Thursday, August 5, 2010

I trained, I ran, now what? A look back at the 2010 BR 100

Hey Everyone,

I know it has been way to long and I need to get better at these posts, but life is hectic and busy sometime, so give me some slack.

Today is August 5th, and it's the 5th day post-BR 100. Not too sure what to think yet but it is so hard to believe that the run is over. So we will start from the days before the race.

I had worked Monday through Wednesday leading into the race weekend and was feeling pretty good about where I was, mentally and physically, compared to last year (where I had DNF at mile 86). First thing was that I was so much more nervous this year; maybe it was the added stress from last year or not letting myself down? Either way, I had a mix of emotions to deal with.

Thursday night, I had all my running gear broken down into piles and it was all over our house. It looked like a tornado had gone through our casa, but sort of a way that I do it and was able to double check and triple check what I packed. By Thursday night all items were sorted and in bags, etc., where they belonged and I had printed the directions for my crew (instructions of what to give me at the different aid stations, etc.).

Ok, one thing off my mind - great! Now the sleep issue. Well, no issue really. I managed some how to go to bed early and bank about 11 hrs of solid sleep which I needed because Friday night I tossed and turned and couldn't catch a wink. I was like a kid waiting for Santa Claus, just wound up with excitement.

Saturday Race day Aug 1

Up and at 'em at 2:30 am to mentally figured everything out, and do all the pre-race things "us runners" do. Some call them habits, I like to call them quirks! Foot care, re-checking socks for creases, did I have my sunscreen?, mixed energy solutions etc. I ate a quick breakfast which consisted of oatmeal, juice, a bagel and a banana. Then Maria and I headed out the door to go gas up the car, get a coffee, and head up the road towards Squire's Castle.

The trip up there had me calm, excited, and unsure of what to expect but I knew whatever was ahead of me was gonna be great this year!

We arrived at the Squire's Castle about 4:15 and I got checked in. I looked for some familiar faces to chat with but came up empty. It was just too hard this year because of all of the extra runners. This year it was a National 100-mile trail championship, which was awesome because you could live off the adrenaline at the starting line - totally awesome!

I made my way back to Maria and her family. Took some pictures and then lined myself up. "I got this, I got this" I kept telling my self... Then I heard "Runners ready 3.2.1...BANG!" We were off and it had started!

5am race start all. All the excitement really spread us out quick, but I had no plans to budge from my run-10 walk-5 strategy which worked really well, I must say. I was feeling great chatting with people from all over, and best of all, I was in control. Not the person next to me, not the other paces, just me and my plan.

As the early miles rolled out, I was amazed with the sound of morning birds, the sunrise, you name it. Running at peace with your self in the early morning is really special and many people never get to experience how lucky we are and what we have around us (because of life, family obligations, commutes, conference calls, etc).

Mills Gate mile 8.... nothing fancy still trucking along by myself.

Polo Fields mile 13..... saw Maria and her family for the first time since the start and what a sight - they really are a fun group! Cheering me on, wishing me the best. I headed for the aid station where I got some fuel and some EFS drink from Maria and off I went. But this time we veered from the road we had been running to get on the trail - yeah baby, this is it - now the race is starting!

Shadow Lake came up quick for me at around mile 18. Same as before, crew was there, words of support, fuel and out. I really wanted to make an honest effort not to spend too much time at the aid stations because it all adds up and I figured I might need that time down the road. The race now went out to some Buckeye Trail and asphalt mixed use, but it was fine for me. I caught up with Wild Bill and my friend Chad from the Clinic along with my knee doctor Jack Andrish (sadly though all three would later drop for personal issues).

Bedford Reservations Egbert shelter mile approx 23ish? ... Cleveland Clinic sports medicine was the sponsor. Tom Bauer, a Doc at the Clinic, and Jack's wife Sue Ellen with their son Sean were running this aid station. Nothing fancy except Popsicles! These are great and the team offered great support. I had Tom take a picture of Jack, Chad and myself but now realize we forgot Tom. But we joked back and forth... we are some of the "Cleveland Clinic's finest and toughest workers." I think that fits the bill rather great.

