“There is no glory unless you put yourself on the line.”
That’s what my fortune cookie told me at the Hibachi Japan Steak House in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, on Thursday night.
Finally, 31 hours before the start of the Burning River 100-mile trail race, I had my answer.
“You’re going to try to run 100 miles? Why?”
I guess I thought it could be glorious.
I went to bed around 10:30 p.m. Friday night, fell asleep around 11 p.m., woke up at 12:30 a.m. and then wasn’t able to fall back asleep. At 3:30 a.m., I boarded a bus outside the hotel for the nearly hour-long ride to the start line at Squire’s Castle, just outside Cleveland.
At 5 a.m. we were off.
252 runners started the race, 166 finished and I placed 30th. It took me 21 hours, 37 minutes and 58 seconds.
Here are a dozen of the things I learned:
1. Traveling 100 miles on your own two feet in a day is not easy. Going 101.1 miles (the actual distance of the race) is significantly more difficult (especially since I’d already added on even more extra distance after briefly getting lost around Mile 87).
2. Ohio is not flat. Don’t ever tell me again that it is.
3. My wife Dani and friend Tim Fisler must really like me for putting up with me all weekend. I couldn’t have asked for a better support crew.
4. Mary Zielinski, who planted the Burning River seed in my head last year, and her FATRUMPS (Frederick Area Trail Running Ultra Marathon Plodding Simpletons) friends are as advertised: “A Special Kind of Stupid.” They run this crazy race every year and then party like rock stars afterward.
5. Not all ultramarathons are the same. My only previous ultra experience was the JFK 50-Miler, which I’ve run five times. I have four top-20 finishes there, including two top-10s. … But 100 miles is a different beast, and I got crushed by people who usually finish behind me at JFK.
6. 100 miles doesn’t feel like a race. It feels more like the final fight in Rocky II.
7. There is no joy in crossing the finish line in a 100-miler, just relief that the torture is over.
8. Women are insanely tough, especially the more mature ones. The top three females in the race were all in their 40s, and they all kicked my 38-year-old male ass.
9. Pain is not temporary, and pride is not forever.
10. I shouldn’t swear that I’ll never do anything like this again, because I’m already reconsidering.
11. I also am “A Special Kind of Stupid.”
12. There is no glory unless you put yourself on the line.