Monday, June 29, 2009

Mohican Report Part 4

“Stars shining bright above you
Night breezes seem to whisper ‘I love you’
Birds singing in the sycamore tree
Dream a little dream of me”
--Mama Cass

“Basically you are OK. Get some sleep, stop vomiting and you’ll be alright. Hey, I hope we see you at Colleen’s dinner party in January!”
--Paramedic at covered bridge 4:30am

Mohican is the only day all year long that my urine really gets the attention that is deserves. Its color, volume, and frequency are as spellbinding to me as an “Ice Road Truckers” marathon. I hate to brag. I really do. But so far my urine had been the type of stuff that could inspire poetry. Hemingway would have described it as “Dependable pee. Strong and true. The kind of ‘number one’ a man could live with”! It really was kinda beautiful there, all silhouetted against my headlight as I stopped on the climb to Hickory Ridge. There just didn’t seem to be nearly as much of it as there was before but that’s OK right? Sure it was. Besides there really wasn’t any time or need to worry. I was walking behind Dick Canterbury and he was looking as good as I felt. My pacer Kevin had my back and we were coming up on 68 miles and the bright lights of the Hickory Ridge aid station. That meant that we were entering the realm of the Mansfield Running Club. These folks are fun, and knowledgeable, and dependable. If the people at the Rock Point aid station were the type that you would choose if you were looking to do a little homesteading then the attractive and fun bunch at Hickory Ridge would be your admissions department if you were going to start a college…a fun college. They had cute women who thought that it was interesting and acceptable that a man was lacking, say, skin on his feet, or a stomach lining. They knew how to treat these maladies and also had smiles and tomato juice and salted potatoes. I hated to leave but the Mill beckoned. I promised to join them on one of their famous Tuesday night runs in the future and boogied out into the night.

The only unpleasantness at all, in fact, at Hickory Ridge was that when I asked how their team-mate Michelle Bichsel was doing they looked a bit glum. “She’s kinda sick” said a cute one. “Yeah but she’s gonna finish up just fine because she’s tough” said a fun one. Then everyone smiled.

At about this time Michelle was at the Mill arguing with Rob Powell. Rob was testing his recent surgical scar tissue just a bit by crewing for Michelle, who had been suffering gastrointestinal distress all day. Michelle wanted to drop out; Rob was having none of it. In fact Rob had taken the identification strip off of Michelle’s race bib so the she COULD NOT legally drop out. Backing Rob up was Don Baun who had decided to leave his best effort for a better day and then, in true Mohican fashion, eschewed a warm bed for an all-night crew position. Michelle argued the point but her friends were most likely only presaging what her own mind would have told her given a moment of silence. She wasn’t going to float this time but she wasn’t going to sink either.

Kevin and I passed a sign that told us that we had only 4 more miles of bike trail left. That means that we were three miles from Hickory Ridge which means we had gone…..ummmm…68 plus 3 equals….about 70 or something like that. Yeah seventy. “Hey Kevin guess what? We only have like 33 more miles to go! I feel great”. Five steps later I was bent at the waist heaving loud enough to stir birds from their nests. “Whoa. That was weird” Said I. “Let’s get out of these woods. We’ll just go nice and easy and it’ll all be BLEEEHHHHH!”

At this point in the race Wyatt Hornsby must have been running a bit scared. Wyatt had just done something that he must have envisioned on a hundred training runs over the past year. It was bold and it was ballsy and it was unlikely. He had run well back from the frontrunners all day long; keeping them just within range. This was a wise strategy. But just a while ago his patience, alertness, and knowledge of the course allowed him to take over the lead from Mark Tanaka of San Francisco and he was now irrevocably committed to pulling off his goal of winning the Mohican Trail 100 Mile Run. This was the work of a believer. Wyatt was a good runner. In fact he had finished in the top five in a local 50K race on this very course a few months ago. But this was Tanaka’s race and everyone knew it. Well, almost everyone. Tanaka was the genuine deal. He was a member of the famous La Sportiva Mountain Running Team. Wyatt was running ruthlessly. He refused to walk on even some of the steepest climbs and increased his effort time and again over the final miles. Think of Rocky climbing off the canvas for a knockout. Wyatt crossed the line to the delight of all skinny-low-heart-rated Ohioans, in first place in 19:52.

