2011 Mohican 50A few weeks ago I noticed that there was a trail Ultramarathon nearby, so I decided to sign up. I signed up for the 50 mile race and my husband teased me by saying that he couldn't really give me any respect unless I was doing a 100. I came back by pointing out that I would do the 100 but that would put me into racing on Sunday, something I will not do, so I just had to settle for the 50.
I am grateful that I only did the 50, for that was challenging enough.
I should have known that it wasn't going to be my best race when 5 days before I found out that instead of getting out of work at 3 on Friday afternoon, Todd was going to be getting home at midnight. That left me with having to leave Saturday morning at 2:30 in the morning to be to the race for the 5 AM start.
Friday evening I was getting all my racing stuff together when I realized that I had still not purchased some running gaiters.When I did the 100, I had to keep taking my shoes off to get the rocks and debris out of my shoes - it was a good thing I wear my shoes very loose so they were easy to get on and off. I swore I was going to get some gaiters for they help prevent anything getting into your shoes. I was quite frustrated with myself for forgetting, especially since the local running store was now closed. I had one last hope in Dick's Sporting Goods, but unfortunately the shoe department guy had NO CLUE as to what I was talking about - and that is why I like getting my gear at a real running store, the people know what they are doing and selling you.
Deflated but not defeated, I decided to make my own gaiters. Using an old ankle sock, I cut out the toes, stuck my foot in through the original opening all the way through the new opening and using velcro stickers and safety pins I put the homemade gaiter into place. I finished in time to get a text from a friend saying that it was raining hard down in Mohican, where the race was occurring. My gaiters were just made out of cotton, but I got my sewing machine out and made a lining consisting of a more waterproof material.
After all this I hit the pillow at 11:15. Sometime around 1 AM Todd came home from work to find me sprawled in bed with Grant across my stomach. At 2 my alarm went off and by 2:30 I was in the car driving to the race.
I was quite apprehensive about the drive to and from the race. I knew that I would have a lot of alone time during the actual race and that the last thing I wanted was to have a lonely 2 hour drive that had to be done before and after the race. The drive was obnoxious, but not unbearable. On the way home I was even able to have a good conversation with my dad, so I guess it all worked out okay.
I got to the race in time to check in, change, and get to the line up with 5 minutes to spare. At 5 AM the gun went off and so did a couple hundred of runners. The first hour of running was a little tricky for even though we had headlamps, it was still dark and unsure footing, but it was great getting out on the trails again.
I had never been to the Mohican trails before, nor was I able to find any elevation maps (though I don't think I know how to read those very well anyways) so I was shocked to find the course so hilly. The climbs and descents were miserable! I couldn't believe how steep they were and how frequently they occurred. The course was probably 90% uphill or downhill with the last 3-4 miles consisting of the steepest hills, some of which had no tree shade...and the course was two loops so that had to be done twice!
Even though the course was difficult, it was beautiful. Most of the time I was in the shade of trees, so even though it was quite warm, I was grateful that the sun wasn't beating down on me. The hills were gorgeous, with a lot of different things to see. At one point I'm running through a forest, the next I have these big beautiful green fern all around me, the next I was on four-wheeling trail. My favorite had to be when we had to climb down these steps made out of the rocks, these steps were steep and slippery, the race director had cautioned the runners about this particular part for many people have fallen and gotten hurt at that point. After climbing down, we were in a ravine, going along near a creek that we would hop from one side to the next. We finally came out of the ravine by climbing up a steep cliff by grabbing onto a web of petrified roots, grabbing hand over hand. So GORGEOUS!!!
One of the best things about running Ultras, besides the majority of them occurring on trails, is the people that you get to run with. When running road races, you may talk to the people around you, but for the most part, every one is focused, competing against one another. When running an Ultra, it is as if you are going out on a huge group run. It doesn't matter if you are the elite or the slowest in the group, everyone is given respect, everyone is treated well, and there is A LOT of talking going on.
I found that I would run "on my own" for about 5 miles, then I would run with someone, talking with them meanwhile for the next 10-15 miles. I got to know these people as we helped each other out, pushing each other, encouraging each other. One particular runner that I ran with for the last 15 miles, Denis, who was doing the 100, gave me some of his water when I ran out of my fluids a mile or two before the next aid station. After I had finished the race and was resting, I ran out of water in my container. A man, who was showered, walking good, and had the wristband indicating he was a 50 mile runner (probably came in first place) asked me if I needed something. Not wanting to go to far for water since I was in the shelter house trying to put up my feet before driving home I asked him if there happened to be a water fountain in the building. He said there wasn't, but pointed me towards the beer tap. I smiled and politely refused. Then he offered to take my bottle to where the finish line was and refill it for me, which I took him up on. I will probably never see any of these people again, but will always be grateful for them.
In every race there is a moment (and it can be a LONG moment) that I absolutely hate running. I loathe it, I wonder why I am doing it, I am looking at my watch and realizing that the fastest way to be done is to run but that it is also the last thing I want to do. These moments are really hard to get through, and a lot of times I will find myself walking through them. But just after these moments is when I have the best thinking going on. Things seem much clearer, more optimistic, more hopeful. This is when I get some good ideas and work through some personal issues. This is when I meet myself.
One way that I am able to get through the tough moments is by my motivation...people I love. Since Todd had to work until late Friday night and had to be back to work Saturday afternoon, he wasn't able to come support me. It made me sad, for Todd is my greatest strength and support. I love that guy. I did find support from the other runners and really appreciated them, but I was incredibly grateful when I finished the first loop (at 6 hours) and heard "Yay! Loni!!!" It was my dear friend Linda. Yes she was my sole supporter, and I didn't even expect her to come. She had an activity in the area that afternoon, so she came up early to cheer me on. I appreciated seeing her, feeling her love and support. It definitely helped me get through the next couple of miles (I had 24 left).
I did have a hard time between miles 30-38, walking a lot, feeling how tight my buns and quads were feeling...I was NOT use to these hills. I listened to a Conference Highlight, then feeling much more motivated, I picked it up, running all but the steepest of hills, "killing" (or passing) many people, most of which were men.
I finally ran into finish at 12:17, 17 minutes over my goal but I did not realize that the course was going to be so brutal, so I was just happy that I got under 13 hours. I ran an average of 4 miles an hour (15:00 min/mile pace) with some parts going faster and some parts going slower. I finished first in my age division, eighth women, and happy to be done!
I did have someone ask me if I had made my own gaiters, they were obviously homemade, but they held up to the challenge and so did I.