2015 Burning River 100 Recap
After not hearing our name pulled in last year’s Western States lottery drawing I knew that Western Reserve Racing Burning River 100 would be on our schedule for 2015. This event would 1) give me a chance to earn another #WS100 lottery ticket, 2) teach me what a true point-to-point course involves, and 3) experience a midsummer race with high temps for this area (mid-west).
Let’s back up to March of this year. While in the midst of training we learned that our oldest son, Sam, has Crohn’s Disease. The day we came home from the doctor’s office in our mailbox was a flyer for Team Challenge. I nor anyone else I know would have sent this to us nor did anyone know what was going on with Sam. We instantly decided to join Team Challenge and focus all that we could around raising awareness about Crohn’s Disease while we as a family begin to understand Crohn’s and try to find answers. We targeted BR100 as our goal race to not only complete another 100 mile adventure but more importantly raise funds & awareness for CCFA.
Week of the Race
At the start of the week, Monday, I began to go through my drop bags and what I needed for each bag. This process was insane honestly as in my past two hundos I didn’t need to worry about the drop bags as a loop course has its benefits. While stressing over the contents my attention was quickly turned to some amazing news. We received not one but many alert emails of more #TeamSam members joining with their support and donations. Why this was amazing is that we hit our $5000 fundraising goal. This alone was the best news we’ve heard and solidified my strategy of the upcoming race. The plan, run with #TeamSam and for all those with IBD. My drop bag planning went into full strategy mode of figuring out how I could be as efficient as possible on race day because failure to finish was NOT an option.
Susan and I loaded up the #dadminivan with our race weekend gear and our kiddo’s gear. Dropped the boys off at grandmas while leaving with many hugs and kisses. About an hour into our trip, past the first toll booth on the tollway into Ohio we struck a piece of metal on the highway that suddenly triggered the onboard computer to warn us of a tire that was losing air quickly. I traveled about 10 miles before we found a service station. Once we arrived I checked the tire and sure enough it was on its way to be flat. So I looked for our spare tire. NOTE…we purchased a new Chrysler Town & Country last fall. Yup, I drive a minivan. It’s cool, I like it. Annnd queue up the minivan dad jokes now. 😉 Anyways, so I pulled out the manual to see where the spare is located and we were quickly surprised that there was no spare on the vehicle. You can see where one would be but not on our vehicle. Come to find out that a spare tire is optional to purchase for Chrysler vehicles. Yup, that would have been good to know at the time of the sale. Fortunately we connected with a local auto shop that sent out a crew to patch the tire on the spot and send us on our way. Big THANK YOU to the mechanics from Hutch’s Towing & Recovery.
Unfortunately though our stop at this service center was 3 hours long and we still had 3 hours to go. UGH! We finally got back on the road around 4:30pm so I thought we’d be okay because packet pickup goes until 9pm, right? Well fast forward to when we are at packet pickup at 6:50pm and find out it closes in 10 minutes?! Holy crap my heart about stopped. I was sooo glad that I didn’t know it closed at 7 earlier in the day but wow, could we have cut that any closer?
So we finally arrived at the hotel and checked in. Got our packet, dropped off our drop bags and headed to Panera for dinner AND try to relax. The bonus of having everything packet before arriving is that it’s easier to not do any last-minute planning because it’s all done. 10 pm and it was lights out.
Early wakeup call at 1:30am as the bus leaves at 2:15am to the start. Nerves were high but excitement to get to the start filled me that morning. A goodbye and kiss to my favorite fan and crew member, my wife, and off I headed to the bus. The bus ride is about an hour to the start. It was fun to connect with some runners and Michiganders on the bus. The ultra runner community is amazing.
We arrived at Squire’s Castle in Willoughby Hills, OH with many runners while their headlamps lit up the walk to the starting line. We arrived with about 35 minutes before 4am so I found a spot up by the castle and sat on the ground to relax and to reflect of the time that we, #TeamSam, put in over the past couple of months to get to this point. On the bus I met up with a local running buddy, Brad Polnasek. Just before the National Anthem we chatted game plans and it sounded like we both could team up for the first part of the run. Couple minutes before 4am, the National Anthem sang and hundreds of headlamps a blazing…it was time to get this party started!
Ready, Set, GO!
Overall I read about the course descriptions of what was paved vs trail a couple of weeks before race week and I knew the first part of the course would provide some rolling roads. 11 miles exactly. So while we were underway I knew I had to keep the gas pedal under control. Brad and I hooked up during this section and worked together on keeping the pace honest but smart. While running on roads may not sound too great for a hundo, the section they took us on was incredibly beautiful. Rolling sections of quiet valleys that would push through some towns. Was fun to see some residents out cheering us on at 5am.
