Beast of Burden 100 Mile Run, Lockport, NY
Friday, February 7, 2020- John had spent the night at my house so we were able to get an early start to travel the 431 mile trip from Manassas, VA to Lockport, NY. It was suppposed to take only 8 hours to get there. But, due to the crazy weather that we encountered, it took close to 10! Today was my 66th birthday.
Our route to get to Lockport, NY would be US15->I99->I86->I390 and then a series of secondary roads to get to Lockport. It was raining lightly when we left around 6:30 AM. It started raining harder as we got on US15 north around Haymarket, VA. Then, when we got south of Leesburg, VA we had to dodge two good sized blowdowns partially blocking the road. I mentioned that it was probably due to a microburst. When we got on the VA7/US15 bypass there was a police cruiser in the middle of the road and tree debree all over the place. We were amazed. We learned that night that a tornado had passed through the area. We must have just missed it.
It kept raining as we passed into Maryland and then Pennsylvania. The temps started out at 54 degrees but were falling rapidly. Once we got north of Harrisburg we hit 34 degrees. Then, between Harrisburg and Williamsport the rain turned to snow. John was driving at that time. He handled it well. We took our time and stopped just north of Williamsport in the small town of Hepburnville. We got gas, ate lunch and switched drivers. Then the exitement really began.
Between Williamsport and Mansfield, PA US 15 climbs through the Allegheny Mountains to around 2,500 feet above sea level. The road, while 4 lanes, has many curves, ups and downs. The snow was getting heavy and accumulating while I first started driving. I had the entire road to myself for the first 5 to 10 miles. As we ascended the road got more snow covered and more slick. So I slowed down to a crawl. We then came upon a a slow moving 1 lane caravan. There were snow plows out on the road but they were overwelmed by the amount of snow falling and were battling to get the road cleared. This was a white knuckle ride.
Most people reduced their speed and fell in with the caravan. If one were to slide off the road in this mountainous area, one could end up within some deep ravene and not be able to get out or worse yet, would not be found. There were always a few 'clowns' that would try going around us. The cars would slide round and then fall back in with the caravan. The SUV's would try and pass us all but would have to slow down to a snails pace. And the 18 wheelers that tried to pass the caravan didn't get there any faster.
The snow kept piling up. I estimate that we got between 8 and 12 inches by the time that we reached the New York border. NY seemed to have a better handle on the snow removal as I86 and I390 were in better shape than US15/I99 were in PA. In late afternoon we turned off of I390 at Geneseo, NY and switched drivers again. John drove the rest of the way to Lockport. We stayed at the Best Western Plus in Lockport, which was a nice motel.
Saturday, February 8, 2020- We got up at 5:00AM, ate the motel breakfast, which was good, and got to the nearby Erie Canal by 8:00 AM. The motel did not plow their lot of the snow, which made it fun to drive in and messier for my boots and floormats.
When we got to the race were, as usual, one of the first vehicles there. We also misread the email from the race organizers. We thought that the race started at 9:00 AM. It started at 10:00 AM so we had to sit in the vehicle for an additional hour occassionally turning on the engine and the heat. It was 17 degrees out at that time. Due to what they call 'lake affect snow' it was spitting snow for most of our stay in Lockport. So they had a pre-race meeting at 9:45. Then the race started at 10:00 AM.
There were about 140 runners at this event. The course consisted of a 25 mile section of the Erie Canal, 12 miles up and 12 miles back (along with crossing a few bridges and running to a few heated aid stations). Some ran or walked the 25 mile run, some ran the 50 mile run and some like John ran the 100 mile run.
After the race started I walked over to a pier along the canal and waited for the runners to come back along the canal on the opposite shore. During that time I talked to various parents, spouses, friends and relatives about their race participant. After about 15 minutes I took a picture of John, which did not come out that great as he was very far away, then I drove back to Lockport.
I went to an outdoors store in town and checked it out, went to KFC for lunch, then went back to the motel. I wanted to swim in the indoor pool. But when they told me that it was not heated, I decided not to. I was watching an all news station in the motel room when the cable went out some time in the late morning. It was out until about 3:30 PM. Someone cut a fiber optic cable in MI which knocked out service in 3 or 4 states. So I read my book and dozed off a bit. Once the cable came back on I watched 2 XFL football games (the DC team one the first one and the Houston team won the second one). I enjoyed watching this and hope that the XFL makes it this time. I checked my voicemail every half hour or so to make sure that I hadn't missed a call from John. I retired at around 9:00 PM that night.
Sunday, February 9, 2020- I had just gotten back to bed after going to the bathroom around 5:00 AM on Sunday morning. Then the phone rang. It was John. He had done 3 twenty-five mile loops. The temperatures had dropped down to a low of 13 degrees at 11:00 PM but were climbing during the night. It was 22 degrees when I got the call and would be above freezing by mid morning. John had layered up last night but had no place to shed layers during the night as it warmed up. So he got sweatty and his clothes were all wet. He also had chaffing and blister issues. So he felt it was best to stop running after 3 loops or 75 miles. I think that was a good move on his part. So I drove to the start/finish point within 30 minutes, picked John up, travelled 20 miles to get his drop bag, then went back to the motel. I left John there and went to the local Tim Hortons to get him some doughnuts, breakfast sandwiches and coffee. When I got back I gave John the food and went back to sleep for another 1.5 hours. However, John was too amped up from athe race and couldn't get to sleep. He ended up sleeping in the car most of the way home. We checked out of the motel at 10:30AM, took our time driving home and made it back to Manassas, VA by a bit after 7:00 PM. The roads were a lot better snow wise and it was a cold but sunny day.
My final thoughts: I know that John was disappointed that he did not get to run that final 25 mile loop and get the 100 miles. However, I think that 75 miles is nothing to be ashamed of. He learned from others there what to do better next time. He wants to go back and run this race again next year. I agreed to be his support person again. He also asked me if I wanted to walk the 25 mile run. I told him that I would have to think about that one.