Burning River 100: Newbie Lessons 101
Burning River 100 was on my schedule this year to get a qualifier for Western States 100 and keep my tickets (4 years now) going. (Although, I don’t want to get drawn for 2017 because of the 24-Hour World Championship on 7/2/2017).
I always wanted to run well, but I wasn’t as “excited” about running it, as it wasn’t one of my “goal” races for the year. Plus, things have been crazy for me this year, traveling an insane amount, and just trying to keep up with life. So, I didn’t even look at anything about the race until the weekend before. The day before the race enroute to Ohio, I came up with my crew plan for my husband.
In other words, I was behind on mental preparation and not “jazzed” about running the race. Going into 100 milers without “vim and vigor” is less than ideal. Aside from that, I decided to try a couple of new things on race day as a test. One worked out well. One, not so much.
On race morning, my husband Mike, my running partner, Jeff (also running the 100 miles), and my friend Tom (crewing/pacing Jeff) drove to the start at Squires Castle. I have to say; Squires Castle is the most wonderful race start location ever. I LOVE CASTLES! I wish I had been able to see it in the daylight.
I got the usual pre-race stuff out of the way, wished some friends good luck, and took off with my running partner, Jeff. He and I were going to run together for as long as possible. The first 11.5 miles is on the road, making it easy to start too fast. I decided to run by feel but keep it no faster than 9 min pace.
One of the new things I decided to try was to set my Fenix 2 watch on ultratrac mode to save battery. I set it to take stats every 30 seconds instead of the standard pre-set of 1 minute. I’d look down at my watch, and we slowed down as needed not to be under 9’s. I thought we were doing well, but I realized about 20 miles into the race that it was NOT ACCURATE in Ultratrac mode AT ALL.
In addition, I saw my splits after the race and averaged 8:38’s for the first section.
EPIC FAIL. NEWBIE LESSON #1: Don’t try new things, especially something important on race day.
Jeff and I caught up with a couple of guys from Indiana (Travis and Hobbs). Soon after, we were joined by Tyler (not from Indiana, but we decided he could be an honorary Hoosier for the day). All of us talked and joked as we ran. The company is always friendly.
Jeff and I came through the first crew access aid station at 11.5 miles, not knowing our place or caring. We stopped and walked briefly to help him with his water bottle strap. It wasn’t threaded and wouldn’t tighten. I fixed it, and off we went again.
After a couple more miles, Jeff had to stop after hearing the call of nature. I kept going, never to run with Jeff anymore…that was short-lived. Shortly after leaving Jeff, I caught up with a guy who had run Leadville 100 ten times but no other hundos and Travis, who I had gotten separated with earlier. We were discussing different 100’s when BAM! I fell HARD. I tripped on some rocks (How embarrassing!). I popped up quickly.
“I’m fine”, I said. Literally, within 5 minutes, I was on the ground again. OMG! SERIOUSLY?! The Leadville guy said, sorry, I won’t ask you any more questions. LOL…I wish it were his fault that he distracted me, and I fell. I said it was no biggie. It is a trail, and I fall, but GEEZ…could I be a bigger klutz?
It was maybe 15 miles in, and I had bloodied both legs and hurt my right shin (severe tibialis anterior muscle contusion). It hurt to dorsiflex and plantarflex my ankle. Oh well…no bones sticking out…keep going.
EPIC FAIL. NEWBIE LESSON #2: Race-specific training is essential. I have had very few days running on trails this year, as I have been looking to improve road speed for the marathon, 100k, and Comrades. [Burning River 100]
I got into Shadow Lake aid station (21.7), gave a hug to a friend, smiled, and laughed off falling, telling my husband, Mike, that I tried to give Jeff time to catch up with me by falling down two times. My husband swapped out my pack for a handheld, gave me an ice bandana (it was already getting hot), a hat with ice in it, and I was on my way.
I know I was still ahead of schedule at that point, but I couldn’t quite remember what I had estimated, and my watch was dorked up. Five miles later, I came into Egbert’s aid station. I figured out Jeff wasn’t far behind me, as I saw my Subaru pass me on the road not long after I had passed through the aid station, meaning Tom and Mike had already crewed Jeff. The section shortly after Egbert was difficult to navigate. We dropped off a bike path into a wooded section with a creek.
