Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Lookout Mountain 50 Race Report-

The road ahead was grey and it fused into blue skies. It was a cold day but beautiful for December. Interstate 65 carried us away towards Chattanooga. My mind was blank and unfettered. I felt strong and focused and most importantly I was at peace and accepted the reality I lived in. I was on my way to run 50 miles on Lookout Mountain.

For the first time in months I was free of myself and the pressure I always feed from within. I said, "What will be will be." It doesn't necessarily matter which avenue I am on, which arena I've entered, I tend to always push 100% and nothing is ever good enough. This can be detrimental as was evidenced in my recent performance at the Tunnel Hill 100 mile run last month. (TH100) I cared so much that balance in life was askew. You can't go 100% all the time. You can't micromanage every variable and expect fatigue to not set in.You have to allow time to decompress. I'm a father, I'm a husband, I'm a coach, I'm an athlete, I'm a nurse, I'm a Race Director, I'm a wannabe musician, etc. I don't want to let anyone down in the pursuits I choose to make my passions. I want to make the absolute most of my potential in the endeavors I choose to focus on. I want to be the best I can be. I'm small time in the grand scheme of things. Others are capable of much more than I, so dammit, I want to at least make the absolute most of my limited potential. Constantly seeking improvement can become overwhelming as my mind never stops.

Every day I see some incredibly strong people around me. These people inspire me. I believe each of us is born with a certain amount of potential. I don't believe we all handle stresses in life the same. I do believe we can constantly grow and improve if we are honest with ourselves about our attitudes and emotions and accept the reality around us. The races I direct are small but I care greatly about my runners enjoying themselves and having a great experience. I care deeply about the runners I coach. I get involved in their lives and try to give my all to help them in their pursuits in sharing what I've learned. I'm proud of my hard work and the coaching business I've built and the races I direct.

My points are as follows... I get wrapped up in my own world of goals and drive and motivation. Sometimes this affects my recovery. I think too much. I wanted to set a personal record at  TH100 and in turn I ran 100 mile training weeks back to back to back and ran my ass off. I ate regimented meals and tried to control every aspect of training and life, but it left me fatigued on race day. I had an OK race, but NOT great like I wanted.

This was a wake up call during Tunnel Hill as I watched my time goal slip out of reach. I needed to back off and let life come to me. I had to stop attacking my goals and let them simply happen. I had to have faith in myself. I needed to chill the hell out. People told me, "You ran a great race! You were 2nd place!" but I know this wasn't true. I have met my potential before and this was not it. I don't care about placement. Placement is for people who care what others think. I care about what I think. I'm not out to impress. I'm out to help others and learn how to advance our human performance in endurance sports. I'd rather run 5th against stiff competition than win a race against a soft field. There's no room for pride if you truly care about meeting your maximum potential! I'm secure in my life outside of running. I don't think we can truly meet our potential in running until we are secure in ourselves and where we fit into the bigger picture.

Sometimes I need a gentle reminder of the above statements, and TH100 was it. I cared too much. I could have ran ninety minutes faster. I'm honest with my performances. I pat myself on the back when I deserve it and I'm critical when I should be.

I ate like a champ the month after TH100 leading into Lookout Mountain. I didn't worry about controlling every variable. I ate about 500 more calories per day than I normally do. I gave up control. I didn't worry about gaining weight. I didn't run much either. I cut my training volume down to a third of what I usually do. This would worry some people but as mentioned, I had faith. I had to recover. I've seen too many people not allow recovery because they had no faith and it's led to DNF's or finishing at a mere fraction of their potential.

I chose sleep often over running during this month of recovery.

Race day held positive vibes. I felt like I was back in full force. Ready to meet my potential and land some strong blows to the course, as well as take some blows.

I wasn't looking forward to time off after the race. I felt strong and free.

Even with the added daily calories, I only gained about 3 pounds after Tunnel Hill, and it was all muscle mass. Body fat stayed below 5%.

At the starting line temps were chilly and it was dark. I noticed a friend, Harvey Lewis, (winner of the infamous Badwater 135,) and we exchanged greetings. I was glad to also say hi to Brian Pickett yet I was sad he wasn't running!

Harvey bolted off the starting like it was a 10k race, not a 50 mile race. I was in the mood to push myself. I came to dig deep into oblivion and felt ready to do so. On a weaker day I would have paced myself better but I felt capable of recovering from the insane early pace in the opening miles. I let Harvey gain a little ground but he came back to me soon enough.

By the time we hit the first aid station at mile 5 Harvey had slowed enough for me to pass him and I took over second/ third place with a guy from GA. I enjoyed sharing his enthusiasm for the beauty of the overlooks on the course.

I was surprised to see some unmarked junctions along the course and this lit a fire under my ass. Last year some ambiguous course marking at this race caused most of the top 10 runners to go off course several miles. Luckily I've run this race enough times to know where the 10K course veers from the 50 mi and so we followed the 50 mi markings and not the 10K course. I notified race management at the next aid station and I heard they fixed the markings promptly.

