April 20th, 2019
Mohican 100 Mile Race Report - The Purple Lady and other stuff
Saturday June 15th, 2013
This morning I met with a lady about my age, early 50s, who never smoked in her life. But she was just diagnosed with lung cancer. It is a new phenomenon we are seeing, more in women than men. Needless to say, she is stressed. I asked her if she wanted a hug. She said yes and then she started to cry. Sometimes hugs do that... I was thinking about her all day and thought of how relatively unimportant it was to write about my experience at Mohican a little over a week ago.
But then again, running and writing about it is a way I relieve my own stress so that I can do what I do. Fortunately, there is much more hope and better treatment for lung cancer than ever before...
The Mohican 100 Trail run, the 2nd 100 in the Midwest Grand Slam series, came within 2 weeks of the Kettle 100.
I worried, I stressed, I buried myself in work -- would I be able to recover from Kettle enough to finish? Where is that MOJO I keep talking about? One thing that helped me relax was the 32 hour time limit. It was changed from 30 to 32 just within the last couple of years.
The course is tougher than Kettle, no question. There are steep hills, long and never-ending hills, steep downhills, some rocks, some roots, fields, a vertical climb up tree roots, water crossings, log climbing, a little bit of everything. The tree canopy is thick. It holds in the humidity and makes the forest pitch black after dark. It is usually quite hot and humid at Mohican. We were lucky this year with temps climbing into the mid 70s. Heat and humidity were a factor, but much less than is typical. There was a chance of rain predicted but it didn't come until the early morning hours. It rained steady for about 35 minutes. It was a comforting sound mixed in with the sound of the rushing rapids nearby. I had the life-saving 88 cent Walmart poncho in my vest. The rain was refreshing and the poncho stayed where it had been stashed the whole 100 miles. I think it is still there...
The pre-race dinner at Mohican Adventures was fun. I saw the Illinois crowd, Brandi, Chuck, Mike, Carol and Frank. I met some of my fellow Midwest Grand Slammers, including Dick Canterbury and Bryce. Dick, age 65, was going for #13 Mohican finish. Val and I sat with a couple. He was running his first 100 and his wife, Abi, was crewing. We talked about strategy, his training. It sounded like he was ready. I hate to admit it, but I forgot his name. Val saw him at the finish line and he came in at about 25 hours.
Almost right after we arrived at the pre-race dinner, I spotted the Purple Lady, Colleen Theusch, who I had communicated with by email. She had given us the last-minute updates by email. She asked for stories. I told her about running the Slam for lung cancer prevention and early detection. She told me about Dale and Greg, both cancer survivors who would be running this year. She said she would be dressed in purple and easy to find -- she was! Colleen has been involved in the Mohican Trail runs for all of the 24 years. I learned a lot from Colleen through her writing.
I met current RD, Ryan O'Dell. Ryan is an avid cyclist and has been at the helm of Mohican at least since 2009. I would love to hear how this came about since he is a cyclist first -- at least that is my impression. Running the course and talking to some of the cyclists made me want to try mountain biking. It seems like a dream course for bikes.
What I learned from Colleen: She writes an article every year, which reads like a history of the race. The articles are posted on the website. The first Mohican 100 was in 1990. It is a labor of love. Some of the players have changed over all the years, a few have passed away, like Regis Shivers. Many are still heavily involved, even if they no longer run it. The articles before 2009 are not currently accessible, but that will soon be fixed. I found out a few fun facts like that Rita Barnes, one of my inspirations to run Vol State, has the most Mohican finishes among women. Robin Fry, who I met at one of my first 100s in 2005, has since moved to Montana. He was once a fixture at Mohican and the first to notch up 10 finishes. Dale Holdaway, founder of the Midwest Grand Slam, won the 50 mile in 2009. There are many families involved, husbands and wives finishing together, fathers and sons... Connie Gardner won for the women this year and has the most wins at Mohican, I believe it is 5 now.
We started running at 0500. I ran most of the first loop with Anastasia, one of the few women on the Slam roster this year and finisher of the inaugural Slam last year. She wore her signature pink and red tutu, pink-streaked hair in pigtails under her visor. If you are bored, Anastasia will have none of it. She is fun and excited about life -- a welcome running partner. We ran together on and off the whole event until I went off course for the 2nd time at the end of loop 3 and fell behind. I spent loop 4 trying to catch her and hoping I would catch up with Paul Lefelhocz. I never caught Paul -- he kicked my a** soundly :) He told me later that he was looking over his shoulder, waiting for me to come along within a few miles of the finish line. I had my lines all prepared -- it will have to wait until next time.
