Return To The Scene Of The DNF | Mighty Mosquito 99 Relay | New York
Last year I attempted the Mighty Mosquito solo 100 mile race. I was fortunate enough to be crewed and paced by a great group of people. This year I am back at the same venue. And I am here seeing many of the same great faces. However there is one big important difference.
As much as to me running a 100 mile race is a team accomplishment where only 1 person gets there credit this year we are back for the official team event. We are running the Mighty Mosquito 99 mile relay event. Our team consists of many of the same faces that supported me through my journey last year grinding out 70+ out of 100 miles.
Hot Hot Hot Hot
Summer races are not always my favorite. And that is for one good reason. The heat. My body rejects the heat. I can only tolerate it so long. So an event that doesn’t even start until noon in the middle of the summer is most likely going to involve running in some heat.
Most of the time in our region temperatures vary greatly over the course of the day. The hottest time of the day being midafternoon but significantly cooler in the evening and early morning hours. But this summer in our region of NY at least has been very different. There haven’t been many significant swings in temperature. The summer has been one long stagnation of temperatures in the 80’s with not much cooling off happening overnight. That means the temperatures quickly reach 80 again day after day. There is no relief from the heat.
Temperatures in the 80’s alone wouldn’t be too bad except for two things. One it is just always in the 80’s because the temperatures never decrease. And number two and maybe more important the humidity has been oppressive most of the time. There has been very little actual rain in our area. But somehow we are still getting weighed down with so much humidity.
I used to avoid running in the winters because it was so cold, but now I think my mindset is reversing and I will run much more in the winter than the summer. I can always dress warmer and get warmed back up after a run. But I can only do so much to mitigate the heat and humidity and dehydration that results from running in this weather that I dread.
Mighty Mosquito Relay Kick Off
It was fun to return to an event that thoroughly wrecked me last year and see it with fresh eyes and under different circumstances. And it was great to be back here with friends. We were determined to have fun and enjoy ourselves despite the heat.
We set up camp. At the park, which is beautiful. Highly recommend visiting Mendon Ponds Park if you are out that way. Tents and hammocks for resting or naps as needed over the course of the relay. We had a picnic table to spread out our gear and nutrition as needed.
I love the space where the staging area takes place. All loops start and finish from the same location so logistics are easy peasy. And there is a beautiful grove of trees and a nearby pond. Around sunset the views can be beautiful looking out over the pond.
The relay starts at noon Saturday and teams have until noon Sunday to finish. The course consists of 3 different loops. Each loop is apx 5.5 miles. Each loop has to be run 6 times.
Each team has to run 6 laps of loop one. Then move on to loop two and run 6 laps of that loop. And to finish things of the teams each run 6 laps around the third and final loop.
Each loop is a bit different from the others, but manage to start and end in the same place, which seems like quite a feat of planning.
Loop 1 was the hilliest of the loops with around 800 feet of elevation gain. Our lead runner was scheduled to run the first two laps on this loop in a row and then hand off to another runner.
I was our fourth runner on loop 1. I was very glad to not be running two consecutive laps. It looked hot. My friend who is not normally a heavy sweater while running was completely drenched. I sweat excessively when I run so I thought it was possible I would just leave a trail of sweat long the trail behind me. It was hot just trying to sit around and relax while I waited for my turn to run.
Then it was my turn to run. Sweat was instantly pouring down my face as I moved off into the sun and ran the beginning section across this open grassy field. I knew what to expect on this loop from my 100 mile attempt last year. There would be a fair amount of ups and downs. Fortunately most of this loop is under the shade of the trees.
I made sure to take it pretty easy. I had 4 more laps I had to complete over the course of the day. I could not get burned out on lap 1. I basically power hiked anything that had an incline. Then I ran at a moderate pace on the downhills and the flats. I felt pretty comfortable for the most part. Hot and sweaty but the pace I kept made sure I wouldn’t overdue it and succumb to the heat and get too dehydrated. I was pretty happy with my first lap.
I finished my lap and handed off to the 4th member of our team. He zipped around that course. I would have melted if I tried to run that hard. Then the baton was handed off to the 5th member of our team. He was scheduled to run two consecutive laps. He would run our last lap of loop 1 and then kick of loop two with our teams first lap on that section of the course. He made pretty short work of those two laps. Once again, I would have expired out on the course at that pace.
Then the hand off was back to for my second lap overall. This would be my first lap on the second loop and our teams second of six laps needed on the second loop.
