Burning River 100 Mile Endurance Run

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Burning River 100 Mile Endurance Run

2014 Burning River 100 Mile Endurance Run Race Report

“One-quarter of the race left, one-quarter of the race left!” As I stood idle in the dark on an empty trail, I keep telling myself this as my left leg had decided to not bend at the knee any longer. At this point, it had been approximately 65 miles since the outside of my left knee started bothering me. I had pushed to this point and now the darn thing was shutting down completely. The swelling and pain had gone past what a constant flow of 1000mg of Ibuprofen every eight hours could dull. “I quit’’ ran through a text message to my wife. No response, so I called her to say it verbally. ‘’I quit! My knee will not bend.”

photo-2-5The Burning River 100 Mile Endurance Run took place on August 2-3, 2014. With a start line at Squires Castle in Willoughby, Ohio, the day would consist of a point-to-point race down to Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. My crew for this race consisted of my wife, Nicole, and my mom. Nicole was as seasoned of a crew chief as I was as an ultrarunner.  For my mom, however, this would be her first experience with ultramarathons and her first time seeing me in a race since the 2011 Columbus Marathon. We elected to stay at a hotel near the race start on Friday evening. Before enjoying breakfast for dinner at the Cracker Barrel, we drove over to Squires Castle to see what the area looked like in the daylight.

My alarm went off at 3:00 AM race morning and I began my normal routine of drinking a bottle of Ensure Complete, eating a Nutrigrain bar, applying Body Glide pretty much from head-to-toe, hydrating, and drinking a small cup of coffee to help pass things through before the race started. We arrived at the start line around 4:30 AM and immediately blended in with the large crowd of runners and crew members that had assembled. With a 5:00 AM start, we had temperatures in the 60s with relatively low humidity. At home at this time, I was sure the temperature was already in the high 70s and 70-80% humidity! This race was going to be a break from the energy-zapping humid training runs and races that I had completed all summer long.

Country Paved Roads

photo-3-4The opening section of the course was run on paved country roads. With this type of a start, it is very easy to get going too quickly early on. I have learned that there is no such thing as banking time in an ultramarathon, so I held myself back and watched runner after runner passes me by in the early stages of the race. I was very nervous about my pace, so to distract my mind, I focused on my hydration and the random bits of conversation that passed me by. Since the course started about an hour before sunrise and we were running on non-traffic roads many runners, including myself, elected to not wear a headlamp. Considering that I was not going to see my crew till mile 25, it was nice to leave the light behind and not worry about the battery life or stowing it till it could be dropped.

As I approached the first aid station, Old Mill, at mile 8.72, I made sure that three of my Hydrapak flasks were completely empty and the tops screwed off. Just a quick re-fill of 24 ounces of water and I would be headed back down the road. Then, I heard one of my number one food weaknesses, donuts!  I thought, ‘’it’s really early to be eating a lot of solid,’’ but then I quickly remembered that I had been telling myself for weeks to focus on calories early. It was meant to be.  As my waters were re-filled, I enjoyed a glazed donut from Dunkin’ Donuts.

From Old Mill to the Polo Fields was approximately five miles down the road and while still very early in the race, I did the math in my head to figure out that I was on an 18-hour pace. As much as I had tried to keep the pace slow on the opening road, this was too quick and I decided to make an aggressive effort to slow things down. After all, my crew was not scheduled to arrive at Shadow Lake till 9:30 AM, so there was no sense in rushing. Then, at mile 10, the course and my body gave me a reason to slow down. The outside of my left knee had started to ache. At first, it was not much of a concern, because I had no pain coming into the race. Also, I have experienced odd aches and pains early in ultramarathons before that turned out to be nothing 5-10 miles down the course. I pushed along, focusing on good running form, staying on the flattest surface of the road that I could find, and keeping up with my hydration.

