STRAVA Summary

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Burning River 100 Mile Endurance Run

Saturday July 30th at 3:30 am and I was woken up by my Blackberry alarm. I was actually awake anyway in anticipation of doing my first 100 mile race at the Burning River 100 mile Endurance Run in North East Ohio. I had driven down from Ontario the day before with my crew of nine, yes that’s right nine. There could have been more, but there was only room for a certain few. We had come down and gone to the race registration on Friday, got my swag and then participated in the pasta dinner, which was delicious. Back to our hotel we went. We were staying at the starting end of the course in Willoughby Hills as my crew would follow me down through the course to Cuyahoga Falls and the finish. Back at the hotel all but myself and Karen (Oliver’s girl friend) went for a run. I sat back and relaxed and tried to keep my self from worrying about the race, which I was very successful with as I was feeling very confident and worry free about the race. The remaining members of my crew who hadn’t made it earlier arrived later in the evening and we had a last minute meeting to go over all the race details. About 10 pm I went to bed and surprisingly slept well.
Come morning we all met downstairs , prior to driving out the 5 minutes to the start area at Squires Castle. It was ominously humid at 4 am, not what I was expecting at all. I knew it was going to get hot later in the day, but jeez it was still very dark and very thick.
I checked in a the start area and awaited the start after the announcements and a stirring taped message from Nick Billock, a previous runner who was stationed in Afghanistan.
5 am and off we went down the field into the unknown! A right turn onto Chagrin River Road and it would be pavement for the first 9.6 miles.

I settled into a nice easy pace and like most I would walk the steeper hills, but I was very surprised when we came to the first aid station in only 45 minutes. I had anticipated taking at least an hour, but it felt good. A quick stop at Gates Mills aid station and off I went again. By now the field was spreading out and I’d be running by myself for quite a bit. Half way through this stage the sun, or daylight actually, started to show and by the time I got to Polo Field aid station at 9.6 miles it was complete daylight and the sun was still obscured by clouds (a good thing). On arriving at Polo Field I realized that I was a lot earlier than I had anticipated and also for my crew. I told them 7 am at the earliest and it 6:30, so I missed them which was no problem at this point as I still had lots of fluids in my camel back and the aid station had everything I needed otherwise. Here I ran into John Hnat who we had run with in one of the training runs. Now we were off into some trails to Harpers Ridge. This part was quite uneventful and I was feeling good and trying to keep my pace easy. Another 5.8 miles and we arrived at Harpers Ridge which has no crew access and so it was a quick drink a PB&J sandwich and off I went. The next section to Shadow Lake was mostly downhill and only 3.2 miles long. Near the end I caught up to Bob King who we had also run in the last training run, he was looking good and pumped too. We would pass each other numerous times over the next 30 miles. I came into Shadow Lake aid station and my crew was there waiting for me.

At this point I ditched the road shoes which were already soaked in sweat. A sock change, refill of the camel back, I grazed over the aid station and off I went. I don’t remember a lot about the next sections as I had 3 aid stations to the next Crew access point, but I do remember coming out onto a road where a couple of cars were pulled over and a runner sitting on the ground. I approached and realized that the runner was bleeding down his left arm and had been hit be a car, whose windshield was broken. Folks were attending to him so I kept out of the way and kept on going. The sun was out now and heat was getting to me a bit crossing Canal Rd about 30 miles in we hopped on the tow path which turned out to be one of my low points. It was out in the open, sunny and hot and I had a hard time mustering up anything even close to a run. A lot of runners passed me on this section and I was glad to see the tall bridge across the valley as I knew Station Road aid station was just a round the corner. Although really wasn’t trying to keep track of how I was doing and the goal of a sub 24 hour race, I felt at this point after a long hard slog up the tow path I was in need of something to get me going or I was going to let this slip.

