Saturday, June 24, 2017

Chas and I Crewing the Show: Ron's Western States 100 Domination: June 24th, 2017

Pre Race Meeting - these seats all get filled
I want to start diversifying my posts and writing about something other then races I have run.  I could not think of a better topic then my crewing experience at Western States 100 this year.  For those unfamiliar with this race, it's a tough 100 miler with 18,000 feet of elevation gain and 23,000 feet of downhill.  More importantly this race is one of the most iconic 100 milers in the U.S.  It is the oldest 100 mile run and was started by Gordy Ainsleigh in 1970.  He was in a 100 mile horse race and his horse had issues so he ended up doing the distance on foot in less than 24 hours.  Western States is a point to point course which starts in Squaw Valley, California and ends in Auburn, California.  Each year toward the end of June runners who embark on this historic trail will encounter all kinds of weather from snow in the mountains to 100+ degree heat in the canyons.  Western States is the toughest race to get into because thousands of runners apply through a lottery process but only around 370 are selected.  I have always wanted to be a part of this event in some way to check out the hype since we hear so much about the energy and ultra spirit surrounding it.

Snow in June!!  It was hot out too!
An opportunity appeared upon hearing the news that my friend Ron Delozier had been selected to run the event.  Chas Adams, Ron's longtime friend, immediately got a plane ticket to go out west and be the crew chief for this race.  I didn't want to miss this chance to be a part of the race and assist Chas in getting Ron through this thing so I got my flight scheduled.  I arrived on Friday morning the day before the race started and got right down to business as Chas and I had a lot to do.  We went to the pre-race meeting which was cool to be a part of because there were a lot of notable ultra runners and race directors there.  Then Chas and I went to the grocery store to get food for ourselves during the 30 hours we would be driving around in the middle of nowhere.  We were trying to figure out what to buy and ended up just throwing a bunch of random stuff in the cart as we went down the aisles.  The high cost of living in California slapped us right in the face when we checked out.  In the chaos of getting groceries we did manage to get the most important item, Ron's pre-race 6 pack of Budweiser!  After that Chas and I did a hike around the Squaw Valley area and we reached a big snow field.  The snow pack this year in the Sierras was extraordinary compared to the recent past.  It was very odd seeing snow in June but it is the mountains!  Then we managed to get some dinner and relax for a minute while going over some last minute things with Ron, although Chas already had the race day itinerary dialed in.  Ron proceeded to drink his pre-race beers, after eating his pre-race large pizza, and was getting some weird looks by the other runners.  I guess that is expected sine they were unaware of how bad ass this dude really is!

Final Race Meeting (Beers) 

Ready for complete Western States domination

Race morning was busy around the check in and starting
Starting Line
line area.  We walked up the path a little ways to get a spot where would could see everyone start.  I have never seen so many spectators at a 100 miler before!  The runners were off and it was cool to see the elites out in front of the pack go by us and we bid Ron a farewell as he started the initial 4 mile climb up the escarpment.  After the start Chas and I had some time to kill since we wouldn't see Ron again until he reached mile 31 at Robinson Flat.  The place where we were going was not even that far away as a crow fly's but you have to drive around the mountains to get there.  After two hours of driving we found the parking area for Robinson Flat.  We had to ride on a shuttle bus for a few miles down a one lane road to get to the actual aid station.  When we got there it was like a huge party.  There were a ton of volunteers and spectators scattered about.  Chas and I nervously went through our crewing supplies hoping that we brought everything Ron would need.  We went through the game plan a bunch of times and also had to find the perfect spot to have Ron sit down when he came into the aid station.  That spot changed a few times as the sun rotated around us.  One would think that two ultra runners crewing would have all this stuff dialed in but we were a nervous wreck!  I think it may have been the fear that if we screwed something up that it could really mess with Ron's race.  He is a low maintenance runner and does not require much from a crew but we wanted to make sure we kept him going. 

Ron coming in to Robinson Flat looking strong
Assessing the feet 
We were starting to get concerned because Ron was behind his scheduled arrival time at the aid station but then we were informed about knee deep snow and ankle sucking mud on the first 15 miles of the course.  The temperatures were also beginning to rise early.  It would get up to 100+ degrees.  We did not have cell phone reception so we were standing next to the HAM radio operator's tent and could actually get enough of a signal to check Ron's previous aid station check in times.  Ron came into the aid station and he was soaked from falling in the snow and sweat etc..  We got him a towel that we soaked with cold well water to wrap around himself, he changed his shoes and socks, ate a little food, and drank some coke.  He initially wanted to wait until the night portion of the race before consuming caffeine but I think the tough miles in the beginning took a little toll on him.  He was playing it smart by taking his time through the tough sections.  Some runners were dropping out from the heat and exhaustion from pushing to hard through the first third of the race.  We filled Ron's ice bandanna to put around his neck and off he went.  We told him he only spent 6 or 7 minutes there but after he left we realized it was more like 15 minutes.  Crap!  One of our jobs was to make sure he was in and out of the crew points quickly.  Extra time at aid stations can really add up and put a runner behind the cutoff times.  Oh well, he needed a good reset after the crazy sections and we declared it would not happen again!

Off we went to the next crew point called Michigan Bluff, which was mile 55 for Ron.  We fueled up and got some ice in town before heading to the aid station.  The parking situation was pretty rough when we got there and we had to drive pretty far up a steep paved road until we found a spot along side the road where we could park.  It was super hot out so we sat in the car chilling with the AC blasting.  We were wondering how Ron was doing in the 115 degree heat in the canyons and we felt a little guilty for sitting in the AC, actually, no..we did not feel guilty at all.  In fact, we may have laughed about it a few times.  We decided it would be a good idea to get some sleep before heading a mile and a half down this really steep road to the aid station with all our stuff.  I was just dozing off when all of a sudden a super loud noise was all around us.  Chas's cell phone was hooked up to the bluetooth and when his wife called the volume must of been all the way up because it scared the hell out of us!  There was no going to sleep after that so we did some math to try and calculate when Ron might be coming into this aid station.  The we loaded up all our stuff and hiked down the road with it.  There were a lot of spectators and crews lining the street leading up to the aid station.  It reminded me of a parade that everyone got to early in order to get a good spot.  I ran into a few different people here that I knew including Mike Pfefferkorn and Jay Smithberger.

