This is the second year that I organized an 8 person team for the Burning River 100. After last year, I told anyone who listened that I would never do that again- way too much work and sleep deprivation. Until registration opened in October. Somehow my resolve disappeared and I once again signed up and even recruited one of my BRF’s Amy into co captaining a second 8 person team.
The days leading up to the race were a flurry of team text messages, coordinating rides and making last minute adjustments to the pace schedule. Our teams consisted of half experienced trail runners with the other half having less trail experience and more time on the roads. I knew that if we succeeded, our teams would end up with some individual members achieving distance PR’s and several members conquering their first nighttime trail miles. I was extremely nervous about being able to achieve our ultimate goal of two teams covering 100 (actually 102.2) miles in 28 hours or less.
Race day started with a 3:00am wake up for me and on the road with Leighanna to the start by 4:00am. We made it to beautiful squires castle in willoughby by 4:30am and my crewing duties officially started at 5 as I sent Leighanna off on her 50 mile journey.
As Leighanna ran off into the dark streets, the first runners arrived for leg 1. Amy and I helped put on back bibs and took a few pics and off they went. At this point I hopped in my car with the goal of beating Leighanna to the first Aid Station (mile 11.5 polo fields), crewing her and then being there to facilitate the handoff to leg 2. It worked out just as planned and leg 2 began right on schedule.
I headed up to Shadow Lake at mile 21.xx before moving on the Egbert at 26.5 for more crewing and the next exchange to leg 3 which is where we began to deviate a bit time wise but were still plugging along.
I headed over to the next crew access at The Meadows mile 38.xx. Leighanna came running in shortly after and was in and out in about 10 minutes. At this point, Amy and I decided to grab some lunch. The idea of finding an indoor bathroom was awfully appealing at this point. We drove over to a local grocery and quickly grabbed some food before heading over to mile 50 aid station/finish line at the Boston Store. I missed the exchange from 3 to 4 but at about 8 hours in, I needed a break.
Shortly before Leighanna was scheduled to finish, Amy and I headed up into the woods of the Buckeye Trail to pace Leighanna to the finish. We found her at about 47.5 miles in and ended up with about 5 miles of running. Side note: Leighanna finished 3rd overall female!!!
From there, it was onward to the double Aid Station at Pine Hollow to put in a few volunteer hours with my running group. I helped direct traffic for runners entering the aid station and spent time catching up with friends. I left around 10 and met up with Amy for a quick Wnking Lizard pit stop and headed home. I hadn’t planned on going home but it became clear that my leg was going to start a bit later then planned and I was getting a bit cranky. Ok a lot cranky!! My intention was to sleep for a few hours before my leg but I was stop too keyed up from the excitement of the day.
I set my alarm for 2:30am and was back up and on the road by 3. I made it to Botzum Aid Station at mile 91 and waited for about 40 minutes for our leg 7 runners to arrive. Amy and I sat in my car having the kind of conversation one has after being awake for a day.
Around 4:20am, Amy and I took off (along with our friend Heather who added some additional miles) to the towpath. The first 5.6 miles were all easy, flat crushed limestone towpath and roads. I had run this section of the towpath when training for my first marathon and had some fond memories of logging my first long runs. We kept an easy, conversational pace and the miles ticked off easily. We passed multiple 100 mile runners who at that point had been running for 24+ hours. With each runner passed, we offered a word of encouragement and quietly moved forward, remarking to each other the magnitude of what these runners were doing. We moved into the Memorial Parkway Aid Station quickly, grabbing watermelon and heading to a hilly residential area. We headed into Cascade Valley metroparks and started a steep climb up into a section of rocky trail. At this point, it was still very dark but the sun was rising quickly and I needed my headlamp less and less. We soon encountered the last set of stairs on the course, joined the highbridge trail and were on Front street for the last mile. Those 10 miles flew by! We joined up with a few members of our team and crossed the finish line together.
To say I was exhausted does not do it justice. I was destroyed and it quickly became clear to me that I am not 22 anymore and pulling all nighters is a thing of the past. I pulled it together to grab one last cup of coffee at my usual Sunday run group coffee shop but headed home and into bed shortly thereafter.
Burning River by the numbers:
29: number of consecutive hours I was awake.
24ish: hours it took to get 2 eight person teams to the finish line.
7: times I sprayed myself with bug spray.
4: cups of coffee I consumed in a 29 hour period. Not including the 1 redbull and 2 ice teas.
3: pairs of shoes and shirts I went through throughout the day.
2: number of times the phrase “I feel like dick in a bucket” was uttered.
2: number of times I got caught peeing in the woods by a guy.
1: complete meltdown at hour 18
0: times I will captain an 8 person team in the future.