[Quick editorial note here: By all accounts Mark Tanaka is a genuinely wonderful person and a terrific athlete. In no way do I mean to paint him into the "bad guy" role here...I just love an upset/local-boy-makes-good story : ). Nothing but all-around respect intended. In his blog Wyatt spoke in the highest terms of the talent and courage displayed by both Tanaka and Matt Aro. All three runners gave ultra fans one of the best races seen at Mohican in many years. Maybe ever.]

I stumbled down the final mile of the bike path and into the campground parking lot. I lay right down on my face and went to sleep. Kevin woke me up saying “Its only one mile to the Mill, pull your shit together”. “Tough titty Miss Kitty” said I. I lay there while the inconsiderate bastards in the truck parked nearby kept asking me over and over again if I was alright and did I need any help at all? Wasn’t there something they could please do? “I’m fine!”

I guess I wasn’t portraying “Fine” as well as I thought I was.

About an hour earlier Nick the Brewer, Nick the Philosopher, Nick the runner-at heart who lives in kid-like joy at his ability to run long distances had set a P.R. Nick arrived at the Covered Bridge aid station at 64 miles after battling muscle cramps for the last 43 miles, blistered feet for the past 10 hours, low blood sodium all day long and, straight from the “Insult to injury” file, a headlamp that picked the treacherous green loop to wink out…then on again…then out...then kinda on…in the pitch black darkness of the toughest stretch of woods in the toughest 100 miler in the Midwest, since nightfall. The problem with the light (and this story tells its own tale about being a mammal in lousy weather conditions) was that it was shorting out because Nick was sweating into the battery compartment. He stopped to drain it and continued. No belt buckle but, on the bright side, no self-administered electro-shock therapy either. Nick’s road to the finish line at Mohican will continue into 2010 and on this road lies the Javelina 100 this fall, and many miles and many good stories and a few finely crafted homebrews as well perhaps.

“No worries man. There is absolutely no way that I am dropping out. My kids have gone through way worse than this and I’m just going to have to suffer. I don’t need to eat. I can do the whole thing on body fat if I need to. I did last year.” I explained to Ron Ross. Ron has finished more Mohicans than nearly anyone and he is just about the fittest and nicest human being anywhere. “That’s great Mark.” He said using “great” as convincingly as I had used “fine” 1 mile (and 45 minutes) earlier. “You can do it” he said. And this part I am convinced he meant. Man it was good to see Ron. Kevin meanwhile had gotten me half a cup of some sort of soup and strained everything solid out of it. I was sitting UNDER a picnic table at the Mill, had gotten 5 minutes of sleep and was wearing the fleece vest that I bought at Salvation Army 2 days ago for three dollars. I think of EVERYTHING. Yep. Things were better. Then I walked a quarter of a mile and threw up half a gallon of broth.

I often find it odd that when I go to remote but beautiful places, such as Mohican, for training runs that there aren’t more local runners out on the trails. In fact there seem to be none at all. I asked a college team-mate, Mitch Bentley about this once. Mitch was from the town of Plymouth in the Hocking Hills region and won the state cross country championship in High School. Mitch explained it by telling me that there are, after all, an awful lot of trails and odds of seeing anyone aren’t great. Yes, I argued, but I NEVER see ANYONE. Mitch then let out a loving ‘You just don’t get it’ sigh and told me. “Some of these folks have real world problems and don’t give a shit about us or our jogging programs. Keep that in mind”. The Mohican area is not as remote or economically depressed as the Hocking Hills region but I still have wondered “Why no local Mohican runners?” All of that was about to change. Late in the race Terry Lemke, who lived three miles from the course and had decided to enter the race just weeks before was running strong 10 minutes behind the leader. Mohican has been a family affair for the Lemke’s. They have worked an aid station as a family in past years and now Mom was in the mix in the middle of the night being paced by her son. Terry went on to finish as the second place female in just over 24 hours…and she may or may not give a shit about my jogging program. One can never be sure.

