Burning River 100m 2021
|July 29, 2021||Posted by Melinda under Uncategorized|
You have been warned.
(also be warned that this post is probably more full of typos and transposition errors than normal. I have ZERO time right now to write and edit anything and it’s a small miracle this is getting written in the first place because of my current schedule. If I have time on rereading I’ll try to clean it up later. *shrug*)
Burning River 100mile is in Ohio, in a place that after much coaching by the locals and practice I know is pronounced “Ky-oh-gah” Falls. (#nailingit).
Let’s get something straight right off the bat. I did not get it done.
I did 100k+ and then the wheels feel off.
Or rather, my blisters got blisters, I ripped the worst one open tripping over a rock and then the lightening started and I decided that in the interest of not becoming a lightening crisp it was time to turn on google maps, find the major road near by, clamor over the guardrail and trade the shelter of the forest for the wide open road where I could average 20 min miles instead of 40 min miles in my quest to find the aid station and officially time out.
ie, the wheels fell off.
This girl knows how to have fun.
I signed up for this race as a WS qualifier, but also so I could meet a bunch of other online friends IRL. This was our excuse to hang out for a weekend.
They nicknamed me Dexter and their friends and family calculated the odds I was an axe murderer.
My friends and family shrugged their shoulders because they have accepted that this seems to be how I made friends.
Online. Not the axe murder part.
Anyways. I’m getting distracted. Which is easy to do when you’ve just gotten off the plane, drove home, ate 3x the volume of Indian food that you should have consumed, but are frantically getting the blog post done because starting tomorrow it’s going to be a LONG 2 weeks at work. (spoiler alert. I did not get this post completed and am now trying to compose and edit this thing in the middle of this very long week.
As usual we are going to skip the boring parts.
I flew to Ohio blah blah blah, the forecast last minute suddenly showed a bunch of rain blah blah blah and the race organizers added about 2 mile foot to the 100 mile course last minute because if a washed out foot bridge, making the total distance 103+miles blah blah blah.
NO ONE CARES. Get to the part where you are trudging along and questioning your life poor life decisions Mel.
Oh sure, it was annoying that the forecast changed last minute to include a significant amount of rain since I had to make certain packing decisions and had foregone the extra pair of shoes in order to pack more sun and heat gear etc.
Such are the dangers of doing a race 3 time zones away and not having unlimited space.
It was annoying that the organizers added what was probably equivalent to 35-40 minutes of race time Since I’m a 29 hour finisher on most 30 hour courses, that made the cut off really tight for me.
It’s also important to remember that there’s no telling whether both those things were also beneficial in a way. Running in the rain for 9 hours created a lot of mud, blisters, and trail challenges….but it also kept temperatures much lower than they usually are at this race. Yes, mileage was added, but it was mostly road mileage….did the potential pace savings offset the increased mileage? Maybe.
Let’s focus on things that were within my control, like training.
Something I’m definitely in control of. Theoretically.
My major training consisted of:
- 52 (58?) mile run in…March.
- 50k run on memorial day weekend.
This was the first time I didn’t have something at least 50 miles leading up to a 100 mile race in the previous 8 weeks or so.
This was probably not ideal (I’ll pause while we both laugh hysterically). But somehow it got me through the first 50+ miles in pretty good shape, about 30 minutes behind where I thought I would be. Of that, 13 minutes was probably due to the extra mile I had run at this point (so really ~51.5 miles at this point) and the rest was due to awful mucky trail conditions that happen when you have 500 people running a course while it dumps rain for 9 hours.
This 100 mile has 12 miles of pavement right smack in the middle of it. I knew this and had included more pavement in my training, and had chose trail shoes that also did well on pavement. I did sorta wish I had more aggressive trail shoes on some of the slick mud hills….but what I chose was a good trade off. I saw some runners in road shoes really struggle on the trail.
Note to self. Shoes of any type were probably better than no shoes, as I watched one runner who had taken off their shoes because of traction issues slip and slide down the hill in their socks.
Pavement is tough on tired trail feet in the best of times, but it seemed to intensify the blisters and the rubbing. I knew I needed to strip my shoes off and do some problem solving at some point, but the turn around was a cluster with the 50 milers finishing and the end of the 100s trying to navigate the party to find drop bags, get help, and do what needed to be done to get back on the trail. I decided to get to the next aid station.
My plan at that point was simple. Keep running and walking and moving forward. For the next 16 hour hours. Just. Do. It.
It was really really apparent on that 5.5 miles of pavement from the turn around to the next aid station that I had a major problem on my hands, or rather my feet. It was a beautiful day to run, just not a beautiful day for my feet.
The biggest blister I could feel on the bottom of the right ball of my foot was spreading and squishing up through my toes, there was a significant amount of pain walking and running was out of the question.
I cried over a grilled cheese sandwich at the next aid station and told the volunteers that I wasn’t going to make it but that I was f*cking walking until I timed out which would take a couple of aid stations.
It was a low moment.
Then I continued to cry and walk and eat grilled cheese (hey, like I said, this girl knows how to have fun!) until 2 other runners caught me and the runner that was functioning as a pacer told me to come along, I was moving too well to quit now. So I threw the grilled cheese into the bushes and started running again.
Yes, that is literally what happened.
I am not kidding when I say the this sport is very mental.
No, I mean, it’s a very mental sport.
YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN.
At this point I had one goal.
Walk and keep moving until I was literally overtime.
None of this “I’ve done the calculations and I can’t finish” bullshit like I have let myself do in the past.
I was 2 hours ahead of cut offs. I figured I could get to mile 75 or 80 before the cut offs caught up to me which meant I had 6-8 hours of eating, drinking, electrolyting, and not being stupid enough to get hypothermia.
