Wednesday, July 31, 2013

2013 Burning River Race Report

The Motivation

This race report for me really should start in 2010, when I first volunteered at the Ottowa Point aid station.  The course has changed slightly over the years but Ottowa Point is usually somewhere around 40-45 miles.  Most runners get there in the early to mid-afternoon and are still in good spirits.  Volunteering here made me think I wanted to run this race some day.

Fast forward to January 2011.  After working downtown for several years and running alone or with some Sherwin-Williams runners, I stumbled across a group that included local ultra-runners Mark Godale, Matt Shaheen, and several others.  For 6 months I trained with these guys on a daily basis and got in the best shape I was in post-college.  And I was encouraged that I could some day run 100 mile races.

Then I quit my downtown job, went back to school to be a teacher, and running took a backseat yet again.  But I continued to run off and on, and continued to volunteer at Ottowa Point in 2011 & 2012.

My friend Randy and I had discussed running 100 some day and this winter Randy decided he would sign up.  As soon as the race registration opened, around January, we both signed up.  I was committed to running twice as far as I ever had run before.

The Training (or Lack Of)

At this time I was in my first year as a math teacher and track coach.  Plus raising a family of 8 kids, 7 still at home, the youngest Caroline who is now 1 1/2.  Needless to say my schedule was very busy.  I decided I really couldn't do ultra-type mileage during school, so I would continue to run what I could.  I planned to run a long run each month and really bump up the distance in June once school finished.

I ensured the long runs by entering a number of races.  I ran the Landis Loonies Marathon on New Years' Day (5:01), the Art Moore FA 50k in January (6:02), and the Green Jewel 50k (DNF at 24 miles due to weather) in March.  In April I entered the North Coast 24 Hour run with hopes of running 75+ miles but again the weather was unfavorable and I stopped running at 14 hours, with 48.67 miles complete.  I finished out my spring with a 4:28 at the Cleveland Marathon on a hot humid day.  None of these times were very encouraging but at least I was getting the time on my feet.

June hit, school let out, and I completed weeks of 50, 40, and 80 miles, the 80 including the Mohican 50 Mile Run.  I walked most of the 2nd loop at Mohican and finished in 14:13.  At this point I was very concerned whether or not I would make the cut-off at Burning River and seriously contemplated not making the attempt.  I decided I still had 5 weeks to get in shape, and several friends ensured me that Mohican is the more difficult choice, so my training began in earnest.

After a recovery week of 45 miles, I had 2 solid weeks of 90 and 85 miles.  I planned one more big week (2 weeks before the race) but hurt my right groin in a local 5k.  I decided this was my body telling me it was time to taper.  So in the 13 days before the race, I took 4 days off with 3 runs of 8-13 miles and 6 runs of 5 or less.

I should note that during the 2 big weeks, I ran on the BR course several times.  I ran miles 55-80, miles 80-100 (at night), miles 40-55, and also the first 6 (again in the dark).  I've run several races in the CVNP but running these group runs on the course gave me a sense of familiarity and comfort once I hit mile 40.

Also on the training runs I met Danielle who seemed to run about my pace and we planned to start out at about 15-minute miles for the first 50.

The Race

The Night Before

After spending much of race week organizing my drop bags and crew kit, it was finally time.  My son Luke would be my only crew for the morning stops.  Luke and I and Randy shared a room near the start, in the same hotel as my nephew Abe who was running his 2nd 100 of the summer after running Mohican!

I lay in bed with a wide smile on my face, I couldn't wait for the friends, the aid stations, the beautiful scenery of the parks.  I almost forgot about the running part!  I finally dozed off and got a few hours of sleep, but the roosters crowed early and it was time to get dressed and head to the start at Squire's Castle.

