Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Burning River 100M (Race Recap)

Cleveland-Akron, OH
Saturday, July 28 - Sunday, July 29
Ultra Marathon #30
100 Mile (attempt) - #6
Weather - the most humid ever, mostly cloudy

Even though I did not finish Chattanooga 100, and I swore I didn't want to run another one, I signed up for the Burning River 100M just ONE DAY after I wrote up my blog recap. On December 5, I paid $7.50 (plus fees) for the shuttle from the finish line to the start line, and decided I would do fundraising in the amount of $500 for the local park system (Conservancy for the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Cleveland Metroparks and Summit Metro Parks Foundation) to get my race entry comped.

I met my fundraising goal in April, finalized my flights (I ended up switching my Southwest flight from Friday to Thursday night), car & hotel. I spent the week prior to the race packing and unpacking and repacking. Finally, I was going to go for this crazy 100 mile redemption. Again.


A was going to be spending the next few days with Rose and Madi, so I dropped her off there on my way to work. I worked all day, leaving early at 3:30 to head to the airport. I had just parked and was on the shuttle to the airport when I got the text from Southwest that my flight was delayed. The delays just kept coming, and my once 6:15 departure became 7:25, citing weather.

The flight was uneventful, once we got in the air. I managed to get an aisle seat in the second row, so I actually got off the plane pretty quickly. By now it was after midnight (thanks to a 2 hour time change), and there was a shuttle to the rental car counter. After about 15 minutes in line I finally got my car, and after mapping, realized that it was about a 40 minute drive to get to my hotel. Arg.

Arrived at the Norwood Inn in Hudson after 1:30 in the morning. I had booked my room through like I always do, and this was the one time I had a problem. The gal at the desk wanted my credit card because "my card had been declined." Well, this was the first issue as I had prepaid for the room a few weeks earlier, so I shouldn't have been paying anything. Then somehow my information got switched with another reservation and she couldn't get me checked in. Calling offshore customer service at nearly 2 in the morning does not make me happy. By the time she (and the rep from got everything figured out it WAS 2. I hadn't eaten anything since Denver, but it was too late to do anything about that. I grabbed a handful of trail mix, made sure my alarms were all turned off, and went to bed.


Managed to stay in bed until about 8:45. Still not even 7 hours of sleep, but at least I was already where I needed to be and not stressing about travel.

The ghetto hotel I was staying at didn't have breakfast, so I drove into town to get food at Panera.
Once back at the hotel I showered, and then re-did all my drop bags. I would need to drop those off at packet pick-up.
What I was starting with
Drop bag at mile 20.7
Drop bag at 50.1
Drop bag at 71.8/75.6
By now, it was almost noon, and I had plans with Mark at 12:30 to go to lunch. We met at the Sheraton and then he drove us into Kent for lunch at Burnside Barbecue. It was really good!
Sweet potato salad and brisket - yummo!
We chatted for a long time (about this race, and others), then headed back so I could get my stuff. I had literally parked one parking spot away from where the drop bags were being collected, so that was really convenient. I got that out of the way, then went inside to get my bib. Packet pick-up was just in a small meeting room in the hotel and it was pretty low-key. A handful of vendors and race specific merchandise for sale, but really, I just got my bib and swag.
On my way back to the hotel I stopped at Missing Mountain Brewing Company. The brewery was brand new, it had only opened in June and I managed to be there on the day of their ribbon cutting. So in addition to beer, there was cake! Hooray!
Finally decided I needed to head back to my hotel and start trying to get everything ready for race day, and try to sleep. Last minute, I decided to pick up some food. Thank goodness for a Costco only a few miles away, I was able to get a slice of pizza and a bottle of water for like $2.

Lights out around 7 and MANY MANY HOURS of tossing and turning.

Saturday(/Sunday) - RACE DAY!!

I woke up from a restless sleep only minutes before my first of MANY alarms went off at 1:30 am. (Interestingly, I had a weird running-related dream. I showed up for my race and I was the only one there. The course was running around a tree in my parent's backyard. I would head out - super slow motion - and run like 50 laps and then be super upset that I had only done like a quarter mile. Super weird). I quickly got dressed, braided my hair, double checked that I had all my stuff, and checked out of the hotel.
Sure is balmy for the middle of the night
I knew the drive was 10-15 minutes to the parking garage and arrived at 2:10, with about 20 minutes to spare. Made sure I had all  my stuff and then walked down the street to catch the shuttle. The buses were supposed to be there by 2:15, so it was a tad nerve-wracking for them to not show up until 2:25. With that said, there were 3 buses, plenty for the number of runners and most of us got our own seats. It was only about a 45 minute drive to the start line, and some people slept (or tried to), but I didn't even bother.

