Monday, August 6, 2007

Burning River 100 Race Report

What a race!

For once I arrived at Mike’s house when I said I would, noon on Saturday. His daughters were out front selling lemonade, they made more than 25 dollars by the days end! Tony came over and we talked for a bit. Kim got there later on. We went to lunch them went to the pre-race meeting around 5:00. It was fun getting to see all the friends I have made. After the meeting We went back to Mike’s house to get some sleep in preparation for our big day, and night, and next morning. Tony, a runner coming from Texas who was also running the race, and Adam, my badass pacer, were also staying with Mike. Lasheda and Mike we’re nice enough to house all of us runners.

I didn’t get much sleep Friday night (2 or 3 hours) but I wasn’t worried because I hadn’t gotten much sleep before Mohican and it didn’t seem to effect me. We made the long drive to the start where we made final preparation. Mike and I got a few final pictures with Rob at squires castle and before I knew it, 5:00 had come and it was time to get started. I wasn’t paying much attention when the race started and soon realized I was towards the front of the pack. It’s good I noticed this now instead of 20 miles into the race. I stepped off to the side and began my slow trot until I was comfortable in the very back. Within 2.5 miles I was dead last, right where I wanted to be. I had run this part of the course before and knew that I would have to employ a run walk strategy to keep from going out too fast because the first 20 miles are so flat. As I came to the first aid station around mile 5 I noticed I was under 24 hour pace, when I wanted to be on 27 hour pace. Oh crap, I thought, but I was in last place, how could I be going so fast? I had a feeling people were going to go too fast on this section, but this was just crazy!

It was 18 miles into the race before I even saw another runner, at that time I was still at about 24 hour pace, despite me efforts to slow down. The hillier terrain to follow was a welcome sight; it helped me slow my pace. I was cursing pretty well at this point. Coming into an aid station at 23 or 26 miles (I can’t recall) as I was crossing the street I heard “is that Josh?” it was Sara aka Skirt chick, made world famous on Red’s blog and fellow buckeye trail 50k runner. She gave me a big hug and wished me luck as I continued down the trail.

As I approached my 30 Adam (my pacer) was there and cheered me as I came through. I also saw Rob who was 6 miles ahead of me, after he just got back from the loop from 30-36. He said Mike was about a half mile ahead of me, and was having problems with his hip. I caught up with mike a few miles down the trail and walked/ran with him for a while. His hip was bothering him but other than that he felt good. Texas Tony caught up to us about halfway through the loop, I guess I had passed him at the aid station. Tony was looking forward to the heat of the day as he was well trained for the heat being from Texas. I underestimated the distance between the aid stations at 30 and 36 so when I got back I was very hungry.

I had to eat quite a bit of food which I knew would cause me problems for the next couple hours but the mistake had already been made and this was the only way to fix it. I changed into my new Keen’s at mile 36 I hadn’t started in them because they only had 5 miles on them, but my current pair had 500-600 miles on them and I could feel them wearing out in the midsole. The new pair felt fine despite my worries. This was my first low point in the race. It worried me because at Mohican I hadn’t experienced any lows before mile 75. I wasn’t even half way to that point now and I already felt like crap! How was I going to go 64 more miles? It wasn’t just a problem with my stomach digesting all the food I had just eaten. My quads were already fried, 36 miles into a 100 mile race. My mood grew wary but all I could do was keep moving forward, so that’s what I did. This gloom continued for the next 10 miles or so with short reprieves. At the Snowville aid station, mile 46, as I was stuffing my face I heard a familiar voice. Mike had made a nice recovery and was look strong coming into the aid station. I waited a few second for him to finish up at the aid station and we once again set off together.

I could tell that he was a lot strong than me at this point so I just tried to keep up. His company really improved my mood and we cruised along for a few miles, But before the next aid station I was back to feeling pretty low and watched as Mike ran away from me. At Boston Store aid station (51 miles) I was surprised to see Steve Sutton, who I ran many miles with at Mohican. He was planning on running BR but decided to come and watch instead. I was very excited to see him. I was instantly in a better mood, until he asked me how I felt. The reality came back to me. I was halfway through the race, and I felt like crap, and had felt this way for 15 miles. Steve told me “You are about 30-45 minutes ahead of the cut-off so you don’t have to much time to mess around.”

