Sunday, August 3, 2008

Burning River 100 Report

Before I begin, I want to give a HUGE congratulations to many of my friends/fellow runners who completed the Burning River 100 Mile Endurance Run. You all should be very proud of your accomplishment and crossing that finish line in Cuyahoga Falls. Brandon R., Jerry W., Kellie T., Mike G., Kurt O., Melissa T., and Bob C. You all are a true inspiration. Also, thank you to anyone reading this who was volunteering. The aid stations were phenomenal! REAL food, super emotional/encouraging support, and all around, a first-class job. Also thanks to the organizers including Joe and Vince for organizing a great event. To think that on a point-to-point event including 22 fully stocked aid stations, you made it look effortless. I am in awe of what I witnessed. I have seen far less quality and concern in many marathons I've run. You should be very happy with your hard work. Please accept my deepest "Thank You" for a job well done. Also, thanks to Jim C. for the webcast. I heard so much positive feedback from friends and family who were tracking me.

My Experience at the BR100
If you've followed my blog history, you know I was hyped up for this challenge. I trained well, educated myself on the challenge, and mentally prepared. Come race morning, we all met in downtown Cuyahoga Falls at 3:30am for a school-bus ride to the starting line at Squire's Castle in Willoughby Hills, east of Cleveland. (I think someone forgot to install the shocks on that bus!) At the start, the energy level was electric. After the National Anthem being sung, a siren kicked off the event at exactly 5am. We crossed the Castle's lawn and on to the asphalt of Chagrin River Rd in the dark. My goal was to run at a pace that was comfortable and slow enough that I could close my mouth completely and still breathe OK. This keeps my pace under control and keeps me from moving too fast. I also didn't want to run too slow. I learned at the Green Jewel 100K back in May that running at too slow a pace early leads to soreness early. I knew I'd be sore eventually so no need to bring that on prematurely. Goal accomplished. I felt awesome all the way through 30 miles and fresh as ever. I was drinking regularly, eating well at the aid stations, and had no problems. Well, that's not exactly true. A blister formed under my left big toe due to not tying my shoes tight enough (MY FAULT!!!). I stopped, re-tightened, and stopped it's progression. It actually felt better and never came back. During the segment between Station Rd. #1 and #2, we head out to the challenging Carriage Trail. On the last descent, I was being overly careful on very steep downhill and while doing so, twisted (or something like that) my left ankle. The pain immediately slowed me to a walk. I run/walked back to Station Rd. #2. Also at the time was the very real concern of no sweating or a bathroom break for over 4 hours. One rule of ultra-running is the need to go to the bathroom often. Basically, it's a good indication that all systems are still operating correctly. I had been taking in plenty of fluids but still nothing. Lifting my shirt and looking at my gut made it clear I was retaining the fluids as well as slightly-puffy fingers. The concern I'm eluding to is hyponatremia, also known as water intoxication. It's brought on by greatly dilluting your sodium levels and then leading to lethargy, nausea, vomiting, and mild mental aberrations, and in severe cases by convulsions and coma. I wasn't really exhibiting any of these but I knew I should be concerned. I continued on. Eventually, about 2 hours later, I started sweating again and went to the bathroom once. At this point mentally, probably around 48 miles, I was 100% determined to cross the finish line, no matter what. After the Snowville Aid Station at mile 50.6, the pain took a steep increase. Now, instead of only really hurting on the downhills, it was now a throbbing pain 100% of the time. I again called Marjie to discuss the options. Of course, she remained neutral and said it was a decision only I could make. At this point, she was at mile 56 at the Boston Store aid station with my daughters. Option 1: arrive at Boston, pop ibuprofen masking the pain, and continue with 45 miles to go. Option 2: drop out stopping further injury. Was Option 1 worth it? Would this be the first event I have ever started and not finished? Is "quitting" an option? Or, did taking Option 2 make the most reasonable sense? I'll say this: it's a much harder decision when so many people are supporting you, encouraging you, and rooting for you. This decision would be easier at a race where I knew no one. At mile 55, one mile before Boston, I called Marjie and asked her to drive up Boston Mills Road and pick me up. I was done. 6:30pm was the time. I didn't travel that last mile to Boston because it has a lightning fast downhill that would have hurt so much and knowing I was done, there was no point in covering it. I reported in to the aid station captain (in a straw hula skirt, none the less!) and reported my drop. Also at Boston was a podiatrist. She assessed my ankle, took me through some range of motion movements and determined it was a tendon strain. She wrapped it and sent me on my way. No major damage, THANK GOODNESS. I made a call to my pacer, Nick V. and let him know I was out as well as a handful of other phone calls.

The morning after: regrets? No. Incredibly disappointed? Absolutely. Did I make the correct decision. Definately. I've been told by several supporters "good job," "congratulations," "you still ran over 2 marathons!"...but honestly, there was only one goal yesterday and that was not accomplished. I didn't show up to run 20, 55, or 85 miles. I showed up to run 100. Period. However, what happened...happened. However, the shining light is watching so many people I know cross that finish line this morning. You've all earned that BR100 belt buckle!!!

When I got in the car at mile 55, my innocent 5 year old said: "Daddy, did you quit?".................yea, a moment of silence before I answered that one. My reply: "No, I did not quit. I dropped out because I'm hurt and can't continue. Quitting is giving up. My ankle gave up, but I wanted to continue." Quitting is such a nasty word, isn't it? It sounds so negative. Webster's Dictionary says I quit, but I disagree. I made as objective a decision as I could given the circumstances. There are people whom I know who still disagree with my decision and for that I'm sorry. Just know it was not an easy decision and one incredibly difficult to make...but a necessary one.

So, am I in for next year's BR100? A redemption run, perhaps? We're going to table that discussion for now.

Thanks again for the awesome friends I have made here in the NE Ohio/Vertical Runner running community. You are so incredibly important to me and I wish you the very best regardless of your next endeavor. Always remain positive and keep looking forward and upward. Till next time....

Happy Trails! (well, some time off is in order for me! How about a few days in Times Square and a cruise to Bermuda! Oh yea!)


Kevin said...


As tough as it was it sounds like you made the right choice. There will be many other opportunities in the future. sometimes it's just not your day. Just ask the 50 other runners who did not finish either.
Best of luck on the recovery!

Nick Billock said...

Thanks, Kevin. I agree. Opportunities, galore!

Brian said...

You'll be that much stronger and knowledgeable for next years. Take some needed r & r

Jim said...

You hit the nail on the head. Big difference between quit and dropped. Remember that the event was not just on August 2nd-3rd. It included all of those training runs and miles leading up to it. Great job.

Nick Billock said...

Thanks, Jim! Also, I received so much positive feedback from family and friends from afar who were tracking online thanks to the webcast as well as my wife here at home. That was a HUGE asset to the event that covers so much distance and time. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

You're an awesome runner...I wish one day I could be as good or as strong as you. It was nice seeing you on the course and hopefully we will run together sometime in the near future. Take care and remember "nothing is good nor bad, thinking makes it so" ~William Shakespeare
This experience has made you a stronger person for sure...keep motivated...You are awesome!

~melissa t :)

Nick Billock said...

Thanks, Melissa. I remember you passing me when I was talking to my wife about the situation. I gotta say...I was so impressed because you looked so strong and that was past the 40 mile point. Just running along, enjoying the trails...