Sunday, June 21, 2009

Mohican 50 Mile Race Report

Let me start by saying that I had an overall great experience in my first attempt at the Mohican 50 mile trail run. Great race, great volunteers, poor course markings, yet overall awesome experience! Unfortunately, this race goes down as my first DNF (did not finish)! I made it a little over 38 miles and had to drop out. I ran for 11 hours, 21 minutes, and 15 seconds. I got to experience some of the highs, and some of the lows of this awesome sport of ultra running. I've heard that the longer the distance, the more extreme the high's and low's are; I experienced it first hand.

To sum it up, I screwed up the Purple loop, ran into some nasty stomach issues on the Orange loop and the cutoffs beat me at the Grist Mill. If I had enough time to gather my stomach at the Grist Mill, I might have finished this race and had a different blog entry. As it turns out though, I got to experience defeat on my first attempt at the 50 miler. I must say that DNF's suck... bad. Especially since I wanted to conquer this distance so bad. I'm actually kind of glad that I got this over with early in my ultra running experience (the DNF, not the 50 miler). I'm already very hungry for my next attempt!

Here is my story (if you're interested):

Start (5 am)
I made sure everything was packed and organized in my tent the night before. After the quick dinner and runners meeting the night before, most all of the runners went to their tents and tried to get some shut eye for the 5am start. It was pouring down rain and very dark. I was actually kind of excited to start with a terential downpour; it adds to the fun in my book. I threw off my head lamp, strapped on my hydration pack, and threw a poncho on and headed to the starting line. By the time the race started, the rain had left and it was looking like it was going to be a beautiful day.

Landoll's Castle (6:15 am)
Shortly after the race started, it was obvious that the rain was not returning, so I took the poncho off around mile 2 and tied it to my back pack; it was now dead weight. The first 10 miles were all road miles. It was actually very easy and enjoyable. I blew through this first aid station with a few drinks of water, a fig newton and some pretzels. One thing I forgot to pick up were some bandaids... wet shirts & bare nipples don't mix. They really bothered me for the next 5 miles, but nothing I've not experienced before.

Rock Point (7:30 am)
After the relaxing 10 mile run on the roads, I arrived at Rock Point and it was (finally) time to enter the forest. I grabbed a cup of gatorade, filled my water bottle with ice water, grabbed a few more pretzels, a fig newton and on I went into the woods. It felt soo good to be sloshing through the mud finally. There were a few slippery spots through here. It had rained most of the night and all of the front runners had really souped up the trail by this point.

South Park (8:30 am)
By the time I got to SouthPark aid station I was feeling amazing! It was about 15 miles into the race, and I had zero complaints. I dropped off the poncho and made some small changes to my hydration pack to make it less noisy and lighter. It worked and I was jamming onto the next aid station. There was a little river crossing and I made sure I got my legs nice and wet. I even stopped for a second and wiped off all the mud that had been sloshing up onto my shins. This was where the feet would be wet for the remainder of the race. This next section of the course had some killer hills and they really wore me down. I was staying strong through here, but the quads were really getting a work out through here.

Fire Tower (9:30 am)
I arrived at the Fire Tower aid station with open arms. A little boy met me on my way in and was assuring me that there was lots of food and water and that they had everything I would need. I thought it was great and I thanked him big time. :) I was feeling the hills from the last section, but overall felt great. My feul was spot on, I was taking my S! Caps religiously and my hydration was great also. I was in and out of the Fire Tower real quick and anxious for some downhills to the Covered Bridge.

The sun was out and in full force now. However, that's the beauty of trail running; it's all hidden above the trees. :) It was already muggy from the morning rain, but with the sun out in full force now, it started to get pretty intense. Everything was just "thick" and sticky. My clothes were completely drenched and I had rung out my sweat band about 10 times by now. No worries, I knew it was gonna be a hot one, so I'm not complaining by any means, just stating facts.

Covered Bridge (10:15 am)
This is where things went horribly wrong!!

I arrived at the Covered Bridge and was about an hour ahead of the cutoffs. I didn't think to much about not finishing this race at this point. It wasn't even in my train of thought. I knew that if I ran into some problems, I had a nice buffer to work things out and get moving again. The key to ultra running is to "keep. moving. forward." I was prepared for whatever that meant.

