Friday, July 19, 2013

Mohican 100 Race Report

Fundraising details are here.

Running 100 miles is like driving across Indiana (no offense Indiana). At the end you know you did it because you're on the other side, but you don't remember all of it. You can't remember all of it. It's just too big to hold in your mind, but you remember certain markers and milestones that, when strung back together, help you retell the story.

I guess my story of running the 2013 edition of the Mohican 100 starts at Ms. Julie's Kitchen in Akron, OH. I arrived in Akron the Thursday before the race and found this healthy/hippy restaurant on Yelp for a late afternoon lunch. I had a delicious bowl of their kale soup and when I checked out I grabbed one of their snack bars. I couldn't help but notice that the one I chose was called the Grand Slam Energy Bar. How fitting as I was about to undertake the second of four 100-mile ultras this summer in my attempt to complete the Midwest Grand Slam of Ultrarunning.

On Friday afternoon my friend Ryan and his nephew James arrived from Toronto and we drove down with my sister Laura from Akron to Middle-of-nowhere Ohio, which happens to be half way between Cleveland and Columbus. The pre-race pasta dinner was held in a large covered park pavilion at the start/finish area and was full of good pasta, free seconds, and a bunch of characters. The pre-race meeting rambled on much longer than I expected, but my belly was full and I was ready for bed.
My sister Laura enjoying dinner.
One of the highlights of the pre-race meal was the opportunity to meet a few of the other folks attempting the Grand Slam. We tried to get a group shot of all the slammers who made it through the first race and this is what we came up with.

2013 Grand Slammers
As soon as the group shot was complete we got back to our motel, packed for the morning, and got a good night's sleep. I was up at 3:15am, to the start by 4:30, and we started in the dark at 5 o'clock. The first 2-3 miles were on pavement as the sun started to rise which give us some room for the runners to thin out before we hit the trails. There was still a big conga line for the first few trail miles, but it could have been worse.

5am start
The course is basically two 27-mile loops followed by two shorter 23 miles loops that cover most of the same trails. My favorite part of the longer loop came right before the photo below. It was like running through a scene of Jurassic Park with multiple waterfalls, overgrown foliage, dozens of water crossings, and a fantastic ~50-foot hand-over-hand climb on roots and rocks. I enjoyed the climb out of the gorge, but I'm glad we didn't have to do it at night!

Right after that beautiful section of trail we came out at the top of the dam for a quick aid station and headed back down to the river. I don't know who built those stairs, but I think there were about 100 of them and no two were the same height or length!

Beautiful views, terrible stairs
After two loops and about 53 miles I was happy to see my cousin Nate who had agreed to pace me for a 10-mile stretch. Right after this aid station is one of the hilliest sections of the course. Unfortunately, the hills and the humidity trapped under the tree canopy combined with some nutritional mistakes were starting to get the best of me. For the next four miles I was dizzy, nauseated, frustrated, and barely walking twenty-minute miles. I was a wreck and felt bad that Nate had to bear with me through it.

first pacer, cousin Nate
I came into the next aid station at the Gorge Overlook really deflated and disoriented. I knew I wasn't going to quit, but I wasn't sure how I was going to keep going forward. I've never sat in a chair in an ultra until this moment, so it must have been bad. My mind was racing and my body was the puzzle. I had to figure out the missing pieces, put it back together, and get moving again.

I tried my usual favorite ultra foods which included some salty snacks, some Heed, and some watermelon. As you can see on my face here it wasn't enough to get me over the hump. I was really struggling.

I sat a few more minutes, sponging off with ice water from the bucket, trying to find my missing piece. I felt like I might need some real food, but it was the last thing I wanted to put in my mouth. The thought of food was making me sick, but I decided to try a piece of freshly-delivered veggie pizza since nothing else was working. I chewed it slowly and thoroughly in case I was going to see it again soon.

Two minutes later the slice of pizza was gone, my stomach felt good, my mind was clearing, and my face was smiling. Ultrarunning has taught me patience and the ability to solve problems. This dark episode is a perfect example of listening to my body, piecing together the clues, and figuring out my way forward.

Nate and I got running again and he got me to the next aid station where I met my good friend Ryan at the Fire Tower. We still had some daylight as we embarked on a new section of trail. I remember a tight single track section with lots of overgrown plants that was a lot of fun to run. Those overgrown trails make me feel like I'm running faster than reality, but we didn't see too much of it as the sun was setting and we were breaking out the headlamps. I passed by the Covered Bridge aid station for the third time that day and knocked out 12 more miles to finish our third loop in the dark.

Too much skin?
After the third loop I met my sisters's friend Mark who was kind enough to pace me, a stranger, 23 miles through the night. Mark was tapering in preparation for his first Western States 100 attempt (which he completed, congratulations!) so an easy night run was what he was after and that's what he got.
Mark the Night Angel
I was hoping to complete all four of my hundred milers this summer under 24-hours, but I felt this one slipping away. I knew I would finish, but the hills were wearing me out and I started to have pretty sharp ankle pain around mile 81. A few miles later I could hardly bend my left ankle but I sure wasn't going to quit. We trudged along and Mark was incredibly patient with me. The 24-hour mark passed with a resigned sigh and the black night started to lighten a bit.

Ankle pain starts at mile 81

With about four miles to go Mark and I were hit with a bone-chilling downpour! My shower at home doesn't produce this much water pressure. The rain was coming down so fast that the trails were turning into instant streams and I realized I needed to increase my pace just to keep my body temperature up and safe. So with a whoop and a holler we kicked it into another gear that I thought I had lost overnight. It's amazing that the human body can often achieve whatever the mind thinks it can achieve. I jammed the last few miles into the finish, Mark peeled off with his son with a half mile to go, and my entire crew and pacing team met me at the finish line at 26:05:14. Slower than I wished, but content to finish two 100-mile trail ultramarathons in 14 days.
My sister Laura is the best crew chief ever.
And of course none of this would be possible without my sister Laura as my crew chief. All my pacers tell me she's more bossy assertive than anybody else out there which is exactly what I need. She knows what I need, doesn't miss any details, and likes to watch my suffering up close.

It's already been five weeks since Mohican and I've been resting my ankle injury (ruled out stress fracture and ganglion cyst and settled on tenosynovitis for a diagnosis) to good effect. I was planning on heavy training all summer, but I've only been running once a week and my ankle is doing much better.

My next event, the Burning River 100, is in one week and I'm excited to race again in Ohio. In the meantime, please take another minute and read about my fundraising efforts for orphan adoption grants with Show Hope.

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At 6:32 AM, Blogger KeithRunsUltras said...

Nice write up Adam. Glad to see you are resting the ankle. I've had no injuries so have had no reason to rest, but that is exactly what I have been, doing taking it easy for 5 weeks. See you in another week.

At 6:03 PM, Blogger Mike Hudson Photography said...

Great report- looking forward to your next one. Good luck this weekend!

At 10:11 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Nicely done Adam. Appreciate your stick-to-it-ness.

At 10:12 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Nicely done Adam. Appreciate your stick-to-it-ness


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