Friday, June 3, 2011

(Mid) Western States, Part 2: How I Was Screwed Thrice Out of Winning the 2009 Mohican 100 Mile Trail Run


Maybe it took me two years to finish this full report because I was so pissed off about the race.  (link to my short preliminary report published soon after)  Three times I was screwed at the Mohican 100 Mile Trail Run, the weekend of June 20-21, 2009.  I *suspect* it might have had something to do with course markings.  Course markings that weren't there when I needed them.

Choosing and Getting There

We hadn't been to my parents in southwest Ohio for four years. So I decided to go that summer, timing the trip for the 20th anniversary of the Mohican 100. As a result, no Kettle Moraine that year (with optimal weather conditions), since it was only two weeks prior.  We went to my in-laws' near Chicago instead in April where I ran McNaughton 150 (Mid-Western States part 1).

The first 16 days of June, I worked 155 hours. I was ready for a vacation, though I knew the relaxing part would have to wait until after the weekend.

Since Mohican was a week before Western States, I knew it would lack a thick super-fast elite field. Three weeks after Ohlone 50k and six after Quicksilver 50 mile, it was probably the only 100 mile race that year for which I would be properly trained and tapered (especially since McNaughton beat me up). I didn't have time to try to research everyone on the registered runner list, but I figured I had a decent chance of placing well, and possibly winning.  And no matter what, I'd have fun!

My drive from Cincinnati took about 4 hours, as I three 15 minutes stops to stretch out my low back.  I arrived to the campground feeling the heat and humidity to which I was not totally unaccustomed, despite spending the previous day around my parents' wearing a hooded sweatshirt and my high school letter jacket.  I would have gotten better heat training running in this gig, but I had to taper!



I set up my dad's portable tent

(my tent's actually behind this statue)

prepared my drop bags, and then went to eat dinner and hang under the large roofed shelter.

The weather forecast changed daily since it first appeared on the 10-day extended weather.com forecast. In the end, it was scattered thunderstorms. After the two lightning storms at Kettle Moraine the year before, I wasn't particularly happy about this. Before the pre-race meeting, a sudden extremely heavy downpour came. When it was over maybe 15 minutes later, I went to find I hadn't closed the lid of one  of my small bins I was using as a drop-bag crate, and dumped a large amount of water out.

Little did I realize that that single downpour would add well over 1 - 1.5 hours to my time and end my quest to win even before it began.  But I'm not going to blame it on the rain gods.

With earplugs was able to get to sleep around 10 p.m., but woke up at 2 a.m., perhaps from eating too much pasta. After using the bathroom, I was unable to get back to sleep. So at the start I had been up since 11 p.m., Pacific Time.

START

The start was delayed several minutes, since not everyone had signed the sheet to check in. OK with me because I was waiting for my Garmin Forerunner to pick up the satellite signals (which it doesn't do for more than half an hour into the race).  The race start was 5 a.m. Eastern Time, which was 2 a.m. in the Pacific Time I came from.  Ouch!

A guy with a long red beard darted ahead. ID'd as Stephen Godale, who won the race a few years ago in 18 hours. Except for him, I was running in front, then realized that at 5 am I couldn't see anything without a headlamp. So I let several other catch up to avoid tripping. A couple of guys doing the 50, and last year's 100 mile race winner Jay Smithberger.

I was impressed with how muggy it felt this early in the morning-- ugh. The rolling hills were bigger than I'd imagined, the scenic countryside appearing as it grew light.  A few of us complained about pounding so much pavement though.

Without trying to, a few of us caught up with Steve, so I got the scoop from him. This would be his last 100 miler-- the distance takes too much out of him.  He decided this 3 years ago. I asked him if he had decided this every year for the last three years. He explained he was holding out for his 1000 mile buckle.


mission accomplished, congrats, Stephen!

He also explained that he was going to go out hard, then crash around mile 40, and would probably finish around 26-28 hours. I calculated he was running a 16 hour pace, so didn't quite get his race strategy with predictable results. Eventually he pulled ahead of everyone, out of sight. I was not convinced he was going to take that long to finish.