The path/trail was not clear at all. I tried to catch up with another runner in front of me, Adam. We were both playing the “find the flag (course markings)” adventure game. We ran and searched for flags. The section either had tall grass or woods with no distinct route. We slowed, just trying to navigate and not get lost. We both helped each other, going back and forth.
Thankfully, it wasn’t that long of a section (maybe 1-2 miles at most). I fell in a huge hole (not marked) down by the creek, warned Adam about it, and fell at least once more in the woods. I wondered if I go down hard like a tree in the woods, can the trees hear me? Haha. That was the last fall I was good-humored about.
At 38.3 miles, I came into the Meadows aid station. My Garmin showed 26 miles on it. Oh well, I would just keep running by feel. I asked my husband to tell me how long it would be before I saw him again in time instead of mileage.
I picked up my iPod, a restocked Nathan Fireball vest, re-iced my bandana and hat, and was off again. An aid station volunteer named Mike walked me out of the aid area to the trail to avoid getting lost. He told me I was in 2nd overall and had a good pace. I appreciated him showing me which way to go and knowing my place. At this point, I pretty much ran by myself the rest of the race. I only saw people whizz by me later in relays later on, so I was glad I grabbed my iPod.
At mile 50, I came across the mat and took a few minutes to care for myself. My right shin was hurting badly. At some point, I had fallen a couple more times due to my archnemesis roots and rocks. I wouldn’t say I like medications of any kind, but I asked for some Tylenol. I re-iced, ate some Pringles, washed off my dirty hands, and realized my wedding rings were still on my hand. I struggled to get my wedding rings off to give to my husband since I forgot to take them off before the start.
EPIC FAIL. NEWBIE LESSON #3: Things swell in a hot humid 100 miler…take of anything that could constrict blood flow and end your race.
I asked how Jeff was doing and found out that he had a lot of hip/leg pain and wanted to drop at 50 miles. Tom said not to worry that he’d keep him going by walking, crawling, whatever. I left a bit worried about Jeff dropping. He needed this as a qualifier like me. He only wants to do left in the running by running the Western States 100.
He had a major hip labrum repair 3-4 years ago and was told he’d be lucky to do a marathon. Since surgery, he has defied the odds and has been running his 2nd hundo, but he has a limited number of miles left on his tires. I wanted him to finish. About 2 miles after I left the aid station, I thought about what things would be good to tell him to ensure he didn’t drop, but it was too late. I just hoped that Tom could convince him.
Unfortunately, 16.5 miles later, at the Ledges AS, I saw Jeff. Shit. It was nice to see him, but that meant he dropped. I asked if he was okay. He said he was, but he didn’t want to further damage, so he dropped. He said he’d been in pain since 10 miles in and only went to 50 miles because he could get an official 50-mile finish.
At that point, Tom, who was planning to pace Jeff for at least 20 miles, wanted to run and know if I wanted some company. Sure! Originally, I wasn’t going to have a pacer, but after falling so much and hurting significantly, I thought it would be nice to have a distraction from my injuries.
We left the Ledges and had a good chat. Before getting into the next aid station and Pine Hollow I (72.3 miles), I kicked another rock and thought I broke my toe. I stopped, screamed in pain, and said some very bad words. We kept going. What else was there to do?
When I got to the aid station, my coach, Howard Nippert was there and ready to run with me. He had run the 50 miles but wanted some bonus miles. We ran the Pine Hollow loop (3.8 miles) together, but he realized his legs didn’t have any zip left in them. His feet had taken a beating in the 50 milers, and he had been sick the week before, so his bonus miles were short lived.
Before leaving Pine Hollow II, I learned that no females had come to start the loop before I left. I knew I was at least 45 minutes ahead. That gave me some peace because I knew my injuries were taking a toll on me mentally and physically. I wasn’t about to chase down the one guy in front of me. So, I decided to slow a bit and survive.
