Race Review: Relay #7 – Burning River 100 Miler 2018

On Saturday I ran as part of a relay for the Burning River 100 mile endurance run.  Believe it or not there are souls that run the whole damn thing by themselves! (I am a crazy triathlete, but DO NOT sign me up to run 100 solo miles, ever.)

There are 8 relays and I ran #7…or also known as the PARTY RELAY!! (I think I just made that up, but #7 is known for its epicness, usually because most people run it at night.)

I would be running 16.1 miles through the trails of Cuyahoga Valley National Park…but here’s the kicker…I would start around midnight. Teams have 28 hours to cover the 100 mile distance. The teams are also responsible for figuring out the logistics of getting their runners to each of the starting and ending lines. (Some people run this as a FOUR person relay oppose to eight!!)

The first relay started early and I was in a group text all day getting updates from all the runners — even the ones running! It was SO MUCH FUN!! The team was so positive and I couldn’t wait for my turn and to experience it. I had never even met my teammates in person either until race day (and never even met a few in person due to timing.) Yet another reason why I love the running and endurance community!

So much positivity and good vibes!

I didn’t end up starting my relay until 1:10AM and I finished slightly before 5AM.

IT WAS EPIC.

Waiting to start my relay at Pine Hollows. They had a big screen playing a movie for the spectators and relay runners — so fun!! I was shocked by how many people were sitting at the relay zones/aid stations.

In a nutshell basically this race/relay was kind of my own personal nightmare, but it was also incredible. Running alone in the woods in the pitch black at night. (Think: Blair Witch Project.) I mean I saw numerous runners out there at different points, but it was not like your typical race where you are always surrounded. I would go 10 or 15 minutes without seeing ANYONE. Sometimes this freaked me out to the point where I was desperately praying to see a headlamp of another runner in front of me.

Meeting up with my teammate who ran Relay #6, Kristin.

Since I knew my relay was going to be in the middle of the night I opted for a headlamp and one of my teammates had suggested Christmas lights on my camel back. The lights were such a hit and people were wishing me a Merry Christmas and calling me a Christmas tree LOL. I’m glad I added these because at the last minute I was debating it. It not only helped runner moral, but it helped me to see!!

Let’s just talk about the darkness for a minute… Pitch black. Like to the point where my headlamp battery died (thankfully I had another with me) and when I changed it, my Christmas lights weren’t even providing me sight coverage in front of me. It was wild. We were in the middle of the freaking woods in the middle of the freaking night. I kept laughing out loud as I ran like how did I get here and what on earth am I doing?? It felt like a dream because I had tunnel vision from my headlamp illuminating the path directly ahead of me. Why would I sign up to run 16.1 of trails in the middle of the night?? But I had THE TIME OF MY LIFE YOU GUYS. So much fun!

We climbed up hillsides and rocks. Jumped over mud pits, rivers and trees. We dodged pricker bushes and rooted trails. I saw and heard people falling, but some how I managed to only trip violently, always catching myself before hitting the ground.

I met so many hilarious people who were so incredible — many who were between miles 70 and 80 of a 100 mile solo race. Some were in good spirits, some wanted to chat, some didn’t say anything and I could tell they were fighting dark mental places of despair. I tried offering encouraging words and prayed for everyone I saw. Going into this relay I had no idea just how ridiculous, amazing and CRAZY this entire race was.

This might have been crazier than even my full Ironman — we’re talking that epic. One of my friends who had run relay #7 before even went so far as to call it “spiritual” . You see the world and yourself in a whole new way. Even with the Ironman I wasn’t running in the pitch black alone, in the woods, at 3AM.

Around mile 14 I had been running alone for quite some time and was starting to climb up a giant hill. Suddenly I heard what sounded like sirens…until I heard the other “dogs” start chiming in with these “sirens” AKA howling…it was a pack of wild coyotes. And judging by how loud they were they must have been close by and it sounded like A LOT of them. I felt panic and fear in my chest and I started sprinting — looking for any sight of headlamps around me. I just wanted to be near someone else because I was so scared. I saw a faint light somewhere a head of me and ran as fast as I could to a girl slowly running the trail. (I felt like I wanted to puke from sprinting the hill), but when she saw me she looked just as scared “DID YOU HEAR THAT?” She asked me. And I explained how scared I was too. We continued on together for the next mile or so, but were were very skid-ish and jumpy. I even took out my mace! We eventually split off, but not first without making the “we’re not out of the woods yet” joke as we promised not to get eaten by coyotes. (Girl was running the 50-miler! Bad ass!)