The climb back up to Covenant College was not lonely. I had good company in the form of Josh Cline. Josh is a runner from FL who was staying in Chattanooga for a while after the race to focus on rock climbing for a bit. I enjoyed his company as we chatted about some running and training philosophies as well as jobs, climbing, etc.

I saw Stephanie at Covenant College, mile 22 and had a quick exchange of food and fluid. I was feeling great and yelled, "I'm chopping cabbage!" (A reference to a rap song which was the theme of the weekend...It's about rising up after getting knocked down, self empowerment, etc. Hahaha "REBIRF MUDDUH!") to which she replied, "DON'T FORGET THE OLIVES!"

Heading out onto the power-line stretch of the course I became angered again at the lack of markings at one very important junction. This is where many runners were lost last year and so I was surprised it wasn't marked. I was in third place running with second place just ahead. Second place decided to run on ahead and I stopped. I ran back to the chase pack behind us to verify we were all accounted for and going the right way. I lost about 10 minutes in this debacle but I quickly gained ground after getting back on course with the others and sealed my third placement along the way. (On the run back I noticed flags had been put up at these junctions.)

I forced calories down regularly in the form of gels and water.

Nearing mile 45 I caught the runner in second place gent, Derek. I had been getting splits on him from runners and spectators. I had closed a 14 minute gap over the past 10 miles and caught him on a climb where his crew awaited him. He didn't realize I was right behind him and I heard him ask, "Where is third place?!" to which they replied, "Right there!" Derek's crew are all phenomenal runners in their own right.

I was pretty confident that I had just captured second placement since I closed such a large gap to him. I knew I had fueled well and I could even speed up the last five miles but upon seeing me, Derek, was off like a rocket. I made haste to chase him down and I was running well, but damn! Derek was gone!

I was happy to be chasing second as opposed to defending third. It meant I felt strong and would at least probably retain my podium spot in third.

The closing miles I didn't see Derek anymore. He had a great closing!

I crossed the line in third place which was my "A" goal for the day. I've won this race in the past and placed second and third as well. I knew I was greatly fatigued coming off of a huge year but through allowing recovery and rest I was able to finally get my legs back and have a race I was REALLY elated with!

I couldn't be happier. This was racing at my potential. I had gained some muscle and felt good the whole day.

Crossing the line in first place and absolutely crushing the course that day was Nathan Holland. Nathan was fourth last year. I passed him with about a quarter mile to go and stole third. This year was HIS. He was out front the whole day! What a deserving guy. He's very nice and clearly worked HARD over the year. He ran an incredibly impressive time.

There were a slew of young guys out there that are going to take the sport to a whole new level.

Many thanks to the organizers and volunteers that make the race possible.

So there it was...2014 all wrapped up. I stood elated on the podium!

I allowed recovery and in turn, by playing my cards right I had one last strong race of the year. I couldn't have been happier with the day and my performance.

Here is a rundown of 2014:

Jan- The Pistol 100 mi- 6th Place

February- Lovin' the Hills- 3rd Place

March- Land Between the Lakes 3rd Place

April- Blind Pig 100 Mile- 2nd Place

May- Otter Creek Night Run 35 mi- 1st Place

June- Hawthorn Half Day Run- 1st Overall- Course RECORD- 81.5 miles

August- Burning River 100 mi 1st Overall

August- Iron Mountain 50 Mi- 2nd Overall

October- Bourbon Chase Ultra Div- 1st Overall- Course Record

November Tunnel Hill 100 Mi- 2nd Overall

December Lookout Mountain 50 Mi. 3rd Overall

As for 2015...we'll see what it holds. First and foremost, I need to recover! Then it's on to the big dance at Western States 100.

There are no formulas for success. This seems like its all science but it takes an artist to interpret the subjective data from the objective. Sometimes you need to push and strain in training, and other times you need to back off. I've finished over 50 ultra distance races now and met some amazing people. This sport gets more rewarding each year and I learn more about myself with each finish line crossing.

Had to have some fun in Nashville en route! I found a keeper!

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Mind Over Matter- Not exactly the case for the doggedly determined athlete. (a very basic explanation of over-training)

"The legs were there but the mind just wasn't in it."

"My lungs just weren't there today."

"I just couldn't push as hard as I wanted."

"I just wasn't tough enough."

People say this kind of stuff all the time to justify poor race performance and although I'm not trivializing the importance of attitude and mental strength in the sport, I would like to STRONGLY stress the mind and body are one in the same.

Some athletes are blessed with a dogged determination and will. They fight to the death. Performance for them is worth entering deep into the pain cave. The mind is an incredibly strong tool to overpower the body and these strong willed athletes push their bodies to forge on even when every cell screams, "Stop!"

When the body doesn't respond though they feel that they only faltered mentally, but their is indeed a physiological reason for whats happening: endocrine burnout.

Athletes with strong discipline have a tendency to push themselves hard in training. Sometimes they feel recovered physically but in reality they show up on race day fatigued. This is hormonal fatigue.