This was the first time I had really thought I might not finish this race. I was losing time fast and I was in no condition to make it up. Steve continued “Hey man, if you this doesn’t happen, don’t worry about it. There’s nothing to be ashamed of.” I knew he was trying to make me feel better. This light a fire under me. I thought to my self “This race might take me down, but I’m giving it everything I have. They’ll have to scrap me off this damn course.” I took off out of the aid station, focused, trying to maintain a steady pace. Things started looking up at this point and I was able to make up a little bit of time in this 5 mile loop. I was back at Boston Store, this time at mile 56. Almost as soon as I left the Aid station my mood was back in the dumps, this time stronger than ever before. I was having flashbacks to my 24 hour race in Virginia.

In that race I had started out to fast then was on a death march from mile 56 to 60 where I stopped. So far this day had been an instant replay of that one. I began to flip out. Searching my brain for any bit of information that could help me out, trying to take experience from all of my race, any thing that might help. I knew getting to mile 65 and picking up Adam (pacer) would help, but I wasn’t convinced it would be enough, and if I didn’t do something soon I would even get to mile 65. This was by far the closest I have ever come to defeat in a race. When I reached mile 65 I could only think of on more thing that I could try to save my race.

I was going to sit in a chair for 20 minutes and try to sleep. I haven’t done this before and feared it would only make things worse, but I was the definition of desperate at this point. Lloyd was the aid station captain at 65 so I told him I was going to sleep for 20 minutes and asked him if someone could wake me up. I could tell he didn’t want me to do it. He tried to lure me to the next aid station, telling me there was a cot there if I still felt like resting, he also told me that Kim was there. I knew he was only trying to help, but I also knew if I didn’t do something right now, I wouldn’t make it to 65. I was a fumbling mess at this point and asked Lloyd 3 or 4 times if someone would be able to wake me up in 20 minutes, “yeah, just sit down!” he said, he should have just told me to shut the hell up. I couldn’t help it, I have a reoccurring dream that I fall asleep during a race and don’t wake up until it is over.

About 10 minutes later I popped up out of the chair, downed a cup of Coke and took off out of there on a mission. I was refreshed, rejuvenated and ready to go. I was now feeling better than I had in the last 30 miles. All of my negative thoughts were washed away. I employed a nice run/walk strategy to the next aid station where I finally met up with Adam and saw Brian, Kim and Maria. I was still only about 40 minutes ahead of the cut off so I grabbed a few pieces of Andrew’s peanut brittle, said my hello’s and thank you’s and took off down the trail with Adam.

Having Adam with me really made the difference. With out him there I think I may have slept back into my low to the point of no return. We had a good conversation about important world topics like the Kool-Aid man and the gay’s of Mount Airy Forest. We were keeping a steady pace but we still were not making up any room on the cutoffs. At this point my feet were beginning to really bother me. I wasn’t getting blisters like at Mo, but the pounding had created intense bruises on the balls of my feet. It especially hurt when I walked because my feet were in contact with the ground for a longer period of time. Because of this I tried to run when the terrain allowed but also made sure I didn’t go too fast, because I remembered what happed at Mohican when I took off at 67 miles! Along this stretch I had to stop and rest for 10 minutes 2 more times at different aid stations. I had to take the pressure off my feet.

Each time I rested it helped a lot but was a little less effective after each time. I knew I was fading fast. When we arrived at mile 80, covered bridge aid station, it was once again gut check time. We were only 17 minutes ahead of the cut off. We had to do the 4 mile loop back to the covered bridge in 1:30. I taped my feet, hoping it might relieve some pressure, I also downed my Monster energy drink and we took off. I told Adam I wanted to do this loop in one hour. I was cautious not to spend all my energy but I knew that if I took to much time I wouldn’t have anything to save energy for, I would be over the cut off. At this point we were back and forth with Fred Davis, so I knew I was in good company and could still do this. I came back into the aid station in 1:01, perfect.

