Thursday, June 25, 2009

2009 Mohican

Short version: DNF @ 75 miles (0 for 2 for this event)

Very long version:

Although the forecast changed daily the week of the Mohican 100, it appeared it would not be so hot as to keep me from my second attempt at finishing the race, so I packed my bags with much anticipation. However, there were a couple events during this week that gave me bad vibes -- which I really hate coming into a big race:

1st bad vibe: was a last second message from the RD stating that ZipLoc bags would have to be used as your drop bags!!!!! I look forward to packing my small "cooler" drop bags with what I think I need to finish the race -- I have no crew & I rely on them very heavily. I had noted earlier that since last year the RD had cut the number of aid stations where you could have drop bags, so I was prepared for that -- not for this last second bag change. I also wanted to bring a couple more pairs of shoes this year since I had problems with the wet feet & blisters last year.

However, after the outcry from runners after his initial announcement, the RD had a change of heart -- now saying it was actually a "request" and not a "requirement"!! So I packed my usual bags as lightly as possible knowing one of the reasons the ZipLoc bags were requested was that they were not as heavy for the volunteers to move around. I did NOT pack that extra pair of shoes in the drop bag at the Covered Bridge (CB) aid station as I had originally planned -- this may have indirectly caused my DNF, but I'll never know for sure & I'll just have to live with it -- Grrrrrr . . . . .

2nd bad vibe: a severe thunderstorm rumbled thru Louisville Thursday, knocking out my electric. One of the pitfalls of living in a heavily forested area is that all the trees love to fall on the powerlines with ANY kind of storm. I had power knocked out just before a couple other races in the last 9 months & they were both a (bad) sign of things to come race wise. So with the power out, my pre-race routine was totally disrupted again (my meal & sleep plans especially). I really dislike to leave on a trip not knowing when power would be restored to the house either.

I arrived in Loudonville, OH, Friday afternoon. It was only 80 degrees at the time, but the dew point had to be in the 70's as it was difficult to breathe! I thought if the race had conditions like this, I might as well turn around! Fortunately, a rain storm (hail & all) came thru and cleared the air somewhat later in the evening. Although the rain would make for a muddy course, I was better prepared for that than heat & high humidity. At packet pickup, I ran into a few familiar faces: Brad C., Ellen E., Dave C., Al E., Rosie E., Kyle F. & Kenneth S. are ones that I can remember. Always great to catch up with how everyone's doing!

Race day:

5 a.m. race morning was damp & misty with temps in the 70's. As pre-race instructions were being given out, I began to prep my Garmin 405. For some reason, maybe the humidity and/or low elevation, but the GPS watch could not get a fix on enough satellites to work! The watch finally was able to pick up satellites after leaving the Mohican River Valley. The battery started to go dead though after about 5 1/2 hours, right on schedule.

The humidity was up, but once we reached the top of the 1st big hill from the start, there was a breeze which lasted all day. That was a savior as much as I sweat -- my shorts remained soaked the entire day anyway. I had a hydration problem last year & I came prepared with an extra water bottle this time & it worked out just right.

Time at the RP aid station at 10 miles was about 2:06, a little slower than last year, but I was happy as I felt OK. I saw Roy Heger in front of me -- maybe I'm going out too fast? Roy would end up finishing in 24 hrs & change. As I continued behind him, everything was fine & dandy till halfway to the next aid station. My legs started to feel like they were full of lactic acid. The back of my right leg was hurting too. What in the world is going on I thought? If I felt this way now, there would be no way I could even finish 20 miles, let alone 100. I started to walk continuously as I tried to figure out what I did & hopefully get my legs back. Maybe I was having a reaction to the insect patches I put on -- 1st time I have ever used them (they didn't work). I did think I strained a muscle in my right leg from trying to jump over the 1st stream to keep my feet from getting wet (because I didn't have that extra change of shoes waiting!!) I did regain some of my legs back by the Fire Tower aid station, but my right leg continued to hurt. I could just tolerate the pain, so I decided to continue with the race but at a much reduced pace.