Mid-morning had come and gone and the Bedford trails were in great shape. Dry gravel and sandy horse trails with plenty of shade. These trails gave way to Alexander road, aid station mile 28ish. Same old great volunteers and saw a familiar face, my friend Barb Broad. She is a super fast marathoner and she and I ran Laurel Highlands together, four years ago. She gave me some needed encouragement, fluids and food, and I headed back into the woods.

This next section was on the Buckeye Trail but was more like jungle running at times because of how overgrown it had become. However, the miles flew by. It was now approaching noon-ish, I think, and I was at the Frazee House getting ready to get onto the towpath for a 2-mile jaunt into Station Road Bridge aid station, mile 33. Not my favorite 2 miles, but I got through them because I knew my crew, food and non-sweat drenched clothes would be waiting.

Station Road Bridge mile 33:
Clean clothes - check, new socks - check, tend to my feet - check, stuff my face - check. I was feeling like a million dollars. Surprise - my friend Melissa who would pace me later, at mile 64, showed up and her words along with the support of my crew really got me fired up and I knew at that point that I was ready for this race!

Once I left Station Road it was a bit of a mixed purpose trail until I got to the 'real' dirt trails again. These trails are so fun, twisty, hilly, shady - you name it, these had it. Brecksville Reservation is so beautiful. These trails took me through the woods and creeks for about 6 miles then 'ta da'....Ottawa point mile 39.6

Ottawa Point 39.6: the crew access that should have been left off. This aid station was just too small and packed for all the cars but, oh well, my crew was there and that was good. More fluids, food and encouragement from friends, family and others - and off I go. You know, I was really digging this run. I was gelling and all things were going in my favor! Even my feet felt good. Next stop, Snowville Road aid station. Then up to the crest of the hill that over looks the ski resorts. I never get tired of the view and the trail here because it is unique each season. Although these miles weren't too eventful for me, I enjoyed them because my goal of getting to the Boston Store aid station, mile 49, was right around the corner.

Boston Store Mile 49: I think I made it here around 5ish. Plenty of time to get the next 5-mile Brandywine Falls loop done. This loop sucked this year because we had 2 miles of Towpath to run on before getting to the bridle trails so we could run up a big friggin' paved hill to get back on to the trails. But once on the trails again, it was all good - rocky, hilly, dirty, and sandy. I mean, enjoyable for us that don't mind dirt, that is. The view of the falls was amazing. Then it was on to some groomed trail and 'easy does it' back to Boston Store.

Boston Store #2 mile 54 approx 6pm: I changed clothes, shoes, and got some fuel. It was time for my first pacer, my wife Maria, to keep me company and help guide me to Happy Days at mile 64. Maria's brother, his wife, and their daughter Emme were there to support me along with Jae's dad Guy and Maria's mom Annika and Maria's step dad Jim. Awesome people and best support group/crew ever! But it was Emme who stole the show, as usual =). She was going 'potato for potato' with me while I was eating and she was being the best mini crew there was. She even ran with me and Maria from our crew location to the check out table. She had everyone clapping and cheering - that was really amazing! I forgot to mention that she clings a mean cowbell and kept me encouraged by her "Go Uncle P" cheers when I came into and aid station.

Boston #2 to Happy Days: Welcome to the dark side!

Although I was feeling great thus far, this stretch would provide me with my first hurdles and stomach issues. We ran up the towpath/multi-use trail and 'bam,' right on to the Buckeye Trail and straight up we went. This was Maria's first real trail run, surprise! She did great. We were able to carry on a conversation and it was good. She was having so much fun. We made our way to Pine Hollow, mile 58ish, and all was good. I was still eating and my legs felt great BUT... as we turned the corner to the bridle trail, my left knee really started to hurt me and my pace slowed - not a good thing. However, Maria got me through this as any good pacer would and we came out to a few miles of paved section. My forward motion at this point was looking ugly and I was having doubts. Maria kept me going. It wasn't pretty but we went on... I finally made it to the bike and hike path and this was the worst. It was getting dark, I didn't really bring a headlamp except this mini pretzel lamp I carry for emergencies. The light was ok for one runner, but for two, well it was stretching it. My stomach was giving me fits and I was in quite some pain. This went on for a while but finally, nature called and all was right again.

