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

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Detroit River Walk 10K: June 11th, 2016

The Detroit Riverfront Conservancy put on this race as a fundraiser.  Jess and I were very excited to support this race because we often use the River Walk and also the Dequindre Cut Pathway for running.  This race fit nicely into my training schedule because it was the weekend before the Mohican 100 mile race and I did not want to do any long distance running.  The turnout for the race was very good and we were happy to see that.  After the race we met up with a friend at Great Lakes Coffee Shop in midtown for some breakfast and coffee.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Trail Marathon Weekend 50K: April 23rd, 2016

This was my second time running this 50K.  In 2015 I did the "no wimps challenge" which meant I ran the half marathon on Saturday and the 50K on Sunday.  That was really fun but I did not want to make the 50 minute drive two days in a row this year.  Jess wanted to run but had a nagging IT band injury; however, she came with me and volunteered with the zero waste crew.  Trail running is also about being good stewards of the environment and to have a recycling effort at a trail race is great to see.

The weather was really good at the event this year.  Cool in the morning and very pleasant by the afternoon.  I spend a lot of time training on the trail this race is run on and the race goes in the opposite direction from what I usually do.  It is amazing how different the trail seems when you run in the other direction and it's refreshing to have a different perspective of the trail.  I ran a decent race for myself finishing around 6 hours and 40 minutes.  I really enjoy this race because it is one of the only ultras in Southeast Michigan.  So nice to not have to travel out of town for a trail ultra.    

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Forget the PR Race Director 50K: April 9th, 2016

Its Freezing!  Let's get this thing started!
Ron and I getting it done!
As mentioned in previous blogs this event is one of my favorites.  This is the run that Rob Powell, race director of Forget the PR 50K, lets the volunteers come out and run the course a weekend or two before the event.  If completed we get the finisher buckle along with the other race schwag.  Rob used the same course as he did last year and it was just as difficult as I remembered it to be.  Pretty cool to think you can get over 5,600 feet of elevation gain for a 50K in central Ohio but Rob managed to find that and implement it into his course.  This race and this year are very special to me.  It was 5 years ago that I ran my first ultra marathon which was a 50K at this event in the Mohican State Forrest.  I have not missed the event since then and have gone on to run many more ultras at various distances including a few 100 milers.  So, getting my five year Forget the PR finisher buckle was a great feeling.  This race course really makes you earn the finisher award and every year I feel the burn of FPR but it hurts so good!  This year a snow storm was sweeping across Ohio the night before the event.  I am glad I drove down to the Columbus area to stay with some friends the night before.  There was a small turnout for the volunteer run this year due to the severe weather.
Mountain man Don Baun trekking thru the weather

Angela and Bree rocking our mobile aid station!
Cheryl and Amy loving the weather
Upon arriving at Mohican it was snowing and the wind was blowing hard as well.  I think I was at a training run earlier in February at Mohican and the weather was nicer than this.  Oh well, adverse weather makes for a much better story!  Most of us were sitting in our running cars with the heaters on right up until it was time to start the run.  Rob gave us some pre run instructions and the official "Go" to get us moving.  Ron DeLozier was there and him and I stuck together for the entire 50K.  He is a great guy to run with and we had a lot of fun.  Some of that fun included going up Big Ass Hill twice, going up and down the North Rim Trail four times, and climbing up the roots at the end of the enchanted valley.  The Gannon's were also around for the event and Rob Gannon was sick and coughing so bad we thought a demon was exiting his body on Big Ass Hill.  The "young grasshopper" Chase Gannon completed his first 50K!  Pretty awesome to see especially since he is only in high school!  I wish I had found ultra running as a passion that early in life.  My spring breaks in college might of been a little different.  Angela Dripps-Chapple and Bree Gannon were driving around and providing us with a mobile aid station which was very nice of them to do in such crappy weather.  So many other friends were there and that is the best part of this race, it feels like a big reunion every year.