Lest you think
I kept the pacer runner in sight and chugged along. Another aid station flew by. Now I was in the 60’s at about the 100k mark. Still 2 hours ahead of cut off.
This is where things get a little fuzzy.
I know I left the 61-ish mile aid station at 9:05p. I know that there was about 6 miles between that aid station and the next.
I think it was 9:30p when….I stubbed my toe on a rock, cartwheeled forward and caught myself…but not before scuffing the ball of my right foot on a rock and tearing open the giant blister on the bottom of my right foot.
Solid 9 out of 10 pain. In the end, I decided that only having all the bones crushed in my foot and continuing to walk on it, or having the foot chopped off would be more painful. All the adrenaline instantly drained away and there was no more running.
It was 10p when I sat down at the top of the hill and decided to sulk. I texted my race group that once again I was sure I wasn’t going to finish (they I had heard this before at mile 55….).
Even before my friend texted me to “suck it up buttercup and GET UP AND START MOVING”, I had already gotten up because Ohio has giant bugs and I was sitting on a mown trail. Five minute sulk break, tops.
I could have taken a visible short cut and been at the next aid station in less than 5 minutes, but it was only 10p and that aid station didn’t close until 12:45am.
I will not quit until I time out.
It was going to be awhile because I still had 2 1/2 hours to go 4 miles.
I’m going to make that damn cut off again and have to keep going.
I made a decision that I would not deliberately let the clock run out at the aid station as I sat there pretending to just be resting “for a minute”, but I was NOT going to do the grab and run that I did to stay ahead of the clock at the turn around. I was going to sit down, take off my shoes, leukotape my feet, put on dry socks, and change into a dry shirt. I estimated it was going to take me 30-40 minutes to get all that accomplished. If the clock timed out while I did that, so be it. I could accept that. But, going on with out taking care of those things would be irresponsible. Even at an organized race I have a responsibility to keep myself safe and make good decisions.
Turns out a lot can happen in 4 miles and no, it is not a given 2 1/2 hours = plenty of time to hike 4 miles.
First, my hand light broke leaving me with one light source. The hand light was being temperamental….and the final straw was me waving it about when a giant spider landed on my knee in the dark. One light is a bit dicey. One light means changing batteries in the dark, but it also means you are one incident away from NO light.
Second, the charge stick only recharged my phone to 55%. This was not a wilderness trail race. Think well travelled regional park, never that far away from aid or a road and always has cell phone reception. The races’s back up plan for runners getting themselves out of trouble, not getting lost in case of trail marking sabotage, and other unforeseen events was to…use their smart phones.
This was a totally foreign concept for me, but after some debate I decided to take my phone and a charge stick. When in Rome and all that. The problem with phones is that in the rain they get temperamental, in extreme temps the battery life is unpredictable, and with sweaty fingers their cooperation is questionable. That charge stick should have charged it twice over instead of only 50%. I was already using the phone sparingly, but it wasn’t likely going to last the rest of the race.
Now it gets really fun.
At 11:50a the thunder and lightening started.
At 11:51p I sent a screen shot to my text group with my location on the race GPS tracker app. I had 3ish miles to go and lightening and thunder was starting to flash and roll directly around me. I was 20 hours into the race and it had rained for at least nine of those hours. It was back. It was going to take me 60 minutes minimum to make it to the aid station. This is where my race was going to time out.
I asked my friend and pacer to meet me at the aid station and give me a ride after I was over time. “The course parallels the road,” I texted with lightening flashing and the rain starting, “It might be a good idea to keep an eye out for me along the road?”
I never leave course lightly. Staying on course or staying put on course is the surest way to not get lost and for race management to reliably find you in a timely matter. But, at this race there were no sweeps. I had one light source, it was starting to rain and there was no way to stay dry, I was in the middle of a lightening storm, and if I went off trail a short distance and hopped the guard rail onto the road, google maps told me it would take 10 minutes to walk to the aid station (so I could probably hobble it in 15-20 minutes).
At 12:14 am after I verified that I was moving a measly 40 min/min pace on the now slick again trails, I decided to make my way onto the road.
Life goals at this point:
- Do not become a lightening crisp
- Do not become road kill
- Oh hey! This is a distance PR for me for the last 17 months!
And then I got to the aid station, forgot to tell my mom that I was not a lightening cracker, and peeled my shoes off my poor sorry feet and didn’t stand or walk again for more than 60 seconds at a time until I went to work on Tuesday and had to do surgery on feet still so swollen I could barely wiggle my crocs on.
I also had thoughts on what I want out of ultra running and posted this on my instagram (@drmelnewton) in part: “…I didn’t quit, got to cheer friends on, and think about what I want out of ultra running. The short answer? Good friends, an adventure, and to be able to look back and say I did all I could in the moment, every moment. Which is a good life philosophy too. Keep running my friends and #goplayoutside There is more to both life and sport than reaching the finish. There is value in taking chances and seeing what you are made of. It’s probably not sugar and spice and everything nice. I’m my case its a piece of luggage that is full of the most rank and rancid dirty running gear I’ve EVER had.”
Of course there is going to be a nailed it, failed it post.
All I can say, is your last comment about finishing not being the goal, but meeting new friends, an adventure, etc made me understand better why in the WORLD you’d keep doing this kind of stuff. Now I get it, and wish you all the luck with you next endeavor. Wouldn’t kayaking be easier on your feet? As for me, I’ll stick to riding horses (if I EVER recover from Covid. It’s taking too long!)!
Thanks for coming and sharing the weekend with us, it was so great having you in Ohio! I look forward to running in California with you one day. Or Arizona. Or wherever ? And you forgot to mention seeing your first lightning bugs!!