We made it to the Happy Days loop that lead us out to the aid station field. I swear I hit every friggin' rock and root along the way, but in the end, we made it to Happy dDys, and back to the crew. Phew...

Happy Days Mile 64: Must have been around 9pm now. I fought off the pain, took some ginger and ginger snaps, tums, and Pepto to ease the stomach and had some broth. Here I saw another familiar face - it was Nick Billock checking in on me. He was volunteering this year at the aid station. Nick has run some 100's and is a super fast and talented runner but is unfortunately a bit injured this year. He was so helpful to me and it was great to see him and get some more encouragement.

Happy Days to Pine Hollow mile 74:

At Happy Days I picked up my final pacer Melissa. I have know her for a while from running and she finished BR100 last year. This year she did a Rim-2-Rim-2-Rim, Grand Canyon run, so she is tough. She is smart, witty, and can be unconventional at times, but she told me that if I gave her the clear, and wanted to finish, she would do what ever it took to get me to finish! Well she didn't have to do much except encourage me and remind me to eat and drink - thank god or it could have gotten ugly! LOL

This trail winds along Kendall Cliffs and is rocky but very runable, which we did a fair bit of. It then winds down to the bottom of the cliffs and through a pine trail for about two miles. We saw all sorts of runners now and it was now that people were paying for their speed earlier in the day. Once we made it out of the pine trail we cross Truxel Road and went over to Kendal Lake - one of my favorite places in the daytime to jump on one of the XC-ski trails though the woods! My stomach was coming back and the knee, well it came and went but I had to keep going. The coolest thing with this section is the part when we run up the two hills before the aid station. They are called the Sound of Music hills (I guess you need to see the old musical), but trust me, this was uber taxing on my legs but really cool to experience. Although not as cool as in some past years when you were surrounded by fireflies. Only a few made it out, but oh well, mother nature was napping I guess!

We made it the aid station and to my crew. Did the usual - eat, fuel, etc., and were off for the infamous 3.2-mile Salt Run trail. Perhaps one of my favorite trails because of it's diverse footing of roots and rocks with a mix of sand and mud. It also offers varying ups and down and extreme stairs that go on forever... at least it seems like they do. Either way, it's a great trail! We headed into the dark and into the woods. We had a good time and made decent time doing it, but the results were mixed - other runners were hating life and though it was cruel. I guess it's good to be a local and know what your in for, but if they hated this loop what were they gonna think at Perkins Trail Mile 85? We made it back to my zombie crew. They were getting sleepy but, god bless them, they ware such troopers. More refueling and filling water bottles and off we go the much talked about Wet More Trail section.

Mile 74 to 80 Wet More trails:

Let me start by saying these trails are bridle trails used by heavy horses, all gnarled up and never NOT muddy - even this year with no rain and hot temperatures for 4 weeks leading up to the race. Hence it's name, I guess!? Wetmore was a stretch of trail that was more like a 'mud puddle here' and 'mud puddle there' trail. Off we go and we are still keeping a good clip, passing people, having good conversation, sharing stories about runs, babbling about anything that came to mind and just having a good time on the trails. This section was bittersweet for me becasue last year I was so nauseated and I could hardly move. To be honest, that was sort of holding me back because it was in the back of my mind the whole time.