Polo Fields was an early crew access point in the race and many participants had elected to use it. I, however, was still on my own.  As I approached the aid station, I prepared all my flasks to be filled and laughed in my head at the superhero-themed aid station with volunteers running around in costume. While everything was being filled up, I pre-mixed another 16 ounces of Tailwind Nutrition from the powder that we had stored in my pack. I also filled my collapsible MSR camping cup with peanut butter pretzels, potato chips, and M&M’s. With everything full, I strapped on my pack and began walking along the course, munching on all the snacks that filled my cup. The use of this cup was a time-saving strategy. Being collapsible and lightweight meant it would take up very little space in my pack and that I could get out of an aid station quickly, but with everything that I needed.

Next, we had a long 7.5 mile stretch to Harper Ridge Picnic Area, then a short 3.25 miles to Shadow Lake, and my crew. These next two sections came as a relief as the course began to transition from road to bridle trails and a number of little stream crossings to traverse. The softer surface was easier on my knee, but I could tell somewhere between these two aid stations that the pain was not going to go away for the rest of the day. Whatever it was, the damage had been done. I texted Nicole, to have her pick up an icy hot type product and make sure she had ibuprofen with her at Shadow Lake. While you may read many race reports that are full of runners enjoying conversations with each other during an ultra, I elect to run as much solo as possible. If someone matches my pace, then sure, I chat, but otherwise, I am only with my own thoughts and effort. The amount of pain in my knee made me wish a couple of times that I had a companion to run this race with, but then again the amount of pain would probably screw up that person’s race as well. I pushed along with my own thoughts, mostly positive, reminding myself that there was still a lot of time left ahead of me for things to change for the better.

Where is my crew?

At 9:42 AM, I entered Shadow Lake, mile 24.38, and on a 19-20 hour pace. Relived to be here, I began searching for my crew, which can sometimes take a minute to do. At large aid stations, there is a lot of commotion and the crowds can make it hard to pick out even the most familiar of faces. However, I did not see them anywhere, so I proceeded to the aid station tables to snack on some food and re-fill my flasks with water. Getting this done now meant that when I did locate my crew, I would only need to address my knee, change my shoes as planned, and re-stock on gels and Tailwind Nutrition. The problem was my crew was still not here and now I was standing idle. I pulled out my phone to call Nicole. It turned out that we had under-estimated the amount of time that it would take to get from the hotel to this point on the course, and they were still 5-10 minutes away. I proceeded out to the road where they would be coming down and began to stretch.

Frustrated by this mistake, it was what it was, and it was all about managing the circumstances of the day. I worked through every stretch I could think of, jogged in place, and paced back-n-forth. Finally, I recognized my crew car coming down the road and motioned for them to just pull off on the side of the road right where I was standing. I did not care if this was an unacceptable place to park, as I just wanted to get going. We quickly worked through the things that needed to be done and I was off down the trail. I had entered the aid station at 9:42 AM and exited 14 minutes later at 9:56 AM. This was a long time to be in one place this early in the race. However, I was thankful that things worked out and that I was still on a strong pace for the day.

As I left Shadow Lake, I decided to lift my mood by throwing on my Redfox Wireless Headphones and tuning out the world with some music. The station of choice on Pandora was Red Hot Chili Peppers, and it covered music from classic rock-n-roll to today’s best alternative songs. The music lifted my pace and helped me forget about the troubles at Shadow Lake. This next 4.79-mile section was a good mixture of flat, rolling hills, and a few big climbs. It also was the first time the course ventured away from the road and paved multi-purpose trail, deeper into the woods, and along Buckeye Trail. Beginning to get away from civilization also lifted my mood and helped me to move along with more ease than I had run within the last couple of hours.

