Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Transition from Freedom to Structure: Burning River 100 Mile Endurance Run, 7/31/10

Into the Woods at Burning River 100 Mile Run
Leading Up…
Over the years, some of my best races, have not been “races” after all, yet an event in which the outside world and inside world meet in a spirit of celebration and collaboration. This past weekend was another spirited adventure on the trails-this time in Northeastern Ohio at The National 100 Mile Trail Championships. The Burning River 100-Mile Endurance Run, just having completed it’s 4th year running takes place on the trails and roads of Cuyahoga Falls National Park and a variety of Cleveland Area Metro Parks. This year the race brought 251 starters from all over the US and from across national lines. 

I was super-excited to make this 7-hour car journey north, as much about running 100 miles, as  to celebrate my last days of “summer vacation”. I am a high school counselor and after having July off, faculty work days started on August 2, 2010 with the 2010/2011 school year beginning on Thursday, August 5, 2010. I thought of this weekend as my last “foray into freedom” for awhile!
After Western States 100, which was 5 weeks ago, I haven’t trained much. Recovery from WS 100 took almost 2 full weeks in which I did some short jogs and had some time on the road bike.  Coach Howard gave me a schedule for the last 2 weeks which included at most a 3 hour run. I was hoping that lots of rest combined with as much planning as I could do without previewing the course would set me up for a successful day. I watched all the course videos posted on the race website, looked at past runner times and splits and compared them with my times and splits from WS last month in order to come up with a loose plan at least up until the 64 mile point…after that I wasn’t sure how long it should take me. 

I thought that since BR100 has much less elevation change than WS100 I should be able to take off at least 2.5 hours from this year’s WS time, and even more depending on race day conditions. That meant that (in my own head), I could run it in 18ish hours. Little did I know during my planning, that the weather conditions, volunteers, course diversity and just plain ‘ole having a good day would add up to such a happy outcome for me!

Travel and pre-race 

I left Jefferson, NC about 11am on Thursday and listened to borrowed library book CDs on the journey, arriving at the modest Economy Inn, 4 miles from race start by 7pm. At room check-inn I met a young Royal Navy (British Military) fellow, John Oakley who’d also be running the BR100. His room was 2 doors down from mine and although we didn’t hang out much, his journey to this event and adventurous spirit and complete courage with abandon inspired and invited respect. More on this later!

This night passed uneventfully with a basic grocery shop, salad and good bread eaten in my room accompanied by a glass of 100% local blackberry wine and an hour with a used book purchased at my hometown library. Although I awoke at 6am next day, I forced myself to remain in bed daydreaming and snoozing until 7:30 am. I have learned-with the learned encouragement of friend and Montrail teammate Jill Perry, that rest and sleep before an event are as essential to training weeks before…. that is why I do my best to arrive at the latest on Thursday night before a Saturday race.

Friday morning was spent running my “Howard prescribed” 25 minute run, exploring by car and foot trailheads and little sections of the course from mile 81ish on…I expected that if I couldn’t preview the whole course, having a taste of the last 1/5 would be helpful. I discovered during my brief "scoping out" in person, that it was indeed not flat or track-like. There were plenty of hills and mud piles and roots and blackberry thatches to satisfy even the most devoted lovers of backcountry trails. This looked like a perfect urban trail race: plenty of miles of dirty, muddy, semi-maintained trails, some well-groomed trails, horse trails, boardwalks, flat bike paths and some super flat stuff followed by hilly and muddy and root surface AND pretty sights that made you wish to build a snow globe of the scene instead of hurrying through! The hilly road sections were just mellow enough in grade to warrant running instead of hiking breaks. Ahhh! An adventure of training, headspace, passion and embracing the day was at hand and I was thrilled and itchy to get going!

Race Day!

Race morning was early and fast. John and I met the buses at 3:20 am and arrive at race start at 4:30ish am for the 5am start. After a quick wave at Howard, I, along with 230+ others was on my way! I ran side-by-side run with fast guy (and Montrail teammate) Eric Grossman for a mile, John and ran the first 20ish miles together along with 34-year old seasoned ultra runner Harvey Lewis. John has been on ship and largely been unable to train until 5 weeks ago, yet he set forth, with some modest support from the Royal Navy to run this event. Along the way he was raising money that would go to a scholarship fund for families that got left behind after a loved one who was in the Royal Navy passed on. Harvey is 34 years old and lives in PA and has done tons of ultra running. I loved being around his passion and enthusiasm for the sport and his obvious running talent had me sucked in! 
 Clean and fresh during the early miles...
 During the first 12 miles, those two guys chatted and chatted and they requested my comments (I had several opinions!), yet begged off to focus on breathing and current reality. I didn’t want to get sucked into “too fast”, yet I loved being around that life energy! Finally the fellows pulled away as I acknowledged the need to be a bit more conservative with my pace!

