Sunday, August 18, 2013

Burning River 100: July 27th, 2013 "Close but no cigar"

This is the story of my first attempt at a 100 mile race and also my first ever *gulp* DNF (did not finish).  The Burning River 100 mile endurance run is located east of Cleveland and west of Akron.  It is a point to point race which starts at Squires Castle in Willoughby Hills and finishes in downtown Cuyahoga Falls.  The course weaves through numerous metro parks along the Cuyahoga river and also follows parts of the Buckeye Trail.  Words cannot express how awesome this race course is.  It is so cool how they connected all of the parks and it just had a nice flow about it.  There was some really nice hills and climbs along the way.  The course covers every kind of terrain you can imagine including paved roads, crushed limestone tow paths, paved hiking and biking trails, service roads, single track dirt trails, wide dirt trails, bridal (horse) trails, grassy fields, and my favorite...plenty of creek crossings.


The aid stations and volunteers were all top notch and it made for a really fun day out on the trails.  I had the best crew a guy could ask for.  Jessica was my crew leader and she did such a great job of having everything ready for me and tending to my issues.  Also, without me knowing she organized a huge group of my family and friends to come out and cheer me on from different points in the course and I will go more in depth into that a little later into my report.  My friend Mel, who I met through my brother-in-law Luke in Virginia Beach, is also an avid ultra runner and he decided to fly up here and run Burning River as well.  It was his fourth 100 mile race this year.  He felt good going into the race but unfortunately his legs gave out on him and he had to drop at an early stage in the race.  I am thankful that he was there to assist Jess in crewing for me as he had a lot of good advice to offer since he is an experienced 100 mile racer.  Also, my brother from another mother Lucas Hardbarger came up Saturday evening and he was ready to pace me through the night from mile 65.7 to the finish.


I want to rewind the clock a little bit to January of this year.  I decided to take my ultra running to the next level and try out the 100 mile distance.  I have completed a few 50Ks and also a really tough 50 miler in Colorado and a tough 50 in Mohican all without a crew or drop bags.  When you dive into the 100 mile category there is a lot more logistics and planning involved then just going out and doing the run.  I kind of like the whole aspect of the planning and all the preparation that goes into it and in my opinion the completion of a 100 mile race within the time limit is the ultimate achievement in this sport.  I am not short selling any other ultra distance because by all means anything over 26.2 is very difficult and it is quite an accomplishment to be able to finish something like that.  I was ready to begin my training and found a 26 week training plan online.  I had never used a training plan but thought it would be a good idea for accomplishing my goal.  Next I had to choose a race and it was a toss up between the Mohican 100, Burning River 100, and the Run Woodstock Hallucination 100.  I ended up choosing Burning River because it fell perfectly into the time frame of my 26 week training plan.  

My decision was made and from that point on the next six months of my life revolved around training.  Every weekend was spent on my local single track trails busting out long runs on Saturdays and Sundays.  If we had plans or were going out of town then I would find a place to run or adjust my schedule accordingly to get my runs in.  Three nights a week I was putting in miles around my neighborhood streets.  I trained in every kind of weather imaginable, from freezing cold dark winter nights here in Michigan to sweltering hot days while on vacation in Virginia Beach.  I sprinkled in a couple 50K races and also a 50 mile race which all went well and I finished one of the 50K's in less then six hours which was a personal record so I knew my training was paying off and I was getting stronger.  Thankfully my family and friends, especially Jess, are very supportive and understanding.  I was not great company during the last six months because I was always thinking about my next run.  When it was all said and done I had run 1,260 miles in preparation for this 100 miler.  At certain times of my training I started to feel burned out and also had some heel pain but I was very determined to do whatever it took to complete this 100 miler within the 30 hour time limit and walk away wearing that finisher buckle with pride.  I felt like I could not of trained any harder then what I did and that I was well prepared going into the race.