I stood and wavered from foot to foot and stared at the hill in front of me. Mohican has 11,000 feet of elevation gain but this 5 foot pitch was straight up and involved me grabbing onto one tree and climbing under another. This was trouble. I made it up and over the North Rim Trail but that involved legs which, despite having no access to quick burning energy, were holding up pretty good. I hoisted myself up. Sat at the top for a moment and stared down the other side. It was an equally steep 5 feet back down to the river and if I didn’t grab that sapling at the bottom I was going right into the river. I barely hooked the sapling and slung myself to the ground. Face down. Asleep for the fourth time in 2 miles.

I will spare you the horridness of this stretch. Suffice to say that it involved horrendous nausea, weakness, and flu-like symptoms that I have not experienced before. Over and over I told myself that my kids would never quit. I pictured myself walking in the front door and handing them my buckle and telling them to always remember that Carroll’s are tough. Kevin told me I was weaving, staggering, tripping, and talking nonsense. When we got to the bridge he called in the medics. It turns out that they knew me from past years. That has to be some sort of warning sign—having a personal relationship with medical personnel at your favorite race—but I’m not going to think about it now.

Kevin drove me back and I climbed into the back seat of my car, covered with the feces of different species, Vaseline, mud, Gatorade, vomit, dead bugs, sunscreen, and layer after layer of dust. I had no emotion. I let out one huge sob. Then sleep took me.

Twenty-nine hours, fifty-six minutes and twenty-nine seconds after the start of the race 36 year old Jennifer Broton crossed the finish line. She will return to Pennsylvania with the final belt buckle of 2009 and the title “Last of the Mohicans”. With Jennifer’s crossing, Mohican-world returns to torpor for another year. The water will continue to fall over Big Lyons falls every moment of the next twelve months and if I awake at, let us say, 2:17 am on a midwinter’s night I can be sure that Hickory Ridge is still there. I can roll over, and go back to sleep. But Mohican won’t exist again until next year, no matter how many blogs and training runs and photo albums are devoted to it. It won’t exist because we are not there. The truth is Mohican needs us to breathe life into it as much as we need Mohican, for thirty hours each year, to turn you, and him, and her and me, into us.

Its one week later and I am in the stands at the Ohio Special Olympics Summer Games. For three days, each June, thousands of Special Olympics athletes from every county in the state monopolize Ohio State University’s gigantic campus, filling many of its dorms and requiring the support of thousands of volunteers as they compete in 19 separate sports spread across thousands of acres connected by an intricate system of shuttle buses. On this evening Jesse Owens Stadium is filled to beyond-capacity with nearly 20,000 athletes, coaches, volunteers, friends, family members, and press corps. The evening climaxes as the Olympic torch, which has traveled the state of Ohio for an entire week (beginning at the approximate time that I was passing Hickory Ridge for the first time last Saturday) is escorted into the stadium. The torch is guarded by a dozen State Highway Patrol motorcycles, sirens blaring, and escorted by 100 highway patrol cadets, a military color-guard, and dozens of high-level politicians. As the torch circles the track the roar of the crowd crescendos, turning physical; shaking the foundations of the stands. As the Olympic flame is ignited a chopper buzzes the stadium but it, as well as the announcer’s voice, are unheard, overwhelmed by the shouts of joy as so many individuals, too often marginalized in daily life, announce that for this time they are the center of the universe.

More fireflies.

The Special Olympics Oath is:

“Let me win.
But if I cannot win,
Let me be brave in the attempt.”

