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Burning River 100 Mile Endurance Run: 2014 Recap - By Dennis Hanna
Training partner Dennis Hanna and I ran the Burning River 100 Mile endurance run. Normally I write the recap, but this one is by Dennis.
THE TWINS RUN ANOTHER 100
In addition to all of the things I have
become accustomed to during the half-dozen or so years that Mary Flaws and I
have been training partners, I have also relied upon her very very well-written
blogs to convey my feelings regarding the many running adventures we have
had together. I think I owe her one, so here we go.....
As an aside before we start, I must mention that 2013,
with my training partner's help, was a fabulous running year for me. PR,s
record mileage, injury-free, None better. Absolutely none better. 2014, not so
much. Mary is 11 years my junior and lightyears my superior with regard to
talent and I have often joked that our training runs are hard runs for me
and recovery runs for her. 2014 was not good for me, yet she stayed with me and
supported me throughout. Our 50 miler at Dances With Dirt was, as they say,
"epic fail" for me, yet she stayed with me.
Twins....Seems like a theme for this weekend.
Mary, husband, Bill and I headed
off to Ohio on Friday in the rented mini-van Bill was so thoughtful to have
arranged, having experienced our decrepit state following the last Ohio 100 at
Mohican and wanting to allow for maximum runner stretchability post-trauma.
Bill is the consummate tour guide in these adventures, paying attention to all
of the details that would clog Mary's active brain and be indeciferable to
mine. He is chauffeur, photographer and crew, and I have always greatly
appreciated his efforts, observations and most of all patience. Serious
patience. Thank you, Bill.
After arrival and check-in, we experimented
with a local Italian eatery nearby and were not disappointed. Oddly, our first
reference to twins occurs here, pre-race, when we noticed that all of the
patrons surrounding us were identical twins. Big ones, small ones,
boy ones, girl ones, old ones, kid ones,... that's odd....Not so odd actually,
considering the identical twin convention this weekend. Hmmmmm. Back for the
night I arranged my morning gear and, as always, spent the next 8 or so hours
staring at the ceiling.
In the pre-dawn darkness, the start at
Squire's Castle in Willoughby Hills, East of Cleveland, (That's right, remind
yourself that you are running from Cleveland to Akron, and not by how the crow
flies) is the usual gaggle of Ultragoofs prepping hurridly last moment for
something that will last many hours. The clot of runners heads off in the mist
with headlamps dancing. An interesting video captured by Bill must have been
unsettling for any unsuspecting civilians happening through the Ohio night.
Very cool. General ultra chit-chat ensues as the first 13 or so miles proves to
be flat, but as the elder twin here, I caution against any headstrong pace.
Mary will experiment with this concept in the weeks to come. (blog teaser) The
tiny town of Gates Mills was a Door Countyesque backdrop to chatting with and
exchanging data amongst fellow ultrageeks of the same approximate pace as us.
Here is where we first encountered two men whom we would leap frog all day and
into the night. In the evening this BR veteran, "Bo" as we would
later learn his name to be, would be an enormous mental help to us.
Entering our first aid station at the
polo fields I found bacon for breakfast and a quick potty stop got us out onto
comfortable horse trails. For awhile. Eventually the terrain became hillier
requiring a more pointed attention to footing. Not high hills, but short and
steep, and as is generally the case in these endeavors, littered with minor
The first of many stream crossings warned us of the dire
consequences of wet feet, and thereafter we were more attentive to finding the
proper stones and trees to help us traverse dryly.
As we crossed a large grassy expanse into
the Oak Grove aid station, one that we would see twice today, we fueled up
again, changed shirts, chatted with Bill and scurried off. Our next twin
reference involves the shirts. Matching shirts. Dork, geek, dweeb, ultrarunner
matching shirts. We started this habit several ultras ago as a "fun"
thing, and it became just that...it would ellicit comments from others and
we began being referred to as "the matching shirts".
this. I like that the shirts we wear refer to our home state of Wisconsin as
well. Serious conversation starters are a very good thing along the course of
hours and hours of "merriment". I also appreciate the fact that the
shirts have symbolized what we have felt from ultraday one. They are a symbol
that we do this as a team. You stop, I stop. You puke, I puke. You cry, I
swear. We do this together and it works. A stated pact from Ultra one...Under
90 miles, if you can't go on, I'm not going to continue either. Serious mental
comfort...."You can do this, Mary, let's keep going"...."It's
going to be fine, Dennis, just give it another mile". It works. In the
back of your head it is always there and it works.