I covered the sections from Shadow Lake to Oak Grove I (15.34 miles) in 3 hours and 24 minutes (13:15 mile pace) and it went by rather uneventfully. My mood was back positive and I learned to deal with the pain in my knee. I stayed on top of my hydration and nutrition plan, consuming a gel every 40-minutes, an S-Cap every hour, and switching back-n-forth between drinks of water and Tailwind Nutrition. The course ran along an old canal, railroad tracks, and a historic train station that still runs passenger trains and has diner cars. A couple of miles short of Oak Grove I, the sky began to look like it was going to rain. There had been reports of short hard rain showers across the course, so I packed away my headphones and phone to keep them dry in anticipation of being poured on. At this point in the race, it was the middle of the afternoon and it had reached 80 degrees. I thought that a rain shower right now would be nice because it would cool me off and my crew was just a little way up the trail at Oak Grove. A text message from Nicole reported that they had taken shelter at Oak Grove due to heavy rain. Unfortunately and fortunately at the same time, along the course, we experienced just light rain.




Oak Grove Loops

Entering Oak Grove, my crew and I had a very set plan, as the course would now make a 4.32-mile loop and bring me right back to the same spot. We wasted no time here as I dropped my pack, picked up a flask of water and a flask of chocolate Ensure, and headed out for what I hoped would be an easy and fast loop. The 4.32-mile loop, however, consisted of some decent-sized rolling hills that tend to eat away at your ability to maintain pace and effort. I focused on getting my nutrition in on the flat and downhill sections and worked reasonably hard up all the climbs to get myself back around to Oak Grove II in 49-minutes (11:20 mile pace). The race time was 9:09 and I was at mile 44.05 at slightly under a 21-hour pace, but I was in no hurry here as I approached my crew awaiting me at the aid station.
Burning River 100 Mile Endurance Run Oak Grove Aid StationThroughout a 100-miler, I try to not waste too much time in aid stations, but there are times where spending a few extra minutes goes a long way in helping to keep up the effort. While I was running the loop, my crew had refilled all my flasks and laid out everything on a picnic table that they thought I might need. First priority when I approached was the bathroom. Looking back on this, I had relieved myself multiple times to this point on the course, so why I needed to use an actual toilet and waste time waiting in line is beyond me. Coming back to my crew, I changed shirts and socks, re-applied Body Glide to my feet, groin, and shoulders, stuffed my pockets full of gels, and ate half a turkey and cheese sandwich. The stop took 10-15 minutes and I left feeling very refreshed and ready to take on the next 10.54-miles of the course to the Boston Store and the next time that I would see my crew.

The immediate next section of the course went through the infamous ‘’Bog of Despair.’’ Runners had referred to this section many times on Facebook prior to the race, but on race day it was nothing to write home about. There were some big sections of mud, but with a little planning your route and not hesitating to venture off the main trail, it was very easy to navigate around and avoid losing your shoes. This 10.54-mile stretch was fairly flat with the exception of three big climbs. These climbs took a lot out of my legs and I made sure to focus on my nutrition on each of the flat and downhill sections to keep my muscles fueled and operating correctly. The course went up a set of old stairs that were in desperate need of repair, across a rickety bridge, and a couple of small creek crossings. At this point, I could hear the music coming from the Snowville Aid Station, which would mark mile 49.62. I entered this aid station at 10:35 into the race, quickly refilled my water, ate half a grilled cheese sandwich, drank some Coke, and headed out to get to my crew at Boston Aid Station.

I was feeling strong as I left Snowville and I was hoping that the course would continue to give me large sections that I could run and keep my legs loose. I crossed Snowville Road and was immediate confronted with a giant set of stairs. By the time I reached the top of the stairs, my quads were burning, but the climbing was not over. The rolling hills continued almost all the way to Boston Aid Station, but as I got closer, the course began to give me a lot more long technical downhill sections. I was a little worried about running these sections hard and tearing up my quads, but I let my legs go and flew down each rocky section. There was one more large set of stairs to climb before reaching the Boston Store, but I finally emerged from the trail onto Boston Mills Road to spectators, crews, and volunteers everywhere. I dropped my headphones around my neck and let the cheering of the crowds lift my spirits even higher. I was already feeling good and the support of the crowd had me beaming with energy by the time I reached my crew at the aid station.

