Tuesday, August 2, 2011

2011 Burning River 100 Mile Race Report

Lush Green of Ohio summers.  Photo by Eric Lammers

The day started early at 3:15 a.m. when I was eating my breakfast of blueberry bagels with Nutella - I had practically jumped into my running shorts after getting out of bed and was looking forward to the next 20 hours, or hopefully less.
I knew 2011 was going to be the year for my first 100 mile race and Burning River was on my radar for apparent reason - it is in Ohio, the course resembles a lot of the type of running I do in Southern Ohio, and it is the USATF National Championship.  Although I knew I was running it for quite some time, probably 3 months before the race, I held off on registering until the Tuesday before the race.  Signing up late meant spending a little more money on the registration but I didn't want to run my first 100 without being prepared as well as I needed to be - so I waited until I felt comfortable with it.

Before I get on to the race, I want to post the six weeks of training leading up to the race - I was lacking updates on this blog for the past few months.  For my complete and day-to-day updated training log, you can always visit Running2win.

6/20 Mon - AM:  9 mi (1:12:38) Linden Hill Repeats with Wysocki.  PM:  5 mi (36:13)
6/21 Tues - PM:  13 mi (1:32:10) Barefoot at Kitteridge Fields in Boulder
6/22 Wed - AM:  10 mi (1:15:45) Garden of the Gods.  PM:  3 mi (27:20)  Hoosier Pass at 12,000 ft.
6/23 Thur - AM:  10 mi (2:45:00) Hoosier Pass, sucking air and walking at 13,000 ft.
6/24 Fri - AM:  9 mi (1:12:16) Winter Park, CO.  PM:  9 mi (1:06:38) Evergeen, CO
6/25 Sat - AM:  10 mi (1:22:07) Evergreen, CO.  PM:  7 mi (54:49) Golden, CO
6/26 Sun - AM:  12 mi (1:40:32) Golden, CO.  PM:  5 mi (36:53) Golden, CO
Total:  102 mi (14:42:21)

6/27 Mon - AM:  19 mi (2:35:01) Golden, CO
6/28 Tues - AM:  18 mi (2:25:00) Lake Fremont, WY.  PM:  7 mi (57:05) Lake Fremont, WY
6/29 Wed - AM:  8 mi (1:04:21) Lake Fremont, WY.  PM:  10 mi (1:22:00)  Halfmoon Lake
6/30 Thur - AM:  8 mi (1:05:30) Halfmoon Lake, WY.  PM:  12 mi (1:34:38) Granite Creek
7/1 Fri - AM:  11 mi (1:28:03) Granite Creek, WY.  PM:  12 mi (1:25:11) Grand Tetons NP
7/2 Sat - AM:  14 mi (2:00:24) Grand Tetons NP.  PM:  7 mi (50:11) Alta, WY
7/3 Sun - AM:  17 mi (2:18:30) Grand Tetons NP.  PM:  3 mi (22:58) Alta, WY
Total:  146 mi (19:28:52)

Totals for August:  390 mi (51:03:03)

7/4 Mon - AM:  10 mi (1:12:39) Alta, WY
7/5 Tues - AM:  10 mi (1:13:11) St. Louis, MO
7/6 Wed - AM:  11 mi (1:18:43) Cincinnati, OH  PM:  9 mi (1:10:10)  Great Seal
7/7 Thur - PM:  25 mi (3:16:48)
7/8 Fri - AM:  10 mi (1:16:00)  PM:  15 mi (1:48:52)
7/9 Sat - AM:  10 mi (1:12:49)  PM:  20 mi (2:40:04)  Strouds Run
7/10 Sun - AM:  10 mi (1:18:48)  PM:  10 mi (1:15:25)
Total:  140 mi (17:43:29)

7/11 Mon - AM:  5 mi (37:53)  PM:  15 mi (1:56:26)
7/12 Tues - AM:  10 mi (1:20:00) 
7/13 Wed - AM:  10 mi (1:13:30)  PM:  15 mi (1:51:12)
7/14 Thur - AM:  8 mi (1:00:30)  PM:  17 mi (2:07:16) 
7/15 Fri - AM:  13 mi (1:35:54)  PM:  10 mi (1:12:10)  Scioto Trails with John IV 
7/16 Sat - AM:  34 mi (4:37:30)  Great Seal, solo run  PM:  4 mi (31:00)  Brown Cabin
7/17 Sun - AM:  16 mi (1:50:27)  Shawnee State Forest with Bears  PM:  5 mi (37:59)
Total:  162 mi (20:31:47)

7/18 Mon - AM:  10 mi (1:16:28)  PM:  7 mi (49:58)
7/19 Tues - AM:  7 mi (51:53)  PM:  10 mi (1:20:00)  Strouds Run with Big Jim and Breydon
7/20 Wed - AM:  10 mi (1:12:42)  PM:  13 mi (1:39:27)
7/21 Thur - AM:  7 mi (52:42) 
7/22 Fri - PM:  17 mi (2:13:00)
7/23 Sat - PM:  20 mi (2:29:48)
7/24 Sun - AM:  10 mi (1:16:29)  PM:  9 mi (1:07:05)
Total:  120 mi (15:09:32)

