Tuesday, August 24, 2010

beast of burden summer 100 miler: race report

the beast of burden summer 100 should have been the weather-friendly version of the winter race. but with extremely high humidity followed by hours of rain, the weather led to very low completion rate. aside from weather, everything else about the event - the race director, the volunteers manning the aid stations, and the erie tow path course - was great. on a cool fall (or spring) day, this course perfect for racing and scoring personal bests.

this race wasn't on my schedule until i dnf'ed at 70 miles in vermont last month. tough weather there (heat and humidity) wrecked havoc on my race and i pulled the plug after 17+ hours. ironically, the death march i wanted to avoid there, caught up with me in the last 25 miles of the lockport course! karma comes around... but i've gotten ahead of myself.

i knew i'd come in under trained - vermont was my last long run, and the rest of the time was a mix of recovery and low mileage weeks. i thought a 22 hour target was doable. the outline of my plan was simple: 10 hours for the first 50, then 12 hours for the second. emmy had agreed to pace me for the second 50 miles so i was in good hands. and, since anthony was running the 100 too, i'd have some company out there.

emmy and i drove up friday - and the only low point of the trip was getting stuck in a pair of smoking rooms at the motel. i woke up in the middle of the night and thought i'd fallen asleep inside an ash tray - pretty nasty. but we had fun at the packet pick-up at finnan's bar and grill. we met sam, the rd, and his wife. plus, sheri and bob had a birthday six-pack of southern tier phin & matt's extraordinary ale waiting there for me - which left me speechless!

in an unusual twist, the race started at 10 - somewhat on the late side for an ultra. that gave us time to swing by a dunkin donuts for a breakfast sandwich before we headed over to the start. emmy had signed up for the 24 hour run, since runners completing 50 miles would get a finishers buckle. since she'd run 50 with me, why not enter it? as it turned out, she did 75 miles (the first 25 mile out and back, then waited for me to at 50 miles).

aside from the start/finish pavilion, there were two aid stations on the course - gasport at 7.5 miles and middleport, at the 12.5 mile turnaround. i took along a 22 oz. handheld for hydration. but as the humidity climbed, two additional unmanned water stations were added to make reaching the primary aid stations manageable. there was one bridge crossing (at exchange street) over the canal. and, for some diversion, along the tow path there were mile markers at each half mile point.

i ran most of the first out and back with anthony - we reached the 12.5 mile turnaround in 1:53 (way too fast) and then continued on back to the gasport aid station together. after gasport i continued on alone and finished the first 25 miles in 3:54 (again too fast). i wasn't pushing the pace - but i did think the humidity would break and the running conditions would ease up a bit. no such luck. instead, the air got thicker and it seemed that the humidity climbed with each passing hour.

the second out and back took an unusually long 5:22 - and i was worried that dehydration was becoming an issue. i kept a close watch on my water supply - and 2 miles shy of the gasport aid station volunteers were on the course in a golf cart to resupply water bottles. that was a god send! once the additional water stops were added, hydration wasn't an issue. i also had on my ipod, but stopped listening to it a few miles from the pavilion.

my 50 mile split of 9:17 was well under my 10 hour target for the first half. but, as i told emmy as we headed out for the second half, it took way too much effort. the weather was really starting to weigh on me. my clothes had been drenched since the first few miles and we still hadn't gotten a break in the weather! emmy told me a major storm was headed our way, expected in just after 10 - so i took along my windbreaker.

the third out and back started off pretty much like the first two - and we made it to the 12.5 mile turnaround at middleport without any rain. anthony and his pacer caught up to us that point and we spent the inbound leg taking turns leapfrogging each other. the rain finally arrived just before we reached gasport - and it would stay with us throughout the night. at first, it seemed great - and finally broke the humidity. but that feeling only lasted an hour.

the third 25 mile out and back took 6:40 and gave me a 75 mile split of 15:58 - which was still on target for a 22 hour finish. but 6 hours seemed to be a stretch at that point. a sub-24, with an 8 hour cushion seemed the more likely outcome at that point. that was underscored as we set out from the pavilion only to be hobbled by painful chafing. emmy ran back to the drop bags to get me some glide, and that got me moving again.

on the outbound leg, things got progressively more painful for me. i started to have blister problems on the soles of my feet. that slowed me down to slow run/walk. but even that was too optimistic because by the time we reached gasport, i couldn't run anymore. an occasional shuffle to bread up the walking was the best i had left. we met up with anthony and his pacer just after they had left middleport. the rain had started to ease up at that point.

even with the rain pretty much reduced to a drizzle, every step i took at that point was painful. between chafing and the blistered feet (they were raw) i was reduced to a crawl. during the final 12.5 miles my forward motion slowed to a crawl - 2.5 miles an hour! it was one of the most a painful finishes to a race i've ever experienced. the last 25 miles took me an incredible slow 9:50 - and i crossed the mat in 25:48!

afterwards, i learned that the weather took it's toll on a lot of runners. the finish rate for the hundred was about 50% - with a similar drop off in the 24 hour run! despite the weather travails, i was more than pleased to finish. while i doubt anything would convince me to sign up for the winter version - i could see myself coming back next summer.

here are my race photos.
check out anthony's race report.


Sank said...

Frank, Happy Birthday and CONGRATS on finishing. Awesome job.

Slomohusky said...

summer weather and temps have not been the best for running this year. no matter where you live it seems. great effort!

runner-grrl said...

Wow, that is an intense run! Congrats on a hard wrought finish. Not sure if that makes me want to do an ultra.. or really never to do one :) --Alex