Maybe that’s the whole point. Maybe the thing connecting the strands that comprise Mohican isn’t a belt buckle. Maybe the only thing that Wyatt and Jennifer, Luc and Scott and Casey, Dave and Michelle and Terry and Nick and Ron and Rob and Don have in common with me and Dick Canterbury and Mike McCune and the ultra-punks and the other Mohicans is that we all did, in our own way and according to our own circumstances and abilities, try.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Mohican Report: Part 3

“We're just two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl, year after year,
Running over the same old ground.
What have you found? The same old fears.”
--Pink Floyd

“If I hadn’t been cut from the pole vaulting squad in the seventh grade I wouldn’t be here. Screw you, Coach S., wherever you are!”
--Me, while climbing the North Rim Trail, 1:45am

Race Day: Three A.M. The alarm clock goes off but I’m way ahead of it. Shower, shave, brush, spit, rinse, tape, more tape, just a little more tape, sunscreen, lube, cold coffee, Little Debbie, car keys, lie on bed for one more minute because its my last time to do so for a long long time. There are drunks in the parking lot wearing ball caps with numbers on them. They are getting ready to go to an all day race. So am I. They haven’t slept yet. Neither have I.

Forty five minutes before the 5:00am start the sky opens with a roaring downpour that threatens to force my car to the roadside. I prepare myself mentally for a 30 hour slog through hopeless rain. Then, miraculously, impossibly, as race time draws nearer the rain vanishes and I see a star in the sky. The rain is gone forever, replaced with clouds that sulk into the distance, repeatedly drawing nearer and yelling threats before finally shrugging and surrendering to perfect skies and light breezes as dawn greets us for the first of two times on this unusual day.

I decide to jog at the start. This simple act puts me into the top 30 runners and I let it happen because, by being up front, I can avoid the clog at the trail leaving the campground at the half mile point. In doing so I find myself behind Michelle Bichsel. Floating. Always floating. Does Michelle never land? Does she ever struggle? I’ve never seen it. I’m certain that if the race has an elite runner in the field this year it is Michelle. I’m equally certain that she’ll float to the finish. It’s the nature of things. After the clog I immediately slow way way way down. I gently walk the first long hill and, in so doing, get to greet many friends as they pass me. There’s Dick Canterbury, going by for his tenth finish. Scott and Casey, my pacers from last year, jog past. They seem to be having fun. Here is Terry Lemke. Terry doesn’t know it but I copied a picture taken of her on a training run by Michelle Bichsel a few weeks ago. In the picture 40-something Terry is leading a group of the young-guns down a rocky cliff wall as they struggle to hang on. That picture has been my computer screen saver since I got it. Way inspirational. I get to run with Don Baun for several minutes. Don was one of the founders of this race and he’s a constant source of energy. Don offers to slow down and run with me but no matter how slow he goes I am slower. Don moves past, along with most of the field. I am totally at peace.

At Rock Point the road turns to trail and we experience mud. Some of it kinda bad and deep. For some reason it doesn’t bother me. I have my trail legs on and I negotiate it well. Early morning in the deep woods is a quiet time and other than whispered well wishes the runners do nothing to disturb it. By this point the groove of the early day is upon us. Lightly fuel. Sip. Gently step. Breathe. Adjust a sock. A pebble in the shoe now could be a wound tonight. Get rid of it. Chat. Pray. South Park passes and then the firetower. These are the good times. All is well. All starters are still among us. I get my traditional fire tower kiss from Colleen Theusch and plunge into the lovely, gentle downhill to the covered bridge and into the purple loop at 21 miles.

The purple loop; exhausting, but dangerous. Everyone loves the purple loop. I love it too but make no mistake, this innocent family hiking trail can break you like a twig. The many jumps over and around scenic logs and boulders can trash-compact the finest pair of quadriceps over the course of just four miles. Because of this I walk nearly all of it. God has blessed us, once again, on the sunny and hot climb up Goon Rd. with Avery’s presence. Avery, a local resident, ancient and attentive, sits on the porch of his house softly calling out encouragement to runners on this murderous climb as he has for longer than anyone can remember. For the first time ever I call back to him telling him that I notice him every year and that I appreciate it. Avery beams at this, takes a pull from his oxygen cannula, and calls out “See you next year”. I hope that God blesses us both enough to make that prediction come true. The purple loop is poorly marked. Possibly the rain has washed away the chalk arrows, although this doesn’t seem to have happened on any other part of the course. I know the course well and guide some runners through it, past Lyons Falls and back to the 25.1 mile mark. Here I see Scott and Casey, looking tired. They both have an alert look, like someone ‘playing chicken’ with a freight train. Scott sits in a chair content to want nothing until the time comes where he must rise and, once again, want everything. Casey is nearby, shopping at the food table, looking for the right fuel to make it to Hickory Ridge. Scott will rally; he always does. And when he does Casey will be with him; he always is. I would bet my house on them finishing their first ultra. And they do, with stories enough to last the summer and miles enough to feed the addiction they do not yet know that they have.

