Burning River 2011
After a good night’s sleep of around 4 hours, Erica and I made the short 10 minute drive to the start of the run at Squire’s Castle. It was pitch black out, and was WAY too early for any normal human beings to be up, much less to be running that far. I was a little nervous, but more excited than anything else. I signed up for this run seven months ago (New Years Eve at 11:50pm – right before the price increase!) and was ready to get it started!
The plan was for Erica to meet me at every aid station that she could, and at some point Brooke and Alex would join her. Additionally, Steve and Leigh were planning on heading to the run around lunchtime and meeting up with Erica. I was going to run by myself for the first 64 miles. From there Alex would join me for about 10 miles and Steve for the last 26 or so miles.
The start was low-key, just like most ultra events. We ran across a grassy area to the road section. This section was nice and quiet, and pretty uneventful. Tried to keep it nice and slow, maintaining somewhere around nine minute miles. I went completely by feel, and didn’t wear a GPS watch or anything the entire run. Around four miles in my right shin started hurting just a little bit – not much but enough to make me a little nervous since there was so far left to go… It was a minor injury that I thought had cleared up but apparently it wasn’t quite healed 100%.
I got to the first aid station (Old Mill Road - 4.6 miles) in around 45 minutes, got some more water and some snacks and headed right out. The next five or so miles were also road, mostly rolling country asphalt with only one stretch that needed to be walked at all. I really kept to myself in this section, eavesdropping on a couple of interesting conversations and mainly just trying to get into a nice groove and relax.
I got to the second aid station (Polo Fields - 9.6 miles) in a little under 1:30. Here I met Erica for the first time and changed from VFFs to my NB Minimus Trail shoes. I grabbed some Coke, took a gel and hit the trails. I couldn’t believe I was already 10% done with the race! The time was flying by and I was having a great time.
The next few miles were a little strange, moving from almost ten miles of asphalt to the trails (and in different shoes). It was nice to feel something different under my feet though. On this stretch I actually started feeling a bit tired and my right shin started hurting a little more. I was a little concerned but tried staying relaxed and moving forward. This was a section of mostly bridle trail with a lot of ups and downs. I arrived at the next aid station (Harper Ridge – 15.4 miles) in a little under 2:30. The volunteers were great there. I filled my water bottle, downed some more Coke, grabbed a few cookies and moved on.
The next section was not too memorable, and I just cruised through trying to relax and enjoy myself. I arrived at the aid station (Shadow Lake – 18.6 miles) in just under three hours. I apparently ran right by Erica as I was saying hi to Michael Patton. I quickly refilled my water bottle and grabbed a few snacks – I had a delicious turkey sandwich here. I also had Erica grab me another singlet to change into, as I was soaked already. At this station I also noticed a prominent barefoot runner, Jason Robillard, had shown up. I had just read his blog post about running the Western States 100 (in under 24 hours!) just a few weeks back. After leaving the aid station, Michael Patton caught up with me and we ran together for about a mile or so. We saw the soon to be 10-time finisher of the Mohican 100 (Mark Carroll) directing traffic here – good to see another COTR runner! There was a short section of road and then what I considered to be one of the best stretches of trail in the whole race. It was all singletrack for a few miles, and I was tons of fun.
I arrived at the next aid station (Egbert - 23.4 miles) in a little under four hours. Here I got my first wet sponge on the neck from one of the volunteers. It felt GREAT and really helped to cool me down. Moved through here quickly and was out with a few cookies.
I got to Alexander Road (28.4 miles) in a little under five hours. Nothing too memorable about this section – just kept moving and enjoying the scenery. We would move from trails to short road sections and back. Talked to a few runners and got passed by some faster runners.
On the way to the next aid station was where it really started warming up. Plus we ran on a section of exposed towpath for what seemed like 20 miles but I think it was only 2-3 miles. Here I walked a little bit and chatted with a fellow runner named Jason. It was also his first time trying out 100 miles. As soon as we heard people cheering we knew the aid station was close so we both started running. The Station Road Bridge (33.3 miles) was here! I couldn’t believe I was already 1/3 of the way done with the race. I felt pretty good at this point, and was happy to see my crew at this station. I changed socks here, grabbed some snacks and hit the road – this time with two handheld water bottles.
The next section included some local hiking trails, and there were quite a few people out and about. I got to the Ottowa point (39.6 miles) aid station in 7 hours. My shin was hurting, but mainly just on the downhills – otherwise it was good to go. I was feeling really good here, and when I got to the aid station it was great to see the crew again. Erica sprayed me down with sunscreen (getting a bit in my mouth – tasted just like you’d think), filled up the water bottles, and grabbed some snacks to take with me. Just before I left I let Alex snap a picture of Erica and me.
