You could say I am touched. Thats why I lined up with more than 300 other twisted souls and ran the Burning River 100 mile Endurance run.
5am Saturday, I took off with Suzanne Deming, and Tim Harber to test our endurance, and insanity.
It would be a day where temps reached 90 degrees, and Clouds were scarce. Times we could not hide from the sun, but many times we were in part of the Metro Parks and the amazing Cuyahoga Valley National Park. If we met all the cutoff times, we would be in Cuyahoga Falls Sunday AM and receiving a highly prized belt buckle. In 2010, I was told only 4,000 people finished a 100 miler. Thats a teeny, tiny part of of America.
I come to trail running from triathlons. I have done 3 Ironman distance races and over 100 triathlons. I have lots of experience racing in hot weather, and extending to the limits, the abilities the Good Man upstairs gave my body. But, 100 miles appeared daunting. This is not road running, where each step is not a mystery. Much of this is over roots, and rocks, and ledges, and down valleys to cross creeks and back up the other side. But the varied terrain is like cross training. Each step, different from the one before. Ankles tested, twisted. On severe downhills, your toes jam up into the front of your shoes. You can lose toe nails. Popping Advil pills is part of the routine.
Roughly every 5 miles is an aid station, where you can get water, replacement fluids...food. Pretzels, Cookies. Pizza, M & M's..Watermelon. You take in roughly 300 calories an hour. Thats 9,000 calories.
Tim Harber had some injury issues that he dealt with all day long. He gamely tried to run in pain and left the race about 55 miles in. Suzanne dropped out not long after. Meanwhile, I kept on pushing. I started to feel stronger, at mile 60. I was getting excited to join my son Patrick at mile 80, so he could pace me the rest of the way. Mike Mayher paced me for awhile and was saying, there was no doubt I would finish. I had ankle tendon flare ups. My knees were getting a little sore, but nothing so troublesome that I would even think about "dropping" out of the race. Late night around 11pm, I could hear fireworks booming from nearby Blossom Music Center. I felt good enough to try to join the music fans, but I had an appointment with downtown Cuyahoga Falls for Sunday am.
When you run this long, you have to adhere to the cutoffs set forth by the organizers. At each aid station (There are 20) you have to come in before the cutoff time. My cushion was 20 minutes as I came to Pine Hollow. I had to run a 3.3 mile Loop, filled with hills, and stairs in about an hour, said the official. But, when I came in to the next aid station, the official said I was done. I was shocked. No way I had lost the whole 20 minute cushion over 3 miles. No way. I was stunned. I tried to argue my point. No avail. I had to give him my number. I then had to call my wife who was waiting at the Covered Bridge aid station. I would not be able to run with my son to the finish. I considered, just taking off and running "unofficially" but that would not have been cool. I was so confident I would finish under the time. I never give up on anything. It was a shocker for me.
The disappointment has given way to resignation, and now to determination. This wonderful day of racing with friends pushing me on was inspiring and very much something I want to be a part of again. So, the good Lord willing, next year I will race the Burning River again.