“Never again.” Beast of Burden
By Stacey (Arnold) Michne
“I’m never doing this again.” Rash decisions should never be made immediately after crossing a finish line.
I signed up on a whim, which one would think would be an action reserved solely for weekend 5ks, but indeed I registered for the Beast of Burden 100 mile ultramarathon, or “BoB” as it is affectionately known, a mere five days before toeing the line. Having done a handful of 50 milers, I’m not entirely new to ultras, but I could have lived a very satisfied running life without ever attempting 100.
I honestly don’t even remember how I discovered the Beast, but I convinced myself that at a week prior to the race, it was too late to train and would be very stupid of me to register. So, I didn’t train for another two days, and then registered. I kept reminding myself that the course is flat, with cushy, crushed limestone underfoot, and is a four-time, 25 mile, out-and-back, so there would be plenty of chances for me to bail. Let it be known that in all my years of racing, I have never bailed, but still the option was there and made the idea of Bob more bearable.
The race begins in Lockport, NY, at 10:00 AM, which invites racers to sleep in race morning. I elected instead to stare at the ceiling until dawn when I decided I should probably start coffee-and-bageling, and try to beseech my colon to vacate. I certainly didn’t want the brown bear to chase me for 100 miles, if you catch my drift.
Just prior to start time, I stood with a group of about 150 other runners (a 25 and 50 mile option were also offered), and tried not to look too frightened when the race director announced that as a celebration of the 10th “Running of the Beasts,” an actual beast would be incorporated into the race. I could tell I wasn’t the only one picturing a young bull, nose snorting and nuts swinging, galloping alongside us from aide station to aide station. Our nerves quickly calmed, however, when someone came out and danced around in a furry bull costume. Whew! Time to run.
My first lap felt great, despite running the entire time, and at a pace that was unrealistic for the distance ahead of me. I also made the mistake of not eating early enough, which, combined with my quick pace, was readying me for what the hipsters may call an “epic fail.”
The second loop wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, despite my previous errors. I was anticipating a two mile per hour trudge until 50, wherein I would put my little bull tail between my legs and call my mommy to come rescue me. I was finally hungry, which saved me because I ate enough to power through.
I spent less than ten minutes at each aide station, barring a couple times I was held up to patch blisters or attempt to pee. I’m an RN and was mighty cautious of my urine’s appearance. Lemonade? Great. Iced Tea? Not so good. Mine stayed Arnold Palmer from mile 25 on, so I knew my kidneys were as good as gold… so to speak.
After two decent loops, my body decided I was overdue for a disaster. That third loop sucked. Not like “Wow, I’m kinda sore and it’s pretty dark out, but I can do it!” kinda suck. More like, “I feel like my legs are being steadily amputated with a rusty jackknife while that swinging-nuts bull I imagined at the start is goring me with one of its horns” kinda suck. My run slowed to a jog, which slowed to a jog/walk, which slowed to a zombie lumber. The nausea was so bad, I felt like I was going to vomit up my small intestine. Darkness was the least of my worries, as I was blessed with a full moon for a pacer. No, my pacer didn’t run alongside me in assless chaps, I mean I was really using the moon as my pacer. Sure, he didn’t fill up my water bottles or provide back massages (pacers do that, right?), but he was there for me for the entire night.
I reached the start/finish turnaround for my last loop and seriously contemplated just ending it. So, I disobeyed the cardinal rule of ultra running and pinned my backside to a camping chair. A volunteer asked me how she could help, and instead of requesting her to put me out of my misery, I uttered a word that changed the rest of the race for me… “SALT!” Except it wasn’t said in a capitalization-and-exclamation kinda way. It was more like…. “salt.” She fashioned some sodium-infused potatoes that would not have tasted better had Bobby Flay been there to spoon feed them to me from a diamond encrusted platter. With starch running through my veins, I was a new woman, up and running again.
I passed a few runners who had dusted me in my disaster lap, secretly hoping they wouldn’t later be tripping over my lifeless body as this high I was feeling had another 25 miles to decide it was going away. But, it didn’t go away. As I was leaving the final aide station, I called out to the volunteers, “Only six more miles!” One of them responded with “It’s actually seven-and-a-half!” I would later have his likeness made into a dartboard.
In addition to adding over a mile to the prospected end of my misery, the BoB allows runners to see the finish line on the other side of the canal two miles prior to reaching it. Running two miles doesn’t seem like a grandiose task, unless it’s preceded by running 98 miles. Still, I pushed on. 24 hours, 14 minutes, and 14 seconds from starting the day before, I finished in less time than I predicted I would. I even beat my family to the finish, as they were planning on watching me cross at about 25 hours. One would think finishing such a feat without my loved ones present would have made for a highly anticlimactic ending, but I was just as happy to be in the company of the wonderful volunteers (even Mr. Seven-And-A-Half), my shiny new belt buckle, and a Dixie cup mimosa made my Ms. Salt Potato.
In short, I just ran 100 miles and no, I’m not going to Disney World. I’m going to bed. And now, a week later… I want to run it again.