Coming into Mich. Bluff still looking strong!
Ron came down the trail into the aid station and had made up some good time in that 24 mile stretch.  He was a few hours ahead of the cutoff and we felt pretty good about that.  We gathered up his drop bag and walked him down the street to where we set up.  Ron took his time here to make sure he had everything he needed.  By the time Ron was ready to leave this aid station the last shuttle back to the cars was pulling away.  Chas jokingly gave Ron (who was half way done with a 100 mile race) some shit for causing us to miss the shuttle and having to walk a mile and a half uphill back to the car.  It was all in good fun because we did not mind at all.  Once again we were concerned that Ron had spent to much time at the aid station and we vowed to get him in and out of the next crew point in town at Foresthill which would be mile 62.  Ron's family was going to be there to see him and we got all set up so it could be a quick stop.  Upon arrival Ron declared he had a blister that needed medical attention. Chas went with him back to the medical room.  The woman who was working on his foot took her time in order to do a good job and was being very talkative as well.  There was some very nervous texting back and forth between Chas and myself because we could not believe how long this aid station was taking and time was quickly elapsing.  Ron finally got out of there, said hello to his family, and then we got him everything he would need as the next time we would see him was at mile 78.  Chas ran with Ron for a mile or so as he left and I was cleaning some things up when I noticed that Ron forgot his ice bandanna!  It was still hot out even though it was night time and when Chas got back to the car we both started freaking out that we might of put Ron's race in jeopardy by forgetting to send him with that ice bandanna!  We also realized he spent more than a half hour at this stop and we were a nervous wreck about that as well!!

Gordy and the guy he gave his entry too. 
Video of the crazy shuttle ride below:

We made it to the next aid station where we caught a little bit of sleep in the car and then rode in the scariest shuttle ride of my life.  This old rickety shuttle bus was flying for a few miles down this old dirt rode next to a cliff drop off.  It made for quiet ride for those of us on that tin can of death on wheels.  We made it to the Rucky Chucky river crossing which was mile 78 for Ron.  There was a Doctor at this site and he was intently eyeing up every runner coming into the aid station.  He was all business and we saw him almost put an end to an older runner's race when he came in with a sideways lean!  Gordy Ainsleigh was at this aid station doing chiropractic work on runners.  He gave up his race entry so a runner from Vermont on the wait list could do the race.   We happened to be there when the Vermont runner came into the aid station and was giving his gratitude to Gordy.  Ron came in and we actually got him in and out of there in pretty good time.  This was the type of pit stop we were hoping every crew point would be and we felt a lot better about things as Ron was well ahead of the cutoffs.  We drove to the next crew point at mile 94 where we would have a lot of time to get some sleep.  We had to hike a mile to get to the aid station from the parking lot.  I don't think either of us go much shut eye as our adrenaline was pumping in anticipation for Ron getting his Western States 100 finisher belt buckle.  We were watching the online runner tracker waiting for Ron to check in to mile 85 just so we knew he was on track.  His check in never appeared and there were runners that were at the same pace as him who had already checked in there.  We started getting very worried about why he did not check in and a million things were going through our mind.
The famous Ron and Chas Ultra Backpack

I told Chas that best case scenario is the aid station did not register his chip and he had been there and left but it did not add up.  As the cutoffs elapsed the mile 85 aid station we decided to hike to the aid station we were at and check with the HAM radio operators to see if they could find out what Ron's status was.  We were scared that he either got lost or injured and had to drop out of the race, actually we were both delirious from not sleeping and were completely convinced in our minds that his race was done.  As we were hiking to the aid station with our heads hanging low I hit refresh on my phone for the online tracker and BOOM he had checked in to mile 90 a half hour earlier!  That meant he would be at our crew point soon so Chas took off running to the aid station and I sprinted back to the car so I could grab the Star Wars backpack which had things Ron would need.  I have to explain the significance of this backpack.  Chas and Ron purchased it (at the Dollar store I believe) last year when Chas crewed Ron at Leadville 100 and it brought them good fortune so we had to keep tradition alive and use it at Western States.  It is a mandatory piece of gear for all their "A" races and gets a race pin added after finishing.  I sprinted as hard as I could up a hill and all the way to the aid station.  I passed Mike Pfefferkorn who laughed and commented that I was getting some miles in.  As I got close Chas was giving me the slow down and walk sign because Ron was not there yet.  Our morale completely changed and we were psyched that Ron was still in the race and doing really well.  He came in here and we got him in and out of this aid station quickly.  He only had 6 miles to go so we told him no need to camp out here just get to the finish line.

Ron Leaving mile 94 aid station, easy money!
Chas and I arriving at Placerville Highschool
We drove to Placerville high school where runners go around the track to finish the 100 miler.  We walked a mile down the street where Ron would get to the mile 99 aid station.  This was a very cool aid station because we got to see a lot of runners coming in here and the whole neighborhood was out cheering them on.  It is a point where the runners
Ron entering the final stretch around the track
know they are going to finish the race and their excitement is very emotional.  We also got a good laugh witnessing a local kid on a hover board who was zooming by the aid station table and stealing cookies.  Ron came in and we were super pumped for him.  How cool is it that he only had a mile to go with a lot of time left?!  As we got near the track I did a facebook live video of Ron entering the track and running around to the finish line so everyone back home could see him finish.  We were super pumped that Ron got that buckle.  He persevered through crazy weather and extreme course conditions and ran a very smart race.  It turned out the extra time he spent at those aid stations probably saved his race contrary to what Chas and I thought.  The woman that worked on Ron's foot at Foresthill was at the finish line med tent and she reworked the wrappings.  She was very smart and a protege to the guy who wrote the book 'Fixing your Feet".  I was talking to a gentleman standing near us about the book and he said "I wrote that book!"