Start to Oak Grove (Mile 41)

I checked in, ran into Danielle, and we found our place near the back of the pack.  The start was very smooth, there was some soft wet grass at the beginning but once we hit the trail we really just cruised along, hiking the early uphills.  There was not much passing, I was very happy to have started in the correct spot for my pace.  Average pace for the first loop was 12:15 per mile, faster than planned.  I was in 183rd place.  The plan was to drop the headlamp and pick up a handheld water bottle and my sunglasses.  But the cool weather and overcast skies helped me to decide I did not need the sunglasses OR the water.  I spent less than a minute at the first aid station, my first mistake of the day was trying to head back through the castle towards the start.  Luke and Katie corrected me and I got turned in the correct way.

A few more trail miles and we were onto the road.  I was wearing my Garmin and checked the pace occasionally.  The plan was to run around 12 on the roads.  I averaged 11:07 to Old Mill Road and 11:40 to the Polo Fields, but the pace felt easy so I went with it.  Somewhere along the way I got a hot spot on my right heel.  I was running in my road shoes, my Asics Gel Kayanos.  I decided to try duct tape at the crew aid station at Polo Fields.  I've never taped my feet before, but the tape job worked awesome!  No more heel issues all day!

I was ahead of schedule and Luke wasn't expecting me yet, but we found each other and I made a quick 2 minute stop, including the duct tape.  Again I decided not to carry any water.  From here we went back onto the trails, through Solon towards Brecksville.

On the way to Harper Ridge the average pace was 13:16.  I was still running with Danielle at this point, and she picked up the pace about a mile from the aid station.  This felt good to stretch the legs, and knowing we had a rest coming, I continued this practice as much as I could for the remainder of the run.

From Harper Ridge to Shadow Lake the average pace was 12:30.  Total time for the first marathon was 5:24.  I had moved up 11 spots in 20 miles and was now in 172nd place.  Significantly faster than the 15:00 planned pace, but again the weather was cool, the day was pleasant, and it felt easy, so we continued on.  At Shadow Lake I had planned a shoe change from the Asics into the Montrail Badwaters.  This stop took about 8 minutes.  Luke was out looking for me this time but did not have a chair for me to sit in.  Another crew lent me theirs.  Luke was flawless as a crew from here on out.

I was nervous that Luke had all my handhelds and I wouldn't see him again as crew until mile 65, so I did take a water bottle at this time.  But I didn't drink much from it.

The next 2 aid stations came and went, still averaging between 13-14 minutes per mile.  Walking a few hills here and there but mostly running.

Most crewless aid stations all day I had a few cups of heed but very little else.  A cute little girl offered me a popsicle at Egbert Shelter, and I took it.  As I walked away, I commented that I was actually a little chilled and didn't need it, but Danielle said the girl had needed to give it away to feel helpful, and she was right.  We ran a few quicker miles (12's and 11's) on the towpath heading towards Station Road, then jumped the guard rail onto the trail to Oak Grove.

Another mile and we pulled in to Oak Grove.  I was excited to see Victoria for the first time of the day.  She came up next to the pavilion and talked while I ate a couple cups of ramen noodles and 3-4 quarter turkey and cheese sandwiches.  It felt like I was having lunch!  The report was that Abe was 1 hour ahead and Randy was 1.5 hours ahead of Abe.  I was glad to hear they were running well but surprised to hear Katie say that I looked better than either of them at that point.  I gave my handheld back to Victoria, proceeding on without carrying water.  Aid Station captain Mike Erhardt gave me a fist bump.  I looked around for Danielle but didn't see her, so I walked a ways until my sandwich digested.  She didn't catch up and I mostly ran alone for the next 60 miles.

Oak Grove to Pine Hollow

I ran through the trails of Brecksville to Ottowa Point where Luke was now volunteering.  This was very fun as it was the aid station I usually worked at.  Still I only stayed less than 3 minutes and headed out.  I was in 152nd place, having moved up 20 spots in the previous 20 miles.  The section from Ottowa Point from Snowville was muddy, sloppy, and slippery due to the rain.  No wonder Cyrus calls it the Bog of Despair.  I fell twice, and my average pace was 16:30.  I asked for something to clean off with at Snowville Rd and was directed to a muddy bucket of water with a sponge.  I had hit the 50 mile mark in 11:24, way faster than I ran the same distance at Mohican!