Behind me Luc has taken a wrong turn. He completes several miles of the purple loop but knows when he returns again to the covered bridge that he must not have completed the whole loop. This has put Luc into a bit of distress with the time cut-offs but rather than compromise the race in any way he peacefully and uncomplainingly decides to do the ENTIRE brutal Purple loop again, from start to finish. Now Luc needs to make up some time but rather than rushing ahead he chooses to walk the loop with a woman who is attempting to walk the entire 100 miles. Luc safely guides her through the course but has only minutes to spare on the time cut-off when he returns to the bridge. Furthermore he needs to push on because the exhausting climb to Hickory Ridge lies ahead. Many other runners take a wrong turn on the blue loop but none that I know of handle it in the gentlemanly and sportsmanlike way that Luc has. I could go on for thousands of words about who Luc is and how he lives. But I don’t have to. By reading this, and taking my word that this is typical behavior, you already know.

At the bridge I salt some watermelon, grab a fist full of cookies and head toward the long climb to Hickory Ridge. Summer is in full bloom. Life is everywhere it can possibly be. The trails crawl with tiny insects and the sky is filled with birds. Weeds sprout improbably from the tops of chunks of granite. This feels good, all of it. I run through the Hickory Ridge Aid station, pausing just long enough to grab a sandwich, and run more comfortably than I ever have to the 36 mile point and the exit of the mountain bike trail.

The truth is that I have never enjoyed the run into and through the “Old Mill” (circa 2003). The run along Route 3 is hot and noisy and somewhat dangerous. I have always accepted that this part of the route was a tradeoff to promote tourism into a region that welcomes the race with open arms and needs a favor in return. The race brings business and exposure to the Mill and the community and so it’s a mutually supportive arrangement. The high point of the run to the Mill is seeing Dave Essinger. Dave is a co-worker and new friend of mine from the University of Findlay. Although it is his first 100 miler he runs like a veteran...all the way to the finish! Go Oilers!

From the Mill I made my way up back to the Covered bridge and the 42 mile mark along a lovely, if root and rock covered, trail along the river. The river crossing at the Bridge was delightful. I happened to wade across the river precisely as a group of tough-looking teenagers were floating by on inner tubes. One of them looked at me and said “How far are you running?” I told him “100 miles” and the entire group clapped and wished me well. Way way way too cool.

At about this time my friend Luc, who had managed to stay moments ahead of the time cut-offs that his good nature had placed upon him, sat at the Mill Aid station desperately trying to lower his body temperature and refuel in time to get back onto the course. Surely if he had the time (nearly 2 hours) that he lost on the purple loop, first through poor course marking s and then through an act of kindness to a stranger, he could have regrouped and gone the distance. Instead Luc’s day ended sitting in the sun with a throbbing head and a core temperature that made eating or drinking unappealing although those were exactly the things he needed. He never complained once. In fact Luc believes he had a good time out there. Luc, if you are reading this lets do many runs this year. I could learn a lot from you.