Not the Real Boston, but a Good Place after 50+ Miles

boston-stationBoston Aid Station marked mile 54.59. I was more than halfway done and despite my knee still hurting, I had managed to keep the day together and keep the pace strong. In my first 100-miler, Pinhoti 100 in November 2013, I had completely fallen apart from mile 50 to 60, but today was completely the opposite. My crew and I were on a roll and my mood was getting better and better with each aid station reached. We re-filled water and Tailwind, and I ate some pretzels, chips, drank a cup of Coke, and downed some chicken broth. The next planned crew stop was Pine Hollow I and despite how well the day was going, my crew realized that by the time I reach there it very well could be dark. I did not want to take on my headlamp at Boston, so we elected to move up the crew stop to Ledges, which was 11.73 miles away.

Leaving Boston the course offered some great views along the Buckeye Trail with open fields, massive highway bridges that towered overhead, and the old canal. I was finding running to be easier up and down the hills until I reached the Pine Lane aid station at mile 59.55. From mile 25 till this point in the race, I was able to almost completely forget about my knee pain and my mood was positive. However, there were a couple of long climbs just before the Pine Lane aid station that sucked everything out of me and I began to fall into a nasty funk. I began having thoughts about hating the course and doubting my ability to keep pushing through the pain. I spent close to minutes at the Pine Lane aid station sipping on coke, chicken broth, and eating chips, all the while trying to build up the courage to head out onto the next section. Then, I remembered my crew was now waiting for me just ahead at the next aid station and I told myself I just had to push on to that point.

The course from Pine Lane to Ledges was not especially difficult, with a mixture of roads and paved bike paths. I just focused my gaze down the course and kept up with an easy running pace. After a little over three miles on pavement, the course went back in on the trail and covered around another mile before emerging at the old Happy Days Lodge. At this point in the race, I was entirely by myself, with no runners close behind or close ahead. I thought that I was less than a half-mile away from the Ledges aid station and began to push a little harder to get there. In reality, it was a much longer distance and my mood began to go negative again. I just wanted to get my crew, but the trail leading from the lodge to Ledges shelter was rocky and forced me to walk. This prolonged the amount of time it took to get to my crew and it irritated me even more. When I finally reached Ledges aid station, I fell into the camping chair that had been set up for me and just stared off into the distance.

Burning River 100 Mile Endurance Run Ledges Aid StationMy crew let me sit in silence for a minute or two. This short amount of time let me calm my thoughts and re-grasp the positive mentality that it was going to take to get out of here. I asked for some Body Glide and if there was a bathroom. Then, I lazily wandered off to take care of the massive chaffing that had started to occur on my shoulders from my pack and between my legs. As I walked, I sipped on some warm chicken broth and when I returned to my crew there were a couple of small slices of pizza waiting for me. I began munching on these as we changed socks, put on a long-sleeve shirt, and prepared my headlamp for the on-coming darkness. The decision to move up the next crew stop from Pine Hollow to Ledges was one of the most important decisions we made in the entire race. While I left Ledges walking, this stop had allowed me to put in much-needed calories, make some changes into dry and warmer clothes, and it got me out of the negative mood that I was falling into.

The course out of Ledges circled the large aid station field on a gravel path and then quickly returned to the type of single-track technical trail that had brought us into the Ledges aid station. I moved along underneath rock walls and climbed over rocks of various sizes. I am not sure if the time I had taken at Ledges had allowed other runners to catch up or if other runners had taken so long at the aid station that I had caught up to them, but regardless of which, I found myself moving along for a few miles with others for the first time in nearly 10 miles. Conversations bounced back-n-forth down the trail through the group about where each of us was from and what we did for work. It made me forget about the effort being expended and I started to move with a lot more ease again.