We got dropped off near Squires Castle around 3:20. There was already a line at the port-o-potties, but we all got through, and still had time to mill around anxiously at the start. I filled up my handheld, ate some handmade peanut butter cookies, and applied sunscreen and bug spray. Almost go time.
Pre-race selfie in the dark
A few last minute announcements, and we started the race right on time, at 4:00 am.


The advice I heard most often was to not start out too fast. We started the run across the grass, heading onto the road we had just driven up. I hadn't set up my interval timer, but had initially thought a 3:1 would keep me running enough that I could possibly bank some time, yet keep from going too fast (or working too hard).

I got the intervals set up, and for the first 20 minutes or so, that worked fine. There was a decent hill somewhere on the road, and that was kind of the point where I figured I would just try to run for 4-5 minutes and then walk, rather than have set walk breaks.

It was VERY foggy for the early miles. Thankfully, the only time I got off course was during the road section, when a big group of us made a wrong turn. Luckily, it was realized before we got too far, only doing maybe a quarter mile extra. (I hoped I wouldn't pay for the extra distance later).

We got back on track, and followed the path in silence. I was enjoying not having to think (although granted, I could have been using my brain earlier to avoid getting off course) and also, not having anything technical to start on was nice.

The first aid station was at mile 6.8 - Old Mill / Chagrin River Rd. I don't remember anything special about this, other than I filled my bottle. Probably had food, but I can't remember anything else.
I thought this was a cool looking house - we were running on the road in fairly rural area
From this point on, everything kind of runs together. I decided to ignore my interval plan, but that's pretty much what I was doing. I didn't run much of the climbs. There were more water crossings than I remember hearing about, but none of them were that bad. There were a few early on where I just charged through rather than try to cross on rocks to avoid getting wet. My feet don't typically get too upset when they are wet. Of course it never occurred to me that with the humid climate that nothing would dry out.

We entered the bridle trail section and I was really taken aback by how green and lush everything was. This section was nice because it was not that technical and we were finally off the road.
It had rained most of the week in Ohio so the grassy areas were damp and there were patches of mud in sections. It was not nearly as awful as I had feared/anticipated. Most of it could be easily avoided.

One thing I will say, these trails also had a lot of stairs. Some of them had railings, some didn't. Some of them were certainly in better condition than others. Early on I didn't find them too bad, but they certainly lost their appeal/novelty over the course of the run.

There were more aid stations - Polo Fields and Harper Ridge Picnic Area - I think I used the bathroom at this one. Maybe? The first drop bag I could access was at mile 20.7, which was at Shadow Lake. I had been getting tired of holding my handheld, so I was actually looking forward to getting my pack so I wouldn't have to hold anything anymore. Got rid of my Newtons, and put on my Vazee Summits. I knew this was a risky shoe choice, as they aren't super great for longer distances, but in my head, it was "only" for 30 miles. I also decided to ditch my donut sparkle skirt as it kept riding up and it was SATURATED. It felt good to eliminate the extra layer of clothing.
Cookies that look like cheeseburgers. HOW COULD I NOT HAVE ONE?

I then had my only fall of the entire race when I was leaving the aid station. The gal in front of me slid on one of the steps. I opted to walk to the side and still fell. They were slick, I guess.

Anyway, I spent a few minutes walking and messing around with my pack. It was too humid for sunglasses, they kept fogging up, and all my clothes were too wet to dry them off. My hat was also annoying me, so I clipped it to the pack. Finally, I had all my ducks in a row and I could start attempting to run again. More aid stations (Egbert and Alexander Road), yet still no memory of what was where. Although, after searching through FB, Alexander Road at mile 29.9 was run by Black Girls Run, and I *do* remember it. They may have been the most upbeat of all the aid stations with their megaphones! Probably got food here, otherwise... who knows.

There was a section where we were on crushed limestone and there were a lot of bikes. I think that is where I took the picture of this bird:
There was a section that was partially paved and partially crushed limestone. This was also the most exposed section of the course. It was nice to not have a super technical portion, but this wasn't good in the sense that it was open to "traffic," meaning there were a lot of people, dogs and bikes.

Sadly, my feet were already hurting. My legs felt ok, but the shoes I had picked were NOT the best. I constantly felt like I had little rocks under my feet - and even stopped a few times to check - yet there was nothing. By now I was already starting to lose some of the time that I had banked earlier. This section was so "easy" I should have been able to run more of it.

