The Mohican 100 Mile Endurance Run was without question the hardest race I have ever run. Whereas at the 2007 Burning River 100 I was full of excitement when I crossed the finish line, when I finished at Mohican I was so spent physically and mentally that I couldn't even really feel happiness. I couldn't feel anything but total exhaustion and severe pain in my left knee (more on that below). As I write this post I'm happy, but last night when I crossed at 12:21 a.m. I didn't even know what happiness was....
Here's a run-down of how Mohican went:
Miles 1-52 (Rock Point) : I went out hard and felt incredibly strong. In fact, I went out too hard. About 5 miles into the race, Bob Pokorny, who was running the 50-mile race, caught up with me and told me to slow down. He and I ran together for the next 15 or so miles before he had to make the 50-mile race turn. I held on strong and got up to second place, trailing behind a guy from California who went out hard at last year's Mohican and was leading before blowing up and eventually clocking 27 hours. When I came up to Rock Point at 52.2, there he sat totally wasted. I thought for sure he was done. When I left Rock Point I was in the lead.
Being a native southerner, I found the watermellon at Grist Mill quite enjoyable--much better than PB&J's.
Miles 52-65 (Fire Tower): Sometime after Rock Point things began to fall apart for me. Right as I was entering the Fire Tower aid station at 60.8, the eventual winner, Jay Smithberger, who ran a 17:17 and last year a time of over 21 hours, caught up with me. We left the Fire Tower together with our pacers--I had Ted F. with me--only for Jay to overtake us going down to the mile 63.3 Covered Bridge aid station. I figured we'd be seeing him again soon. I was wrong on that one.
Ted and I entering the Grist Mill aid station at mile 75.
Miles 65-80 (Covered Bridge): Even with the company of my very good friends, Ted, who joined me at mile 60, and Kenny M., who joined in at mile 75, I began to feel a lot of doubt during this grueling stretch. As Ted and I (Kenny hadn't yet joined us) were going down to the mile 75 Grist Mill aid station, we were hit with a severe thunderstorm and were caught in the woods with tree branches and hail coming down everywhere. It got very dark and I couldn't help but feel a little dispirited. I was pissed at myself for going out too hard and letting Jay overtake us. To top it off, the California guy, Jeff Atwell, had caught back up to us and overtook me not long after leaving the Covered Bridge aid station at mile 80.5. Even worse, my left knee cap had begun to hurt badly--a likely case of tendinitis that I will need to rehab over the next few weeks.
Miles 80-90 (Rock Point): With Ted and Kenny coaching me along, I managed to endure the stretch from the Covered Bridge to Rock Point, but not without some serious discomfort. Our goal was to get out of the red loop by night fall, allowing us to cover the last 10 miles on the gravel roads through Landoll's Castle and the finish in the dark. We were able to accomplish that goal save about 10 minutes. I had begun to have some gastrointestinal issues (TMI, sorry) around mile 85--likely the result of two slices of pizza eaten on the run after the Covered Bridge aid station at 80.5--but wasn't too concerned just yet. I figured the GI problems would clear up. We covered some decent ground over this 10-mile stretch, but I came into Rock Point pretty hobbled by my ailing knee and reeling from my now-horrendous GI problems.
Kenny (left), Ted (right), and I entering the Bridle Staging area aid station at mile 83.2.
Miles 90-100 (finish): Two words describe this stretch perfectly: Pure hell. The double-whammy of my knee injury and GI issues reduced me to a near-incoherent shell of a man. I was having to "stop" for pit stops every 20-30 minutes and could barely talk with Kenny and Ted, and I know my wife, Anne, and her dad didn't like what they saw when I came into the Rock Point and Landoll's Castle aid stations looking like I was half-dead (and I did feel half-dead). By the time we left Landoll's Castle, having taken some Pepto Bismol, I was running a little but the downhills were killing my knee so much that I tried to fight off an Irish runner who was coming up behind us but couldn't. So he passed us, putting me in fourth place overall. I ran-walked a little more and then we entered the truly horrendous Big Hill stretch. The uphill wasn't that bad, but the downhill combined with my knee injury made the hike down the hill torture. Finally, when were down the hill we began running down the home stretch. My GI problems were now behind us (pun intended).
Ted (left), Kenny (right) and I after finishing the Mohican.
About a quarter of a mile from the finish, I looked back and saw a runner. I knew immediately who it was--Connie Gardner, the elite women's ultrarunner who last November ran 145 miles in 24 hours at UltraCentric, nearly setting the new women's record. I knew holding Connie off would be difficult--she's one of the two or three toughest runners I know and will hammer it despite the pain and discomfort. She was gaining on us fast. Fortunately, I still had a little left in the tank and somehow dropped the hammer and sprinted to the finish line, beating a surging Connie by less than 100 feet to finish the Mohican 100 fourth overall with a time of 19:21. I wasn't even really happy when I finished--I was just alive but barely. Connie and I embraced after finishing and then I went into the shelter to sit down and decompress. I honestly don't remember much about the post-race activities, other than that Anne and I, along with Ted and his wife Tami, and my father-in-law, Doug, drove back to the hotel for some shut-eye only to wake up about 6 hours later to return to the finish to collect my belt buckle and drop bags and talk with some friends who'd run the race, like Steve G., Dave P. and a few others.
Now that I've done Mohican, I can say with certainly that Mohican is WAY harder than Burning River. Burning River has its share of hills, but nothing like Mohican. At Burning River, you can basically shuffle along on the towpath and into Downtown Cuyahoga Falls the last 15 miles. At Mohican, you can't shuffle really anywhere because you're constantly confronted with hills of both the uphill and downhill variety. The last ten miles is, as my pacer Ted said, "almost sadistic" in that you're confronted by a serious near-crippling hills your body is ill-equipped to endure that late in the race. Mohican's difficulty is considerably greater than that of Burning River.
I will write more about my Mohican adventure. For now, I just wanted to get this quick report up.