Runners get their ability to push hard from their hormones. These hormones are primarily epinephrine, nor-epinephrine, and testosterone, as well as cortisone and a myriad of others.

Read this excerpt to learn about the hormones:

The adrenal glands are two glands that sit on top of your kidneys that are made up of two distinct parts.
  • The adrenal cortex—the outer part of the gland—produces hormones that are vital to life, such as cortisol (which helps regulate metabolism and helps your body respond to stress) and aldosterone (which helps control blood pressure).
  • The adrenal medulla—the inner part of the gland—produces nonessential (that is, you don’t need them to live) hormones, such as adrenaline (which helps your body react to stress).
When you think of the adrenal glands (also known as suprarenal glands), stress might come to mind. And rightly so—the adrenal glands are arguably best known for secreting the hormone adrenaline, which rapidly prepares your body to spring into action in a stressful situation.
But the adrenal glands contribute to your health even at times when your body isn’t under extreme stress. In fact, they release hormones that are essential for you to live.
Anatomy of the Adrenal Glands
The adrenal glands are two, triangular-shaped organs that measure about 1.5 inches in height and 3 inches in length. They are located on top of each kidney. Their name directly relates to their location (ad—near or at; renes—kidneys).
Each adrenal gland is comprised of two distinct structures—the outer part of the adrenal glands is called the adrenal cortex. The inner region is known as the adrenal medulla.
Hormones of the Adrenal Glands
The adrenal cortex and the adrenal medulla have very different functions. One of the main distinctions between them is that the hormones released by the adrenal cortex are necessary for life; those secreted by the adrenal medulla are not.
 Adrenal Cortex Hormones
The adrenal cortex produces two main groups of corticosteroid hormones—glucocorticoids and mineralcorticoids. The release of glucocorticoids is triggered by the hypothalamus and pituitary gland. Mineralcorticoids are mediated by signals triggered by the kidney.
 When the hypothalamus produces corticotrophin-releasing hormone (CRH), it stimulates the pituitary gland to release adrenal corticotrophic hormone (ACTH). These hormones, in turn, alert the adrenal glands to produce corticosteroid hormones.
Glucocorticoids released by the adrenal cortex include:
  • Hydrocortisone: Commonly known as cortisol, it regulates how the body converts fats, proteins, and carbohydrates to energy. It also helps regulate blood pressure and cardiovascular function.
  • Corticosterone: This hormone works with hydrocortisone to regulate immune response and suppress inflammatory reactions.
The principle mineralcorticoid is aldosterone, which maintains the right balance of salt and water while helping control blood pressure.
There is a third class of hormone released by the adrenal cortex, known as sex steroids or sex hormones. The adrenal cortex releases small amounts of male and female sex hormones. However, their impact is usually overshadowed by the greater amounts of hormones (such as estrogen and testosterone) released by the ovaries or testes.
Adrenal Medulla Hormones
Unlike the adrenal cortex, the adrenal medulla does not perform any vital functions. That is, you don’t need it to live. But that hardly means the adrenal medulla is useless. The hormones of the adrenal medulla are released after the sympathetic nervous system is stimulated, which occurs when you’re stressed. As such, the adrenal medulla helps you deal with physical and emotional stress. You can learn more by reading a SpineUniverse article about the sympathetic nervous system.
You may be familiar with the fight-or-flight response—a process initiated by the sympathetic nervous system when your body encounters a threatening (stressful) situation. The hormones of the adrenal medulla contribute to this response.
Hormones secreted by the adrenal medulla are:
  • Epinephrine: Most people know epinephrine by its other name—adrenaline. This hormone rapidly responds to stress by increasing your heart rate and rushing blood to the muscles and brain. It also spikes your blood sugar level by helping convert glycogen to glucose in the liver. (Glycogen is the liver’s storage form of glucose.)
  • Norepinephrine: Also known as noradrenaline, this hormone works with epinephrine in responding to stress. However, it can cause vasoconstriction (the narrowing of blood vessels). This results in high blood pressure. taken from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/19/adrenaline-cortisol-stress-hormones_n_3112800.html

These hormones are what make up the fight or flight response. They make your heart beat faster and allow you to release fuel like fat and glycogen into your blood stream. They give athletes the ability to dig deep and really enter the pain cave in a race. Well rested and trained athletes can push themselves at 100% when these hormones are readily available.

When athletes train too much and ignore the signs of over-reaching and / or over-training these hormones become released in smaller quantities. 

The mind can't just "force" the body to perform optimally because in essence the athlete is experiencing a shortage of necessary fuel for your race. These hormones which runners usually use while racing are not there in similar quanity because the hormone system is fatigued and won't dump out the same level of hormones as it would in a non-fatigued state and therefore the runner can't dig as deeply as normal. 

For more info I suggest researching flight or fight response and stress adaptation.

You can't push at 100% all the time. The body can't differentiate life stress and training stress. Allow balance and recovery. 

Racing too frequently is a major cause of endocrine fatigue. The body needs downtime to restore hormone levels.