How are we feeling so far? Nearing
midpoint, the temperatures are not overly oppressive, but the humidity is. All
day, cloud cover, tree cover, and thus lack of sunlight was the savior of
an EXTREMELY humid day. Those twin shirts came off soaked at each
juncture. Previous to BR, during a midnight training run, Mary had fallen twice
and seriously bruised her ribs. (or worse) We talked incessantly in the past
week about the importance of being VERY VERY careful not to fall today, and as
a result she fell at about mile 42, conveniently on the same side. This would
be a serious concern for the average runner. Not this woman. Tougher than a
bulldog. Tummie-wise, we seem to be doing OK.
The usual buffet of PB&J,
cookies, chips, sports drinks, fruit, as well as the appetizers Mary has packed
which have been trail-run-tested time and again for digestability. To each his
own. Sometimes I am aghast at what some runners are comfortable eating all day.
Our next obstacle to sanity was an area
referred to by many BR Facebook references as the "Bog of Despair".
The dreaded Bog of Despair.
Squishy, sloppy, muddy, pig sloppy terrain. As
we traversed this pit with three men from Illinois, I made the
off-hand remark that this bog was certainly not causing me any despair. I
scoff at this bog. I laugh in your bog face. You fail to challenge me. Cue
clumsy fall into said bog. Yuck. Kinda smells like I would imagine pig slop to
smell like as well. Hop on, all of you bog bacteria, we've got an entire night
and morning yet to experience together. At the next station a volunteer asks if
I would like all of the mud washed off of me. "Are you out of your mind?!
This is why we run these things! Get away from me, cool and clean sponge!"
As we rolled into the Boston Store aid station,
in all of it's little country town glory, we were greeted not only again by
Bill, but by a really significant crowd of spectators.
All around us were
fellow runners "futzing" with shoes and socks and vaseline and such,
but we have developed a "Don't look, don't see" attitude regarding
feet. If they are servicable, don't "f" with them is our motto. We'll
see what's hiding in there after mile 100. On a side note, and here the
reference to "twins" becomes a bit off color...There is no other way
to say this, but mine have now been chafing since Mile 30ish. A few weeks after
BR, my Dad asked me how my historically fragile ankles held up and we shared a
hearty guffaw when I told him simply...the best way to ignore ankle pain is to
chafe for 70 miles. No shit, Dad.
Headlamps secure, and change of shirts,
goodbye to Bill and off we go, into the impending darkness. The night has both
a calming and exciting effect on the body. Maybe that was all of the caffiene
as well. Aid station blends into aid station and a run through cornfields at
the witching hour intensifies each breath and step. Suddenly exiting tall corn
we are heartened to hear the buzz of aid station generators and distant light.
Except there was none. Not kidding. An entire aid station oasis hallucination?
Serious. And then panic.
Where are we? When did we step off the trail? How did we miss the
flags? We are lost! How did this happen?! SERIOUSLY MARY. WHERE ARE WE? And
then we encounter Bo. "You're fine. Just around the corner", and a
big reassuring smile. Yikes. Thanks, Bo. We are on course and our pounding
hearts can be pushed back into our chests. Wow.
Into the Covered bridge Aid station we
arrive slightly beat but nowhere NEAR anticipating just HOW beat we will be when
we see this spot for the second time later this evening. We are about to engage
the muddy hills of the horrific covered bridge loop in the darkness. And it is
not going to be gentle with us. Mary and I have developed a bit of a habit
during the evening portion of these runs which involves me calling out flags,
arrows and obstructions as she answers back at me. This time it was brutal, the
muck barely allowed for a solid foot-plant, the tree roots and rocks heightened
the misery. As we called out "Muck, muck, rocks, rocks, muck, muck, muck,
muck, flag flag, MUCK! MUCK! we barely were able to traverse the section at
more than a quickstep. This was Mary's low point, but it came and passed
quickly. Mine, interestingly enough came on level pavement much later when Mary
regained her energy and ability and I could not. Running in the dark through
obstructions causes not only muscular calamities, but serves up a severe shock
to what I refer to as the eye-brain-foot connection that operates on
demand for over a quarter-million footsteps during these 100's. As we
re-entered the covered bridge aid station, exhausted, a volunteer (and bless
their souls, the volunteers are sensational) informed us that the worst was
behind us and now we had but flat and fast between here and final satisfaction.