But 2010 is not 2009 and Melissa assured me to have faith in her pacing and faith in my training and things would work out! My stomach felt much better now, my feet feeling ok besides some blisters that I would learn of later. The Wetmore section takes you to the Covered Bridge, which in years past has been like an oasis of partying, music, and runners in the middle of the night. We knew we were getting closer, but the vibe was different. Sure, the bridge was decorated with the lights, but once we entered you could see the carnage people all over, devastated and ruined from efforts too hard earlier in the day. Oh well, I'm here and I'm ready to rock this loop and settle my grudge from last year.

Covered Bridge Mile 80 to 85:
Maria and here brother greeted us and got us ready for the next 5 miles on the Perkins Trail. They said 'we will see you in about an hour and a half to an hour and forty-five.' We said ok and didn't think anything of it. My knee was still killing me but my stomach was fine and we pushed through pain and some mud to get it done. Melissa even told me that this was her low point last yer but somehow she motored through it, and it turned out to be one of that faster loops she had ever done! It must have been karma, because at about half way through the 5-mile loop my leg and I both felt fresh and new. So I dug deep to give myself some time in the bank and we ended up doing the loop in 1 hour, 10 minutes!! Wow, I was so excited! But when we returned back to the aid station at the Covered Bridge, my crew was nowhere to be found. They were tucked away sleeping in the car. So I stayed put and Melissa rushed over to them to get them moving and said to Maria "Watch out, he is gonna be so pissed! Hurry up - he busted his ass to make up this time!" Well, I wasn't mad but my crew was amazed at the time we made up and, like a Nascar pit crew on steroids, they had me fuel up, new rubber (shoes) and feet fixed, and off we went. As we left the aid station I couldn't believe it - I had just overcome my fear and defeat of the year before in blazing style and speed! This is when I realized that no matter what, I would get my buckle. It wouldn't be easy but, dang it, it would come true this year!

Covered Bridge 2 to Oneil Woods miles 85 to 90ish:
The first 2 miles or so where on the roads heading to Hales Farm. It was so cool because there was a weird light, but no sunrise, and a heavy mist and no noise except those bullfrogs who always have to be making noise, but none of this mattered. I was beat up but hungry for my goal. At the end of the road we got onto familiar territory again. We were back on the Buckeye Trail, yeah! My body thanked me, but not for long. Ahead of us we had about a mile of a climbing, beautiful, green, lush, single track, and all I could do was to push on. We knew of the cut off time and were about 45 minutes ahead, so no worries. Melissa kept telling me "you've got this shit man, this is yours, keep moving!" This wasn't the first time I heard this, but oh well, it kept me motivated. We made our way to the aid station, mile 90. Checked in and left, no fuel needed, we still had plenty.

O'Neil Woods mile 90 to mile 93 Merriman Road mile 93:
Once through the aid station, we headed onto a nasty little down climb that was anything but easy on the quads and legs but we finally made it to the smoother trail. From this trail we exited out to the road for about 1/4 mile to the crushed limestone bike and hike/multi use trail. This was flat and had no hills - thought this would be great. Well, it felt ok actually and mostly because I had changed back into my Brooks Glyercin8 road shoes to help dampen the impact on the legs.

Not even 15 minutes on the trail we hit the infamous sewage treatment plant and the smell made us so nauseated. However, this was fine because it made us run faster and get past the stink faster. Once this obstacle was clear it was just 2 easy miles - yeah! - to the next aid station at Merriman Road. This was some of the longest, most boring miles I had to run. But Melissa and I entertained ourselves with lines form 80's songs and hooted and hollered and just basically pissed off all of nature along the way. Come on, nature got to sleep over night and we didn't, so rise and shine! Finally, like an oasis, mile 93 came into view.

Merriman Road mile 93 to Memmorial Parkway mile 96:
This was basicially a 3-mile stretch of boring towpath. Nothing special, just flat and open. We did mostly a brisk walk on this section, knowing that we were safe and ahead of all cut offs. My feet were killing me from the pounding they endured so far, but my mind was set and spirits where high. At this point we no longer were the only people out, but lots of cyclists. We kept getting "way to go" and "keep it up" which made me smile even though they they had no idea how hard this was. It felt like I was frozen in time at points as people whizzed by, but you know what, I was fine with that because I was still moving, getting closer to my goal.