A good aid station stop and a change of shirt, shoes, socks loaded up on watermelon again, oranges grapes and some cookies. 33.3 miles done.
Leaving Station Road I caught up to Bob King again we ran together for a bit, there was a lot of climbing in this section , but I did notice that when everyone was walking up hill or on the flats I was walking a lot faster than everyone else. Turns out my walking pace would help me a lot in the long term. This was the last section I would see Bob on until the end. I came into Ottawa Point aid station at 39.6 miles feeling really good again.

A change of shoes again, back in to trail shoes and new socks a feed of noodle soap and I was good to go. The heat was almost unbearable, but with the trails and the shade it made a big difference. My thanks should also go out RickyMac and Marie who would be there to soak my cloths with ice water to put on my neck in the aid stations. Having a cloth with me throughout the race was also a saving grace. I would come to a stream and dip my cloth in it to soak myself, it felt soooo good.
Leaving Ottawa Point we went down into a valley on single track (which usually means a climb is coming, what goes down, must come up) a the bottom of this ravine I was running in a group on some single track through tall grass, when the guy in front noticed that we were running on paved single track in the middle of dense bush, how insane is that.. Climbing was the name of the game for a while now as we arrived at Snowville aid station which I don’t remember at all, again no crew access here. Snowville to Boston Store #1 was some tough running including a lot of climbing, the last climb was up a steep set of stairs, but soon after I found myself flying downhill for a long gradual drop to the last road section to Boston Store, a volunteer greeted me here, as happened at most aid stations and asked me what I needed, if I had a drop bag or a crew here etc. Very helpful. 49.1 miles done, almost halfway.
The 4.1 mile loop from Boston Store to Boston Store was another low point for me, it starts on a dreaded tow path again for about a mile in th eheat of the sun, once off that you into unprotected trails which again sapped what I had left followed by a long climb up a road on whihc the ashpalt was melting. Eventually down the other side we were onto trails protected from the sun and after passing a few runners before this my competitive edge told me to run to keep them behind me, not necessary in this type of race.
I pulled back into Boston Store completely drained, with Roger just itching to pace me. So a quick turn around and hopefully having my first pacer would left my spirits. Again we left on tow path so we walked, which I am sure was much to Roger's chagrin. But Roger is good and he know s this was about me, although he did push me more than anyone, which is what I expected too. Off the tow path into a field up hill, so the walking continued. When we finally hit the trail it was also up hill and Grizzly Adams passed us. At the top of the hill we finally got to run and we ran a lot, passed grizzly again along with a few others. After crossing the hwy we hit somemore single track that was very rooty and difficult to run on, but we took advantage of it and passed a few others. Before long we were heading down a very steep trail, with other runners coming up, What the... Apparently we had to go out to Pine Lane and then back this way. So down we went at the bottom of the hill we crossed a small creek (I was thinking, god I'd love to just lay in there). As usual what go down... so up we climbed where we cam out was Pine Lane, we took a breather some more soup, watermelon etc. and then Stefan Miklos came in (a runner I know from Toronto). we all headed out more or less together, I expected Stefan to leave me behind at this point, but we stayed in front until we hit the stream and I told roger "I'm going to lay in it, take my picture".

Stefan thought we were insane and asked if I did it on purpose. We climbed up the other side where Stefan ran into another Toronto runner Steve Beach, they talked as we passed. Stefan had warned us of the next section that was a few miles of up hill road section, when we got to it we walked it, the whole thing. The tarmac was getting hard on the legs so walking was easier at this point. I expected Stefan to pass, but we never saw him again until the end of the race. Along the road we had runners in front and behind and although they would all run here and there, we would still gain ground on them. Finally off the road we turned on to another path in a park this one paved and up hill all the way. Roger talked me into a run here and there and we passed many runners a short single track run and we were at Happy Days aid station and the end of Rogers pacing.