The next section to Boston Store was still slippery but not as bad.  I ran a little more and averaged 15:50 for this section.  Somehow in 9 slow miles I moved up another 21 spots and was now in 131st.  I looked over the food but decided a few cups of Heed would do me, so I headed out.  I power-hiked the tunrpike hill.  Somewhere after the top I started wondering when it would get dark, and I realized my best headlamp was in a drop bag back at Boston Store!

When I arrived at Pine Lane, first thing I did was ask to borrow a cell phone.  Luckily for me Greg K. was there and he contacted my wife to tell her to go back for the headlamp.  More Heed and I headed on to Ledges.  Much of this section was road and bike/hike path, but I did alot of walking here, averaging 15:37 for this section.  Looking back I wish I had run more here.

I arrived at Ledges tired but still making good progress.  My whole crew was here, Victoria and Luke along with Caroline.  Nephew Keith was also there and they let me know that I had caught Abe.

Ledges was one of my longest stops of the day.  I changed shoes, socks, shorts, and shoes.  Had some of my own food to eat (Muscle Milk, protein bar, and fresh pineapple).  Other than Heed, I think most of my calories on the day came from Muscle Milk.  I think I drank 5 small bottles on the day.

I considered looking at the aid station food but when I found out the food was to the left, and the trail was to the right, I quickly decided I wasn't hungry.  After a 14-minute break, I headed for Pine Hollow.  I turned my headlamp on somewhere along the way.

My shoe change at Ledges was from the Montrails to a fresh pair of Saucony Mirage road shoes.  I thought fresh and dry and clean would be helpful but this was a mistake.  I should have stuck with the trail shoes until Howe Meadow.

I kept a 16:44 pace from Ledges to Pine Hollow, passing Abe and pacer Thomas along the way.  I took another longer (7 minute) crew stop.  By this time it was full dark, I had completed 70 miles, and I knew the next 15 miles were pretty rugged.  I left Pine Hollow carrying my handheld for the 2nd time, walking and walked most of those 15 miles.

Pine Hollow to Howe Meadow (mostly walking)

I kept a 19:00 pace from Pine Hollow to Little Meadow, 19:40 pace on the Wetmore trail from Little Meadow to Covered Bridge.  Abe and new pacer Jon passed me on the Wetmore trail, along with Chris and Crystal Basich.  I followed Chris for a ways.

Some people said there were some markings missing on this section but I don't recall, maybe Crystal and Chris led me right through them.  Anyways I arrived at Covered Bridge in 109th place, moving up another 22 spots in 24 miles.

Abe and Jon were sitting down having some noodle soup.  I had a quick cup and started out before them, but then I saw Aid Captain Heidi and we chatted, and next thing Abe was ahead.  Jon joked that as a typical Landis I talked too much.  I power-hiked the big hill on the Perkins trail, moving ahead of Abe again.  I ran a bit at the top, and then found mud.  I slowed down, Abe and Jon passed me, and I never saw them again.

I had my slowest miles at the end of this loop, falling twice more and bending over a few times hoping to throw up.  My last 3 miles here were all over 25 minutes, and I had gotten passed by several runners.  I hit the road and was very glad to be past this loop.  The water station at Oak Hill Road offered me water, but I declined, having dumped most of my water and not drank hardly any on that loop.

Once I got going towards Howe Meadow my miles were back under 20 (barely) but I knew I was on my way to the finish.  After winding around the meadows of Howe Meadow, I finally found the aid station and more importantly my crew.  I changed shoes, shorts again, this time wearing the Mizuno Wave Sayonara.  Sat down and had a Red Bull, which gave me a boost of energy.  

Howe Meadow to Finish

I walked / jogged most of O'Neill woods, then started running on the road and the towpath.  On my way from Botsum to Merriman Parkway I had miles between 12 and 15, and was really feeling good!  I turned off my headlamp, knowing I had less than 10 miles to go and 5 hours to get it done, I was going to finish and well under the feared cutoff!