Ron's latest hardware, a shiny WS buckle

Fix-A-Foot team
Chas and I had a great time in the adventure of crewing for Ron.  We definitely had a lot of laughs throughout the crazy 30 hours that we were on point.  We decided to reward ourselves and do a run in Lake Tahoe on the Monday after the race.  We were both flying out of Reno on Tuesday so it worked out perfectly.  We picked a random trail and ended up having the best views of the lake that we could of ever asked for on our 20 miler.  It was so majestic and seemed very
Ron got it done
surreal.  Then we had an awesome lunch and off to Reno for some gambling and a bunch of celebratory beers.  I am really pleased that I got to be a part of Ron's crew with Chas and experience all the ambiance that Western States has to offer.  It was definitely an experience of a lifetime and I will never forget it.  This race is sort of like the super bowl for 100 mile ultra marathons and we had a front row seat on the 50 yard line.  Here are some pics from our run in Lake Tahoe:
Marlette Lake

The backdrop is not fake!
Great views of the mighty Lake Tahoe

Ron got his buckle and we are running in Tahoe, life is good!

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Forget the PR Race Director 50K: April 8th, 2017

Good Morning Mooooohican!
I ran Forget the PR 50K as my first ever ultra marathon back in 2012.  I have been back every year since as this race is one of my all time favorites.  It is sort of a homecoming for me because all of my closest ultra friends in Ohio volunteer at this race.  The race director Rob let's the volunteers come and run the course a week before the actual race and get the same schwag as the runners. We are also treated to post run beer and pizza.  Not a bad volunteering gig!  This race is in early spring so it's kind of the kick off to the ultra season and nicer weather.
My "Big Ass Hill Face"

The Dam Steps
Steve waiting patiently for my slow self
The weather this time of year comes in many forms.  We"ve had unusually warm weather and also unseasonably freezing weather.  We have seen snow, rain, ice, and sunshine at this event.  This year was a rare treat as the weather Gods smiled kindly upon us.  It was 30 degrees in the morning at the start but it warmed up to 60 degrees during the day!  Upon arrival I said hello to many of the usual suspects.  Rob told us to go and since I felt good I hung with the lead group.  I was running with Ron DeLozier and Steve Pierce.  We had a very fast pace going and I had a bad feeling that I was going out to fast.  We hit the big climbs at the beginning including the North Rim trail and also Big Ass Hill, a fan favorite!  We got through Firetower at the 5 mile mark and Covered Bridge at mile 8 when I realized I was in over my head with the pace we were keeping.  I pulled the old "go ahead guys, I have to pee and will catch up!'  I did have to go, but I mainly just wanted an excuse to pull off the trail and rest for a second.  I let them get further ahead and I started off again at a much slower pace.  Steve Pierce hung back with me.  He just wanted to be out there and enjoy the day.  For the  record Steve is really fast and would of normally kicked my ass!

The mighty Mohican River
The Home Stretch
We had a good time just taking it easy and having fun.  This course is really tough for an Ohio 50K with about 5,600 feet of elevation gain and it was definitely kicking my butt on this day.  I was not adequately trained leading up to the race but I just loved the feeling of being out there in the nice spring weather with good friends.  On the last 5 mile stretch Steve and I were running with our friend Darcy.  She is a really fast runner and even won the Indiana Trail 100 a few years back!  Anyway, her and Steve were doing hill repeats in this last stretch of this tough 50K.  Talk about having a lot of ambition!  We finished the race and I was really wiped out.  I was able to shower up before heading over to Trails End Pizza for some beer, food, and great conversation.  I was able to hang out with a whole slew of awesome people.  Rob handed me my sixth buckle and it felt just as good as the first one.  This was Rob's last year for putting on the race and it will be sad that he is not going to be in charge next year but he left the duty to two great people who will carry on the Torch.  I look forward to many more years of volunteering and running in Mohican at Forget the PR!

FPR 50K Buckle number six!

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Michigan Adventure Race, Winter Edition: Jan. 28th, 2017

Pre-Race Meeting
The Michigan Adventure race is modeled after expedition racing formats such as former races like The Eco Challenge and also current ones such as The Patagonian Expedition.  This is a little out of the ordinary for me but it was a nice change from my normal trail running format.  I give Jess all the credit because she found this event and wanted to try it out and I am glad she did because we had a blast.  I remember watching the eco challenge on discovery channel when I was in college and thought it was such an awesome event.  Recently I read a book by Charlie Engle called Running Man and he discusses doing these adventure races which also refueled my desire to do this type of event.  I never thought I would be able to do one because I do not have enough time, money, or gear to train and do a big scale adventure race.  This smaller scale format was perfect because it gave us a little taste of what it's all about.  About a week before the race we read a little about the required gear we would need.  No GPS was allowed so we had to order a field compass which ended getting delayed in the mail and it arrived the night before we were leaving!  We also discovered that we needed to learn basic compass and map reading skills.  Neither of us had much experience with traditional orienteering.  Regardless, we were excited to go to Grand Rapids for this adventure.

Pretending like we know what to do!
The night before the race we got to stay and hang out with our friends Molly and Steve who moved to Grand Rapids.  The weather was cold and super windy.  We went out for dinner and a few beers and were wondering how cold it was going to be in the morning.  Luckily when morning rolled around the wind had died down but the temps were still in the low 20s.  I guess that is to be expected in west Michigan during January.  We arrived to the remote parking lot and stood there shivering while waiting for a bus to shuttle us into the camp where the race was.  Once we got to the convention center at the camp we did a full gear check to make sure we had everything.  Then we heard the pre-race speech and one hour before race start they handed out the official map with checkpoints etc..  Everyone else immediately started laminating and taping their maps up.  Jess and I were looking at each other like what the heck?!  Should we be doing this too? Then everyone started to plot routes with their topographical maps and compasses.  We were just staring at ours dumbfounded and feeling like major rookies.We had to ask a couple next to us how to use the compass and they were nice enough to give a quick tutorial.