Not sure what I am doing here.
I was really glad they had the showers open for us after the run.  The snow and mud left me very cold, soaked and dirty.  I would have been miserable during the post race pizza and beer at Trails End Pizza if I was not able to get cleaned up.  It was really great to see everyone and I was excited to receive my 5 year award.  The pizza, beer, and camaraderie were awesome as usual.  I love that feeling of heading home after something like this with a big smile on my face.  I am already looking forward to next year.

Post Run Group Photo
*Disclaimer* All pictures are not mine and were used from Facebook posts on the Forget The PR facebook page.  If anyone who took the pictures disapproves of me using them please let me know and I will immediately take them down.  I am not profiting from this blog.

Five Year Buckle Achieved!

Chase leading our pack on his way to an ultra distance finish!

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Resolution Trail Run: Jan. 16th, 2016

trying to keep my footing on the icy trail
This is the race put on by my trail running friends Paul and Keith.  Their main objective is just to get everyone together for a run in the dog days of winter.  Everyone brings snacks to share.  I really look forward to this event because winter trail running can be a lot of fun if the conditions are not to bad.  I chose the four hour event this year.  The objective is to see how many 2.5 mile trail loops you can do in the time period you opt for.  Last year I was able to complete seven loops in four hours for a total of 17.5 miles.  I was going to try my best this year to do eight loops.  The winter weather leading up to the run this year had been relatively mild.  We did not have much snow at all.  Then we had a moderate snow storm a few days before the run and then some freezing rain on the night before.  Conditions were definitely not favorable and it was going to be scary just driving to there due to slippery roads.  I decided to take it slow and leave myself a lot of time.  I am glad I went because a lot of people showed up.

Snow was melting in a few areas
Walking across the parking lot of the trail head I was borderline ice skating and wondered if the trails would be slippery.  As the run got underway I discovered the conditions were not as bad as I thought.  It was really wet though and my feet got soaked on the first lap.  Kind of makes for a miserable day when the temps are in the 30s and you have wet feet but it's also part of the fun!  I kept a fairly consistent pace on each lap.  I was starting to slow down toward the end.  I completed my seventh lap and to my surprise I still had a little time left.  Keith and Paul have stated that if you start a lap before the time is up then it counts.  I initially said that I was done with the race and was going to call it a day but then I quickly changed my mind and decided I would regret it if I didn't get back out there and set my Resolution Run PR!  There were not many people left when I finished my eighth loop.  I stood around and talked to my friends for awhile and then I got in the car and blasted some heat on my cold wet feet.  This race is so much fun and I can't wait until next year!

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Burning River 100: July 25th, 2015 "Second Time is a Charm!"

In 2013 my attempt at Burning River 100 miler came up short.  A severe pain in the arch of my foot caused me to limp for 18+ miles and I ultimately timed out at mile 74.  I was really bummed out because I had put so much time and effort into training and a bunch of family and friends came out to support me.  After I dropped I was not sure if I would try Burning River again but when Joe Gatton read my blog post he decided that he wanted to run Burning River 100 in 2015.  I agreed to run with Joe in 2015 and get this monkey off my back!  I was definitely nervous about going into this race and the possibility of failing a second time.  It would certainly be a huge letdown if that happened.  Joe and I both had excellent months of training leading up to the race and our crew and pacer logistics came together nicely.

About three weeks before the race I was feeling burned out from all of the training miles.  I struggled making it through most of my short taper runs.  The weekend before the race I was up on my roof cleaning off some debris and I somehow strained my lower back,  The whole week it killed me to just get up from my chair at work.  I thought all of these things working against me were natures way of telling me I was doomed and not going to finish the race.  The day before the race Jess and I left work early and got to the hotel around 5:30 pm.  The race was going to start at 4:00 am the next day so by 6:30 pm I had all my race stuff organized and set out and we were already laying down to get some sleep.  Joe and Debra were arriving at the hotel later so we told them we would talk in the morning.  Of course I laid in bed for a good two or three hours before I actually fell asleep.  Then before I knew it a text came into my phone at 2:45 am.  It was Joe "hey Jamie, do you want to run 100 miles today?"  I got good laugh from that text and got out of bed while letting Jess sleep a little longer.  She did not need much time to get ready and she was going to have a long 30 hours crewing so I wanted to make sure she was rested.  I went over to Joe and Debra's room and Joe came out looking all oiled up like he was about to head to a body building competition.  He had applied a decent amount of Vaseline to himself in order to prevent chafing issues which was a great idea since it was going to be the hottest day we had all year.  Joe was super amped up and proclaimed he only had slept for a half hour, yikes!

