Sunday, June 21, 2015

Mohican Trail Marathon

Yesterday was the Mohican 100, a 100 mile trail race, a 50 mile trail race, and a fun run (26.8 miles) at Mohican State Park, near Loudonville, Ohio.  The race description sounded fun, I hadn't done a trail marathon in Ohio, and it worked out that my friend John would be able to do the race with me.  We camped within shouting distance from the finish line.  I was grateful that the rain held off until Saturday morning.  When we woke up, the clouds were pretty low in the valley.

The hundred milers started at 5am, and the 50 milers started at 6am.  We didn't have to start until 8am.  It was raining steadily by then.  I wouldn't be this dry again for a long time.  There were approximately 700 runners in all three races.  It didn't seem like there were more than 300 marathoners.

Here is John before his first trail marathon.

The obligatory starting line photo.

The obligatory starting line photo.

We ran through the entrance of the state park on the road for a half mile or so to spread the crowd out.  The road crossed the Clear Fork Mohican River and then headed off into the woods.  There was a pretty solid line of runners for the first section (4.1 miles).

I made sure to be patient for the first section, waiting for runners, and only passing when someone stepped aside.  It was a shame that the aid stations were spaced close together for the first third of the marathon, and then further apart during the last two-thirds.  (There were two aid stations in the first third, and two in the last two-thirds.)

Here is the second aid station, at mile 8.6.  I was carrying 32 ounces of water, and made sure to completely refill each time, get another gel, and throw away trash.

Things finally started space out after the second aid station.  I was pretty much alone for this section until we got to Big Lyon Falls.  I kept trying to mentally focus on one section at a time.  This section was 6.2 miles, one of the longer sections.

Purple-flowered Raspberry along the trail.  The park was pretty and had a northeastern feel.  There was a good variety of nesting warblers, plus several singing Veeries.  It would have been fun to spend some time botanizing.

A muddy fire lane.  We didn't have too many miles on two-tracks.

Notice the footing of the two runners ahead of me.  It was quite sloppy.  I didn't find myself sliding too much, but the footing was something that required attention.

The one section of stairs on the race was to descend to the bottom of Big Lyon Falls.  These next few miles were the most interesting as far as scenery goes.

A group of racers playing under the waterfall.  Some appeared to be washing their shoes, which was somewhat silly.

I took a couple seconds to stand underneath the falls to feel the refreshing cool water.

We followed the stream down from the falls to the Clear Fork Mohican River and then followed another ravine stream back upstream.  This stretch was called the 'enchanted valley'.  It was full of ferns, mossy logs, and flowers.

Here is Little Lyon Falls, looking up from the ravine.  The trail turned left at the arrow and climbed up a root ladder.

Here is a view of Little Lyon Falls from the top of the natural root ladder.

Here is a view looking back down the ravine from the top of the falls.  You can see the race course going up the root ladder (and the white, 'left turn' sign).

After the falls, the course climbed up on top of the Pleasant Hill dam.  I found it easier (like the runner behind me) to run down the grassy slope than to take the slipper steps.  The third aid station (and next to last!) was about a mile down an easy path along the river.  I was feeling pretty solid.  This stretch emptied all 32 ounces of my water.  I replenished, and then started a long trek up the hill and along to the last aid station.

Black Cohosh blooming along side a muddy trail.  It was 5.4 miles to the last aid station.  I was told by several of the local runners that this was a fairly easy section, just nice and rolling.  I was fairly strong and steady until approximately mile 18 or 19.  My stomach started to get somewhat queasy, and I started restricting my water intake.  The last aid station seemed to be much further than it should have been.  There was a very slippery and muddy hill to climb right before the aid station that really took away some of my momentum.  None of the food at the last aid station looked to appetizing to my stomach.  I had a watermelon slice, refilled my water, and headed out.

The last stretch was 6.4 miles.  The marathon was 26.8, for some reason there were six tenths of mile extra.  This felt very unreasonable to me at the time.  I wished for some other intermediate goal on which to set my mind.  The 6.4 mile distance, to a tired runner, was too large to comprehend.  Despite being very slow, I fixed my mind on beating seven hours.  I left the last aid station at roughly 4hrs 55min.  That meant that I could beat seven hours if I averaged 19 minutes/mile pace.  That should be easy, but nothing is easy at the end of marathon.  My stomach eventually mostly settled, but part of that was not drinking enough.  I still ran a bit of the down grades, but spent a lot of time walking.  Several runners caught up to me and were very encouraging.  I wasn't sure where the trail went for the finish, so I didn't allocate the final energy reserve until maybe too late.  Oh well, that only made at most a couple minutes difference.  I finished with a 6:48 time, getting there in time to hear them announce John's name during the awards ceremony.  John for his first trail marathon took second with a very impressive debut performance.  I was happy with my performance.  I felt like I was smart and managed my strength well.  I avoided wasting energy/effort dodging puddles and passing people.  On another day, with more prior rest, and more training, I think I would have been done in about six hours.  John and I hung out at the finish for a while, talking to other racers.  The first 50 milers had lapped me and had finished before me.  Even some of the 100 milers had lapped me.  They blow my mind and humble me.  The Mohican Trail Marathon is a fun race and I had an enjoyable time.

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