He was wrong. Likely not intentionally so, but HE WAS WRONG. And yes, I am
YELLING that. Flat pavement for a mile or so, but right back into the
hills and the wilderness. This was nasty, but not nearly as nasty as what we
would learn later. This was not the Burning River 100, it was, more accurately,
The Burning River 103 miler. Not a big deal, you say? So what's an extra 3
miles? Not a whole lot really. Unless you have calculated arrival at VERY HARD
CUTOFF aid station times. Seriously. An extra 3 miles at a 15 minute pace
equals an additional FORTY-FIVE MINUTES! Now we begin to get nervous, as
Dennis has lost a significant amount of energy and ability post-mile 95. As
hard as she tries, Mary cannot get me to run a reasonable pace. I feel
horrible. I can't do anything about it and neither can she. But she stays with
me. And at 97 the Ogres of the Burning River send us up one last devastating
And unending staircase. Burning River would like you to kindly and
fondly remember Burning River. Thank You. As we slog up the last brick
pathways of Cuyahoga Falls towards the finish. I am swearing and Mary is
tolerating. And Bill is waiting. And we cross the finish banner with just 17
minutes to spare.
A sandwich. Banter with fellow finishers.
Diet Coke. A nice shower at the local natatorium and we are back on the road,
once again, in stiffened condition, with the knowledge that we have done it
again. Four 100's attempted. four finished. Not the optimum finish.
Mary has had a fabulous year, with unprecedented success just around the
corner. Not the best of years for me. But a finish. And a finish is very
Run Woodstock - Day 1 - Hallucination 100M/100K: 2014 Recap - Surprises
Though training partner, Dennis Hanna and I have completed four 100 milers together, the most recent being Burning River in Ohio just 5 weeks ago, I decided I wanted to try a 100 miler solo.
I picked the Hallucination 100, part of the Run Woodstock weekend, just 5 weeks after Burning River. It is a 6 x 16.67 mile loop course, and starts at 4 pm.
The first surprise is that outside of my immediate family (husband and son), only Dennis, and 2 other people knew I was going to run this. It wasn't that it was a secret, but I was nervous about running my first solo 100, and just didn't want to talk about it with anyone besides the above named people.
I did not know what to expect running my own pace. Our previous 100 mile times ranged from 28:19 to 30:42. (Yes, that's hours and minutes.)
I estimated my pace for each loop, for planning, and so Bill would know when to expect me back at the start/finish area. It had me finishing in 26 hours, but I concluded that my finish could truly be 2 hours on either side of that. I just didn't know what to expect.
For planning, I really like the 6 loops. Since each loop is exactly the same, it is a great way to monitor progress. Comparing each loop's time, we can see if I am fading, or holding steady.
I expected to finish the first loop during daylight. Figured night would come early in my second loop. The third loop would be completely dark. Daylight should come part way through loop 4, and then 5 and 6 would be complete daylight.
I really like the notion of the 4 pm start. Nightfall during a 100 miler can really suck the life right out of your soul, and with a 4 pm start, night will happen before we are physically and mentally fried. Bonus.
Bill and I rented a nice mini-van, but did not sign up in time to get a spot in the close parking lot. We parked in a lot about a third of a mile away. Bill would be able to nap during my loops.
We started at 4 pm with about 90 degree heat, high humidity, and a forecast taunted us with the threat of thunderstorms.
I spent the first loop focusing on staying comfortable. It would be way too easy to go out too fast. I paid attention to runners around me, chatted a bit. I chatted with various runners for a few miles each, but didn't really stick with any particular runner for too long. Just the way it worked out with pacing, aid stations, etc.
About mile 6, we came to an overhead power line right-of-way, where a serious cable appeared to have recently fallen. I was nearly an inch in diameter, and was waist high. Not a problem in the light, but this would be pretty darn dangerous our next time through in the dark. When we arrived at the next aid station, we learned that they had already been alerted, and troops had been deployed to take care of it.