Winter had extended well into April this year and we had a wet and cool summer right up until race day.  For the first time all summer temperatures were going to climb into the upper 80s and the sun was expected to be blazing along with high humidity.  An ultra runners nightmare!!  Oh well, one of the reasons we participate in this sport is to challenge ourselves to overcome adversity and the weather is just one of the many things we must conquer.  Joe and Debra followed Jess and myself to the race starting area at Squires Castle.  We had a GPS snafu and turned down the wrong road although we quickly realized what we had done and it did not cost us much time.  I spotted some familiar faces at the starting line including my friend Steve Pierce who was running his third 100 miler of the summer because he was trying to complete all four of the midwest 100 mile grand slam events.  I wished him luck and went over last minute crew plans with Jess and Debra.  Joe and I were getting psyched up and I kept having to remind myself to not start out too quickly like I did in 2013.  The key is when the race first starts to hang in the back of the big group so there is little pressure to go faster then what you plan on.

The gun went off and we settled into a nice pace toward the back of the 300 runners.  Cars were driving by us honking and cheering.  We stuck to the plan early on and did not go out fast.  We kept a steady pace with a few walk breaks leading up to the first aid station.  We flew through that aid station and kept the same pace to the next aid station.  Jess was there with our mobile aid station, her car, and that is where I introduced salt and vinegar Pringles as a race food to Joe.  He was pretty stoked about that because they really do hit the spot especially when it is hot outside.  We also heard that Joe's step-dad Larry had cooked 2 lbs of bacon for us and forgot it at his condo.  Not to worry though, he had already gone to the store and bought 3 more lbs and was at Jessica's sister Natalie's house cooking it up!  Then we got off the roads and onto the dirt trails which were a welcome site after running the first 10 miles on hard pavement.  On our way to the next aid station we were crossing a road and we were waiting for a car to pass.  I said it looked like Joe and Debra's car and oddly enough it was Debra driving by us!  We flew through the next aid station and then we were starting to get into some really scenic trails.  In fact, we were running along a cliff edge and it was a long way down to a river.  I told Joe to check out the view and when he looked over he tripped a root and almost launched over the edge.  I decided not to point out anymore awesome views to him!

We got to the next aid station at a park where Debra had some egg Mcmuffins for Joe.  He had been craving them the whole morning and took no time in smashing his breakfast.  I was still only drinking my endurance fuel Tailwind at this point.  Trying to hold off on solid foods as long as possible.  My digestive system does not like to function properly when all the blood is in my legs running these ultramarathons so liquid calories are very beneficial.  Tailwind gives me everything I need from electrolytes to calories and all in a dis solvable powder.  It was at this aid station about mile 24 where my back was hurting.  Jess put some deep blue essential oil on it along with some ice and it really helped me out.  It was also starting to get hot out and Jess and Debra began filling our water bottles with ice and water.  The miles were going by and we were having great conversations and Joe was loudly singing "The Gambler" from Kenny Rogers.  The inspiration behind the Gambler is that Joe and Debra were listening to books on tape during their 1,600 mile drive from Colorado to the starting line at Squires Castle.  The books were about how to play Texas Hold'em because they knew in the week after the race that we would be having a few poker games on our family camping trip in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  The books must of really helped them because they each won when we ended up playing!  Anyway, they were also listening to the Gambler to get psyched up so it was stuck in Joe's head.

