Entering 2018, I had one goal in mind – to run a 50k. I never imagined that goal would quickly turn into a 50 miler. After running Big Turtle 50k in April, I sat down & realized I technically only needed 1 and/or 2 more 50k distance training runs to complete a 50 mile trail race. That same day I signed up for Mohican. The weeks leading up to race day passed by in a blink of an eye. I worked hard, rested & felt confident race morning. I wouldn’t necessarily say I set zero expectations considering my main goal was to finish. Still though, it’s no secret that we as competitors quietly set higher expectations for ourselves.
Race morning: I woke up at 3:00am, stretched, foam rolled & ate/drank my usual pre-race meal. After an hour and 20 minute car drive, my family and I arrived at Mohican State Park in Loudonville, Ohio. I quickly said my goodbyes & walked over to the start line, where I ran into Erin. We stood closer to the back of the pack & were off at precisely 6:00am.
Mile 1-27.3: The first few miles are always the same in any race – everyone’s trying to find their groove and where they feel most comfortable. I admit, I started out a smudge to fast. Since I refuse to take fault, I’ll blame it on the fact that we had to run on road until we entered the trails. Totally acceptable, right? I kid, I kid :).
Mohican is a race that will give you a little bit of everything: rolling hills, steep climbs/descents, rocks and roots & beautiful views. It’s easy to find yourself getting lost in the moment – which in return truly make the miles fly by. The first aid station was 4.1 miles in. At this point I had drunk 18 ounces of water & ate an entire bag of energy beans. Had I not needed to use the restroom, I would’ve run straight through onto the next. However, that wasn’t the case. Instead I waited 5+ minutes in line @ the porta john before moving on. Honestly, it was a pain in the rear. For future Mohican races, I do hope they add more than 1 porta john at all aid stations. It may be convenient for men to use the woods, but women surely can’t just hop, skip & jump into the woods to do their business. Nonetheless, I was only a fraction of the way done. I refilled my water bottle, ate a few slices of watermelon & headed back out.
The next aid station was in 4.5 miles. During these miles I met a few guys. Here to find out the one literally lives right down the road from me. Small world! I listened to their stories & jokes. The next few miles involved sipping on another 18 ounces of water, and climbing a pretty large hill that my new friends & I cursed. Good times!
Just like that, we were at aid station #2. What a surprise when I saw a fellow trail buddy from Big Turtle volunteering behind the food/drink table. I said hi, grabbed m&ms, watermelon, filled my bottle with Heed orange & continued on. During the next 6.2 miles (one of the few longer stretches), I ran into Patty. We stayed together for a good while, chatted about life & soon enough made it to the covered bridge…not without making our way down the Pleasant Hill Dam Stairs (↑). Y’all are going to think I’m batshit crazy, but compared to other training runs in Mohican, these stairs didn’t feel so bad on this particular day. #win! Since I’d run this route with Shelly in the past, I knew we didn’t have too much more ground to cover until aid station #3 at the Covered Bridge.
The two of us made a quick stop to fill our bottles, grab some fuel & headed back out separately to conquer hills sandwiched in-between hills. This part of the course was new to me, and I surely wasn’t welcoming it with open arms. I ran majority of it, but walked the very steep hills. My legs and body were still surprisingly feeling good. The only annoyance was my bib coming undone time after time for a decent stretch. Weird, right? I don’t remember too much aside from feeling like the women were kicking a$$ considering there was a large group of us together. After another aid station & refill of water/food, I made it back to a little over the halfway mark @ Mohican State Park entrance. Joshua, the girls, Marcie, & Tiffany were waiting for me. They gave me such a warm welcome & came loaded with everything a ultrarunner could wish for. After applying icy hot to my feet, re-sunscreening, switching socks/shirts, eating/drinking, I finally headed back out to finish with a little less than a marathon in distance to go.
