Have to say that I was pretty nervous going into this race. The last time I attempted to run the Mohican 100 back in 2011 it ended up being a train wreck for me and my first, but not last, DNF in a race. I learned a few things that day none of which were particularly helpful. I learned that it was freaking hot and humid in Ohio, that it was super hilly in Ohio, and that this race was kind of hard. You would would think these things might have dissuaded me from picking this as my spring goal race but I can be a sucker for punishment and besides I needed a Western States qualifier and a big fat plate of redemption. Okay its true they also give out a pretty snazzy belt buckle.
Kim and I headed down to Loudonville, Ohio on Friday with 5 other runners tagging along. Somehow I had managed to convince (read trick) 5 marathon runners I have been coaching into running their first trail marathon. Kim was running the marathon as well and would crew me after that.
Things start bad and get worse
I figured things should go okay as long as it doesn't get too hot. My weather watch starts in earnest 10 days before the race. Each day I check as the race approaches and each day I find myself cursing under my breath. Forecasts bounce between hot, 32 C to stinking hot, 35 C to stupid hot, 40 C. A little know fact, once you have been forced to run with your balls in your hand at a given race you tend to become really sensitive about the weather.
With the anticipation of stinking to stupid hot I decided to change my race plan from running my normal paces to going extra slow early on as heat exhaustion is not my friend.
The Thursday night before the race I go to bed earlier so I can get lots of rest and then proceed to not sleep at all. Somewhere around 3 AM I think about sticking my head in our oven, you know just to practice for the weekend, but worry Kim might wake up.
pre race dinner
On Friday we drive to Ohio. We are late leaving as I had to work and get to our hotel in Mansfield later than expected. After having dinner I head to bed hoping to get a solid 4 hours in but instead its mostly a repeat of Thursday.
We leave the hotel a good hour before the race to have lots of time to drive the 30 minutes to the race start. Its humid and foggy and unbeknown to us the drive is almost all on back roads. We can't see a thing and are forced to drive very slowly. We end up making it to the race 5 minutes before the start only to discover bib pick up is back up the road a mile.
Ever have that dream where everything goes horribly wrong and you can't seem to get to where your going. Welcome to my world. We head back and pick up my bid as fast as possible. Strangely enough there is another guy there picking up his as well so I only feel like half a moron. We race back to the start line, again.
The RD is still at the start with a camera guy. I say hi, ask which way to go, click on my headlamp and head off down the road. Its dark and very quiet, I have never started a race by myself before and its totally freaking me out. No running along with the pack this time. I end up starting 15 minutes late.
I didn't see this in person
Heres the thing about racing, you kind of want to get to the start line before the start. Lets just call that like a rule or something. Otherwise you end up having to talk about it in public while feeling kind of stupid.
I am into the woods and climbing by myself but worse yet mentally I am messed up. I know I have to focus, run my pace and just get going but I keep thinking how I will end up missing the cutoff by 10 minutes at the end of the race. The temptation to go fast is hard to resist but I fight it the best that I can. It doesn't help that I am coffee deficient on top of everything else. I think I now know how Darth Vader felt after being sucker punched by the Millennium Falcon. I am spinning out of control.
Light at the end of the switch back
I have been angry running for about 30 minutes alone in the dark up and down hills, damn its hilly in Ohio. As I come to the top of a switchback I turn and see the headlamp of another runner on the switchback behind me. I slow a little and let the light gradually catch up. I am kind of expecting to see the same guy that was at the kit pick up but its a totally different guy. We start chatting and since we are both running along at around the same pace we stick together. He lives just down the road in Columbus and he missed the start because he though the race started later. We will end up running the next 20 miles together.
A few minutes of running along with another runner and I find I am no longer running angry. There is lots of time to make up the mileage and we actually start to catch the back of the pack before the first aid station just as the sun comes up.
Things go really well for the next few hours. It is starting to get hot but not really hot. I am feeling great and moving well but still remembering to stay very conservative. Finishing is the only goal I have for the day. I am also quickly reminded that Mohican is a great course, tough but really beautiful. I am surprised by how much of the trail I still remember. Still I make sure to stay slow, last time I was here we were having a great time until the wheels fell off and when that happened it happened fast.
Soon we are about half way through the loop and pass by Lyon Falls. Last time I was here you had to climb down a stair case of huge stones to the bottom of the falls. Since then the stones have been replaced with actual stairs. Honestly I preferred the you could fall down and die stone stairs but thats just me.
At some point along this area we ended up falling in with another group of runners. Most of them were running their first 100. I ended up talking and running with these guys for the next 10 miles or so. One of the guys in the group was know as Tattoo Tom. He had set up a charity to help kids with cancer after his daughter had passed away and his run was raising money (per mile). Talking with this guy really inspired me, you can check out his charity here at http://www.stillbrave.org/. Spoiler Alert - Tom finished the 100 and won the Last of the Mohicans award (last finisher).
Tough climbs out of the covered bridge aid station soon gave way to some really great running along the ridge lines and into the last aid station before you head back towards the start line. I was forced to make a sudden stop here to take care of some morning "business" which ended up taking way too long and costing me even more time.
The last few miles went well and I sauntered into the start line finishing the first loop in 7:01. That was much slower then what I would normally expect but still kept me on pace to finish. I also had to take into account losing 25 minutes to the late start and the call of the porta potty.
Part 2 to follow