However, less than two miles out from Pine Hollow, my pace had quickened again so much that I was back running by myself. One moment the course would be in heavy woods and my headlamp would be necessary. The next moment, I was running through a wide-open field and there was just enough daylight left to where I could turn my light off and conserve battery power. Approaching Pine Hollow meant running through one last large grassy field on a trail that had been cut by large mowers. It was completely dark at this point, but the trail underfoot was easy. I kept my light off as I startled several runners on this final up-hill approach to the aid station.

The plan for Pine Hollow was identical to the plan we laid out at Oak Grove. The course was now going to take me on a short 3.72-mile loop and lead me right back to the same aid station. I dropped my pack with my crew, drank some hot chocolate that they had prepared, and proceeded out on the loop carrying 8 ounces of water, 8 ounces of Tailwind, and one GU Gel. The loop consisted of a lot of short up and downs that just ate away at any energy I had left at this point in time. To make matters worse, there were sporadic patches of mud that were hard to spot with just the light coming from my headlamp. Going into the loop, I had thought it was such a short distance that I would be able to cover it in less than 45-minutes. In reality, it took me an hour and nine minutes to make it back around to my crew at Pine Hollow aid station.

Coming back into Pine Hollow aid station it was now 10:30 PM, 17:30 into the race, and mile marker 75.77. With less than a marathon left in the race, I was trying to be as positive as possible with my crew. I thought to myself how nice it would have been to have a pacer to join me over this last stretch, but I never said anything out loud. I sat in my chair at Pine Hollow and ate the rest of my turkey sandwich back from the Oak Grove aid station and sipped on some Coke. I knew my only option was to get up and keep moving. I pushed myself out of the chair, headed down the length of the parking lot, and back into the darkness of the trail.

Early Country Paved Roads Come Back to Haunt Me

A total of 30-minutes had gone by since I had left the Pine Hollow aid station for the second time and I was now on an empty 6.19 mile stretch of trail between aid stations. The course was hilly and very muddy, which began to take a serious toll on my knee. All of a sudden my knee completely locked up. “One-quarter of the race left, one-quarter of the race left!” As I stood idle in the dark on an empty trail, I kept telling myself this as my left leg continued to shoot pain up and down my body each time I tried to bend it more than about 10 degrees.

At this point, it had been approximately 65 miles since the outside of my left knee started bothering me. I had pushed to this point and now the darn thing was shutting down completely. I stood idle on the trail for 5-minutes before sending a text message to Nicole. When she did not immediately respond, I called, and as soon as she picked up I said, ‘’I quit, my knee will not bend.’’ The phone was silent as I am sure she was processing what the correct words to use were at this point in time. Another runner came jogging up to me and asked if I was okay. As he jogged right past, I explained my knee was giving me fits all day and I think it might be done. I said to him and into the phone at the same time, ‘’I think I might turnaround and walk back to Pine Hollow. Just the thought of making a 30-minute walk backward on the course was demoralizing, but so was the thought of pushing on to try to reach the next aid station at a snail’s pace.

Nicole finally broke down the situation for me. ‘’You can turnaround if you want and we will come back to get you. We are already at the next crew stop, Botzum Parking, if you can get here you have less than 10-miles left in the race.’’ In response to this I barked out, ‘’Well if I get there, I’m not going to quit!’’ To which, Nicole replied, ‘’well those are your options.’’ It was that simple, keep moving or quit. Nicole continued to talk through the situation and explained to me how mad at myself I would be if I were to quit now and wake up feeling fully capable the next day. She reminded me of Delirium 24-hour back in February where I stopped around midnight to sleep. I slept for almost six hours, then woke up to log another 10-miles before the 24-hours ran out, feeling none of the aches and pains that made me stop at midnight. She also reminded me of how much quicker I was moving in comparison to Pinhoti 100 and how that we had executed things so perfectly up until this point.