64 miles done and Brendan was next up as my pacer. I was worried how Brendna would manage this as he is a very fast road runner, he would have to endure much walking. And thats how this part started, lots of walking on rocky, rooty trails. It wasn't until we crossed a road that we were on more manageable trails that were runnable, so we did. Brendan like Roger pushed me as much as I would allow and we gained a lot of ground, this section was long and hard, but we finally pulled into Pine Hollow aid station up the Sound of Music Hill just before dark. The open fields were nice and cool, but it was still very humid in the woods. My crew was trying to convince me that I should go with a long sleeve shirt, but I said no. Another drying of the feet and some anti monkey butt powder on and off we went into the darkness of the woods for what is supposed to be a quick 3.3 miles (5k).

It seemed like 10k, up and down all the time. Running the trails in the darkness was a new experience, the headlamps would light up what was right in front and the markers down the trail, but that was it. 74 miles done! Although tired I was very alert and never in doubt of what I was going to accomplish.
Bill toookk over the next leg which I was familiar with as we had run it a few weeks ago as part of a training run. On our way antoher runner caught up to us and asked if he could tag a long, he was struggling and had no crew or pacers as he a USATF runner. We said sure, we would lose him occasionally, but he would catch up. there was a lot of up and downs on this leg until we got out of the woods. After passing another group we crossed Akron Peninsula Road and found a stretch of flat ground that we were able to run off and on, around the corn field with head lights behind us we continued on. we passed another runner crossing Riverview Road who wasn't doing so well. From here around another corn field to Covered Bridge aid Station. 80 miles done. Covered bridge aid station is bustling with activity and all the while there are people sleeping everywhere, including most of my crew.

But Oliver is ready to go on his dificult leg, the Perkins trail loop. But we sang happy birthday to him first as it was just after Midnight and it was now his birthday.
The Perkins Trail from Covered Bridge 1 to Covered bridge 2 is supposed to be the worst part of the course. A lot of up and down hill on technical trail and it can be very muddy. We had done this part on the training run a few weeks ago and then everyone had commented on how dry it was, even so the issue would be the timing of this segment, in the dark when the mind is starting to wander. As it turned out even with the recent rains and storms the trail wasn’t as bad as I expected and I found that this section, although we did walk a lot of it, went by very well. We passed a lot of runners again on this trail. We rolled into Covered Bridge aid station again feeling very good and still smiling. 85 miles done.
Ricky Mac was my next pacer and I warned him that there would be a lot more walking now, with pavement coming up for a few miles I found it hard to run on this surface. Once we got over the first couple of hills we did run for a bit, but not for long. Eventually we were back into the trails, single track, where we bumped into a runner going the opposite direction. We must have looked rather bemused as he explained he wasn’t running the course, but actually running it backwards or at least to Covered Bridge, strange. Right after this the batteries on my headlamp died, and I had neglected to bring extras, they were in the car. Oops. So Rick gave me his and he followed closely, hopefully his last the rest of the way! I remembered this section of trail and told Rick to count the downed trees across the trail, there should be 5, before we hit the top of the hill. It turns out there are now 6 down, since the storms had brought another across the trail. The legs of the race were thankfully getting shorter and this one was to O’Neill Woods was only 3.3 miles, but there wood be no crew access here and we were quickly in and out of this station and on our way. After some more trails, which seemed to go on fore ever, we came onto W Bath Rd. here we passed another runner having some stomach issues (#47, we were counting my position each time we passed a runner based on what Roger had told me at Covered Bridge, not that it really mattered!!!). On to Yellow Creek Rd and then onto the dreaded tow path again. In the heat of the day this part was terrible in the training run, now it was my feet that were suffering, feeling every rock, pebble, crack. Everything felt uncomfortable. The only saving grace was that my walking pace was still very quick, every now and again we would break into a run. We did run past the length of the stinky compost plant and not long after passed a runner laying on a bench (turns out it was John Hnat, although I didn’t recognize him in the dark. We asked if he was ok and I guess we startled him as it seemed he was sleeping, he just grunted back so we continued on, we got to Riverview Rd and ran the last bit into the aid station, passing some of the volunteers running back out the other way. They asked us if we’d seen a runner down, but not thinking they meant John we said no. One of those volunteers was Brian Pulling who I had been looking forward to meeting at the aid station as we had been in contact prior to the race, so I missed him. 93 miles done.
All over but the crying now more or less. My feet were suffering, I felt blisters between the balls of my feet and they felt like they were on fire. I picked up Catherine as my next pacer and told her not to expect any and I meant ANY running. Which is exactly what we did, we walked the entire 3 miles as I knew this was entirely tow path again. This was probably the slowest part of the course for me, which is no reflection n Cath as she tried to keep going at a decent pace, but I was in a dark place at this point. We pulled into the last aid station Memorial Parkway at about 4:10 am and I barely stopped. I knew walking from here would get me to the finish at about 5:45. 96 miles done.
Joan would be my final pacer and hopefully she’d get me running to the finish line at least. The last section is 4.8 miles and it starts by crossing the river and then up hill up a couple of streets before heading into the Cascade Valley Metro Park and more trails. Luckily the trails here were mostly flat, but we still walked. Then the stairs and lots of them, we climbed up and up and I assumed we’d quickly come to the road at the top of the stairs., but about 3/4 ‘s of the way up we hit a gravel road and turned left on it. This road was painful on the feet and it went on and on, I was beginning to question whether we were on the right course or not, when we finally came out onto Front St. After climbing another hill up Front we had 1.5 miles to go along pavement which actually felt good, but seemed again to take a long time. Finally we turned a corner to see the clock tower and once we got to the second last set of light s we broke into a run and ran it in pretty quickly to finish in 24:38:56. 100.8 miles done!!


