2010 Burning River 100 – 26:36:05
That’s my team (Paul P, Pamela A, and Jenny J) behind me above, after the finish of the biggest race of my life: the 2010 Burning River 100 (BR100). I can’t believe we did it. Words really can’t capture what the experience was like, but here goes.
Paul and I lodged right across from the finish area, so I would have an easy walk to the shuttle buses, departing at 3:45am, taking us runners to the 5am start of the point-to-point course. We didn’t get much sleep though, as the finish area in Cuyahoga Falls, OH also hosts weekly, Friday night summer festivals, which include loud cover bands “singing” late into the night. I got no more than 4 hours of sleep the night before the run, because I kept hearing, “Take it to the limit, Take it to the limit, …”, sung by the non-Eagles not too far from our hotel room. Paul on the other hand was busy going over race plans:
So I get to the start area and immediately queue myself into the potty lines. There I ran into DirtDawg and his buddy, Kevin G, founder of JustFinish.com. DirtDawg had ran the 2009 BR100 with Kevin crewing him to the finish. This year, both were running. After a brief chat, I headed to the start line and saw Jason R, the guy running the event barefooted, who was also wearing a kilt. While passing by, I mentioned to him that I heard about him from Peter L of Runblogger.com. Jason would later opt to wear his huarache sandals for the last 2/3 of the race due to tough terrain. I however, toed the line in a brand new pair of Brooks Launch, a pair that I would wear for the entire race. The choice of these road shoes went along with my goal of being comfortable throughout the race. I would carry no hydration packs, fanny packs, or any other kind of pack. I carried 2 Nathan handhelds and a tiny cell phone in my back pocket. I did have a bib belt on though, as I had planned on many wardrobe changes and didn’t want to have to re-pin my race bib on many times too. Here’s my get-up just before I headed over to the shuttle buses:
I would carry a small flashlight in the beginning, since the race started at 5am and would only be slightly dark the first 45 minutes or so. I had found this flashlight on a training run months ago, and decided I’d donate it once we got to an early aid station.
Soon enough, we were instructed to “GO!”. I took off in my planned, 8:** pace, since the first 9.6 miles were on road. It’s hard for me to go slow on the road on fresh legs, and so, I figured this pace would be OK for the first 1/10 of the race. I knew I was going too fast for the overall distance, but was surprised by how fast others were going too. I guess we had the same idea. We breezed through the first aid station at Mile 4.8, and I soon finished my first bottle of Perpetuem. To stay with my plan of drinking a serving (1 scoop + 1 bottled water) of Perpetuem every hour the whole way, I carried 2 baggies of Perpetuem powder for this initial, non-crewed section and mixed up my drink on the side of the road. My crew would later take care of my Perpetuem needs from Miles 33.3 to the finish. I had a drop bag at Mile 18.6 containing more baggies of Pertpetuem to hold me over until then.
Mile 9.6, Polo Field aid station, came pretty quick too. I hit the can there and I grabbed a few fig newtons from the snack table. I chucked 1 fig newton into the woods, just like I did at the HAT Run 50K earlier this year. That’s becoming a trademark move of mine, I guess. I’ve learned that I just can’t eat and run at the same time. Oh well.
Mile 18.6, Shadow Lake aid station, was my first drop bag point. I changed my shirt, do rag, and socks there. I also decided to grab 3 PB&J quarter sandwiches and started off with my first planned walk. Again, I can’t run and eat, plus a walk around this point could be beneficial in saving my calves and feet for the remaining distance. As I walked around the lake there, I called Paul on my cell phone to tell him my progress and to let him know I’d probably be right on time at our first crew point, Mile 33.3. Us non-USATF runners had the luxury of using cell phones, as well as pacers, during the race. I also confessed to Paul that I forgot all about my Endurolytes that were in the pocket of my right handheld up to this point. So, I took 5 Endurolytes at this point, instead of the 3 per hour dosage I had originially planned. I also told him that I forgot to restock my side pockets with new baggies of Perpetuem that were in my first drop bag. Doh! He offered to come out and crew a little earlier to fix this issue, but I told him it wasn’t a big deal. I’d see him in ~15 miles as planned.
