Thanks for visiting my blog. This is where I document and share all of my running adventures with my friends and fellow runners. The good, the bad, and the unquestionably painful. All for your entertainment! Enjoy!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Bull Run Run 50 Mile Trail Race

Bull Run Run 50!!!!

Jo and I traveled to Clifton Virginia for the 20th anniversary of the Bull Run Run. I had never ran a race held by the Virginia Happy Trails Running Club before but had heard nothing but great things about their events. We had high hopes of a fantastic day.

The race starts at 6:30 AM, just as the first rays of sunlight begin to appear over the hilltops. But we felt compelled to arrive much earlier so we could snatch a decent parking spot. Parking is an issue at this venue, and they take parking lot management seriously!

Prior to the start of the race, Jo and I strolled around killing time and bumped into a lot of familiar faces. This is really the first race I've run close to home for quite a while and it was shocking to see so many of our friends and acquaintances on hand for this event. It was great catching up with people that we haven't seen in months.

I also noticed several elite runners that I am familiar with. There was a lot of raw talent milling around before the race and I could tell they were sizing each other up. It was clear that there would be some fast times posted today.

I'm still recovering from the Cedro Peak Ultra from last weekend. My legs were still a little weak, my feet were still suffering, and my body needed more rest...

But...Honey Badger Don't Care!!!

I drafted a race plan for Jo and it showed me crossing the finish line in 9:30. If I could manage that, I would be a happy man!

At precisely 6:30, we were off!
It may be hard to make out, but I'm sporting my Cedro Peak Ultramarathon shirt from my race in New Mexico last week. Gotta love quality swag!

At the start of the race we make a funny loop along the asphalt roads and back through the start line so everybody can get spread out before we hit the single track. Things were lighthearted and jovial for that first 3/4 mile. But when we entered the woods, things got serious.

The BRR50 is known for having nice, smooth single track and some people have dared to call this race "easy". I strongly suspect these people have never run 50 miles. It's never easy. But the trails are very nice and for the most part, they are a joy to run on. With the lack of rocks and roots, a runner can actually take in some scenery.

Here are some examples...

Pretty nice, right?

What these pictures don't show is that this course has over 5000' of ascent. This trail is a deceptive bitch and if you take her for granted, she will trash you.

This race goes out of its way to not discuss the climbing. No...this race sneaks it in. A little here...a little there...before you know it, your legs are screaming. While a lot of the trail looks exactly like these pictures, there are MILES and MILES of trail that never stops rolling. By rolling, I mean a 100' ascent, then downhill. Then a 200' ascent, then downhill...on and on and on until you want to punch the next race volunteer you see. Maddening!

However, the first several miles are pretty flat, and I was moving along at an 8:20 pace headed to the first aid station at mile 7.2. Jo was supposed to meet me there, but to my surprise, I never saw her. I rolled in, filled my bottle, grabbed some PB&J and left.

That's when the first bad thing happened. I hope you never experience this.

As I was running down the trail, I was stuffing my face with my peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Evidently, I crammed too much in my mouth all at once and it began to obstruct my breathing. I opened my mouth to suck in a bunch of air and ended up sucking chunky peanut butter into my sinuses and shooting it right out my nose. CHUNKY peanut butter! Out my nose. Yeah...that sucked. It took about a mile to fully recover from that.

This is when the second bad thing happened...

It was this same section of the race that I learned something new about myself. I'm allergic to Blue Bells. These are the dainty little flowers that dot the landscape in a few areas along this course. They're somewhat iconic to the race itself and everybody associates the BRR50 with the lovely Blue Bells. Well...they tried to kill me. They're very dense in a few sections of the course, and whenever I would pass through, my airway would tighten up and restrict my breathing. Once I was clear of them, my breathing would return, but the lack of oxygen to my blood would take a few minutes to overcome. This was a serious pain in the ass.

From that aid station, we make a quick out and back and arrive back at the same point at the 11.6 mile mark. This time Jo was there.

Coming into the aid station...

I shed my arm warmers, filled my bottle, avoided the PB&J and left.

I was feeling REALLY good at this point and was pressing the pace. After all, this is an EASY race...

The next stop was at 16.6 and I was still feeling great. I had met up with a runner that was training for the WS100 and we were chatting about various races as we ran. We came into the aid station together..

I was in and out without even slowing down! Jo informed me that I was 20 minutes ahead of my race plan at this point. This is time that I wanted to put in my pocket and save for later if needed.

Heading out together still...

Somewhere after the aid station at mile 26, I was joined by my friend, Michael Yoder. This is a man that could be leading this race, but elected to run with a friend and help her to a strong finish. He knew I was up ahead and sprinted to catch up to me so we could run and chat. At this point in the race, I needed the company and the miles flew by effortlessly with him by my side.

Me and Yoder rolling into the aid station at mile 28.