The 1st 9.6 miles were on the road; the remaining 90+ miles would be the varied combinations I spoke of earlier. I had planned to arrive at Shadow Lake, 18.6 by 2:40 and Ottawa Pt by 5:50. Though I have not yet seen the splits, I think I was close to spot on for both.

The morning passed very quickly-It is hard to remember details as I was in cruise mode-running, drinking, fueling, pit stopping as necessary. It was like breathing in the terrain and surrounding without really seeing. Sounds kinda weird, yet these words most accurately describe my perception of the 1st half! Relaxed, working forward into a grand adventure!
One of the many fine aid stations!
I did not have a crew and (though it’d have been invigorating and great-) I didn’t need one, as the volunteers were attentive, responsive and encouraging! Aid stations were just as advertised and well stocked. For this reason, I left my little fanny pack in a drop bag at mile 39.6 and continued as light as can be with only a handheld Nathan Quickdraw Plus! Never before have I dared to run with so little!

Volunteers, all attired in red VOLUNTEER shirts catered to me! I felt like a rock star and appreciated their assistance. My hands were sweaty and dirty. Volunteers unscrewed my water bottle, filled it with my hearts desire-usually ½ Gatorade and ½ Hammer Heed. Though I prefer and train and race with Clif Bar Products, I have learned that without a crew, I can adjust to the race sponsored products and usually do just fine…Volunteers emptied cold sponges over my head as I dramatically yelped while I was given beta on the upcoming trail section. My only responsibilities continued to be to simply run and not hurt myself or anyone else! What a gift of freedom!

Arriving at Boston Store #1(49.1) I had reached the (almost) halfway point. Yay!!! Yet not so yay as I met up with Eric Grossman who had to drop due a hamstring issue. Big-time bummer! Eric is a quiet tough guy who I believe would have placed in top 2 if “issues” didn’t present! Ick and ugh and thank you to Eric for your selflessness and encouragement!

I came through Boston Store #2 (one of the entertaining loops-this loop had a long boardwalk to scamper across and a waterfall to look at) on this mostly point-to-point course and was thrilled to be welcomed by Ohio’s fast girl Amanda Stickel! She was out there crewing another runner, yet I received great vibes and encouragement from her! Thank you Amanda! Amanda and I met in 2009 at USATF National Championships 50k in NY. She placed 3rd and me 4th…yet since then, our relationship has been entirely virtual! At this point I learned I was 30 minutes ahead of the next girl. Cool! Yet it was still to early to consider competition and racing…that could come after the 100k point. The goal was to stay steady and fueled and practice wisdom.

Bobbing up and down the shadowed trails I reached the Happy Days Aid Station at 64.1 miles feeling steady. A “little birdie” (Amanda) informed me she heard that the next woman was gaining on me. Hhhmph. I expected that, yet didn’t love it! Thank you Amanda! As I proceeded down the mildly technical trails I met up with Harvey again and asked about our Royal Navy friend…John had reportedly slowed down to a pace that better matched his recent training. Makes sense to me…best wishes to the young Brit –I really wanted him to meet his goals! 

As I caught up with Harvey again, I considered what it meant to be “gained on”. I didn’t like it! Not that I wish anything bad to my competitors –as I always hope we have the race of our dreams and that way we will push eat other to run our very best! I did however, do a reality check with myself. “ Am I running my potential at this point in the race?”  A Big FAT no. I was very much in my comfort zone! 

We were in the shade and on trails and on very mellow elevation change. I had and would have access to plenty of food and water. The only bummer I was experiencing was an abundance of pit stops due to the trots. HMMMPh!  Though I hate taking the stuff, I carry Imodium and took 2 tablets at this point, 2 hours later I would follow with one more. I can’t control this issue, yet I can help make it better! I also knew that I could run less conservatively and therefore run better, so I found delight in pushing my comfort zone and going more towards “the edge”. Ack…another dimension to this adventure!