A few times the wooded trail would open up into a field and the full moon was brilliant, casting an eerie but beautiful glow all around me. Moments like that took my breathe away as I realized just how incredible this entire experience was. I crossed over fields with fog rising and the stars were so clear and vivid. I was speechless at the beauty around me. I knew that not many people got to experience moments like that and I felt so grateful to be one of the lucky few.

Somehow I managed to make it to mile 16.1 and I met my relay exchange teammate, Cohen. She was bringing it home running the last 10 miles to the finish.

I tried to eat something before making the hour drive home, but I had no appetite. I pulled into our driveway at 6AM and felt like I was drunk, but really I was just exhausted and in awe of the entire experience.

What an epic adventure with incredible people. I love being a part of something much bigger than myself.

 

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Biathlon Beginnings

This past weekend was my first running + biking event — the 2013 Bellefaire JCB Biathlon.

The event was a 5K run (3.1 miles) followed by a 12.9 mile bike ride through the beautiful cities of Shaker Heights, Beachwood and Mayfield. I convinced the boyfriend to compete with me. (FYI he loves when I force him to do events like this. Just kidding, he enjoys it. Most of the time at least.) biathonStart

The run was smooth and fast and we finished in about 27 minutes. Pacing ourselves at 9:23 was a good idea since we had a nice little bike ride ahead of us. The ride was challenging, but awesome. There was one gruesome hill that had bikers dropping like flys. The BF and I powered through it though, even high-fiving at every mile. (We continued this tradition from our first half marathon together back in May.)

Overall our time for the entire event was 1:27 something. The BF snuck ahead of me and technically beat me by 8 seconds. Of course me being Miss. Competitive/Must-Win-Everything didn’t like that 8 second lead. (In fact I still don’t like it.) BiathonPicnic

Post-race was a giant picnic with TONS of food. I’m pretty sure I ate back all the calories I burnt in the race on the food I ate afterwards. That’s OK though since it was my cheat meal for the week. Let me tell you how delicious it was to eat a pulled-pork sandwich on white bread. In fact, I even went a little wild and stole a bite or two of the boyfriend’s donut he was munching on.

BiathonMeWhile we were enjoying our food, an announcer came on and started the awards. I was sitting back against a table and had only just whispered “I wish I had a medal to hang up” to the BF when suddenly the announcer called my name over the speaker! Everyone I was with screamed and cheered as I ran up there. I had no idea! I went up there and to my huge surprise received a congratulatory first place medal for my age group (20-24). BiathonAJME

Winning that medal was the cherry on top of an amazing race. The boyfriend and I added it to our “We’ll be back every year for the rest of our life” event check-list. At some point I would love to do a duathlon, which is running biking and running again. I think the next event like that around here though is next August. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see what happens! 

Next up on my “train all winter race all summer” is a 10K on Sunday at my favorite winery! (Find more information about the Vineyard Run.) The race is through the scenic grape vineyards and has mostly trails, plus you get a FREE glass of wine post-race. I mean, what’s not to love about this event?

There’s a few smaller races I’m thinking about doing in September, but the BIG race coming up on September 28th is Akron*dun dun dun*

I still have not decided if I’m doing the full or half. On a good day I can run 17 miles, but I’m near death after. The fear of having to run almost another 10 miles after that is really stopping me from signing up, but the fear of having to wait until next summer to have the chance to run a full again is scaring me too. I know that if I do the half, it’ll be easy and I’ll wish the entire time I did the full. On the other hand if I do the full I’ll A.) Be alone and B.) Want to die. I can’t decide and time is quickly running out. I don’t want the fear to stop me, but what’s the smart decision here?

Am I only half crazy? Or fully crazy? That is the real question.