Good luck in your training! 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Tunnel Hill 100- Race Report

I had lofty but realistic goals going into Tunnel Hill 100 on November 15, 2014.

I was in the midst of a decent year of running with three 100 mile finishes already under my belt, (or should I say "on" my belt in the form of buckles..heh heh heh)

Fall was shaping up nicely after a strong summer with performances I was proud of. Bourbon Chase in October didn't leave me completely wasted and I was still able to push myself in training and "life". My weekly mileage leading up to the race was a balancing act. I needed to recover from Bourbon Chase which left my legs more wrecked than I expected. Running 36 miles at 6:08 pace was a bear to recover from while still training. I ran a 77 mile week the immediate week following Bourbon Chase. My energy levels felt fine, my legs were just sore. Once again, the following week my energy levels were still fine and I bumped up weekly mileage into the mid 80's. Thank God for my PT who kept me loose during our weekly appointments.

I tried to focus on the now, focus on the moment, and not get wrapped up in weekly mileage goals since I knew I had been pushing hard all year in every corner of life. I cut all of my weeks short and ran what I felt like running. During the five weeks in between Bourbon Chase and Tunnel Hill I only ran one week over 100 miles. 

I tapered pretty drastically for Tunnel Hill starting two weeks out from the race. I direct a half marathon the weekend before Tunnel Hill which you should check out HERE. I only ran about 40 miles including course marking that week. The week before the race I felt fine, no real fireworks good or bad. I felt ready to run 100 miles. I felt pretty confident I'd hit my lofty goal of running a new one hundred mile personal best under 15 hours.

Race morning brought cold temps in the teens and good friends. It was awesome to hang out a bit with my coaching clients whom have all become great pals. It was one of the more enjoyable pre-race days I've had, low stress and chill.

The race didn't start on Saturday until 8:00 a.m. It was nice to sleep in.

I ran most of the opening miles with Traci Falbo and Mike Crowder. It was fun chatting with Mike about the Hawthorn Half Day race from earlier this year and past. We had a good crowd of folks all keeping pace. Traci and I run together at home frequently and we both wanted the same things out of the day. We knew we'd be good fuel for one another to restrain ourselves in the opening miles and push one another at the end. We've paced each other in hundreds and know how the other ticks.  

I focused on doing my own thing. I don't get wrapped up in running anyone else's race but we were all together at my target pace of around 8:45's for the sub 15 hour finish. The opening marathon left no solitude in the woods to gather my thoughts and get into the game.

I found it hard to break loose and get lost in the moment. I was subconsciously anxious and keyed up. I was completely focused on a sub 15 hour finish and mentally I was battling demons the whole first 60 miles and I didn't even realize it because I was so incredibly numb and without fight or passion. Stephanie said I've never been that quiet in a race before as I rolled through the aid stations. I wasn't miserable or elated. I was just numb. I didn't enjoy myself. I stuck like glue to a sold nutrition plan and held pace. I was robotic, but that's not how I thrive. I need to feel PASSION. I need to feel INSPIRED and I wasn't. I was clearly a little fatigued. I was fixated on numbers, goals, PR's, etc. I was focused on the future, and not the now. This is supposed to be fun. I was apathetic rolling through the course. I needed a heaping load of fight in me, and I had a double serving of complacency. 

By mile 40 I let Traci slowly and steadily pull away from me. I was running my own race and I wasn't concerned about someone else. Pushing harder would have caused me to blow and risk the best finish I was capable of on the day. There has been plenty of times letting someone go at mile 40 has meant that I reel them in later because they blow up. You have to do what's right for YOU. Traci continued to pull away though and I plugged away passionless, without power or drive.

My 50 mile split was 7 hours 22 minutes which was pretty much on target. As the miles went by I started to think about my life over the past few months and how I needed a break from myself. I kept thinking I need a break from myself...always pushing. I hadn't allowed any downtime. It's always "Push, push, push" and it was affecting my mood. I grabbed my iPod at mile 60 and ran in the dark. The path was lit by the sky well enough that it was safe to do so. Prior to the sunset I was already in a dark place mentally. I was battling demons. 

I was in a classic ultra mental state of emotional psychosis. It was pretty comical. I began to get tearful and choked up at the Edward Sharpe song Home. I can't explain it one bit. For those of you who have heard it (its the song from Where The Wild Things Are,) the part that messed me up was the talking part in the middle about him falling in love when the chick fell out of the window. Something about the concept of love had me disturbed. Yeah...I was jacked up. This actually set me straight and got me in the moment. I was able to finally see things clearly and understand what was happening and gain perspective. I didn't have drive and fight that day, and I acknowledged it. I knew I was having a sub-prime race, but I could be smart and salvage it by sticking to a solid pace and nutrition plan, so I did just that. 
I'm the dot in the opening of the tunnel behind Traci...

Traci continued to pull away, yet I stayed steady and passed the guy in second place. Traci and I have often talked about a dual win for us, she winning overall female and I with an overall male win. I knew it would happen when I took over 2nd place. We called it T&T, like dynamite. Ha ha ha.

