Thursday, June 18, 2009

Final Mohican 100 thoughts

The Mohican 100 is now just 48 hours away. At this point, all I can do is just hope for continued good health. This week has been pretty relaxing. I ran 4 miles on Tuesday, walked 2.5 miles on Wednesday and this morning walked 2.5 miles while pushing Noah in his stroller.

Over the past few days, I've devised a race strategy and communicated extensively with my crew/pacers, Kenny M. and Dan C. of my former stomping ground in Indiana. I have total confidence in Kenny and Dan. Kenny, who is 20 states into his 50-state assault, has paced me at both of my previous 100s--the 2007 Burning River and 2008 Mohican. He carefully studies the course beforehand and does a great job of thinking for me late in the race. Dan is an experienced ultra runner and previously participated in competitive canoeing, which involves a lot of strategy and teamwork. I'm really excited to have both Kenny and Dan on board.

With 23,000 feet of climb and descent, the Mohican course is fairly challenging. There are a lot of ups and downs and the final 10 miles, which are on gravel road, are punishing with constant hills and rocky footing. By contrast, the Burning River 100, while challenging in its own right, is pretty easy the final 10 miles with plenty of flat areas that allow you to shuffle along. But most everything is relative. The Hardrock 100 has 66,000 feet of climb and descent, with an average elevation of 12,000 feet. The Western States 100 has over 40,000 feet of climb and descent. It's important to keep things in perspective.

Because Mohican repeats several sections and uses aid stations multiple times, you don't have to pack a lot of drop bags. For example, you go through the Covered Bridge aid station, a.k.a., Grand Central Station, five times, including once after the always-fun river crossing. That said, it's always kind of stressful getting my drop bags ready because I have to plan for everything that could go wrong (but, in reality, probably won't go wrong). I've found in both 100s I've run that I haven't used my drop bags as much as I thought I would. At last year's Mohican, really all I needed were a change of shoes after the river crossing and some Pepto Bismol and more toilet paper after mile 80. Oh, and a new knee!

So, yeah, I'm a little nervous about Saturday, as any runner would be, but I'm also excited. It's not every day that you get to spend so much time in nature, so focused on the task at hand that you're free of the daily grind of life if just for that one day. All I'll be missing are Anne and Noah and our dog, Sophie, who I wish could run with me.

I'll also find comfort in knowing that while most people think running 100 miles is crazy, humans were in fact born to run such distances. I think of the Kalahari bushmen and the Tarahumara and Raramuri people of Northern Mexico who run scores of miles chasing down animals to their death--a now-rare practice known as persistence hunting. The animals being chase by the hunters, while much faster in short bursts, are no match over the long haul due to their inability to keep cool and recover on the run. Not so with humans. Our ability to keep cool (by sweating) and recover over long distances (thanks to efficient breathing) allows us to do extraordinary things with our legs, such as chase down antelope over a period of hours. And so on Saturday I'll run 100 miles knowing this is what my body was made to do. It's what we were all made to do. Take away the thin veil of "civilization" and, really, deep down we're no different than our ancestors of thousands of years ago. Instincts can be buried deep within, but they're always there.

I'll be sure to post my time on Sunday and follow up in the coming days with a race report.