Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Mo-Rain at Mohican

Registering for the Mohican 100 in Loudonville, OH was a no-brainer for me. I grew up in the area and ever since moving to WA, I knew that I wanted to go back. It was in the woods of Mohican where I fell in love with the sport of ultrarunning; and, consequently, promised myself three years ago in 2012 that I would never run an ulramarathon again. I was aged 20 and signed up for my first 50 miler ever. Perhaps it was out of ignorance or failure to recognize inevitable pain but it was that moment that I swore to myself never again. However, just like any other ultrarunner who has walked on this earth, the words "never again" mean "until I forget the pain." Sure enough, I found myself readying myself for yet another 100 mile run.

Not only does Mohican hold a special place for losing my virginity to ultrarunning, but it  is also my hometown and my high school alma mater. It gives me great joy to go home and see family and friends. When I arrived home for the 2015 Mohican 100, I knew was anxious and excited to get to get back on the trails. I had two great paces lined up and I was running in a competitive field of over 200 runners, including at least two previous champions. I knew that I was going to get a personal record on the trails as this was the easiest 100 that I had registered since Mark Twain 100 in Missouri back in 2013. It was time for me to finally run sub 24 hours!

The weather forecast said to expect morning showers but for them to lighten up as the day went on. As soon as my ambitious parents and grandparents and myself got out of the car, we were greeted with more than a slight rain shower....little did I know that this was going to be the case for the duration of the race....

At the start, everyone was kind of fidgety. Unlike the rest of the competition, they didn't have the support of their parents and grandparents at 5 in the morning. Trying to take a picture in the dark under a pavilion was like trying to get a lion to jump through a loop of fire. I knew that this was going to set me apart from the rest early on (the support that is). The Mohican 100 consists of four laps. I knew that I could depend on seeing them every lap. 

As soon as the RD said "GO!" we were all off! "Here goes 24 hours of pain and torture" was the only thought I could manage to conjure in my mind. However, I signed up for this, so I knew that I had no room to complain...I started on pavement and worked my way towards the front as I knew that I would be one of the top contenders in the race. I trusted my training and knew that I could compete well if I ran an intelligent race. I found a guy who I will call Waldo due to his red and white socks. I ran with this guy through the first few aid stations. We were talking about previous races that we had done and what we were planning on running in the future. He was a super nice guy. As I came to find out, he had placed second in the Mohican 50 last year. I knew that running with this guy was probably a good idea. Even though he had never run a 100, he had experience. The rain continued to fall...and it was raining harder...The trails were already turning into mud. Awesome!! I love mud and I love slipping! I thought leaving WA would give me a chance to get away from that. Instead, I was going to get that and the humidity that the Midwest is known for.

I was following Waldo all the way to Little Lions Falls. This is when Nick had his first accident. We were walking over these trails that are barely allowed to be called trails and I stepped over a branch, only to lift my head and NAIL it into a tree branch. Waldo never warned me about the branch and I was too dumb to look up. A couple of select words came out of my mouth. Waldo quickly turned around and apologized for failing to mention the ginormous branch that fit perfectly on my forehead. I think if I hit it any harder I might have suffered a concussion...I don't know what it was about the branch, but it just really made me want to rip it off and throw it in the mud.

The rain continued to fall. I got to the covered bridge and that is when the stomach decided that it needed to use the restroom, so I made a quick 5 minute pit stop in the bathroom and then continued on. I headed over Hickory Ridge and down to the finish. About 4 miles before the finish, I slipped on mud and went free falling. I got mud all over everything. Now there was no part on my body that wasn't covered in mud....I continued on towards the finish. I saw my family and they encouraged me that the leaders were only about 30 minutes ahead. I got into the aid station and saw my pacer Kyle Lemke. He quickly changed my water bottles and offered a couple of words of encouragement. Needless to say, it was nice to hear! I then headed back out in the rain feeling pretty good.

Lap 2 didn't offer much for me. Just some more rain and mud. Towards the end of the lap I could feel a little bit of my legs cramping a little bit. I didn't think that it was nothing to worry about though...if only I had known for later in the race....