If I correctly recall, the course got a little more technical shortly thereafter with some climbs/descents on that section of the Buckeye Trail. I don’t remember too much from these sections, as I was anxious to meet my crew at Mile 33.3, and when I finally did, I had a big smile on my face:
Mile 33.3, Station Road Bridge aid station, was my first crew point. I hadn’t even met Jenny yet, but she greeted me like we’d known each other for years. That’s DailyMile.com for you. I was right on time too, ~11am, just as I had figured. I swapped out my 2 handhelds with 2 handhelds that my crew had ready. One filled with water with 2 GUs in its zippered pocket. The other filled with my Perpetuem mixture with a baggie of 12 Endurolytes in its zippered pocket. This exchange would happen at every crew point from then on. Meanwhile, I was in need of another costume change. This time I would change my shorts in addition to my shirt, do rag, and socks, all of which were found in my second drop bag here at this aid station. So, I headed off to the station’s restroom and waited for some doofus to complete whatever the hell he was doing in the only stall there. I couldn’t change outside the stall because the restroom door kept opening and there wasn’t a wall to shield my nakedness. So, I waited and waited. Until finally, I gave up and left the restroom. My crew gave me a “What happened?” and Paul gave me the keys to the van, where I’d eventually transform into:
A little too much time wasted at this aid station, but it wasn’t too bad. I was making good time in the race. As I left walking, carrying one of my 1/2 Panera sandwiches, I saw Kevin G’s JustFinish.com banner by some people. I asked if Kevin had made it through yet, and one of his crew/fans asked my name. Having heard my name, Gordan H asked if I was Peter L’s friend and he took a pic of me to send to our buddy. I walked off eating my sandwich, and my crew honked their horns as they passed me, just before the route headed back into the woods. I would see them again at the next, uneventful station, but would have a following station where there was no crew access. Somewhere around that point, I called Paul and told him to forget putting GUs into one of my handheld’s zippered pocket. I had tried to consume them, but I couldn’t. I just can’t stand those things. I told him to replace the GUs with a baggie of RedVines. He asked if I also wanted a baggie of Good-n-Plenty in the other handheld’s pocket. Does the Pope wear a funny hat? Duh. Of course, Good-n-Plenty would be great.
So far through the race, I’d been feeling pretty good. An occasional slight soreness here and there would come and go, but nothing major. Around the Mile 33.3 mark, I had decided to throw good form out the window and heel-strike whenever I wanted. It’s not easy on your calves and feet to be forefooting the whole way. I believe this mixing up of my foot-strikes helped keep a single pain from forming and especially kept my calves and feet happy and ready for the long mileage ahead. The walks helped them too, since I’m a big heel-striker when walking.
Mile 49.1, Boston Store aid station, was the next point where I got to see my crew. This station served me twice as it was a double aid station. The first time through I again changed my shirt, do rag, and socks, and again was handed a 1/2 Panera sandwich to consume as I walked off on the 5.4 mile loop. Jenny had also displayed her awesome packing skills, as she was able to stuff an entire large box of Good-n-Plenty into a baggie into one of my handheld’s pocket. That was great, until I needed to stuff it back in after stupidly removing it and not consuming any, while out on the trail. When I got back, she fixed this race-saving issue: 😉
Boston Store was a pretty cool double aid station. Lots of people there having fun. Paul and Jenny and Louie B (above) had fun with a pirate that was on the loose, and Paul insisted that they get a picture of me with her:
The first leg of Boston Store was the first and only time I needed sunblock. We were blessed with an overcast all day until that point, around 3pm. That leg, which had some open areas, was also probably the only section were I finished both handhelds. I always finished my Perpetuem between the ~5 mile aid stations, but usually had a near full bottle of water when done with a segment. But, it couldn’t hurt to carry 2 handhelds just in case, as in this hot loop at Boston Store. Leaving there would get me back in the woods before I knew it. I would enjoy returning to the cool shade of the trail.