At this point, I was now 45 minutes ahead of my race plan. More time to put in my pocket for later.

After this aid station, I wouldn't see Jo again for 9 miles.

We headed out for a lollipop loop with an aid station that we hit twice along the way.

And I started getting tired. My legs were trashed from last weekends race and the constant rolling hills were taking their toll. My calves were SCREAMING for mercy on every ascent. Those 45 minutes might come in handy now.

But at this point there's nothing to do but to stay strong, ignore the pain, and keep running forward.

Honey Badger Don't Give a Shit!

 I pushed hard and finished the lollipop loop and made my way back to Jo at mile 38. I was pretty worn out, but she told me I had gained ground and was 50 minutes ahead of my race plan.

Coming to mile 38 for food and something COLD!

I would have stopped running at this point...but there's a damn camera on me!

With 12 miles to go, I was pretty stressed. Mostly because I knew those miles would include the entire hilly section from earlier in the day.

This is NOT an easy race!

With no experience from this course, and quite possibly due to some drinking while drafting my race plan, I had allotted myself only 2 hours to cover the last 12 miles. With the hills coming up, I knew that wasn't happening.

I pushed the pace as hard as I could for the next 7 miles. It's hot now and I'm conserving the fluids in my water bottle. My legs are rubbery but all I can think of is my stupid race plan.

I fully recognize my race plan is totally meaningless, but when I commit to something, its hard to let it go. It was consuming me. But I had some time in my back pocket to play with.

I rolled into the aid station at mile 45 and was exhausted. I was feverishly hot and needed fuel badly! The race volunteers quickly handed me an ice cold towel to cool myself while I fueled up. It was awesome.

Coming into mile 45!

Cooling off! This washcloth was the most amazing gift. It made all the difference.

Fueling up a little more before I roll out!

I'm gone!

Leaving this aid station, I was still 45 minutes ahead of my plan. But I was feeling pretty tore up. All I had was 5 miles, but it seemed like an eternity.

I kept a somewhat slow, but steady, pace and passed 10 runners in that last 5 mile section. One of them was a little delirious and vomiting, but the others were just completely spent. They didn't even attempt to salvage their positions. When they heard me running up from behind, they just stepped right off the trail.

I finally broke out of the woods onto a gravel road and could see the finish line. Like always, this seems to be the most painless running I did all day.


I crossed the line in 9:07:34, approximately 23 minutes ahead of my plan. This landed me in 60th place overall, which is well into the top 20%.

Initially, I was a little bummed to not break the 9 hour mark, but reality set in and I was grateful to have finished two great ultras in a two week period. I'm healthy, uninjured, and I should be happy with what I got. And I was.

The post race BBQ was excellent. They had huge quantities of great food and the atmosphere was festive.

I spent some time talking to Jim Blandford. He's a true running genius and a great guy that I am lucky to have as a friend. Here I am explaining the race that he just ran. Maybe I figured he would appreciate the detail that comes from a much slower runner. Notice I have just finished and Jimmie is showered and changed already. He had already eaten too. He would have been gone already, but was waiting on a ride. I wanna be THAT guy!
In case you're not familiar with trail running, it's pretty obvious that I'm explaining the elevation change. What you see above is the international sign for "Holy Shit! The hills!"

I managed to scrounge up a "recovery beer" and chill on the lawn for a while before I was met by Karsten Brown. Another elite class runner that is a friend of mine. Karsten was in shock to see me wearing the latest in Garmin GPS technology. He's entirely jealous!
As a side note, if you're a regular follower of my blog, you're aware that I possess a Jonas Brothers lunchbox. Karsten is the race director that awarded it to me.

Anyway...Jo and I had a great day in Virginia and I can't compliment the race management and volunteers enough. They put on a world class trail race in a beautiful setting.

The BRR50 is a hard race to get into, but I would strongly suggest that all ultra runners put it on their bucket lists. It's a real treat.

Jo and I will be headed to the Hyner View 50K next weekend. We'll see how all that goes! We hope to see some of you there!

Happy Trails!


  1. Glad you ran Bull Run Run. It really is a treat isn't it? Yes, those hills are a big factor. And it's almost comical when you're passing people innthe last 5 miles, they really have nothing left.
    Congrats on a great race!

  2. Well done! I remember wanting to ask about your shirt as I volunteered at Wolf Run Shoals.

    As K said, those hills are a unique component to the race, and they affect everyone.

  3. These trails look amazing! I would love to go for a "nice walk" down them...lol. Congratulations on another awesome run.

  4. Great RR. I need to get down to this trail more often. I have run on it when at Hemlock and Fountainhead. Can't wait until I am at the point where I can do this myself. Keep the great RR's comin!

  5. Hey man, It was good back-and-forthing with you out there! Looking at your schedule, I don't see us crossing paths again but good luck at Leadville!