Monday, August 2, 2010

Burning River 100 Mile Endurance Run 2010

This year's 2010 USA 100 Mile Trail Championships were to be held in Willoughby Hills, Ohio on July 31, 2010. Deciding to crew and pace at the VT 100 2 weeks ago instead of running it created an opportunity for me to attend this year's Burning River 100 miler before heading to Leadville later in August.

A trail race in Ohio? I really knew nothing about Ohio other than driving through it one day in 1980. But after some research, I found out about this really neat trail system that runs through much of Ohio and through the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. So time for a road trip, 12 hours from home in VT. I loaded myself into the car with my newest companion, a Garmin GPS for navigation. The last couple of road trips I had some difficulties and doing the guy thing of never asking for directions and being lost was getting old so this would hopefully make the trip more enjoyable with less wasted time. Also, the course handler stations were all laid out with GPS coordinates so I plugged those in to help navigate around the course. I broke the trip up into 2 spending the night at Niagara Falls with a day trip the next day to see the Falls as I had never been there. Niagara Falls were OK, I think I was a little disappointed and expected more but the most awesome part was the Daredevil Museum located in some dumpy little store around the corner. Inside were the actual "crafts" used to go over the falls.

Jack by one of the "over the falls" crafts

Hmm, ideas. I've always thought about a trip over the Falls. And after viewing the Falls I determined the Horseshoe Falls was the one to drop in to and not the American Falls which are way too rocky upon impact. And after viewing the "crafts" I think the simpler is better. Maybe just an inner tube for better viewing and also to be able to dive under while getting away from the pounding waters. We'll have to put that on the to do list for another day. I have a race to run and I don't want to risk injury just days before. Time to drive to Ohio.

Lot of material here.
This one had the Bud lid too.

On I went to Ohio. I arrived on Thursday afternoon so I could preview a small part of the course. Being in "taper mode" I was trying not to run too much but that never seems possible. So I headed over to the Boston Store and did a short 5 or 6 mile loop. And of course I got lost. I went over to Happy Days to run around the Ledges area and to see how my ankle was feeling on the rougher terrain. It was still quite sore. I tweaked it pretty good just over two weeks ago, not running but on a bad landing while skydiving, another one of my hobbies. A gust of wind hit as I was landing and threw me sideways and down hard. Ouch!! I had been running in an ankle brace ever since so this was the first time on trails without the brace. It hurt. The downhills were still painful, the side hills too but the uphills were OK. I'll just have to live with it for tomorrow is race day. I'll make adjustments. Later that evening I went over for the pasta dinner and didn't recognize any one. Finally I did see some familiar faces, Leah and Rob Perry from Maryland, acquaintances from the Finger Lakes races in July. Time for bed so after dinner I drove up to Willoughby Hills to spend the night closer to the start line.

The start was at Squire's Castle, 5:00 AM and still dark. At home it was getting light at around 4:30 am as that's when I drive to work every day but here at the far end of the time zone it was still dark as can be so I decided to at least have the headlamp with me. The first part of the course was on the roads so I don't think I ever used the light. It was fast out of the start with some one really far ahead. I thought way too fast. I was not far behind and in some kind of loosely formed lead pack. Slowly the guy ahead dropped out of sight and I was running with Todd Braje. I recognized the name as one of the contenders. Nice young guy from California. We ran together for a while and then we were joined by Eric Grossman and Scott Dunlap. But there was some other guy running ahead, in white spandex and headphones. Not sure what that was all about but eventually he dropped out of sight too. Meanwhile the 4 of us ran along and chatted while Scott ran in front at times trying to take our pictures while on the run. It seemed to be a comfortable pace. Shortly after one of the handler stations, we missed a turn and got really lost. Scott seemed to have found the right way but Todd, Eric and myself were backtracking until we found someone else and discovered the Buckeye Trail, which got us back on track. Meanwhile another pack of runners took over the lead. Soon we caught up again. In the group was Mark Godale, a local legend who would guide us on the right path as he knew this course as well as any one. Also in the pack were Jay Smithberger, Phil Kochik and some others.

Eric in the lead with Todd right behind.

The course meandered through the woods which was way better than the earlier roads. There were some stream crossings too but it was mostly passable without getting the feet wet especially following Eric. Eric had a way of finding a good line with the least amount of water getting into the shoes. Worked good until I stepped on a rock which was like walking on ice and down I went. Not only did the feet get wet but my whole body slammed into the water and rocks. So much for the good line. Nothing unusual for me, falling on the trail. I was still cautious on the downhills with the ankle as it still hurt quite a bit and there was a long way to go. The pack was thinning again with Todd and Eric holding the lead with myself not too far behind. I had settled into a grove and felt good trying to conserve a bit for the mid-day heat was coming and knowing that I always hit a low point then but come back later as it cools. Well that was the plan anyway. Todd and Eric were still in the lead with me behind. But then there was Eric walking through the woods. Leg issues, he was done. Too bad as Eric was looking really strong. I remember the only other time I met Eric was at the VT 100 in 2006. He finished just ahead of me and I remember him commenting at the finish that he would rather be passed by a girl than by some old guy. Well Eric is now in his 40's, and getting to be almost an old guy. Watch out Eric, it will happen.