Beth

The pack had spread out when I heard the voice of a woman coming from behind. She was running the 50 mile race, and leading not just the women, but the men. We ran with each other off and on for the next 30-something miles. This was only her 3rd ultra, her 1st 50 miler, and she had won both 50k races. Beth Woodward, born in Hong Kong, adopted, hence the non-Asian last name.


Beth on left, from an earlier, different race.

The first and last 10 miles of both races is road, the rest trail. I had considered following the suggestion of veterans to start in road shoes, switch to trail shoes at mile 10, then switch back to fresh road shoes for the end. I was glad I opted to start the race with my Sportiva Wildcats, as I was in no mood to take a minute to change shoes while fresh at mile 10.

The single track of the green section is lush, green, dank. Complete opposite of the dry brown of Northern California at this time of year.  I thought I should've learned what poison ivy looks like-- there were lots of the leaves brushing against my limbs in leaves of three.

Beth was fairly timid on the downhills, so even clumsy me overtook her, and then she would hammer it uphill. Sometimes I would not pay attention to the trail, so twisted my ankle a couple times, but nothing major. A few thorn bushes that drew blood (or maybe that was later). We passed South Park aid station (mile 14.3) together. No salt, no Heed, just water, which I had to pour in from gallon containers. This sort of sucked, but this sort of thing happens a lot to front runners at races. The next time around it would be fully stocked.

By Fire Tower aid station (milw 18.6), I was REALLY worried about my lytes, so waited for a volunteer to find a salt shaker, and I poured out my estimate of 2 grams.



Covered Bridge is maybe the heart of the race, as 100 milers go through this five times during the race (miles 21, 25, 42.5, 63.5, 81).  After hitting it the first time, we went out to do the purple loop, which traversed only once in both the 50 and 100 mile races.  Beth had been ahead, but I ran into her running backwards.  There were few markings on the trail and she had run into a large rock. I remember seeing a photo of runners climbing up a wall of roots, and found this immediately to the left. At the top, it was still ambiguous which way to go, but it seemed like we should go right.  Just as I had helped orient Caitlin Smith at PCTR's Skyline to the Sea 50k two months earlier, I was helping another fast woman find her way.

Perhaps realizing that navigational help was worth a slightly slower pace, Beth slowed a bit to stay with me.  To this day I'm pretty sure it wasn't because she thought I was cute or funny.  We climbed further until he hit a road going over a dam. Because I had seen the trail returning from the left earlier, I figure we should head left. Where are those purple plates, we wondered? After climbing a bit, arrows pointed left back into the forest. I anticipated a technical downhill, but it was actually straighter and more gradual. Then, suddenly the trail T-boned into another trail.

No arrow. No plates. No ribbons.
No clue.  No way!


Volunteer course marking head at pre-race meeting holding up a colored plastic or paper plate, the supplemental course marking to the arrows.  How using plates to match the color used to name each section of the course helped us stay on the right trail was beyond me.  Some of these plates were wasted on unambiguous places on the trail.  Other confusing intersections lacked them.  There were other markings of a different color on many trails.  They didn't buy a whole lot of plates.  Definitely not enough.  I know you are volunteering your time and I appreciate that, but please can someone give me ribbon?


We deliberated a while, but using the same logic as before, I decided we should head left. We did this, and thought we could see some faint white arrows on the trail faded by the heavy rain Friday night.

We ran and ran and I started getting really nervous because the loop was only supposed to be 4 miles long-- already my Forerunner was reading 4.5 miles, though it had been under-measuring every split up to that point in the dense foliage. I remembered my Foreruner has a map function that if can zoom out to see where you've just run, and to my horror, I saw that we were basically running this convoluted route taking us back towards the road, rather than back to Covered Bridge.

Not about to retrace our steps (with no markings, we wouldn't know it even when we got back onto the right trail), I decided to bushwhack down a huge hill to the trail leading us back. Beth agreed this would minimize our being screwed over, so we went down. It was treacherous and slippery, and I wished again I knew what poison ivy looked like, but perhaps it didn't matter.  We added at least a mile, but much of it rather technical and least 15 minutes and a lot of stress.  --Screwed the first time.

Apparently, we would not be the only ones to get lost in a similar way, but even more apparently, we lost a lot more time than most people. For the next several miles starting the orange loop, we passed several people who got ahead of us during our long purple section diversion.