The official map with checkpoints handed out one hour before race start

About 10 minutes before the start we had somewhat of an idea about the route we wanted to take.  There were 27 checkpoints and about 5 of the checkpoints had Amazing Race style challenges that you had to complete as a team.  There were a few divisions (2 person co-ed, 2 person male, 2 person female, and 3 person teams) and 202 teams overall.  We had three hours to find as many checkpoints (flags) and complete as many challenges as we could within the time limit.  If you complete more checkpoints in a longer time you finish ahead of a team that completes fewer checkpoints in a quicker time.  If you get all the checkpoints then you will cover a distance of around 5 miles.  When the gun went off everyone was sprinting down trails and through the woods.  We were following our compass and map.  The first few checkpoints we were able to find without issue while making good time.  It seemed like we were doing well.  Then we set off to get one of the checkpoints awhich was pretty far away and since we did not have great orienteering skills we just went in a straight line through the woods and thorns.  We eventually found the checkpoint and our clothes were ripped up!
Mid race south side of lake

We continued working our way around the property and the lake finding all the checkpoints.  Our first challenge was putting a milk crate on our outer foot and sharing one milk crate for our inner foot, sort of a twist on a three legged race.  We had to go around a track without our feet touching the ground.  This took some time because we had to wait in line to do the challenge.  We completed that skills challenge and moved on to more checkpoints, challenges, and routes straight through more thicket and thorns.  We realized that we had missed a checkpoint / challenge at the beginning of our route and we would have to do it at the end.  This turned out to be a good thing as I will explain later.  We missed another checkpoint two thirds of the way around the property and had to backtrack to find it.  The other challenges entailed scaling around a rock wall, going in a tree house and finding signs with letters posted in the woods while scrambling the letters to come up with the message, snow shoe (run because there was no snow) around a trail loop, and riding a fat tire bike around a lake.  Doing all of these things made the time fly by quickly.

We finished!!!                  
To our surprise we had found all the checkpoints and completed all the challenges except the one we missed at the beginning and still had about a half hour left.  We set out to locate and complete this last challenge.  When we got there we found it to be the hardest challenge we would face.  There were multiple word puzzles on trees around the checkpoint.  We had to get five of them right to get credit for the checkpoint.  They were so hard and we struggled mightly with this challenge.  We even worked with some other teams who were also scrambling to complete this last challenge.  We finally got the required number correct and realized we only had about 8 minutes left to get back to the finish line.  We found a forest road that led back to the start finish area and sprinted as fast as we could.  We crossed the finish line with two minutes to spare!  Then we joined the post race party where we had beer and pizza awaiting us.  It really hit the spot after running around in the cold for three hours.  Later we discovered that we did a lot better then we thought.  In the co-ed division we got 29th place out of 82 teams and 84th overall out of 202 teams.  Not too shabby for a couple of amatuers!  We worked really well together as a team.  For a bunch of photos from this event just go to this website.  I would like to do more of this type of event in the future.  There are a few other Michigan Adventure races.  One is 18 hours and sounds like it would be an awesome challenege.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Resolution Trail Run: Jan. 14th, 2017

This was my third year doing this race.  I really enjoy the atmosphere of this event.  My friends Keith and Paul put this thing on and they do a great job.  The best thing about this race is that it'a in January when nothing is going on and all the holiday business is behind us.  By mid Jan. it's been awhile since most people have raced or even been out on the trails for a run.  The first two years of this event had a lot of snow and crazy wintry conditions.  This year we had some warmer weather and even some rain leading up to the event.  We were worried there was going to be a lot of ice on the trail at Cass Benton park but it was actually not bad at all.  There were a few icy areas but we were able to get around them with ease.  The morning was pretty chilly with temps in the mid 20s.  It was about 30 degrees by the time we were done around noon.  It was cool to run this race without any snow on the trail.

The format of this event is different then most.  The trail loop is sort of a figure eight and is about two and a half miles long.  At the Resolution run you can sign up to do one hour, two hours, three hours, or four hours.  Then you see how many loops you can do in that time frame.  I have always signed up for the 4 hour event and I did 7 loops the first year and 8 loops the second year.  I was pretty sure I would be unable to top 8 loops but I was going to give it my best.  Some of my Toledo area trail running friends made the trek up to Michigan for this event.  I was glad to see Steve, Chris, Brandi, Jessica, and my new friend Bob.  I did not run with anyone during this race because I had not felt good all week and I ended up having a bad day.  My legs felt really heavy and I was just not running well.  I guess that is part of the sport, you never know what your going to get on any particular day.  I ended up going 6 laps plus added some distance by going off course to the bathroom twice!  I ended up with a little over 16 miles which is not too bad considering that I was having a tough day.  After the run I went out to lunch with the Toledo crew.  It was nice catching up with them and learning about everyone's race plans for the year.  My next event will be the Volunteers 50K run for Forget the PR 50K in April.  Can't wait to get back on those Mohican hills and it will be an official kick off to training for Mountain Lakes 100!