The section after the Ottowa point aid station was really nice, with a lot of single track trail and lots of climbs and descents. I was really enjoying myself until around 42 miles, when all of a sudden I started thinking about how many miles there were left to run. I didn’t see a single person on this stretch, and it was really nice to be completely alone with my thoughts. It was a short rough patch but I just tried to keep moving and get through it. I got to the Snowville (43.8 miles) aid station in about 8 hours. It was a little group of volunteers here with no crew access. I got a few gels, a banana and water refills, and just as I was about to leave, Star popped out of the woods and entered the aid station. It was nice to see a familiar face, and I started the next section with her.
There was a pretty good climb in this next section, and Star and I were power hiking up the steps. I was asking her how she felt, and how the beginning miles had gone. We parted ways after about a half mile and I was on my own again. I went ahead, telling her that I would see her soon when she passes me! I was gaining confidence, and feeling really good through this section. I passed a couple of people on this section, and was passed by Star, just as predicted. I knew that the halfway point was coming up soon, and I was getting excited. In the middle of this section I met a couple out hiking on the trail. They asked me if I was doing some sort of race or something. I told them it was a 100 mile run – they weren’t sure what to say for a minute. They asked me how far I’d gone and I told them it was almost half way. They wished me luck and got going. Toward the end of this section there was a really long climb of stairs – I tried to power up and get to the top. I really liked the stairs just because it forced me to slow down and use some different muscles. I left the woods and there was a short road section before arriving at the next aid station.
Boston Store #1 (49.1 miles) was reached in a little over 9 hours. There was an awesome volunteer here that grabbed both of my water bottles and let me run without them for a couple hundred feet. It felt great to run without anything in my hands, even if it was only for about 50 seconds. It was really nice to see the crew here again, and Steve and Leigh had arrived. Michael had dropped a little earlier and was there as well. I took a seat because I wanted to check out the bottom of my foot that had started hurting a little earlier. I saw the reason for the pain – a big crack in the skin along the bottom of my forefoot. I took some advice from Steve and Michael and used some Bodyglide spray on my foot. I grabbed some Coke, water and cookies and hit the road again.
The next stretch was pretty short and was one of the least interesting sections of the whole day. The first mile or so was on a crushed stone path, and then there was a sharp turn onto a singletrack trail. There was also a road section, with tar on the road that stuck to my shoes. A fellow runner caught up to me and said that his feet stick to the road every year. Apparently he has run every BR100 so far – going for his fifth finish. He sped away and I never saw him again. I took a couple short walk breaks on this section. The excitement of reaching half way had died down a bit and knowing that I had forty-some miles left was wearing me down a bit. I got to the Boston Store #2 (54.5 miles) aid station in just over 10 hours. I was still feeling pretty good here and was excited for the next section. I got water, refueled and hit the road again.
The beginning of the next stretch was a little rough – crushed rock for a while and then probably ¾ of a mile of really rough gravel. I was relieved to get back into the woods. There were some really nice sections on this stretch, and an area that had TONS of roots. It was actually kind of fun bouncing around the roots and doing some lateral moves to keep from tripping. I was really having fun in this section. I got to a road section here and thought I was lost – couldn’t see any pie plates marking the way or any white arrows in the road. I looked around a bit and almost turned around to go back, thinking I had made a wrong turn somewhere. Just before I did I saw the blue blazes marked on the road barrier pointing for us to get on the road. I was relieved… I soon caught up with Star, who was taking a little walk break. We ran together again for a little while, chatting along the way. We got to the next aid station (Pine Lane, 58.6 miles) together, in a little under 11:30. We found out there was a little bit of course-rerouting and the next aid station would be almost seven miles away. I was sure to get enough food and gels before I left. There were some really nice volunteers here, and one that held an umbrella over my head the whole time so I wasn’t standing out in the sun!
Star sped off ahead of me and I was left alone again. The beginning of this next section was run on the part that we were just on, and then split off in a different direction. It was in this section that there was a really long stretch of road – what felt like a few miles (but who knows…). We were on a country road for about a mile and a half, and then a paved path for another mile and a half or so. On this stretch there was a really cool rock wall that gave me something to look at. It was a bit of a rough section, since it was really exposed and really sunny out. I just took it slow through here, running as steadily as I could. I took a little walk break here but realized that running (albeit slow running) felt much better than walking so that’s what I stuck with. I got to the next aid station (Happy Days, 64.1 miles) in around 12:30 and was excited to run with my first pacer, Alex!
