Monday, April 20, 2009

Strong finish at the Mohican 50K / Training week 4/13-4/19

Congratulations to my friends and fellow runners who finished the 113th Boston Marathon in fine fashion:
  • Mark Godale: 2:51 (American record holder for 24 hours with 162 miles)
  • Steve Godale: 2:55
  • Jeff Ubersax: 2:58 (and he’s 53 years-old!)
  • Frank Duchossois: 3:01 (52 years-old!)
  • David Schrader: 3:02
  • Steve Hawthorne: 3:03 (first timer at Boston and co-owner of Vertical Runner)
  • Marc Abramiuk: 3:04 (first timer at Boston)
  • Larissa Abramiuk: 3:09
  • Joe Vishey: 3:15
  • Jeff Ziol: 3:15
  • Don Luscher: 3:16
  • Elizabeth Hansen: 3:16
  • Greg Dykes: 3:20
  • Barbara Broad: 3:28 (age group winner!)
  • Tim McGinty: 4:05
  • Amie Scarpitti: 4:11

A special congrats to SERC member and friend Barb Broad, who not only PR'd, but also won her age group at the biggest, most prestigious race in the world. That is amazing.

Top American man Ryan Hall (3rd overall/2:09:40) and top American women Kara Goucher (3rd women/2:30:25) turned in great performances. Goucher trailed women's winner Salina Kosgei of Kenya by 9 seconds, while Hall came in about a minute behind outright winner Deriba Merga of Ethiopia. These are incredible athletes and even better runners.

If I don’t get into the Western States 100 next year (via the lottery), I plan to return to Boston, where I will attempt to break three hours on a course that in 2006 and 2007 kicked my ass all over the place. My mileage and commitment to quality workouts back then was no where near what it is now, so I think I would have a good shot at a sub-3 effort at Boston provided I can get in some focused training.


I capped off the week of 4/13-4/19 with an “aggressive” training run at the first annual Forget the PR Mohican 50K, held in beautiful Mohican State Park in Ohio on Sunday. This very well-organized, well-marked and well-executed race with good talent on the course and outstanding volunteers was directed by Rob “Buckeye” Powell, an accomplished marathoner and ultra runner, and raised money for the local Girls Galion Softball Program, making it a truly good cause. Many of the girls from the teams were at the race, cheering at the start and at the finish. This really brought extra meaning to the whole event and made the $75 entry fee well worth it. And I think it was their inspiration that resulted in not one DNF. I have never run a race that had no DNFs. When you consider how punishing the course was, no DNFs is amazing.

As far as my training week, as I’ve written on here many times, my focus all winter and spring has been on training for the Mohican Trail 100-Mile Run on June 20. Of secondary concern is a potential sub-3 effort at the Cleveland Marathon. So I decided that I’d use the Mohican 50K as a long training run to complete a 100-mile week. Mission accomplished. When I crossed the finish line of the Mohican 50K with a 4:49 and fifth-place finish, I’d just logged 103 miles for the week.

Before I go any further, I want to congratulate Forget the PR Mohican 50K outright winner Jay Smithberger (4:24), who is also the reigning Mohican 100 champ, and Jenny Anderson (5:10), winner of the women’s division. Jay, who hails from the Columbus, Ohio area, has emerged as an elite ultrarunner in the Midwest and East Coast and has rattled off quite a few impressive outright victories over the past year. He is one talented, tough ultrarunner and an awfully nice, humble guy.

Now for my race report. I woke up on Sunday morning at 4 a.m., got dressed, made some eggs and a bagel, packed the car and hit the road with a cup of coffee in hand (having unwittingly woken up my wife and Noah when the garage went up as I left. Noah would not go back to sleep....). The drive to Loudonville took an hour and 45 minutes and I arrived at about 7:00 a.m., having stopped at the (famous) Loudonville McDonald's for a bathroom break. I checked in and went back to my car, where I talked with Dave Peterman (5:17) and a few others as I debated a short- or long-sleeve shirt. At the start, the temperature was in the low 50s and the sky was overcast. Rain was coming, but I saw no drops until my drive home in the afternoon. For the race, I wore my usual Race Ready and compression shorts, a short-sleeve UnderArmour shirt for warmth, an Adidas tank top, a running hat, my Oakleys, and of course trail shoes. I carried no water.

