2014 Burning River 100M
Willoughby Hills to Cuyahoga Falls, OH
August 6-7, 2014
Burning River; Troy Shellhamer
Mist rose from green pastures where horses grazed lazily under morning twilight. It was just after 06:00 a.m. and I had been on my feet for a little over an hour running from Cleveland to Akron, Ohio in the Burning River 100 Mile Endurance Run. The landscape and peaceful setting reminded me more of a quaint New England town than a Cleveland suburb. I let the other 300 solo runners run their own race and I did the same. It was going to be a long day and I was in no rush. I found a pace I thought I could hold all day long and stuck with it.
The mid-morning scene was a green tunnel. The footing was decent- mostly well-manicured dirt and crushed gravel paths stained a dark brown by the dew. Occasionally I’d catch glimpses of the river I was running next to and I’d envision myself as a drop of water tumbling downstream to Akron over the rocks and obstacles along the way. The terrain in this first third of the race was hillier than anticipated. The climbs weren’t tough but they required constant vigilance to maintain a steady effort by adjusting pace. The descents were short and steep, littered with small stones, just big enough to send a runner sailing in flight like a kite in a tornado.
In between miles 45 and 55 I saw no one. The terrain included the infamous “Bog of Despair” which I didn’t find too challenging. Yeah, there was mud. There was a bog. Was there despair? No. It was fine, just some obstacles to overcome. 100 mile runs don’t come without challenges.
Coming into Boston Store aid station at mile 55, the crowds were hefty, and I felt good. I’d covered over half the ground to Akron. As I made my way into the small and charming town a man yelled out to tell me I was “in 3rd place!” It was the first I’d heard of placement. I noticed upon entering the aid station I had just caught the 2nd place runner and so I was in a hurry to get out of there. I yelled a giant “THANK YOU!” to the aid station workers and to my crew and ran off with music in ear bopping down the trail.
Within minutes of leaving the Boston Store I passed the guy who was in 2nd and I felt like I was on a high after a low-point coming in the Boston Store just several moments earlier. Climbing out of a particularly technical stretch of gnarly hiking trails I found myself at a road near mile 60. I was feeling energized and spry for several moments and caught glimpse of a runner in front of me, the 1st place guy.
After running for several miles on a road stretch with the 1st place guy the course veered onto a downhill single-track section of trail. He pulled off the trail and motioned for me to take the lead. We were the same pace on the roads but within the first big descent I couldn’t see him behind me anymore.
I grinned coming into the Ledges aid station just shy of 70 miles. I had run through a pristine section full of rocky cliffs and waterfall laden gorges. I was running my own race stress free and leading the herd. I was just doing my thing singing along with the music enjoying a long run.
Coming into Pine Hollow aid station at mile 70ish was a relief! I had a little loop to do which proved tough, but after that tortuous loop, I had my pacer, Maddy, on board for the remainder of the day!
We passed the time quickly and I was stoked to be closing in on mile 90 with no real problems. The real joy for me was that I wouldn’t need a headlamp much longer than an hour or so. Leaving the covered bridge aid station we were running some of the climbs and moving well.
We ran straight up the road climbs after mile 95. The miles kept rolling by and the terrain grew urban. Neon lights took the place of maple trees and rivers.
I saw the finish line.
I saw no one behind me.
I won the Burning River 100 Mile Run.
I finished at 10:25p.m. The 101 mile run took me 17 hours and 25 minutes. My goal was 17 hours in the best possible conditions. The course boasts nearly 9000′ of elevation gain. Definitely NOT a mountain 100 but definitely not flat. I’d say it’s VERY hilly.
I was overall very impressed by the race. I’m pumped to go back next year to pace or run it again and defend the win. I’d highly recommend the BR100 to anyone.