Ride along as I train for and complete my second 100 mile Ultra run.
Saturday, August 7, 2010
2010 Burning River Race Report
"8 minutes to spare"
I could tell that I was nearing the Shadow Lake Aid station by the sounds of the volunteers cheering in the runners. As I approached the area, two guys in red shirts asked what I needed. I handed my two bottles to them and followed the shouts of my crew, “Jerry! We’re over here!” I went over to them and asked Denise for pretzels and two power bars. By this time the volunteers had filled my bottles and returned them to me. I shouted “THANKS VOLUNTEERS” and headed out towards the next aid station! My crew just stood there shaking their heads, wondering what in the world just happened?
This was my second entry into the world of 100-Mile ultra running. I completed my first Burning River 100 in 2008 and was hoping to better my time of 26:28 with a target goal of 24 hours or less. The number one goal however was to finish, which is never guaranteed… My race plan this year was pretty simple: 10-minute run/2-minute walk. Walk any up-hills. Get in and out of the aid stations as fast as possible.
The Burning River 100 was the 2010 USATF 100-Mile Championship race and as a result, a record number of participants started the race at 5am. The starting area was awash with runners and their crew/family. I was not able to find Kirk, JP, or Greg, but I did see Mark, Suzanne, and Maria! Before long, “Happy Birthday” and the National Anthem were performed and Joe said “Go!” So go we did…
My nutrition plan was to eat small amounts of food during my 2-minute walk breaks instead of waiting until an aid station to shove a lot of food into my stomach. I was hoping that this would help minimize the energy swings and help keep my stomach in line. In addition, I was using chia seed gel as a calorie source and to help even out my energy level.
My crew was going to wait along the course somewhere in South Chagrin Metro Park to cheer the runners and Denise had mentioned a possible location of somewhere after the stream crossing. As I crossed the creek, I let out a little “Hoo-eee” call and I heard a return call from Denise. The guy running next to me was pretty impressed… It was nice to see my crew and to let them know that things were going well. Before long, I was arriving at the Shadow Lake aid station for the first real meeting as I described above. Denise told me later that their heads were spinning. There was no banter, no joking, I had my ‘game face’ on!
The first part of the race went very well. I would run/walk/eat and get in and out of the aid stations as fast as possible. I had printed out a pace chart to use for reference and was running just under a 21-hour pace. Fast, I know, but I also knew that I would slow down later on the course once the hills started and at night. My crew surprised me by waiting at Bridal Veil Falls in Bedford Reservation for another cheering session before going on to Station Road. But, before I could get to Station Road, I had to traverse 2.5 miles of exposed Tow Path trail. I really dread this section of the course and could not wait to complete it. Like 2008, I walked most of this section to conserve energy and I was so happy to get to Station Road. Denise had a chair set up on the other side of the railroad tracks for me to use for my first of two planned shoe changes. As I cleaned my feet, I heard the train approaching the station. Oh no! The aid station exit was on the other side and I did not have my shoes on yet! I completed a “now leisurely” shoe change since I could not leave if I wanted to. However, the extra couple of minutes was nice and really did not hurt anything. My friend Scott was there at the aid station taking video of the whole exchange.
I left the aid station and headed into Brecksville Reservation. I looked ahead and a co-worker, George, was there with his two daughters. I had joked with him earlier in the week that I would give a shout as I ran by his house. Instead, he met me along the path with a sign that his girls made! It was really sweet and I am sure that his girls did not know what to make of me or of any of the other runners going by! Scott met me again along the trail at a stream crossing, video camera running as I stepped across the stream on the rocks.
The Ottawa Point aid station was crazy! Lots of cars parked along the road, lots of people, lots of food! I grabbed fluids, a banana, fig bars, and out I went towards Snowville Road. I was starting to feel a bit tired now and consumed a hammer gel for a quick pick-me-up. Was not working…hmmm. How about some power-bar? Still not working and feeling worse… I was expecting to have a ‘bad’ section at some point and I think this was it…
I managed to get to the aid station at Snowville, refilled my bottles, and was still feeling pretty bad. I almost threw up there but managed to hold it together. I left the aid station and started walking up the stairs to the top of the ridge. I realized that all of the food that I had taken in from Ottawa point was just sitting in my gut. I also then realized that I had cinched my waist pack belt too tight in an effort to keep my bottles from bouncing, which prevented the food in my stomach from moving through. So, loosen the belt, keep walking to help my body process the calories, and wait until things stabilize. Fortunately, that was the right call and by the time I hit Columbia Road, I was feeling much, much better. Lesson learned: Stick to the plan of frequent, small amounts of food!
