Thursday, August 13, 2015

Race Report: Beast of Burden Summer 100-Mile Run: A Step Back (A Step Forward)

I haven't written a race report for my blog, or anything for my blog, for quite a while, mostly because I haven't had a big race performance that I've felt was worth reporting for quite a while. So if you think I've only got great things happening, just look at how long ago my last race report was.

So I signed up for the Beast of Burden Summer 100 mile race after I had to cancel The Last Great Vol State Ultra, which was held in July, due to scheduling conflicts. I really had intended to stick to 24 hours or less this year, no multidays, as a way of getting back some speed and intensity as a way of being competitive in the 24-hour races again. I'd had a bad and disappointing day at Dawn to Dusk to Dawn 24 in late May, so I was really hoping this 100 could be a stepping stone back to a good 24, and maybe some other good competitive races before I get too old. The race is held on the Erie Canal towpath starting in Lockport, NY. It's 12.5 miles out, 12.5 miles back, four times through, on a flat, smooth, crushed stone surface, great for a fast time. The tough factor is the weather, which tends to be hot and humid in August, and there's no shad at all on the course.

I was very fortunate to get a ride to the race from Bobby Leong, who dropped me off on his way to eastern Ohio for a family visit. He even graciously agreed to take a quick side trip to Niagara Falls (American side), since I'd never been there before! Beautiful! (Bobby also has an awesome playlist on his phone, but that's for another story.

I was also fortunate to have the hospitality of Jim and Beth Pease, who are generous without end and who were invaluable volunteers for the race.

With a 10 a.m. start on August 8, I was able to get a good, full night's sleep before the race and still have plenty of time to set up my things on a picnic table near the start. It was my first time at BoB, but everyone instantly made me feel like family. There were also a number of New Yorkers (City folk) there to help me feel at home as well. And one nice item was that the weather was looking to cooperate nicely, with projected highs in the 70s with cloud cover, and only light winds! With the cooler weather, I opted to carry only one water bottle with me, which would contain my secret special blend of sports drinks, which I was trying here for the first time. One bottle rather than two meant moving faster and slower exhaustion, and I was confident that one bottle could get me through the 7 miles to the first aid station and 5.5 to the turnaround, with refilling at the aid stations.

So off we go, and some of the 50-mile and 25-mile runners took off like a flash. I went out pretty strongly, but on the eastbound outbound stretch the breeze was against us, so I didn't want to push that too hard, but just focus on proper form and technique. I got to the turnaround at Middleport in about 1:45, a little slower than I was hoping, but good enough to keep me in the lead for the 100. With the turnaround, you could see where your fellow runners/competitors were. Previous champion, Steve Parke was close behind me, so there was no slowing down. I got back to the start in 3:31, pretty much the same split. And Steve pulled in while I was there getting food and drink.

On lap 2 Steve caught up to me again at the Gasport aid station (mile 32), so I had to keep up the pace. By now it was getting warm, still not too hot, but the sun was coming out occasionally, and I had decided to run shirtless, which I never do, but it did help keep my body temperature down. By lap 3 evening was coming on, so the shirt was coming on too. Seeing Steve as I started lap 3 it looked like I had maybe a mile on him, still way too close to let up.

I was still feeling good, no problems with the stomach or feet or legs or anything, just starting to get that soreness that sometimes happens after running 50 miles. But I continued to focus on posture, form and technique to keep  me moving smoothly and quickly and to keep my breathing strong. The drink mixture seemed to be working well for me, although I had to take a break from it for 12 miles because the taste (strawberry/punch flavor) was starting to annoy me. But when I went back to it it tasted good again. And getting liquid nutrition helped keep me from spending too much time eating at the aid stations, in fact I ate very little solid food at all, except at least some fruit at each stop, one protein bar that I munched on through the race, maybe some chips, and once or twice some grilled cheese.

Darkness fell as I pulled into the start at mile 75, about 11 1/2 hours in (9:30 p.m.). So I was happy to be keeping a consistent pace, and was hoping to get the final lap in by another four hours and get under 15:30. My real hope was to beat my friend Tommy Pyon's 2014 time of 15:16, second-fastest on the course. So with little time spent I was off again for my last lap.

Jim Pease and me at the finish
I felt comfortable still and felt like I was keeping a good pace, but it's hard for me to tell in the dark. It was also hard for me to tell who the other runners were as I met them, so I wasn't sure where Steve was, so I just kept pushing to do what I could to keep the lead. By now I was becoming familiar with the course, the landmarks along the way, so it didn't feel like just long open stretches until the aid stations came into view. That breaking the course into smaller familiar sections helped keep my mind from getting too overwhelmed. I spent very little time at the aid stations now, just kept the finish line in my mind. On I went, keeping pace as best I could, feeling like I was slowing down but not sure. I was confident I had the win but still wanted to get as good a time as I could. Only in the last three miles did I start to get hungry, and it was a pretty painful hunger. I had just a little bit of Heed left in my bottle, which helped a little, enough to get through. I'm so accustomed to fixed-time races, what a joy it is to approach an actual finish line, and in the lead!! So I finished in 15:27:06, faster on the last lap than I expected! Partly that was due to shorter aid stops. Jim pease and Bobby Leong greeted me there, I got my buckle from the RD and I sat down and got some food in my stomach. Bobby, having returned from Ohio, took care of me well. After about a half hour of rest and refueling and chatting with the RDs and aid station staff and runners who had come through on mile 75, it was time to be off, as Bobby had engagements to keep before we returned home. I was told that Steve had a little trouble and had to take more time at the 87.5 mile aid station. Little did I know that John Boser (who's barely half my age), who I'd seen running strongly all day, had passed Steve and was close to finishing, in just 16:08 for second place.

Me and Bobby Leong at the finish
So that was the race, but there was also the run, the many great things that made the experience truly enjoyable, starting with the people. The other runners, the aid station volunteers were all so great and supportive. I don't chat much when I race, so I couldn't really express how appreciative I was of their kind words and support!

There was also the beauty of the course, the smooth canal and the woods alongside, with occasional houses or small towns along the way. It was especially beautiful as sunset came, and the sky cleared up to give bright colors to the landscape. And at night the occasional fog off the water added an eerie touch which was nice. It was nice to see stars, too, which actually helped me run, as I sometimes tend to slouch when I get tired which hampers my breathing. Looking up at the stars kept my head up and my chest open to aid in my breathing and my form. Plus i saw one shooting star, and I kept looking for more!

So I owe a big thanks again to Bobby, and to Jim and his wife Beth, to the RDs and their staff and volunteers, and to all the other runners, not just at BoB, but all those in the NY ultra community who inspire me and help make me want to be the best I can be.


  1. Great run, Phil! You didn't have to worry; you still have lots of zip in those legs!! Congratulations.

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.