We ran into the land shark who is this guy that dresses in a full shark costume for every race he does.  It must of been boiling in that thing!  We also met a guy named Kevin who ran with us for a long time.  Joe was telling him some great stories which kept all three of us laughing out loud.  When the conversation would go silent Kevin would ask Joe to tell him another story!  It is important to keep a good sense of humor during miles 30 - 50 because you start getting tired but are a long way from the finish line.  We spent a few miles on a gravel path with no shade and the sun was blasting us in the hottest part of the day.  It was so hot during that stretch that we walked a lot of it.  If we got a moment of shade then we would resume a light run.  We were overheating but our rock star crew, Jess and Debra, were really great about putting ice in our bandannas and would tie them around our necks.  This would allow cold water to slowly trickle down and also keep the neck area cool.  This really was the key to surviving the heat.  I would not have made it through this if Jess was not there to lead the way with these tricks on staying cool.  We got to one aid station where the volunteers had buckets of cold water and sponges.  As I was filling my bandanna with ice I looked over and there was three girls practically giving Joe a sponge bath with that ice cold water.  I have never seen a bigger smile on his face than in that moment.  That kind of relief from the intense heat is pure gold.  We were laughing as we left that aid station, I think Joe called it heaven, because they really went all out for us runners.  All of the aid stations and volunteers at Burning river were top notch.  It really is a great course and a well structured race.

Half way point and morale is high!
We were at mile 48 and a getting pretty close to the halfway point in the race.  We both felt really good at that moment and we passed a lot of people on our way to the next aid station.  As we were going through a little town the cop directing traffic mentioned that we better hurry in order to beat a train so we sprinted as fast we could and barely made it through before the barricades came down.  We were pretty proud of ourselves for not getting held up by the train but it turned out to be a tiny little train of about 5 cars so it would not of mattered.  Joe was pretty psyched up because some of his family and friends had gathered at he next aid station to cheer him on.  Everyone was there when we arrived and as Joe was caught up in the excitement he missed the check in booth which was poorly located after the crew and supporter area.  After visiting with family and friends along with getting refreshed by the crew we were off once again!  About a mile later Joe realized he did not give his number to the check in person.  He was very concerned about that and as we were in deep conversation about what to do we missed a marked turn in the trail.  Two girls behind us yelled up to us that we had missed the turn.  I will chalk that up to both of us getting paid from our good Karma bank accounts.  We may have realized it at some point but the thought of running a few extra miles during a hundred miler is very defeating!

We got to the next aid station and Joe told them they might of missed his number at the previous aid station.  They told him not to worry about it and he is accounted for.  That was a big relief to Joe and I was happy to hear that it was all good.  Throughout the day he started to get a blister on his toe.  The next aid station we arrived at was the Ledges shelter where family and friends were waiting for us.  It was a good spot to change socks, get our bearings, eat some of Larry's bacon, and get ready for the darkness to set in.  This was at mile 65 or so and after we took care of our business we were off once again!  The next section is where the wheels started to fall off for Joe.  His blister was getting much worse and the light of day slipped away which caused fatigue to set in.  We took it easy in this section and were looking forward to seeing our crew and also our friend and pacer, none other than Frozen Ed Furtaw who is well known in the ultra marathon community.  Joe met Ed in Colorado and they became friends.  Ed was in Michigan taking care of a family member and was gracious enough to offer to drive down and pace us at night.  We hobbled into mile 71 and Ed immediately was surveying the nasty blister Joe had developed on his foot and toe.  He determined there was nothing they could do but lance the blister and tape it up because the major damage had already been done.

The emergency blister surgery on Joe's toe!