Before I knew it I was up and over the meadowy “Sound of Music Hill” and Howard greeted me as I arrived in aid station territory. He was encouraging and assisted me with refilling and saying I was still moving and looking fine! Yep! Thank you Howard, you rock!  Amanda was there too continuing her encouragement and well wishes. I appreciate the great energy, and used it to propel me on! 
I ran another loop of 3.3 miles, came through this aid station again, sucked in fuel and water and generous good wishes and bobbed along, arriving at Covered Bridge #1 filled with crazy energy of a person who was excited and nervous and at a mental place of imagining running sub 17:00 and earning her 1st national title. 

At this point I had not a clue of placement of my competition, the draw of the sub -17 idea was taking shape! The next section was supposed to be torturous, so I mentally prepared myself for the likes of Short Mountain at Massanutten 100 and was happy to find, that in comparison, this was a fun section. Some muddy parts and steep ups, yet not the torture I’d read and been warned of! As I came through Covered Bridge #2, I learned I had a 56-minute lead since last time through. Cool! Yet now the run was about focus and staying as strong as possible. I longed to earn a National Champion Title, yet at the same time, wanted to find the edge of performance and run with risk and sensibility. Could I run sub 17?  Or 16:30? Don’t know! Will find out!

Though I picked up my headlamp at mile 85.5 I didn’t turn it on until just after the last aid station at mile 96.3. At this point Nathan Yanko and I were sharing miles. I caught up to him at around mile 95-he was worried his wheels were falling off. I could see he was tired as I was-yet I knew his wheels were fine-and expected he’d be even better once reaching Devon (Superhero-fast Devon Crosby-Helms is his girlfriend and was one of his crew this day). Nathan did recharge and I followed close behind him, catching up during the last trail section mile 97.5-100ish. We ran together. Not chatting or racing, just sharing the same pace and illumination from out lights. As we started to emerge from the “canyon” Nathan gave me the heads up that he liked the finish strong and would run very fast for the last half mile. Super cool! I encouraged him to do so! This is a race and event where we are all invited to work hard, take risks, yet also to acknowledge, appreciate and use our strengths! Go Nathan go! 
We left the trails, follow cones across a bridge and down the road and with less than a ½ mile left to go, Nathan surged ahead and before long, I saw Nathan was going to overtake someone and he did!


I followed behind, running as strong as I could, being escorted by 2 guys on mountain bikes. Free thoughts followed: 

I can see the clock! I can see the numbers. I hear the music. Holy buckets the finish line is in sight….oh my there is a black tape for me to break…I have won races yet never broken a tape…run Annette run…I think I’m gonna cry: BAM! Done! Over! Tape broken with a course record time of 16:44:21! Annette is a National Champion! Wow! Oh-my-God, how on the planet did this happen?
Super cool!

I soaked up the warm congratulations and walked for 45 minutes before sitting down. After sitting down too quickly after WS100 last month and loosing blood pressure, I was not going to let that happen again! Nathan’s Mom even escorted me to my car to get my cell phone so I wouldn’t be alone. I called George and my Mom! Super exciting!

Starting Recovery

After leaving the finish line I headed back to my motel for a quick shower and then 15-minute ice bath with 20# of ice. I ate a Lean Cuisine dinner, drank ½ glass of wine and slept for 5.5 hours, after which I took another ice bath and another 1-hour nap. Rising, I walked across the parking lot and enjoyed Dunkin Donuts coffee and an egg sandwich.  I wondered about John…I was a light was on in his room, yet dared not disturb him, not knowing what time he arrived back-or if the light was left on by housekeeping as mine was?  After packing up, I arrived back at the finish line at 10:15am.
Todd and I just before awards in the morning.
At the finish line I sat around emotionally cheering in 28 and 29-hour runners. I sat around with Todd Braje and Scott Dunlap as we waited for awards. During the awards ceremony, I was part of a special club-of all people limping-it seemed regardless of position finishing we all were hobbled and could laugh at ourselves. I still have not learned of what happened to John Oakley, yet will endeavor to find out!
 Devon and Nathan at awards
The Burning River 100 is a quality event with excellent volunteers, varied surfaces and terrain. I hope to be back one day! After awards, I drove the 7 hours home and got ready for work and a new school year the next day. Starting a school year with a face of race-induced pimples, sore legs, post 100 mile hormonal upset wasn’t ideal, yet I am privileged to have the health and resources to have made the trip and very happy (especially with budget cuts) to have a job!


Rick Gray said...

Annette, National 100 mile champion. You earned and deserve that title. What a race and it certainly sounds like you stayed focussed and relaxed the entire run. Glad you had a successful safe race and a grand adventure. Time to rest from running and guess what, it is time to now concentrate on work. Have fun! Tammy is so so excited about a new school year starting too!

runjoey said...