One guy though kept out of our reach, and we didn't catch up with him until after Hickory Ridge aid station (mile 30.4), maybe as he took off his shoe to get a rock out. The next 6.6 mile stretch was more downhill than up, so Beth let me get in front. Next thing I know, I was effectively pacing both the male and female leaders of the 50 mile race, and did so most of the way to the Grist Mill aid station (mile 37).



The aid station was off a main road, and getting to it requires running this weird flattened Z along the road. It was all uncovered; the sun beating down. I realized this is where the the 50 milers split off, so asked Beth how she's feeling. "Really tight."

My suspicion had been that she was underhydrated (she carried no bottle) and undernourished.  Selfish me-- when we entered aid stations together I was too focused on getting my stuff done to watch her.  I told her I thought she had gotten behind on her fluids and advised her to hydrate up.  Although it would be cool to catch the lead male now a little bit ahead (Dale Holdaway), this was optional-- and probable would be impossible if she didn't fix her fluids.

A true pleasure to run with Beth that long-- a major talent who would the next year down three more records (she came in 2nd, just a few minutes behind, and set the new women's 50 mile record). One of the perks of running at my sub-elite men's level.

After Finishing My Pacing Stint, I Get Screwed a Second Time

The trail exited the station in the same back and forth section, so I got a sense of how many people were following close behind. Closest was Jay, only a minute or two back, and then a few others.

The last section of the orange loop went along the river back to the Covered Bridge, but not having memorized the map, I didn't know this. After an orange plate pointed into the forest, there were no course markings, except these white rectangles on trees not associated with the race. Since this was supposed to be the "orange loop" I was very nervous the whole time and stopped at several junctures to think about which way to go. I passed a couple hiking and ask if the Covered Bridge was up ahead and they told me yes, but "it's far-- several miles." I minorly freaked out, since my Forerunner suggested I should be there in about one mile, not several. But I was not motivated to turnaround and head back.

The trail emerged onto a road with campsites on the side. I saw a string of white arrows close together on the road, leading me to a grassy island on the right. Then they stopped. Huh? I guess I'd been so deprived of course markings, I was too eager to follow them to nowhere. Okay, now what?

"Straight ahead" shouted Jay Smithberger coming from behind, laughing, and so I caught up with him. He didn't know what those arrows were either, but they weren't course markings. We eventually came to the river crossing, under the Covered Bridge (mile 42.3), and I bounded across, drenching my feet for the first time since the river crossing at the beginning of the green section.

I assumed that Jay sped off ahead of me, which is fine. Next aid station, Bridle Staging Area (mile 45.0) came soon.


Bridle Staging Area aide station; photo by Robert Smithberger


The next split is 7.2 miles, the longest of the course. I had stashed an extra bottle in my drop bag at Bridle, but decided just to hydrate well and hope for smooth sailing. There were 3 river crossings. The first was at about 1.3 miles, the second about 4.5, and I forget to take note of the third, perhaps because it was the deepest, and like at McNaughton, up to my knees.


3rd river crossing.  photo courtesy Kim Rapp

Felt good, but I was feeling pressure on my big toes from all the water.

The trail lacked consistently clear course markings (where were the ribbons?!), but despite several points of ambiguity, somehow I continued to progress on course. Finally I crested a small hill, turned right and gradually descended to a gate where the trail T-boned onto a paved road.

No arrow.  No plate.

???

No clue.

!!!

Screw you number two.

I walked on to the road and ran up and down a bit, looking for some sort of marking, but found none. Phuck! Any hope of catching Jay soon disappeared. I decided that the safest bet was to head back from where I came. I ran about half a mile only to run into....Jay. Guess he hadn't left Covered Bridge before me.  An ironic way to catch up to him.




I was disheartened, but at least I could talk with Jay, who knew the course.  My hunch that my failure to find any course markings at the turn was not because I was stupid was validated by Jay who laughingly asked me how I could have missed such a well marked turn (friendly sarcasm). We ran together to Rock Point (mile 50.2). My blisters were starting to hurt, so I make the decision to take the extra time to take care of my feet.