I ran with Lana for a while. She had run 6 hundreds and was preparing for the Tahoe Rim Trail in July. She introduced her fiance at the end of the race. I ran a few miles with Abe, going for his first hundred finish. He hoped I would keep him from going out too fast -- I am always good for that :) I ran in front of Crystal for a few miles on loop 2. She was pushing the pace and I tried to stay ahead. She helped me run faster than I would have. We hopscotched with Jen, running with a young man trying for his first 100 finish.
The aid station volunteers were fantastic. It reminded me of Kettle Moraine -- everyone was happy to be there, having fun and willing to help the runners in any way. Some of them were Mohican veterans and volunteered due to injury or just to stay involved in the race. We heard later about the radio operators, tracking runners, moving supplies, doing whatever was needed. I can't say I noticed them much during the run. They get the job done without much fanfare.
On loop 2, Anastasia climbed the tree roots ahead of me. I looked up and her pink/red tutu blocked out my view. I wondered what would happen if she lost her grip and fell on me. She weighs about 100 or so pounds so maybe if I held on tight, I could stop her fall and still hang on. These are the kind of thoughts that go through your head...
On loop 3, Jerret paced us part of the loop. At the Fire Tower aid station, Val and Jerret decided they would get a few hours of sleep and meet us at Mohican Adentures. Toward the end of the loop, Anastasia pulled ahead. I was worried about the wrong turn I had taken on loop 2. In the dark, I thought Anastasia went the wrong way, so I chased her down the gravel road, yelling that she was going the wrong way. When I finally gave up, I couldn't find the right way. There was a left turn sign and then an immediate right turn sign. Sometime during the race, that sign fell over and someone put it back up on a slant. I couldn't see it. I waited about 10 minutes for the next runner to cross the bridge and tell me where to go. Then I realized what the problem was when I looked at the sign. It was slanted enough that it was not easily visible as you came off the bridge and proceeded left. I kept going left... In the past, I would have picked a direction and kept running. I am getting smarter about taking the time to wait for another runner or backtrack to review the markings. It may take a little time, but it is better than getting hopelessly off course.
I heard about several runners taking wrong turns or getting off course. Except for that one sign that fell off and got replanted, I was able to follow the course without a problem. I am directionally-challenged, so if I can do it, the course was well-marked :) Someone noted that the orange was not easily visible at night. The flags, ribbons and ground paint were all orange. The use of reflector on the flags would have improved the visibility. For a twisty, windy single-track trail crossing from one side to the other of creeks at times and sometimes crossing roads, I thought the markings were above average. I heard that the trail marker had run the course 10 times.
I finally got to the start/finish to find that Anastasia had went on with Jerret pacing. I had a pity party, ever so brief, that I would have to run alone in the dark. Not like I haven't done it before... You just get emotional and sometimes unreasonable during these 100 mile things. I tried to pick up a pacer because I was so tired and felt vulnerable to getting lost or falling asleep on my feet. There were no pacers to be had without waking someone sleeping in his car, so I went on to challenge the 4th loop. Maybe I could catch Anastasia and Jerret. At one of the aid stations I asked how far ahead she was. One of the aid station volunteers said, "She grabbed some toilet paper, so you will probably be able to catch her." The irreverence of ultrarunning :)
I did some crazy hallucinating on that last loop, seeing things like the mile marker saying the wrong mile, hikers and bikers on the trail who melted in the early morning fog when I took a closer look... I second-guessed that I was going the right direction, thinking I had zoned out and turned myself around. I finally made it to the last road, not missing the slanted turn sign this time. I ran as hard as I could, wanting to finally sit down and rest. I saw 2 runners on the hill behind me. I would not let them pass me at this point. That motivated me and I got through the finishline in under 29 hours. I turned to see how close the 2 runners were but they never showed up. I asked Val about it and he said there were no runners close behind me. I hallucinated them as well. One was wearing a red shirt. Hallucinations even wear clothes... The simple definition of hallucinations is dreaming while awake. You might call it the Twilight Zone. I've gotten pretty good at it when I am sleep-deprived.
Race #2 of the Midwest Grand Slam done! Burning River up next in the Midwest Grand Slam and Paul Lefelhocz will be there again...
Visitor Feedback & Commentary:
I miss Colleen "The Lady in Purple". Much to my shame it was only after her passing did I learn about her history and dedication to Mohican. She was so kind. This is a great adventure. God bless all who put their best foot forward and test who and what they are made of! I love this sport!
Mar 12, 2016
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