Burning River Part 4 – Tale of Two Races Boston Store to the Finish
Leaving Boston store for the first time was a blessing and a curse. This was the first time I started to see runners falling apart and throwing in the towel. Watching people cry in pain, and fall asleep in the sun made this race real. In the last post I talked about Bill and our determination to stick together. Before leaving Boston Store I asked Bill what he wanted us to do and like any great ultra runner would do he said “leave me and enjoy”. Tim and I took off for a quick 4.4 mile loop. I thought that these miles would be the last miles where Tim and I would run alone, but it wasn’t.
We arrived back in Boston Store to pick up our pacers. Jimmy V (The Burning River “Believe” Video You Tube Star) had the task of pushing us into the darkness. After a long wait for Tim to change his clothes (Thanks Tim, I pigged out on Fruit and stole a bunch of Gels) we took off into a pretty crappy section of trail. Between the heat and the poor footing I didn’t like it, but it went by quickly. The miles just eased by and Jimmy and I talked about the race to this point and talked about his adventures in 2010.
Just before Pine Lane I started to freak out when we started seeing runners coming back at us on the trail. I didn’t see any turn off or split in the trail, but the runners assured us that it was an out and back section but be warned of the bees. BEES I didn’t sign up to be stung, so when we got to the area we were warned about we took off on a sprint. As we ran we heard people coming at us and behind us getting stung by a hive of ground bees. Pine Lane was the first of our celebrity sightings. They all remembered Jimmy from last year and congratulated him regarding his You Tube video. Aid stations started getting a little quicker. I was done wasting time just standing around.
Running against the crowd wasn’t so bad at this point. We saw Phil for the first time all day and realized he was just minutes ahead. I could tell he wasn’t 100%, but he was still moving. Just seeing Phil made me smile, since he was so important in helping me train me for this race.
Darkness started to fall quicker and by the time we hit a road section our head lamps became more useful. At this point we caught a runner named Wayne from Midland,Michigan! Immediately I asked if I could be called Garth. He ran with us for a couple of miles before he just disappeared. Bike trail turned into real trail again and this time found a wandering runner with no pacer and no head lamp. Tim had an extra headlamp and was kind enough to share it with him. The trail turned to a limestone right before happy days and this was the first time my feet started to feel any pain.
Running through happy days wasn’t all that pleasant. For the first time all day I started to feel my stomach. I tried Cherry-Bundi and another Boost. This combo didn’t sit well, but I didn’t puke. I traded Jimmy for Chris and we were off for a really long 6.8 miles. The course really changes at this point. We started running through these incredibly beautiful stone caverns, but the footing sucked. Darkness and a moonless night had settled in. It wasn’t long into this section we caught Phil. Not a good Phil either. I asked him how he was doing and got a grunt for an answer. Tim was having a hard time leaving Phil to run by himself so after a few miles of not feeling well myself I decided to enjoy the pace. I felt horrible for even dreaming of leaving Phil behind alone. Chris had fallen back to run with him leaving Tim and I time to discuss our options. We agreed the best idea was to leave our pacer Chris to pace a friend to safety. Chris agreed and Tim and I started back into a decent pace. We ran the flat and downhill and walked the uphill.
This continued on without much conversation till we saw the dome ahead of us in the darkness. This dome was described as “Sound of Music Hill” in the light, but at this point it was our mountain. “You pick them up Lord, I will put the down” I prayed. As we climbed we sang Amazing Grace!
Arriving into Pine Hollow 1 we were still 2 hours ahead of any cut off. It looked like a war zone with runners everywhere sleeping, and hurting. Emily heard my “Battle Cry” just in time to catch Tim and I before heading out on the most technical section. Emily became the pacer of Zombie’s. I am not going to say this was our best section. Between delays at the aid station trying to get my stomach back and changing socks we lost a lot of time. Emily did great pacing us. She was positive, funny, and determined to do her best. I even found a golf ball on this section.
Chris had the next toughest section. Not because of the terrain, but this is where sleep walking can come into play. My stomach was doing okay again, and Tim and I did our best to keep up with our pacer Chris. He worked hard to push us, but it wasn’t happening. Tim started to worry me greatly because he started to disappear behind me. As Chris ran ahead I tried waiting, but once I saw the aid station it became apparent I should wait under the covered bridge for my friend with all the friendly volunteers.