7/25 Mon - AM:  8 mi (1:00:01)  PM:  12 mi (1:31:08)
7/26 Tues - AM:  10 mi (1:15:10) 
7/27 Wed - AM:  8 mi (57:50)
7/28 Thur - PM:  5 mi (37:30) 
7/29 Fri - PM:  3 mi (22:30)  Station Rd Bridge
7/30 Sat - 100 mi (16:26:00)  2011 Burning River 100
7/31 Sun - AM:  NO RUN
Total:  146 mi (22:10:09)

Totals for July:  632 mi (84:00:14) 

At 5 a.m. a crowd of about 280 runners gathered in the field at Squires Castle to begin a long day of running through a network of trails and roads in Northeast Ohio for the 5th Annual Burning River 100 - this was also the 2011 USATF 100 Mile Trail Championship.  I was anxiously awaiting my 100 debut to start.

We started through the field and quickly jumped onto River Rd. for nearly 10 miles of hard asphalt running - this predictably made for the fastest section of the entire day, but surprisingly quicker than most of us imagined.  David James, who I had not known before the race, quickly was out of my sight and I settled into a group of a few other runners, Eric Grossman, Jordan Whitlock, and Jay Aldous.  We arrived at the Polo Fields aid station (9.6 mi) in a quick time of 1:09:00, 7:11 pace.  Dave was already a couple minutes ahead of us.

From there, we entered trails and with muddy horse worn sections and small creek crossings the pace began to slow into an actual 100 mile pace - though the pace continued to slow all day long.  By the Shadow Lake aid station (18.6 mi), Dave came back to us and there was a solid pack of four guys running in the front that continued until Station Rd. Bridge aid station one-third of the way through the race (33.3 mi.).
Nearing Station Rd. Bridge at 33.3 miles.  From left to right: David James, Jordan Whitlock, me, and Eric Grossman.  Photo by Josh Stacher

At this point in the race I was still feeling fresh; I had not yet went over my longest training run distance and was at 4:18:00 - 7:45 pace.  I was very surprised at the faster pace, but I knew the hillier sections were in the last half of the course.

I made a quick stop to fill up my bottles and before I could get going, Dave James was already out.  I would be chasing him the rest of the day.  Eric stopped to change his shoes so I was now running second overall and by myself for the first time - Eric caught back up quickly though and things remained about the same for a good portion of the race, except that Dave was increasing his lead every aid station.  At 43.8 miles he was 9 minutes ahead of us and then 14 minutes ahead at the first Boston Store aid station (49.1 mi). 
Eric and I coming into the Halloween spirited Ottawa Point (39.6 mi).

It was nice running with Eric for basically the first 53 miles of the race.  We kept a conversation the majority of the time and I learned a lot about ultra running from him, as he has been through this a bit more than I have.  I think we were both a bit surprised to keep hearing Dave was increasing his lead by so much in a short period of time - I felt that we were running pretty hard.  Compared to running short races, hearing that someone is 14 minutes ahead sounds like a lot of time to make up.
Coming into Boston Store 1, 49.1 miles, with Eric Grossman.  Photo by Eric Lammers

After leaving Boston Store 2, I passed Eric up a hill and kept increasing my lead.  I found out later that he dropped out at around 70 miles.  On the out and back section from Pine Lane (58.3), I saw Dave and he was looking pretty good, but had only increased his lead by one more minute.  Seeing him gave me a little more motivation and I kept telling myself that I could still reel him in a little at a time.

The section between Pine Lane and Happy Days (63.8) was a long stretch of road and then gravel/paved bike path and even though I dreaded these sections, I knew that I could use these as a positive to get my legs rolling and maybe pick up some ground.  At Happy Days I was happy to hear that I had actually picked up a little time on the leader, albeit one minute.  I also learned that I was 16 minutes ahead of 3rd place, Jay Aldous.
Coming into Pine Hollow at mile 70.  Photo by Josh Stacher

At Pine Hollow 2 (73.9 mi) I was still making progress, now 13 minutes behind.  I was working really hard for that one minute!  Mentally, I was still in the game and I was confident that if I kept doing what I was doing I could keep closing the gap.  Physically I was feeling alright as well.  My stomach was not an issue, and although my legs were more sore than they had ever been, it was manageable.
David James not letting up.  Photo by Josh Stacher

The next section to Covered Bridge 1 (80.5 mi) was a long 6.6 mile stretch of mostly trails and I made a concentrated effort to push harder than I had been in hopes that he would have a hard time on the longer than normal section without aid.  When I came into the Covered Bridge I learned that I made up three more minutes and was now within 10 minutes of Dave!  I was also 17 minutes ahead of Jay, who continued to stay consistent in third place.