This next section was a very easy 4 mile loop through some crazy terrain. If you don't believe me, see for yourself:

Ascending Little Lyon Falls

Descending Big Lyon Falls

Courtesy of Nick's Blog

Anyway, I've done the Purple loop a few times before and while I got lost once, it was a pretty easy loop. I headed up to Little Lyon falls and climbed the crazy root system. The whole way there, people were passing me on there way back saying how pissed they were and warning me that there were NO course markings on this loop. I was confident that I've done it before and would have no problems finding my way... I was wrong. After I climbed up Little Lyon Falls, I turned left thinking that it was the correct way. I saw a few runners up a head of me and thought, cool I'll just hang with them. As I was running up to them, other runners were gathering from a SEPERATE path. Everyone was bitching that the course markings were gone. I didn't even think to stop there, think and turn around. Instead I hung with them. It wasn't until I had descended Big Lyon Falls and was heading back to the Covered Bridge that I realized that I didn't even run by the dam or do any of the road section. By this point, I was about 1/4 of a mile from the Covered Bridge.

When I got there, I spoke up and told the aid station captian that I screwed it up and asked him what I should do. By no means was I wanting to cheat this race. I could have very easily moved forward and nobody would have ever known, but "homey don't play dat". I told the guy that I would rather do it right and said that I'd just do the entire Purple loop again. That meant, climbing the root system and all. Whatever!! I asked him about the cut offs and he told me that I was 10 minutes ahead of the cutoffs by this point. I thought, "Ok, no big deal, I'm still in this...".

Shortly back up the Purple loop, I ran into Mary Anne Ramirez, an ultra walker from Texas. Again, the whole way up we kept hearing other runners complaining about the lack of markers. I vowed to stick with Mary Anne and show her the way now that I realized where I screwed up. I truly truly enjoyed her company. However, we (power) walked the whole loop. Typically, I would power walk up hills, jog the flat sections and run downhill. This was all new to me and it felt like we lost a lot of time walking. Regardless, I made a great new buddy on the trail and I know that I helped her through there. If I had to do it all again, I would have done it exactly the same way. Things happen for a reason, and I feel I was supposed to meet her on this section so we could tough through it together. Thanks for your great company Mary Anne!

Covered Bridge Again (12: 30 pm)
By the time we got back to the Covered Bridge we were about 10 minutes behind the cutoff and we both had a lot of time to make up. I was up to the task, because the next section is my favorite; the Orange loop. I loaded up on calories at the aid station, pounded some gatorade, and filled my water bottle with ice water, and began my jog across the Covered Bridge. This entire "Purple Loop Experience" took me about 2.5 hours. :(

I had one goal at this point and it was to make up for lost time and get back to "running". The first section of this loop is mostly up hill switch backs, so I power walked up them. By the time I got to the flat sections, I was pretty winded. I decided to do some fast walking for a while, but focused on keeping my pace around 15 minute miles until I can get enough energy to start jogging again. By this point, I had around 28 mile behind me and I was starting to hit the wall hard. I was in the woods and didn't think anybody was behind me, since I was already behind the cutoff. I was wondering if I was going to be able to finish this thing. Around this time, a runner by the name of Tim Harmon came up behind me and helped me take my mind off the pain. He and I talked for the next 4 - 5 miles and it helped me a lot. I began jogging the flat sections and downhill sections. He stuck with me each time I had to walk a bit, and I really appreciated his company. We just talked and talked the whole time and it helped a lot. I told Tim that I was good if he wanted to jam ahead. He did and said he wanted to get that medal. I didn't blame him and bid him farewell. If you're reading this post, thanks for sticking with me, Tim! :)

Hickory Ridge (2:15 pm)
I arrived at Hickory Ridge feeling... ok. I wasn't down and out for good, but I was still working my way out of a nasty slump. When I was gathering calories and talking cut off times with the aid station crew, I saw Mike sitting off to the side waiting for a ride back to the camp ground; he had dropped. He seemed ok with it, so I didn't feel too bad for him. Great job on a stellar 50k Mike! However, I must admit that this gave me a little bit of motivation to pick up the pace; I did not want to lose this race! I chugged two quick cups of warm (almost hot) Pepsi, at a banana chunk and grabbed a bag of M&M's to go. Amazingly my wall had been broken and I was running again. I felt great! I was running the flat sections, power walking the hills like nothing and keeping my pace very quick. I never did catch up with Tim, but I could tell that I was right on his heals.