This included changing into my Sportiva Ultranord GTX (you can still click to see what they look like, but they've been discontinued, and I like the Wildcat GTX they now have much better).  The Ultranords  included a gaiters but not in the elegant attached way the Crossover GTXs do.  The Ultranords are heavier than my Wildcats, but I figured that keeping my feet dry and protected needed to be new priorities. The other equipment maneuver was to turn off my Forerunner--the battery only lasts about 10 hours and I wanted to save it for the last 10 miles to the finish, especially since I hadn't been able to record the first 4-5 miles.

Although my feet felt good as I headed out, the rest of me was not. It had grown really hot, and I was a little nauseated. I couldn't run the uphills anymore. As I floundered, I suddenly heard a voice behind me, and saw a bearded runner, who I mistook intially for Steve. He introduced himself by his last name, Mongold, rather than his first name, Bradley.



This West Virginian knows me from my blog. Other cool thing is his occupation as an emergency physician. I suspected there was another ultrarunning ER doc, but hadn't met one until that day.
At least one blogger had him on the radar to win Masanutten the month prior.
Mongold holds the record for running the 292.1 mile Allegheny Trail (4 days, 13 1/2 hours)
This was his first stab at 100 miles. I tried to keep chatting with him, but he was talking and running much more easily than I.  I apologized, congratulated him for running so well his first 100, and wished him luck.

The next several miles were a definite struggle.  I was feeling the humidity, and continued to lag even more.

What got my ass moving finally was a fly (horsefly? deer fly? no clue-- had never been attacked by one in the Bay Area).  It kept going after me, including my scalp through my visor.



At Fire Tower (mile 61), I was surprised to see Jay, looking worse than even than I had earlier.  He looked green like the color of the section. I asked him if he wanted any ginger, but before I can pull some out, Lloyd Thomas came up to me and asked if I need anything.  He used to live in the Hayward Hills and run the trails of Garin / Dry Creek (my preferred longer trail commute to and from work). He offered to get me stuff (thanks, Lloyd), and we had a nice short chat as I tried to recuperate.  (Later this year I would help him organize a small fat-ass race in the same park he ran in as a kid.)

I soon saw Jay on the short 2.5 mile leg to Covered Bridge, with a pacer, walking. I gave him my ginger, half wondering if I might regret this later, since I was still slightly nauseated myself and had only one more candy left. However he definitely needed it then, while I only theoretically might need it later.

At Covered Bridge (mile 63.5), I swapped my visor for my hat with the ear and back flaps, dipping it into the water bucket to keep me cool and better protect my head and neck from biting insects.

At Hickory Ridge (mile 68.8), lots of friendly questions for the leader, which made me a bit nervous, since I didn't know who was behind me or how far. At Grist Mill (mile 75.4) I saw Jay, who had dropped from the race at Covered Bridge 5 miles back.  He crewed me a little (thanks, Jay) and confirmed what I'd calculated with my watch-- if I didn't see anyone coming out of the forest before I reenter it, I would know I was at least 20 minutes ahead of the next runner.

Less than a minute before reentering the forest, I see the next runner, Wyatt Hornsby, coming the other way. "Great job" I told him.

In contrast to the first time, I knew I was going the right way despite the paucity of course marking. But for some reason, as the sun goes down, it grew muggier.  No breeze. Ugh.

I came to a large log blocking the path. I remembered the first time around, I hoisted myself over it easily, but knew it would be trickier the second time with 40 more miles of wear and tear on my muscles. I stopped, sat on the log, lifted my left leg onto it, then to get my right leg, pushed down behind me with my arms.  As I hoisted myself over, the lower part of my rotator cuff (infraspinatus, teres major and teres minor) went into spasm. AAARRGHH!!  Severe pain--I could barely move. I spent a few minutes trying to breathe through it, will searching for a shoulder position that would ease the pain.

I tried to run, but it hurt too much, so supporting my arm and trying to gut through the pain, I walked. F*ck, he's going to catch up!  One of my problems late in 100-milers has been muscle spasming, often my upper body, despite consciously trying to keep things loose.

I mucked through the humidity.  The fairly technical trail, root-filled and cambered down to the left towards the river, along with my shoulder pain, prevented me from going very fast.

The second time returning to Covered Bridge (mile 80.9) from the orange loop, we crossed the bridge rather than the ford the river.  Not sure why.