Finally, the aid station I never thought would come appeared in the not so far-away distance. I decided I needed some caffeine gel or something. Why not an Espresso Hammer gel? Boy, it was like heaven. I had that and some sort of candy and a plain glazed doughnut. Even better, Maria and her brother Andreas were there which surprised me. They had stopped by even though it wasn't technically a 'crew access' aid station. Although I didn't need anything form them, it was good to see them and hear the cheers of encouragement from them. At this point I knew I could do it and would do it!

Mile 96 to the finish at front street mile 101:
This was gonna be 'cake' right!? Only 5 miles. First off, a nice brick road incline that seemed to climb into the sky (actually it wasn't that steep, but everything seemed worse on my legs at 90 plus miles). From there it was into the Chuckery Park area and onto a nice grassy path for a bit that took us beside a creek. I am not sure at what point along this path it happened but Melissa got her hands on some orange course ribbon and decided to tie it around her head like a headband. She followed that up by saying "Come on, just follow me. I'm a moving course marker!" Well ok, maybe, but to me she looked more like a trail warrior rambo. But ok, I'll go along with her.

Now here is what can get you. Some time ago, along this nice trail, people were not content with being along the creek so they decided to build STEEP, STEEP stone steps to climb up. Really not my favorite option, but up we climbed ever so slowly to a trail that would wind up, looking over the creek. This trail is called the "High Line" mostly because of the high point-of-view but also because of the high voltage line that run above from the power station dam that was below us. We kept moving forward and time was moving great. We came out to a parking lot only to be greeted by random people just hanging out and cheering us on. Ok, this is sweet now. I'm only a mile and a half to the finish - this is it! The only downside was that it was on all roads and mostly a nice uphill. My legs were about done but Melissa told me once you see the finish line in your sight you're gonna be a different person and surprise yourself. I thought "ok, whatever," but she was right. As soon as I could see the finish, my legs didn't ache and the speed came back and I was flying. Running as fast as I could - I was on such a runner's high! End result, I blew by another runner in the final stretch and I felt amazing!

High fives to my friends cheering me on from the VerticalRunner tent, the joys of my family and friends cheering for me and "bam!" - it was all done.

I stood there for a minute looking at the clock - 29:24:54 - and it seemed like a dream. It was all over. I now had my 100-mile finish...and fancy belt buckle! However, I don't run for the buckle. Instead, I run for the memories and friendships that i form along the way.

Soon thereafter, I got huge Congrats from my good friend Jerry W. who killed it this year and ran sub 24 hrs. Congrats Jerry! Ran in to Wild Bill and his wife, and too many others to mention. But no matter what, people said and told me how good I did, and how good I looked - I was speechless. I had just ran 100 miles! And I didn't feel that bad, looked great for just having finished an Ultra, and was just overly Happy!
This race really puts into perspective for me what the human race can achieve and I will take away memories and lessons from this experience and apply them to my daily life long into the future. I have realized how lucky we are to have the special gift and talent of running, our families, and other friends and loved ones.

In closing, I'm sure there are lots of bad spots and words that I have left out, but not intentionally. After all, this is the best recap of my amazing 100-mile journey that I undertook and sometimes the mind blocks things out, for better or worse. So stay tuned, because if I remember any of the 'bad,' it will get referenced in later post.

Lastly thanks to all those who never gave up on me or on my goal. My family and wife, my pacer Melissa Cairns, the people I work with, Toby @ SPC Crossfit, and all my Running Friends (especially Jerry W and his family).

I'm not sure what's next but I'm sure its gonna be great!


  1. JP,

    Great job out there! I knew that you had it in you! Enjoy the recovery!

  2. Congrats on your BR100 finish! Awesome job. I actually saw you and Melissa out on the towpath in the valley and then later watched you finish. Amazing! Great post report too. Keep up the great running and story telling!