After a quick stop for a drink refill only at the CB aid station at 18.6 miles, I headed out on the 4 mile Purple Loop. A change from last year was this segment was done before the Orange Loop -- meaning the road section on this loop, mostly a big hill, would be done in the morning shadows instead of the afternoon sun -- that would be an improvement. With the heavy rainstorm the evening before however, these trails that were marked with lime dust were no longer marked!!! Also, the runners I was with had not run the course before (I had, but apparently didn't pay enough attention to the numerous trail junctions and turn offs). We found some lime "after" the 1st trail junction in question, but the second unmarked junction that came to a T really threw us. 2 of us went one way & 2 the other and we were to shout back if we saw a marker or some other convincing evidence. Everyone returned to the junction with no success & now there were 8, then 10, then 12 runners all stacked up wondering what to do!! There seemed to be a few more foot prints to the left so most decided to go that way -- some went to the right. I went left because the Purple Loop went counterclockwise & if you continued to make nothing but left (CC) turns, you would eventually hit the trail you came in on at the least . . . . or go in a circle if you didn't watch it! Well, anyway, there were several more unmarked trail junctions encountered as our group wandered thru the forest. Eventually we ran into familiar territory -- yeah -- got my cold "shower" at Lyons Falls afterall. Somewhere in that maze, we ran into Lucas Hardbarger -- one of the runners who helped me last year -- he said he had done the Purple Loop twice!

Back at the CB aid station, I drank 20 oz and carried 40 oz for the next 5 mile leg -- I would do this for the next 3 aid stations as it was in the heat of the day & I needed every bit of it! As I was starting the Orange trail, I ran into 2 lost runners who apparently went "right" instead of "left" at the dam on the Purple loop & had been completely off course for the last 2 miles and ended up on the wrong side of the river!

From the CB aid station I continued my shuffle at a 16 to 20 minute pace. That's pretty much what I had on my mind for the next 40 miles -- I only had to average 18-20 minute miles to finish within the 30 hour time limit.

I tried to enjoy the run as much as possible, taking in what I could -- noting the wildlife & scenery. I always love to see deer, as long as they didn't jump out & scare me! Running wise, it was pretty much uneventful from here on till the end -- most of the remaining trails I knew from last year -- the only things different were that it was muddy on a few trails & the horse/deer flies were much worse than last year. Since I ran without a shirt and moving so slow, I was an easy target -- other runners who passed me said they didn't notice ANY flies!!!! The bike trails were nice, the horse trails -- not so nice. The aid stations came up periodically -- I motored on . . . 40 . . . 50 . . . 60 miles, very slow but steady. It became dark at the Fire Tower aid station & I picked up 2 lights. At the HR aid station at 68.8 miles, I was still almost an hour ahead of the cutoff pace (18 minute miles). I had over 10 hours to do the last 50k -- I really felt I was going to finish!! This 6.7 mile segment of the Orange Trail coming up next to the GM aid station is where my back gave way last year -- @ 73 miles, 2 miles short of the aid station. I don't know what it is about this segment (I think it's mostly downhill thru here), but my legs started to give out & my right leg pain was beginning to be intolerable near the 73 mile mark!! I went to the continuous walk mode again. By the time I got to the Grist Mill aid station at 75 miles, my legs had not improved & my right one was hurting as much as when I walked as when I ran. So I sat down at the aid station -- I knew it was a mistake, but at that point I was beginning not to care. I only had 25 miles to go, the last 10 of those on gravel/paved (but hilly) roads. The longer I sat, the more I felt I could not mentally tough it out the remaining hours nor risk more chances that my body/legs could completely shut down. And I knew from experience, on the trail alone in the middle of the night was not the place to be in that condition -- so the decision was to DNF.

I didn't realize it till I after I decided to DNF, but I felt the back of my right leg & there was a knot there about half the size of my fist (just above the knee on the back of my leg)! Some ice got most of the swelling down, but it's still red & a little painful after 3 days. I've strained leg muscles before, but never ran 60+ miles afterward!