Woohoo ! National Champion ! Great race and report Annette. It is so nice to see you running so well these days> As always I love your enthusiasm for the sport and that you hang around for the slow folks.

shel said...

awesome run annette! i agree, the course was gorgeous, well marked and volunteers top notch. i don't know if the final finishers appreciate the race leaders coming back to cheer them on, but my husband and i sure did! thanks for that and for the inspiration!

Chris said...

Annette, you looked strong (and more importantly, HAPPY!) every time I saw you out on the course...which was less and less as the miles added up (and my legs tightened up) and you left me in your dust. Congrats (you DESERVE it!), and thanks for helping to keep it lighthearted when we got turned around (repeatedly) after Shadow Lake. :)

-Chris (the guy with your shoes...and a mohawk)

Thomas Bussiere said...

Congrats - National Champ!
Such a short time after WS100 and you absolutely dropped the hammer on this one.
Very awesome.

Runner Tammy said...

Annette, YOU ROCK!!!

Congratulations on your 100 mile championship. What an impressive time, I am so thrilled for you.

Have fun at school.

I am looking forward to seeing you in early Oct for New River Trails...maybe some of your speed can rub off on me:-)


nyanko said...

Annette it was wonderful getting to know you a little and running some of those late miles. I was having some difficulty and just running in the same space as you really helped to get me through. Continue to enjoy your amazing accomplishment. See you on the trails soon I hope.

mkirk said...

Cool report Annette!

I particularly like your description of breathing in and through the landscape.

Congrats also on a phenomenal victory!

Jamie Donaldson said...

Congrats Annette! Yoy are so amazing! It was so much fun following you online as you crushed the course! Well deserved!

annette bednosky said...

Thank you friends for your happy energy!
Matt-as far as breathing in the course-I am happy you relate-I expect you have had similar experiences...that sort of process really strips life down to the basics! (If only I could figure out how to experience that more in daily life!)

Sabrina Moran said...

You are SO COOL!!

Scott McMurtrey said...

Awesome! Congrats!

Yolanda Flamino said...

Congrats on being the 2010 National 100 mile Champion...that's great!!

Anonymous said...

great run and i think i speak for others when i say thank you for all the positive comments about the event and the volunteers. we have a great trail running community here and are glad to have had such a great group come to our area and race!

Will Jorgensen said...

Fantastic race, Annette. And what an awesome finish! Congrats on your Championship title. You're an incredible lady! Rock on!

this bee's knees. said...

Just got back from Outdoor Retailer where I heard your good news. It was nice to follow that up with your full race report. So happy for you, Annette!

Tony Mollica said...

Nice race Annette! Congratulations National Champion! I hope you enjoyed your trip to Ohio. Are you coming back September 18th for the 24 hour National Championship in Cleveland? I'll be crewing there and I hope to see you there.

Have a great school year! I go back the 20th of August.

Tony Mollica

runamanda said...

I was so happy to see you running so strong when you took that break I had to come over and tell you how amazing you were doing and where you were.. because you were tearing it up..... when I told you she was catching up I didn't have the time on it but in that 4-5 mile section she had overtook 5 people so I wanted to give you the heads up... that she was moving up... wasn't sure of actually time split that time... then I had a few more time splits for you but we never got to see you again..... but you ran a strong, inspirational, amazing, tremendous, fabulous, outstanding, PERFECT race... you totally rocked it out there.... OH and I never knew you had a coach I thought you coached yourself....

Sophie Speidel said...

Wooo-hooo! Just returned from the beach to read this great report. Congratulations, dear friend! Hope school is going well at this early start date (yikes!) and that I will see you at...Masochist?


Dan Horvath said...

Great story, Annette. It was great to meet you too.

annette bednosky said...

Yes, school is officially back!
I won't be back to OH in September, though I know I'll miss a great event (it is in the middle of my focus training towards World 100k in November). I am finally learning not to try and do everything!
Amanda-I started being coached by Howard Nippert in February when I recognized I had no idea how to prepare for a 100k road run (Mad City)-and then used some of the prized money from that to continue with him for the rest of this year!

Unknown said...

An incredible performance from such a highly "grounded" human being. I have followed you over the years and you only seem to get stronger/faster with time. I'd say age, but in this sport that is only a number. Rock on Annette! USATF 100 Mile Trail Champion. That has a nice ring to it. :)

Anonymous said...

Rock on my friend! Very impressive - you are a smart runner and strong chic, proving it time after time.

Marlin Yoder said...

Loved reading your description of the race. Congratulations, you are a very deserving champion!!