Merriman Road to Memorial Parkway (3 miles, 96.3 total)
This was a mostly flat section comprised almost entirely of tow path. Shelly was now pacing me. We walked a lot. I peed a lot. Apparently I was hallucinating a lot… I repeatedly asked Shelly if she had said something. She had not.
When she did talk, she told some more stories of the crew experiences throughout the night. I really don’t remember any of them. We were passed by a handful of runners at this point, including a pair that were running. I marveled at their ability to run at this point. We were also passed by a few runners unaffiliated with the race. All seemed aware of the race as they congratulated me for making it this far.
Shelly reminded me of all the vomit piles during this section. She could identify them as Burning River runners based on the partially-digested aid station food. It was pretty gross.
We were passed by one dude that was still running… I yelled out “Great job running at this point!” He looked down at my huarache-clad feet and exclaimed in a douchey-like voice “Thanks, it’s my shoes.”
This section took us over an hour, but we pulled into the last aid station- Memorial Parkway- a little before the 27 hour point.
When I arrived at this aid station, Shelley Viggiano recorded me for a minute. (See Jimmy’s video here). I really didn’t remember what I said until seeing the footage later. I was still a bit out of it.
I knew if I hurried, I could still walk in to a PR. I ate quickly, got my water bottles, and Shelly and I were off.
Section pace: 23:00
Memorial Parkway to the Finish Line (4.8 miles, 101.1 total)
As far as I know, Shelly and Jesse never discussed the kick idea. I don’t think I discussed it with Shelly, either. Regardless, as soon as we started this section, she said “Let’s try running a bit.”
There were orange traffic cones marking the path through the early part of this loop. Shelly challenged me to run to the cone about fifth yards ahead. I managed to break into a labored, plodding trot at a breakneck 15:00 pace. As I neared the cone, I asked her if this was the one she was talking about. She said no, the next one. I did it. It didn’t feel horrible.
We came to a hill, which I walked. Once we crested the top, Shelly told me to try running again. To my surprise, I was able to run downhill fairly well. The pace was still hovering around 14:30, but it was faster than walking. Shelly was running ahead of me and I was trying to keep up. We crossed a road and headed into some trails. Or pace slowly crept up.
Damn, I was starting to feel pretty good. The pain went away. The stiffness went away. I took the lead ahead of Shelly. I sped up to a 12:00 pace. It felt as if I were flying!
I don’t think we had passed any other runners at that point. We came to the first set of dreaded stairs. By instinct, I sped up. I LOVE running both stairs and hills… there’s no greater feeling than pushing hard on hills. I took the first few steps harder than I should. I could feel the high beginning to crash, so I dialed it back a bit and power-hiked upward. When I got to the top, I broke into a run again.
Eventually we came to the second set of stairs, which I galloped up a little faster. Once we got to the top, we ran into several small groups of runners. With each group, the killer “catch the person in front of you” instinct kicked in. I had an even greater surge of energy! We had a long, flat section of trails along a power line. During this section, our pace was steadily in the 10:30 range and occasionally flirting with 10:00.
I did not remember how long the section was, but I knew the rest of the crew would be meeting me with one mile left. After flying over the trails for what seemed like only a few minutes, I saw Art and Jesse in the distance. As we approached, I could hear them yelling. When Shelly and I passed them, they took off with us. Picking up these two really caused an adrenaline spike.
I picked up the pace to about 9:00. Jesse commented about me sandbagging. He walked 30 miles with me throughout the night with our pace never exceeding 16:00s. Now Shelly got to do all the running.
Shortly after, an obese lady driving in a van yelled for me to get on the sidewalk (I was running on the shoulder of the road). That bitch. Had I not been in such a zone, I would like to have yelled something back. Later we laughed about it.
I managed to keep a sub 9:30 pace until we had about 3/8 of a mile left. At that point, my pace started to slow. I was actually out of breath. Push as I might, I could not muster the reserves to maintain the sub-10:00 pace. Until I saw the finish line.
We came over a small hill or turned a corner… I really don’t remember which one. All I remember is seeing the clock in the distance. I picked up the pace. With about 100 yards left, it was as if my body suddenly became weightless. I just relaxed an ran.
I don’t remember exactly when I crossed the finish line, but suddenly I was aware that I had stopped. Joe Jurczyk, the race RD, was shaking my hand. I also remember Shelly placing the medal/belt buckle over my head and hugging me. My crew was surrounding me. There were pictures being taken… I think we posed for a few. I hugged Shelly. It seems like I talked to a few other people, but I really don’t remember.
I do remember stopping the timer on my Garmin and noting the average pace for that section… 12:00 flat. Damn. Turns out I was capable of this mythical ultramarathon kick, too. I would have to wait until later that night to find out my pace over that last 100 yards.