Mel and I ready to Rock!
I will do my best to take you through the different stages of the event.  Some of the sections are a blur while others are very memorable for various reasons.  Friday night a lot of the runners stayed at hotels near the finish line and had an hour long bus ride on Saturday morning to the 5:00 AM start.  Jess was crewing for me and she had the car so we decided it would be a better idea to stay at a hotel near the start line and get an extra hour of sleep, although I am not sure the anxious, nervous, and excited feeling with eyes wide open while laying in bed the night before a big race can qualify as sleep.  After maybe four hours of “semi-sleep” my alarm was yelling at me to rise up for my big day.  Jess drove Mel and I to the starting line so we could get checked in and ready to go.  There was a ton of people there and it was all becoming extremely real, this was the moment I had envisioned multiple times over during all my training runs.  We got stretched and were about a minute away from starting when all of a sudden somebody was right in my face all excited.  I covered my headlamp so I could see who it was and it was my good friends Fletcher and Rachel!  I was shocked and super excited to see them there and it gave me a great motivational boost right from the start.
Fletchers and my lovely wife rooting us on at 5:00 AM!

I heard someone yelling GO! and we were off!  I lost Mel right away in the sea of 275 headlamps bouncing across the yard at squires castle heading to the trail which would be our first 6 mile section.  This was a nice wide dirt trail which had some decent climbs and was a nice warm up to the day.  There was a couple muddy pits at various spots on the trail and I even lost my shoe at mile 3.  I generally prefer to keep my shoes loose while distance running and when my shoe got stuck in the mud my foot came right out of it, doH!  Luckily a nice guy behind me picked it up and handed it to me so I didn't have to walk back through the mud with my sock on to grab it.  The weather was cool at the start which was nice because it is usually very hot this time of year.  The forecast had rain and a high in the mid 70s and that is actually way better then 90 and sunny.  I finished that 6 mile loop at a 12 minute and 30 second per mile pace which was not to bad.  I seen Jess, Fletch, and Rachel when I got back to the castle, this first aid station was really busy and I didn't need anything so I just kept going.  The next 5 miles was pretty flat and there was a decent road section in which the groupings of runners started to really spread out.  Ahhh, some elbow room, just the way I like it.  In this section I ran for awhile with a couple guys from Illinois who were quoting the movie Dumb and Dumber and this had me laughing all the way until the next aid station.

Joe and I coming into mile 17.6 and I was happy to see my family!!
Then after the mile 12 aid station there was another big road section.  It is hard to pace yourself on these road sections because they are flat and fast.  I actually got my pace down to 12 minute and 15 second miles here which in hindsight was probably to fast early on in a 100 mile race.  I met a guy named Joe in this section and I told him it was my first 100 miler.  He then told me not to feel bad because he has never run more then a half marathon before!  What?!  He said that he had signed up for Burning River on a dare.  He is an avid short distance road runner and figured he didn't have anything to lose.  He looked like he was doing pretty good when I met him at mile 12.5 and he said he wanted to stick with me because it seemed like I knew what I was doing.  I told him.."ummm...no, this is my first 100 miler and I have no clue what I am doing but your welcome to run with me as long as you want."  We told each other our life stories and talked about everything and anything.  The conversation actually helped the miles go by pretty quick.  It had started raining in this section as well but it didn't bother me at all.  We were at mile 17.6 aid station before I knew it.  I told him that Jess was there crewing for me and when we got there I seen Jess, the Fletchers, and now my parents, my sister and her fiance along with his two daughters.  Wow!  What a surprise, I was not expecting them to be there and was really happy to see them.  It definitely got me pumped up.  Mel was also there as he had some issues with his legs early on and could not continue so now he was helping Jess crew for me. I could not socialize very long as the clock was ticking and I had to get moving!  I grabbed some supplies from Jess and I met Joe at the food tables, grabbed some munchies, and we were off.

Coming into mile 26.2 and happy to see more supporters!
We flew through the next sections which were some wide and flat grass and dirt trails.  Usually in these ultra races you see certain runners over and over as you pass them and they pass you etc..  In this section we kept seeing a guy who was wearing an Oil Creek 100 shirt and when he passed us I told Joe that I heard Oil Creek was a really tough 100 miler.  The guy overheard me say that and he said "It's not that bad! I am the race director!"  Wow, what a coincidence, I was surprised to hear that and it was nice to meet him.  I could not wait to tell Lucas about that because he ran and completed the Oil Creek 100K which is one of his proudest accomplishments.  The next crew point was at the 26.2 mile aid station.  I knew I now had my family following my progress and when we got to this crew point I was surprised to see some more of my friends there as well!  What?! I couldn't believe it!  I was kind of in shock that all these people had taken a Saturday to come out and support me.  Jess had arranged for all these people to come and it really meant a lot to see them.  Now I was a full marathon into this thing and feeling great for being a quarter of the way done.  Joe and I both left this aid station with a lot of optimism.  He had just done his first marathon and we were actually right on target of what my time goal was coming into the race. I think we were at a 13 minute and 15 second pace at this point.  I wanted to be at a 15 minute per mile pace at the half way point so it seemed as everything was coming together.  I congratulated Joe on finishing his first marathon and we were off.
Support crew at mile 26.2! 