Mile 64.1, Happy Days aid station, would be the next crew access point. But, before then, a hellish road and bike trail section had me cussing at the course. There was a long stretch where we were on a long, mild incline on road for what seemed to be 2 miles. Then immediately, we were sent on another ~2 mile bike trail that also had a slight incline to it. I was taking it easy on the hills throughout and walked almost all of this section. It was just the endless stretch of straight, road and bike trail that was annoying. I couldn’t wait to get back in the woods again. During this slow time, I called Paul and gave him a later estimate on my arrival time at Happy Days. Well, when I called, Paul and Jenny were just about to arrive at the aid station after grabbing a bite to eat. Paul had thought they were late and that my call was from me at the aid station asking where they were. Nah, I was still out there, but closer than I thought. I gave them a very conservative time estimate and ended up surprising them when I came to Happy Days early. Hey, we were all there when we needed to be. That’s all that mattered. When I got there, I saw DirtDawg who had dropped earlier, but was still helping his buddy:
Not much time spent here. I would grab another 1/2 Panera sandwich to take with me. And, like all other aid stations, I’d always be sure to ask the volunteers where I needed to go to next. Here’s me confirming which direction to go, while leaving Happy Days:
You may notice above that I was carrying a tiny black case with my right fingers. That was a small flashlight that I would need near the end of the following segment. I believe I had left Happy Days around 7:30pm and the next aid station was 6.8 miles away. I was walking a lot at this point, especially at the beginning to finish my sandwich. So, it would be a slightly dark 9pm or later by the time I showed up at the next stop.
Mile 70.9, Pine Hollow aid station, would eventually come into view, after a pair of open field climbs over “The Sound of Music” hills, which everyone seemed to call them. When I crested the last one, Paul and Jenny and others were yelling “Go, Andy!” or such. I remember shining my super bright flashlight directly into one of the strangers yelling my name. Whoops, sorry about that. Then, Paul and Jenny led me over to our chairs and I got yet another sit. Paul had decided to join in the trail fun and walk with me on the next segment, which was a 3.3 mile loop back to this double aid station. But, before then, I had another costume change to perform, this time changing all but my shoes. Soon enough, Paul and I headed off into the dark woods. It was cool to finally have someone out on the trail with me, so they could experience what I’d been facing most of the day. The current segment had its fair share of climbs/descents and even some stairs that I’d been complaining about. Paul and I remarked about how well the course was marked, considering it covers 100 miles of unique trail. The course markings at night also had a reflective touch to them which helped a lot in the dark. I was just happy that this section wasn’t flat. Otherwise, Paul wouldn’t believe me about the constant ups-and-downs I had been encountering in much of the race. We kept waiting to hear noises that would indicate we were near the end, and over the next couple segments, I began to enjoy hearing the faint sound of a generator which meant we were near an aid station.
Jenny was next up for pacing, as she had committed to keep me company from Miles 74.2 to 93.3. We set off on our first 6.6 mile segment, after I grabbed my last 1/2 Panera sandwich. 😛 Poor Jenny, she was raring to go in her brand new Brooks Cascadias, and here I was just ready to walk out the rest of the race. My feet and calves were a little sore, but not to the point that they would prevent me from moving forward for 30 miles. Oh, I wasn’t totally dragging it out there. I had a good walking pace. Not great, but not bad either. It’s hard to walk great with all the climbs/descents. Probably the biggest thing that was slowing me down was the constant bathroom breaks. It became clear to Jenny that I was probably overhydrated. I swear that on one of our segments I had urinated close to 10 times. It became routine for me to tell Jenny something like, “You keep going, I’ll be right there”.
Mile 80.8, Covered Bridge aid station, would eventually greet us and we were told by DirtDawg that the initial 4.7 mile loop had a significant climb in it. He wasn’t kidding. Jenny and I powered up it, probably only to find a another set of climbs/descents. I was getting a little mad at the course at times. But, Jenny kept my spirits up along the way, making me laugh when she picked up a corn cob as a souvenir for Paul, when we passed a corn field. Paul sure was lucky crewing with Jenny earlier in the day, and I was lucky being paced by her. And, soon enough, we got back to the double aid station, where I would change my shirt, do rag, and socks, one final time. Here’s Jenny and I before we headed out of Covered Bridge for good:
Over the next 7.8 miles, Jenny and I would continue our 99:1 walk:run ratio. That’s 99% walk, 1% run. Occasionally, we’d get into a slow jog just to invigorate my sore feet. It seemed to work, but I’d feel something in my calves, which would stop our progress. It didn’t matter. We were going to make it to the finish. There was no sense in being stupid and risking a DNF this late in the race. Plus, it was hard to get into a jog groove anyhow with the darkness and bumpiness of the trail. Before finishing our time together, we had passed through a crewless aid station, where we received glow bracelets. That was cool. Oh, and we found one for Paul too. 😛
Mile 93.3, Merriman Road aid station, was the next crew point and also where I would pick up a new pacer, Pamela A. Paul had called her about 2 hours prior to let her know I’d be at her station and ready to be paced. Even though Starbucks hadn’t opened yet, Pamela was ready to go. I on the other hand was enjoying another one of my patented BR100 sits:
Only 7.8 miles of walking to go (101.1 is the published distance), and having Pamela keep me company was a treat. She said she works nearby and can get trail runs in here. What a great trail system she has to enjoy. The trails are beautiful and seem endless! 😛 The end would come sooner than later, but we had one last aid station, where Pamela got to fuel up on her promised coffee. I made sure not to take off sprinting that final 4.8 miles, just so her coffee wouldn’t shake and spill. 😉
The end was nearing and just thinking about it made me well up as we walked. Occasionally, I had to turn my head to the side to hide my feelings. I also got a little choked up when we passed a guy who was painfully wobbling along just trying to get to the finish. I mumbled a, “You’re going to make it! You’re almost there!”, cheer as I felt a slight lump in my throat. Seeing his determination was inspiring.