I kept singing along with my iPod and just tried to embrace the misery. I was very disappointed I couldn't make myself hurt more. I just couldn't make myself hurt like I wanted. 

Blinded by the onslaught of headlamps I passed I still tried to cheer on the runners I passed by. "Good Job." I looked hard for the athletes I coach, but between the headlamps blinding me and my iPod volume I couldn't make anyone's faces out. I knew they were doing well from updates I had received.

I crossed the finish line with a 100 mile finishing time of 16:07, but missed the timing recorder somehow, so I walked back over for an official time of 16:08 something. It was the second fastest 100 I've run to date. I was 2nd overall and first male. 

I have a motto, "Placement is irrelevant". It was a good race for me, I managed the day perfectly and ran the best I could run on the day, but I know on a more recovered day I could have run much faster for my sub 15. I'm still pretty bitter about my performance but I can't have my cake and eat it too. I've been greedy. I've raced too much and it's time to recover and let the endocrine system system heal so I can build up my drive and fight to make it hurt the next go-round. I didn't sacrifice my goals outside of my personal racing and running to be at 100% for this event and it affected my ultimate goal. Alas, I accomplished a lot outside of running this year which is rewarding in its own.

Usually I try to be all upbeat and positive in these reports...but this time I just feel like telling it how it is. No context. Just truth. Here are the facts: I tried to do too much and it hurt my end goal, the most important goal, the one I really cared about. I managed the day well but could have done better. It wasn't a bad race. It was good, but I wanted great. Like I said, placement is irrelevant. I gauge myself based on my capabilities and I gauge my athletes on their capabilities. I've had strong runs in which I didn't win, some of them even better performances than wins against soft competition. It's all about maximizing personal potential and not gauging your success and self-worth on others or others opinions of you. 

The runners that I coach were inspiring! Maddy crushed a PR and placed 4th overall female in 19:49. Daniel Maddox finally got his sub 24 hour 100 mile run and did great. Rob Putz was steady and disciplined with a smile all day and finished his first 100 mile event! I couldn't be happier for these guys.

The volunteers at the race were top notch and I'd like to thank Steve Durbin for putting the race together. If you have a chance to run one of Steve's races, don't pass it up. The communal vibe is great, and he puts together a well run event with good aid and an encouraging environment.

Many congrats to Traci who blazed the course in 14:45, setting an all time American trail 100 record for females.




Friday, August 8, 2014

Burning River 100 Race Report

Mist rose from green pastures where horses grazed lazily under morning twilight. Opposite the horse farm was a federal style home with a stone wall reminiscent of colonial days. The facade faced the east and the white wood of the home wrapped itself in the orange-blue light of the morning.

I was running through a scene that could have taken place in the 1800's. It was just after 06:00 a.m. and I had been on my feet for a little over an hour running from Cleveland to Akron, Ohio in the Burning River 100 Mile Endurance Run. I traversed a narrow bridge over a creek passing through the charming town of Gates Mills. The landscape reminded me more of a quaint New England town than a Cleveland suburb.

The peaceful setting was conducive to fostering the mentality I espoused early in the race. I let others run their own race and I did the same. It was going to be a long day, running over 100 miles and I was in no rush to burn through precious glycogen stores that early in the endeavor. I found a pace I thought I could hold all day long and stuck with it.

I rolled into Polo Fields aid station ahead of schedule a little over 2 hours after the start of the day. The grass was still wet with morning dew. Stephanie and Maddy tag teamed crewing swiftly and without coming to a stop I had refilled water and food for the run and made my way onto a new stretch of trail composed of mostly horse trails and bridle paths. I regrouped with the friends I had made early on and we chatted away the miles, on damp trails and moderate temps.

The mid-morning scene was a green tunnel. I ran on mostly horse trails under a lush canopy. The footing was decent- mostly well manicured dirt and crushed gravel paths stained a dark brown by the dew. The moisture in the air made the leaves explosively green. Occasionally I'd catch glimpses of the river and creek waters I was running next to and I'd envision myself as a drop of water tumbling downstream one hundred miles to Akron over the rocks and obstacles along the way. The terrain in this first third of the race was much hillier than anticipated. The climbs weren't tough by any means but they required constant vigilance to maintain a steady effort by constantly adjusting pace. The descents were short but steep, littered with small stones, just big enough to send a runner sailing in flight like a kite in a tornado. I bombed down the descents for the free speed they offered, with faith my quads wouldn't take too much abuse by the end of the day.

My quads weren't the only thing in the woods taking abuse... the ears of my new friends had to listen to me sing this horrible song that Stephanie, Maddy, and I had somehow dubbed the theme song of the weekend; Fancy by Iggy Azalea. Fancy was getting all kinds of air play race weekend. Mosi Smith joined me in singing this terrible song and I couldn't help from laughing constantly at these dudes and I in the woods singing this pop song, "I G G Y How you do dat? do dat? How you do dat? do dat?!" Clearly no stress was in our minds and we were a third of the way to Akron.