I couldn't remember if I had left a light at the next aid station, so I put one of my Petzls, and conscious of the time I lost, quickly head out for the short (2.7 mile) but mostly uphill stretch. My shoulder was almost back to normal, so I pushed the pace. At Bridle Staging (mile 83.6), I found I did have a light.  Lloyd Thomas was there again and revealed to me that Wyatt spent "a lot of time" at Grist Mill and left 35 minutes after I did. This encouraged me.  Armed with my light and music, I headed out toward the pavement on the remaining 7.2 miles of trail of the red section.

I was in great spirits and excited.  After all the set-backs, including getting lost twice not through my own fault, and my mid-race slump probably fueled by humidity to which I could not have acclimated, I was winning the race, with a half hour gap on the next runner.  As long as I could keep a decent pace, I should be able to win this thing.  I started feeling elated and emotional, thought about my family and how excited my older son would be when I told him I won the race, and just missing them (this happens a lot toward the end of my 100 milers), though I reminded myself that it wasn't over yet, and it definitely was no time to slack.  It actually felt great putting out decent effort, especially as the temperature started to cool a bit.

My feet stayed dry through the first river crossing.  The trail and arrows on the ground were often ambiguous, but I did my best, stopping at many intersections to look and think about each turn. Maybe because I'd passed this way before, I trusted my instinct and kept going.  There wasn't anything else on which to rely anyways.  The second river crossing, I notice that the water was to my knees. I thought I recalled the deepest crossing being the third and last, but then I wasn't so sure, my first time in this large forest.  I looked at my watch and the timing seemed right. I kept on going.

And going.  And going. Seemed like I'd been out there a while-- wasn't I supposed to have ascended and hit the paved roads by now?

Suddenly after a turn, I saw three lamped runners heading towards me. Volunteers checking the course? I asked to verify I were headed toward Rock Point.   One shouted back "You're headed the wrong way!"   Crap, did I get lost again?  Pattern recognition.  No surprise that I was screwed the third and biggest time.  It didn't dawn on me that this runner was Wyatt Hornsby, now armed with two pacers (until the following summer, I had never used one.)  I only figured out his identity later.



Rather than follow them, I tried to figure out where I was. I turned on my Forerunner in an attempt to get the map of the route I ran already, but in the dense forest, it couldn't pick up the satellite signal. After several minutes, another lone runner came alone.  He oriented me both in terms of route and race standings.

As it turned out, I was at this point maybe 15 minutes from Bridle, and somehow, I had made a huge loop and was headed back from where I came.  Bonus miles, and my half hour lead lost.

I figured it made more sense to just follow him out of  this mess.

I was so-o-o-o bummed. I stayed with him, Matt Aro from Minnesota.  I figured it would be better-- two lights, two brains.



Only post-race did I learn he was the previous year's PCTR Headlands Hundred winner, and had placed 1st and 2nd in the two double Ironman distance triathlons he'd completed (that's 4.8 miles swimming, 224 miles biking and then 52 miles running). We talked.  I try to be upbeat, while debating how hard I was going to try to catch up with Wyatt. Near the end of the stretch, which for me had turned from 7 into 10-11 miles, I suggested to Matt that if I gave up on catching Wyatt, maybe we could finish together (wtf was I thinking) but told me he wanted to give it a go for 1st himself.

At the Rock Point aid station (mile 90.8-- note all these mileages are assuming you don't get repeated lost), any previous idea of changing shoes went out the window. Apparently Wyatt had just left, so Matt and I were probably holding or gaining on him as we ran together.

I would have to make my move now.

I dumped my iPod, which I'd turned off since I ran into and started talking to Matt, had my bottle filled up, grabbed a couple of Hammer gels and then headed out.

Shortly after I left, a couple of people sprinted past me. Were these the number 4 and 5 guys? They told me they were  pacing, and only later did I realize that maybe they were holding back intentionally so they could tell Wyatt how far behind I was (hopefully they weren't muling).  So even as I upped my pace, I was having trouble remaining optimistic. Wyatt was on the upswing, had 2 people helping and hanging back like spies, and knew the course.  And he didn't whack himself like I did running 3 to 4 extra miles on the last segment, drained of fluids.   Plus, I was as nervous about getting off course on this 10 mile paved section with its many turns as I had been on the trails.  I kept looking ahead to see if I could catch sight of their lights. None.  I became more and more discouraged, apathetic, and irritated that I had to keep making up for one disadvantage or screw-over after another.

