The aid stations and volunteers were all top notch and it made for a really fun day out on the trails. I had the best crew a guy could ask for. Jessica was my crew leader and she did such a great job of having everything ready for me and tending to my issues. Also, without me knowing she organized a huge group of my family and friends to come out and cheer me on from different points in the course and I will go more in depth into that a little later into my report. My friend Mel, who I met through my brother-in-law Luke in Virginia Beach, is also an avid ultra runner and he decided to fly up here and run Burning River as well. It was his fourth 100 mile race this year. He felt good going into the race but unfortunately his legs gave out on him and he had to drop at an early stage in the race. I am thankful that he was there to assist Jess in crewing for me as he had a lot of good advice to offer since he is an experienced 100 mile racer. Also, my brother from another mother Lucas Hardbarger came up Saturday evening and he was ready to pace me through the night from mile 65.7 to the finish.
I want to rewind the clock a little bit to January of this year. I decided to take my ultra running to the next level and try out the 100 mile distance. I have completed a few 50Ks and also a really tough 50 miler in Colorado and a tough 50 in Mohican all without a crew or drop bags. When you dive into the 100 mile category there is a lot more logistics and planning involved then just going out and doing the run. I kind of like the whole aspect of the planning and all the preparation that goes into it and in my opinion the completion of a 100 mile race within the time limit is the ultimate achievement in this sport. I am not short selling any other ultra distance because by all means anything over 26.2 is very difficult and it is quite an accomplishment to be able to finish something like that. I was ready to begin my training and found a 26 week training plan online. I had never used a training plan but thought it would be a good idea for accomplishing my goal. Next I had to choose a race and it was a toss up between the Mohican 100, Burning River 100, and the Run Woodstock Hallucination 100. I ended up choosing Burning River because it fell perfectly into the time frame of my 26 week training plan.
My decision was made and from that point on the next six months of my life revolved around training. Every weekend was spent on my local single track trails busting out long runs on Saturdays and Sundays. If we had plans or were going out of town then I would find a place to run or adjust my schedule accordingly to get my runs in. Three nights a week I was putting in miles around my neighborhood streets. I trained in every kind of weather imaginable, from freezing cold dark winter nights here in Michigan to sweltering hot days while on vacation in Virginia Beach. I sprinkled in a couple 50K races and also a 50 mile race which all went well and I finished one of the 50K's in less then six hours which was a personal record so I knew my training was paying off and I was getting stronger. Thankfully my family and friends, especially Jess, are very supportive and understanding. I was not great company during the last six months because I was always thinking about my next run. When it was all said and done I had run 1,260 miles in preparation for this 100 miler. At certain times of my training I started to feel burned out and also had some heel pain but I was very determined to do whatever it took to complete this 100 miler within the 30 hour time limit and walk away wearing that finisher buckle with pride. I felt like I could not of trained any harder then what I did and that I was well prepared going into the race.
|Mel and I ready to Rock!|
|Fletchers and my lovely wife rooting us on at 5:00 AM!|
I heard someone yelling GO! and we were off! I lost Mel right away in the sea of 275 headlamps bouncing across the yard at squires castle heading to the trail which would be our first 6 mile section. This was a nice wide dirt trail which had some decent climbs and was a nice warm up to the day. There was a couple muddy pits at various spots on the trail and I even lost my shoe at mile 3. I generally prefer to keep my shoes loose while distance running and when my shoe got stuck in the mud my foot came right out of it, doH! Luckily a nice guy behind me picked it up and handed it to me so I didn't have to walk back through the mud with my sock on to grab it. The weather was cool at the start which was nice because it is usually very hot this time of year. The forecast had rain and a high in the mid 70s and that is actually way better then 90 and sunny. I finished that 6 mile loop at a 12 minute and 30 second per mile pace which was not to bad. I seen Jess, Fletch, and Rachel when I got back to the castle, this first aid station was really busy and I didn't need anything so I just kept going. The next 5 miles was pretty flat and there was a decent road section in which the groupings of runners started to really spread out. Ahhh, some elbow room, just the way I like it. In this section I ran for awhile with a couple guys from Illinois who were quoting the movie Dumb and Dumber and this had me laughing all the way until the next aid station.