After Joe was fixed up and taped we set out on the trail with Ed.  Joe was struggling pretty bad at this point as he was limping and being very quiet which was a big sign to me that he was in major pain.  Joe was telling us that he was happy with what he has accomplished and was planning on dropping out at the next aid station.  I felt bad trying to convince him to keep going but I was hopeful he could pull out of the funk and finish.  Ed tried everything he could to get the pain off Joe's mind but with the lack of sleep and extreme discomfort from the blister it was probably better that he did not continue on after mile 75.  That is a huge accomplishment and I know it is something that Joe is proud of.  I wished Joe well as I headed out into the trails with Ed still by my side.  Miles 75 - 90 went by pretty quickly because Ed was keeping me entertained with his mental library of knowledge on ultra running and also hearing about all of his fantastic adventures and accomplishments.  It was really getting me psyched up in general.  We were power hiking all of the hills and sprinkling in a bit of slow running every now and then.  I called Jess at mile 87 to let her know we would be at the next crew point in a half hour or so.  I had developed some pain on top of my left foot where it meets the leg and it kept growing worse through the later miles.

I was happy when we reached mile 90 because it was pretty much a flat course from there until the finish and also the daylight was starting to come out.  I wished Ed a huge thanks for driving all the way down from Michigan and pacing me through some tough miles of the race.  His experience really shone through as he got me past my lowest points with ease.  The pain on my left foot was actually in my lower shin and had grown severe.  I hobbled down the towpath to the mile 95 aid station where my friend Mitch who was also doing the 100 had showed up.  He assessed my situation and was thinking it was a stress fracture which kind of made sense.  His wife Amy had some KT tape and she was kind enough to tape me up for the last 5 miles to the finish.  Jess was at this aid station and due to the situation with my foot she sprang into action and decided to pace me in the last 5 miles.  It was nice to have her by my side talking to me and keeping my mind off the pain.  In all actuality I should not have continued on but I was not going to be denied this buckle on my second attempt at Burning River.  I had enough time left to limp it the rest of the way in.  We were on the tow path about a mile and a half away from the finish and a huge limb on the street above us fell into a power line and it was on fire.  A crazy site to see at that delirious moment.  A kid on a bike said he was calling the fire department and I was glad I did not have to deal with doing that.  The last half mile goes through a residential section of Cuyahoga Falls and there were a lot of people out cheering as I ran by.  This was awesome motivation to finish this thing once and for all.

It felt great having Jess lead me right up to the finish line.  She did such an awesome job crewing for me all day and night.  I am so appreciative of her efforts.  She knew exactly what I needed at all times and she kept me going even though she was running on limited sleep.  I don't think I could of made it through this race without her.  As I crossed the finish line I was excited to finish what I started in 2013 and now two years later the buckle was mine.  As I crossed the finish line Rob Powell was there cheering me on.  It was unexpected but great to see him there as he's had a huge influence on me since I started ultra running in 2012 and his race Forget the PR 50K was the first ultra I finished and it was with Joe!  I understood Joe's decision to drop from Burning River and I am extremely proud of him for what he accomplished.  He crushed the first 70 miles on that course which is a huge deal and I know that he will be able to finish his next 100 miler with just a few minor adjustments to avoid one of those epic blisters. Joe is a great running companion and friend.  Our conversations literally made the made miles fly by and I am grateful to him for that.  We laughed a lot even though we were participating in a 100 mile race with high humidity and temps in the high 80s.  It is rare for two people to be able to start a 100 mile race together and stay together for that long.  We worked well as a team by staying positive through the difficult miles.

The week after the race we hung out for a few days in Detroit with Joe and Debra and also went camping in the UP with most of Jessica's immediate and extended family.  It was a really great time and perfect way to cap off the post race week.  Well, 2015 was a great race season and I am excited for some good stuff coming up in 2016.  Joe was initially not going to attempt any more 100 milers but I think he has regained his senses and is already planning an epic 100 miler for us in Oregon for 2017!  The J&J express will be steam rolling through the Mountain Lakes 100 in September of 2017!  We are going to get Joe that much deserved 100 mile belt buckle!  Stay tuned for some of my 2016 races which will include the Mohican 100 in June,  It will be my toughest 100 mile challenge to date.
Disclaimer: I have a bunch more pictures to add to this blog post.  They are on a flash drive at Jessica's office but we will post them up as soon as possible.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