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Fall FA Oak Openings 25K: November 19, 2016

This event is a lot of fun and I was glad to be able to run it this year.  It takes place in a park that is about 15 minutes from where I grew up.  I usually get out there to run every time we are in town for family events.  The first year I did this trail event I drove down to Oak Openings from Michigan in an ice storm.  When I pulled into the park my all wheel drive car did a 180 and I almost slid off the road and down into a ravine.  Luckily my car stopped before sliding completely off the road.  This year it was about 32 degrees and it was raining on my way down to Oak Openings.  Luckily the rain had stopped by the time I got there.  It was still chilly and wet.  I was glad to see a few people that I know from the Ohio trail running community including Scott and Amy Love!  They made the drive up from Delaware Ohio to run on these Toledo area trails.  I also saw my Toledo area running friends including Trail Runner Steve Pierce, Chris, Brandi, and Jessica.  We pretty much ran the entire 16 mile loop together and had a great time.  It is a potluck and I felt embarrassed bringing Salt and Vinegar Pringles when everyone else seemed to bring great homemade food.  We had a nice feast at the end of the run.  I was hurting since it was the longest run I had done on trails since Mohican in June.  It did feel great to be out doing some trail running.  I am excited to start getting back out on the trails with some regularity.  I will be running Mountain Lakes 100 in Oregon next September and can't wait to begin training!

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Detroit Free Press Half: October 16th, 2016

Jess signed us up for the free press half marathon this year!  We have done this race a few times in the past.  I usually prefer trail races over road races but the Detroit race is pretty awesome.  It is an international marathon so the course goes over the Ambassador bridge into Canada and comes back to the U.S. through the tunnel, yes, there is a tunnel under the Detroit River and it's kind of a scary place, more on that later.  The typical weather for this event is really cold in the morning and kind of cold by the time it's over.  This year it was a little different.  We did not stand around the starting corral shivering like crazy hoping to get started so we could get warmed up.  Instead, it was very muggy and not that cold.  I was able to start the race with a T-shirt on and was sweating by the time it was over.  

We were a little late getting to the starting area so we just jumped through the fence into one of the starting corrals.  I am not sure which corral we were even in but it did not really matter.  We were finally off and running.  I told Jess I could not really run full bore because I had not really trained for the event.  In fact, I had not done any long runs at all since the Mohican 100 back in June.  I figured I would injure myself if I went out to fast.  Jess had other plans, she was feeling great at the beginning of the race and we were keeping a pretty quick pace up and over the bridge.  The views of the Detroit river and the city skyline with the sun coming up in the background were very uplifting.  I was trying my best to keep up with her but I admit that I was struggling.  We were in Canada and I had to use the bathroom so I told Jess to keep going without me and I would meet her at the finish.  She agreed and took off while I jumped in the porta potty.  I was glad to be able to ease off the pace and relax a little.  I was shocked to see temperatures climb into the 60s during the mid October day, and although the temperature was nice, the humidity was very high.  It felt pretty nasty out really.  Then upon entering the tunnel the humidity was even worse since tens of thousands of other runners were either in the tunnel with me or had already gone through.  There was one runner who was down for the count and emergency vehicles were trying to make their way back to the runner.

I was glad to emerge out of the tunnel and get some air!  Then we were running through the streets of Corktown, an old Irish neighborhood in Detroit, and I seen a runner up ahead who looked a lot like Jess.  Actually this runner was wearing the same exact clothes that Jess had on!  Wait, it was Jess!  She hit a bit of a wall and had slowed down which allowed me to catch her.  I was glad to "run" into her because that meant we did not have to try and find each other after the race. I didn't have my phone with me and it would of been difficult.  Also, we were able to enjoy the last two miles of the course with each other.  We came through the finish line and were glad to be done.  We were able to use the showers at the Renaissance Center gym and then met up with some out of town friends for brunch and a few drinks inside the Ren Cen!  It was a fun half marathon and we are proud to call it our local road race.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Mohican Trail 100: June 18th, 2016

Mohican Trail 100 is one of the oldest one hundred mile races in the country.  The current course is 95% trail and has nearly 26,000 feet of elevation change.  Leading up to the race I knew it was going to be my toughest one hundred mile challenge thus far.  I learned from previous one hundred mile attempts that it's better to be a bit under-trained than over-trained, especially going into a race of this magnitude.  Last year going into Burning River 100 I was extremely burnt out and I did not want to feel that way going into this race so I made a few changes to my training.  I reduced the amount of training weeks to twenty-three and cut 100 miles out of the total plan.  I believe this was a winning recipe because I felt great during the three week time period (the taper) leading up to the event.  I was as ready for the challenge as I would ever be and I had thirty-two hours to complete the course.  Jessica has always been the best crew I could ever ask for and I was glad she was going to be there for me during this race.  Her mom Jane also made the trip with us to help out and I am extremely gracious for her assistance and support.

Ready to start the race

We arrived at the Mohican Adventures campground on Friday evening and set up camp.  Then we went down to the pre-race check-in and meeting.  I ran into several friends who were running, crewing, or pacing during the weekend.  Lucas was attempting the 50 miler and Jauffray showed up for a go at the marathon.  It was great to see both of them there and they were excited to run.  A Mohican 100 veteran, Ron Ross, accepted a 2,000 mile award because last year marked his 20th time crossing the finish line!  After catching up with a bunch of people we went back to camp so we could get some shuteye before the alarm would be going off at 3:45 am.  I laid down in the tent around 8:30 pm.  The campground was still bustling with people and would not quiet down until after midnight.  I could not sleep due to severe anxiety and anticipation about the race.  I tried everything to get to sleep including a meditation practice of counting backwards from one thousand.  I could not believe it when I counted backwards all the way to zero and I was not sleeping!  Dreamland finally came after 1:30 am but it was very short lived.

We are all anxiously awaiting to go!
I woke up at 2:30 am to go to the bathroom and something weird had happened to my foot.  I must of slept on it weird because I could not lift my foot or my big toe up.  I could hardly walk to the bathroom and was freaking out that I would not be able to start the race.  The thought of throwing away five months of training along with hours of planning race logistics was disheartening to say the least.  I sat up in my tent for the remainder of time trying to massage my foot to get feeling back in the nerves and tendons.  I was slowly able to start bending it but my big toe was not cooperating.  By the time my alarm went off I was able to bend it enough to at least start the race.  Jess and Jane were down at the starting line to see me off.  I was able to briefly chat with several friends who were also running the one hundred miler.  This includes Amy Love, Don Baun, Nick Longworth, and Cheryl Splain,  All of these friends mean a lot to me and I was honored to be toeing the line of this historic run with them.  The Mohican course consists of four loops.  The first two loops are 27 miles each and the final two loops are 23 miles each.  I decided to break down this race report by high lighting the notable moments and emotions of each loop.  There were a lot of ups and downs in this race literally and figuratively.