The next section was still pretty flat with some small rolling hills and some little climbs.  I could tell the terrain was starting to change and the flat parts would soon be turning into some of the 8,000 - 9,000 feet of elevation gain this course has to offer.  We did a pretty good job weaving through this section and reached the 31 mile aid station still maintaining a great pace.  We thanked the volunteers and I told Joe he has just completed his first ultra now that we were at the 50K point.  As we left this aid station we finally got onto some good dirt trails in the woods.  I was feeling very good at this point and the excitement of dirt single track had me flying through the trails.  Joe was behind me and I could tell something was off for him.  When I inquired as to what was wrong he said the outside of his knee was starting to hurt really bad.  Oh crap, that's the IT band and once it starts acting up it can make for a long day, especially on the down hills.  We were walking quite a bit here and I was ready to move on.  He insisted I go on without him for awhile.  I finally told him to not give up and it was great meeting him and running the last 20 or so miles together.  I reached the mile 36 aid station and after refueling I seen Joe coming in as I was leaving but did not see him anymore after that.

Coming into mile 41.7 to a lot of cheering!!!
Mile 41.7 support crew.  I sure am a lucky guy.
I was pumped to knock out the next 5 miles because my crew and supporters would be at the next aid station which was at mile 41.7.  I started out feeling good in this section but after a couple miles things slowed down a bit.  I started feeling a very slight pain just above the arch on the inside of my left foot and I could also feel some pain in my left IT band which could be devastating if that got bad.  None of the pain was bad at that point so I just tackled the uphills and downhills on this section of single track trail which was also part of the Buckeye trail.  As we started to get into the hilly sections I noticed the terrain was starting to get a bit muddy and slippery especially on the really narrow trails.  There had been a steady light rain for most of the day and that along with a bunch of runners really started to take its toll on the trails.  I was walking a lot more in this section but was able to reach the aid station and was still on pace.  I decided to run across the yard to the aid station and as I got into view I could see a whole bunch of people going crazy and cheering me on.  This was getting so surreal!  I could not believe how many of my friends and family had shown up at this one!  I was extremely overwhelmed by the support and I owe it all to Jess for organizing that.  I don't think anyone else running that day had as big of a fan club as me.  I ate some food, thanked everyone for coming out, and as much as I wanted to stay and visit the clock was ticking so I had to move on.  When I left that aid station I was feeling extremely lucky to have so many great people in my life.  I am not just referring to the people that showed up to support me at the event but also a bunch of others who could not make it but sent me messages, well wishes, and support.
My brother Dan providing some much needed laughs

After the emotions of seeing everyone started to fade I realized I have some work to do as I was not even half way yet and I would not see my crew again until mile 65.7.  Things seemed to be moving nicely although I could feel my pains start to get a little worse.  There was some more climbing in the next section and my IT band / knee started feeling bad.  I was reduced to a run a little walk a little pattern which was fine.  I met two guys Jody and Cody on this section.  Really nice guys and one of them was also having a bit of IT band pain as well.  One of the guys had run the course before and he said the next section is super muddy even on dry days so it was probably going to be really bad today.  We reached mile 46.4 aid station in no time.  The miles really fly by when your having good conversation.  I was at this aid station for a little while and ate quite a bit of food as I wanted to make sure I was keeping calories down.  I had been drinking tons of water and taking a salt pill every hour so I was definitely hydrated.  An aid station worker warned me as I was leaving that the next four miles were in really bad shape.  I was not worried but then again I had no idea it was going to be much worse then I could of ever imagined.