The Mohican 50K is run mostly on the 100-mile course, especially the hilly and technical sections, making it a great training run for the Mohican 100 or just about any other 100, including Western States, I would imagine. And the quality of the field made it an excellent race by itself. Rob was true to his word when he said he designed a course that “will hurt you.” The race starts at the main campground in Route 3 and is run on the (in this order) orange, purple (the creek and cliff section), blue, purple (again), green, red and yellow loops. The aid stations are, in this order, at Hickory Ridge (#1), the Covered Bridge (#2), Mohican Lodge (#3), the Five Tower (#4) and the Covered Bridge (#5). The Mohican Lodge section was off the 100-mile course and had some very muddy spots.

When the race started, for a second there I debated trying to keep up with Jay and Vince as they took off, but then I decided that with 71 miles already on the legs for the week and with a quad that was bothering me late in the week, it was best to stick to the training-run plan. Besides, those guys have more speed than I do (Jay passed me at mile 60 of Mohican last year en route to his win). So I maintained a semi-aggressive pace and stuck to the plan.

I had some patches where I was really thirsty, especially in the latter half of the race. I think I was flirting with the early signs of dehydration on at least two occasions. I should have carried a bottle. Lesson learned. Fortunately, the aid stations were 4-6 miles apart. I drank a lot of water and Coke and a little Heed. They had these Voortman "fruit" coookies that were the bomb. I had a few PB&J quarters, but most of my calories came from the gels I carried.

For the first time ever in my running life, I lost a shoe in the mud as I was nearing the Mohican Lodge. This little section of trail was in awful shape due to the runoff from the road above. It made a mosh pit look tame. Fortunately, I was able to quickly recover my shoe and was back on my way after losing only about 30 seconds.

The last mile was challenging, but the strength was there to negotiate the hills and finish strong. I came into the finish line having run the last 1/2 mile under 7:00 pace. I had some gas left in the tank. After finishing, I hung out for a little while in the shelter with winner Jay Smithberger, Vince Rucci (#2 with a 4:36), John Cox (#3 with a 4:36) and Andy Nesheim (#4 with a 4:44) and I think we were all tired.

What I Learned From the Mohican 50K
I am finding that experience, more than endurance, is beginning to dictate how I run ultras. At the Lt. JC Stone 50K, which was my first race of the 2009 season, I had enough in the tank to pass three runners on the last 5-mile loop to finish 5th. At the Mohican 50K, a younger guy passed me (he was training for his first 100 miler) before the Mohican Lodge section and I was pissed because I hate being passed. But then I noticed when I came upon him at the Mohican Lodge aid station that he hadn’t eaten a thing—not even a few chips. I wasn’t eating a ton but I was consuming enough to stay functional and strong. I realized that if he wasn't eating, or not eating enough (maybe he was but not that I saw), he’d eventually bonk on this difficult course. Sure enough, he faded (who among us hasn't at one time or another?) and I passed him, never to see him again. I’ve found that ultrarunning is as much a thinking man’s sport as it is a test of physical endurance and mental toughness. All of that said, I love the tough-man side of the sport and maybe this is why I'm fascinated by the really nasty events, such as the Hardrock 100, Badwater, Marathon de Sables et al.

I am happy with my Mohican 50K result! My quad didn't bother me one bit and my body stayed strong for me as I climbed the hills. If I had to rate where I am right now, I’d say my endurance is very strong (stronger than ever before), my running economy is pretty good, my aerobic capacity is pretty good, and my leg turnover is improving. I need some more time on the track. Now I need to decide what I’m doing at the Cleveland Marathon on May 17!


