Sunday, June 19, 2011

Mohican 100 Mile Race Report

DNF: Did Not Finish

I went out to run 100 miles at Mohican yesterday in the annual Mohican Trail 100 Mile Run. I ran very strong and steady for 38 solid miles; no real issues. Around mile 38, nausea kicked in and I couldn't get my stomach back together. I made it to mile 60 where I had to drop out of the race. It was a hard thing to realize that I couldn't continue, but I was happy to crawl out of the woods on my own, rather than be carried out with the help of others. Basically, nothing was staying in my stomach and my energy had dropped to 0% before I officially threw in my towel. I simply couldn't continue. It just wasn't my time. Mohican had beaten me down.

I'm telling my story so I remember it the way I experienced it. Also, I'm telling it for those mere mortals that don't run, or who don't run long distances, or for someone who might just want to hear the wave of emotions that go into pushing their body past the normal limits of everyday comfort. It started off as a curiosity project and adventure for me, simply to see if I could run 100 miles in one fail swoop. It ultimately turned into an emotional battle with my own body to keep moving forward.

Tent, sleeping bag, drop bags, and race supplies

Check In
The day before, I had Jennifer give me the "Ultra-Luc Mohawk" in the garage. The girls got to watch and thought it was pretty cool to see daddy with a rad do. Once the hair was prepped, we all headed up to Mohican so I could crush this thing... Yes, confidence was very high by this point. Jennifer and the girls were driving me up and help me setup camp. They were going to come back up on Sunday to see me cross the finish line, and then help me break my site down again. The idea was that I wouldn't have been in any condition to drive home by myself after running so far with no sleep.

We arrived at the campground around 6pm, and got all checked in. We all enjoyed a nice pre-race dinner just hung out. It was Jennifer and I's 11 year anniversary, I loved the way it turned out; I got to spend my time with her and the girls and just relax. The girls got to play on the jungle gym at the campground, and we all stole cookies from the local church group that was supplying dinner. J/K they were paid for. :)

Nick doing what he does best, drinking beer. :)

Girls being monkeys

Around 8 o'clock, I called Farley and learned that he had just arrived, so Jen packed up the girls and headed back home to leave us boys to our beer. Almost as soon as Jennifer left, the sky cut loose and it poured down rain. It rained for a good hour or so. Everything got wet and it got me pumped for the race actually. Farley and I stood in the rain (me in my poncho, him with an umbrella) and drank beers and caught up with one another. Around 10:30, I headed to my tent to try and get some sleep before my 4am alarm clock. My insomnia kept me awake until around 1:30am. I heard Farley go to his tent around 11:30 and he was snoring way before me. Grr... Alarm's set 4am sharp.

Starting Line
When the alarm went off, it felt like I'd just fallen asleep. I got all my race gear on, and started my walk down to the starting line with my poncho, two empty water bottles, my headlamp, and an apple (ie. breakfast). The campground was pretty quiet and dark, but I could see headlamps coming from every direction while other runners were making their way to the starting line.

Once I got down to the starting line, the atmosphere was awesome! Runners were all jazzed up and ready to run. I ran into a lot of people that I typically run into at these events. It's amazing how small the ultra running community is around here. We all traded our well-wishes and got set for the gun. The race started at 5am sharp.

Miles 1 - 27 (First Loop)
My first few miles, were very easy. It felt so good to be running after the long 2 week taper. My legs were fresh. We all ran in a huge convoy through the woods for a steady 2 hours. There was a long line of head lamps illuminating the single track trail in front of me, and behind me. I tucked into a cozy spot where the pace was a slow jog through the hills. The first couple of aid stations were very quick for me. I was in and out with only a handful of snacks and some sips of fluid to keep me hydrated.

I ran with a lot of amazing people. We all played leap frog through the forrest, and each time we'd pass one another we would trade words of encouragement and sometimes run together for a few miles and share stories to pass the time. I caught up with a few people I knew from previous races and also met some new people along the way. Even at the aid stations, I saw some familiar faces who were volunteering and was able to catch up with them as well. I'm beginning to feel like a veteran, even though I'm only 3 years into this sport.

It was really neat to see the forrest come to life from darkness to daylight. What started out as a quiet and dark jog down a narrow path in the woods, turned into be a dewy haze of morning dew through a beautiful forrest. The birds began to chirp and the leaves that were hovering over the trail would brush against me as I weaved through them. I really wish I would have had my camera on this loop. It was very soothing and relaxing. As the early morning turned to late morning, the sun had heated up the woods and made things very sticky. There were very few spots where we were directly under the sun, but the heat was mostly humid air, much like a rain forrest. It was just "thick and wet heat", basically... I can't think of a better way to describe it.