I think I may have drank some water, then collapsed on a grassy spot near the finish. The next hour or so was a blur of sleeping, cramping, and congratulating other runners.
It is difficult to describe exactly how I felt. In my previous 100 mile finish, I didn’t feel great joy or a sense of accomplishment… I was just happy to be done. I wanted to get off my feet and sleep. This race was much different. I was very excited about the burst of energy I had over the last 4.8 miles, but the enormity of having just ran 101.1 miles didn’t really set in at the time. That came in the following days. I did feel a sense of relief that the Burning River monkey was off my back after the 2008 DNF. Mostly, I was just absorbing the atmosphere at the finish line.
I saw Jimmy V. finish, followed closely by Rachel. It was so proud of both, though I couldn’t move to congratulate either. I also saw a few other people I ran with finish., including Scotchkee from Kickrunners. It was awesome to be able to spend even a small amount of time at the finish. Seeing people finally reach the end of something so enormous was very cool. It was a bit strange… almost as I I had dissociated from the fact that I had just run it, too. Seeing this STRONGLY reinforced my desire to get involved in ultras as more than just a participant.
After awhile, we slowly made our way back to the car, packed it up, and headed home. The road trip back went very fast on account of me sleeping the majority of the way. After we arrived home, unpacked the car, and picked the kids up from the babysitters, I finally relaxed at home.
Still eager to find my pace at the end, I dug out my Garmin. I connected it to the computer, uploaded the data, then took a look. I managed to hit a 6:45 pace over the last 100 yards. I WAS capable of a kick at the end of an ultra! I did not reach my initial goal of running a 100 miler barefoot, but I did rekindle a dormant competitiveness. My short and long term goals will center around lowering my 100 miler times. My next goal- sub-24 hours.
Final time: 27:47:45, 118th place out of 166 finishers. Hardly a notable performance, but it set my 100 mile PR by about 77 minutes.
I could not have done this without the unconditional support, expert crew leadership, and great pacing from Shelly. She has made all this possible. I also could not have done it without Jesse. Not only did he do a great job as a crew member and pacer, but also as a training partner on most of my long runs in preparation for Burning River. I also could not have done it without Art. His precision and attention to detail as a crew member gave me confidence that each aid station stop would be fast and worry-free. I am habitually blessed with the greatest teammates in the world.
Now that it has been over a week since the race, I am 95% recovered. The time after a major race is always a let-down… the lack of exercise can be somewhat depressing. I’ve had plenty of activities to fill my time (impending release of the second edition of my barefoot running book, book signing later this month, barefoot/minimalist shoe running workshop planning, reviewing a variety of products including Barefoot Ted’s Luna sandals, etc.), but nothing replaces the excitement of racing.
I’ll be running the Fallsburg marathon in a few days, and the North Country Trail 50 miler in a little under three weeks (I’m planning on running barefoot and in the kilt in both). In both races, I hope to set PRs (3:55 and 10:20 respectively). I’m eagerly awaiting the North Country Trail trip as many of my running friends (Mark, Jesse, Andy , Phil , Stuart, Rick, Tony, Jeremiah, and a slew of others). Shortly after I should be helping Jesse run his own 100 miler. I am extremely excited about this… I finally get to serve as a crew member and/or pacer.
As far as the barefoot 100 miler, I think I will put those plans on hold indefinitely. Todd Ragsdale, the recent world record setter for total barefoot miles in 24 hours, is planning on taking a crack at the record in September. I have a feeling he’ll be able to do it, and I will be rooting for him the entire time!
As far as long-term, I’ll leave it up to fate. Burning River qualifies me for the Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run, and I will be entering the lottery. Last year, I had about a 16% chance of being chosen. If I get picked this year, that will become next year’s goal race. If not, I’d still like to run a mountain ultra in the Western US. The most appealing race at this point- the Tahoe Rim Trail 100 miler. Michael Helton, one of my pacers for the Hallucination 100, successfully ran the 50k earlier this year.
As far as the rest of life, we’ll see. I will continue my quest to greatly simplify my life. I will also continue to experiment with my pseudo-paleo diet. Both adventures will be documented here. Of course, I will continue to educate people about barefoot and minimalist shoe running; it has become my passion. A major part of that will be to continue to document my own adventures, shamelessly promote the Barefoot Runners Society as THE leading organization supporting barefoot and minimalist shoe runners, and continuing to review products relevant to us. I will also continue to persuade people to get involved in ultrarunning by running, crewing, or volunteering.
For those of you that have yet to take the plunge in barefoot or minimalist shoe running or even ultrarunning, give it a shot. I think you will find it to be a life-changing journey. If you do, I would urge you to start blogging about your adventures. Your own shared experiences will inspire others to adopt a more healthy lifestyle and add to our collective knowledge base.
Best of luck! And thanks for reading. Okay, bye now.