Sunday, August 03, 2008

Burning River 100

August 2nd & 3rd was the second annual Burning River 100 Mile race. This race starts in Willoughby Hills and ends in downtown Cuyahoga Falls. Last year, I was out of town for a wedding and didn’t get to be around. This year I was in town, but it was going to be a crazy weekend. It was the last weekend of a huge project at work which was coming to an end, I had my 15 year high school reunion, and I had tons of friends both running and volunteering for the race.

So, Friday night rolls around and things are going better than expected with the project when I get a call from the Burning River Pre-Race dinner. It was my friend Brandon. At the last minute his pacer had to back out on him and he was looking for a pacer for the last 20 miles or so. I told him my situation for the weekend, but I agreed he needed a pacer and I should be able to be there if all goes well.

Well, things went all through the night right on schedule with the project plan. The final “Go/No Go” was noon…perfect. We kicked off the backups and I headed to the course to see how everyone was getting along. Prefect timing, I got to see everyone come through Ottawa Point aid station which was about 46 miles into the race.

I got to see a lot of folks including Jeff, Bob, Kellie, and Brandon. One runner who stood out was Jerry. Jerry worked the aid station with me at Muddy Paws. This was his first 100. Now some folks looked ok, and some folks didn’t look ok at 46. But Jerry was actually bouncing as he came into the aid station. He looked great and showed no sign of fatigue! We talked for a bit and off he went. He ended up finishing with a great time.

I then jumped down to Boston Store and caught everyone again. The day was starting to get hot, but everyone was still doing pretty well. I helped out there for a while and hung out with my sister waiting for Jeff to come through. I hung out for as long as I could, and then headed home to throw on a suit and head to the reunion. It was great seeing everyone I graduated with. Seems like most everyone was married or divorced by now and averaged 2-3 kids. Crazy. The reception was at Crave in Akron, which I didn’t know until then, is co-owned by one of my classmates, Deanna. I had been to Crave several times and always had a nice meal there. So, I ate some finger food and had a few beers catching up with folks and headed home early while a bunch of classmates were going on to the Barley House.

I shot home, changed into trail gear. Grabbed a few PB & J’s and headed to Covered Bridge aid Station which is about mile 80 on the course. Hung out and helped while waiting for Brandon to come through. A few hours passed and in came Brandon who didn’t want to stop. Grabbed some food and filled up his bottles and off we went.

The first section is a pretty rough section. Runners seem to think it is the hardest part of the course. 4.2 miles of very technical and hilly trails and 5 water crossings. We made it through and hit the Covered Bridge for the second time and headed on. Brandon really was running strong and he began to pass quite a few runners.

The sun began to rise when we were in O’Neil Woods and it was really nice stretch of the trail. Brandon was still doing very well and still passing folks. We popped out of the woods onto the road and saw Jeff who was still chugging away but looking a bit less than thrilled at that particular moment. This blew me away because I have never been him even remotely fazed during a race.

We all stayed pretty close together and made our way to the Towpath. We weaved our way through the bottom of the valley until we came to the Meriman aid station (about mile 90.) Funny thing about that aid station is that it is right next to a car wash. I informed Brandon I was going to run him through there and wash some of the smell off him. 90 miles is a long way and everyone smelled pretty ripe by then.

During the next section of the towpath something funny happened. We came up on this lady and what I thought was a large dog. Ended up being a small deer! He was looking at us as we ran past and his ears were going nuts. He actually looked a bit crazy. Had that look in his eye! I began to jump as I ran and the deer started doing the same thing and ran with us for a few feet down the path.

We kept on running and caught a few more runners. There was a guy with a Bull Run shirt on. I talked to him for a bit. He had ran BR100 last year training for Wasatch 100. He actually DNF’d at Bull Run this year because of the heat. I told him I was there and it was a pretty hot day that early in the year.

Eventually we came to the Memorial Parkway aid station which is mile 95. It’s the last aid station on the course until the end. When we got there, Sean, my trainer, and some runners I know were there, Suzanne and Maria. They were so nice and it was good to see them, but it was time to get Brandon home.

We worked our way through the gorge and then up towards Front Street where Vince was waiting for us. We ran in with Vince to the finish…Brandon’s time: 27:55. he made it in under 28 hours. I dropped my gear and ran back to get Jeff and his pacer. I waited for them where Vince met Brandon and I at. I heard laughing and talking…sure enough out they popped. Jeff looked pretty happy to be less than a mile to the end. We all ran it in. Jeff’s feet were pretty destroyed, but he and his pacer ran very well. We hung out at the finish watching folks finish. Ate some food, then headed home before the awards.

This was the second 100 I have paced this year and it is such an amazing thing to be out there during the race. People are starting to ask when I am doing one. Starting to think about it. We’ll see….