Race: Burning River 50 (Back 50)
Runner: Coach Sarah Forman
Race Date: 08/22/2020
Location: Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio
3 Bests – What aspects of the race did you like the most?
- I really enjoyed running at night! I chose the back 50 instead of the front 50 because I have always been afraid of running in the dark alone. I knew that by overcoming this weakness, I would be much stronger in my upcoming hundred in October.
- The course consists of trails, some road and sections of towpath. I really liked the variety because it was nice to come out of a slower section on trails and be able to make up some time on the roads and towpath sections.
- The people! Everyone was so happy to be there, especially since most races have been cancelled this year!
Not so much – Aspects of the race that didn’t do it for you
There were a lot of steep, uneven stairs that I didn’t love!
Weird factor – What’s the weirdest thing about this race?
The Covid restrictions were definitely something that I wasn’t used to in a race. They did a great job of pulling it off though. They started the race in waves and we were required to wear a mask at the aid stations. There were also no spectators allowed, but crew was allowed.
Highlights of your race – What did you do well and enjoy about your race in particular?
I think that the highlight of my race was overcoming a low point early in the race when I sprained my ankle around mile 13. Knowing that dropping out of the race was not an option for me, I hiked a few slow miles to try to loosen up my ankle. Finally at mile 16, I knew I was just going to have to push through it. It was very dark at this point, I was alone and starting to worry about getting lost on the unfamiliar trails. Instead of letting this ruin my race, I started to focus on the things that I could control, like taking in calories and keeping an eye out for course markers. Eventually, I was able to embrace both the pain and the darkness and focus on being in the moment and enjoying being out there.
Lessons for others – Share your pro-tips on the race to help the next runner
Make sure that you have a really good light! I used the Kogalla RA with battery pack 2 and it made such a big difference! I didn’t have to worry about the battery dying and it lit up the entire trail. Also, bring a long sleeve shirt in your pack. Even though the temperature was still around 70 at night, I still got a little cold in the early morning when my pace slowed down on the trail.
I typically run first thing in the morning, so I wasn’t sure how hard it would be to wait around all day for a race to start. I took it easy most of the day, made sure to have a big breakfast so my food would be digested and even got in a short nap. During the race, I did get a little tired around 10pm or so but I drank Coke most of the night which seemed to help.
Lessons you learned that will help you next time around
Parts of the course were pretty technical so I think I would have planned ahead to try to change into my trail shoes for those sections. I think I will also have a lot more confidence going in now that I have conquered my fear of running at night by myself.
Most important course specific knowledge to know about the race
The course is a 50 miles, point to point, and includes a combination of roads, trails and towpath. The aid stations are about 5 miles apart so it’s important to think ahead and grab what you might need to make it to the next one.
Aesthetics – Is it a pretty course?
Yes! A lot of the course runs along the Cuyahoga River. It was also point to point so we went through several different parks and trail systems.
Difficulty – Is it a tough course?
The technical areas were difficult, especially some of the steeper downhills. Overall though, there are a lot of runnable areas, so while it was challenging, there was always some relief when I would get to a road or tow path section.
Organized and well run – Did it feel like a well-oiled machine or were they flying by the seat of their pants?
I think all of Western Reserve’s races are run like a well oiled machine.
Logistics – Does it require a special handshake, registration a year in advance, hotels all booked? Give us the low down on the nuts and bolts of making the race happen.
Nothing special, just sign up on their website: https://www.westernreserveracing.com/races/burning-river-endurance-runs-relay/. My family lives in the area so I didn’t need a hotel but they do work with a hotel near the start of the race and offer shuttles to the start.
Aid Stations – Standard fare or anything special to know about the aid stations in terms of what’s available or when?
It was standard fare but this year was a little different with the Covid restrictions. The food was set out behind the volunteers and the variety maybe wasn’t was it was in past years but I was able to find everything that I needed (coke and bananas).
Weather and typical race conditions
The race is usually held at the end of July, but due to Covid, this year it started on August 22nd. It was around 85 during the day and around 70 degrees at night with periods of light rain and lightning.
Gear – Did you need anything special or is there anything you’d recommend for the next runner?
A good headlamp or waist light is essential! Specifically, the Kogalla RA. I got so many comments throughout the race about how bright it was. Even on it’s lowest setting, I had so much more confidence navigating the dark.
Spectators – Is this a friendly course for your friends?
Yes! My husband crewed for me and I was able to see him at most aid stations as well as a few other areas along the road sections.
How’s the Swag?
Amazing! A large duffel bag that can be used as a drop bag for future race and a Klean Kanteen coffee mug with the race logo on it.
The Overall Score – How many stars do you give this race and do you recommend that others run it?
I give it 5 stars. They have several race distances and a relay option. They also offer both the front 50, which starts early in the morning and the back 50 which starts at 6pm. I personally recommend the back 50 because running in the dark is such a unique experience that will challenge you in ways that running in the daylight can’t.
Sarah Forman is a coach with Team RunRun. To learn more about her or to work with Coach Sarah, check out her coaching page.