I told Alex to not expect a fast pace from me, and there would probably be a few walk breaks sprinkled in too. There was a nice stretch of trail to begin with, including a stretch by another rock wall. There were a lot of rocks to run over and around too, which made things interesting. Alex and I passed the time by chatting about his newfound love for his Vibram FiveFingers and other interesting topics (the guys is a wealth of knowledge – knows a little bit about everything you could imagine). I was still feeling pretty good through here, and was proud of the fact that I had run over 100 kilometers and was still going! He decided to run in his FiveFingers, and it was the first time he had tried them out on trails.
The time went by fairly fast and we even passed a runner on this section. It was a long-ish section, being almost seven miles long. Before we knew it we were at the infamous “Sound of Music” hill. I had read about it in numerous race reports and was excited to see it! We climbed to the top and got a great view – of the next hill. Apparently there are two of them. So we sped down the first and made our way up the second. We were greeted by the crew and all of the volunteers. The time at this point (Pine Hollow #1, 70.9 miles) was around fourteen hours. I did the usual – filled the water bottles, had some Coke, grabbed some cookies, etc. We didn’t stay too long and got back out for a short loop back to the same spot.
This next section was one of the first really rough patches I had. The legs were really starting to hurt at this point, and I realized at some point that I still had almost 30 miles left to run. It was great having someone to chat with, though, because that helped to keep my mind off of it. This was a short section, only a little over three miles, but it was very technical and had some sections with stairs – which really aggravated my shin. I got through the bad patch and made it back to the aid station (Pine Hollow #2, 74.2 miles) right at 15 hours. At that point I was ¾ done with Burning River and feeling pretty good, ready to tackle the rest of the course. I was done running with Alex at that point, and was ready to run with Steve.
After a refreshing change of socks and singlet, and grabbing some food, Steve and I grabbed our headlights and left with the Covered Bridge aid station as our destination. I had heard that this was one of the best aid stations on the course and could not wait to see it. He knew the course fairly well, because he finished it last year as his second 100 miler (he just got in to ultras and has done four 100 milers in the last year!). I started off this section with quite a bit of energy, and his wife Leigh snapped a picture of us leaving with smiles on our faces (and me with food in my mouth as usual).
We passed the time talking about random topics, mainly running. He had just finished the Western States Endurance Run (100 miles) just 5-6 weeks before that so I had plenty of questions to ask him. This section was really nice and included everything from pavement to dirt and grass. We also ran by a cornfield, which reminded me of being in Nebraska!
On this stretch I distinctly remember running along and hearing a shriek in front of us. We weren’t sure what it was so we ran cautiously forward to investigate. Apparently the runner in front of us had gotten dive-bombed by a bat and it flew directly into his headlight! His headlight was completely broken and it was getting pretty dark. He had an extra in his drop bag at the next aid station so we let him hang out with us for the rest of the section. It would be an interesting experience to be in the middle of the woods with 78 miles of running on your legs when your headlight goes out! I guess that’s why you should carry a spare…
Just about a half mile from the aid station I felt the first “POP” in my shoe – a blister had popped… When this happens for me there is a burst of pain for a few minutes and then you kind of get used to it. Luckily the aid station was very close. We ran in to the Covered Bridge #1 station (80.8 miles) in about 16 and a half hours. This was a crazy aid station – definitely lived up to its reputation! Tons of people – crew, volunteers, etc. Again it was great to see the crew – really lifted my spirits. I did not want to let them down and they really kept me going strong. Michael graciously duct taped my recently popped blister and I grabbed some food – I think it was some Ramen noodles and pizza (and Coke, of course). This was probably one of the longer aid station stops for me. I knew we still had a long way to go, though, and wanted to hit the road. A good piece of advice I had gotten was to not sit too long, because it might get pretty difficult to get up after a while.
The next section was a loop back to the bridge, and included the Perkins trail. This would probably be a really fun trail to run with fresh legs in daylight, but on tired legs in the dark it was pretty tough. We must have been moving at an OK pace, though, because we did pass a few people on this section. By this point the uphills were slow, and the downhills hurt. On this section I had another blister “POP” and the same thing happened – intense pain for about 3 minutes and then it dissipated. Everything kind of hurt at this point but the encouragement from Steve really kept me moving forward as quickly as I could. As bad as I was feeling I was just happy that I was keeping food down and still running!