My motivation came back ever so slightly and I forced myself into a hobbling walk as I continued to talk with Nicole, hanging on to every word she had to share. I finally hung up with Nicole and a few minutes later I was miraculous back running again. It was very slow going, but I was moving forward, and if I was moving forward, then I knew I could finish. About two miles before the Covered Bridge aid station, I caught back up to the runner that had passed me while I was on the phone. He was now the one looking like it was going to drop, so I passed on some words of encouragement and continued along the course. The course came out of the woods and onto the road for the last stretch before the aid station and suddenly there were about half a dozen other runners right around me. The combination of the flat course along the road and the presence of other runners was extremely uplifting.

Arriving at the Covered Bridge aid station, it was now 12:20 PM, mile 81.96, and I realized that I was still on a sub-24 hour finish. Covered Bridge marked the third aid station on the course where runners completed a loop and returned to the exact same spot. I moved quickly to re-fill my water, eat some chips and pretzels and took down a couple of cups of Coke. As I exited the aid station, I asked a volunteer how the loop was fairing for runners, to which she replied, ‘’it’s a tough one, but we will see you again.’’ She was brutally honest, and I did not like it.

Hot Dogs Here!

The loop started with one really big climb. I was making my way up it for a few minutes when my phone rang. It was Nicole checking in with me and I decided to chat with her as I made my way up this climb completely alone on the trail. Once at the top of the climb, the course flattened out, I hung up with Nicole and began to run whenever the course was flat or downhill. There was quite a bit of mud and several stream crossings to manage, but I just kept pushing forward as quickly as I could. The 4.45-mile loop back to Covered Bridge took me 1:26 to complete, and I now found myself slightly over a sub-24 hour pace. As hard as I had worked on the loop, I had lost a good amount of time. Instead of pushing on right away, I decided to take a rest and eat some food. This was one of those points in the course that I knew I few extra minutes here would save me a lot of time later. A volunteer was walking around asking runners if anyone wanted a hot dog, to which most were looking like the thought of eating a hot dog would make them throw up. When he got to me, I was excited to say ‘’yes, don’t mind if I do.’’ Another runner chimed in with ‘’good luck keeping that down.’’ I was confident that my body was craving calories, so I accepted the hot dog and loaded it up with ketchup, mustard, and relish. It was the best-tasting hot dog I have had in a long time!

As I exited the Covered Bridge aid station, I laughed in my head about how funny it was to be eating a hot dog in the middle of a 100-miler. I began running down the road at a reasonable clip and flipped my headlamp off to conserve batteries. A few miles down the road the course went back onto a single track trail and began to climb again. Through this section of trail, I was slowed to running for 3 minutes and walking for 2 minutes as it took everything I had to keep up the pace. I finally came back out onto the road to which I thought meant the Botzum Parking aid station and my crew were somewhere nearby. I continued up the road for another two miles until I could finally hear the people at the aid station.

I entered Botzum Parking aid station still slightly over a sub-24 hour pace and feeling very out of it. I found Nicole standing next to the aid station tent and we began to walk towards the spot that I thought they had set up for me. I approached a picnic table and I thought it was my mom sitting on the table with a blanket around her. The lady looked at me very strangely as I came straight at her. Finally, Nicole grabbed my arm and said we were going to the car. I was very confused and apologized to the lady for startling her. Sitting in the passenger seat of the car, I did not want anything, so Nicole just let me sit there for a few minutes and rest my mind. Finally, I put on a dry long-sleeve shirt, dry socks, and a new pair of shorts. With less than 10-miles to go in the race, it was a little late to make these types of changes, but I thought that this last stretch to the finish line was going to take me more than five hours, and I just wanted to be comfortable. As I left the aid station, Nicole explained that they were going to meet me up the course at mile marker 96.4, Memorial Parkway aid station.