Loop 1 "The Start":

Coming into crew point at the dam
250 runners set out from The Mohican State Park (Campground A) into the first trail loop and everyone was fresh and just happy to be moving.  My foot and ankle started to loosen up a bit from whatever debacle happened to me.  I stayed in the back of the pack because I knew that a fast start could destroy me later.  The first section of the loop is a long gradual climb up the switchbacks of the mountain bike trail to the Gorge Overlook aid station.  The group was bottle necked during this climb so it was very slow going.  This section is only about four miles so after the group spread out a bit it went by pretty quick.  I saw Jess and Jane at the first aid station, switched out water bottles and kept going.  No need to waste any time this early because when your fresh you have to bank time for the later stages of the race.  The next segment was a very runable section of the mountain bike trail.  I tried to keep my pace as slow and steady as I could while making sure not to trip over any roots.  I heard my name called out on the trail and I looked over through the switchbacks where I seen Amy, Cheryl, and the rest of the crew.  I was glad they were looking fresh and having fun.  I reached the Fire Tower aid station and kept going because there was a crew access point about a mile further down the trail where fresh water would be handed off to me by my rock star crew.  After leaving here the leaders of the 50 mile race were passing us and they started an hour after we did!  The next section of the course was very technical but also exciting.

Best crew a guy could ask for!

We traversed some pretty tough horse trails leading into Lyons Falls where we went down a bunch of steps and I was able to splash some water from falls on my face which was very refreshing.  Then we got to climb over a bunch of fallen trees in the "enchanted valley" which is basically a long ravine with very technical but beautiful terrain.  The enchanted valley dead ends at the Little Lyons Falls where we had to climb up a set of tree roots to get to the top of the falls.  I have done this climb dozens of times now and it never gets old.  Once at the top of the falls we went a little further down the trail until we reached the top of the Pleasant Hill Dam where Jess and Jane were waiting for me with a little food and a fresh water bottle with tailwind mix.  Tailwind is my sports drink of choice because it's very simple and contains the perfect mix of electrolytes and glucose to keep me fueled and get some calories.  Then I went down the numerous new steps that were built this year at the dam in order to get to the bottom.  It was here that I ran into John Rutherford whom I recently befriended through Team Possum which is a trail running group started by friends in the Delaware, OH trail running community.  One skill that John has is that he has a super fast power hike.  On the flat path leading up to the Covered Bridge aid station I had to do a slow run to keep up with his walk.  Upon leaving Covered Bridge I saw my good friend Nick coming in and he looked fresh which I was happy to see.

One loop down and three to go!

The next section of trail is the toughest section of the entire loop.  It has a lot of climbing until you reach the aid station at Hickory Ridge.  John and I pretty much destroyed this section as we were on our first loop and feeling fresh.  Once we got to Hickory Ridge I refilled my water bottle and took off.  The last section of the loop is mostly switch backs going slightly downhill on the mountain bike trail and there are a lot of rocks and roots.  This is the longest section of trail between aid stations as it covers nearly seven miles until you get back to the Mohican State Park.  It is nice that it's mostly down hill but it gets very tedious going on switch back after switch back which makes the miles go by very slowly.  Once you get off the mountain bike trail you are in Mohican Adventures Campground and have a little over a mile until the next aid station.  It is kind of a bummer because mentally you think you are finished with the loop but your not close at all.  I finished out the loop and Jess and Jane gave me an ice bandanna which I thought I wanted but the heat was not really bothering me much at that point.  I was very pleased with my pace on this loop.  I think I finished it in about 6.5 hours which was a little faster then I anticipated but like I said you have to take what the trail will give you early in this race.  I got some fresh Tailwind and also ate some food before setting off on my next loop!

Loop 2: "The Wheels Fall Off":

This loop is identical to the 27 mile route from loop one and it started off well.  I was cruising along and even helped a guy that was struggling and out of water.  I dumped about two thirds of my bottle of Tailwind into his water bottle to help him out.  I made it to the next aid station at Gorge Overlook with ease.  Jess and Jane were there hooking me up with everything I needed.  I left there still feeling solid and settled into a nice little pace that seemed to work well.  I reached the Fire Tower and after checking in I kept on rolling.  A little less than a mile later was the crew access point where I took a little break and Jess and Jane helped me cool off as it was starting to get hot out.  After refueling a bit I was off again.  I ran into Jessica Meeker who is part of the Northwest Ohio contingent of trail runners and we shared a few miles in this section.  Then I met a fellow trail runner from the Detroit area named Jesse and he, John, and I traded some good conversation and many miles together on this loop.  The company was much needed because it was really hot at this point and I was starting to feel exhaustion set in from only sleeping an hour the night before.  Going through the enchanted valley and the root climb was not as exciting as it was the first time.  Although standing under the water fall and cooling off was maybe the highlight of the loop.  I reached the the top of the Dam and was glad to see my crew.  I ate some fruit and refueled again.  I was in and out of the Covered Bridge aid station.  After leaving here I ran into my good friend Steve Hannahs who informed me that Nick was struggling pretty bad.  I started to worry about him because I know how much training he put in for this race.