At this point I could picture myself finishing… It was going to be glorious…
We got back to the Covered Bridge #2 aid station (85.5 miles) in a little under 18 hours. I was again greeted by a smiling crew – telling me that I looked great (even though I’m sure I didn’t!). I took a seat at this aid station to eat a whole cup of Ramen noodles. They were delicious and I could have eaten a few cups of them… along with a cheeseburger and some pizza… I also had some Coke and grabbed some food for the road.
The next section was honestly probably my least favorite of the whole race. I don’t know if it was the fatigue or what it was, but this section was brutal. There was a lot of asphalt on this section, and it started with a long uphill on a country road. I took some walk breaks but like before it felt much better to run slowly than to walk. And so we ran--- It was a short section of only just over 3 miles but not much fun. When we got to the next aid station (ONeill Woods, 88.8 miles) I was relieved. We got there in around 18:30. This was the first aid station I could have seriously stayed for a while – they had fresh coffee!!! And music!!! It was a nice stop but we decided to keep moving. We were almost to 90 miles! And the stink factory was coming up!
The start of this section was tough – basically a long descent consisting of falling-apart stairs. It hurt (especially my shin) going down, and I would have much rather have been going up! (I was treated to some upward stairs a little later on…) All I really remember about this section is that it was really flat after the initial descent, it consisted of a lot of towpath, we passed a runner and her pacer, and we passed the compost factory that I had so been looking forward to. All of a sudden I realized we were running in town, and just went by a bar! It was very strange to be running in town after basically being in the woods and back roads for the last 19 hours. We even had to stop for a traffic light – and got some great comments about our headlights from the passing drivers! We finally got to the Merriman Road aid station (93.3 miles) in about 19 and a half hours. I was feeling good though – and showing off my neon bracelet from the O’Neill woods aid station to the crew as we passed them. This was a really small aid station, and we didn’t really stay too long. Grabbed some food and Coke and hit the road again.
The next section was really all Towpath (from what I remember) so it was flat and crushed stone. It took a few minutes to get warmed up to run, but once I did I ran most of the way to the next aid station. It was starting in this aid station that I really had to focus, and I think Steven noticed that I was conversing less and less. It pretty much took all I had to focus enough to run. I was not that tired at this point, but very fatigued and starting to really get worn out physically. My right shin was really hurting too, and this was definitely slowing me down.
I was moving slowly, but at this point I could really taste the finish line. I knew I had enough time at this point that I could essentially walk the rest of the way in and be under the cutoff, but I wanted to keep moving and finish as strong as possible.
We pulled in to the next aid station (Memorial Parkway, 96.3 miles) in a little over 20 hours. The longest I had run before this day was a little over 10 hours so seeing my watch stop at 19:59:59 was a little crazy… I unexpectedly got to see my crew at this point, so that was nice. Although, at this point I was really exhausted and was probably less than cheery. This was the last aid station though – the finish would be the next stopping point!
I don’t remember much at all about the next section – it is kind of a haze in my memory. I’m just glad that Steve was there to guide me along because I probably would have gotten lost. I distinctly remember lots and lots of stairs around 99 miles, and what seemed like miles and miles of wooden bridges. And pain – mostly in my feet, which were really soggy and blistery at this point from all of the stream crossings and sweat. The shin was screaming at this point too.
At some point we finally reached the last road section. Steve told me that there was basically a straight shot to the finish, but it was about a mile and a half long. We ran (slowly) through the streets. Since it was somewhere around two in the morning there were really no cars out to bother us. It was actually one of the most peaceful sections of the whole run and even though I was hurting, there was no other place I wanted to be at that time.
All of a sudden we saw the time clock in the distance. No sprint to the finish or anything – just kept moving at the same pace.
Before I knew it, I was done and shaking Joe Jurzyk’s hand - 21:22:22 official time.
Twenty one and a half hours seems like a long time but it really went by quickly. I was actually kind of sorry that it was already over! I sat on the stairs for probably 30 minutes or so, chatting with Erica, Steve, Leigh, Alex and Brooke. I’m really fortunate to have all of them there supporting me – They all helped me out in some way and I am very grateful for that.
So I really wasn’t sure what to expect as far as the days after a 100 mile run. I didn’t expect my feet to be so swollen that it was difficult to get shoes on though. I also did not expect my first run back to be so ackward – I probably looked as ridiculous as I felt…
Looking back I’m definitely glad I chose Burning River as my first 100 miler. Now I just have to choose one for my second…