I was still feeling very strong after the first 27 miles. 3 more loops to go!

Miles 27 - 38
When we got back to the start/finish, I ran into more familiar faces and was able to relax for a minute to get my feet right. Lindsay helped me take care of my blisters with some Desitin (who would have thought? Desitin?). I cleaned off my feet, put this miracle cream over my blisters, and covered them back up with fresh socks and they felt great. I changed into a dry shirt, refilled my water bottles, and off I went for my second loop.

I was still feeling strong and made my way to the first aid station with zero problems. Legs were fresh. Feet felt great. Stomach was not causing me any problems. My confidence was very high. Once I made it through the first aid station, a girl by the name of Bethany caught up with me. I'd met her on the first loop and we ran for a few miles together. We got separated somewhere in the first loop, but now we had caught back up to one another. She felt strong and I felt strong, so (not saying anything), we both started to push forward a bit. I led the way and we passed quite a few runners. We were probably doing 10-12 minute miles for a good 4 miles. We made it to the MTB Parking area and felt great. We pushed hard to this point. I was still feeling strong, but I was pretty worked from the hard running. We stood around for about 5 minutes rehydrating and getting some food. I got to meet her family and we just hung out for a few minutes.

Mid-day heat had arrived. Mostly sticky humid heat, but heat non-the-less!

We decided to slow it down after this aid station and recover a bit. We made our way through the purple loop and had a good old time trying to take some pictures for her 11th grade class that she teaches (funny story). We seemed to have a pretty good pace and told each other that we'd try to stick together through the night section so that our pacers could keep our pacers fresh so they could pick us up on our last loop. At one point, I decided to stay back, but told her to push on; I'd catch up to her later. As it turns out, about 2 miles later, my stomach flipped on me. I was never able to catch back up with her, but learned that she kept on going and finish her race (also her first attempt at the 100 mile distance). Congratulations Bethany!! :)

Houston, We Have a Problem
I made it to the Covered Bridge aid station feeling "OK". I stood around and ate some watermelon, and had a few sips of Pepsi. I wanted to get in and get out, but then I decided to sit down for a minute and let my legs have a little rest. Once I sat down, my stomach got sour. I sat there in the sun for about 2 minutes, and my skin got cold, my spit got watery, and I had to puke... now. I made my way over to a tree and let it go. There was a family that was visiting Mohican near by (not affiliated with the race) that witnessed the whole thing. They had a little boy with them, and after my first purge I heard him yell "EWWW!!". I just turned my head and smiled... Sorry... "BLAAAAAHHHHHH". :)

I felt better. I was amazed at how much crap was in my stomach actually. The main problem now is that I had no food and no fluid in my stomach anymore. I wiped off my mouth, grabbed a couple of snacky items and refilled my water bottles with icy cold water, before heading back into the woods. This next section was tough for me. It was uphill for the first 2-3 miles, and I had spent a lot of energy on my little "chuck fest" back at the aid station. My stomach felt fine through here, but my energy was depleting fast. I found myself wanting to sit down on the trail about every 500 yards or so. At one point, I sat down for about 5 minutes and tried to cool my body down. I poured about 1/2 of a water bottle full of ice water over my head and let it take my breath away a few times. Eventually, somebody came along and kicked my ass to get up. I'm very grateful that they did. Once I got moving, my energy came back a little bit. Thank you Jeff and Sheila. :)

On my way to Hickory Ridge, I had another little puke session, but it was mostly just heaving (no solids). It took a lot of energy out of me, and I felt like crap after this one. The first one helped me to feel good, this one just drained the energy out of me. I slogged my way to the Hickory Ridge aid station (about 2 miles). This was the longest 2 miles of the race for me. I eventually made it to Hickory Ridge, but had very little energy left in my tank. I sat down and let the volunteers rejuvenate me with more ice water. Food was simply not possible at this point. I knew that if I put anything in my stomach, it would come back up. I just sat for about 10 to 15 minutes. I could feel the cut offs catching up to me by this point. All the progress that I had made on my first loop and even on the first half of this second loop were now void. I'd lost all of my time trying to recuperate from my earlier spurt of energy. Damn!

