Hearing that the Eastern States 100 miler on August 11th was cancelled left me feeling lost, confused, empty, and agitated. To me, the ES 100 miler was the cream of the crop, the toughest of the tough in our region. It was a race that many of us were looking forward to for at least a year. The big mountain climbs, the creek crossings, the woods! The unfortunate action of one person quiting on the race director and not being able to fill his important roll, was the reason for the cancellation.
A month ago I had come back from a run at the beach…frustrated and pissed. It was hot, it was flat, and it wasn’t the type of training run that I had been planning on. I was in a rut. When you are training for a 100 mile mountain race and it gets taken away from you a month and a half before the start, you toss everything else out the window. Everything. At least that was my thinking. But why did I feel this way? I simply wanted to shut everyone and everything off in regards to running.
Then I happened to see on Ultrasignup.com that the Beast of Burden 100 miler had a few spots still open. I was somewhat familiar with it to the point that it was on my radar last year, but I never signed up for it. It’s located in Lockport, NY and is run on 12.5 miles of th Erie Canal towpath, with an aid station in the middle around mile 7. It’s an out-and-back(25miles) route run 4 times. So I signed up…..and didn’t tell anyone, except my wife.
A complete 360 degree turn from the Eastern States course, BoB 100 is flat and open. It isn’t a single track trail course. It is on a gravel towpath, with a few miles on a paved path. It was perfect. I was already in a mental “running rut”. Why not consume myself in a 100 miler that I would normally not be a part of? For 3 weeks leading up to BoB100, I mentally prepared for the worst possible conditions. Hot. Flat. Boring. Monotonous. I also got in a few of those types of runs…long, flat, and boring. I eventually told my family about the race and also asked a close running friend for some positive words.
Race day came and I felt I was ready to at least finish the race. A man asked us for sunscreen lotion and noticed my bib #125. He said that was his lucky number for the Moab 240 mile race he did the year before. Yes, 240 miles. They are given 5? days to complete it and he was able to finish. I would see him throughout this race and would call him “Moab” each time I saw him. In return, he’d ask how my lucky # was treating me. Towards the end of this race in passing, he said he was going to quit at mile 93under our scrutiny. But when I looked at the results, he had finished and fought through!
A few people had given me info in the past about how to run long, flat races. It came down to a run/walk method so you don’t tire yourself out too fast. I decided a day or two before the race to use the 5 minute run, 5 minute walk method. This method would last maybe the first full 25 mile loop. The day was getting warm….the high temperature was to reach 87 degrees with a “real feel” of 92….
This race started at 10am….a lot later than a normal race. They definitely tried to make this race as much as a burden as possible. During that first loop, I met a woman by the name of Louise. She was pleasant. We talked about how tough this race could be and how to go about running it smartly. She then told me this was her 8th BoB100! At one point I left her, but would see her multiple times in passing, giving her encouragement. It wasn’t until yesterday that I saw results and she was able to finish for the 8th time. But not only that. This was her 6th 100 miler this year…..and 94th 100 miler completed!! She started running them at age 40 and she is now 65. Here she is with me…..
Around the end of the first 25 mile out and back, I started to use the 4 minute run, 6 minute walk method. Previous experiences with heat told me to slow down, even though I was already going slow. The miles continued on. Multiple bridges(maybe 7 or 8) would cross the canal path through the 12.5 span. Of course the difficult part would be that you could see these landmarks, but would seem like an eternity before you actually got to them.
My experienced crew chief, my wife Caryn, was always there when I needed her. I sweat so much during these summer races. In the middle of the second loop, I plopped down on a chair and she had everything I planned on having ready for me. All I really wanted for the most part was liquids. I’d reach to coke, then to gatorade, then pickle juice, then coconut water, then chocolate milk. It was almost humerous……until I threw it all up a half mile after I left her.
I was pleased with how the first 50 miles had gone. At some point Caryn informed me that the husband of the friend I told about this race was on his way up to pace me the last loop of 25 miles. I look up to both Jenn and Ryan. They are very experienced trail runners, with lots of knowledge. They are also very nice and caring. I was happy that Ryan(he’s run multiple 100 milers and now bikes across the country for fun) was on his way up, but I wasn’t that surprised. It was in their nature….
The day/night went on. A beautiful half crescent orange moon came up through the horizon around 10pm. I then basically got into a trance. Before I knew it, the 3rd loop was about ready to be completed at 5:00am?! I was crossing the bridge at mile 74 and approaching the last turn around.
I greeted Ryan with a handshake and a smile, sat for about 10 minutes at aid station mile 75, and then we went on our way for the last 25 miles. Ryan had driven more than 5 hours to meet me at the Buffalo suburb of Lockport just to make sure I would finish. That’s pretty fucking cool. What a guy! At this point, it was more of a run 1 minute, walk 3 minute venture. But it was all good. The conversation with him made the time fly by. Here we are at the mile 81 Caryn aid station….
While running with Ryan, I was pointing out land markers that were basically mile markers..i.e. “here’s the group of weeping willow trees, which is 3 miles from the aid station” and “there’s the shed beyond the bridge right before the turn around”. Oh yeah!! It got to that point! Ridiculously monotonous. Caryn, Ryan, and I sat at the last aid station, mile 87.5, eating popsicles. The aid station was inside a building in the town of Middleport.
I wasn’t able to run much the last 12.5 miles. The sun was zapping me for the second day and I was sick of drinking and eating the same foods. I ended up walking most of those 12.5 miles and became some of the longest miles I’ve experienced during an event. However, I thought back to Eastern States. The race that I “couldn’t finish because of the heat and hills”. And then I felt relieved. Even though my feet were about ready to catch flames and my right hamstring was also on fire, I was alright. It wasn’t like any other race I’ve completed. I use adrenaline to get me to the finish. Not here. I was completely spent at this race. I ran the last 300 feet….here I am crossing the line…..
Though smiling at Caryn in this picture, I remember feeling and seeing completely dazed and confused…..
My best crew and aid station I’ve ever had……
The fight and the reward….
Three things are certain after this race: 1) You can never get by in life without friends and loved ones. 2) My mental and physical limits have been pushed a little more. 3) My rut is no longer.