Completely destroyed after loop two
Jesse, John, and I braved all the climbs up to Hickory Ridge and upon reaching the top I was feeling pretty worked over.  After leaving the Ridge I was zapped of all energy and this last seven mile section of loop two about did me in.  I was reduced to a walk for almost the entire segment and even had to lean up against some trees to rest a few times.  All I could think about was going to sleep.  The mental darkness started to take over and I had convinced myself this was not my day.  Not being able to sleep the night before along with the heat had sucked out everything I had.  Even though my overall pace was still pretty decent I was positive that I could not complete the remaining 46 miles of this race if I felt that bad at mile 54.  I decided that I should try and take a short nap when I reached the campground aid station and see what happens.  When I got done with lap two I saw Jess and Jane and told them my plan.  They could tell I was in rough shape and they told me about all the runners who were dropping out due to the heat etc..  They said they would wake me up in ten minutes so I laid in the grass and closed my eyes.  About 4 or 5 minutes went by and I realized there was no way I was going to sleep.  I decided to just head out on loop 3 and see what happens.  Instead of throwing five months of intense training down the tubes I could at least do myself the favor of keeping going until I time out.  So after eating some food I set out on the next loop.

Loop 3 "Second Wind, Snake, Skunk, Vomit, Cooler Temps, Wipeouts and Fun":

As my new running friend from the Detroit metro area, Jesse, kept saying in the first two loops "the real race does not begin until loop 3"!  He was correct about that statement and that is true of every one hundred mile race because the first fifty miles is a lot different then the last fifty.  As I set out onto loop 3 I had only one thing in mind.  Just make it to the next aid station.  Once I got on the trail and talked to a few other runners I actually started pulling out of my funk and was feeling decent!  The temperature was starting to lower a bit which was a big relief.  I saw a large black snake slither across the trail about a mile into this loop and it was kind of cool. I pressed on making it to the next aid station and was welcomed in by my friend Kevin Motsch who was working the evening shift at Gorge Overlook.  After a brief chat with Kevin I was greeted by Jess and Jane who gave me some food and Tailwind along with my flashlight and backup headlamp.

Loop 3, Gorge Overlook aid station: Second wind has arrived.
As I was leaving this aid station I was walking with Ron Ross whom I congratulated for his 20 Mohican finishes.  He is without a doubt the legend of this race and a super nice guy as well.  Then darkness fell on this section of trail.  I heard some runners coming up behind me and I stepped aside to let them pass.  As they went by me I noticed it was my good friend Trail Runner Steve Pierce!  He was pacing his friend Brandi, whom are both part of the Northwest Ohio trail running contingent, and it was nice to see a familiar face at this point in the race.  I did not have a pacer for this loop because I did not actively pursue one prior to the event.  I knew that was risky as I have never done the night portion of a 100 miler without a pacer but I was also confident in myself that I could handle it.  So having Steve out there was definitely a nice mental boost.  We kept passing each other as our run walk patterns were not lining up.  As I was slowly running along in the dark I noticed something shoot out from the undergrowth of the forest out onto the trail.  It was headed right toward me and I leaped in the air with both legs spread out.  While I was airborne the animal sprinted between my legs and I noticed a white stripe ran down it's back.  Upon noticing the animal resembled a skunk I found some reserved energy deep inside and sprinted like a mad fool down the trail in the dark.  I caught up to Steve and Brandi and told them what happened and they got a good laugh out of it.  I am just thankful I did not get sprayed because the rest of the race would of been nasty to say the least.

I reached Fire tower aid station and Jess and Jane were there waiting for me.  I got some extra batteries for my flashlight and also some food.  The third and fourth loops were short loops so the next section of the race cut a few miles out including the pleasant hill dam crew point.  So I would not see them again until I got back to the state park.  I told them to go get a few hours of sleep and I would wake them up when I got done with the loop around 3:00 or 3:30 am.  Since this segment was much shorter the 2.5 miles to covered bridge went by in a hurry.  I was in and out of the aid station as I only needed to make sure my water was topped off.  So I set out to tackle the climbs up to Hickory Ridge for a third time.  During the first big climb I was in a group with a girl whose pacer found her a good walking stick to help her up the hills.  She said it was working nicely and I started to see if I could find one for myself but then decided it took much mental power away from my mission and I gave up.  Also in this group was Jessica Meeker and her pacer was dressed like a bunny.  Literally she was only wearing a bikini, a rabbit tail, and rabbit ears and she called herself a pacer bunny.  This time of night when running on little sleep and it's dark out, reality sometimes becomes blurred.  I thought I was hallucinating but it turns out I was not.  Jessica had told me earlier on loop 2 about her friend who was going to be her pacer bunny for loop 3 and she was not kidding.  Steve and Brandi were also in the group as we were power hiking these long steep hills.  A little bit later the girl with the walking stick was in front of me and she let out a loud burp followed by an "oh yeah here it comes" and then puked.  I kept going around her so I could put that noise behind me!

loop 3 Complete, walking zombie with blood on shirt
Even though I was exhausted it felt good to be moving through the cooler temps and the darkness of the Mohican forest.  Finally after all the climbing I was back up at Hickory Ridge for a third time.  I think I was running low on sodium because all I could think about was drinking some warm broth.  They did not have any straight broth on hand but they had a huge pot of celery soup and one of the awesome volunteers hooked me up with a bowl of that.  He even put some potatoes in it and I was in heaven!  I actually moved through the next seven mile stretch pretty well.  Alternating a slow slog of a run and power hiking.  I am not sure which was faster but it felt good to alternate.  With about a mile and a half to go on this loop I was in front of Steve and Brandi running on the trail when I tripped on a root and launched forward completing a shoulder plant into the roots and hard ground.  I laid there for a second wishing that did not happen but quickly came to the reality that I needed to get up and deal with the situation.  Steve made sure I was ok and once I got up and started moving I felt better.  Winding through the campground I made a quick stop at one of the bathrooms where I cleaned up all the blood and wounds from my epic wipeout.  This put me about 15 minutes behind schedule but that was not a big deal in the overall scheme of things.  I power hiked the rest of the way to the state park where Jess and Jane were waiting for me at 3:15 am.  Jess was really happy that I made it through loop three in the night without a pacer.  I quickly refueled and was excited to get started on the final loop!