Once we got to Front Street, I knew we were home. With just under ~0.5 miles to go I decided we better bring it home running/jogging. Here’s Pamela and I not too far from the finish line:
And, here’s me finishing strong:
Finish time of 26:36:05. Oh man, what a feeling to finish this event. It’s hard to know what’s going to happen after so many hours out on the course. Anything can happen really. This was my first 100 and it won’t be my last. I know I probably wasted a lot of time changing clothes and most likely walked a little too much at the end. But, I got to the finish before the cut-off of 30 hours, and that’s what mattered to me. I finished 96 out of 252 starters. 166 runners finished the race. It’s amazing that 70 people finished after me, so close to the cut-off. We were lucky with the weather. There was an overcast most of the day, then sunny for a short period in the late afternoon. Makes me wonder what my outcome would’ve been if the weather was harsh. But, maybe then, I would’ve actually drank both of my handhelds more often. You never know. I definitely feel like I left a lot on the table (except for Panera sandwiches), considering how perfect the conditions were. Maybe I’ll find out in my next 100.
My training for this 100 wasn’t typical. My longest run was 20 miles and my longest back-to-back long run days were 15 and 20 miles. In fact, my longest run ever was my HAT 50K back in March. But, I put in a lot of easy paced 10+ milers during my last 2+ months of training. I figured if I could get used to running a bunch of them, I’d be able to run 10×10-milers to finish the BR100. I may not have “ran” 100, but I think I proved that most anybody can complete these 100s.
This 100 wasn’t just me. It really was a team effort. I couldn’t have done it without their support. I want to thank them from the bottom of my heart for making this a successful event for us. I hope they had lots of fun along the way too.
Pamela A – thank you so much for getting out of bed and showing up to do your part. It would’ve sucked to be missing a fresh pacer at the very end. Thanks for helping me in the finish area too. During our walk, I remember you mentioning you may find a 50K later this year. I hope our experience has given you the courage you were looking for.
Jenny J – thank you so much for driving 3+ hours to meet-up with Paul and I, two guys you never met, to help the team from Mile 33.3 to the finish. There’s not too many people who would do such a thing. Thanks for the night walk. We started with headlamps and we finished with headlamps. What a cool, but slow, time we had together. Thanks for putting up with me for so long out there. I hope your fear of noisy bullfrogs subsides. 😉 Seriously, thank you so much for helping out. Your love for fellow athletes shows that you have a huge heart.
Paul P – I can’t thank you enough for taking the lead of the crew and executing our race plans perfectly. We did it! It was you that contacted me ~7 weeks prior and asked about my race plans (crew, pacing, etc.) and offered to help, if needed. Stupid me had only the plan of having drop bags and no crew or pacers. If it wasn’t for your message, I most likely would’ve DNF’d in the race. I can’t imagine what the race would’ve been like without our team. You were truly the brains behind this operation.
DailyMilers and other online friends – you all are the reason I continue to improve as a runner and as a person. I’m normally a quiet, stubborn person by nature, but you all have helped me speak up and learn how to enjoy life to the fullest. At the end of the race I wanted to tell my team and you all how much you mean to me. But, I was in no shape to make a comprehendible video speech. The picture below is how I’ll remember this race. It really did capture what I feel for you all. Thoughts of you all kept me going during the race. I made it home (to the finish) by heel-striking in my ruby red Brooks Launch and by thinking, “There’s no place like DailyMile. There’s no place like DailyMile. …”
Here’s some race video that Jenny J recorded: