Leighanna’s Mohican 50 Mile Ultra Marathon Recap

When Sara asked if I would write this recap I immediately said yes, however, the more I think about it I’m compelled to give my visceral response. Which would be “I went, I ran, it was hard, I had fun and then I finished,” but that certainly wouldn’t do Sara’s blog any justice. I don’t particularly consider myself an exceptional runner, possessing any “secrets” to finishing an ultra or how I’ve managed to perform relatively well during these races. My typical race plan is to “go and hang out and see what happens.” I also don’t consider myself high maintenance when it comes to running races. I usually just require more water, some fuel, a change of socks, blister care, if needed and I’m on my way. I don’t plan my outfits, lay them out or “test” them prior to race day and Sara can attest to the fact that I’m pretty relaxed and blasé about most things, races included.

In the days prior to the race I had discussed my anticipated needs with Sara, my fueling strategy and what was contained in drop boxes. This included blister care items, Huma gels, Tailwind, snacks, shoes, socks, baby wipes and duct tape. Speaking of fuel, most people are curious as to what one eats when running such long distances. I tend to favor the more “fat adapted” strategy. I don’t have a specific amount of caloric requirement per hour and I tend to take fuel when I remember or if something looks good. I don’t EVER eat prior to races or before 2 hours of running, if I do I tend to get nauseous and feel sluggish. This technique has taken me several years to figure out through trial and error and I don’t recommend it for everyone. That being said, throughout the whole 50 miles I consumed the equivalent of 2 PB&Js, 4 Huma gels, some watermelon with salt, pickles, 2 bananas and some Coke, along with a ridiculous amount of water; that’s all folks, nothing fancy, nothing spectacular.

I gave Sara very specific instructions of what I needed from her during my race:

  • Make sure I don’t f**k around too much at aid stations (I may or may not have been politely suggested to leave an aid station or two at other races)
  • Help keep my chafing under control (this usually happens as a result of my pack)
  • Help manage my hair. Even though I’d be wearing a hat and have it in a braid. Managing my very long hair can take effort and I wanted to make sure it didn’t come undone and be a tangled nightmare.

Followed by her VERY specific goals for me:

  • Make it to the finish
  • Solve over a month long mystery that she and I have pontificated upon at length. Ranger Panty wearing male racers-how does one manage to wear such short shorts and not get chafing in “delicate areas”

Well folks, I’m sad to report, I only achieved one of the goals that Sara set before me. Side note: if you are male and wear Ranger Panties email Sara or comment cause we’re still curious.

*This is Sara piping in.  Seriously, this a legit request-if you wear RP’s-call me, I have questions!!!

My race morning began at 4:30am. The nerves that I was feeling from the day prior had subsided and now I was just excited to get started. I drank some strong coffee and Sara, my mom and I were off to the start line, which was about 20 minutes away from our Air BnB.

This race consists of 2 loops, the first being the longest at 27 miles followed by a shorter loop of 23 miles. I had known from the marathon that I ran last year this course was incredibly hilly and technical in some spots but I was excited to take on the challenge. Given the amount of elevation change, which ended up being close to 6000 feet of gain and about 6000 feet of loss for the whole 50 mile course, I suspected my time would be considerably longer then what I ran at Burning River (10:51), that being said I wanted to come in under 12 hours.

The first loop starts with about a mile of road and then we made our way into the woods and was faced with our first climb. I “teamed” up with a guy I know from my local running group and used him as an unofficial pacer for the majority of the first 27 miles. I walked the uphills and ran just about everything else. At some point I decided the trail looked sad and needed a hug. It was at this point that I did a superman style launch into the air followed by a tuck-and-roll maneuver on to the ground. Side note: I’m probably picturing this to look more graceful then it actually was, but none the less, I assessed my wounds and was up and on my way. I came into each aid station feeling strong and the heat hadn’t taken a toll on me yet. At the AS that I was able to see Sara and my mom they kindly reminded me to eat, but at that point I felt ok with just Huma gels. At the last aid station of the first loop, about mile 20, the volunteer told me that I was somewhere in the top 5 females, which motivated me to keep it moving and not spend a ton of time lolly gagging. The AS from Covered Bridge to Harper Ridge and from Harper Ridge to the finish/beginning of loop two are each separated by about 7 miles, which can feel like an eternity.  I came into the AS at mile 27 in around 5hrs 25min or so. By that time my fingers were beginning to resemble little mini cocktail sausages and I knew that my electrolytes were in danger of becoming imbalanced both due to sweating so much and drinking so much water. Sara and my mom met me at the AS, Sara quickly assessed my overall status, popped some Endurolytes in me and made sure I ate something, lubed up my feet, and changed my socks and sent me out. At that point I was too focused on the race to make any concrete decisions for myself; this is where Sara or any crew person is indispensable. Throughout the entire race the knowledge that I would see my BFF and my mom waiting for me was so comforting and the gratitude that I felt for having them there is really nothing that I can accurately put into words.