Boston Store #1 was another fast in-and-out after a bathroom break and I managed to get past the Stanford Road section without too much grief. It seemed as if the hill had grown a LOT since my last training run down there! I picked up my first pacer, Andy, at Boston Store #2 and we made reasonable time towards Pine Lane. My feet were starting to feel the effects of 55 miles of running and they were starting to talk back to me a bit. Andy was doing exactly what I had asked him to do: Keep me moving! After the Pine Lane aid station, I caught a root and went down! Fortunately, the fig Newton that I had in my hand helped to break the fall a bit. However the cookie did not survive the impact…
We caught up with Mike George and chatted with him a bit as we traveled along the road. My feet did not like the hard surface at all and I could not wait until we got back onto the trails. Andy and I discussed the idea of me changing shoes earlier at Pine Hollow instead of waiting until Covered Bridge. My feet were really uncomfortable and it was becoming more and more difficult to run.
Meanwhile, my crew was having fun with our neighbor’s and pacer’s families and gave Andy and I a rousing greeting at Pine Hollow #1. We stopped briefly to say hello and then off for the Salt Run loop. Andy and I had caught up with Dave, Bob, and Greg on the backside of the Salt Run loop and I was happy to see some familiar faces on the trail. They pulled ahead on one of the uphill sections and I told Andy to let them go. Maybe we’ll see them again…
Back to Pine Hollow #2 for a pacer change and a shoe change. What a difference a pair of shoes can make! My feet still hurt, but not nearly as much and I was able to run again.
Mike, my second pacer, and I kept running, walking when necessary, eating, and enjoying the fantastic evening. We made it through the Wetmore and Perkins Trail and back to Covered Bridge #2. After a short pit-stop, Denise told me as we left that we had an 8-minute cushion for a 24-hour finish! Not a lot of time, especially with how I was feeling…
As we progressed down the road toward Hale Farm, I was talking with Mike and saying that I thought it would be close one way or the other and that I was ok with going a bit over 24 hours. Then not a minute later, I realized that I did want 24-hours, and I wanted it pretty bad! I did not train all winter and spring to miss my goal by a couple of minutes! I told Mike that it was time to get our game on!
The next 15 miles was one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had. I had a single focus: Get to the finish line as fast as I could! We would run as much as I could, then walk for 30-seconds, then run. Mike would let me know if we were making up time or losing time. We kept making up time! The O’Neil Woods and Meriman road aid stations were a blur as we barely slowed down and we were passing other runners the entire way. One guy stated that we had the strongest pace of anyone that had passed him in the last 2 hours! I kept thinking about how good it would feel to stop running! I was sleepy and kept eyeing the benches along the towpath and thinking that they would feel pretty good to lie down on. I did stop a couple of times for 30-second sitting break to take the weight off of my feet. I was amazed how good those short breaks felt!
We arrived at the Memorial Road aid station for the police escort across the bridge since there really was no extra room between the car lane and the edge of the bridge. The police car made a VERY effective blockade for us! We thanked the officer as we turned left to go up the brick street towards the last Metro Park. I knew that one major obstacle existed for us to overcome: The stairs! There are several sections of stone steps used to climb out of the valley. I was using both arms on the railings and pulling myself up these stairs as fast as I could possibly move! I was not thinking of anything else except just keep moving towards the finish line!
We exited the trail and ran across the bridge with just a bit over a mile to go for the finish! Mike and I kept running/walking/running until I could see the Sheraton sign and then it was run only! Two guys on bicycles came riding towards us to get my bib number and radio it back to the finish area. Annika and Jim were volunteering at the street crossing to stop traffic as we ran across! 100 yards to go and I could hear the announcer calling my name and I could see the time on the clock: 23:31!!!!! We had made up 23 minutes in the last 15 miles!!! I crossed the line and stopped when Joe handed me my buckle. I asked him one question: “Can I stop running now?”
Post race: I drank a couple of Muscle Milks as I finally relaxed in a chair.
I watched a few other people finish as I sat in the chair and dozed off. I woke up shivering and I managed to change into some dry clothes. My crew then called it a day and went home. I went to my car for an hour nap and back out to the finish line to watch the others come in. My friend JP was still out there, seeking redemption from last years DNF. He was on track and at 10:24am, he came flying across the finish line! All is good!
Damage report: I only had two small pea-sized blisters! However, my feet feel pretty beat up from the pounding. Changing shoes earlier may have helped to minimize this a bit.
Nutrition: Gu, power bars, chia-seed gel, bananas, pretzel bites, PBJ, and ginger snaps were my calorie sources. In addition, I had one half of a grilled cheese sandwich at Happy Days. Beverages consisted of HEED, water, and some Coke.
Things to change for next time: Stick to the eating plan. Choose shoes carefully and don’t be afraid to change sooner if needed. Don’t be afraid to push a little harder during the night.
Thank you to my crew/family: Denise, Gina, and Abby. Thanks for tolerating this strange hobby of mine and for your unending support! Thank you to my Pacers: Andy and Mike for taking time out of your weekend to run through the woods with me. Thank you to my friends who met me along the course: Scott, George, the Vargo Family, the Bushey Family, and the Hedrick Family. Seeing familiar faces out there helps more than you will ever know.
Thank you to the race committee and to all of the volunteers! Fantastic course markings, food, and support!