I'm very disappointed with my race of course, but mostly puzzled at how tired my legs felt after only 12 or 13 miles -- I had not gone out too fast as I've done training runs farther & faster than that. So my running plans for this summer are on hold, if not canceled at this point.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

2009 Run Under the Stars

Well, my venture into the unknown at Run Under the Stars turned out to be enjoyable. This was a totally new experience running on a flat horse track for 10 hours at night. I had opted to run this instead of the SweetH2O 50k and I believe I made the right choice. I wanted to get a good long run in and that's what I got.

Steve Durbin -- RD & really nice fellow:

When I arrived at the start, I ran into several people I knew -- Steve, John, Mike, Cassie & Ellen -- all of which I would see all night in this multi-lap event and would encourage me every step of the way (THANKS!!!!). Seeing people at night was in itself different from any ultra I've run before -- I would not be running all by myself, even though most every runner was in the process of passing/lapping me! I probably chatted more during this race than any other -- many times with runners I didn't know. One person I talked to, Gary Cantrell (Laz, of Barkley fame) walked most of the night & always had something to say. He even SMOKED about a half pack of cigarettes!!!! Carol Westerman, at age 71, who I've seen at numerous events, looked so strong & I had to commend her (she did 37 miles!). I also got in a few words to the many others who lapped me so many times it made my head spin!

The one & only aid station:

As for my race: With the flat, fast track, I took off at what I thought was a comfortable pace. After lap 1, I was soaked with sweat & I would continue to sweat a great deal all night. Looking back, I did go out too fast as I ended up walking some as early as 15 miles, with much more walking as the night wore on. Although 10-11 minute miles are not fast, apparently I was not in the shape I thought I was in. With the half mile loops, it was easy to stop at my drop bag to drink up -- which I did even though I didn't get thirsty. I was concerned that I was not drinking enough as I didn't have to pee. Finally, at about mile 21, I had a small urge to do so and I kept with this continual drinking pattern till morning. After 88 laps, I had about 3 minutes to get in another half mile lap -- nope! I'm happy with 44 miles, even though I thought if I had paced myself differently at the start & it had been about 10 (preferably 40) degrees cooler (as forecast), I had a chance to push 50 miles.

As for my "issues" this race, I had a couple and they were totally of my own doing:

My first issue was my lack of proper running gear! I had hoped to use my trail shoes as I thought I would need traction on the loose track. After arriving at Carson Downs though, I quickly realized after I walked on the track that road shoes were needed! The base material was what I call "manufactured sand" -- small limestone fragments that tend to deteriorate/weather after time -- along with dirt. The size of the fragments was much, much smaller than I expected. The dirt & limestone was a bit loose at first & had been mechanically raked. There were some divots made by horses, but not too many. When everything got packed down by all the runners after a few miles, the track was like a hard dirt trail. It was a bit uneven surface with the rake lines & divots showing thru, but nothing you could trip on. I did bring my only useable road shoes (about 7 years old) that I had used in road races up to 10 miles, but had never run in them more than that at one time. They were rather loose fitting so I knew blisters would be a problem & they were after about 30 miles. I used some extra lube, an extra pair of socks & tightened the laces the best I could without cutting off circulation. The shoes were so worn though that my feet were still loose within the shoes, but I was able to finish with the extra measures I took.

My 2nd issue was all in my head! The forecasters led me to believe that it would go down to the low 60's with winds from the north after midnight -- why do I keep listening to them? I (foolishly) had expectations that it would cool down as forecast & I waited & waited & it never happened. It felt like it stayed in the 70's all night with dew points in the 60's (humid for me). With a non-existent wind after the 1st few hours, I sweat up a storm all night. I brought 2 gallons of water & gatorade & I went thru every bit of it -- I never expected to use it all. I peed all of 3 ounces back out. It was tough mentally to block out the cool weather thoughts/hopes during the run, but this should have never been an issue if I had any sense.


WINNER: Congrats Ellen!

With this experience with the "minor heat" in this race, it really makes me question my desire to return to Mohican this year. Had it not been for a cooling thunderstorm late afternoon last year, my run at Mohican would have ended 20 miles earlier. I'm going to continue to prepare for the 100 miler anyway and hope I get lucky with the weather. I sure hate to make a decision on whether to run or not based on unreliable forecasts though, but a decision will have to be made!