Even though there was a race clock was ticking, the atmosphere at the Burning River 100 Mile Endurance run was more of an adventure than a race. The attitude of the athletes, their crews, volunteers and spectators alike was friendly, supportive, energetic and fun. The whole event had a festival atmosphere to it. Make no mistake, these ultra-marathoners are serious and attempting a challenge few people dare to start, and even fewer complete. But they do it with grace and a smile. There was a real sense of camaraderie among the runners and an absence of the uber-competitiveness or elitism that can sometimes be present at endurance races.
Boom Nutrition had the privilege of being able to support this year's event at the Shadow Lake aid station at mile 24.4. Spirits were high this early in the event and it was a joy to watch the athletes come through. The "go-fast" crowd came through with barely a sweat and barely out of breath, grabbed a quick snack and a sip and were off with a smile and a "thank-you." It was like they were out for a simple morning walk in the woods (~7:30 pace!).
As the morning progressed, athletes grabbed their drop-bags, aided by the youth volunteers from Lake Ridge Academy, and changed their socks or shoes or applied sunscreen or anti-chaffe creams. Some volunteers filled water-bottles for the athletes while others kept the smorgasbord filled with PB&Js, fresh fruit, chips, pretzels, salt tablets, and Carb Boom! Energy Gels. It really was a picnic in the park. Complete with a rockin' playlist on a sound system powered by a portable generator. The enthusiasm of the volunteers was only matched by the cheers of the crowd and the outfits of the athletes, fans and crew. I have never felt more valued as a volunteer.
The only real chore was the timekeeping. Each aid station served as a check point and volunteers checked each athlete's bib number as they came into the station along with their time. Not always an easy task when large groups of runners come through at the same time. Once recorded, athlete bib numbers and times were entered one at a time into a smart-phone app allowing LIVE tracking of individual athlete's progress on the Western Reserve Racing website. Tony Lammers, CEO of Boom Nutrition and Chief Shadow Lake Timekeeper, said "This is remarkably stressful!"
The hardest part of the day, and maybe one of the hardest thing I've had to do in my many years of endurance racing and volunteering, was having to stop an athlete from continuing after she missed the cutoff time. It was very emotional for her, her friends and family and even for me. It was her first ultra and she had come from Arizona to race in the beauty of the Cuyahoga River Valley Corridor (Cleveland Metroparks, Cuyahoga Valley National Park, and Metro Parks Serving Summit County). She trained for a year to get ready, was in good spirits and felt that she could continue both physically and mentally. Her safety was the most important consideration, however, especially with a storm looming. I couldn't allow her to continue knowing there would not be aid stations available and that race officials wouldn't know she was still on course. She could have been mad. She could have yelled. She didn't. We talked for a while. A few tears fell. We hugged. I made a new friend. She said she would be back to reach her BR100 goal. She embodies the spirit of the ultra-endurance athlete.
Thank you BR100 athletes for letting us be part of your journey!