I pulled  in behind the car wash and wanted 2 things, another Red Bull and my toothbrush.  Luke made me laugh asking which one I wanted first.  I was there less than a minute and headed out.  My next mile on the towpath on the way to Memorial Parkway was 12:02!  It was daylight, I was almost done, and I was flying!

Then I got dizzy.  Too much Red Bull or not enough food, I'm not sure.  I stopped to walk, miles of 17 and then 25!  I think the 2nd Red Bull cost me a chance at finishing under 27.  I finally walked into Memorial Road aid station.  Caroline ran towards me and I picked her up.  I told Luke how I felt and he made me sit and eat.  I had considered asking him to pace me, afraid about the dizziness, but after a 7 minute break I felt better and headed out on the last segment.

Into the Chuckery, past the Signal Tree, up the stone stairs, through the Gorge, and onto Front Street.  I ran the last couple miles in the 14's.  I followed the markings and hopped up onto the sidewalk, only to trip over an uneven sidewalk seam and fall hard, blood dripping from my knee, shoulder, and fingers.  Got back up and ran on in, finishing in 27:21:07!

Victoria was exhausted, up most of the night plus caring for the baby and me, so she gave me a hug and kiss and headed home.  Abe's crew also came over for congratulations and were on their way.  Luke and I sat by the finish, cheering the runners in that made it under the 30 hour deadline.  I got up to leave and Luke said we should stay for the awards.  Surprisingly they only called 1 name for USATF in my age group.  I went up and asked afterwards and found out that I had actually gotten 2nd (by default) in the USA National Championships for men 45-49, so I got a very nice USA medal!

I definitely could not have done this without the support all summer of Victoria and the race day crew support from Luke!  I thoroughly enjoyed the first 45 miles, from 45-70 were ok, 70-85 sucked, and then 85-100 were fun again.  I should have run a little harder with evening approaching, knowing that I walked most of the night.  I should have not changed out of my trail shoes until after the Perkins loop.  And I should not have had the 2nd Red Bull.  Other than that it was a great experience and one I will probably try again in the future.

Things I Did Well and Not Well


  • Trained on the course.  This gave alot of confidence in the last part of the race.
  • Had a well supplied crew kit.  I didn't use most of it but the duct tape was important.
  • Drove the aid stations with Luke and Victoria.  They were everywhere they needed to be and this was super helpful!
  • Getting the Aid Station tattoo!
  • Started at a maintainable pace.
  • Picking up the pace for a mile heading into each aid station.
  • Walking most of the night was the right thing for me.
  • Brought my own food.  Muscle Milk, oatmeal cookies, protein bars, and fresh pineapple.  This saved time at the crewed aid stations, where I didn't have to look over the food I really didn't want.
  • Drinking the first Red Bull right before morning.
  • Fresh clothes and brushed teeth were a good feeling!
  • Only carried my handheld for 30 miles.  Most of the race I was unencumbered.

Not Well:

  • Changed out of the trail shoes too soon.  Should have worn them (or another pair) past the Perkins loop.
  • Drank a 2nd Red Bull about an hour after the first one.  Bad idea.
  • Probably didn't need to carry a water bottle at all.
  • Walking the road section between Pine Lane and Ledges.  I should have ran this section.  Especially realizing I had alot of walking coming up overnight!

Race Reports from Other Runners:

Monday, July 29, 2013

Burning River Splits

Just a bunch of data for now with a few comments mixed in.  Plan to write more later.

I wore my Garmin 205 for the first 10 hours of the race.  Then switched to my niece's 305 while my crew recharged my 205.  Switched back to the original recharged watch 7 hours later.  I tried to hit the lap button coming into and out of each aid station so that I could also analyze time spent at the aid stations.

Time is from the race results / splits.  Pace is according to the race splits and includes any time spent at the previous aid station.

Times in parenthesis are mile pace for a fraction of a mile.  Example in Segment B, that was 10:23 for .89 miles or 11:39 pace.