Tom and I took off again. My toe was no longer throbbing so profusely, and I could finally roll over it again to push off on it without grimacing…I knew it wasn’t broken! Tom and I enjoyed some miles until we got close to the Covered Bridge Aid Station. We missed the sign at the end of the bridge and kept going on the towpath. It was almost 3/4 of a mile before I realized we hadn’t seen a marking and would need to turn around. UGGGH!
After adding a bonus plus mile, we came into the Covered Bridge AS, where the volunteers were super friendly and helpful! We headed out on the loop, and unfortunately, I was still capable of doing the math. I knew when sunset was and figured we would be screwed getting to the Botzum AS at 92.2 miles without running in the dark.
It was going to be close before, but we lost another 15 minutes getting lost. I said more bad words…lots of them. I was frustrated that neither my crew nor Tom thought to pick up a light, but I thought I would be further ahead and wouldn’t need one. I had also slowed down because I was hurting and didn’t see the point in cranking it hard with a considerable lead.
In addition, I managed to fall one more time on some loose gravel (probably KARMA for my potty mouth) before we finished the Covered Bridge loop. This fall was a doozie! Somehow my hands went under my body and my face…YES, MY FACE…slid along the ground. OMG! Really?!
I asked Tom if my face was bleeding, and he tried to brush the dirt off of my face. “OWWW!! Don’t Touch my FACE!…it hurts!!” Tom said, “sorry,” and patted me on my right shoulder, which I had damaged on an earlier fall. OWWW!! “Don’t Touch me ANYWHERE! Poor Tom…he was seeing my dark side, filter-free. After 15 minutes, I apologized profusely and thanked him for being with me when I calmed down.
It was just rough, and I was soooooooo tired of falling. He said it was no big deal… that’s what friends are for. I was incredibly thankful for Tom! We got back to the Covered Bridge AS, and they loaned us some lights! Gotta love ultra runners! It takes a village!
EPIC FAIL. NEWBIE LESSON #4: Plan for the worst and hope for the best! I should have taken a light earlier than I planned. The lights we picked up were weak and hard to see but sufficed. [Burning River 100]
Tom and I left Covered Bridge with no other women starting the loop (4.6-mile loop), meaning I was likely an hour ahead. This made me relax a bit more and decidedly helped me run easy and get it done. I wasn’t about to take another fall after sliding on my face. 
I came into Botzum, sat briefly in a chair, and took some Tylenol and Ibuprofen (which I have NEVER taken in a race). I figured I only had ten more miles, and it probably wouldn’t kill me.
So, off I went again. Eventually, I got it done in 19:16: 1st female and 3rd overall. Not even close to the time I wanted, but I got it done and got my qualifier for WS100. Good enough. Not my best, not my worst…live to fight another day!
Thanks to my sponsors:
1. Best Ultra Marathon Running Shoes: I LOVE THESE SHOES!! The new Torin 2.5’s were PERFECT for this mixed course of roads and trails! NO BLISTERS, THANKS TO A FOOT-SHAPED TOE BOX!
2. Best Hydration Pack for Running: HYDRATE! I used two packs: VaporAiress (my favorite) & Fireball plus 2 Nathan SpeedMax Plus Handhelds…these wide-mouth caps make it easy for the crew to add ice to the bottles. I LOVE the UBER BRIGHT Halo Fire headlamp!!
3. Hammer Nutrition: Thanks for the great products that keep my belly happy! I used Anti-fatigue Caps, Race Caps Supreme, Endurance Amino, Endurolytes Extreme, ~36 gels (Apple Cinnamon, Huckleberry, Vanilla, Niccola), Recoverite after the race. I also used Race Day Boost pre-race.
4. Best Running Socks to Avoid Blisters: I love the Maximum Protection Trail Running socks. ABSOLUTELY no blisters despite stream crossings, plenty of ups and downs, and a mixed course of roads and trails.
5. Running Skirts: I love love love your skirts with no chafing issues and lots of pockets! Glad I wore black since I got so dirty 🙂
Thanks to Anthony Russo, who sent me a ton of information before the race, which was uber helpful!!
(You can search google burning river 100 results + 2017/2018/2019/2020/2021/2022… to see the result of each year)
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