Near mile 40 I was still in great spirits as I rolled into the Oak Grove aid station. I had been running by myself for several miles. I left the guys at the last aid station I had been running with; Perhaps they didn't like my singing? My crew alerted me that I was about to complete a small loop of 5 miles before returning to the same spot, continuing my way on towards Akron. The grades of the climbs on this small loop further aggravated my Achilles tendon which was swelling with each passing mile and growing bothersome. I don't have a history of Achilles issues but I was running 100 mile weeks in July and I wondered if it was an overuse injury coming to a head. On some of the steeper climbs I would actually stop and stretch my Achilles and this concerned me. I was only at mile 45 and nursing an injury! This wasn't my first rodeo though. I knew that injuries come from flaws in form and so I searched my brain for answers. What flaw in form could contribute to this Achilles inflammation?! What was it stemming from? Gastrocnemius? Soleus?

What could I do to fix it? I have had issues arise in a races before that seemed insurmountable but mid-race I made adjustments on the fly and corrected any pain or discomfort. I'm always amazed when this happens. I ran with confidence that I could hopefully correct any further Achilles inflammation by fixing form.

I tried to remain calm rolling back into the Oak Grove aid station and I tried to joke around with my crew by doing some rap I made up about Ice-Bukaki. I told Stephanie and Maddy to have Ibuprofen and Tylenol ready at the next aid station. I hoped it wouldn't get worse but I wasn't sure what would happen. The look Maddy gave me when I asked for them to have ibuprofen ready could have cleared a room. With all the gravity she could dig up she said, "ARE YOU OK?" I promptly assured her, (and I), "YES!" with a giant grin. She didn't look convinced.

Thanks to several years now of studying and learning from my physical therapist Lauren Adwell at Advanced Orthopaedic Physical Therapy I was able to attribute the inflammation to a loading of the Soleus muscle which lies under "calf muscle" Gastrocnemius. I ran with better form creating extension and height and the Achilles inflammation lessened. After several miles the discomfort and swelling abated some more. I was ecstatic.

Nearing the half-way point a little over eight hours in, the cloud cover that had been overhead finally unleashed some rain. I enjoyed the cooling effect it had. I had ice around my neck the whole day to stay cool. I kept my clothes soaked by pouring water overhead at each aid station but I was still thankful for the cloud cover. The humidity all day had been through the roof  in the oppressive zone. The overcast conditions made the day manageable.

I hadn't been concerned about placement prior to the halfway point. In between miles 45 and 55 I saw no one. The terrain included the infamous "Bog of Despair" which I didn't find too challenging. Yeah, there was mud. There was a bog. Was there despair? No. It was fine, just some obstacles to overcome. 100 mile runs don't come without some challenges. I was glad that people on Facebook had talked up this Bog of Despair because they built it up so bad there is no way it could live up to its reputation.

Splash, splurge, squiiirrrrt. I tromped and danced through the bog. Escaping the mud as I danced through the forest, a deer clearing obstacles. Occasionally a misstep would land me ankle deep in mud that would splash up to my wet thigh. For the most part, I was fleet-footed and made good haste through the infamous "Bog of Despair".

Coming into Boston Store aid station at mile 55 I was feeling pretty good. I'd covered over half the ground to Akron from Cleveland. I guess about eight and a half hours had passed? I don't know. The town was small and charming. A great tourist spot because it feels real, not touristy and superficial. Apparently its a big deal the town lets the race proceed through it. I am thankful for their hospitality! There was a small crowd awaiting runners and as I made my way into town a man yelled out to tell me I was "in 3rd place!" It was the first I'd heard of placement and I was rather unimpressed by the news. It was too early to care where I was. I needed to run my own race.

The crowds at Boston Store aid (mi 55ish) were a bit heftier than at other aid stations. I noticed upon entering the aid station I had just caught the 2nd place runner and so I was in a hurry to get out of there. There was a lot for Maddy and Stephanie to handle at this aid station because on top of normal water and fuel, I refused the Tylenol and Ibuprofen which I had requested earlier. I finally wanted my iPod which I had been rejecting all day. I was trying to scurry out to catch 2nd place and I forgot my food and yelled in the process, "WHERE is my fucking FOOD!?" (Sorry, Mom. I dropped the F-Bomb out loud in public...) Now, get this. I make it a BIG point to show appreciation not only to the volunteers but to my crew at every aid station. I didn't mean this question towards them, it was just a question in general, phrased loudly for all to hear. Hahaha. Ooops. I suppose I came off like a jerk but I was actually very thankful and in great spirits! I gave them a fist bump of appreciation, said "Lets do this!!!" yelled a giant "THANK YOU! THANK YOU!" to the aid station workers and to my crew and then I ran off with music in ear bopping down the trail to go catch the 2nd place male.

Within minutes of leaving the Boston Store aid I passed the guy who was in 2nd and I felt like I was on a high after a low-point coming in the Boston Store aid just several moments earlier. I was singing some pretty embarrassing songs VERY loudly and I didn't care. I was on a high and rolling into mile 60 feeling good. The terrain was increasingly technical and the climbs and descents didn't lessen. I tried my best to maintain pace and force food in every 20 to 25 minutes. The stomach was rock solid all day.