Shadow Lake – 22.5 miles – 3hrs 45 minutes in
Upon arriving at the Shadow Lake aid station/drop bag all I needed to do was to refill my 50oz Camelbak bladder in my SJ UD vest with water and drop in another 500cals of Tailwind Nutrition and pack away my headlamp into my vest. I made up zip lock bags of Tailwind in each drop bag. Most of them consisted of 500 to 600 calories of a blend of the lemon and raspberry buzz flavors. With the help of an awesome volunteer at the aid station I was in and out of this stop. Brad and I at this point were running an easy but solid 9:15 to 9:30 pace and we were feeling good but the sun was starting to wake up along with the heat. At this point I was looking forward to see what this course was all about. Left this aid station in 44th overall position.
From here on out the elevation was starting to show its face. I began to realize that Ohio did have hills. From time to time you’d get a patch of flat sections (a half mile to a mile in length). At the next aid station Brad and I gave each other a high-five and a good luck and he went on as I used a bathroom. If you know me and it’s 8am or at least 15 miles into my run, my ‘system starts’ to function and wake up 😉 After a quick pit stop it was off on my own now. Every now and then I’d hook up with some runners and we’d chat about our reasons to run these epic adventures and why we chose BR100. One conversation that I had with a runner was pretty cool. After explaining to him why I was there and who #TeamSam was he mentioned to me that he and his brother and I believe his father have Colitis. Small world! He knew exactly what CCFA and Team Challenge was all about and it was just a cool moment to share with someone who understands personally what we are going through as a family.
Oak Grove – 37.6 miles – 6 hrs 50 minutes in
I was excited to get to Oak Grove as for two reason, 1) this was a loop section where we’d come back to this spot after a short loop and 2) I would see my crew, my awesome wife! As I rolled in I saw Brad just finishing up with his gear refill to head out on the loop. My plan was to hit it (4.3 miles) with just my hand-held bottle and drop my UD vest. But I used the time before I headed out to get my Camelbak bladder refilled and with another 500cals of Tailwind. In my handheld I threw in 200cals of Tailwind. Left this aid station in 48th overall position.
Oak Grove 2 – 42 miles – 7 hrs 55 minutes in
Back into Oak Grove one last time to switch back to my UD vest, take in a cocktail of water + oral rehydration solution (which was going to save me later on in the race), a quick kiss from Susan and back onto the course. Again the volunteers at these aid stations, especially the folks that work the drop bags, are amazingly awesome. They are incredibly helpful in every way! Left this aid station in 53rd overall position.
For the next 8 to 10 miles there was some decent and I mean decent elevation changes on the trail. This would be the start of the quad crushing that would take a toll on me later in the race. At this point though I was still feeling strong and confident to keep the drive going. When I saw my wife at Oak Grove she got after me a bit as her text alerts were informing her of my overall pace and my project finish time. That projected finish time was around 19 hours. She knew that was not in my league thus why she warned me to slow down. Honestly though I was only pushing the pace by feel. I’ve read a couple of books this past year about endurance runs and being conservative is key but also not holding back when the time feels right. It’s definitely a tricky balance to keep in check as an ultra runner. As the Garmin ticked off mile 50 I knew I was in a decent position to keep moving as I just finished 50 miles just under 10 hrs (9:50). This was a HUGE confidence boost at this point as it showed me that even though what I thought my training lacked this season I was able to keep a solid pace under control in legit time frame.
Stanford House – 53.17 miles – 10 hrs 35 minutes in
Leading up to the Stanford House we hit some sun exposed sections of the trail and was quickly reminded that I was running in the Midwest, in late July and in the heat of the day. This aid station couldn’t come soon enough. I knew it was going to be the finish line for the 50 milers and the crowd sure did love seeing the hundos stroll through. At this aid station I wanted to take a couple of minutes though to stretch, recharge my Garmin, cool down the body temp a bit and take in some more calories by eating solid food. Susan loaded up my Camelbak with ice this time plus loaded up my Tailwind buff with ice. I knew I was in decent shape to possibly finish with a BIG PR but the course was still unknown but it was time to get serious. I ditched anything packed away in my vest that I didn’t’ need anymore. That meant bye bye GoPro. I hadn’t captured too much footage in the first part of the race so I figured I didn’t need to carry it anymore. Left this station in 22nd overall position.
From here on out I focused on the terrain and tried to be smart about the uphills and downhills as there were plenty of them. The next section before Pine Hollow was brutal. Not sure if the total sum of downhills were starting to catch up to me plus the heat but wow I started to fall off pace. Coming out of the Pine Lane aid station I felt exhausted and tired. I popped a couple Excedrin plus some Mountain Dew at the aid station to try to help lift my spirits. It worked. There was a section that opened up to a dirt road and I was able to settle back into a good pace for a couple of miles. Problem was that now I was exposed to the sun with no shade. So I played it smart and decided to walk some. This power walk was roughly around mile 62 which I was about 13 hrs in. It gave me a few minutes to text Susan and also read up on some messages from #TeamSam.
