Sunday, August 21, 2011

Week in Review: 14-20 August, and Beast of Burden Race Report

Okay, numbers first:

Sunday: 4 miles easy (30 minutes), Canton/Fells

Monday: 11 miles (75 minutes) at some random place off of Route1 in Nottingham.

Tuesday: 2 miles warmup (15 minutes), 5 miles of track intervals (really complicated workout that I can't exactly remember -35 minutes), 2 miles warmdown (15 minutes)

Wednesday: 10 miles (70 minutes), on the greatest Harbor Promenade run ever (end of a rainbow what?)

Thursday: 6 miles easy (60 minutes)

Friday: 1 easy mile (10 minutes)

Saturday: 100 miles. Beast of Burden. 20:15, 3rd male, 5th overall.

Total minutes: 1510
Total miles: 141

Okay, now, Beast of Burden:

It should be no secret that after my 100-mile PR (16:19) at Beast of Burden, I thought that this year's edition of the race would be ripe for a 100-mile PR. Add Valmir Nunes, the Badwater record-holder, to the mix, and we were in for a fast race.

After a bunch of photos of me and Valmir with various people for personal use (minor celebrity what?), we lined up ready to rumble. The horn sounded, and we were off, super-fast. I stayed behind Valmir's suicidal pace, already feeling as though I was going to have to concede first to him. Everything hurt and felt wrong, and I was sweating profusely (it was hot at the start, as Valmir demonstrated before the start by rubbing his finger on his wet shoulder. So I soldiered along, completing the first 25-mile loop in just under 3:40 - behind last year's pace.

So it was to my surprise to see that Valmir was only about a mile and a half ahead of me. Considering how awful I felt, this was a minor miracle. Still, I wasn't focused on winning - I was trying my best to enjoy the course, which included jumping up on the drawbridge as it was descending for the crossing (it was randomly timed to be coming down just as I was approaching it).

I reached the end of my otherwise uneventful second lap to frantic claims that Valmir was in trouble, and that I could pass him and take the lead. At this point, a little over 50 miles in, I had finally found my stride, and I began to chase him down. I nearly caught him just past the unmanned aid near one of the bridges in the first segment of the loop, but when I came close, he looked back, and I instanty felt my stomach get sick (not sure how coincidental it was) and I backed off.

I maintained the chase, and it was getting exciting, because people passing on their way back were getting excited and telling me how close he was. Finally, I reached the aid station at mile 62.5, and, knowing that he had mentioned that he liked 100Ks a lot better than 100-mile race. I figured that this was a good time to pass him, as he was just sitting at the aid station (somebody asked him if he liked the summer version of the race, or the winter version of the race, which he won last winter, better, to which he responded "I don't speak English.")

As we left the aid station and crossed the bridge, I subtly slipped ahead of him, and now, after 63+ miles of chasing, I was finally in the lead. As if my water bottle knew it, it shot off a spurt of pale orange water (from the peach Endurolyte fizz that I had put in it at the previous aid station).

But the celebration was premature, because Valmir was not about to give up without a fight, and so, after holding the lead for only about 15 minutes, I suddenly lost control of my stomach and started dry-heaving. Valmir, gunning hard from behind, passed me. I hadn't eaten enough at the aid station, and I was feeling weak, sick, and out-of-it. I struggled to the next aid station, where I lay down for two hours, trying to get myself together. Between being pushed to my physical limits chasing Valmir, and being in a strange place emotionally, at least in part because less than two weeks ago, I had broken up with my fiancee of three years, I needed this time to get myself together. I didn't want to give up - I couldn't sleep, and my mind was still on the race. But my body wasn't ready yet, and I was still emotionally disheveled. There would be nobody there to give me a kick in the ass and make me move; I would have to do it on my own.

So finally I did, resolved to finish the race and to enjoy the beautiful night, the view of the Erie Canal, and the opportunity to be there, doing this ridiculous race. I started out at a walk, but quickly graduated to a run, and soon I was at the finish, ready to set out on my last lap, armed with the news that Valmir was again having trouble. Comeback, maybe?

Alas, not in the cards. I was getting sleepy and chafed, and still having trouble eating enough to sustain a solid pace. So I ran a lot of the way out, but when I saw Valmir at the 8-mile mark on the way out (still 6 miles ahead of me), I decided to just enjoy, and practice my powerwalk on the last 12.5 miles, channeling my best Badwater climb up Mt. Whitney. Of course, the course wasn't finished kicking me in the teeth just yet - it started raining with about 5 miles to go, which was hell on my chafing. I waddled several miles before the rain thankfully stopped. I walked across the finish line in 20:15, happy to have finished.

It turned out that I was third male, 5th overall, and the winner had run 17:52, not close to the course record of 16:19 that I set last year, which was some consolation. I was thankful to have finished, and jonesing for some A&D ointment to soothe my chafing.

So yet another "moral" victory, which you and I are probably sick of, but nevertheless, there were a lot of great things about the race, not the least of which was the emotional purge that my final dry heave catalyzed. Having come into this race in a weird place, and having spent so much of it on the brink of disaster chasing down Valmir (who didn't win anyway; as it turned out, we beat each other up so much that an uninvolved third party, with no dog in our fight, stole the victory), I needed my "slow, miserable" last lap to prove to myself that in spite of circumstances, I am still strong, and I can still finish an ugly race on my own. Not to mention there was some pretty sweet lightning to look at on the return trip.

So now that that's over, and I've lived to tell the tale, it's onward and upward to new adventures. My September is 90% set now, and I'm ready to keep churning out the 100-mile weeks, as this race, save for the chafing, has left me remarkably physically intact. On to a new week . . . :)


  1. It was really exciting to see you & Valmir battle it out this past weekend. It was fun cheering on Team USA.
    I'm proud of you for hanging in there and powering through to an impressive finish! Many other elites would have probably DNF'ed after the stomach upset and nap. Great job! You're now officially a BOB Summer streaker, 2-for-2. See you in Cleveland!

  2. I'm a little late in reading this, but I finally have found a place with wifi and a few free minutes to bop around online. With the memory of yesterday's struggle to get through 24 miles fresh in my mind, it is that much more impressive than otherwise that you toughed it out for 4+ times that last weekend. And despite the stomach issues and all that still ran a seriously impressive race. I'm thinking about driving up to watch the Northcoast race next month, that'll be a helluva show!

  3. Mark, Kino - glad you enjoyed reading, and thanks - I was happy to have finished in spite of all of those problems. I have a long list of races this fall where I plan to "redeem" myself, so it's time to just keep moving forward! Looking forward to seeing both of you at another race soon. :)