Care,



  1. Well done Mo. Great training 100miler!? Leadville is insane (in a good way), good luck.

  2. Congrats,
    I agree OC is a bit harder but this one is tough.
    Bad / no food at aid stations, dont say you were not warned .. LOL