Additionally, I was sweating like a freaking MANIAC. Thankfully, Lisa had loaned me an ice bandana, and the few times I had that filled were absolutely amazing. Overall it just seemed to cool me down. I was glad to have that.

Oh hey, more aid stations - Frazee,  Then there was Meadows (which I only know because someone took a picture of me, so that was nice).
At least I have ONE picture where I'm actually running! Mile 37.4

Flashbacks of Romania

Oak Grove and Snowville - mile 45.1 (again, another picture, otherwise I have no idea). I know that by this time the trails were a tad more "technical," but thankfully I didn't have the problems I did in Michigan where I was tripping over every single tree root. I had a few times where I stumbled forward, but NO falls. Hooray!!
I think I was REALLY sick of PB&J by this time
The photographer said this was taken at 49.75 miles in, right before we dropped out of the trees onto the road to go through the 50 mile checkpoint (or finish for those who were smart enough to only do 50)
Boston Mills - Half way! This was a pretty exciting aid station because this was also the finish line for the front 50, so there were LOTS of people there, plus an announcer. It was also extremely chaotic, and I had to sit down and get rid of the god-awful Vazees on my feet and swap out for clean socks and my Hierros. I also had to grab all my night/warm stuff, even though it wasn't even 5 pm yet (with the sun not going down until after 8).

Headed across the grass for a "short" section of paved. I was feeling pretty good coming through the halfway point. I had hit the 50 miler in about 12:15, which was a bit faster than I had planned. I took this selfie around mile 53:
And then we had PIZZA for the first time. And oh man, was it GOOD.

I was downing alllll the base salt that I could. I don't know if my legs were cramping or just not receptive to climbing, but I figured it couldn't hurt. Unfortunately, at one of the later-ish aid stations I offered one of my salt tabs to another runner (because the aid station had run out) and I lost my vial of salt. That was unfortunate. I realized it within minutes of leaving the aid station, but by then I was like nope, can't go back.

Brandywine, Pine Lane, BM H&B Trailhead.... who knows what was here. I am sure I ate food and drank Mountain Dew and Coke. Maybe this was one of the aid stations where I had V-8. That was totally random to see at an aid station and was one of the few things that actually sounded pretty good.

The rockiest section of the course was the "Ledges" section. It was just now getting dark, so I wasn't able to get any pictures from here, but it was rocky. Lots of rocks, of all sizes. Probably the most technical section of the entire route.
I think this was near Ledges, but I have no idea
Coming into the Pine Hollow aid station was pretty wretched. The theme of the aid station was Christmas in July, so I could see it from a million miles away. This must have been the "Sound of Music" hill that I kept hearing about, because we were definitely in a grassy meadow hilly area, but it was also dark, so I don't know for sure. The loop around Pine Hollow wasn't very long (about 4 miles), so I opted to leave my pack with my drop bag and head out with just my handheld to give my back a break. This loop was where I really fell apart. There was SO MUCH climbing in this loop. Although my legs had been uncooperative for most of the hills, these just seemed impossible. I was really beginning to doubt my ability to finish the race when I got to these hills. I knew the back half was more difficult, I just didn't know HOW much more difficult. I was near a guy that had trekking poles and I was SO envious. I remembered how much they had helped me in Romania and I was sad I hadn't even considered bringing them with me.

By the time I got back to the aid station, I was completely disoriented. I needed my drop bag, and a volunteer helped me to find it, only my pack wasn't in it? What?? After a few minutes, we finally found it, but that was super disconcerting. It was going to be a LONG 6.5 miles to Covered Bridge.

Heading into Covered Bridges was not the best. We had come to a road crossing and there were people sitting in lawn chairs telling us that it was a mile to the aid station. STILL?? Good lord, why was this taking so long?? Grrr. We had to run in some open field type areas, and luckily, I had been warned that we would be running along the corn fields.
I was too blah to even be freaked out by it. I did, however, have one of my first real "hallucinations" - this one involved a koala on a bike (which ended up being leaves, haha).

I didn't see Mark when I got to the aid station, but I did grab some hash browns that had been soaked in bacon grease and a cup of coffee. A younger volunteer asked me how I was doing and I let him know that I was incredibly nervous about the 4.6ish mile loop because of all the climbing. He said it was nowhere near as bad as Pine Hollow loop, so that had me heading out in much better spirits.

The first climb was a bit tough, and I found myself wondering how on earth I was going to be able to complete this race. I am so glad the volunteer took the time to tell me that after the first couple miles we would have some nice "runnable" downhill for the last 2 miles. He did not lie, and while a lot of it I still couldn't run (mainly because my feet/legs hurt), it wasn't the stupidly steep downhill that we had in some sections.