With newly soaked clothes thanks to a dousing from the aid station volunteers at the Pine Lane aid station I was feeling fresh again. This routine was the script of the day. I'd feel fatigued, tired, sweltered and oppressed, but new ice around my neck at the aid station and a dousing of water would kick me in overdrive for the next four miles or so before I'd crash and repeat the process. I bumped up my electrolyte intake to combat the humidity.

Climbing out of a particularly technical stretch of gnarly hiking trails I found myself at a road near mile 60. I was feeling energized and spry for several moments and caught glimpse of a runner in front of me moving well, the 1st place guy.

I took my time catching up to him. I felt like he was moving really well, effortlessly on the road, so I tagged along for the ride. I pulled up shoulder to shoulder and yelled a big, "Hi! How's it going!!" I was hoping to turn the music down for a bit and enjoy the company of another but we didn't talk much after my initial greeting. We did run shoulder to shoulder for several miles. I couldn't really tell if he enjoyed the company or if he didn't want my immediate presence so I turned up my iPod, enjoyed my music and accepted it. Just running together was fine by me. I'd say we were both just in the zone and cool with things.

After running together for several miles on this road stretch with the 1st place guy the course veered sharply onto a bomber downhill single-track section of trail. He pulled off the trail at the entrance and politely motioned for me to go ahead and take the lead. I assume this is where my advantage came into play. We were the same pace on the roads but within the first big descent I couldn't see him behind me anymore. I understood this to mean I needed to crank it out on the trails from here on out. That's where my lead would grow. If we were similar paces on the road all I had to do was push the trail sections and I'd continue to increase my lead.

I had a giant grin coming into the Ledges aid station somewhere just shy of 70 miles. My lead had grown. I had just run through a pristine section full of rocky cliffs and waterfall laden gorges. I was running my own race stress free and leading the herd. When I saw Maddy and Stephanie I was "cool as a cucumber", no stress. I was just doing my thing singing along with the music enjoying a long run. I actually had to tame the singing down because I didn't want to waste the energy! A few times it crept into my head that taking the lead with 37 miles left meant defending it for that long, what a load to bear! ...but I took the lead by running my own race and not concerning myself with placement. I planned on continuing that trend. At Ledges aid, Maddy was all decked out in running clothes and ready to pace if I needed her but I was feeling strong and wanted to push until 75 where I had planned on picking her up in the "best case scenario". Things were unfolding nicely! The lows were balanced by big ole highs and that's all you can hope for in a 100 mile run!

Coming into Pine Knoll aid station at mile 70ish was a relief! Over two thirds out of the way! I had a little loop to do which proved a bitch, but after that tortuous loop I got more ice from Stephanie and most importantly, I had my pacer, Madelyn Blue, on board for the remainder of the day!

Maddy ran her first 100 mile run earlier this summer. She's one of those punks that got into WSER her first year in the lottery! I couldn't have been happier though because pacing her was a blast the last 45 miles and she did awesome! I wrote a report about pacing her at Western States HERE.

I told myself that I needed to push hard until mile 75...after that it was just a run with my bud Maddy. Once I was with her, I could check out mentally and let her shoulder the load. I was surprisingly good to go however, physically AND mentally.

I couldn't have been more thankful than to have Maddy as pacer. Right off the bat she was johnny on the spot making me eat my gels every twenty minutes and get in plenty of water. We shared in our amazement that I might win the 2014 Burning River 100. We tried to simply stay constant and steady but it was too exciting not to talk about a potential win.

Gunshots rung out as we dashed through corn fields and she delighted in the mud and muck. I was NOT thrilled with the course conditions. I dropped a few more F-Bombs regarding the mud and muck as Maddy daintily pranced about the cornfields as the sun set.

My head swam dizzily and we stayed on top of electrolyte consumption and upped my regimen to every 45 minutes. This electrolyte bump fixed my head and I began to move swiftly again. Maddy was like clockwork! At one point she wanted me to take a gel and I barked I wasn't ready yet. I think she took it a little personally but no harm no foul. I was just feeling cruddy. I was still appreciative.

We passed the time quickly and I was stoked to be closing in on mile 90 with no real problems. The real joy for me was that I wouldn't need a headlamp much longer than an hour or so. Leaving the covered bridge aid station we were running some of the climbs still and moving well.

We saw Stephanie after a long road run stretch. That's where the weight of the win and holding first place began to burden me and weigh me down.

There was a 5 mile stretch in the mid-90 mile range that was all on running path. This stretch was pancake flat and crushed gravel. The terrain is as fast and smooth as can be and makes quick work of the job but its incredibly boring. I began to worry that time would drag on. Maddy tried to be positive and tell me to just keep moving and I did, but I was growing tired after 95 miles and I wanted to see the finish. I was not living in the moment but I tried to embrace the situation.