Energy from Nowhere

At this point in the race, I had no thoughts remaining of finishing anywhere close to 24-hours. I walked up the trail completely dejected. Then, I realized that I had been walking for about 5-minutes and the trail had stayed completely flat and on a wide-open bike path. I remembered from the course descriptions that this type of terrain would remain almost all the way to the finish and I said to myself, “‘I should be running.” I downed a GU Roctane Chocolate Raspberry gel and began running. Out of nowhere, I was moving at a 9-minute mile pace. I hit the end of the current mile, according to my watch, and decided to walk for 2-minutes. At the end of the minutes of walking, I began running and decided to push the pace till my average for that current mile was back down to a 9-minute mile. This meant that I was probably running closer to a 7-minute mile pace. I began to pass runner after runner along this 5.37-mile stretch as I kept up this strategy all the way to Memorial Parkway. Around 15-minutes before I thought I would reach this aid station, I sent a message to Nicole during my walk break to have water and Tailwind ready for me. I had dropped my pack back at Botzum aid station and was going as lightweight as possible from there to the finish.

From the time I entered Botzum aid station to the time I entered Memorial Parkway was only 1 hour 15 minutes. I had covered 5.37 miles with stoppage time at a 14-minute mile pace, but I had been running much harder than that. I handed off my two empty flasks, grabbed the replacements from Nicole, and took off out of Memorial Parkway without even breaking stride. It was 4.59 miles to the finish and I had 45-minutes before 24-hours would pass by. I knew that it was going to take a huge feat to still break 24 at this point in time, but I wanted to make it as close as possible.

I pushed the pace for another two miles as the course remained on a paved road. The course then took a right back onto the trail and I was immediately greeted with a steep climb. I walked up the hill and was delighted to find mostly flat ground on the other side. I went into a solid routine of running for 5-minutes and walking for 2-minutes through this last section of the trail. There were several large sets of wooden staircases that just seemed cruel this late in the race, but I knew I had to get up these in order to reach the last stretch of paved road into the finish. After around another mile running along the river, I came out onto the street and knew this was the final stretch of the course. I ran along on the sidewalk until I stubbed my right big toe on an uneven part. Cursing at myself and the sidewalk out loud, I took a quick maneuver out into the street and ran right up the middle of the road.

Burning River 100 Mile Endurance Runphoto-1-4Coming into the finish, there were no other runners within sight. Nicole greeted me about 100 feet before the finish as I jogged across the line to the cheers of the few race crews that were hanging around at this point in the morning. Despite not hitting my time goal, I was ecstatic with a finish time of 24:19. I sat on a park bench next to the finish line with my mom for about 15-20 minutes. She was at a loss for words with how proud she was of me. My mom was at every one of my high school cross country and track meets as well as swimming meets. She made it to a fair amount of my post-high school races and marathons as well. Since moving to South Carolina in 2010 she had only seen me run one marathon and she had never seen me run an ultramarathon. She later told me that it was an exhausting, but thrilling experience for her to watch me push so hard through so many difficulties.

Nicole and I climbed into the tent that she had set up next to the finish line and my mom retired to the car for a few hours. Despite registering for the race pretty early in the year, no hotel rooms were available close to the finish line, so we literally had our backpacking tent set up 15 feet from the finish line. I dozed off for a couple of hours as the rain began to steadily fall. I woke up just before 9:00 AM to the sounds of the finish line announcer calling name after name of finisher coming through. Attempting to get out of the tent proved very difficult as the swelling had fully set in on my knee. I hobbled three-quarters of a mile over to the Aquatic Center to take a hot shower and noted that my left knee was about twice the size of my right knee. I laughed to myself for pushing so hard and felt so accomplished by my second 100-mile finish in less than a year.

The course was difficult, the weather was perfect, the volunteers and crowd support were amazing, and all and all I had a great day! To my crew, goes a huge thank you for keeping me on track with calorie intake and motivation throughout even when I thought I was done. Thank you to the Burning River 100 team for making it such a memorable run!

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