I rode down to the Burning River 100 race with a group of friends: Matt Antoniou, Paula Antoniou, and Mark McCaslin. We stayed at the Sheraton in Cuyahoga Falls, OH. The front door of the hotel is about 200 yards from the finish line which makes it an excellent place to stay if you are running this race. After checking in to the hotel we headed over to the pre-race dinner and race check-in. There were a lot of familiar faces at the race and we met some new people too. Race bling was a really awesome black hoodie! The Pre-race dinner was pasta and salad. I don't think the meatballs sat well with me.
The morning of the race I woke at 0212. I ate a banana, fig newtons, 2 cake donuts, and 24 oz of coffee. We walked to the finish line where the bus picked us up at 0315 and took us to the start line. I milled around, talked to more friends and waited for the race to start.
I started the race carrying 2 handhelds and wearing my nathan "pocket vest". It's a vest with no hydration bladder. I went out a little too fast trying to keep up with Matt and Mark but decided pretty quickly I didn't feel good about their pace so I let them go and backed off.
Through the first 3 aid stations things were quiet and uneventful. I ran with and talked with several runners. There was a lot of gravel and paved road in the first part of the race.
I entered the shadowlake aid station at 18.6 miles. I had a drop bag there but didn't need anything from it. I decided to drop my vest, one of my water bottles and my shirt there. It wasn't all that warm yet but it was very humid and I felt like I was sweating a lot.
Between Shadow Lake and Station Road Bridge it really started warming up and my appetite started to fade. Station Road Bridge was my first taste of what a Burning River aid station could be like. All the previous ones were great but I hadn't really utilized them. Someone came out to meet me and get my water bottle and fill it with heed. Another person asked if I wanted my drop bag. I said yes and he went and got it and brought it too me. I wanted to change socks because my feet were drenched from sweating. By the time I had my socks out of my bag another volunteer had brought me a chair to sit in, while another asked me what I'd like to eat brought it to me.
My shoes had started to blow out on the sides and I had ignored it. Unfortunately this led to a shift in pressure from the widest point of my foot to my pinkie toes which would become an issue later. Another issue I had with the shoes was that the inflexibility of the rock plate was bugging me on the road sections of the course, and there are a lot of road sections on this course!
By the time I got to mile Boston Store aid station(49.1 miles) the heat(92F) and humidity had started to kill my appetite and I was behind on fueling. I should have been at 20 gus and I'd only gotten down 12 at this point. My feet were also killing me. I took my shoes off and my friends helped me do some repair work and I used some duct tape to wrap the blown out section of my shoes.
The section from 49.1 to 53.5 miles was exposed and hot. My pacer Keith joined me at Boston Store after this section. It was great to have company and along the way we talked about my feet. Keith suggested I cut off the section of the shoe that was putting pressure on my foot. So at the pinelane aid station that's exactly what we did. then I used more duct tape to cover the holes and keep rocks out. It was a huge mental boost to have the pressure relief for my feet.
I ate some ginger candy and tums which became a ritual at aid stations from there on out. Every time I refueled after this my stomach would fight with me. For the most part discomfort was minor: heat, blisters, fighting to not throwup much needed fuel.
Keith and I alternated chatting and periods of quiet. I felt really low on the inside but Keith seemed to think I was doing well. At Covered Bridge aid station I stopped and did more duct tape repair work on my shoes and then we ran a loop which returned us to covered bridge. This was my lowest point during the race. I hallucinated briefly about the woods being filled with RVs and crowds of people watching us. The crowd was what I imagine you might see at a nascar race. Potbellied beer drinking men sitting in front of their RVs in folding chairs watching us run through the woods. I remember thinking it was bizarre that they would want to watch people run through the woods at 2 in the morning but in that moment it felt very real. When we got back to Covered Bridge aid station I had some soup and felt much better. Ramen noodles are awesome in the late stages of an ultra. After this I started feeling much better and did quite a bit of running but I was very quiet. After saying nothing for quite awhile I informed Keith,"My legs are tired". This drew a chuckle from Keith and then we both broke into laughter over my statement of the obvious. The last portion of the race went quickly as I was feeling much better. I still couldn't eat much and that slowed me down but I was able to keep hydrating and taking electrolytes fortunately. I crossed the finish line in 23:40ish and all my friends were there waiting for me.
This was a wonderful race for me aside from the fueling struggle. The Burning River race organization, aid stations, and volunteers are the best I've experienced anywhere! If you're looking for a first 100 miler I highly recommend this one. The aid stations are extremely well stocked and the course is very scenic.