From the Covered Bridge it was straight up hill to the Bridle Staging area. It was hot by this point but I wasn’t feeling the heat. I had picked up distant acquaintance turned fast-friend Mike McCune. It has taken me years to realize that Mike is one tough sumbitch. He appears, at all points in any race, to be badly sunburned, sweaty, exhausted, and…happy. In my minds eye I see Mike walking along the trail every year perhaps holding a small empty hand-held water bottle in one hand and perhaps a thick black cotton T-shirt in the other. Mike would appear to be in the final throws of desperation were it not for the smile on his face and willingness to share his adventures with any new or old friends he might find along the way. Mike has smiled and toughed his way through some of the toughest ultamarathon’s in the Midwest in just such a manner. Mike and I run together for several more hours. We pick up runners, get passed by runners, pass runners, and yet never lose each other. I run past the half way point in about 12 hours still feeling ridiculously good. Entering the Rock Point aid station at 52 miles I am once again reminded that the volunteers make Mohican, and the volunteers at the Rock are consistently the best. This is a rugged outpost on the course. Tough to get to, even by car, difficult to re-supply and open longer than any other aid station on the course. And they still manage, somehow, to offer the best food on the course and the most comfort, the most love, and the most Goodwill-Karma-Mojo on the planet.

From here it is a run into the early and endless dusk that only the deep woods on the longest day of the year can provide. I pass the South Park Aid station again and Mike and I and a few intermittent friends move toward the hospitality of the firetower and my pacer, Kevin. The good part is about to start.

Note: If you are still reading please understand that this blog is, more than anything else, a diary and is written for myself. If I have offended anyone or have facts wrong about course markings or the Mill aid station please feel free to defend them by making comments below. I’d welcome a more positive outlook. For now its late and I have the joy of attending the State Special Olympics Summer games the next three days. I’ll be staying in a dorm with some boys the entire time and it’ll be a blast. I’ll write more for myself…and for you if you care to read, when I return. Peace. --Mark

Monday, June 22, 2009

Mohican Report: Part 2

“I really have to use
my imagination
to think of good reasons
to keep on keeping on.

I’ve got to make the best of
a bad situation
ever since that day that
I found that you* were gone

Darkness all around me
blocking out the sun
friends call to me
but I just don’t feel like talking to anyone

Emptiness has found me
and it just won’t let me go
thought I had no limits
but now I just don’t know…”

--Gladys Knight
*In this case “you” being my endocrine system’s ability to maintain homeostasis

“This really is the sport of kings, isn’t it?”
--Kevin Krupp, my pacer, as he counterbalanced me at 3:45am while I heaved

You can understand what running means to me by understanding what Mohican means to me. Mohican came to me as a savior during the darkest period of my life and showed me that wonderfulness can be found in the direst circumstances and that God is watching always. Mohican is where I learned that, as harsh as it sounds, God’s plan for us is not necessarily any of our business. Mohican was where I realized that this life is for service and learning and that joy is where you find it. Its where I learned that a breeze can be the perfect reminder that we are missing a constant bombardment of love because we are seeking rather than being.

If none of that makes any sense to you catch me on a very long run some time and, for the price of a few Gu Packs and a long slow swig from your camelback, I’ll tell you about tragedy and miracles. But for now take my word for it. I was on a top-twenty ranked cross country team in college. I was a good marathoner in the mid-80’s. I’ve run cross country, track, roads and trails. I’ve run in minus-26 degree actual temperature (minus-56 degree windchill) and 106 degree heat. None of that ever held a candle to Mohican.

Mohican has been the centerpiece of my running existence since the day in 1997 when my wife told me that if I was going to drop out I should drop out on a trail in the woods at Mohican in June rather than out of life in February. That year I strapped a 15 ounce miners lamp to my head, packed as many snickers as I could into a waist pack, made my own salt pills by emptying vitamin B-12 capsules and refilling them with table salt. I came out of that blazing day and starry night knowing that my challenges hadn’t changed but my mind had forever. We became instant lifelong lovers, Mohican and I. I run other races but only to prepare for Mohican.

I think that might all be over now though and I think that’s OK. I really do.

I went on to finish Mohican seven times in a row. Since then I have managed to finish once in my last five tries. I think my body has changed. This year I did everything right. I started last August by dieting until, by Christmas, I had lost 30 pounds. Then I started the best buildup of my adult life. Steady mileage, more long runs than ever, consistent sleep, no illness, no injury, great mental attitude, and a smart taper. My pacer, Kevin, has been a lifelong friend since College, he was in our wedding party, and is a terrific runner himself. Yep, having old Kev along surely took care of the Karma piece. So here’s how 2009 went:

I got a room near I-71 because, even though I love nature, 30 hours of loving is all I am into these days without a prescription. I stopped off at my room on my way to the race and taped my feet. Good old elasticon. If you have blisters and don’t use this stuff get ahold of me.

