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.