Garmin Section One - Elevation Gain 2586, Loss 2490
Segment A, 6.2, start (Squires Castle) to Squire's Castle, 6.2 total
Time 1:16, 12:15 pace, 183rd
12:04-13:52-13:07-12:43-14:06-12:02 +
Aid - 0:57

Segment B 6.2 Squires Castle to Old Mill Road, 12.4 total
Time 2:26,  11:07 pace, 186th
11:47-12:56-11:10-10:49-10:57-(11:39) - roads
Aid 1:03

Segment C 4.8 Old Mill to Polo Fields, 17.2 total
Time 3:23, 11:40 pace, 183rd
11:40-13:12-11:07-11:17-(13:07) - more roads
Aid 2:25 (Crew)

Segment D 5.8 Polo Fields to Harper Ridge, 23.0 total
Time 4:42, 13:16 pace, 181st
Aid 1:38
This was the first time Danielle picked up the pace heading into the aid station, a practice I tried to continue for most of the 100.

Segment E 3.2 Harper Ridge to Shadow Lake, 26.2 total
Time 5:24, 12:30 pace, 172nd 
12:41-11:06-12:18-(17:02) - probably late hitting lap when I stopped for aid
Aid 8:25 (Crew, shoe change)
Carried 1 handheld bottle from Shadow Lake to Oak Grove

Segment F 4.8 Shadow Lake to Egbert Shelter, 31.0 total
Time 6:38, 13:45 pace, 172nd
Aid 3:06 (bathroom)

Segment G 4.4 Egbert Shelter to Alexander Road, 35.4 total
Time 7:40, 13:24 pace, 170th
14:02-14:06-12:33-13:18-(16:49) - again late hitting lap
Aid :15

Segment H 6.3 Alexander Road to Oak Grove, 41.7 total
Time 9:05, 13:20 pace, 151st
14:47-13:17-12:36-12:31-11:58-16:29 - (12:54) - some towpath there in the middle
Aid 6:02 (Crew Victoria, ate turkey cheese sandwich & noodles, good stop!)
Stopped carrying handheld

Segment I 4.7 Oak Grove to Ottowa Point, 46.4 total
Time 10:15, 13:37 pace, 152nd
Aid 2:38 (switched watches)

Garmin Section Two - Elevation Gain 2694, Loss 2591
Segment J 4.0 Ottowa Point to Snowville Road, 50.4 total
Time 11:24, 16:30 pace, 134th
Cyrus has named this section the Bog of Despair
13:15-16:47-18:57-(16:32) - fell twice
Aid 1:36

Segment K 5.1 Snowville Road to Boston Store, 55.5 total\
Time 12:47, 15:52 pace, 131st
Aid 2:15

Segment L 3.9 Boston Store to Pine Lane, 59.4 total
Time 13:54, 16:40 pace, 123rd
14:19-16:45-16:28-(19:39) - late on the lap button
Aid :27 (Greg K's cell phone to text crew about forgetting to pick up headlamp from drop bag at Boston Store.)

Segment M 6.3 Pine Lane to Ledges Shelter, 65.7 total
Time 15:37, 16:11 pace, 121st
17:36-14:35-14:55-14:25-16:55-18:21-(13:25) - plenty of road here, should have gone faster.
Aid 14:15 (Crew, shoe change, shirt & shorts change)
Wore headlamp from Ledges, turned it around the Salt Run trail

Segment N 4.9 Ledges Shelter to Pine Hollow, 70.6 total - Salt Run trail
Time 17:13, 16:44 pace
Aid 7:58 + (Crew, rest mostly, switched watches again)

Garmin Section Three - Elevation Gain 1985, Loss 1883
Segment O 3.0 Pine Hollow to Little Meadow, 73.6 total - Cross Country Trail
Time 18:15, 19:00 pace
19:41-17:39-(20:03) - mostly walking
Aid 0:00 (forgot to hit lap on the way in, probably about a half minute for the coldest water on the course
Started carrying handheld bottle again

Segment P 6.0 Little Meadow to Covered Bridge, 79.6 total - Wetmore Trail
Time 20:14, 19:40 pace , 109th place
20:29-18:40-20:13-19:49-19:42-(19:43) - mostly walking
Aid 4:07 - ramen