After Hickory Ridge, my stomach was pretty touch & go. I was fine as long as I didn't think about putting anything in it. As soon as I would consider taking another S! Cap or even drinking water, I would get a sour feeling. I just kept moving forward and ignored my stomach. Mistake. Around 4 miles after the Hickory Ridge aid station, I realized that I had to do something because I was sinking back into a funk very fast. The sun was hot above the trees, which meant that it was very muggy and the sun would pound down on me between all the clearings. The next section to the end was all roads, which meant all sun, which meant all heat... which meant, I needed to hydrate now.

I decided to force a Honey Stinger into my belly and about 4 ounces of hot water. About 1 mile later I began an extremely violent vomiting fit. I stood in the forest with my hands on my knees vomitting and heaving louder than I've ever puked in my life. It almost sounded too dramatic to be beleivable, but it was 100% real and it was not fun at all. I felt like falling over and just passing out. Instead I made my way over to a tree and just propped myself up against it for a few minutes. My eyes were watering and my stomach hurt from all the contracting. All that time I had made up earlier was shot and the cut off times were back to haunt me. I knew I would be fighting the clock all the way to the end now.

After my pukefest, I forced water into my system again because now I REALLY needed it. Amazingly, my stomach accepted the hot water this time and it actually helped. I felt a little better by this point. I knew not to try to put any more Honey Stingers in my belly or anything solid though. My stomach was still sour, but I was able to move forward. Forget running, I couldn't run or jog at all. At this point, I was restricted to power walking. The thought of hopping up and down made me want to... well, you know.

Instead of forcing more water down into my stomach, I poured the remaineder of my water bottle over my head and was just shufflying my way to the Grist Mill aid station (3 miles away) in hopes that they could "fix" me and send me on my way.

Grist Mill (4:15 pm)
When I arrived at Grist Mill, I was completely spent. I literally fell onto the first thing that I could sit on. I put my head down and mumbled that I needed some help. The aid station crew was AWESOME!! They got me some Pepsi and put a bag of ice on the back of my neck while I was just sitting there drooling (gross, yes... sorry). Oddly, the place where I sat was directly under the sun, so the guys had me move into the shade. After about 10 minutes I was still feeling pretty bad, and I was about 30 minutes behind the cut off at this point. The remaining 13 miles of the race was all road miles under the sun...

I had to drop.

In hind sight, I would have probably done a few things different, but I'll keep all that all to myself and use it for my next attempt. :) I had a great experience and I'm not afraid to run the 50 miler again; I'm actually excited to run it again, and beat it.

If you enjoyed my story, or were grossed out enough by my story to want more, then please read some of my other running buddy's stories: Kim, Mark, Nick, Rob, Don, Mike P, Michelle, Mike, Ed, Marryann, many others... :)


Kim said...

Excellent race report. You did a great job out there. You got to pretty much experience everything out there on the course!
Stopping at Grist was the right answer. I hear someone went down on the road and the squad had to be called (he's okay now.)

Anonymous said...

Great Job Luc. I was hoping you had made it to the finish.

Get that stomach issue worked out....and I'll work on my blisters.

Running 2 Mohican said...

You really did great out there. Now put this on your list for next year and come get it.

Don: said...

Luc you did good.
I think if the purple loop had not been a problem you would have made it. The first time through from your description was slightly over 2 miles. However, doing it over cost a lot of extra effort. You are to be commended on your honesty.
Congrats and next year is yours.

Unknown said...

Great meeting you & running with you Saturday. After I left, I somehow made up almost 30 min. by Grist Mill, where my friends "worked" on me, shoved food in my mouth, & sent me on. Bad blisters, wanted to quit around 45, but made it to the finish. Sorry you had problems, many people did.Hope your ok, see you on the trails. Tim Harber

Josh said...

Nice job Luc! the 50 miler is a tough race to master, I'm definitely still working on that one. It's a whole new ballgame when it comes to nutrition and hydration, much less forgiving. I had a similar experience at my first 50. you'll come back strong next time, but you won't be running the Mo 50 next'll be doing the 100.

Matt Lobel said...

Great job, it sucks to DNF, but that is amazing motivation for next year! :)

I'm an editor of an online running publication ( and found you while searching for information on the Mohican Trail Run (our Ultra writer's first 50 miler and subject of her article posting today). I'm going to link to your blog in the article. If you have an objection, just let me know and as soon as I hear that, I'll rip it out.

Again, great job and I especially like your attitude when you messed up. Its not whether we mess up or not that defines us, its how we handle it. You did it with class.

Luc said...

Matt - I'd be honored. Thanks! I actually know Cheryl from being a local ultra runner myself. Thanks again for the comment and permission request (never needed here though). :)