This section was mostly dirt trails a little wider then single track with plenty of roots, mosquitoes, steep uphills, steep downhills, and MUD.  It was so hard just making it up the hills because it was like trying to climb up ice.  Then going downhills I was hanging on trees to lower myself down without falling.  There was no way around the mud because it was nothing but heavy brush and more mud bogs next to the trail.  The flat sections were all ankle deep mud so there was absolutely no running going on here.  Usually I can have fun and appreciate scenarios like this when I am racing but not so much in my first 100 miler!  The only good thing about this section was about every half mile it seemed like there was a stream crossing which was nice to wash off the five pounds of mud that had accumulated on both shoes!  The only problem was that it was difficult to get up the other side of the river banks because they were so damn slippery.  Oh well, it was all part of the adventure and I knew that it was part of the course and I need to look at it as an exciting challenge and just power through it.  At times I was just laughing out loud to myself at how crazy it was and how slow I was going.  I was doing about 30 - 35 minute miles  through this section and it was one hell of a workout.  When I finally reached the aid station at mile 50.4 I was happy to learn I had completed half the course in 13 hours.  Only a half hour behind my goal I had set before the race.  I now had 17 hours to finish the course and felt good about that.

When I left that aid station and climbed some more hills I realized the last 4 mile section took more out of me then the entire 46.4 miles before it.  My IT band pain seem to diminish but the pain above my arch was starting to hurt more then before.  I was still able to do a little bit of my run a little walk a little routine through the beginning of the next section but every time I ran the pain grew worse.  I reached the next aid station at mile 55.5 and was pretty much just straight limping at this point.  Every step was causing bad pain above my left arch.  I hobbled out of that aid station and climbed the hill next to the Ohio turnpike and then turned into the woods for a pretty big downhill section.  I limped through this section of trails and the pain was still getting worse.  I finally reached the next aid station at mile 59.4.  There was people there that looked like they were in a lot worse shape then me.  I ate some mac and cheese, thanked the volunteers, flipped on my head lamp and got the heck out of there.  Since I was only limping with no chance of running I didn't really have any time to spare.  The darkness along with more climbing and descending had really slowed my pace.  There was a little bit of trail and uphill climbing at the beginning of this section and then we were spit out onto a deserted road.  There were a couple markers that suggested we head down the road.  Another guy came running back toward a group I was in and he was nervous that we were not on the right path because he did not see any markers ahead.  I knew we had to trust the first directional markers where we got on the road but after limping down the road for a mile or so with bats swooping in and flying right past my head along with not seeing any markers I started to freak out a bit.  Then all of a sudden I see an arrow on the road pointing in the direction I was going.  On the right path, phew!!  I passed this one girl and her pacer on the road section.  She was having an issue with her knee and I knew it must be bad if my limping ass was able to pass her. 

Not one of my finer moments at mile 65.7. Notice a little mud on my shoes.
After following this section of road we were led onto a bike and hike paved path for a mile or so before making our way to a parking lot and then across a grass field where there was some sort of hall with a wedding reception in full blast.  So after about 16 or 17 hours of being on my feet and feeling like pig pen from Charlie Brown it was kind of weird hearing a bunch of drunk people in suits singing along to Sweet Caroline (Bah Bah Bah!).  I did kind of laugh about the difference in situations between them and myself.  After that it seemed like I was climbing a bunch of big steps on a trail and I finally reached my next crew access point at mile 65.7.  I came in to a few remaining die hard supporters cheering me on and I told them thanks for being there because I know that being a spectator at an ultra is less exciting then watching paint dry or grass grow. I also ran into my friend Cheryl who was working at the aid station and that was awesome to see her there.  Lucas Hardbarger had met up with me here as well and was ready to pace me the rest of the way.  I was about an hour ahead of the cutoff at this point so I was still feeling like there was a chance.  I texted Jess before getting to that aid station and said if possible please get me a Chipotle burrito and she came through!!  My mom wrapped my arch for me and I changed socks along with putting on a fresh shirt.  Getting ready to leave this aid station I noticed that girl I had passed on the road come limping in and someone yelled "clear a table!" and that was kind of the scene around that aid station.  It looked like a war zone with injured and tired runners everywhere.  I think quite a few people dropped at this point.  Lucas and I left the aid station and I smashed that burrito as we were walking and it was so nice to get some real food of substance in my stomach.  Rice is an easily digestible carb and is great for distance running fuel.  I was still in a great amount of pain though and we moved through the beginning of this section extremely slow.

