The Days Before 100 Miles ~Keith Hanson

Jul 23, 2015

Burning River Lead-up Part 3

This is the 3rd and final installment of my lead up to the Burning River 100 in Cleveland, Ohio.

KeithProPic3I choose not to highlight specific training routines or regimens because nobody wants to hear: “8-10 miles Monday, 12 miles Tuesday, etc.”  However, I must say, that I try to run by feel as much as possible, so my training schedule/regimen was NOT at all like a recipe or calendar like many training schedules.

The last 2 blog posts were musings about the world of ultramarathon running, athletics, and some other random thoughts.  I will now highlight some practical, real world issues related to my last few days leading up to Burning River.

There are many stressors leading up to a big race like this (or any other big event; athletic or other).  I don’t personally know anyone who races professionally, and racing is their “job.”  However, I do know a TON of people who work full time and do these races.  It is unrealistic to think about taking a nice, relaxing week to lead up to the race, maybe getting a message or two, eating home-cooked meals and just taking it easy.  No, that’s not how the real world works – that’s for sure.

Currently, as I’m writing this, I am texting with a friend trying to nail down one or two pacers for the race.  I tried for months to get friends, family, random strangers and others to pace for me, but didn’t have any luck.  This can be common when you race in a place far from where you live.  But, as most, if not all runners know, having a pacer can be the difference between vomiting on your own shoes and quitting versus grinding through a low patch and finishing a race.  The internet and social media has really changed the game on this.  My expanding circle of endurance athletes came through in a pinch and will help be through the 2nd half of the Burning River!

So yes, it appears now, that I have one or two pacers!  Woo! This is a huge relief and takes a big weight off of my shoulders.  Also, it takes the pressure off my great buddy Dr. Heine, who I tried to convince to hike with me for 10 miles or so during the race.

Another stressor was thrown at me a few weeks ago.  My week leading up to Burning River was going to be fairly normal; like most other weeks at home.  I would have been able to lay out all of my gear, organize and re-organize before I packed, cook my favorite meals at home, spend time with my girlfriend and then, drive up to Cleveland with her.  However, my job did not allow any of this. stress

I’m currently in Florida for work-related training.  I had to fly here on Sunday (which ended up taking like 10 hours because of delays).  So now, I’m living in a Florida hotel for the 4 days leading up to the race, eating a combination of grocery store food that will fit into the hotel mini-fridge and cuisine from local restaurants.  This is all on top of the work training and the social and networking activities that have been planned.  And the cherry on top? Well, I’m flying straight from Florida to Cleveland while my beautiful girlfriend is driving my car (which she hates to drive) from Charleston to Cleveland by herself (12-hours).  What a doll!  She is truly amazing!  Although flying can be easier at times; this is not one of those times.

As soon as I land on Thursday, we’ll go straight to a Friend’s house for a party.  The party is meant to have a little fun while collecting socks and underwear for Shoes and Clothes for Kids – the organization I’ll be helping!  After that, we will pass out and go through the pre-race fun on Friday: packet pickup, food and gear preparation, etc.

Oh yeah, and how did I forget the last stressor?  We have to move out of our apartment in Charleston at noon on the Friday after the race.  However, we won’t make it back to Charleston until late Monday night after a 12-hour drive, and we would have both been gone for a week.  Then of course, we both have to work!

Again, I’m just highlighting some of the things that a lot of runners have to deal with.  I understand that I signed up for the race, and I am choosing to run the race.  However, that doesn’t make the stressors any less real.

So, as exciting as racing can be, there are tons of stressors that can be really tough to deal with.  However, I know that as soon as I land in Cleveland, I will be so excited and ready to run!  There is something about the buzz of a race – an inexplicable energy surrounding something like this.  If you ever raced a big marathon or an ultramarathon, you know what I’m talking about.

UnicornThere is just something about standing around the pre-race packet pickup thinking about the following day; you don’t know where exactly you’ll be.  You may be feeling great and cruising with your pacer.  You may be sitting down in a lawn chair asking anyone to pour ice water on your head and asking why you saw a giant unicorn on the trail.  Or, even more likely, you may be attempting to sit down in the hottest of the hot-boxed Port-A-Potty, trying to get your shorts off with little or no luck – standing up quickly every time you muscles start to spasm – and trying not to pass out from the fumes of a day worth of runners trots sitting in the high afternoon sun.

I found that few things can bond people and bring them together like a long, grueling endeavor of endurance like a 100-mile ultramarathon.  Personally, it also makes you find another level – to dig deep and find something within yourself to keep going, in the face of a seemingly insurmountable mountain (metaphorical here, but in many ultramarathons – literal mountains).  Few activities in today’s modern life can elicit these feelings and make you uncover these parts of yourself that may be buried down deep.  It is uncomfortable, yes, but sometimes the most personal growth comes from the most uncomfortable times and situations. These may be the metaphysical characteristics that Yiannis Kouros speaks about.


I am so lucky and very fortunate to be able to do anything like this.  I certainly couldn’t do it without my main crew – my girlfriend and sister – and ephemeral crew, consisting of friends who will stop by at certain points throughout the race!  I’m hopeful that my parents will be able to see some of the race.  That would be awesome! And, of course, I’m so thankful for all of the support throughout training and life leading up to the race, especially from Laura!


 [photo:  Laura and Keith]


I suppose the final installment in this series will actually be a race report, after finishing the Burning River.

Why is it called the Burning River you ask?  Well, I didn’t start the race and I’m not involved in it in anyway, but I assume it has something to do with the fact that throughout the first half of the 1900s, environmental degradation and pollution was rampant around the country.   There were few, if any, rules/regulations/laws for protecting the environment, and if they did exist, enforcement was basically nonexistent.  Few places epitomized this as much as Cleveland, Ohio, an industrial steel town.  The Cuyahoga River, the main river running through Cleveland literally caught on fire 10 different times – well, to be specific, the petroleum-based pollutants on the surface of the water actually caught on fire.  The largest and most recent fire was in 1969.  The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was founded the following year in 1970.

Cuyahoga-River-Fire-of-1969[photo: Cuyahoga River – 1969]

*photo credits – Keith Hanson: Colin Robinson

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