Picking an ultra this year had a couple more factors than it has before. Miles and I wanted to plan a trip back East to visit his family and friends (and catch a Red Sox game and eat lobster in Maine).
At first, I had picked Indiana Trail 100. It’s in northern Indiana and we could go straight to Chicago and fly in to Boston. Then, I stumbled upon the Beast of Burden 100 in Lockport, New York. We’d fly into Buffalo and then start our great driving tour of New England while I healed.
Unlike any other ultra I’ve done, this was a fast, flat course that was run as four out and backs along the Erie Canal. My training was done mostly on road to get my body ready for the pounding of a flat race. I know flat sounds ideal, but I live in the mountains, y’all! I can’t find flat unless I hit a treadmill. I’d spend time on Benton Crossing Road (known locally as Green Church Road) to get as many flat-ish miles as I could. I also mixed up my training this year with a lot of ski touring. Solid decision. Instead of just two long runs on the weekend, I’d have one long run, then a ski and another long run the next day. Not only did this break up the mileage, but it made me so much stronger. (And it was fun!)
I felt really good about my training. I also gave up added sugar and all booze during this period. I felt my body recover faster. I slept really damn well. I’ll talk more about this in a later post, but it’s become something that I’ll carry through my training from now on.
We flew from Las Vegas to Buffalo. Grabbed a tasty burger. Hit the hotel for a fantastic nights sleep. Everyone on the Beast of Burden facebook page was kind and open with information about the area. This is a small, hometown race with a lot of charm and lovely people.
The next day, we went to Niagara Falls with Miles’s old friend/coworker. Peter gave us a wonderful tour of the area. He’s from the area and a history buff, so this was next level. That afternoon I told Miles that I had to get back to the hotel and get off my feet.
I’m usually so excited the night before a race that I can’t sleep. But, I slept. I felt great. The race didn’t start until 10am because the RD won’t wake up early (The website says so). After a diner waffle and loads of coffee, we headed to the start. Super chill atmosphere. The start/finish is at a dock. The course runs down about a mile to a bridge, crosses the Erie Canal, continues 12.5 miles to another bridge, crosses the canal again, and the turn around point is just on the other side.
The aid stations were well stocked with all the standards as well as pizza, soup, pancakes… really anything you could want. It was warm and humid, but not intolerable. The course was actually really lovely. I had set the bar in my mind quite low for a flat course. The participants were all friendly and encouraging. High fives and “you’re looking strong” were all over that trail.
Feeling good at the halfway mark, the night was creeping in. At 62.5 miles, I started to feel it. I’m tired. I need coffee. My phone is dying and I need music. I need coffee. My feet feel like they’re blistering. I need coffee.
Miles ran out and found me a giant iced coffee. Shoved food into my mouth. Rubbed my legs. Smiled at me and told me I was doing great. I needed all the love I could get. He read text messages and facebook comments from friends and family. Knowing that everyone was watching, waiting, and cheering me on from afar brought me tears of joy. I know a facebook comment of heart emojis and “Go Jenny” seems like a silly thing to get all misty over, but there I was. Sweaty as hell, stinking like a rotting yak, and wiping away tears. Friends, you’ll never know how much you truly motivate me to push myself.
One of the other racers told me that the last lap runs itself. He couldn’t have been more wrong. I hobbled into the 87.5 mile aid station and told Miles that my legs were gone. He walked with me as the sun came up for at least a mile…in flip flops. I’ll never stop being overwhelmed with gratitude for that. He told me I had to finish strong. He’d be at the finish and we could start our grand New England vacation when I got there.
He turned back and I limped on. “You didn’t come this far to walk it in. Pick up your feet. Go.” It came back slowly. Run a mile, walk a bit, run a half mile, walk a little less. With 6 miles to go, I got it back. I refused to walk for the last 4. At mile 98, the finish line came into view. I could see Miles on the other side of the canal and just wanted to jump in and swim to him. But, I pressed on. With a few hundred feet to go, I looked around and didn’t see him. Panic. Oh, good god. Where could he have gone. Kidding. There he is. Camera in one hand, phone in the other. He runs a bit with me, taking a video. I smile. I’m happy. I’m so genuinely happy. I’m here. At the finish. With him.
I would have liked to break 24 hours, but I’ll take this. I’ll wear it proudly.
I sat on a folding metal chair with my shoes off and food in my hand that I couldn’t bring myself to eat. The RD is passing around moonshine he made. I politely decline. Miles does not. Drink up, babe. You worked so damn hard for me to be here.
Nobody else has crossed the finish line and my results are still up on the race director’s computer. (On an out and back course, it’s hard to tell (or care for that matter) what place you’re in. )
“Hey can I see my splits”?
“yeah, come here”
I don’t remember what he said exactly but “Second place lady” was in there somewhere. Disbelief.
This photo is from that exact moment. Damn you, Miles. You’ve done it again.
I actually didn’t believe it for a couple of days. I was so shocked that I could place in a 100 miler that I didn’t even want to look at the official results when they came out, fearing they had corrected this error. But, it was true. I took second place.
I had a shower (there were showers at the finish!!!) and we got in the car. Miles found a place that would stuff mac n cheese in a burger and we got a couple to go. I ate about half, fell asleep, woke up and at the rest. We were on the road to my future mother-in-law’s house and on our way to a fantastic vacation.
Beast of Burden is an incredible race. If you’re looking for a quality 25, 50, or 100 miler in the east, do it. I can’t say enough about the incredible people. The aid station was stocked with truly wonderful humans. If we didn’t have a wedding to save for, I’d be registering again. Buy the ticket, take the ride. You won’t regret it.