Burning River 100 Thoughts

On August 11, 2008, in Uncategorized, by Meghan

(Arriving the the Station Road Bridge Aid Station, approximately mile 33. Photo by Jane.)

This isn’t a story of running a 100 mile race with blazing speed, solid pace, and enduring capacity. Instead, this is a tale of learning how to run, walk, and eventually just plain finish 100 miles without doing anything too stupid so as to impede forward progress.


My race contained about 75 miles of good running. Indeed, the running was slow. Yes, there were walking breaks. But quality running and relatively rapid movement occurred for about 3/4 of the 100 mile course. It was a thrilling experience to hit the 30, 40, 50, 60, and even the 70 mile markers feeling stellar, or as good as one can feel in the middle of a 100 mile race.

I have a distinct memory of passing mile 28, dropping into some sweet single-track, cruising happily, and feeling none of those previous 28 miles underfoot. I also recall rolling into the Boston Store Aid station at mile 56, thinking that there was no way that I was already half done with the race because I was feeling so strong.

I kept a controlled but solid pace. Where the terrain was rolling, I ran 9 minutes and walked 1 minute. Where it was hilly, I let the hills dictate my walking breaks. I was on top of hydration and electrolytes all day. My calorie consumption was good during this part of the race, save for one 6 mile stretch between mile 40 and 46 wherein I didn’t carry enough calories and temporarily bonked a bit. The heat and especially humidity never affected me. Every little bit of me, except for my quadricep muscles, felt like it was in sustainable condition.


‘Round about mile 75, in the early evening, while ambling through the woods with Chelle, my pacer, the walking began. The course contained a fair bit of pavement, perhaps about 1/3 of the course’s surface. I was unprepared for the hard concrete, asphalt, and black top surfaces that were widely interspersed along the course. My quadricep muscles suffered tremendously, and slowly deteriorated to the point that running was intensely uncomfortable. And so we walked, and walked, and walked.

Just Plain Finish

Sometime in the evening, maybe around mile 90, I began to suffer a lack of calories. At this point in the race, solid foods wouldn’t go in, and I had been relying on solids for about half my calories. I would suck down my limited supply of gels, chew on a piece of PBJ until it made me want to throw up, and then bonk my way into the next aid station. My body craved the ramen noodles and broth at the aid stations, but I couldn’t consume enough of it to get me to the next aid station before another bonk ensued.

Slowly but surely, the caloric deficit creeped its way through my body and reduced my powerwalk to a horrible shuffle. I was a sad mess, but at least I was still moving forward. It was a slow, uncomfortable final few hours to the finish line and my kind pacers, Chelle and Elizabeth, helped pass the time and distance.

In Conclusion

I really have no regrets. I went to the Burning River 100 with the express intent of finishing a 100 miler, no matter how long it took me. With this distance, there is so much to learn, so many details to perfect in order to have a good race. Here, I learned the value of training on pavement if one will be running on pavement, and that my body rejects solid foods after about 18 or 19 hours of continuous movement.

I admit that I have fantasized a different outcome: a solid, steady race for 100 miles, not just 75. I can envision myself at mile 95, pushing beyond some unknown limit, running hard through the finish line. I guess these kinds of fantasies are what fuels the fire for future adventures, and what inspires us to learn from our experiences for next time.

(4:30 am, at the starting line, waiting for the adventure to begin. Photo by Chelle.)

“The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” -Marcel Proust

Is this the part where I can get away with saying that where one adventure ends, another one begins, and now I have a new set of eyes for it?


13 Responses to “Burning River 100 Thoughts”

  1. Danni says:

    You know, speed is all relative in these things I think. And, when you’ve never gone that far you’re in no position to truly test your limits. Self-preservation would seem to offer the best chance of finishing. Obviously you have real talent so next time you can push it and maybe you’ll win!!!

  2. olga says:

    I love this quote, and the last paragraph staples it. Adventure should never end, just trigger something inside – whether new dreams or new ways to see the regular life. Moving forward is the only way to live…

  3. Backofpack says:

    That is about the most succinct 100 mile race report ever! And yet, it tells the whole story.

    Yep, you are on to new adventures, new experiments in fueling and running. I think you got the best experience of all from your race – the kind that planted a seed for gaining more!

  4. Journey to a Centum says:

    Sorry to be so late in getting a reply back to you on this race! I love the picture in your previous post of your whole crew surrounding you as you have ice bags on both quads. You look sooo happy!

    Looks like you had a fantastic crew! These great adventures are so much better when you have help from great friends and family.

    Asphalt sucks!

  5. JeffO says:

    A solid pace for 75 is more than I expect to do myself. Can I borrow your fantasty if you’re done with it? I’ll be lucky to do 70 at a solid pace.
    You did so good. Not many can place so far up their first whole 100! You’re elite! You’re a speed-monkey! Now that it’s done, you can proceed with confidence and experience and shoot for faster times.

  6. Sunshine Girl says:

    Life is one big adventure, isn’t it?? Sometimes I feel greedy living from one adventure to the next, but at the end of the day it’s my life to do with what I want!

    Fantasy vs. reality makes for some interesting ruminations….maybe a future post??

    I think the reality of a 100 Miler or any other epic endurance adventure is that on any given day, despite our best training, intentions, motivations that there is always that “X” factor…that mysterious roll of the dice that we can’t control!

    The “X” factor is what puts the adventure into our adventures!!


  7. Meghan says:

    Danni- You’re right on all accounts, self-preservation seems like the way to go when one is learning how to do this madness.

    Olga- Yep!

    Michelle- Thank you, and you’re right, more knowledge for later!

    Eric- I am soooooo happy! Thank you! And, congratulations yourself!

    JeffO- Please take my fantasy and run like hell with it. I will be thinking of you this weekend! Good luck, and third time is a charm me thinks!

    Greg- Yay!

    Leslie- Yes, I agree with you, too, on all accounts. See you soon, lady!

    Thanks, everyone, for all of your support!


  8. Tom says:

    Hi Meghan; Great job on the 100, just want to know what would you have done different in training? more miles? more bathroom steam? did you have any neg thinking? Because it sounds like you kept it together for 75+miles then something changed, amy I wrong on that.

  9. E-Speed says:

    It was a blast to be with you, even if the race finish didn’t go quite as planned. Even when you were at your lowest points you still managed to put a smile right back on your face. You really did an amazing job!

  10. Meghan says:

    Tom- The one thing that I would have done differently in is to have trained on more pavement. I thought there was about 12 miles of pavement on this course, and it turns out that there was at least 30. The pavement trashed my quads, and it was impossible to run on them late in the race. One day after the race, my body felt really good, all except for my quad muscles.

    I don’t think there’s anything I could have done in training to know that my body would reject solid foods by mile 90. This is something I had to experience during the race to learn.

    Now I know both of these things, and I will carry them on to my next experience. Like I said in my post, though, I have no regrets! Thanks for the comment.

    E-speed- Thanks for being the bright light of nighttime out there with me. I don’t know what I would have done without you! Thank you, thank you!

  11. sea legs girl says:

    Great race report. And many many congrats! I have to ask just two questions: Does training on pavement really help one run longer on pavement? I’m suprised ANYONE can stand that much pavement in the middle of a 100 miler (even if they train on pavement). Also, was there a food you wished you would have had at the end that just wasn’t available?
    Best of luck with the recovery.

  12. saschasdad says:

    Great report, Meghan! Yeah, those 100s, they’re, uh, different. Way to suck-it-up and finish. You get a huge atta-girl for that. Also, I’m very impressed with how quickly you recovered.

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