The wheels began to fall off in the next section... looking back, pushing hard from Pine Hollow to Covered Bridge probably took a lot out of me.  The 4.7 mile section from Covered Bridge 1 to Covered  Bridge 2 took over an hour and I lost 15 minutes to Dave.  So after getting the lead down to 10 minutes, he had 25 minutes on me, just like that.  My legs were shot and I was walking the uphills and downhills and barely jogging the flats.  Mentally, I never considered dropping out - but I was worried that I was going to have to walk the last 20 miles of the race.
Boston Store 2.  Photo by Eric Lammers

I sat at the Covered Bridge 2 aid station for 9 minutes trying to refocus.  The gracious volunteers and my crew (mom, dad, and grandpa) surely did a great job of getting me what I needed and back on my feet.  As I was sitting there, I moved into 3rd place for the first time in 30 miles as Jay got in and out quickly.

After getting going again I still had trouble running and walked the majority of the road section after Covered Bridge.  I knew Mark Godale was coming on me and he finally caught me as we entered the trail going up to O'Neil Woods aid station (88.5 mi).  Mark gave me a few words of motivation and I got into a rhythm and ran right behind him.  Going back down the trail after O'Neil Woods, Mark stopped and I kept going and entered the towpath trail and ran to Merriman Rd. aid station (93 mi).
Memorial Parkway aid station (96 miles).  Putting the headlamp on for the last little trail section.

After basically walking miles 80-87, I was running again and the 7 more miles to the finish was enough to keep me going.  My last 13 miles were 9:05 pace, the fastest I had ran since 43 miles.  I made my way into Cuyahoga Falls and finished in 3rd place with a final time of 16:26:00.

Complete Results are HERE.

My first 100 mile race was all that I hoped it was going to be, and then some.  I learned so much from doing this and have a lot of things I can take away that I liked and things that I will do differently.  I was in the race to win it and even though I did not win, I went for it - maybe I went for it a little to hard, too early but I made a decision at 73 miles to go hard because at the time I was feeling good.  I didn't want to waste moments that late in the race when I was feeling good.  The beginning of the race started out fast.  I didn't think there would be much running under 8 minute pace, let alone the first 35 miles.  I did a 34 mile training run much slower than that.

Fueling is what I felt I did best in this race; my stomach never gave me an issue.  Don't ask me to eat another gel anytime soon though.  One thing that I made certain of, thanks to Eric Grossman for an early reminder, was taking salt.  S!Caps were what I used and they worked great.  I used many different types of gels throughout the race, GU, PowerGel, and Hammer Gel.  I ate a few packets of GU Chomps and Clif Bloks throughout the day as well.  I did not have a plan, or calorie count per hour, or any real routine with what I was putting in me - I went off of feel and simply kept taking something every so often.  I carried two bottles with me the entire race and could have probably carried only one in some sections.  I had Gatorade in one and water in the other for the first third of the race and switched to just water the rest of the way.  This seemed to work good for me.  I ate a little salty snacks at some aid stations and remember vividly the refreshing watermelon at the Pine Hollow.
Standing with the winner, Dave James.

My crew of my family did a great job even if they don't have as much experience as some of the other runners crew.  We all learned a lot from seeing what the other runners did in terms of preparation at aid stations.  Mentally I stayed strong the majority of the race.  The slow 7 mile section I had after Covered Bridge was my only lapse in staying focused.  I probably could have ran through it, but it was the first time my legs was experience real resistance.  I eventually got it under control and ran through it, but it took me a while to accept running through a little burn.

I was also very impressed with the course.  I was scared of reading about stories of even the best ultra runners taking wrong turns or getting off course from poorly marked sections.  I hardly had to think twice on which way to go the entire day.  Every turn was properly marked and no time was wasted in figuring out where I needed to go.  Race Director Joe Jurczyk and all volunteers of the race did a fantastic job at making this a good experience for the runners.  
Photo by Josh Stacher


  1. Great recap! You had me running scared out there :). See you at UROC! Keep up the awesome running! You are the future of our sport !

  2. Fantastic Report! I learned a lot.
    Keep up the good work

  3. Awesome. It was great tracking you.

  4. Congrats on an awesome first hundred!

  5. Killer job man!

    Sub 17hrs, 3rd place, 146 miles the week before... that is certainly amazing. Not a fan of tapering?

  6. Nice race report Michael, and great job on your first 100! It was my 4th 100+ race, and the second time I've completed BR100. I would love to watch you and Dave run some of those sections just to see how you got through them so fast (I finished in 27:14) lol ! GREAT JOB! Now to get you both to my race on Oct 8th - Oil Creek 100 Trail Runs - in NW PA. Only a couple of hours from Cleveland. :-) oc100.org / OilCreek100.org Tom Jennings, RD

  7. Great Race report and amazing first 100!

  8. Awesome pics and awesome recap man. it made me feel like i was running it and man i was wore out lol. cant wait to see you get some more ultras under your belt and rep. shawnee and southeast ohio like i know you will. keep it big mike im proud of you. love jim

  9. Its funny how you and I started the same race at the same time, but you got to places a lot quicker than I did. I was taking my Headlamp off at the same station you were putting yours on for the first time. I can understand your feeling of finishing your first 100. Thanks for sharing your tale.
    BR Finisher exactly 10 hours and 20 minutes after you.