June 20th, 2015: Mohican 50 Miler

Pre-Race Meeting
Since it was 5 weeks prior to Burning River 100 I figured the Mohican 50 miler would be a perfect training run.  Lucas was initially going to run in this race with me but he had some issues with knee pain leading up to the event and decided not to run.  He volunteered instead and is such a great friend that he ended up sticking around all day to cheer me on to the finish line.  This turned out to be an extremely memorable race due to the crazy weather.  Usually on summer solstice in Mohican you never know what to expect.  It might be hot and muggy or it could be cool and mild.  It might be wet and rainy or it could be dry and sunny.  I guess you could say this year was more on the "wet and rainy" end of the spectrum.  In fact, I have rarely witnessed this much rain falling in one day in my enitre life!  Just a side note, almost all the pictures in this blog post were taken by Lucas, I want to make sure he gets the proper photo credits!

Friday afternoon I got to Mohican and set up camp with Lucas.  Then we went over to the pre-race dinner and meeting where I ran into a lot of friends.  It was nice to catch up with everyone.  Lucas and I ran into our friend Ron whom we met volunteering at Forget the PR 50K a few months prior.  He is our age and a cool guy so we ended up hanging out with him at our campsite for a few hours after the pre race meeting.  He was using the Mohican 50 as a training run for Leadville, which is a super tough 100 miler in Colorado.  As we were sitting around the campfire I noticed he was putting away quite a few beers,  I can't drink at all the night before a race and I could not understand how he could drink like that with a 50 miler which started in about 7 hours!  He said it is his pre race ritual to drink 6 or 7 beers and smash a large pizza because it helps him relax and get a good night sleep.  I was surprised and impressed by his answer.  It has worked for him in other races, even 100 milers!  Hey, whatever works..right?!  The race started at 6:00 am and Ron offered to give me a ride down to the start line in the morning.  He was going to drive home after the race and decided he would get up super early to pack his things up before driving over to the race start which was almost a mile away.

I woke up pretty early because the forecast said we were going to see some rain during the day and I packed up everything except for my tent.  I figured I would keep my sleeping bag and clothes etc..dry for camping out on Saturday night after the race.  Ron said he would pick me up at 5:40 am but when that time rolled around he was nowhere to be seen.  His campsite was not to far from ours but I was not sure exactly where it was.  I started to get concerned about Ron and what his status was.  Wondering if he had too many beers and overslept?  Maybe he forgot about picking me up and was already at the start line?  By the time 5:45 rolled around I decided I could not wait any longer and started walking / jogging down the trail toward the starting area.  Nothing like a little warm-up before a tough 50 mile trail race!  I seen a few other groups of people walking alongside the nearby road so I figured I would not be late.  I got there with a few minutes to spare and Ron was nowhere to be seen.  Everyone was lining up to start the race and I thought for sure he had slept past his alarm but with 30 seconds to go he showed up!  He had hit snooze a few too many times and it took him longer than he thought to pack up camp.  He said sorry and figured that I had already left to go down to the start line when he did not see me.  Then Ron told me that he actually got a late start at the Mohican 100 in 2014, his first ever 100, and ended up finishing in a pretty decent time.  Ok, so we have established two things..Ron is a really laid back cool guy and he is also a very strong runner.

Nearing the end of loop 1
We started the race toward the back of the pack and we had to go at a fast pace to get ahead of the big group before the first major climb.  That first big climb up the switchbacks takes forever if you get stuck in the back of the pack.  About 10 minutes after the race started the rain began to fall.  It was a gentle rain for about a half hour and then it started pouring.  We were soaked but having fun and keeping a good pace while the trails were still in decent shape.  We were attacking the long steep hills and were both feeling strong.  Our good conversation made the miles go by very quickly.  The rain kept falling for the next few hours and it would continue to come down hard for the rest of the day and even into the night.  Ron and I were almost complete with the first 27 mile loop and I stopped to use a bathroom in the campground.  He said he would meet me at the start finish aid station.  When I arrived at the aid station I was looking around for Ron and he was nowhere to be seen.  I asked a few friendly faces if they have seen Ron but no one had.  I ate a little food and stood in the shelter out of the rain for a few minutes and he did not show up.  I figured Ron left out on his second loop and I was ok with that.  I decided to head out on my second and final loop.

