Monday, July 29, 2013
Witnessing the Burning River 100 Miler
This weekend I got to do something amazing. I got to crew for a friend that was running her first 100 miler. The experience for me was pretty epic and I couldn't figure out how to get it all into one blog post. And the answer is..... I'm doing a two parter!!! This first post will describe how it felt to watch a 100 mile race. The second post will give you a little insight into the adventure that was crewing a 100 mile race.
So here we go.....
100 Mile races are not a reality for someone like me. I mean, they are a reality in the way that yes, I know they exist as a thing. But a hundred mile race is something a slower runner like myself has a high unlikelihood of finishing in the allotted time. So, it was thrilling to watch some very determined runners experience the massive undertaking of a 100 mile footrace.
The starting line was not as flashy as your average road race. There were not deafening Black Eyed Peas songs to scream over, no annoying beach balls being bounced around, and no corrals to fight thru. In fact the race was started by some dude shouting (without megaphone) GO! And off they went. The race started at 5, so the runners all took off with headlamps to see where they were going. As we walked back to the car, we noticed how cool it looked to see the line of tiny lights head out into the woods. We took video that doesn't begin to capture the awesome... in fact you hear me noting that on the video
But, you can kind of get the idea.
We then spent the next 20 hours and 46 minutes driving all over the place to meet up with our runner and give her things. It gave me a lot of time to think about things. And I kept thinking wow, this is an amazing thing that is happening. The obvious amazing thing is that a human being would choose to do this. What are you doing this weekend? Meh, gonna run 100 miles. HA! That's a REAL conversation that these runners could have had! But what is also amazing is the amount of planning and people that go into giving those people 100 miles to run! There were flags to put up, aid stations to be manned. All kind of things have to happen to make this weekend a reality. It's a big deal for all parties I would imagine.
And the runners. Wow. Watching them come into the aid stations. Muddy (it rained for the first 10-12 hours), wet, tired, and bloody. Some were smiling and some were all business, but they were all there to do this same giant thing. Yet, none of them acted like it was so giant... it was just something to do?
Our runner finished up just before two in the morning. When we got to the finish line, it was another stark contrast to the average road races I'm familiar with. There was the giant timer, some not deafening music, a few folks waiting for runners, and some water. No giant finishing chute, no buffet of processed snack items, not even a bagel in sight. We cheered in our runner who finished super strong. In fact, here we were watching people that had run for over 20 hours and they looked like they had just run a hard marathon! Sure, They were tired and a little limpy after they got across the line, but they didn't look 100 miles broken. I mean, they almost made it look EASY! Our group then headed to the hotel for a quick nap before the award ceremony the next morning.
When we got back to the finish line to wait for the awards to start it was a pretty stark contrast from the finish line of the night before. This race has a 30 hour cutoff and we had made it back to finish line in time to see some of the 29-30 hour folks cross the line. These runners had run through the night and through two sunrises! There was a guy that EMTs were checking on. There was a woman that was so excited about her finish that she had the shoulder shaking tears (which of course made me tear up). There were people with such visibly swollen calves that they almost seemed to be the size of their thighs! At some point in the night/morning a breakfast tent and foot treatment tent had been set up as well. Seeing these people limping around gave me TOTALLY different view of what a 100 mile race finish looks like. Holy crap.
The finish line of the morning also gave me a reason to smile. As a slower runner, I often get to the finish line of races and the volunteers are worn out, the chocolate milk is all gone, the water is hot, the post race food has run out, and the beer truck has driven off. I don't need a ticker tape parade at every finish, but it is nice to have the hot soup you had been dreaming about for 26.2 miles. Here I was at the amazing race and the FASTEST people had gotten the somewhat more lame finish. The good stuff didn't come out until the slower finishers were crossing the line! It was like opposite day for me.
All in all, the magnitude of this race and the runners that were there blew my mind. It also made me fall in love with my sport all over again. Which was something that it turns out I desperately needed. I wouldn't say I've hated running lately, but I've been exhausted by my training and was in a bit of a slump. This weekend busted me out of it. Like I said in the beginning, 100 miles isn't something that's in my reality. But the reality I have is really great and I'm excited to see what I can do with it.