Looped back into the Covered Bridges aid station and I finally saw Mark. I was soooo relieved that the loop had not been anywhere as terrible as I thought. The big climb in the beginning was tough, but I had been led to believe that there were three other "big" climbs after, and I just didn't find any of them incredibly soul-sucking. I did realize, however, that I had barely been drinking the last loop, as when I went to get it filled, it was still nearly full. Got another cup of coffee, and Mark was true to his word and gave me a cup of his home-brew stout beer. I headed out, mile 86.7 feeling not too terrible.
I have a food in my mouth in a large percentage of race pics, haha
Botzum Parking aid station - I have no idea what this was. Somewhere in mid 90's miles, I sat down on a bench for one of my two minute naps. A gentleman (Steve) that I had been leapfrogging with ALL DAY said to me, no get up, keep up with me and we can do a sub 17 pace to finish. I managed to stick with him for a mile but fatigue overcame me and I had to sit down at some point. I told him I would see him at the finish.

Memorial Parkway - I was in a ROUGH spot when I finally got to the final aid station. I was so tired and mad/sad that I was so tired. I really wanted to sit down and sleep, but it just wasn't helping anymore.  Thankfully, they had some coffee left, so I took a cup of that and hoped that I would be able to stay awake long enough to finish. The last few miles were (almost) all paved, or at the very least, the non-technical dirt/bridle trail. We had some stairs (why why why) and some climbing, but I knew we were close. "Just a mile to go." I could see the road. And then we had to go up... of course we did.
The posse of folks I would eventually cross the finish line with - I'm on the far left (Julia is front & center in pinky orange)
There was a big group of us all coming in together. I have never had so many people so close to me in an ultra finish, it was really bizarre. When we crested the top of the hill and I could actually SEE The finish line, I decided to run, and so did everyone else. In addition to FOUR of us (yes, 4 of us doing the 100M crossed within seconds of each other), there were family members, pacers, etc. and I think even a few 50 mile finishers.

And then I was done. FINALLY.
I don't think there are official finish line pics, so this will have to do
Official time - 29:11:46
Overall place - 132/242
Gender place - 23/31 (wow, REALLY low percentage of ladies!)
Division place - 11/12
Garmin time - 29:11:34
Garmin distance - 102.27 miles
Elevation gain - 9,003'
Miles 1-10 - 12:32, 13:50, 12:05, 12:10, 12:11, 11:38, 12:05, 11:46, 12:33, 11:56
Miles 11-20 - 11:45, 12:44, 12:18, 12:53, 14:54, 14:10, 13:04, 13:09, 12:28, 12:31
Miles 21-30 - 19:25, 12:31, 15:27, 15:15, 14:01, 17:54, 14:02, 14:54, 13:10, 13:26
Miles 31-40 - 17:35, 13:10, 14:45, 13:42, 14:03, 15:21, 16:36, 17:41, 15:22, 16:12
Miles 41-50 - 14:56, 14:18, 19:39, 20:30, 18:23, 20:48, 16:59, 17:59, 18:04, 18:35
Miles 51-60 - 20:11, 15:29, 16:55, 17:32, 19:46, 15:14, 16:59, 17:35, 18:06, 22:00
Miles 61-70 - 19:18, 14:52, 14:39, 14:12, 17:10, 18:45, 19:49, 18:57, 20:37, 17:54
Miles 71-80 - 17:00, 17:04, 23:17, 18:39, 18:22, 22:29, 31:38, 21:55, 19:06, 18:23
Miles 81-90 - 17:06, 19:20, 23:56, 23:00, 22:38, 22:01, 17:50, 22:38, 16:41, 21:04
Miles 91-100 - 21:37, 21:09, 23:16, 16:24, 18:15, 19:30, 19:46, 19:27, 19:39, 22:34
Miles 101-102.3ish - 21:41, 18:55 and most impressively, finish sprint pace 10:32

I had planned/hoped to have a 30 hour finish (since that was the cutoff) and came in at 29:11:46. Out of my three 100 mile completions, this was my slowest. It was, however, also the most challenging - it had nearly triple the amount of climbing as Lean Horse, and of course the humidity was a beast I had never dealt with for that distance. I am, of course, a tad upset that I wasn't able to rally more in the last 25-30 miles, but hey, this isn't a distance I do with any regularity.

I had hoped to have a beer at the finish (we DID finish at a brewery after all), but it was only $1 off drinks and I was parked too far away to get money and come back. Instead, I just grabbed my drop bags and a burrito and shuffled to the car.