With about 2 miles left in our first loop, the thunderstorms lurked in the distance and we heard tornado sirens blaring. Winds erupted as though they had been bottled up and waiting all afternoon for the right moment. Tree debris rained down on us stinging our limbs. An enormous crack of thunder and other imposing sounds stopped us in our tracks. We looked around fearing something very large was wanting to drop to the earth. We continued on to the start finish. I made a point to stay near some other runners. If I was going to get squished, I guess I wanted witnesses.
I had estimated my first loop would take 3:20, and arrived in 3:17. I call that pretty darn close. I went in the aid station tent to get my headlamp. The tent walls kicked up from the wind, and knocked me around a bit. I stayed upright, but was feeling fairly intimidated. Brandi Henry, an experienced 100 miler who was crewing another runner, advised me to hurry up and get back into the woods where it was safer.
I rushed out, Bill walked me to the trail head while I downed a sandwich quarter, some snacks and a Diet Coke. I spotted another runner ahead of me, and told Bill I wanted to stick with him. I just didn't want to be alone during the storm, and this guy seemed to be pretty strong.
We started loop 2, and soon encountered downed trees that were not there our first time around. The guy in front of me moved one out of the way, and I told him "Now this is why I like to run near big strong men." Without him, I would have had to climb through it, and would likely still be all tangled up in the branches like a spoof on Poltergeist.
A few miles into the second loop, the winds settled down. Night came, and so did some light rain. The temperatures dropped a bit, but not as much as forecast.
I tried to stay with people as much as I could. Running on single track, you often hear someone behind you, or in front of you, chat for miles, or run quietly, and have no idea what they look like.
I ran behind one guy for several miles. He started calling out alerts. "Rock"... "Branch"... "Flag"... When I got to the alerted item, I'd re-iterate "rock"... "branch"... "flag" like a humble echo. After a while he asked me if that was annoying me at all... "No! I LOVE IT!" I said, and explained that my training partner did that in the other 100s that we had done, during the night portion, and it was very very comforting.
After a while we ended up being separated. That often happens at aid stations.
When I thought it was about time, I started looking for that cable obstacle. Found it. The deployed troops had propped up the cable, and posted reflective signs on it. It was completely visible as we approached. That was a relief.
From about this point on, except for short convergence with an occasional runner, I pretty much ran alone. I focused on staying comfortable. I was not aware of my pace, I just knew I was staying comfortable. I was pushing just a tiny bit, but hopefully at a level that could be maintained for 100 miles.
My other concern was my ribs. I had fallen very hard, twice, about 10 days before Burning River, and had some very angry ribs. I fell again during Burning River. Each time, I land exactly the same way, concentrating the bruising, rather than spreading the wealth. So, I decided that any time I had unsure footing, I would need to power walk. I tried to remember where the sections of roots and tricky footing were. There were also places where the footing was decent, but it was hidden by overgrowth, and also decided I needed to walk those parts at night.
I estimated my second loop would take 4:10, and I did that one in 3:44. A bit ahead of schedule.
Third loop, mostly alone. I saw other runners here and there. No iPod. No pacer. Just me. Downtown Fiction's song "I Just Wanna Run" just kept going through my head. Over and over and over and over. Its a good thing I like that song.
I focused on staying comfortable, and kept my eyes glued to the trail just a few feet in front of me. This actually takes a fair amount of concentration and energy.
I estimated the third loop to take 5 hours, but I did this one in 3:54... and was too fast for Bill. He missed me by about 4 minutes. I was still feeling comfortable, and strong. I was only aware of my time when I arrived at the start/finish aid station.
I estimated loop 4 to be partially in daylight, and therefore another 4:10. Because I was about an hour and a half ahead of schedule, loop 4 was completely in the dark, but took 3:56.
I was still feeling strong. Bill walked me from the aid station to the trail head again, which is about an eight of a mile. And sent me off on loop 5, just as daylight was thinking about emerging.
And then we got more light rain. It wasn't the depressing soul sucking rain, but the sorta let the air out of your balloon rain.