We were following a couple groups of people and talking and then all of a sudden we came to a fork in the trail and there was no direction markers.  Crap!  We all made the decision to go one way and then some course officials that were near the next aid station seen our headlamps coming across the field toward the aid station.  The problem is that we still had about three miles to go before we got to that aid station which was really close to us all of a sudden.  One of the guys came over to tell us we missed a turn and was going to lead us back to the trail but another official had said that we must go back the way we came and could not take a short cut back to the trail or we would be disqualified.  As for me, I was kind of upset because anything more then 5 feet extra with the pain in my foot was really mentally defeating.  Now I had gone a half mile out of the way and had to go back. I was not happy but accepted my fate!  All of a sudden I seen the girl who had the bummed knee and she had gone the wrong way too and she was yelling at the guy who said we had to go back the way we came.  She really let the poor guy have it and was saying the turn was not marked and he was messing with her cutoff times.  Then she turned in an upset manner and sprinted back up a hill that we had all come down.  I couldn't believe it.  After all her problems with her knee and running 68 miles she still had the energy to sprint up a hill, wow, some serious adrenaline!  She recently posted her race report on the Burning River facebook group and did not mention that whole scene but she did go on to finish the race.  One of her crew had done some chiropractor voodoo on her knee and I guess it fixed it.  Also, when we were led back the way we came we discovered the missed turn was mark VERY clearly and we were all eating a big steamy plate of crow with all the fixins.

The next three miles of trail had some more ascents and descents which I was transversing very slow.  Lucas was doing a great job pumping me up mentally to stay in the race and assured me that things would turn around very soon.  As much as I wanted to believe that, I could tell this damn foot pain was getting worse and I could hardly walk so it was going to be a very long 30 miles to the finish. Also, I was almost behind the time cutoffs at this point.  I got to the aid station at mile 71 and told my remaining crew and supporters that I was really thinking my day was over.  I was so depressed at that thought.  I did have a pair of more cushioned zero drop road running shoes in the car and as a last ditch effort I changed into them.  I walked around a bit and it felt pretty good!  New life!!  I might not be able to run but I could walk at a good clip so I thought there might be a chance.  Luc and I left the aid station and I was only 10 minutes ahead of the cutoff time.  It was going to be tough going to stay ahead of the cutoffs but it is possible I thought.  Felt good for about a half mile and then after being forced to run down a steep grass hill the arch pain had returned in full force.  I was back to moving at a very slow pace and no matter how hard I tried to move faster it was excruciating and could not do it.  After two miles into this three mile section I phoned Jess to come and pick me up at the mile 74 aid station because I was not going to make the cutoff and even if I did have time I had no clue how I was going to do another marathon being in that kind of pain.  It was not your normal quad or calf pain soreness, it was more of an injury type pain and it felt like I was doing a lot more damage with every step.  With a half mile to go to mile 74 the three guys sweeping the course came up behind me and that really signaled the end for me.

Luc and I at mile 74.
I got to mile 74 about 3:03 AM which was 12 minutes past the cutoff and Jess was there waiting for us.  I had been on my feet playing in the mud for 22 straight hours and was pretty ripe, I felt bad for Lucas and Jessica having to smell me in the car on the way back to Jess's sisters house.  Not finishing this race was and still is a pretty emotional thing for me.  I am very proud of what I achieved but it is the first ultra that I started and did not complete.  The one thing that leaves me with an empty feeling is that I devoted so much of my life over the last 6 months to training and thought I did everything right but still came up short.  On some positive notes, it was an extremely rewarding experience from the start of my training in January all the way up until race day.  I learned a lot about myself in the whole process.  The race itself was a blast and I give a ton of credit to those who did such a great job putting this thing on.  Also, I can't say it enough, the volunteers who gave up their weekend to come out and work the event were so awesome.  To my family and friends who supported me in person or in thoughts, that means more then you will ever know.  Jess was the best crew a guy could ask for.  Lucas was an awesome pacer and would of no doubt got me to the finish if I was not injured.  Some would think that after an experience like that one would not want to try another 100 miler.  I, on the other hand, only 2 days after this race was looking for another 100 miler for next year.  This is something that I really want to achieve in my life.  I think I am going to attempt the Indiana Trail 100 in late April next year to hopefully score a finisher buckle and build some confidence.  Then in 2015 I am heading back to Burning River for some redemption and I will be running along side my good friend Joe Gatton (we pulled each other through our first 50Ks in 2012) who has committed to doing his first 100 miler....Alright Joe!!!!!  Let's do this!!!!!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Mohican 50 Mile: June 15th, 2013