While at Hickory Ridge, I ran into two gentlemen by the names of Dan and Frank. Frank was ready to drop right there at Hickory Ridge. Dan was also feeling bad and was wanting to drop as well. While we were talking, I assured them that I was NOT about to drop, and was going to keep pushing forward (sorry Mom). I told them that I would be walking a lot through this next session, so they decided to walk with me and drop at the start/finish instead. Perfect! At least I would have someone to be with me if I ended up passing out in the woods. :) Their company was just what I needed. We walked for a good 2 miles, and eventually, I was able to jog again. Frank wasn't feeling it, so he gave Dan and I his assurance that he was OK. We wished him good luck and pushed on. Dan and I jogged and walked for the next 2 miles til we got back to the campground.

As we were coming out of the woods and into the campground, I saw brother Farley at the trail head cheering us in. Seeing Farley actually got me psyched up. He walked with us up a steady hill to our campsite. Dan decided to push through the night loop with me, and he wasn't going to drop anymore! Awesome!! He thought it would be best to push on to the start/finish, whereas I had to hang out at the tent for a few minutes to try and get some energy for the last 2 mile hills-from-hell section. While at the campsite, I sat down again and tried to sip on some gatorade... That didn't work. PUKE!!! Damn. Farley was awesome, he gave me some great advice on things that I might try. He was a rock star of a crew captain, and I'm glad he was here for me. He tended to my every need, and was shotgun-ready to go when I needed him. Thank you Farley!!

Me @ mile 52

Eventually, I pushed myself up from the chair and did a half-ass jog to the next trail head towards the hill section. Energy level: 2%! This was at mile 52, and I had 2 more hard miles to the start/finish. This section was mostly walking for me and it was very demoralizing. As soon as I would round a corner, I would be faced with a huge hill that went up and up. At the top of each hill, I was faced with an equally huge downhill. This went on for 2 miles.

By the time I made it to the start/finish, I was (yet again) spent. It had been about 15 solid miles by this point with no food and no water. I was at mile 54 and night had set in. I sat down again!! This time, I tried crunching on some ice cubes. Dan's crew captain gave me some warm chicken broth to see if that would help, but I only feared that it would bring on another purge fest. I settled with just a cup of ice instead. I bandaged my feet again, changed my shirt and socks, and off I went into the night with Dan leading the way.

Miles 54 - 60
As we left the start/finish line, I was feeling pretty low. The cut off times were catching up with us, and my 2 hours had dwindled down to just under an hour by this point. My energy was at an all time low, night had set in and I was just drained of all energy. Any thought of running was out of the door until I could get some food into me. Unfortunately the next food stop was miles away... would I even be able to keep that down though...? After a long and quiet power walk through some hills with Dan, I decided to speak up.
I don't think I can go on...
I tried to let him talk me out of it, and I just asked for some of his advice. He's an 8 time 100 mile finisher. He had amazing advice, and it all came down to the fact that I hadn't had any food or any (significant amount of) water over the last 20 miles. He didn't talk me into dropping, nor did he talk me out of it, but he laid the facts out for me in black and white. After hearing him state the obvious, I knew I was making the right decision... We shook hands, and he pushed on into the night without me. I'm glad I was able to convince him not to drop, and that I was able to take some of his wisdom with me.

Post Race
My legs are pretty sore, and my spirit took a bit of a hit as well. A lot of training got put into this race. My legs could have carried me the distance, and (as a professional insomniac) my mental state could have held up to the challenge as well. It's the one thing that I couldn't train for that did me in: my stomach. I tried to push too hard, too soon. I was never able to fully recover from my energy boost @ mile 30-35; I didn't stop to consider the distance that I still had yet to run.

My girls still think I'm a rock star, and that's all that matters!!

The cutest cheering section ever!

Daizi's sign reads:
Daddy, you have a mohawk!
You're running a hundred miles!
Run, Daddy, Run!

Father's Day Fun after Mohican

For now, I'm going to do more research... Yes I will try this distance again!


Superheroben said...

Does it mater that I think your a rock star to?

Thomas Bussiere said...

Great report and blog. This was a tough race and really beat the overall field to shreads. The last 2.5 miles of the loop was bruttle.
Most runners will have stomach issues with the heat - You are not alone. You made the right decision for your situation.
Sauna training really helped me adjust to the heat and humidity.

Luc said...

@Ben - Thanks! You're my unix-hacking rock star. :)

@Thomas - Thank you as well! I'm gonna train harder and prepare for the heat. I liked you're quote in your blog: "Don’t wish it was easier, make yourself stronger." Thanks for commenting on my post, and congrats on a successful 70 mile trek through Mo! ;)