Monday, June 22, 2009

Mohican 100 Mile -- Really Quick Preliminary Report

I'm assuming that the point of running these ultras for most of us is to have memorable life experiences-- I doubt any of my finisher or place awards has any market value; I can't quit my day (night?) job. Well, running the Mohican 100 Mile Trail Run this past weekend provided the usual intense and rewarding experience of any 100 mile race.  Plus some.

Probably more than I was hoping for.

At mile 84, I turned on my headlamp, finally had my tunes on, and was feeling good. I had anywhere between a 25 and 40 minute lead on the 2nd place runner (an estimate-- the split times haven't come out yet). I was running the gentle uphills. The temperature had dropped. I felt I'd invested well with my fluids and nutrition. I had come back from a mid-race slump. I felt very confident I could keep a competitive pace and bag another win.

I was stoked. So stoked I was at moments choking up.

More than half an hour later I saw three headlamps coming toward me. I'm told that I'm heading in the wrong direction. Little did I suspect that it's the number 2 runner (now in the lead) with his two pacers. So disoriented had I become that only when the next runner came a few minutes later, did I manage to figure out what may have happened, turned around and started running back from where I came.  My third time in the race losing time for navigational problems, and the most frustrating and fatal.

The next 16 or so miles became yet another interesting learning experience about motivation and attitude after a full day of pushing myself to my limits.  Too tired to feel pissed.  I got off course NOT because I was careless or stupid.

To quote one finisher, who sent this message to the Mohican 100 email group:

I'd like to know if there was some sort of park prohibition on the  placing of surveyors tape along the course? Having paced the last 40 miles I  was surprised by the almost total lack of them (in fact, I didn't see any but was told there were some), especially since it was known prior to the race that thunderstorms were likely - the tape would have been more resistant to the weather than flower/lime.

Along the sections I paced - some green, the orange and red - the turns were well marked, but I would have preferred to also have a confidence marker soon after the turns. I'm familiar with the course but don't have it memorized and at night some of the choices seemed ambiguous. Eventually my runner and I would pass a remembered detail of the trail and were re-assured of our direction. However, I think runners who were totally new to MO would have been anxious.

Aside from this I had a great time being out in the park and supported by the run staff and volunteers. Looking forward to next year.

The blog author does have a question about "the turns were well marked..."  Easy to say as a fresh pacer familiar to the course.

In the end, I finished third. Still got the master's award. Still had a great time. I have a lot of great things to say about this race, the volunteers who helped get me to the finish, and the many runners I met before, during and after the race.

Here is another runner's comments sent to the group, again quoted verbatim. These do not directly reflect my own views, but having lost something I wanted badly, I understand where he is coming from.  At least I got to finish.

I've never complained about a race before but today was atrocious. I ran the 50 mile last year and the 50K in April, but for the race director to assume that everyone would know the trails by heart was stupid. Runner after runner complained how they got lost on the purple, orange, red loops. At the Hickory Road station a 16 yr old kid was running it and had no sandwiches made or any food out on the table. He was making sandwiches by request!!!! I spent over an 1.5 hrs on the orange loop with a disabled runner between CB and Grist Mill, approx. mile 33 before an aid station worker came and help assist the runner down the trail. When I asked the Aid Station Captain at GM to call Ryan and see if I could get credit for the time lost he refused, saying it was my decision to help a fellow runner. After leaving the BS, doing the red loop to Rock Point (52.7), getting to the road and not having any road/red plates to mark the way, I got near the top of the hill and saw lime on a trail leading downward to the left. After wasting 15 mins descending, I realized I was on a wrong trail and proceeded back to the unmarked road. When I called a buddy from my cell phone, yes it was an emergency since I had only 30 mins before the cutoff, the aid station captain at Fire Tower gave me the wrong directions to the now moved Rock Point station.

I have always spoken so highly of this race in the past but will never again spend one dime on this race. Call it sour grapes, but everyone who intended on actually trying to complete the 100 trained for months. To have it wasted in this fashion was totally unacceptable and I'm sure I'm not the only one with this opinion.

Ouch. I've been at races where people have stopped to help someone, and that was credited. It's not like he was gunning, uh, for the win or something...

And what about me? Will I run this race again?  Again, my overall experience with this race was still positive.  But it's a complex answer-- which will have to await my full report.

As many of you (the few of you) who follow my blog know, I've got this huge backlog of reports. Most of these are mostly finished. I was going to try to crank a few out this week while on vacation, but unfortunately, my parents' computer is so slow it's barely functional.

Most of you would rather be running anyways...  And good luck to anyone running, pacing, crewing, or volunteering at Western States!

1st published Wednesday, June 24, 2009 at 9:55 a.m. Eastern Time.

link to longer report complete two years later


Cynical Dirt Doll said...

Aw geez! Sorry to hear it was kinda a debacle.. awesome placing even with the problems! It'll be interesting to see how the RD responds to these problems. Looking forward to the full report... sometime next year! LOL!

Baldwyn said...

Was number 2 the eventual winner? He had TWO pacers?!

Congrats on a great run, I'm sad to hear about the organizational difficulties. I'm glad people are speaking up, and hope put the feedback to good use.

Jean Pommier said...

Gee, that sounds like some ultras in France where there is no marking and you need to figure out the right turns from a road book you have to carry with you. Type of orienteering event, but there are actually races. Not sure I'm ready for that yet. Especially if this is not clearly mentioned upfront by race management... Looking forward to reading the whole story, and if the minimalist marking was on purpose or not.

Farther Faster

Scott Dunlap said...

I think you should get Adventure Racing credit for this one. That means you would tackle ultras, RB, and Ironman in the same season. ;-)

Way to stay positive. I certainly would have stopped to cry for an hour.


malvs2walk said...

Great run, saw you out at the Covered Bridge when you were leading the pack. Sorry you got lost on the course... I would have gotten lost too if I had been out on the trails there after dark, thankfully I got my first dnf in my first attempt at 100 miles early in the race and was able to help out at the aid station for several hours before going back to the campground to watch the finish.

Lori said...

I was so bummed to hear that you had problems out there with the markings as well -- when I saw you at the start, I told my dad, "that guy's gonna win this thing..."

I'm still fairly new to this whole "trail running" silliness, but Mohican100 was the most poorly marked course I've ever run. I got lost on the purple loop for about 30+ minutes -- and thought about crying, but decided that it would only dehydrate me further.

Regardless, congratulations on a fantastic race. It was great to meet you at the end...and I'm very sorry that my neurotic family kept on pestering you.

Hope to see you at some future races in Cali (I'm looking at Firetrails -- I'll be done with medicine and on psych yeah, I'll have plenty of chill time on the weekends...hopefully).

Anonymous said...

Nice report brother. Just reading it was long enough for me. Enjoy the rest of your vacation.

ErieTom said...

Congrats on a great race, Mark and sorry about the trail marking issues.

I hope you can make my race in October her in NW PA and only about 3 hours northeast of Mohican - Oil Creek State Park (OCSP) has similar terrain as Mohican (might be a bit more difficult). I am fanatical about trail marking because I've had the experience of not knowing if I am on the trail or not during a race (not a good feeling).

-- Tom --
Tom Jennings, RD
Oil Creek 100 Trail Runs - /
50K, 50 & 100 mile trail races on primarily the rugged single-track Gerard hiking trail of OCSP