Ultra Runners ready to blaze the trails
This race takes me back to the awesome trails in the Mohican State Forest.  In early April my good friend Lucas told me he was going to do the 50 miler in June at Mohican and asked me if I wanted to do this race with him.  I was unsure if it was a good idea to do a 50 mile race six weeks before my 100 mile race which I have been training for all year.  After consulting some veteran ultra runners I decided it was a good idea to do the race for training and I needed to take it really slow as to not get injured or burn myself out.  In the past I have entered races to be used primarily as training runs and the competitive drive I have makes me go faster then I want to and I end up needing more recovery time then from a normal training run.  Lucas assured me he would be going at a very slow pace since he suffered some setbacks in his training from injuries sustained in a car accident back in early February.  I was glad to hear that he wanted to go at a slow pace because it was going to help me restrain myself from running the race like it was my primary event this year.

I decided to to run Mohican in my Altra Superiors which are the shoes I have worn for a majority of training for the Burning River 100.  The nice thing about the Altra Superiors is they are still considered minimalist shoes because they have a zero drop (no heal raise), but they also provide a little bit of cushion which I found out I need for high mileage training and races.  In the past I always ran with VFFs or Vivobarefoot shoes which had no cushion and my feet would get weird pains late in races and that usually lead to me
The Hardbarger RV..that's how we roll!
The first pair of Altra Superiors
walking a large portion of the courses.  I put over 700 training miles on these shoes and two weeks before the race while looking at the large holes in them I really started to wonder if they were going to be able to hold up for the 50 miler.  I emailed Altra a few pics of the shoes hoping they would offer me free shipping on a new pair but they only told me their shoes are designed for 500 - 700 miles.  I ordered a new pair and never received a confirmation they shipped so I figured I would not get them in time and would have to pray the torn up shoes would make it 50 more miles.  Then a miracle happened on the night before I was to leave for Mohican.  I got home from work and the new shoes were waiting for me on the door step!  What a relief!! 
 

Pre-Race Speech
After work on Friday I left early and got down to Mohican about 6:30.  I found our camp spot where Lucas had already set up his RV.  Race camping in style this year!!  We headed over to the pavilion across the street from the campground to pick up our race packets and get the pre-race pasta dinner.  They were not messing around with the pasta this year as they piled it a mile high on our plates.  We also had a few draft beers from the Great Lakes Brewing Company beer truck!  After listening to the pre-race speech we kind of hung around talking to people we knew.  We ran into our friend Nick and he was talking to someone who had a shirt which said Brew Crew.  The funny thing about that was his friend's name was Brew and he was crewing for him.  The guy with the brew crew shirt mentioned they are from Asheville North Carolina and that he was here with his friend Brew and Brew's wife Jennifer Pharr Davis who is the current world record holder for fastest thru hike on the Appalachian Trail.  About a year ago I read her book about her first thru hike of the Appalachian Trail and now I was meeting her at Mohican of all places, it's such a small world.  Nick,
Jennifer Pharr Davis, world record holder hiking the App.trail in 46 days!
Luc, and myself hung out in Lucas's RV for the rest of the night.  I was able to get all my stuff prepped and ready to go for the morning.  We stayed up kind of late but it was nice catching up with those guys.

The alarm went off at 5:00 am and I got up after only a few hours of sleep and got ready to hit the trails.  Lucas and myself made our way over to the starting line and before we knew it the 6:00 am start was under way!  We took it really easy for the first 10 miles or so as we were weaving down the switchbacks and talking about everything and anything.  This notion of taking it easy was very difficult for me even though I knew I could not attack this course like it was a regular race because I was using it only as a training run.  I noticed that this course is different from the Forget the PR course and it was nice to experience some different trails in Mohican.  Another thing I noticed which was very strange, there was not any mosquitoes, which was awesome!