Segment R 4.7 Covered Bridge to Oak Hill Road, 84.3 total, Perkins Trail & Riding Run loop
20:34-19:28-28:15-25:38-(37:51) - walking, very muddy, fell twice
Aid 0:00 - water only but did not stop

Segment S 2.4 Oak Hill Road to Howe Meadow, 86.7 total
Time 23:19, 25:29 pace (segments R & S from Covered Bridge)
18:24-20:08-(20:00) - didn't hit lap, last fraction and aid time are estimates
Aid 8:44 - Crew, shoe change, shorts change, Red Bull
Stopped carrying handheld

Segment T 4.0 Howe Meadow to Botsum, 90.7 total, mostly O'Neill Woods
Time 20:46-19:24-21:16-(13:19), some road & towpath at the end
Aid 0:02 - water only did not stop again

Segment U 2.5 Botsum to Merriman Parkway, 93.2 total
Time 25:07, 15:13 pace (segments T & U from Howe Meadow), 108th place
14:23-12:36-(15:44) - all towpath, maybe late on the lap button
Aid 51.2 - Red Bull again and toothbrush

Segment V 3.0 Merriman to Memorial Parkway, 96.2 total
Time 26:03, 18:19 pace
12:03-17:42-(25:51) - got dizzy from too much Red Bull / not enough food combination
Aid 7:14 - Luke made me stop and eat, he was right

Segment W, Memorial Parkway to Finish, 100.9 total, Chuckery and Gorge
Time 27:21:07, 15:06 pace, 99th place
16:47-18:27-14:22-14:39-(18:31) thought I was running faster than this, did walk the final road hill and also took a hard spill on the sidewalk.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

2012 Wrap-Up / 2013 Preview

I haven't blogged here for a while.  I doubt I will post regularly but I do want to post today.

2012 was a year of change and inconsistency.  I started out with a slow 5:22 at the Landis Loonies Marathon on January 2, 2012.  Over the next 21 weeks, while still student teaching, I basically ran on Tuesday and sometimes Sunday. I ran the Cleveland Marathon in 5:31 on a brutally hot day.  I like to say Jimmy M would have beaten me if he hadn't stopped for a picnic lunch!

Summer was very different.  I was on a teacher schedule, with only 1 class to complete for my Masters degree.  By the 2nd week of June I was up to 60 miles / week and was above 50 for 10 consecutive weeks, with the exception of the July 4 week when we traveled to NYC.

New runs were Tue & Thu mornings with some LOCO folks from Day's Dam, occasional Wed hill workouts at the same spot, and Tue evening runs with the Brookside HS CC team.

Summer racing highlights were 19:18 5k at the Journal Jog, and finishing the Buckeye Trail 50k, redeeming myself after my first ultra attempt / DNF in the initial running in 1994.  Although my time was horribly slow 7:58, and I was 129 of 144 finishers.

Once school started it became difficult for me to coach multiple groups and get a run in at the same time, so my running with the team fell to about once / week (longer runs on Mondays mostly).

I got into a sort of pattern during the last couple months, running after school on Mondays, in Oberlin on Tuesdays, at the Y on Thursday mornings, and 1-2 times on the weekend.  This led to a surprising 1:42 at the Tour de Ashland Half Marathon.

Total for the year was 1248 miles in 168 runs.  Three months between 180-260 miles, and 9 months between 35-95 miles.

My 2013 schedule is quite ambitious.  I started with the annual Landis Loonies marathon on New Years Day, running a little faster this year in 5:01.  I have several longer races on my calendar, leading up to the Burning River 100 Mile in July.

3/2 Green Jewel 50k
4/20 North Coast 24 Hour
5/19 Cleveland Marathon
6/15 Mohican 50 Mile
7/27 Burning River 100 Mile

I will be coaching track so I'm sure I won't get more than 30-40 per week in the spring, other than the weeks of the longer races (listed above).  Once school ends in June I will quickly bump up to 60-80 per week leading up to Burning River.  I'm sure this is not the optimal schedule but it is what I'm going with.