Pulling up to the bag-drop and dinner the night before the race is always wonderful. Mohican-world has erupted from its cocoon and all the players are flitting around, so happy to be there that we could all just pop, and yet all too nervous and giddy to have real conversation. Buzzes and grunts, hugs and gentle plaintiff requests for merciful news. Has anyone seen the trails? They are dry right? Do you think my new socks will work? The church ladies aren’t handling dinner this year...that’s not going to affect us right? I see Colleen Theusch. The only woman that has my wife’s full permission to kiss me. She has no idea how much she means to me although I have told her a hundred times. I stand back and see that everyone else has the same relationship with her. Its wonderful. If Mohican could ever turn human for a moment it would choose to be Colleen. I also see Luc who looks like a man who is about to do something wonderful and, if you read on, you will see that he does. I see Rob Powell, the fittest man that will not run. Back surgery has taken yet another Mohican from him but this man has a love for this event that might even surpass my own. No spinal injury can keep him from this and I make sure to shake his hand to get some of his energy. Nick is there. Nick the brewer, Nick the philosopher, Nick the man who consistently seems surprised that he is a runner. I don’t see Michelle Bichsel, my new friend who has been winning every race she touches this year. I see another friend, Terry Lemke, who warns me not to get stuck in the mud as I drive past. She might have meant my car or my race. I didn’t ask. Terry decided to run the 100 miler a couple of weeks ago. She virtually lives on the course and she is making the right move. I see my pacers from last year, Scott and Casey. They told me I was nuts at the finish line last year and then went ahead and signed right up for this year’s 50 miler. They are talking to West Coast ultra-star Mark Tanaka who flew in to challenge the sharp hills, mud, and roots of the toughest 100 miler in the midwest. I see Leo Lightner and Ron Ross and Roy Heger. I see Art Moore and I see the young ultra punks. The new generation thrills me. They are wild and carefree. A hand-held bottle and cotton T-shirt is fine thanks. Just some tap water and an ipod and an open trail. Move aside sir, we’re here and your sport will thrive forever because of us. One of them wanders the floor with a hand-lettered shirt that reads “I’ll show you a 2.5 Gallon Bag”.

Its too much joy. I go to the hotel to lie wide awake all night too happy to sleep.

I’ll get around to talking about the race in my next post. I promise.

Mohican Trailer (Part 1)

Hi. Very briefly here’s how Mohican went:

I had six months of perfectly flawless training. I went into this race 30 pounds lighter than EVER before. I had more long runs in than ever before. I had solved the blister problems of years past (Nick, we have to talk man…contact me), solved the hypothermia of years before and had my mind fine tuned into a zen-tarahumara-franciscan-buddhist-hippie-yippee-trippee Peace machine.

And for 70 miles I floated along having the time of my life. They said it was hot but I didn’t notice. They told me I was ugly but I felt handsome. I rolled along dispensing ibuprofen, vaseline, ginger candy and goodwill to those less prepared than I.

Then at 70 miles I became violently ill and suffered wave after wave of relentless nausea that defied all intervention. It took me 4.5 hours to make it from the Mill to the sweet tender mercy of the time cutoff at the bridge and the relief that only 4:30 am at 80 miles can bring.

This morning I ran three miles on legs that were just fine and didn’t puke once. Hooray!

My friends all kicked butt. Much much much more (several thousand words at least) is on the way…probably in installments. Stay tuned or avoid this site, depending on the amount of self centered drivel and false modesty you think you can absorb.

All my love, --Mark

P.S. Michelle Bichsel wins the toughest human award, Luc wins the greatest-gentleman -ever -to -do -this -sport award, and Nick and Rob win the nicest guy awards. Terri Lemke wins the MAN-OH-MAN this is the coolest news ever award. Why? Tune in later.