I had a blast running the Burning River relay and I can’t wait for next year. Will you join me?
I have two runfessions.
- It’s been a while since I’ve run any sort of organized race, and
- Up until a couple weeks ago, I’d never run farther than six miles on trails.
That all changed over the weekend when I ran leg 2 of the Burning River Endurance Run and Relay. It was such an amazing experience from start to finish. If you followed my stories on Instagram, you probably saw quite a few portions of my leg. But first, a little background.
Burning River Endurance Run and Relay: Race Recap
Burning River is a 100-mile and 50-mile run, and 4- and 8-person relay race. There are two options for the 50 miler — the front and the back half. The course is point to point and traverses the Cleveland Metroparks, Cuyahoga Valley National Park, and Summit Metro Parks. There’s a section for everyone — roads, bridle trails, single track, water crossings, uphills, downhills — pretty much everything. Luckily for me, part of the course is in my backyard which makes training on it ridiculously simple. But like I said, up until recently, my longest trail run was six miles.
Months ago, I registered with one 8-person team. After some irreconcilable differences came to light, I left the team. At that point I planned on volunteering at an aid station like I did last year. But when an opportunity presented itself to join an all female 8-person team with Mother Runners AND be able to run with my friend, Marissa, (as our teams would run in tandem) I jumped at the chance. I would have the same leg as I originally planned (leg 2) and a buddy to run with? I was in.
Leading up to the race
Marissa and I headed down to Cuyahoga Falls for packet pickup on Friday afternoon. I was still in the middle of coaching Kids Run the Nation Camp so I had to make it down and back fairly early. When we arrived, we were both shocked at how long the line was for the 100-mile packet pickup. I admit, I was a little intimidated!
I was a bit nervous the week leading up to race day. Not because of the race but because of the relay. I was running on a team of women I had never met, and since Burning River is such a long race, it’s hard to gauge paces and such. My race day jitters were merely due to not knowing what time to arrive at the start of my leg or who to look for. We finally exchanged numbers and figured out approximate paces which helped calm my nerves a tad. The night before the race I sent the runners of legs 1 and 3 a selfie and what I would be wearing so they knew who to look for.
Race day arrived and I met Marissa at the Polo Fields at 7:40. We approximated our runners would arrive just before 8 which worked out perfectly. We had time to use the restroom and take plenty of selfies and before we knew it we were off!
We flew through the first three miles. This was the easy part — flat, easy bridle trail. We had one creek crossing in this section. Due to the downpour the night before it was more like a river crossing. After the first three miles we began a steady climb for the next two miles.
Harper Ridge Aid Station
Several creek crossings later and we arrived at our first aid station at Harper Ridge where I saw my instafriends Deron and Austin. Deron was running the front 50 and Austin was running leg 2 of the relay. I didn’t realize Deron was running the 50 and I was super happy to see him! And I didn’t realize I even knew Austin until after the race. Oops! #facepalm
After chatting for a few minutes, I refilled my water, we grabbed a few snacks, and we were on our way!
The next section was probably my least favorite due to all the grass. There’s just something totally uninspiring about running on grass. I think it brings back bad memories of 7th grade cross country or something and that’s why I loathe it so much!
Shadow Lake Aid Station
After a couple miles we arrived at our second aid station, Shadow Lake, and saw my friend Cindy! You may recall her from several of my race recaps (like this one!). She’s the one run/walking and always passing me in our road races. She was also doing the front 50. (Go, Cindy!!)
After Shadow Lake we ran in a bit more grass (yaaaay) and then finally got to some nice single track. We were expecting a bit of mud in the low laying grass but that never came. It waited for us in the woods! A few sections were slick so it was slow going for a little while. We played leap frog with another leg 2 runner (I *think* her name was Susan but I can’t be sure) and chatted with her for the remaining miles.
By the time we hit 11.5/12 miles, my IT bands were starting to flare up and I was not having it. We hit paved path and I let my legs go to get some faster turnover. The slow slog of trails was starting to wear on my poor bands and I knew if I didn’t get the faster turnover, I would be in a world of pain at the end of the leg.
Unbeknownst to me, Marissa was struggling a little. She never said anything but she fell back in the last two miles. I thought some friendly “race you to the top!” banter would encourage her — and it did — but she wasn’t really into my games. As it turns out she was feverish during the last few miles of our run. Which neither of us knew at the time.
Egbert Aid Station/Exchange Zone
We entered the woods for the last portion of our leg and finally heard all the cowbells and cheers at our last aid station and the relay exchange point. It was such a fun finish and our husbands and my kids were waiting for us! We found our teammates and they were off.
Total mileage for Leg 2: 13.87 miles
Time on the trail: 2:46:48
The rest of the night
Before the race, during all the texting, we decided we all wanted to know who was leaving for their leg and when. It was really exciting and fun to follow everyone through the day. I would get “Leg 5 leaving!” and similar texts for the rest of the night. Our team ended up finishing just before 5 am. I would have loved to have met them all at the finish line but had a prior commitment I couldn’t punk out on. It was fun getting all the messages!
Overall, I really enjoyed the relay. It was a really fun experience. I liked that I was on a tandem team so I had a running partner, and it was even better that it was MY running partner. Marissa and I get along so well and always have lots to talk about. And even lots not to talk about. We’re comfortable with our silence when running with each other which always makes running easier. I’m also grateful we ran a leg we were both extremely familiar with — it helped knowing what to expect.
Also, not gonna lie — I totally fangirl’ed over all the 100- and 50-mile runners. These people are so damn inspiring. So inspiring, in fact, that I’m toying with the idea of running the front 50 next year. That might be a pie-in-the-sky dream but hey, dream big, right? If I don’t go for the 50, I’m next considering the 4-person relay. That one would take a bit of doing because I’d love to have two teams to run together. The verdict’s out on that. TBD.
The folks at Western Reserve Racing put on top-notch events. If you’re local to Cleveland and haven’t run one of their races yet, I highly encourage you to sign up. And if you’re not local to Cleveland, these races and courses are worth traveling for. Plus, Cleveland has some great food and microbrews if that’s your thing, and lots of other touristy stuff ’round here.
I had a blast running the Burning River relay. I can’t wait for my next trail race — Leave No Trace Trail Half on September 1. This one is part of the Tents and Trails weekend which I’ve been dying to run for years. I’d love to do the camping part, too, but that’s not gonna happen this year.
What a fun experience — maybe you’ll join me at Burning River in 2019!
What’s the farthest distance you’ve run?
Pick one: single track, bridle, crushed limestone, or roads?