For loop two I was looking at 23 miles and I was actually comforted in the fact that I didn’t have to do the entire first loop again. This loop was relatively uneventful. My body was beginning to feel some fatigue and due to all of the climbing my glutes and calves were starting to feel strained, along with my hips starting to tighten. I was intentionally beginning to walk for longer periods because I knew I should conserve energy as the hottest part of the day was approaching. Sara would sponge me down with ice cold water at the AS and remind me to eat and replace electrolytes. Somewhere around mile 35, the ground and I became friends again, nothing serious but enough to cover me in leaves, which for some reason really irritated me and what irritated me even more is that I couldn’t get my hands clean. That thought in and of itself is laughable now because I had been running probably close to eight hours, covered in sweat, mud and bug spray, I probably smelled like a farm animal and apparently it was really important that my hands were clean. Coming out of the Covered Bridge AS (mile 36ish) is where the long span between AS began, I wouldn’t see my crew until the finish and some of the most technical sections of the course. As I began to ascend the first climb I had a bit of an internal temper tantrum and looking up the hill I was about to climb it uttered “WTF is this?” and someone behind me laughed. That’s when the actual temper tantrum began, “I’m tired of climbing, I don’t want to do this, no more climbing, f-this.” I politely apologized to the person behind me and he agreed that I just verbalized what he was thinking. The last 10 miles of the race proved to be the most difficult mentally for me. I was starting to get tired, more irritated and just generally up in my head too much. It was during this time that the thought occurred to me “I’m never running a hundred.” I’m not sure where that came from, but I felt very convicted in that moment so much so that I proclaimed it to Sara upon finishing. At that point I was over it, I wasn’t experiencing any physical ailments at this point, but I had been running by myself for hours and I was ready to be done. When I was walking along arguing with myself about how running a hundo is out of the question, another female was running up behind me and so I began running, to hopefully maintain whatever standing I was at that point. After about 5 minutes I let her pass, I was too tired to care. The last two miles of this course were primarily on gravel roads and through the camp ground, a lot of it was exposed and being 94 degrees it was less than ideal. On one of the last climbs, this deer fly began dive bombing my head. I didn’t have any problems with bugs throughout the whole race and this little asshole picked now, at mile 48 to begin tormenting me. I failed at my attempts to swat it away, I swore at it, called it names and then decided if I was going to ditch my new found harasser I might as well run and so I did. I ran to the finish in an official time of 11 hours 7 minutes securing a spot as 6th overall female.

The nausea began to kick in about 5 minutes after I finished, which is not something uncommon for me after an ultra and nothing an ice pack and a shaded area can’t cure. I immediately took my shoes off, assessed the damage and kicked my feet up to wait for our friend Heather to finish the marathon. I typically don’t eat for several hours after a long race, but I knew I had about an hour and a half drive home so we got pizza and I continued to hydrate as best as I could.

I ran today, 4 days post-race and I had time to reflect on how much it meant to have Sara and my mom there to crew me, I didn’t have to think, worry or anticipate what I may need; Sara did an excellent job of doing that for me and I couldn’t think of a single other person that could have done a better job. Running brought us together and contributed into making our friendship what it is today, but now it’s our friendship that makes my running better because she’s there with me. Next up on my race calendar is Burning River 50 and Northcoast 24-hour Endurance Run and there’s no question that Sara will be my biggest supporter at both.

 

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