Pacing Burning River Race Report

Mission accomplished. I paced the Burning River 100 and my runner, Coach Hanks completed the distance in 29 hours 6 minutes.

Pacing Burning River

Pre Pacing Ledges Shelter Aid Station

Matt was pacing his brother before me and I relied on  his texts to have an idea where they were on the course.

I arrived and hung out at the Ledges Aid Station. It was afternoon, hot, and happening there. I saw a bunch of old friends, but managed to settle down into my chair and save energy.

Matt and Coach arrived and Coach immediately found a bench and became prone. Matt indicated that’s how Coach was also at the previous aid station.  Coach’s stomach was bad and he wasn’t eating-well, just about anything. He did manage to drink down most of the vanilla milkshake I had brought (still cold since it was in the cooler!).  Coach and Matt left, and I migrated on to Pine Hollow, where Matt was stop and I would begin pacing.

Pine Hollow Mile 71.29

It was a zoo! It looked like a concert at Blossom! With the relay teams, there were people, chairs, blankets everywhere! I took my cooler and found a little spot to sit. I still had about 1.5 hours until my team arrived, and I wanted to eat and drink my Cherry Coke.

Coach eats a little Ramen soup, a bit of chicken sandwich, and we are out of there! We are doing a 3.77 mile loop, ending up basically back at the same aid station.  We walk a bunch of this loop, because I don’t know where Coach legs/stomach are.  But he’s definitely in better spirits than he was at Ledges.

Pine Hollow II Mile 75

We’re back again at Pine Hollow, now we get to move along the route more toward our final destination.  We’re on the way to Covered Bridge.  We start to run much more now.  My feeling was, I was going to keep running, and if Todd wanted to stop, we could stop, but we needed to keep moving. We were ahead of the cut offs, but we needed the momentum.

Burning River is a bit of a tricky course. There are many road miles up north. Combine that with heat of the day and going out too fast and then you meet trails in the dark.  It does many runners in.

I found the trails interesting because this section is where many of the Northern Ohio ultra events take place on, and we were on many various sections of these, albeit sometimes in the opposite direction. And of course, it was dark. We were existing in our little lamplight circles.

I tried to keep chatting away. Todd was actually doing well-mentally-at least to me-because he was still making complete sentences and contributing to the conversation.  Many runners, at this stage of a race, are reduced to “yeah” “no” or just listening.  Pacers, don’t expect your runner to talk. If you can keep them engaged with chatter, do it. If they ask you to be quiet, do that too.

Covered Bridge Loop 85.71

Now we are the Covered Bridge Loop off Everett Road. I really don’t like loops like this, as they don’t move the runner any further down the course! We’re still doing okay with the cut offs, Todd eats a bit more Ramen and we start the loop, which is basically the Perkins Loop, which I remember from the old Runs With Scissors Course.  Todd knows we are doing this trail “backwards” and warns of big switch backs to start.  We also catch up with one or two runners through here.  We climb and then run everything that we can.  With the hot heat that Cleveland has experienced in the past week, the usual infamous mud is non-existent. We hit tacky sections of mud, but nothing that is you would even sink into.

Covered Bridge II 90.61

Back again. Todd sits and eats more Ramen and I get water in my pack. A nice aid station volunteer is giving Todd a pep talk, and I interrupt, telling him Todd is fine and we are out of there!! So we are!

Botzum 90.61

This is a section neither Todd or I have been on.  The aid station works tell us it’s road.  I tell Todd if he needs to or wants to run on without me, that’s entirely fine.  It’s cool if a runner drops their pacer.  This race is about him finishing, not he and I finishing.  I am only there to help him along. If my running is too slow for him, I don’t want to hinder him. Todd indicates he’s fine,and we run on.  This is probably 3 miles of road, then we are back in trails. Crap.  We were making good time on road, now we’re going to be a bit slower back on trail.  We catch up to Max and I give him a PB&J Bonkbreaker, as he is out of calories.  We also catch and pass 4-5 runners through this section.

Finally to the Botzum Aid Station, and now it’s towpath almost to the finish.  One more aid station. It’s looking REALLY good that we should have enough time for this finish. But it’s still ten miles-okay, 9.6, and I want to keep moving, I don’t want any issues.  I do not want a five second or one second sprint to the time cut off!

Todd changes shirts, eats about 14 grapes, we chat with Bill Warner, and now we are off.  I tell Todd we are going to employ the run-walk strategy.  We start running, and then Todd would say-“the yellow flag” and we’d get to the flag, and walk. Then, after an interval, I’d say “we’ll start running at that tree” and we’d then run again.


An older gentleman and a blonde female are running toward us. It turns out this is Todd’s father and sister! They are runners, and thought they would explore backwards on the course. They are adamant that they are not ‘pacing’ us, and I tell them, hey, this is a free and open towpath course, they can run in our direction at our pace also.  This is a great distraction to have people to chat with, as the towpath section seems loooong.

Memorial Parkway-the last Aid Station 95.98

Todd has indicated that he’s not stopping here, just getting water.  We also catch up to Paul “The King” at this aid station, and we start up the cobblestone section of road that I remember. They’ve changed the course a bit in this last 4 mile-ish section, although I do remember the jeep road under the power lines.  They eliminated a big section of steps but replaced this with a big hill on trails. This is where Todd drops me, he is  just stomping up this hill. He and his family disappear from sight. But then I catch them in the next mile or so on a big downhill that I charge down. Now we’re back together, and Todd’s  dad thinks he sees smoke. I think it’s just fog, but as we get closer, it’s smoke, and FIRE!


Well, this is Burning River, isn’t it?  A tree branch has fallen on the power line, and it’s burning!  There is also a fireman on the trail in front of us, calling this in.  I get concerned and yell “go go go” to all three of my runners. The last thing I want is that fireman to STOP us and tell us that it’s too unsafe to go under this powerline!  We make it past. I hope that no runner gets stopped by this fire.  A small fire truck is moving down the road toward us, and there is a big fire truck with the bubble light at the end of the trail.

Okay, now where to go? Back on road, up a hill. We are in a little bubble of runners/pacers, all moving, passing and getting passed.  The road finally smooths out and you can see the Sheraton roof in the distance.

Todd takes off. His sister says “oh I better go with him!” and she catches up and runs in with Todd.  Todd’s father and I follow, much more slowly and have a nice chat in.  Mission accomplished! Todd’s first 100 Mile Race!  (Todd had already completed a 100 miles in a timed 24 Hour event.)

Pacing Burning River 100


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