I had actually had some doubts about the organization of the course due to last minute changes that weren't clearly communicated to runners, and in fact, I ended up taking matters into my own hands and revised a chart of mileage and elevation change so that it reflected those changes about 4 days before the race. Here is a link to a another blog that talks about some of the pre-race information frustration. So, my pre-race apprehensions turned out to be on target.  The race director told everyone a few days ago earlier that all drop bags had to be in extra large zip-lock bags or they wouldn't be allowed, which got a lot of people upset.  He tried to make it seem like it was a suggestion later, but they way it was phrased was that is was mandatory, not optional.

Back to the race:
Finally, I decided that a continued heroic effort was not what I cared about, especially with unsure dividends. In less than 16 hours I would be back at my parents with my younger son, wanting to ride me piggy-back around the house and up and down the stairs. Call it a cop-out, but this became a greater priority.

I also tried to rationalize that I couldn't really use much of the grand prize for the overall male and female winner, which included free entry to the December Northface 50 mile in the Marin Headlands plus $300 for airfare. I think I would drive to that race.  I was still the first master's finisher, and probably would still get some plaque.


Though tainted, this was was still a memorable, worthwhile experience.  Don't you love my smile and my positive attitude?  Great!  Now let me rag on the race director!

I have run ultras mostly because I love being out there.  The competitive aspect is great, but it's the pushing myself in the midst of natural beauty that I care about the most. I had always been a little critical of elite runners, who, when things get a little tough, decide it's beneath them to run any farther back in the pack than they are used to. (Though, not too critical-- it is a free country, and they may set their own priorities.)  While on some level, I respect their decision, on another level, they are all super-talented pussies. Just put down your ego, suck it up, and finish.

So it might have been this race that made me more sympathetic to their wussiness.  They want to win.   That's what's important to them.  If you are that good, that makes sense.  I'm okay with them now.

Though I was happy enough to finish, a large part of me really wanted to win.  Finisher me was still happy I ran the thing and put it out there, but part of me, the would-be winner me was kicked in the balls, stabbed in the heart and then decapitated.

Or least to set the record straight, which I guess I finally have, two years later.

Matt eventually caught up with me. I told him my new priorities, thought to myself he might consider me a wussy, but couldn't care less as I watched him run ahead in 2nd place.  I walked up slopes that I knew I could have run, had I had the motivation. I regret having stashed my iPod, but took advantage of the quiet, the new moon, and a few times cut my light to check out the stars of the country sky.

As I approached the campground, I actually stopped for a few seconds to figure out how to stop my watch. Had I noticed my time, I might have waited seven more seconds to finish in 20:20:20, which, though not nearly as cool as winning, would have still been cooler in a geeky-cool way.


photo by Mike Keller

DONE


Ate some, but couldn't get the chicken breast down. Made it to the shower. Climbed into my tent. Woken early due to the sun and heat.

So, Wyatt ran a great race, ran legally, and crossed the finish line first, so he got the win.

I ran the farthest, and even including the deceleration at the end mostly due to loss of motivation, ran the fastest pace per mile. I also won on getting screwed, both the in number and depth.

Maybe just as well-- I live in the Bay Area, and Sportiva sponsored, so maybe not supposed to be wearing lots of North Face garb (also part of the grand prize package).  From a the point of greatest good in the universe, maybe it was better that Wyatt got to enjoy the prize package.  (As it turned out, he couldn't make the North Face race.  But I was trying to feel good about everything.)

Still, it hurt. Not being a super fast elite runner, there are only so many races that I have a good shot at winning.  On top of that, being 42, I figured I only a few more years to find them. Had I been in 5th place and ended up coming in 7th, I would have hardly cared. To be in first, to really have deserved finishing in first, and to have been kicked in the balls not even just once, but three times, and all of them preventable if the course were marked like almost every other that I'd run-- really sucked. I might as well of had the RD greet me in the finish by landing his toe right in my nuts.


most negligent RD I have encountered in my career
as far as I can tell, he's not a runner, but a cyclist
someone help me here
I never got any honest requests for feedback or an apology.  Lots of others complained post-race about the course markings, but I found your response less than adequate.  Don't tell me you had no idea it was going to rain buckets.  Buddy, until you apologize properly to me and change your ways, I will reserve my not nice opinion of you.