Luke and I at the pre-race meeting
As the miles went on we continued our slow walk / run pace and got to go through some nice patches of mud and also a few river crossings which were nice because they cleaned off our shoes!  We got to run through the ravines near Lyons falls and also do the hand over fist root climb at little Lyon's falls.  These are a few of the most scenic areas in Mohican and it felt good running through there.  Then we reached the covered bridge aid station where we filled up our water and I found the famous no bakes I was looking for (referring to my last blog from Playin Possum 50K)!!  After leaving covered bridge we had to face one of the hardest sections of the course.  There is a lot of long steep climbs and we did a good job powering through them and then in a flash I stepped on a rock under a plant and rolled my ankle really bad!!  Our slow and steady pace started to get a bit slower after the climbs in Hickory Ridge as we reached the aid station.  Also, we got passed by the first place 50 miler in this section which was really humbling.  He went on to win in a little over 7 hours. 

Me, Luc, and Nick partying a little bit on 50 miler eve

During the 6.5 mile run back to the starting line, to complete the first loop, Lucas starting feeling a bit of his ultra running nausea that seems to haunt him at Mohican every year.  By the time we reached the starting line aid station I think Lucas was in bad shape.  We walked the next 5 miles to the Park Road aid station and we got passed by the first place 100 miler on this section as he was on his third loop, pretty impressive!  We rested at the aid station for a little while in hopes that Lucas could shake his nausea.  He ate some watermelon and drank some water while sitting down.  None of it seemed to help.  As we left the aid station I was treated to a classic Luc puke!!  I felt bad for him as I know it could not be a pleasant feeling.  We walked for the next 4 miles to the fire tower aid station and during this time Luc had lost his lunch again and i think he even yelled F&#K Mohican!  Lucas was sitting down for awhile at the fire tower and hoping to come around.  Jay Smithberger came into this aid station and he was also having a bad day as he was 62 miles into the 100 mile run and proclaimed that he was dropping.  Lucas asked him for a ride back to the campground and he told Luc no as he was trying to encourage him to keep going.  Lucas told me that we should leave and walk to the next aid station which was only 2.5 miles away.  As we started off he was again tossing his cookies!!  He stuck out his fist which was the fist bump sign for go ahead I am dropping.  Jay ended up giving him a ride back to the campground.  I knew he was feeling awful and going on without being able to drink water or eat food was just not a good idea for him. 

So, since we had been walking for the last 15 miles I was chompin at the bit to do some running.  I took off after saying goodbye to Luc and about a half mile later I rolled my freakin ankle again!!  It didn't seem to hurt to bad so I kept running on it.  I really made up some time on the decent down to the covered bridge aid station.  Then I did the climb up to Hickory Ridge and felt like I made some good time there as well.  Feeling pretty good as I cruised into the Hickory Ridge aid station which was the last stop before the 6.5 miles back to the finish line.  My pace slowed down quite a bit after leaving this aid station.  I think I was pretty tired from not sleeping much the night before.  I pushed on knowing the end was near!  All I could think about was Trail's End Pizza and some good craft beer!  This last section certainly dragged on for a long time, but I was pretty happy that I passed a few people in this section on the way to the finish.  As I got closer to the finish line my friend Tyler came running out, it was awesome to see him and it helped to secure the thought that I was almost done and ready to party!  As I came around the corner toward the finish line I seen that Luc, Luc's wife Jen, and Tyler's girlfirend Liz were also there.  It was nice to have a cheering audience as I crossed the finish line and got my Mohican 50 mile medal!  It was a well deserved medal because this Mohican course was really tough.  There was some awesome ascents, river crossings, and great trails.  I was glad that Luc was with me during this race until mile 35.  If he was not running with me then I would of surely ran too hard and injured myself worse then I already did.  I also had a lot left in the tank at the end of the tough 50 miles which was a good sign.  Lucas took this video of me coming into the finish:



video                                                

We sat around the campsite and partied until late.  I could hardly keep my eyes open but the beer and pizza were tasting great and we were also having some great conversations so I fought the sleep as long as I could.  My ankle was really swollen that night and actually it took a couple weeks to heal.  As I sit here writing this blog my ankle is at 95% which is a great sign.  I have completed all of my super hard training weeks and I am tapering for Burning River.  Lucas is coming out to pace me and hopefully the next blog I write will be the story of me training for and completing my first 100 miler with brother Lucas pushing me to the finish line.  I am nervous and excited at the same time, but I just need to take comfort knowing that I have put in well over 1,150 miles of training since late January and I have done all I can do.  So whatever happens....ummm...happens!  Until next time I bid you adieu!