Mile 27.3-50.1: “Shit! Maybe stopping for longer than needed wasn’t in my best interest. Okay Jessie, it’s only 3.8 miles to the next aid station. Hopefully by then your legs will loosen up again”. If not exact, pretty darn close to my thoughts in that moment. The heat and humidity were at an all time high & my body had tightened up from taking that break. Anytime friends/family have asked about the race, I’ve mentioned it was mainly filled with highs but obviously mixed with lows. This was a low. I didn’t feel good. I swear in those few miles to the aid station, my shirt was nearly as drenched from sweat as the first 27.3 miles. I went through 18 ounces of water quick & the thought of food sounded horrible. However, in ultras you have to push through those feelings & continue hydrating properly. Once arriving @ the aid station, I was greeted by Marcie & Tiffany again. Honestly, I wasn’t expecting to see anyone so it was quite the delightful surprise. I filled my water bottle, ate some energy beans, doused myself with water & continued on. (It takes hard work to look this good ↓↓:) )
Hallelujah! Back to feeling normal again. Thank goodness because the rest of this run would’ve been miserable had things not of taken a turn for the better. I trucked along until making it back to the fire tower (it was 2 loops – 2nd one was shorter) where I was greated with familiar faces. Joshua & the girls, Marcie & Tiffany, Jenna, Chris & Braylon were all their waiting for my arrival with a smile on their face. Its moments like these that make you realize what a strong support system & friends you have. #blessed. We all chit-chatted for a little bit while I ate some of a turkey sandwich & some fruit. Made sure to fill my water bottle yet another time before making a right & heading back on the trail.
Alone is how I’d describe the next 4.5 miles. For the very first time all day I was by myself for majority of those miles. I would pass someone here & there, but for the most part no one was to be found. There was a moment I even second guessed whether or not I was still on the right path. As one could imagine, it was somewhat uneventful. I do remember smiling & feeling as if I was on cloud 9 when I realized how close I was to the covered bridge. At this point I’d run almost 38.2 miles. Mind-blowing! As awesome as it was to be @ the covered bridge a few moments later, I quickly realized what followed ahead – hillssss!!! Oh shit! By this time, the sun was beating down bad. I felt good, but knew the hills ahead would take a lot out of me. Which in the end, I was 100% correct. No matter how much walking took place up those steep climbs, it hurt.
A little slower than the first loop, I made my way to the last aid station. The volunteers were exceptional & did everything in their power to make sure your needs were met. I again filled up with more water, ate some and headed out for the final push to the finish line – 6.3 more miles. Doesn’t sound too bad, right? Wrong! My legs felt okay, but the humidity became hard to deal with. At this point, I would run until I either 1) passed someone or 2) came to a hill. This became my new race strategy. As I closed in on the finish line, I realized it was realistic to cross at 11 hours, 30 minutes & change. What I didn’t envision was the fact that I (along with many others) misread the last sign & had to turn back to where I messed up. After clearing up the confusion, I ran the .25 miles out & back. I still managed to finish in 11:35 and change. **Note: I originally ran just as far as the others, but on the opposite side of the road.**
Post race I was surrounded by my family, Jenna, Chris & Braylon. As I inched closer to the finish line (the first time), my eyes filled with tears. I’ve run many races in my past, but none have compared to this one. It’s a great feeling to know that all those early mornings & early nights had paid off. I also need to mention Joshua. I am forever grateful for all he does during training cycles. He’s my biggest supporter & would do anything so I can achieve my goals. Never complains & turns into super Dad x infinity at races. So Joshua, thank you my love ♥.
“What’s next?” seems to be the reoccurring question. First, I’m taking a couple of weeks off from high mileage runs & giving my body the adequate amount of rest it needs. Next, I’ll start training for Marine Corps Marathon which is on October 28th. As for trail runs, I do have my eyes set on a 100 miler come next spring. Always forward – never back.
FINAL TIME: 11 HOURS & 35 MINUTES. 10TH FEMALE OVERALL. 43RD OVERALL.
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