Even if you've fixed the problem since, you sucked then.

Okay, readers, I feel much better now, thank you for bearing with me.  (and maybe I'll edit this post a little later.  soften it up a bit.  to be a nice guy...)

Regardless about my gripes, thanks to all the volunteers.  And the friends who at times gave me special help.  You were all awesome.

The pain of my blisters was nothing compared to the pain of being screwed repeatedly.


play with my feet anytime, podiatry angel!

By the way, this was the first time I met Lori Liu, who would later pace me 16 miles at the 2010 Angeles Crest  100 Mile Run.

She did a great job finishing her first 100-mile run here.  But talking to her post-race, she got dizzy and almost passed out, and had to be shipped away in a red truck.   I guess I have a way with people.  (link to how a Sportiva Mountain Running teammate almost passed out shortly after we talked post-race at the 2010 San Diego 100 Mile Run."  (read it, it's short and might make you laugh)




All med students should have the experience of being carted away in an ambulance.  Though I refused transport when it was offered to me after a swim race in the SF Bay more than a decade ago cuz I wasn't sure if it would be covered by my medical coverage (maybe a little ironic).

Garmin Forerunner 305 partial map of my run

official results-- not sure these work still.  I can't find the results of this run on line currently.
50 mile
or try the results and reports page from website.

race website (a little confusing to navigate, as it the Mohican running races are on a semi-obscured subset of links on the "Ohio Mountain Bike Championship Series" website).  Go figure.

super-volunteer Colleen Theusch's race report.  note, I didn't try to correct her story to include the navigational problems not of my fault.


other blogged reports (due to unfamiliarity with the midwestern ultrarunning scene, am probably missing lots, please tell me of others I can add)

100 mile
Kimberly Rapp
Michelle Bichsel
Wyatt Hornsby
Nick Longworth

50 mile
Mike Keller

Crews/Spectators
Rob Powell

If you understand what this mysterious sign means, please tell me via a comment!



16 comments:

Mike Place said...

A gnomon is the part of a sundial that stands up straight to cast a shadow. I guess that sign means you can always act as your own sundial? Weird.

Tdawg said...

Well Mark, I look forward to your post about the Kettle 100. I was happy to get to assist you at the Hwy 12 Aid Station as you came through on the way out in SECOND PLACE. You are amazing and I'm thrilled that I had the opportunity to meet you. :) -Tonya

Wyatt Hornsby said...

Mark:

I liked your race report. Winning Mohican in 2009 was and still is the high point of my life on the trails, even including a big buckle at Leadville last August.

I think the course markings in 2009 were a concern. Actually, Jay and I both got lost on the blue loop and in a few areas I went off course but thankfully not too bad. The big contributor to the course marking problems, of course, was the massive downpour just prior to the gun going off, but you can't have a 100-mile course marked with just lime or else problems will ensue.

Though I wish my time were in the 17s, it was a challenging day with the muddy trails and lack of markings. I guess we make the best of what we're dealt.

Wyatt

Mark Tanaka (Ultrailnakaman) said...

@Mike-- thanks for clarifying. Maybe I was supposed to stand in the middle of that space behind the sign. But I apparently didn't figure out the meaning. Either way, it was weird.

Mark Tanaka (Ultrailnakaman) said...

@Tdawg/Tonya-- Thanks so much for your help (I needed a lot of help, as I recall!) and your comment. If you don't mind sending me a photo, I can stick you in my Kettle report, (which should not take 2 years to finish!) Only if you want to though.

Mark Tanaka (Ultrailnakaman) said...

@Wyatt-- Thanks for reading and for your comments. I hope you or anyone else does not interpret my whining as an implication that you performed any less than you did, and who knows, maybe you would've beaten me in the end had the course been adequately marked and no one had gotten lost. Anyways, congrats again!

I'm bummed that you didn't get to enjoy your prize for winning with the trip and race that December. The Marin Headlands are so pretty-- hope you make it out there some day!

Thomas Bussiere said...

How ironic - I was there also and got lost on the same sections. I was sooo pissed (and many others) as WE wondered about trying to figure out the right trail. Going back this weekend, and hoping a better marked course.