|Joe and I coming into mile 17.6 and I was happy to see my family!!|
|Coming into mile 26.2 and happy to see more supporters!|
|Support crew at mile 26.2!|
The next section was still pretty flat with some small rolling hills and some little climbs. I could tell the terrain was starting to change and the flat parts would soon be turning into some of the 8,000 - 9,000 feet of elevation gain this course has to offer. We did a pretty good job weaving through this section and reached the 31 mile aid station still maintaining a great pace. We thanked the volunteers and I told Joe he has just completed his first ultra now that we were at the 50K point. As we left this aid station we finally got onto some good dirt trails in the woods. I was feeling very good at this point and the excitement of dirt single track had me flying through the trails. Joe was behind me and I could tell something was off for him. When I inquired as to what was wrong he said the outside of his knee was starting to hurt really bad. Oh crap, that's the IT band and once it starts acting up it can make for a long day, especially on the down hills. We were walking quite a bit here and I was ready to move on. He insisted I go on without him for awhile. I finally told him to not give up and it was great meeting him and running the last 20 or so miles together. I reached the mile 36 aid station and after refueling I seen Joe coming in as I was leaving but did not see him anymore after that.
|Coming into mile 41.7 to a lot of cheering!!!|
|Mile 41.7 support crew. I sure am a lucky guy.|
|My brother Dan providing some much needed laughs|
After the emotions of seeing everyone started to fade I realized I have some work to do as I was not even half way yet and I would not see my crew again until mile 65.7. Things seemed to be moving nicely although I could feel my pains start to get a little worse. There was some more climbing in the next section and my IT band / knee started feeling bad. I was reduced to a run a little walk a little pattern which was fine. I met two guys Jody and Cody on this section. Really nice guys and one of them was also having a bit of IT band pain as well. One of the guys had run the course before and he said the next section is super muddy even on dry days so it was probably going to be really bad today. We reached mile 46.4 aid station in no time. The miles really fly by when your having good conversation. I was at this aid station for a little while and ate quite a bit of food as I wanted to make sure I was keeping calories down. I had been drinking tons of water and taking a salt pill every hour so I was definitely hydrated. An aid station worker warned me as I was leaving that the next four miles were in really bad shape. I was not worried but then again I had no idea it was going to be much worse then I could of ever imagined.
This section was mostly dirt trails a little wider then single track with plenty of roots, mosquitoes, steep uphills, steep downhills, and MUD. It was so hard just making it up the hills because it was like trying to climb up ice. Then going downhills I was hanging on trees to lower myself down without falling. There was no way around the mud because it was nothing but heavy brush and more mud bogs next to the trail. The flat sections were all ankle deep mud so there was absolutely no running going on here. Usually I can have fun and appreciate scenarios like this when I am racing but not so much in my first 100 miler! The only good thing about this section was about every half mile it seemed like there was a stream crossing which was nice to wash off the five pounds of mud that had accumulated on both shoes! The only problem was that it was difficult to get up the other side of the river banks because they were so damn slippery. Oh well, it was all part of the adventure and I knew that it was part of the course and I need to look at it as an exciting challenge and just power through it. At times I was just laughing out loud to myself at how crazy it was and how slow I was going. I was doing about 30 - 35 minute miles through this section and it was one hell of a workout. When I finally reached the aid station at mile 50.4 I was happy to learn I had completed half the course in 13 hours. Only a half hour behind my goal I had set before the race. I now had 17 hours to finish the course and felt good about that.
