CLIFTON Virginia, April 12 2014.
I attend the pre-race briefing on Friday evening, but skip the pasta dinner this time. At the briefing I meet a dude named Pete who will be going for his 10th BRR finish. As per developing tradition, Steve stays over at our place and The Boss drives both of us to the race. I am running for the South; I tell Steve that if I break 10 hours I will holler out a rebel yell when I cross the finish line.
I chat briefly with Caroline W., who is injured but planning to run anyway. Steve and I try to start a conversation with ^z, but he peels off to talk to someone he knows. I enjoy the anticipation before the start, but I am not nervous or overly excited. This is not my first time around the barn, after all.
Start to Centreville Road
I lose sight of Steve before the start and I assume he’s behind me. I feel comfortable the first few miles. I see Pete from the briefing early on; he’s moving faster than I am.
It’s cool, but very humid. I can’t keep my glasses from fogging up. I wind up stashing them in the pocket of my shorts. Somewhere after the second set of stream-spanning pylons I catch up with Gary K. and we chat for a minute or two. I tell him I picked him in my office pool to win the 70+ division, and he chuckles heartily. “What’s the Vegas line on me?” he asks. “They’ve got you at 3:2, Frank P. at 2:1 and Bill W. at 20:1,” I tell him. I’d’ve put Frank higher but it was projected to be hot. Frank fares poorly in heat.
I tell Gary that I am in the MMT 100 miler coming up in a few weeks. I hope that I’ll be able to draw from his experience some during that race.
I am very pleased to see my friend Paul P. hanging out at the aid station. He hands me a Gatorade and agrees to hold my water bottle until I get back from the upcoming out-and-back section.
Centreville Road (back) to Centreville Road
Two miles out and two miles back. Last year I saw the leaders coming back just before I reached the first aid station; this year it’s just after. Maybe I’m faster, maybe they’re slower, maybe both. It’s starting to warm up. I am approached by a steady stream of runners, most of whom apparently feel compelled to offer an encouraging word. I appreciate the sentiment, but I wish people would put a little more effort into originality. I very quickly tire of hearing a pro forma “Good job” every time I encounter another runner. I occasionally offer encouragement of my own, but I try to change it up a little – “Looking good”, “Tear it up, man”, “Stay strong, buddy”. I recognize a lot of runners coming towards me, and I greet a few by name even though they don’t know me.
I am surprised to see Steve coming back about one minute before I reach the turnaround. He looks pretty strong. Maybe The Boss was right about him training hard on the sly.
There are still plenty of people behind me. I’m surprised to see that Caroline is in last place. It turns out she is more injured than she thought and will drop soon. I see Steve leaving the aid station as I arrive. He asks me to teach him the sub-10-hour rebel yell, and I let one rip as I climb the stairs up to the AS – “WAWWAWWAWWAWWAWWAWWAWWAWWAW!”
I collect my water bottle from Paul and offer him hearty thanks in exchange.
Centreville Road to Hemlock
Steve has stopped to dump some trash in a bag set out for that purpose some short distance past the AS. I catch him up and we run together for a while until I decide to run down a side trail to take care of certain biological necessities. I catch back up to him shortly before AS3 and take the opportunity to practice my rebel yell once again. I expect that we will run together at least back to the AS, but Steve seems to need a little time to recover from his early fast pace, so I trot on ahead.
Back at Hemlock I swap my shoes for the pair I’d left in my drop bag. I think this is the first time I’ve done this during a race.
Hemlock to Bull Run Marina
I catch up with and pass Pete early on in this segment. It’s heating up, and most of the humidity has burned off. I’ve put my glasses back on.
The soccer fields are exposed and the mounting heat starts to make a statement. Just past the fields there is a muddy area, but there are cut logs and bridges across the worst parts.
AS4 has cold, wet towels, which are amazingly refreshing in the still-building heat. They also have V8 and Yoo-Hoo. Outstanding.
Bull Run Marina to Wolf Run Shoals
Heat … growing. Legs … tiring. Must … not … drop.
The theme of the Wolf Run Shoals this year is Christmas. The costumes look hot. I recognize Alex P. and call to him: “Hey Alex! You got any sunblock?” He recognizes me instantly from last year’s incident. He has the sunblock ready, and informs me that he’d be honored to anoint my noggin with it. “On the way back,” I tell him, a plan to which he accedes.
Wolf Run Shoals to Fountainhead
A short two miles. I see the leader heading back, and the second place runner not far behind him. “You’ve got 30 seconds to the lead,” I inform this latter guy. The final gap would turn out to be some five minutes.
There are more cold towels at the Fountainhead AS. They also have pierogies.
Fountainhead to Do Loop
Just after the white loop I hear a woman behind me say to her companion “These Altra people have yellow feet on the bottom of their feet.” While I am trying to parse this surreal locution she continues “You have a foot on the bottom of your feet!” I eventually realize she is talking to me – she is referencing the design Altra puts on the bottom of their shoes to highlight the anatomical shape of the forefoot – but I don’t know how to respond. I just run on.