Somewhere in that fifth loop, I caught up to a couple guys who were diverting off the trail. They alerted us to an old dead tree that was now swarmed with bees. You could hear them from several yards away. The tree was inches from the edge of the trail. I had remembered seeing the tree on each loop, but the bees were definitely a new addition this time around. Figuring that no bee would mistake me for a flower, I just continued on the trail, quietly, and went right past the bees, and luckily, they ignored me.
By the time I finished that fifth loop, the sun came out, and things warmed up. I had estimated that I'd be tiring out, and would do loop 5 in about 4 and a half hours, but it was my fasted loop, at 3:17. Missed Bill again. He arrived about 40 minutes after I came through. I love his support, I love seeing him, but I always plan to be self sufficient, using aid stations and drop bags, so missing him is a bummer, but not a problem.
Knowing that the last loop will be the hardest physically as well as mentally, I allowed myself 5 hours in the pace chart. Things can simply fall apart with very little notice. It is very easy to think you are almost done, and let your guard down, and let go of that drive that you need to keep going.
I still felt reasonably strong. OK... Final stretch... 16+ miles left. Well, let's just go aid station to aid station.
I started passing lots and lots of people. Some were 100 milers on their 5th loop, some were the morning's half and full marathon runners. I think I said "Passing Left" more often than I heard "I Just Wanna Run" in my head.
I focused on trying to recall the trail and anticipate landmarks. A fallen tree, a turn in the trail, any distinguishing features, I tried to know what was coming next. It kept my tired little brain occupied.
Then I came upon a new sign. It said "Honey Bees. Course re-route ahead." I guess troops have been deployed for the bee situation. Wow, these guys are responsive. A few minutes later, we arrived at the diversion. Another sign (and I wish I had a camera). Hand made sign, it had "Bees" with an arrow pointing up, and "Runners" with an arrow pointing right. Since I am not a bee, I determined I should go to the right.
I silently bid goodbye to each distinguishable landmark, feeling a mild sense of accomplishment, like crossing an item off a ToDo list. Aid stations were the major milestones. When I got to the Richie's Haven aid station for the last time, which is at the half way point, and the second drop bag location, I was able to cross that last task off my list, and move my bag from "Live Bags" to the "Dead Bags" area, which means the volunteers can bring your bag back to the start/finish area.
Now I just have a little over 8 miles left. Very very easy to fall into the slump now and succumb to exhaustion. I looked at my watch. I am also still very much ahead of schedule, and I can afford to slow down. I started to let go of that drive a bit. This can be very very dangerous. Let go too much, and you can end up crying in the fetal position on the side of the trail. Hold on and push too much, and you can end up crying in the fetal position on the side of the trail.
I decided to push just a bit. I still felt reasonably strong. Actually, I felt worse during the middle of the Marine Corps Marathon last fall. I got to the last aid station, and guess who was there... Bill! Oh it was so nice to see him. I was so jazzed. I told him I might be slowing down a bit... to which he teased "Good, then maybe I can get to the finish before you!"
OK... only 4 miles left. Heck, I call that a day off. But let's not get overconfident, a lot can happen in 4 miles, and much of it isn't good.
Now that it is my 6th time through, there are a few landmarks that I know are coming up. About a mile from the start/finish, is a quarter mile stretch of shoe sucking mud. It brings me to a crawl every time. But I know that once I cross a road, there is only a tiny bit of muck, and about 1 mile left.
OK, here's the yuck muck. Here's the road. One more landmark that I have learned... about a third of a mile from the finish, is a big pile of horse poop. I continue and continue and continue. Where oh where is that beautiful pile of horse poop. Horse poop... where are you?
Plug away, plug away, plug away. Ah Hah! Horse Poop! Yay Horse Poop! I have never been so happy to see horse poop in my life.
Just a couple more minutes, and I am done. OK... I hear the finish. OK... I see the finish area. Around the corner... there it is yay!
Tah Dah! I completed my 6th loop in 3:21. For a grand total of 21 hours and 30 minutes. Surprise number 2. Holy cow! I couldn't believe it. In the 100 miler, 24 hours is a benchmark. It is a very big deal to be under 24 hours, and I was under it by 2 and a half hours!
I finished, and the timing guy said that I had won my age group. Hey, that's cool. So I asked... how many women finished ahead of me. He responded "2 ahead of you". I re-iterated "Oh, 2 women ahead of me." He said "No, 2 men." Holy crap. Well, it turned out not to be true. 5 men finished ahead of me, but I didn't know that until the next day. But one thing was true. I was the first woman. Surprise number 3.