When I left that aid station and climbed some more hills I realized the last 4 mile section took more out of me then the entire 46.4 miles before it. My IT band pain seem to diminish but the pain above my arch was starting to hurt more then before. I was still able to do a little bit of my run a little walk a little routine through the beginning of the next section but every time I ran the pain grew worse. I reached the next aid station at mile 55.5 and was pretty much just straight limping at this point. Every step was causing bad pain above my left arch. I hobbled out of that aid station and climbed the hill next to the Ohio turnpike and then turned into the woods for a pretty big downhill section. I limped through this section of trails and the pain was still getting worse. I finally reached the next aid station at mile 59.4. There was people there that looked like they were in a lot worse shape then me. I ate some mac and cheese, thanked the volunteers, flipped on my head lamp and got the heck out of there. Since I was only limping with no chance of running I didn't really have any time to spare. The darkness along with more climbing and descending had really slowed my pace. There was a little bit of trail and uphill climbing at the beginning of this section and then we were spit out onto a deserted road. There were a couple markers that suggested we head down the road. Another guy came running back toward a group I was in and he was nervous that we were not on the right path because he did not see any markers ahead. I knew we had to trust the first directional markers where we got on the road but after limping down the road for a mile or so with bats swooping in and flying right past my head along with not seeing any markers I started to freak out a bit. Then all of a sudden I see an arrow on the road pointing in the direction I was going. On the right path, phew!! I passed this one girl and her pacer on the road section. She was having an issue with her knee and I knew it must be bad if my limping ass was able to pass her.
|Not one of my finer moments at mile 65.7. Notice a little mud on my shoes.|
We were following a couple groups of people and talking and then all of a sudden we came to a fork in the trail and there was no direction markers. Crap! We all made the decision to go one way and then some course officials that were near the next aid station seen our headlamps coming across the field toward the aid station. The problem is that we still had about three miles to go before we got to that aid station which was really close to us all of a sudden. One of the guys came over to tell us we missed a turn and was going to lead us back to the trail but another official had said that we must go back the way we came and could not take a short cut back to the trail or we would be disqualified. As for me, I was kind of upset because anything more then 5 feet extra with the pain in my foot was really mentally defeating. Now I had gone a half mile out of the way and had to go back. I was not happy but accepted my fate! All of a sudden I seen the girl who had the bummed knee and she had gone the wrong way too and she was yelling at the guy who said we had to go back the way we came. She really let the poor guy have it and was saying the turn was not marked and he was messing with her cutoff times. Then she turned in an upset manner and sprinted back up a hill that we had all come down. I couldn't believe it. After all her problems with her knee and running 68 miles she still had the energy to sprint up a hill, wow, some serious adrenaline! She recently posted her race report on the Burning River facebook group and did not mention that whole scene but she did go on to finish the race. One of her crew had done some chiropractor voodoo on her knee and I guess it fixed it. Also, when we were led back the way we came we discovered the missed turn was mark VERY clearly and we were all eating a big steamy plate of crow with all the fixins.
The next three miles of trail had some more ascents and descents which I was transversing very slow. Lucas was doing a great job pumping me up mentally to stay in the race and assured me that things would turn around very soon. As much as I wanted to believe that, I could tell this damn foot pain was getting worse and I could hardly walk so it was going to be a very long 30 miles to the finish. Also, I was almost behind the time cutoffs at this point. I got to the aid station at mile 71 and told my remaining crew and supporters that I was really thinking my day was over. I was so depressed at that thought. I did have a pair of more cushioned zero drop road running shoes in the car and as a last ditch effort I changed into them. I walked around a bit and it felt pretty good! New life!! I might not be able to run but I could walk at a good clip so I thought there might be a chance. Luc and I left the aid station and I was only 10 minutes ahead of the cutoff time. It was going to be tough going to stay ahead of the cutoffs but it is possible I thought. Felt good for about a half mile and then after being forced to run down a steep grass hill the arch pain had returned in full force. I was back to moving at a very slow pace and no matter how hard I tried to move faster it was excruciating and could not do it. After two miles into this three mile section I phoned Jess to come and pick me up at the mile 74 aid station because I was not going to make the cutoff and even if I did have time I had no clue how I was going to do another marathon being in that kind of pain. It was not your normal quad or calf pain soreness, it was more of an injury type pain and it felt like I was doing a lot more damage with every step. With a half mile to go to mile 74 the three guys sweeping the course came up behind me and that really signaled the end for me.
|Luc and I at mile 74.|