Mohican, you are the real deal. Everything I heard about you is true.
The night before our recent race, Fuzzy Fandango, the temperatures were dropping. Packing was interesting, to say the least. After running in the heat and humidity for so many months, it was hard to switch so quickly to running in the 20’s.
I packed extra clothes, knowing that at the 25k we’d loop around to our car and have time to at least change socks. I overpacked on food, which I normally do. I tend to like to eat fairly regularly when I’m out there for a while.
We woke at 4:15 am , made coffee, packed up the car, and hit the road. Luckily, our four kids had slept over with their grandma, so we didn’t have to worry about waking anyone up.
It was dark, really dark. As we wound around the country roads near the park, it began to snow lightly. We had to be at the park by 6:30 or so to catch a shuttle to the start, so we didn’t have any time to waste.
After getting turned around a little, we suddenly found ourselves in a bit of a time crunch. Once we finally arrived, I hurried to registration to get our bibs while Dan hit the restroom. I didn’t have time to do the same, which I regretted.
We headed out for the long ride to the start, which seemed to take forever. We finally arrived as the sun was making its first appearance. I had hoped for a little sun to keep us warmer during the race.
The race directors were kind enough to have us start at the bottom of a ski hill, which we immediately climbed. They were also kind enough to let us come down an adjacent ski run to turn and do yet another ascent up the next run. No joke. I will say that my body temp came up quite nicely and pretty much stayed that way until the end of the race.
We began to settle in when we entered the woods, as the runners around us started to spread out. The winds were whipping the trees around, so I pulled my buff back up and dug in. The woods were gorgeous. Pretty much all of the leaves were down in some areas, so the path was covered with a thick blanket of foliage. As beautiful as that can be, it definitely makes things interesting when you add some rocks, roots, and mud.
When I had asked a fellow runner not too long ago what she remembered most about this race, her response was, “I felt like I was always going up another hill. I’d turn a corner, and there was another climb. Every time.” She was right. It seemed there we were almost constantly climbing during the race. True, there were some downhills, but they weren’t all that frequent, and it was too precarious to fly down the descents with reckless abandon. Too many hidden gems under those beautiful leaves.
There were some sections where we came close to water, and it was scenic for sure. But, if you got lost in the view and didn’t pay attention, in the water you would go. With leaves and the mud, the possibility was there for an unexpected swim.
After passing by the lake, we dove into the woods again. Here is where it got a bit marshy. This was were I earned my “mud boots” as there were no good places to tip toe around the muck. I had hoped to keep my socks dry until we were closer to the half way point, but oh well. My husband happily trotted ahead of me, in his natural element, and I admired his childlike attitude as we soldiered on.
Some parts of the trail passed closely to private property and the backyards of some people just going about their normal Saturday activities. We startled one man as we came within feet of his burn pile. “Good morning!” Dan called out. He jumped a little, and smiled. “Good morning to you!” He called back, smiling. I wonder if he thought we were crazy to be out there when it was so cold and windy. I’ll admit, I thought we were.
As we continued on, the wind picked up and the sun disappeared. It felt as though the temperature was dropping even lower. I commented at that point that I felt like it was the end of the world, what with the wind howling around us so loudly.
A bit later, we were making our way to the 25k mark, where we had to run through the finish to get our split and then continue on. My husband quickly ducked into the restroom despite me calling out, literally 5 times, give me the keys to the car! I wanted to change my socks and get some fuel before heading out again. Sadly, he ignored me, in the way only a husband can do, and disappeared for the next 8 minutes into the restroom. I stood there, waiting, talking with spectators that were enjoying their beers.
It took way too long to change my socks, mostly because I had started out with warm trail socks, and wanted to switch into compression socks as my Achilles and ankles were starting to swell. I had tweaked both ankles already, and wanted to manage the swelling if I could. After wrestling with my socks for what seemed like an eternity, I was ready to get back at it.
We re-entered the course, with fresh, warm, dry socks. It felt nice.
The aid stations along the course were FANTASTIC. The volunteers were AMAZING. They were thanking us for being there, and we were thanking them for being so great. Peanut butter and jelly, grilled cheese, m&ms, coke, mountain dew, pickles, chips, you name it! And….the best….on the second half of the 50k, we were treated to bourbon. Yes, I helped myself at two separate aid stations. It felt warm going down, and was great when chased with a little coke. First time I’ve ever had bourbon, and I don’t know if I’ll ever think to have it again, but it hit the spot.
We were into the 20+ mile part of the course, and it was getting darker and cooler. We were still seeing other runners out on the trail, which was great. Everyone there was so supportive and positive, it was so great to be a part of it.
Dan and I had run a bit at Mohican to prep for the race. The last section was what we were familiar with, which helped. We came up the trail to the road crossing and stopped at the aid station before the covered bridge. It was beautiful. We then dove back into the woods to head uphill and toward the stairs. Those of you that know this path, know the “stairs” I’m talking about. I knew that once we got past those, we would be getting closer to the finish, but that we’d still be out there for at least an hour.
Other hikers and families were out on this section of the trail. They all stepped to the side and cheered us on. It was amazing to feel so supported. I tried to smile at them, but I’m not sure if it looked like a smile or grimace at that point.
We climbed the stairs and shared a memory from when we had run there previously and had come upon a young man that had apparently camped at that spot overnight. We had exchanged pleasantries with him as he had a cup of coffee and packed up.
We kept climbing. And climbing. It seemed that every climb lasted forever, no ups and downs. When you went up, you kept going up. Forever. Dan wanted to push the pace, and I tried the best I could to keep up. I didn’t want to hold him back, but I also wanted to have enough gas in the tank to finish strong.
At the last aid station, I knew we were close. It was time to get it done. I was getting tired, we were over 31 miles already, it was cold, we needed to wrap this up. So, we rallied and brought it in.
Another runner that I had asked about this race, described the end to me. He was so accurate. He had said, “I was getting closer to the finish. I could hear the cheering and music, and I kept thinking I’m almost there. But then the trail turns away from camp, and the cheering and noise faded. It was horrible. I kept thinking, why are we running this direction? I’m getting further away!” That’s exactly what it feels like. We were running away from camp, but then eventually switched back and came down hill. Dan hollered, “It’s all downhill from here!” and took off. I followed suit and could see the finish ahead. Everyone that saw us started making noise. It was fantastic!
We finished and celebrated, fist bumps all around. What a great feeling to have succeeded on a difficult course on a difficult day. We shuffled into the building to get chili and beer. Everyone was smiling and thanking us for being there. It is true, what they say about Fuzzy Fandango. It is a wonderful experience. This race is filled with beautiful people and we are all there to support a wonderful camp. I am glad that I was a part of it.
Amy is a marathoner and triathlete, a mother of four, an Exercise Physiologist and an endurance athlete Physical Therapist. She lives with her husband, Dan (also a marathoner and triathlete), and kids in Lewis Center.