I do believe it's time to get back to my story and get us to the finish, because that's what a 100 is all about - getting to that finish line. I had arrived at Mohican Adventures just after the sun had set and after changing shoes, caring for my feed, re-fillng some bottles and gettings some food in my stomach I was back on course with my good friend and pacer Kevin Martin.
Running 100 miles is not something you can do on your own. Even if you come to the race by yourself and run without a pacer you are still relying on the kindness of the aid station volunteers to keep you fed and hydrated. My support system - my wife, parents, and friends - are the main things that motivate me to continue. Believe me when I say that I would not have finished this race without their support, and encouragement. I was at a very low spot coming into Mohican Adventures and had thought of dropping for the last 10 miles but once I saw my family and picked up my pacer the thought of dropping didn't enter my mind for the rest of the race.
I sort of spoiled it there didn't I? If I took any of the drama out of the remainder of the story I apologize for my crappy story-telling.
If you've had the pleasure of running with Kevin Martin before than you know that he is one of the nicest, most positive people you will ever meet. I was exhausted, I was sore, I felt like I had run 65 miles but Kevin kept me in a positive mental state the entire evening. No matter how bad you hurt, if you remain positive and you continue moving forward you will finish pretty much any 100 mile race.
Since I had so many problems with my stomach at the previous year's Mohican 100 and has my share of nausea early in the day I was a little gun shy all day with how much I was eating. Because of this my energy levels were low in the second half of the race. After eating at an aid station I would walk until the bloated feeling subsided - sometimes this would take 30-40 minutes. I was moving but I wasn't moving very fast.
I think everyone was moving pretty slowly throught the night. As Kevin and I came through Covered Bridge we ran into Steve Zeidner walking back towards the aid station. I knew the look on his face. I had the exact same look on my face 365 days prior at the exact same place. At Mohican in 2009 after 35 miles and 9 hours of puking I had all I could take and came into Covered Bridge at mile 63 intending to quit. It was a miracle that my pacer Roger and aid station volunteer Kathy Ross got me to go back out on course after more than 3 hours at the aid station. I was hoping that this years Mohican miracle would grace Steve. He did not want to listed to the words of encouragement I gave him as we passed in the night. I don't blame him, I knew what he was feeling. I was just hoping that look of dissapointment, that competetiveness in him, would motiviate him to continue if his stomach calmed.
As we continued on our way we arrived at Bridle Stageing before I knew it. To my dissapointment Dave Huss was sitting in a chair with his head hung low. Someone told me that the IT in his good knee had locked up and he was talking about dropping. I decided to take a seat at a chair about 100 feet away and fill my water bottle and get some food in me before going over to encourage Dave to continue. After 2 or 3 minutes I was so exhausted that I asked Kevin to go over and ask Dave to walk with me. Before I knew it Dave and his pacer Star were at our side and we were walking towards Rock Point. Even though Dave and I had run 100's of miles together over the last year I'm not sure we said more than 2 or 3 words to each other on that stretch of trail. We were both exhausted and stuggling to keep up a good pace. Even with his IT bothering Dave was walking faster than I was but when my stomach settled I passed him because I was still running a bit.
I knew Dave was in good hands though. Even though Star has paced Gradma's marathon that morning and flown all the way from MN back to OH just to pace Steve I couldn't think of a better person to be at his side through the night. Star is not only an experienced 100 mile runner but just like Kevin, she is incredibly positive and she would keep Dave good company on the trail. I didn't realize just how much Dave was struggling or that he had actually decided to quit before I arrived at Bridle Stageing. At the time all I knew is that his leg was bothering him but that he was still fighting and still on pace to finish.
Kevin and I continued on towards Rock Point. I was a big lift knowing that my family would be there, as they were all day, supporing runners. My wife and I had stayed up Thursday night cooking potatoe soup and I had been craving a cup all day. Boy did I enjoy that soup. As was the case the first time I came through, I was in such a good mood when I came through that I was more than ready to just hit the trail again and didn't spend a lot of time socializing. We headed off towards Southpark.
On the stretch towards Southpark the hours ticking away started to catch up to me. If Kevin hadn't been with me, talking the whole time, I'm pretty sure I would have sat down on the trail and awoke to the sun rising a few hours later. I was just exhausted and wanted to sleep. I needed caffeine, pronto! I had a 5-hour energy in my pack and I drank it expecting a rocket boost. I felt nothing, no life. We continued on at our SLOW pace. When we came into Southpark I was surprised to see Rita Barnes in a chair clearly going through a low point. I didn't think seasoned ultra runners like Rita had low points...in actuality they are just more adapt to getting through them but they do have low points. I was sure I'd see her again and I was right.
I may have nodded off for a while on my way from Southpark to Fire Tower - I don't remember much but when I arrived at Fire Tower I was even more exhausted if that's even possible. To be honest it was almost entirely sleep exhaustion that I was having problems with. My 5-hour Energy's weren't giving me any boost, none of the aid stations seemed to have coffee, and Coke wasn't quite strong enough. As I sat in the chair I actually started to cry, I can't realy explain it except to say I was tired. Kevin told me his wife Elizabeth was at Covered Bridge and that she had Red Bull. That might do the trick I thougth, so we continued on at our slow pace.
We arrived at Covered Bridge as the sun was coming up. It was good to get rid of the headlamp and flashlight and I was hoping the sun and a little Red Bull would give me wings. We arrived at Covered Bridge just after Elizabeth had left. There was no Red Bull, but they did have coffee. I had a cup and we got back on the trail headed towards Hickory Ridge. This section of trail took me a pathetic 2:30 to cover earlier in the day. I knew I wasn't going to get there a whole lot faster this time around but I knew it wasn't physically possible to get their slower. The thought of having maybe 4 hours left was not a big boost but we continued on, slowly.
The orange loop is not my favorite section of trail but it was all that stood between me and the finish. I wish I could say that I fought for every last second in those last 11 miles but it was a pretty poor effort other than the fact that I continued moving forward, excited about knowing that I was a few hours away from a 2nd buckle. No one had really passed me all night, since Kevin had joined me, but people were passing me on the orange loop. I didn't have the fire to respond. In an otherwise strong race this still eats a way at me a bit. If nothing else it's motivation for next year, it's unfinished business. The cut-offs were creeping up on us just a bit but we still had a comfortable cushion. We exited the trail, into Mohican Adventures campground, just after 10am on Sunday. I had completed my 2nd Mohican 100 in as many years. It wasn't fast, it wasn't pretty but I finished. On a day when so many people DNF'ed I was happy just to have a buckle.
Like I just mentioned, I still think I left time on the course and could have run faster but I'm happy to have unfinished business for future years at Mohican and for Burning River in just a few short weeks. Even though my two finishes at Mohican were in 28:30 and 29:15 I'm still keeping my expectations high for future 100's. I know I can run a fast 100 and with each race I gain more experience and learn how to cope with a new low. I feel like I'll be better prepared and in better shape to get my sub-24 at Burning River on July 31st. In future races I'll set the bar even higher.