At this point I was already in my second pair of shoes, Hoka One One Challenger ATRs, which I switched over to at mile 42 (Oak Grove 2). Throughout the course you drop down into valleys that cross the Cuyahoga River plus many other creeks. I was not shy of not getting wet in these crossings let me tell you. The cool temps of the water was what my overheated body needed but the downfall to this can be wet/soaked feet. At every bag drop aid station I would switch out my socks while re-applying 2Toms on my feet. While the new socks helped I did start to get some hot spots on my feet. I was also having a problem where my insoles of the Hokas were slipping around and bunching up towards the back which triggered some friction on my heals. I managed to keep rolling but it came to a point where I needed different shoes so I texted Susan to have my Cliftons ready as I’d switch to them the next time I saw her.
Pine Hollow – 72.4 miles – 15 hrs 42 minutes in
As I climbed what seemed to be like the biggest grassy hill I’ve ever seen, I arrived at Pine Hollow the next drop bag aid station and more importantly shoe change time! To my surprise and Susan too, our friends Jeff and Stacey Baas where there!! This was awesome to see familiar hometown faces! Pretty sure this and the shoe change was the reason why the next short loop section would be an amazing run. When I arrived in Pine Hollow the first time I was 33rd position overall.
The short Pine Hollow loop wasn’t too technical so footing was pretty solid. About a mile into it I found myself running low 10s to mid 9s. I ended up passing two relay teams on this loop. As some of you have experienced 2nd, 3rd and 4th ‘wind’, this was my. Everything felt great so I kept the drive going. I rolled back into Pine Hollow, refilled the bladder, grabbed my headlamp, added more ice to the buff and away we went. Left Pine Hollow now in 27th position overall.
Now the journey would take a different turn as night was coming. At first the temps in the open valleys were significantly cooler (BONUS) but it seemed the humidity was either climbing or just not dropping at all. Plus the evaluation was incredibly beautiful but challenging. You know your quads are screaming when you find yourself walking sideways down the hills. I rolled into the Covered Bridge aid station exhausted as I pushed the last section with all I could to keep the momentum rolling but I may have pushed too much now looking back. I left this aid station in 16th overall position.
With just 10ish miles to go until I see Susan again at the next checkpoint I focused as much as I could to 1) stay awake and 2) not trip on the trail. I was so tired though. I took three Excedrin just before I left Covered Bridge but my body was not waking up. The volunteers mentioned that the next section was pretty technical. Oh joy! At night with blown up quads and tired eyes, this was going to be ‘fun’. This section back to Covered Bridge (mile 83.5 to 87.5) would turn out to be my slowest and darkest times on the trails.
As I entered Covered Bridge one last time I sat down for a few minutes in hopes to take a power nap but I knew that I needed to keep moving forward. So a refill of water and some nutrition I shuffled along my way. Supposedly the next section before the next gear drop was semi-flat with more roads than trail.
They were right! I was able to keep the feet moving with run/walk sections. My eyelids were extremely heavy though and honestly I felt like I took a power nap the entire time. At one point though it started to rain, or should I say sprinkle. I was pleading to the good Lord to open the skies up and give us a downpour of rain. But that was not the case. But this ‘pray for rain’ took my attention away from being tired and I started to wake up. The last three miles before Botzum I found myself pushing a 9:45 pace. I couldn’t believe it! Here I am at mile 88 or so, running on a road, wishing for rain, headlamp a blazing, stumbling all over the road but finding my rhythm.
Botzum – 93 miles – 21 hrs and 54 minutes in
As I rolled in I was overjoyed to know that I was less than 10 miles to the finish line. Count them on both hands as us runners would say! Susan was there and ready to do whatever I needed. At this point she had mastered the crew requirements and she was in tune of what I needed even without me saying anything. I sat down in a chair as she and a volunteer refilled my bladder while I laced up some fresh new Hokas. I saved my newly but broken in Cliftons 2 as I heard that the last 10 miles of the race was mainly on roads.
As I was about to head out I heard a volunteer mentioned he had some ramen noodles. YES PLEASE! I sat right back down and enjoyed a fresh, hot cup of noodles. This hit the spot! While my Tailwind Nutrition was doing it for me for the day it was great to have substance rather than liquid.
Some high-fives and one last kiss from Susan and it was time to focus and gitRdun. I honestly can say I wish I had the energy that I had in my past two hundos but finishing in the middle of the night is tough. The last segment of the race involved a lot of walking and little bit of running. Looking back now that last 10+ miles to the finish line was all uphill. No wonder I was spent.