I drove to the Natatorium (a rec center) for my free shower. I also trashed all three pairs of my shoes (they were all at the end of their life spans anyway). Shoved all my crap into my bag and then headed north to the airport. Took a rest break halfway there for a nap in the parking lot of the hotel I had stayed at. Arrived at the airport with plenty of time to catch my flight. Picked up a huge entree of mac & cheese that I couldn't even finish.
Flight was incredibly bouncy and I was tired, but kept waking up with all the jostling.

Getting out of the airport took like a million years because I could barely walk.

  • The race guide was insanely long - like 40 pages. With that said, there was some good information in there. Pretty detailed descriptions of every segment (including turn by turn directions - although who can remember that?) and the type of terrain in every section. I found that everything measured pretty much what I expected, and I had printed out (and laminated) a cheat sheet with the aid stations and their cutoffs/distances. I used it less at the end, but it was helpful to have.
  • Not that I've ever really run a race that did NOT have great volunteers, but the BR volunteers were top notch. Within seconds of entering an aid station I was asked what I needed, my bottles were taken to be filled and food was offered. VERY appreciated. Most of them were also very knowledgeable about the course itself, and that was ESPECIALLY helpful at mile 82 when one volunteer convinced me I could get through the Covered Bridges loop. I believed him, and most importantly - he was right!
  • Course markings were top notch. Anything on road had white duct tape arrows on the ground. Trails had flags (these guys have race specific flags!) Bright yellow with red lettering and reflective stickers. Awesome job on the marking.
  • Drop bags were awesome. Great locations for them and thanks to all the information in the race guide about trail conditions, etc. I had exactly what I needed/wanted at every aid station. I finished toward the end and all my stuff was there waiting for me when I got done.
  • Relay runners had a back bib that was really helpful when someone on fresh legs wanted to pass - appreciated knowing it was someone who was not running as far as I was. Different bib colors for the 50M too, although no way to tell who was who from the back.
  • There was a front 50M that started an hour after us, as well as the back 50M that started at 6 pm (I think) - that was interesting because I came up on the start of the race only minutes after they started. It never occurred to me that they were not starting the same time as the front 50.
  • There were a few photographers on the course. I wish I had enjoyed myself more, I look fairly heinous and miserable in all my pics.
  • RELATED - just as I feared, I chafed EVERY.SINGLE.PLACE.IMAGINABLE. I had used squirrel nut butter and Body Skin all over and reapplied at every chance I had. Yet, I still managed to chafe - lower back, crotch, butt crack, some inner thighs, under my boobs. Thankfully, I had the sense to not wear a tank, and under my arms survived. THIS HURT. The last 5-6 hours were so miserable. I had to pee, but the thought of messing with anything down there was awful. I don't know how I didn't actually die from chafing. So horrible.
  • The swag was nice. Cute shirt that FITS, and I will definitely wear again. Reusable & collapsible cup (although I lost mine on the trail), a sticker, a buff, race poster. The buckle doubles as a medal. Awards for the winners looked super cool - hand-painted plaques I think!
  • Would I run this again? Yes. Not the 100M necessarily, but either of the 50M or relays sounds nice. I won't, but only because traveling there was fairly expensive. 
  • I've been telling everyone for weeks that I'm retiring after this. I don't know if that is true or not, but I can say that I didn't have a ton of fun during this race. I didn't really enjoy training, and I was REALLY happy when it was all over. Is this it for 100M distance? Maybe. I signed up for this one for redemption after Chattanooga, and I did what I set out to.
  • In terms of time, the finish/experience I had at Burning River is what I had been wanting/hoping to have at Chattanooga. I was "trained" for an 8,000' course, and BR was about 9,000'. I suppose if I could change one thing about my training, it would have been to allow a bit more recovery after Transylvania. I only got in one 20 miler, although I did also get in a 16 and 17er. The first 50K I felt pretty good (and it was only about 15 minutes slower than my PR). Even at 50M, I wasn't feeling too badly. Anyway.
I may edit if I remember more things.


  1. You totally rock. I am so impressed with your stamina, fitness, etc. I enjoyed reading this a lot, even as a non-runner. You are a superb writer, I could feel your pain!

  2. Nice write-up and I enjoyed the photos. Congrats on a finish!


I adore comments and I read every single one. Thanks for reading :)

Week in Review (November 29 - December 5)

Tuesday  (6,368 steps) - Work in the office. Had an hour of cross training to do and ended up doing all of it on the Peloton.  In the middle...