Loop 4: "Let's put this thing to rest"

Before heading out on this loop I wanted to make sure I drank some broth as it was still the thing I craved the most.  Once again the great volunteers of this race came through and gave me a huge cup of Ramen broth which I took "to go."  I wanted to make sure I didn't waste any time because if I ended up walking a lot on this last loop then I would be close to the cutoffs.  I realized I only had one battery left for my flashlight and got worried about that so Jane gave me her flashlight as a backup.  I didn't want to deal with digging the headlamp out of my pack etc.. if my batteries all died.  This late in the race my exhaustion made medial tasks seemed so monumental and I needed to avoid them at all cost.  So I had a spare flashlight in one pocket and the big emtpy cup I used for broth in another pocket.  My legs were completely shot at this point.  I had never experienced severe quad issues in an ultra until this race.  I think all the climbing had something to do with that.  Every hill now seemed like a mountain but mentally I was ok with that because I knew I only had to traverse the course this one last time.  I gladly to waved goodbye to each climb and each section of trail.  When I got to Gorge Overlook aid station the first volunteer asked if I had any trash to get rid of.  I was glad he asked because I forgot about the huge cup in my pocket and would of had to carry it to the next aid station if I did not discard it there.

Loop 4: Daylight, pain, and persistence
I seen Jess and Jane and grabbed a little food to go and I was off.  Jess was ready to pace me from wherever I thought I might need her.  I told her to be ready at Fire Tower aid station and it would be great if she could pace me the last 14 or so miles to the finish.  I was doing the best I could in the next section to keep moving.  I was excited for daylight to make an appearance.  Many thoughts were going through my head.  I knew I was on pace to make the cutoffs and if I kept a good power hike I would have no issues completing the race.  I had heard a few of my friends dropped from the race after loop two.  I had not seen John, Nick, or Amy for a long time and I was wondering how they were doing.  I made it to Fire Tower and daylight was finally peaking out.  Jess was ready to go and we didn't waste anytime leaving that aid station.  We bid Jane farewell and told her we would see her at the finish line.  She said she was going to go get a little sleep and pack up our tents along with the rest of the campsite.  I am so grateful for all her help and it was so great having her there for support.  Jess and I cruised to the Covered Bridge aid station where I seen the one and only Robbie Gannon!  He is one of the funniest and coolest guys I know and just seeing him boosted my spirits.  I knew the next section was going to make me or break me.  The good news is that it was the last time I would have to climb up to the Hickory Ridge aid station.  The bad news is that my legs were screaming and I had to climb up to the Hickory Ridge aid station.  I had plenty of time so I just took the climbs a little at a time.  I was pausing to rest occasionally and also trying my very best to run a little on the flats and downhills but it turned out to be more like a fast walk because my feet could not take any more actual running.

Mustered up some energy to run across the finish
We climbed hill after hill and then finally we reached Hickory Ridge!  I was in luck because they had some celery soup left which was a pleasant surprise.  We set out to finish this thing once and for all.  It was definitely a time to celebrate as we only had one last section to go and it was mostly downhill.  A tendon under my ankle on my left foot had been flaring up gradually for quite awhile now.  The pain was pretty severe at this point in time with seven miles left to go.  I wanted to run so badly but putting the pressure of a running stride on that tendon was too much to bear.  It seemed like these last miles were taking a long time and just wanted to be finished.  A few people passed me as they were running and I was so jealous.  Oh well, as long as I crossed the finish line and got that belt buckle it's all that mattered.  It is very surreal knowing there are only a few miles left and I was almost at the moment I was looking forward to for over my five months of training.  We made it to the Mohican Adventures Campground and there was one last very steep downhill which was absolutely brutal!  We continued power hiking up the campground road and was nothing stopping me at that point.  We got to the bike path that runs along the main road and the finish line across the street came into view.  Jane was there cheering Jess and I on and it was getting very real.  I was feeling emotional as we jumped on the little trail which took us under the road and into the grass field which led to the finish line.  As I rounded the last corner I was able to start running because the adrenaline completely cancelled out the pain of being on my feet for 30 hours and 13 minutes.

Excited to get my buckle from the race director Ryan O`Dell
The finish line was crossed and as I was about to pose for a picture the race director asked if I would like to have my new belt buckle to have in the picture and I responded with a very enthusiastic YES!  I thanked him for putting on such a great run and told him the volunteers were top notch.  They did a great job helping us runners all day and night.  It really shows the true spirit and goodness of people that they would sacrifice some or all of their weekend to be there for us.  I ran into Steve Hannahs at the finish line and he informed me that John, Amy, and Nick had all made it through Hickory Ridge before the cutoff.  This was great to hear and we stuck around to see them complete this beast of a race.  The positive spirit and attitude of runners and supporters is so contagious at events like this.  I sat down and had some lemonade, potato salad, beer, and pizza in that order while we were waiting.Then John and Amy came through the finish line which was so awesome to see they toughed it out.  A little bit later I saw Nick coming down the bike path.  He got through his struggles during the second loop and was able to overcome and conquer the race.  The best words I can use to describe finishing Mohican 100 trail run is "true grit" and that applies to everyone involved from runners and pacers to volunteers and crew.  It is such a grind but in the end we are all successful and it really is a team effort.  I am so proud to be part of such a great community of people.  Jess and Jane were on point for 30 hours straight and I am so grateful for everything they did for me.  I am really looking forward to future adventures in this crazy but fulfilling sport of ultrarunning.  Until next time, Cheers!

It's official!  The Mohican buckle will be worn with pride!
Here are some links to videos about this year's Mohican 100 race:

This first one is a video that John Rutherford's friend made for him.  This is the same John from my race report above.  I got a shout out around minute 28:15 in this video and also a little footage of me congratulating John, Amy, and Nick: The MO 100 - Story Of Redemption

This second one I believe is made by some videographers called Trail Hound Collective.  It is nicely put together: 2016 Mohican 100 Trail Run