I really liked the first 2 miles of this loop. It was all pretty runnable. Then there was this section that could very loosly be called a trail through the woods. There were flags, but they almost seemed to be randomly places just kinda strung together in the woods following no discernable route. Then you pop out onto a road and the irst thing my eyes see are flags on a trail across the road.
It is getting dark. I have my lights on so I can see. All I see is reflective flagging shining back at me. So I cross the road and start down that trail.
After a short period of time 2 runners appear and pass me. Not at all unexpected, except for the fact that they were running the opposite direction that I was. The two runners that went by me were running towards me not catching up from behind. It took a second for my brain to click and realize that this meant something was wrong. I stopped and looked around. Yes I was definitely still on the course. There were flags all around me. Then it occurred to me to look closer at the flags.
I was indeed on the race course, just not on the right section of the course. I had jumped tracks. I crossed over from the 2nd loop which had blue flags and ended up on the 3rd loop which had orange flags. I needed to backtrack and figure out where I had gone off course. There was one obvious possibility. Back at the road. I was not supposed to cross the road. I was supposed to turn left and run along the road to stay on the second loop. Luckily I did not have to back track too far to get back on track.
The rest of the loop was basically uneventful with a bit of me slowing down to make sure I stayed on track as there were a few more sections of the course where it seemed like there wasn’t and actual trail but just flags randomly spaced out through the woods to try and follow. But eventually I made it to the completion of the second loop.
Running as the sunset was interesting. Being out on the trails as the daylight slowly faded away. Experiencing the difference in liht as I moved from fully immersed in the woods to open fields and everything in between. Starting off with no lights on and relying on them completely by the time I finished. I had no run anything quite like that in a long time. I actually don’t think I have run at night since I was last at this event.
After I finished our team schedule called for 3 more runners to go before I was up to run again. One of our runners went to rest. I was trying to calculate how long until I had to run again at the pace my fellow runners were cranking out. Did I have time for a nap? I told one of my teammates I was going to go lay in my hammock and try to take a nap.
Did I take a nap? Yes. Did I have enough time for said nap? Well, not the way it went down. I had set an alarm to wake me up. But my fellow teammates kept up their blistering pace and got done before my alarm went off. I didn’t realize that the person I told I was going to nap in my hammock was the person who would be running right before me. So my teammates still at camp didn’t know where I was because they were not there when I said I was going to take a nap. I woke up to my teammates calling the name of one of our runners.
Luckily my fellow teammates were on the ball and one of our other runners took off to run the lap I was supposed to go out on. They were supposed to run after me. So they ran my lap and I ended up running their lap.
I was scheduled to run 2 laps on loop two and 1 lap on loop three. My error meant that I would run 2 laps on loop three instead. And that was harder. Loop three was a more challenging course. It also meant that I would be running two laps closer together in time than any of my other laps had been.
Loop three was a tough loop. Tired legs. So hot and dehydrated. The night air did not cool down much thanks to high humidity. Have the sun down helped but not a ton. I managed to navigate my first loop ok. Then after two more speedy loops by my teammates I was up again.
I was pretty burned out on this lap. My fourth and final lap. I took it pretty easy. Just trying to keep my legs moving. Trying not to work too hard in the sticky soup.
It was interesting to run an event that didn’t require me to be running through all hours of the day and still end up out on the trails during sunset and then again at sunrise. I love sunsets and sunrises, but it is a different experience entirely when you are out being active during those times of day as opposed to siting relaxing and watching the sun move across the sky.
At some point I started to think about how nice it would be to be finished with this lap and be able to spend most of the next week resting and then going on vacation the following weekend. And next thing you know I am falling on my face at about the half way point through this last loop. And that is when I called it. Vacation was too close to risk getting hurt now.
The main plan for my vacation was to be out hiking as much as I could and if I got hurt now I would have to completely revamp my plans or scrap vacation all together. So for most of the rest of the lap I walked. If there were relatively flat even and smooth sections I ran some. If I could see well I ran a bit. But mostly I enjoyed the time on the trails staying safe an taking it easy. And finally I finished my last lap.
Our final two runners got through their laps in the early morning hours without incident. And our team had successfully completed the 2022 Mighty Mosquito 99 Relay.
I cannot imagine how it felt to be the runners taking on the solo 00 mile race. That seemed so daunting. After literally being here a year ago taking on 100 miles I was thankful that I had not put that challenge of for a year. And experiencing the weather during this experience has dramatically influenced the likelihood I will ever come back for another 100 mile attempt here. Chances seem slim these days. Give it time for the memories to fade. Then it will be easier to make dumb choices.