I catch up to Frank P. just before the Do Loop AS. Last year I didn’t catch him until after the second pass through the Marina, and he came back to beat me by a few seconds. Frank is 70 years old and had finished the BRR every previous year. I knew he was hurting in the heat, and I offered him an encouraging word as I went by. I hoped he would make it to the finish.
I’d been hoping all day that the Do Loop AS would have popsicles, as it did last year, and they did not disappoint. Thanks, guys, you are the best.
Do Loop (back) to Do Loop
Once you leave the Do Loop aid station you are kind of committed to finishing the race. You are still heading outbound, but you’re on a loop to come back around to the Do Loop AS in about three miles. I like to measure out a mile and a half by my watch; I get a boost out of knowing I’m on the way home.
The Do Loop proper is really only about two miles long. There is a half mile approach from the aid station which is an out and back section. Once you hit this section on the return trip, the people coming towards you are behind you in the race instead of ahead of you.
I saw Steve at the AS, he outbound and I inbound. This was very similar to our positions at this point last year.
I grabbed another popsicle and headed on.
Do Loop to Fountainhead
I saw a steady stream of people here on this section. I met ^z on his way out and advised him that he was roughly half a mile from popsicles. He expressed gratitude for this news.
A few miles further on I met a young lady who must have been flirting with the cutoffs, but was still keeping a good attitude. She asked me if there was any water up ahead she could jump in, and allowed as how it would not be the first time today she’d done so. I told her she had about a mile to go to find some. It really was getting oppressively hot. My water bottle seemed to have a hole in it.
The stream of runners coming towards me petered out as I approached Fountainhead. Anyone still going outbound would have missed the cutoff by the time I got back there.
Fountainhead to Wolf Run Shoals
I did pass one more outbound runner, though, just over a mile past Fountainhead. He looked to be in OK shape, but he was way past the cutoff. I said something to him, intended to be kind. I don’t remember what it was, but it wasn’t “Good job”.
Back at Wolf Run Shoals I accept Alex’s offer of sunblock. We get a picture of me with it slathered all over my head.
Wolf Run Shoals to Bull Run Marina
A fair number of people pass me from behind during this segment. I am walking a lot. I am reduced by the heat.
I linger at the marina aid station. I drape one of their cold towels over my head and just sit and rest for a while. This is the final stop for aid; time to head out for the last push. There is a volunteer hosing down runners as they leave, and I take full advantage of this kindness.
Bull Run Marina to Finish
I know I will be slower than last year, but I also know I will get it done. I run very little, but I still bust out a few hundred yards of ballistic motion here and there. I keep looking over my shoulder for Steve, expecting him to loom up behind me, intent on evening the score from last year.
After I pass the soccer fields I notice that I am starting to get significant chafing of the inner thighs. There are still some four miles to go, so I know this will be painful. I try re-applying some Body Glide, but once chafing starts it doesn’t really help much.
I lose a lot of places during this last stretch, but I am just jazzed to be on the show, man. I still worry that Steve will come up and pass me in the last mile.
The last hill is brutal. It’s always brutal, but this year’s heat has been beating me down all day and I have very little left. Race director Toni is cheering runners in at the finish line. She comes out to slap my hand as I cross.
Just freakin’ beautiful to be done.
The food is outstanding. I just eat whatever they can put on my plate.
The Boss is a sublime sight. I tell her I’d like to hang around and watch people finish, and she graciously agrees. Steve comes in about a half hour after me. Everyone is slower this year in the heat, but he only lost some eight or so minutes.
I learn that Tim S., one of the three people who’ve completed all prior BRRs, had to drop with medical issues. Tom G. and Frank P. are still on the course. Tom comes in with some 15 minutes to spare. Now everyone is waiting for Frank.
Ten minutes to go. No Frank. Anstr D. walks down a ways to try to try to see a little further down the course.
Eight minutes. Six. Five. I start to consider for the first time that he might not make it.
But then a form comes around the final bend, a form with Frank’s characteristic rightward lean. The crowd goes wild. They love him.
The only thing going through my mind is the last bit of Tennyson’s Ulysses. It’s clichéd and overly sentimental, but then, so am I, so I don’t mind reproducing it here:
Though much is taken, much abides; and though
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
As I hobble to my car, still trying to pamper my chafed legs, I see Gary K. heading to his truck and I tell him that I’m dropping out of MMT. I don’t think I have the stones to make it 100 miles. “Nooooo,” he says, and looks crestfallen. I am chastened, and promise him I’ll wait a few days before making a decision.
It turns out that a few days was long enough for ultramnesia to set in, and I’ll be toeing the start line of MMT early in the morning of May 17th. If I die it’s Gary’s fault.
Miles this race: 50
Miles raced in 2014: 155.8