I started to calm myself by listening to the crickets. I looked at my surroundings. I was in a beautiful forest, running with my friend just after sunset. The running path of crushed gravel was lit up nicely by our headlamps. Light echoed and glistened from the river we paralleled. The crickets were chirping loudly. I drained every other emotion out of my body and just put myself right was I was, running with my friend through the night. I wasn't in a race. I was just trying to push hard for 10 miles on a nice cool night. My legs were clear of the miles beforehand. I was starting over. Fatigue left and I embraced the now. Nothing else existed. If I ran as hard as I could, and drained every ounce of life out onto the course, placement was irrelevant. I knew I had to do just that. Leave it ALL out on the course. That was my motto all day. As long as I knew I maximized MY potential and ran my own race it would all be good. Placement didn't matter. Running at 100% DID matter.

Crash! We were flying down a climb and I herd a train wreck behind me. Maddy had stumbled on a rock and took a hard fall on her right side. She was covered in road..er...trail-rash, her whole right thigh scraped up and her knee had a knot. I quickly asked if she was OK and upon her quick, "YEAH!" We were up and rolling again. I think she was a little stunted at my abruptness again, but no time to waste! "Let's move!" I was concerned about her fall but if she was OK then we had no spare time to lick wounds! She was a trooper pulling out in front of me again and getting to her job making sure I had food every 20 minutes and electrolytes. Ah...the joys of pacing. I've been there many a times...

We ran straight up the road climbs after mile 95. The miles kept rolling by and the terrain grew urban. Neon lights took the place of maple trees and rivers. My garmin GPS showed 100 miles and I knew we were nowhere near the finish. The course was long, really long. Maddy was whooping and hollering but I just wanted to be done. It was cool, but I was tired! There'd be room for emotion later. For now, there was still work to do and I needed to find that finish line! We ran through some sketchy parts of town and I actually told Maddy to get closer to me as there were some groups of kids roaming around but no one said anything. I heard rumors of police escorts this year for runners but we saw none. In all honesty, the one stretch through "the bad part of town" wasn't bad at all. A truck drove by and the driver yelled out, "How far have you run?!" Maddy yelled joyously "100 miles!" and I yelled back "103.4!"


I saw the finish line.

I saw no one behind me.

I won the Burning River 100 Mile Run.

I found a chair and could not manage to choke down any food. I was elated to be done running and I was more than anything, proud of the flawless race I had run. Not only had I trained effectively leading up to the race, but I ran my own race from start to finish and gained ground all day long. The official splits show I started slowly compared to the competition but then ran the fastest splits in between nearly every aid station from the halfway point to the finish. I'm happy with that! Check out the splits at the bottom of this page.

I finished at 10:25p.m.  The 104 mile run took me 17 hours and 25 minutes. My goal was 17 hours in the best possible conditions. I wasn't expecting the extra 4 miles so I'll take it! The course also boasts nearly 9000' of elevation gain. Definitely NOT a mountain 100 but definitely not flat as far as I'm concerned. I'd say its VERY hilly.

Another goal I met...running 100 miles and being in the Marriott Hotel by midnight. I didn't plan on puking though...I knew as soon as I entered the elevator it was coming up. I prayed to make into my room first. I literally ran to the room and my stomach up-heaved and let loose, right in the toilet where it belongs. It was the first time I've ever puked at the end of a race...

I think the heat or humidity ended up taking out nearly half of the runners. I think the day saw a drop out rate over 50%.

I was overall very impressed by the race. I'm pumped to go back next year to pace or run it again and defend the win. Next on my calendar is the Iron Mountain 50, a classic with stellar competition and even more stellar friends and community. Then the Bourbon Chase in October, the Tunnel Hill 100 Mile in November and Lookout Mountain 50 in December.

Many thanks to Stephanie, Maddy, and the Volunteers out there all day. I'd highly recommend the BR100 to anyone.

Burning River 100

Overall Finish List

August 02, 2014

Western Reserve Racing LLC www.westernreserveracing.com


TotalTotalC-Polo 13.6D-Harper 7.54E-Shadow 3.23F-Egbert 4.79G-Alexander 4.34H-Oak Gr 1 6.22I-Oak Gr 2 4.32J-Snowville 5.57K-Boston 4.97L-Pine Lane 4.96M-Ledges 6.77N-Pine Hollow 1 5.73R-Botzum 18.98S-Memorial 5.37T-Finish 4.59
PlaceNameCityBib NoAgeGenderTimePaceRankTimePaceRankTimePaceRankTimePaceRankTimePaceRankTimePaceRankTimePaceRankTimePaceRankTimePaceRankTimePaceRankTimePaceRankTimePaceRankTimePaceRankTimePaceRankTimePaceRankTimePace
1Troy ShellhamerLouisville KY30333M17:25:0210:21/M132:03:009:02/M121:15:009:57/M729:008:59/M846:009:36/M944:0010:08/M51:00:009:39/M344:0010:11/M21:04:0011:29/M155:0011:04/M355:0011:05/M11:05:009:36/M158:0010:07/M13:43:0011:45/M155:0010:15/M249:0210:41/M