Me coming into an aid station.

So onward on the course. As it was getting warmer, I was starting to feel the heat and backed down a bit. Meanwhile Phil passed by as did Mark. More trails, more road and tow path. I never knew what a tow path was before but I certainly do now. It's a flat as a pancake wide trail with either gravel or pavement that goes on forever. Yes you can pick up the pace but it also tires you out, too. I couldn't wait to get off and back on the trails which felt so much better. Somewhere around mid race I started to cramp. Heat and loss of electrolytes has always been an issue with me. I have it figured out for the most part but sometimes have to make adjustments. I was loosing a lot of sweat but to drink more could put me in more trouble so I had to adjust my intake of electrolytes and experiment a bit. Within an hour the cramping was gone and off I went but still conserving a bit. I would say the highlight of the aid stations were the sponges. To grab a sponge from ice cold water and wipe your face and head was a real treat. At ever station the first thing I would look for would be the sponges. The watermelon was good too but the sponges were key to surviving the heat, unless you had an ice vest like Todd.

Todd with his ice vest.

Somewhere after Happy Days, Nathan Yanko passed by as I was dealing with heat issues. And Jay went by too. I try not to get worried about others going by and run my own race. I know that there will always be those who blow up and drop out and others who tire out near the end. I tend to get stronger later on in the race so no worries. Speaking of dropping, just before Sound of Music Hill Phil was walking and done. Too bad as he was running well too. It was getting warmer and up to the Pine Hollow was exposed to the hot sun. I knew after that it would start to cool some as the day was getting on. But just before Pine Hollow I needed a cool down and stopped for a quick visit at Kendall Lake. I figured I could quickly dip my head in. Not so, it was a duck pond with poop everywhere. Still, it was water so I took a quick cool down amongst the droppings and off I went. On the second loop around Pine Hollow I managed to awake some hornet as it attached to my leg for a good sting. Hmm, could bee venom be good for energy? Whatever, there was nothing I could do. Onward towards the Covered Bridges. All I remember are corn fields and dogs in this section. Some dog came after me and I had to turn quickly which really aggravated my ankle. Luckily not too bad. By the time I arrived at the Covered Bridges for the second loop, I had caught up with Jay and Nathan on the hills in the woods. They both were not doing well on the trails. But at the aid station heading out of the Covered Bridges, they both took off quickly and ahead of me. I was doing a quick shoe change. I had been running in the Mizuno Cabrakens, a fabulous trail shoe but now was changing to road flats as I heard it was mostly flat and hard for the last 15 miles. So I put on fresh socks and my Mizuno Wave Musha 2's. I call them my sparkly shoes as the have sparkles in the laces. The girls love them.

Mizuno Wave Mush 2 sparkle shoes.

After leaving, it was roads for a while. The light shoes felt great and I could see I was gaining on Jay and Nathan in the distance. Finally the course headed into the woods with some hills. Did I say I like hills? First I caught up to Jay as he was walking up a hill, then it was Nathan. I figured this was my chance to try to get ahead as more flats and tow paths were to come and these guys fly on these roads. Jay has legs that are as big as me and can do one stride for two of mine. I built up a decent lead but you never know how far ahead you are when you are being chased. I came into the Car Wash Aid station after a long bout with a tow path, not liking it. Food, I need food. I saw a grilled cheese and chips, what a great snack! Meanwhile more tow path lied ahead. As I departed I turned onto the dreaded tow path. There was a nice couple going the other way as I swallowed an electrolyte pill gone bad. Awhgg, not good. It's coming back, quickly. I held it together as the couple walked by and then stopped and did the AWJ spray. And another 2 or 3 times. In case you don't know the AWJ spray watch the video of Andy Jones-Wilkens at Leadville last year. It's not unusual to purge and it was time to empty the stomach. A real pro at purging can run and purge at the same time without loosing a step, like Todd Walker. Not me, I have to stop. Anyway, I stood back up, felt great, had a quick wash of water in the mouth and onward ho again. It was time to end this journey. The tow path didn't seem as bad this time. One more quick aid station and then up more hills. Yes hills, got to love them and a chance to gain some more time. Shorty thereafter a local park too with trails and hills, even better. It was starting to get dark but not dark enough to turn on the headlamp which I picked up at the Car Wash Aid Station. One more stretch along the power lines and on to the city streets. I had no idea where I was but knew the end was near. Finally I was right there with the time clock in front of me. Done in 16 hours and 22 minutes. 3rd Overall Finisher and 1st in the Grand Masters. Todd ending up coming in 1st with Mark 2nd. Afterwards I climbed into the fountain along the finish line which felt so good but only to be informed by a concerned citizen about the posted electrical hazard in the fountain. Not feeling a need for an electrical shock I opted for the shooting water spraying out of the ground next to the fountains to celebrate the end of another 100 miler.

Thanks to all the volunteers for their amazing help throughout the race and for Joe and his crew who put together a very well organized and fun race. Also thanks to Colin and Mizuno for awesome sneaks and clothing.

Jack getting his award from Race Director Joe Jurczyk

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