Here’s how the training week wen:

AM: 9 miles at 7:40 pace on country roads in and around Chagrin Falls
PM: 4.25 miles at 7:43 pace on the treadmill
Total miles for day: 13.25

AM: 9 miles at 7:25 pace in and around the Chagrin River valley
PM: 4.25 miles at 7:43 pace on the treadmill
Total miles for day: 13.25

AM: 9.5-mile interval workout, consisting of 2x3200 meters with 800-meter recovery in between, at the high school track. My goal was to break 12 minutes (or sub-6-minute miles) for each and I did it, running my first 3200 in 11:57 and my second in 11:58. Running 2x3200 is a tough workout as you’re going fairly hard for two consecutive miles (twice); yet it’s not as physically demanding as 3x1600. I entered the last lap of my second 3200 running a few seconds behind 12-minute pace, so I picked up my speed just a bit and managed to meet my goal. This was a great workout. My legs were very, very tired afterward.
PM: 4.5 miles at 7:43 pace on the treadmill
Total miles for day: 14

AM: 9 miles at 7:38 pace in and around the Chagrin River valley. A few miles into my run, my right quad started to ache. The ache wasn’t a sharp pain; just a dull ache that I figured was a muscle strain. I decided on this run that I would redouble my stretching and flexibility efforts.
PM: 4 miles at 7:43 pace on the treadmill as I carried my 2-lbs. hand weights. My right quad really hurt. When I got off the treadmill thoughts of a potential femoral stress fracture flooded my mind.
Total miles for day: 13

AM: 8.05 miles at 7:48 pace in and around the Chagrin River Valley. With my right quad really aching toward the end, I realized that this injury could pose serious problems at the upcoming Mohican 50K, and I still worried about a developing femoral stress fracture. To top it off, I also had a pulled shoulder muscle probably from carrying the weights the night before.
PM: Rest/recovery

AM: 10.05 miles in the South Chagrin Reservation with the Southeast Running Club. I ran with Tim C., John K., Tom A., and Ted F., completing the last 3 miles with Tim. With the 50K the next day and on the heels of my quad injury, I ran at a relaxed pace and was pleasantly surprised to find that my legs felt excellent. It’s as if the muscle problem healed spontaneously.
PM: Rest/recovery

AM: Forget the PR Mohican 50K (31.1 miles) at Mohican State Park. I finished 5th overall out of 128 starters with a time of 4:49 on a very challenging course.

Total miles for week: 102.7
Total miles for month: 260.2
Total miles for year: 1,171.59


The plan this week is to rest and recover with a goal of no more than 60 miles and maybe some intervals at the track if I’m up to it. Then next week hopefully my legs will be fresher and I’ll be able to shoot for 90+ miles and the usual track and tempo workouts. If I decide to go for a sub-3 at Cleveland, I have about two weeks (after this week) to position myself for it with a one-week taper. And I also need to register!

I recently saw that the first annual NorthCoast 24-Hour here in Cleveland in October will host the 24-hour USA National Championship. I'm definitely interested, but I don't think I can do the Burning River 100 in August and NorthCoast two months later. One or the other, but probably not both.

Onward and upward!


  1. Great job on the course. Not bad for training. I thought it was funny when you told me you lost your shoe in that mud. It is always muddy there no matter the weather. I started picking up race flags the next day and fell right on my butt deep in the mud with 20 miles of trail left to clear...

    Thanks for picking the race.

  2. Wyatt, great race on Sunday and good race report. I learned some hard lessons out there on Sunday, which will help me in future ultras. One of them, as you pointed out, is even if I'm feeling great stop and eat something at every aid station :). Legs felt great the whole way...stomach didn't. I look forward to seeing you at the Mohican 100!

  3. Great report Wyatt, and you did well to stay with your plan. I know the competitive urge was pushing you to keep up with Jay and Vince, but you were too smart to let that happen.