Emily met me at the bridge and had everything I ever wanted and more, a new shirt. I was getting chilled and needed to be clean so I washed up, sat down, and rested for 5 minutes. I ate, drank, talked, changed into another pair of Injinji’s and broke for the first time toward anyone all day. I just looked at Chris and told him to talk to me and stay behind me letting me set the pace. Tim arrived and I asked him the dreadful question. “What do you want me to do?” He answered like the true man he is “Go”. So I left my running partner of 80 miles and needed to take it out on the trail ahead of me. I also learned that Phil was sleeping in the van. This was bitter sweet, knowing he was safe but realizing it sucks to DNF.
20.3 miles to go…
Chris held on and ran. Before I knew it I was running an 8 min/mile pace up a gradual mile long climb. I started passing tons of people. The runners I passed looked like zombies and their pacers looked scared to be walking with them. I continued to fly. I felt great, but in the back of my head I was just waiting for the wheels to fall off. I was no longer tired. On the way to the last aid station I dreamed of sitting at the finish line sleeping while others finished. Now I was wide eyed on a mission. I am still amazed I ran a 9 minute 32 second pace for 4.7 miles in the dark. I haven’t ever ran that fast on trails in the day light let alone after 80 miles and in the dark.
I think I scared Jimmy and Emily when I cam running back into Covered Bridge for the second time. I still had my battle cry but I was a whole new runner. Chris did his job and Jimmy had a much bigger job at this point. More than once he asked me if I wanted to run and I said of course and bragged about my 8 min/mile pace I had set going uphill a few miles back. Jimmy revealed his pride in me and me being an inspiration to him. This was all the talk I needed to hear. The road to O’Neil woods was an easy one. The trail leading back into the woods was even easier, except for the Shoe sucking mud. Then it happened… I said something so mean that even Jimmy blushed. I am sorry to the aid station girl who asked me “Did I want a lei at 88?” and was handing me a Hawaiian Lei. I responded in a mean serious voice “Not by you!” and ran right past her. In my mind it was funny, but it was mean.
Jimmy was a star again at 88 before we took off again for the road. By the time I hit the tow path the sun started to lighten up the trail ahead. We settled into a 11:46 pace with easy walks and long runs. At this point Jimmy spoke even more truth into my race. He asked me if I wanted Emily to pace me the next section, and before I could answer made sure I knew I had plenty of time and not to worry about my time. I appreciated Emily for all she did for me so it was easy to accept this as the best choice. I knew Emily couldn’t keep up an 11 minute pace, but I knew the time with her was way more important.
Emily met us at Merriman Road aid station and made the mistake of leaving me alone for just a moment. I started to get emotional when an aid station asked me how I was doing. The idea of finishing 100 miles was real. I was glad when Emily came back. We just walked at first, and before to long we started to run. Jimmy made sure I knew if I could keep 15 minute miles going I would be in good shape. So we did just that. She shared about her day and the great job Lily was doing. She told me about Phil and how he was doing. The 3.3 miles seemed longer than I realized, but it was the best 3.3 miles because we ran alone. It wasn’t like a make out romantic alone, but we were still alone.
For the second time all race I sat down at the last aid station to rest. Just 2-3 minutes. Phil, Lily, Emily and Jimmy were there to cheer me on. I ate a little bit more fruit and took off with Jimmy. It was time to go.
It was weird to feel really bad and crappy when running with Emily both times, but there was something about Jimmy. After a mile he asked me if I could do 3- 15 minute miles and I said it shouldn’t be a problem. He reminded me of the 2 sets of stairs and the ½ mile hill into the finish. I asked what time it was and for the first time all day I knew about what time I could finish the race. If Jimmy was correct and I ran three 15 minute miles I would be under 28 hours. Wait…. What time is it Jimmy? 7:14am. “Jimmy if I run three sub 15’s I will be in under 27 hours”
I laughed because I was the one with the head injury and had be running for 26 hours 14 minutes when this discussion became confusion. I wanted to break 27 hours so bad. The time started to resonate in my head. What was the first thought after realizing 27 hours was real? It was simple, Jason Robillard didn’t run his first 100 in under 27 hours, and neither did Phil Stapert on this course. I know these thoughts are petty, but a little bit of competition can drive me, and these men are running idols to me. These are the men that I would never dream of beating in a race of any kind, but I was going to do it. I took off. The stairs slowed me down, but not because I wanted them to. There were other runners on the steps as I pushed them up.
Jimmy kept me up to date on pace and I ran. He pointed out the last bridge to cross and I ran. Only a mile to go and I ran. Up the hill I walked half way and then I ran. The road turned into town and I ran. I saw the clock tower and I ran….