I finally got to mile 54 and was allowed to pick up my pacer Jace Wolford. It was at this point that I wasn't very talkative. I warned him, but he seemed to be understanding. We started out and as it turns out the leaders were about an hour ahead of me. I knew that I wanted to try to make up some of that ground. As I was running, we started slipping right away. I sometimes like to play a game called "lose the pacer." Basically it's a game that I made up where I try to lose my pacer. Unfortunately for me, Jace is a 3 hour flat marathoner who won't be bested by someone who just ran 54 miles...Our pace was very good for this lap. Jace was very helpful with the encouragement and reminded me that I needed to keep going. I started to become less and less talkative. By this point my caloric intake no longer consisted of gu but mostly watermelon, potato chips, and bananas. I did manage to eat a couple of peanut butter sandwiches as well. I began whining a little, telling Jace that I just wanted to be done. He encouraged me that once I get to the finish that my positive vibes will come back. A little more suffering and his words of encouragement held some truth!

I finally made it to lap 4! Sure enough, my family and pacer Kyle were there. The best part is that I still had some daylight left! I had made it to lap 4 and had about an hour of daylight. Kyle told me that the leaders were now only about 40 minutes ahead. I made some progress on that lap with Jace. I said my goodbyes and headed back out in the wilderness. Competing no longer mattered to me. I just wanted to be done. Kyle had other ambitions though...I was already in 3rd at this lap, so I simply wanted to maintain my position. The trails were completely trash, I looked like an abandoned rag doll on the highway, and I talked as much as a mute. The pain was real. The cramps started becoming really bad. Like really bad. My legs would start convulsing. I was worried on a couple of occasions that my legs would give out entirely and just allow my whole body to fall down. 

As a good pacer, Kyle encouraged me to keep eating food. I listened to the commander's orders...However, this is when things got bad. Not only was my stomach becoming weird, but it was becoming more and more difficult to swallow any food...It was by mile 87 that I ate a portion of a clif bar...Well, let's just say that the Clif bar fell out of the cliff of my mouth as I barfed that up and the banana I ate before it. The stomach wasn't happy and neither was the rest of my body. I knew that I needed the calories and I needed to improvise if I was going to make it to the finish.

The next aid station I got some more bananas and potato chips. Although I couldn't really swallow the potato chips, I found that swishing a little water in the mouth aids with that process. I did so and had great success! I found my new caloric intake method! I continued to do this for the next couple of aid stations. Potato chips and bananas. Potato chips and bananas. I don't want to see these for at least another year I thought to myself. The cramps continued to be a problem and the mud was just ridiculous. I never wanted a raindrop to hit me again after this experience.

By Hickory Ridge (the last aid station) I saw my old Track Coach at the aid station. He yelled at me to keep going....just what I wanted to hear.Some things really never change, getting yelled out by Don was one of those. I knew that I was only 5 miles away from the finish and needed to just get there. The chaffing was something frightful at this point too. At this aid station I applied some aquafor. Big mistake! I was yelling I was in that much pain. The chafing had formed around the entire groin area and on my back where the shorts are. Not only had the rain made complete havoc of the trails, but it also created an absolute chafing nightmare....I was in complete pain....

Kyle kept encouraging me to keep going. I heeded his advice and managed to finish at 1:08am in the morning. I was beyond blessed to see my dad, mom, sister, three cousins (Makenzie, Ethan, and Brian), my Aunt Danyelle, my two neighbors, and my pacer's dad. There was so much support and love at the finish. In addition, I managed to finish in 20:08, a new personal best and beating the 2014 champion and 2007 champions!

Lessons learned from this race is fight through the pain. I incurred many different forms of pain on this course, but the end result is almost always worth it. I got to obtain my 4th 100 mile buckle and know that it cost me a great deal to get it. Most things in life don't come in a pretty pre-packaged box with no defects. No, I think most things worth pursuing in life look more like a defeated 100 mile finisher. One goes through pain, adversaries, and demons to get them, but perseverance and the determination reep a worthwhile reward.

A great thanks to Orange Mud for their amazing gear. The hydraquiver was perfect for this race and their visor really kept the rain out of my eyes! Another huge thanks to my pacers Kyle and Jace, Lemke family, Sauder family, Kopp grandparents, and of course my greatest supports, my immediate family including my parents and sister (and brother who couldn't make it because he was saving children's lives as a Respiratory Therapist).

Cheers people!