The second loop is shorter than the first but it is not any easier!  In fact, since the rain had not stopped all day the trail was becoming very sloppy.  Everyone and everything was completely soaked and muddy.  It was kind of comical just thinking about how much rain had fallen.  I was going at a nice relaxed pace since this was really just a training run.  Taking on the tough climbs and descents were adventurous in the rain.  I ran into Amy Love who was doing the 100 miler and I could tell she was having a rough time due to the weather and conditions.  I chatted with her for a little bit and tried to lift her spirits.  After a mile or two I wished Amy luck and took off to finish my final loop.  About 7 or 8 miles into this loop I heard a voice from behind me yelling out "there you are!!"  I turned around and it was Ron!!  He missed me at the start finish aid station because he had to run out to the parking lot and charge his phone so he could give his wife an update on his status.  I was glad he caught up to me because we were pulling each other along and having some good conversations during the first loop.  We got a good laugh about how sloppy the trail conditions were.  A few spots were ankle deep mud and I was a little concerned about this race possibly causing some permanent damage to the trails in Mohican.  Ron wiped out a few times because the conditions were so crappy and I think his knee was really bothering him but he is a tough guy and would not admit it.

Almost Done!!
We both got tired of the conditions and just wanted to be finished with this race.  We did not hang out long at the next few aid stations.  After leaving the last aid station there were two guys walking down the trail carrying a crap load of camping gear.  They kept dropping stuff and had to stop every 20 yards or so to rest.  It was pouring down rain and was not letting up anytime soon.  We could not believe these blokes were actually hiking in to go camping in these conditions but then again..there we were running 50 miles in the same conditions so we didn't have much room to talk!!  The last 4 miles of the loop are a gradual downhill on the mountain bike trail so we were flying through this section fairly quickly.  We were almost out of the woods and only had about a mile to go when I thought to myself that I was so glad I made it through the race without falling.  Literally about 5 seconds later as we were flying down a gradual downhill I caught a root and it sent me flying.  When I landed I could not move for a second but then I slowly got up.  I had mud caked in my head, water bottles, and most of my right side.  I had a nice cut on my leg which was also filled with mud from the little mud pit I landed in.  Ron helped me wash the mud out from my cut and as soon as it was clean then blood started coming out quickly.  We only had a mile to go so I said screw it let's march on.  It was an epic finish with Ron banged up from his falls and me with mud in my head and blood running down my leg!!

Only a flesh wound!
The post race evaluation

We rounded the bend before the finish line and there was brother Lucas cheering us on.  It felt so good to be done with that race.  I could not imagine having to keep going through the night like most of the 100 milers were going to have to do.  The rain had briefly let up when we finished but it did not take long to start pouring again.  I was extremely surprised and happy to see that I finished in 12 hours and 45 minutes.  This was a 50 mile personal record for me and I am extra pleased in happened during these conditions and on the tough trails of Mohican.  It helped to have a strong runner like Ron leading the charge.  There was a high pressure water spout at the finish pavilion and I did the best I could to wash all the mud off my equipment and myself.  I hung out with Lucas and Ron for a little bit.  We had a beer or two which tasted excellent!  I decided there was no way I was going to camp in a tent on this night.  The rain was expected to keep falling and there was a damn lake inside my tent.  I ordered a large pizza at Trails End Pizza and Lucas gave me a ride up to the campsite where I put the wet tent away and took a nice hot shower.  Then I picked up my pizza as I was leaving town.  I was so hungry that I ate the whole large pizza as I was driving to my parents house a few hours from Mohican.  This was definitely a race I will never forget.  Next up is Burning River 100.  I am seeking redemption from my DNF there two years ago.