Tom Mueller said...

Mark -

I have six finished at Mohican, 5 on the original course and one on the USATF course your ran in 2009. I always felt the original promoting group and old course were the best...you came through rock point at around 79 and then had rolling country roads and the trudge up Turkey Ridge, then to big hill for the finish. I felt left behind when the new promoter took over. Moved on to other races. Enjoyed your detailed report, I remember many of the trail points you mention.

chris mcpeake said...

Hey great recap / report.
I ran it this year. Interesting to see how things have changed and not changed. They seem to have fixed the marking problems. However the aid stations were a disaster for the 100 milers, not that food is important or anything (note the exception was the covered bridge).
Course also no longer has road and is 95% trail.
you can check out my report on my blog.
Good luck with the running

Trail_Turkey said...

Part of running trail ultras is navigation. Unless you know the course front to back, carry a map. If you can't determine direction, carry a compass. If you don't want to do those things, run road ultras. Either way, navigation is still the runners responsibility.

Mark Tanaka (Ultrailnakaman) said...

@Trail Turkey-- one COULD argue that. However, even if I had a detailed map with me, if the race directors did not provide a printable detailed map of the course (they didn't), my own map would not necessarily have prevented me from getting off course or lost. My own view is that marking the course so that runners don't get lost is the race directors' responsibility. If RDs feel they cannot adequately mark the course, or there is a decent risk of course confusion, they should inform their runners of that responsibility. This was not done. This is not a fat-ass style run. If you charge an entry fee, own up to your responsibility.

I will be volunteer-checking a course (Skyline 50k, which has a comparable amount of course to mark as Mohican, since Mohican uses a repeated loop) early morning next Sunday to make sure no one vandalized the ribbons and that there is no ambiguity. The race director of Skyline does not expect his runners to carry a map. If people go off course because the markings are inadequate, he and I would take responsibility. I would not think to tell them-- "this is a trail run, you should've carried a map."

There are plenty of people (the majority) who will not carry a map or compass and reserve the right to run trail and not road ultras, as you suggest. Yes, we do so at our risk, loosely analagous to the way you can drive carefully and still be maimed or killed by a reckless or drunk driver. The law should punish the offender, not the victim.

Mark Tanaka (Ultrailnakaman) said...

I meant "analogous."

Trail_Turkey said...

Mark: I agree that I did a poor job of wording my thought. I should have said that if you do not know the way and do not want to carry a map or compass then do not be surprised if you cannot find your way when you are disoriented. You are correct we all reserve the right to participate with or without this gear or any other gear for that matter (though running without pants may have some legality issues).

I suppose we can agree to disagree as to that the scope of a trail race is. I believe that simple navigation and route finding is intrinsic to the scope of the sport. But I respect your opinion that if I paid money, the route should be obvious. You aren't alone in that sentiment.

We can also disagree on the responsibility of the race management. I believe that trail should be minimally marked and a map provided or available. I don't know about the race in 2009 but I know for a fact that there are maps on the website now very sufficient for simple route finding required in that park. I appreciate your commitment to the sport and conscientiousness regarding marking the races you manage. But that is not a standard by which to judge other races.

I don't think your driving analogy applies in this context. Getting lost does not a victim make.

Judy Tolliver said...

Mark,
Trying to reach you. Couldn't figure out how to email you. I worked Heaven's Gate at McN when you did your 150. I'm writing a short story using your experience as background and wanted to tell you about it, etc. Thanks!
Judy judytolliver@gmail.com

Jannick Kjaer said...

Hi Mark,

I am sorry I am leaving a comment, I can't find your email. I am writing you in the hopes that you want to participate in an e-book we are writing about ultra runners.

We want to tap into the collective craziness (we mean that as a compliment:-)) of this community to challenge and inspire other people to make their own life an ever-greater creative expression of their own goals and dreams… without limits.

We would ask you to answer two questions about your experience with ultra running.

If you'd like to participate please shoot me an email at dreamit@juliossol.com.

Thanks!

All the best,
Jannick

Unknown said...

too many race reports leave out the unpleasant stuff. not starting a crusade against polite race reports but why go through such an experience and then write about it only to edit out of the narrative the edgier parts of the story? Thanks for telling it like it is and doing so in such an entertaining fashion.

Shir