I won. My jaw dropped and I just cried. I couldn't believe it. I was on cloud 9. I stayed steady, stayed comfortable, held up well even on the last loop. I'd compose myself for a bit, and then tear up again, and repeat "I won" in a crackly choked up voice.
They told me they needed to just verify that I actually did all 6 loops, and to come back in a few minutes to get my trophy. We went over to the aid station, collected my drop bags. I got a small snack from the aid station, as nausea was trying to settle in. I knew I'd need to eat small bits of gentle food to avoid throwing up. I know that seems backwards if you are not a runner. But in the last 21+ hours, I have likely burned about 7,500 calories, and probably consumed under 2,000.
Now that the push is done, all that discomfort that was held off, now comes flooding in, engulfing my feet, legs, neck and shoulders. It was like Moses had parted the sea of discomfort, and my body was now a chariot in the Egyptian army being tossed and swept and crushed by the returning sea.
All of a sudden, walking was painful, awkward, and difficult. My 6 loops were confirmed. I got my trophy. It was now time to walk that third of a mile to the car. It might as well have been 20 miles. It seemed an impossible distance to traverse.
I shuffled delicately like a fawn learning to walk. We finally made it to the car. We had brought a folding chair, and a huge jug of water, rags and towels. I sat down and I cleaned up as best I could next to the car, removing the big chunks of mud from my legs.
Now comes the scary part... removing the shoes. This is both painful and a relief. I found that I had worn holes right through my socks, and brewed some blisters where sock material used to be. I found a few standard blisters on toes, and then a new one for me: The arches of 3 of my toes looked like someone used a carrot scraper on them. Strips of skin were just plain missing.
The post-race meal was all the way back at the start/finish area, and was lasagna. I didn't feel I could hobble all the way back there, and though I like lasagna, it just did not sound appealing at the moment. So, we packed up, and headed out.
Nausea still present, but mixing with a bit of hunger, we saw a sign for a comforting familiar Culvers. Yep, that will work. I need something pretty predictable.
We stopped for lunch and ice cream. My legs were absolutely protesting any sort of movement. Actually, they were protesting being stationary too. I decided to go for a short walk on the sidewalk along the road. It took me 3 tries to get up on the curb. If any one was watching, I am sure they were not saying "Oh, I bet she just ran a lot of miles." Uh, no. More like "Its a bit early to be that drunk, isn't it?"
We headed back to Wisconsin, a few more leg stretching stops on the way. I got home and did the whole ice bath thing. And then had a shower. Best shower ever. And then a real treat - sleeping in a bed. Wow, I haven't done this since Thursday.
Morning came, and my legs were a bit stiff, but I walked around the block to loosen them up. And surprisingly, only mild soreness. I guess that makes surprise number 4.
Mayor's Marathon and Half Marathon: 2014 Recap - Alaska Is Beautiful
Everywhere you look, it looks like a post card. You can be the worst photographer in the world, and take great photos.
Big group of us in Alaska. Some of us traveling together, some of us with slightly different itineraries. It was me, husband/webmaster Bill, our son Danny, marathon travel friends Abby and JoeWee, Bill's sister, her husband and their 2 kids, and friends of Abby and JoeWee's (and acquaintances of ours), Chris and Holly LaVessar.
The marathon start was cold, windy and rainy, and on a bike path along a busy highway. Not the most pleasant part of our trip, but everything else was so wonderful, that I didn't mind.
JoeWee, Abby, and I ran the full marathon. Chris and Holly both ran the 4 mile. Bill's sister's family cheered for us at mile 18. Chris and Holly caught a glimpse of us a couple times in the 20s.
While in Alaska, we enjoyed hiking, a boat cruise, driving excursions, a trip to Denali. We absolutely loved it.
And the longest day... well that is just so darn cool. It gets dark enough to need headlights, but light enough to be outside walking around on a sidewalk without a flashlight. At 10 pm at night, it is still as light as it is here in Wisconsin at about 7 pm.
Marathon number #10 for 2014.
Lifetime marathon 86
Marathon sub 4 state number 44.
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