I rolled into the last aid station, Memorial Parkway (5 miles from the finish line) and I didn’t want anything but to finish. A volunteer directed me to the road and instructed me that a police officer will be there in his car and would escort me on the road. Really? Escort? Can I get a ride too? Needless to say I couldn’t even jog-shuffle the short section but instead I walked it. I’m sure it was quite the scene. Cop car with his flashers all on next to a guy that smelled bad and couldn’t even walk straight. I’m sure I bumped into the side of his car once or twice.
Well the officer safely got me across the busy road and directed me towards my next hill. UGH. From here on out I can say that it was a blur. I remember a Kal-Haven style of trail that met up with a paved city path in which there was a constant climb of walking. At one point we were back on a trail system that had taken us up some stairs. Lots of stairs. I watched my Garmin click over to 100 miles and I was still a ways from the finish. At this time I was 23 hrs and 40 minutes into the race. Well I was like, finished under 24 hrs woohoo! Needless to say the last 3 miles, yup 3 miles were bad. I’ve never walked so slow in my entire life. At one point I was pushing a ‘fast’ 20:00 pace per mile. 🙁
The final stretch finished on Front St. which passed our hotel. In the distance I could see the finish line and I knew that Susan was there waiting. Did I run it? Nope! This race kicked my butt.
Within a couple of feet from the finish line a flood of emotions overwhelmed me. Thinking of the adventure of the day, the flood of texts and Facebook posts I received from #TeamSam to keep moving, I was beyond tired, to our son Sam whom we dedicated this run too. At 4:38 am Sunday morning and with 103 miles under my legs, I finished in 24 hours and 38 minutes. Come to find out I was 25th overall and 2nd in my age group.
I plopped down on a chair and just about fell a sleep. I knew that it was a tough day but not my strongest as I didn’t even cramp up once at the end like I have in the past two hundos. I think the last section of walking helped with not triggering any cramps but also I kept up on my hydration and nutrition. Susan was beyond exhausted too. Crewing for that long definitely takes a toll you. I love her so much and so proud of her for picking up the crew hat and helping me out. #mywiferocks
Reflecting Back and Take Aways
While aiming to earn another WS100 ticket plus raise awareness for Crohn’s Disease I did this event for a couple of reasons. One was to experience a true point-to-point hundred miler that would force me to plan out the drop bags and what my crew should be ready for. And then finally I wanted to run a race that started in the early hour of the morning and would finish under the stars. This was something that I didn’t anticipate how it would impact me. First take away is that I’m going to train next year with more late evening long runs under headlamp after a solid day at work to replicate and train the body of longer ‘awake’ time. Secondly, MORE downhill repeats to strengthen the quads. I totally underestimated the terrain in this section of Ohio because at one point someone told me it was basically a flat course. #LIES
Thank you to the RD, the volunteers and all those that helped out with BR100. I can’t fathom how much effort and time it would take to plan a true point-to-point 100 mile race. But you did it and you did it with top-notch expectations and results! Thank you!
Gear on the Run
- Shoes – Mixed it up with Hoka One One Cliftons, Challenger ATRs and Clifton 2
- Socks – Wrightsock Double Layer
- Salomon tights shorts
- Team Challenge Singlet
- Hat – Tailwind Nutrition Trucker Hat (LOVE THIS HAT)
- Headband Buff – Tailwind Nutrition Buff
- Watch – Garmin 910xt
- FitBit Charge HR – oh yes, I captured my 200,000+ steps plus 800 stairs 🙂
- Glasses – Rudy Project Rydon
- Vest – Ultimate Direction Scott Jurek Vest 2.0
- Dirty Girl Gaiters
In two weeks I and a few other crazies will be running the Marquette, MI 100K. I say crazies because this event is starting at 12:30am Saturday morning and for the first few hours (until 5am) we are basically on our own. Sounds fun right? Honestly I am pretty amped about this adventure. I feel like I can have a solid day but more so the adventure of completing it is appealing to me. After this race the rest of the year is pretty quiet. I may take a break from the long runs but look to make a stab at a couple of races come this fall. I think it would be interesting to go back to Woodstock Hallucination and see what I could do as I’m sure I have a sub 20 hr hundo in me. But I’m not. 🙂 Now I’m just keeping it easy and getting back into the run routine that I love so much.
Again to all those #TeamSam members we thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your donation, support and more importantly your kind words of support from our race but more so with Sam as we still look for answers to solve the Crohn’s Disease riddle. To learn more about Crohn’s and Colitis Disease checkout CCFA.org. You can also join #TeamSam and help us raise funds with Team Challenge at www.crowdrise.com/vanloorunningbr100.