The tape on my feet did a great job in relieving the pressure, for about 5 miles. Now my feet hurt so damn bad I couldn’t think about anything else. At mile 85 I was back to moving very slow, in a lot of pain. I thought about how I was *only* 15 miles from the finish but that was still so far away. I thought about how bad it would suck to come this far and not finish. At mile 88 I grabbed a piece of cold pizza rested my feet for a couple minutes then Adam and I headed out. A couple miles later I told Adam I would need another 10 minute rest at the next aid station (91.3) a few minutes later I couldn’t wait any longer.

I just laid down in a ditch on the side of the road an rested. When I got up I felt a little bitter but the pain in my feet came back almost instantly. Right as I got up Fred Davis was running past. We stayed with him for a couple miles until the aid station. About ½ a mile before the aid station, Adam and I got in a nice grove. As we approached the Aid Station I saw E-speed! I was so glad to see her and she was very cheery, as usual! She walked with us for a minute or two and wished me luck. Right after that it was like a switch was flipped in my brain. I had 9 miles to go, I had to get there. We started running faster than I had run all day.

I wasn’t worried about blowing up and had nothing left to save for. My feet were in intense pain. It hurt worst to walk than it did to run, and the more I walked the longer it would take, so I ran, and ran. I skipped the aid station at mile 95, I didn’t want anything to disrupt my rhythm. I said hello to Maria as she was STILL out there working hard for all of us looney runners. Adam grabbed some food for me and caught up to me as I continued to run. If I had to guess I would say we were averaging 12 minute miles at this point. My mood began to sky rocket. I was now absolutely positive I was going to finish this race. I swelled with pride after thinking about everything I had overcome in this race. I only stopped to walk on the 2 stair cases and a few technical sections of glens trail with a couple miles to go. As soon as I hit the road with 0.6 miles to go I took of running. With a quarter mile to go there was a volunteer with a radio jogging along side of us radioing into the finish.

He was trying to run along side of us so naturally I speed up trying to lose him. Adam and I ran strong into to finish and this phenomenally challenging journey was complete, 28 hours 24 minutes later, a new PR. If you would have told me at mile 60 I would have a new PR I would have told you, you were crazy.

When I got to the finish Tom volunteered his self to be my personal servant. He gave me his sweat shirt, pain killers, blanket and held an umbrella for me while I sat in the rain. This man is a saint!!!!!

This was be far the most difficult physical challenge of my life. The course at Mohican was more difficult in terms of terrain, but the set up of the Burning River course really sucked everyone in to going out to fast. Even though I knew the course was like that I went to fast anyway! I was very proud of my self for resurrecting my race at mile 60 after I had almost no hope of finishing.

I want to thank all the volunteers for taking care of us all the time we were out there, offering us a smile when we needed it the most. I couldn’t have done what I did without my Kickass pacer, Adam. He kept me on track and entertained the whole way, “what would you like to drink?”

KOOL-AID.” (you had to be there.)

This race meant more to me than any other, I went through hell and came out alive. I can’t wait to run it again and again.


Rob "Buckeye" Powell said...


That was one fine race you ran. You should be very proud you survived that one. This is an example of your training and mental ability!


Mark Tanaka said...

Big congratulations-- I always say the reward is proportional to how difficult it gets, so way to endure!

Kim said...

Congratulations on finishing a very tough race in sick conditions. Way too hot out there.
Excellent race report, I think there is now a better explanation on the attrition rate for the race-you were DFL and still on a 24 hour pace! Unbelievable. Someone had posted earlier in the year about getting sucked in too fast on the first part of the course-it seems like that was true.
Rest up! Do you have a race this weekend?

Sara said...