I was a little overwhelmed emotionally at the finish, so happy to have finished what I had started 18 months ago.
Later that morning after going back to shower and clean up, we came back for breakfast and watch more runners coming in. It was great to see Bob and Stefan finish and a few others that I ran with here and there.


On reflection, a week later, I feel I could have done much better with some fine tuning, shoe selection and socks for one were not good choices. But my crew was awesome and I couldn’t have done it without them. I applaud the volunteers the other runners, all the new friends I met out there and in the training runs. Those that I have met on line, but not personally that I know were out there, I wish I had got the chance to meet. And of course Joe and his crew who put together the greatest race I have ever been involved with and made the course tough, but had enough folks out there to get me through. The aid station folks were awesome, they’d meet you coming in to find out what you needed and made sure you knew where you were going when you left, much needed in the dark. Thanks to everyone involved and those at home rooting for me.

4 comments:

Catherine said...

Great report Keith! Surprised you remember as much as you do..thanks for including me in the adventure. :)

Brian said...

Great read Keith, I can't imagine how it must feel but a little bit of us was with you on your run sharing some of your pain and joy.
Glad you were able to FINISH alive and well and share your adventure with us.
Again congratulations, this sure sounded like a great bonding experience for you and your crew.

Lizard said...

Keith,
Great race recap, Congratulations. I would also like to thank that awesome crew of yours. I had only one 50 mile race under my belt when I decided to sign up for the 2011 Burning River 100. Also, I had enlisted the help of my wonderful wife who had never crewed before. In her discussions with your crewmembers at one of the early aid stations, she conveyed our inexperience at this endeavor. Your crew jumped into action and not only offered her advice, but, came up to me during several of my aid station stops to check on me and offer advice and encouragement. As you wrote, they were awesome. Having complete strangers make a special effort to come up to me and tell me I’m doing great and even offer to pace me later in the race was uplifting. Even when you had gotten much further ahead of me later in the race, your crew located another volunteer pacer and directed him to my wife who then introduced him to me at Pine Hollow 2 aid station. I had no idea how valuable a pacer would be late in the race on the trails at night. Your crew, my wife and brother, and my pacer Brian enabled me to complete my very first 100 mile race. Please pass along my thanks to them, I don’t remember their names but I remember their faces and all the great advice and encouragement they provided. Congratulations again on your great race. I really enjoyed reading your blog!

v/r
Tom (bib number 42)

KeithRunsUltras said...

Hey Tom, glad you were able to finish and that my crew could be a part of it. you were inspirational to them!