Totally amazing report. I swelled with pride for you while reading it. You have so much to be proud of. What an accomplishment and testament of the human will. I was so excited to see you at the Harper Ridge Aid Station area, and I'll hug you anytime, baby! I had the pleasure of meeting Adam at the mile 65.7 aid station, what a great guy. I'm so glad he was there to help get you through, and share in, the last part of your amazing Journey.

Anonymous said...

Awesome job Josh! I love the report! What else can I say? I wasn't with you, but I can almost hear the "Kool-Aid!!!!"

Talk to you soon!

E-Speed said...

Josh you did such an amazing job! So many ultra veterans did not make it to the finish this weekend but you did and you did it in style. Way to finish strong!

I hope those feet of your feel better soon! I need to get out on a trail run with you, Mike, Tony, and Rob. You guys are such an inspiration.

Sensationally Red said...

When I saw you at mile 96, you looked fresh as a daisy. I had no idea you had so many ups and downs. Ever since having children, I've depended on the 10 minute cat nap to rejuvenate and get me through the day. I'm glad you were able to get that boost, but continue on. Congratulations! You're a hero. Glad you got a chance to meet Sara, the Skirt chik. You're tough as nails Josh!

Addy said...

Congratulations!!! You're amazing. Part of the intrigue and draw of these races I think are those potential moments of resurrection that you can experience as the runner. You've become such a physically and mentally strong runner and that really came through out there at the race.


Josh said...


Thanks man, I am proud. I will also be proud when you run your next 100 and things finally fall back into place without all these freak problems.


I agree with you. It got difficult, that’s for sure, and in the end it couldn't have been more rewarding!


Thanks, the course really sucked us all in to it's trap, I was lucky to escape. I am running an 8 hour race in Illinois this weekend, Howl at The Moon.


I am glad you introduced yourself even when I didn't recognize you at first, my mind was a bit spacey at that point. Thanks for the encouragement, hug, and just being there for all of us! Looking forward to seeing you out on the trails again sometime!


Thanks for dragging my sorry ass into Boston store at mile 50! See you soon I am sure.


I don't know why I was able to finish when so many others didn't but I'm not complaining, lol. You were such a huge help to all of us out there! Thanks for walking with Adam and I! The feet are still pretty bruised up but they're coming around.


I didn't have to many ups and downs, mostly looong downs, lol. I was glad to see you, Roger, and Deb at 96!


Thanks, I think I have learned alot from all the ultrarunning I have done in the past year, and I sure used every bit of that knowledge for this race!

tony said...

Josh, an incredible story and race for you! You were so tough mentally and physically to finish this race! That's what it's all about! And you will be able to remember and draw on this experience in future races.

I am so glad to call you a friend, and so many others here who commented and volunteered! Someof you, I met for the first time on the course. Even if I would not have finished, just the friendships gained made this whole BR more than worth it!!

Last your blog about a month or more ago, you wrote..."I have no doubt that Tony will finish BR"...that meant more to me than you'll ever know! Thanks friend!!

Josh said...


Man, you did so great out there for your first 100!! You finished in a race that took out many vets. I remember writing that comment after out group trail run, I meant it with all my heart, and now I am happy to say it came true for you!
I wonder if this 100 mile race can help you in any way for your marathons?
So will we be seeing you for the next BR? 68 of us have a headstart on the rest on our way to the 10 time buckle!

tony said...

Thanks Josh! In answer to your question "if it will help in marathons?"...there's a saying...
"If it doesn't kill you,
it can only make you stronger!"

Will I be back? I definitely want to, and hope I can talk some into it. I'd love to go for that 10 year buckle with you!

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Footfeathers said...

Hi Josh,
I hope you get this comment. I'd email you directly, but don't have your email.

I ran my first ultra last July, the Rattlesnake (you and Rob were there). Anyway, I want to attempt my first 100, and am looking at Burning River. What's your opinion of the race? I obviously read your race report, but wanted more mundane info like would you choose this race for your first 100? The other ones I'm considering are very difficult and, frankly, scare the hell out of me. 100 miles is frightening enough.
Thanks for the feedback
Tim Long

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