The Beast of Burden Winter 50 Mile Ultramarathon

by Boh
(Framingham, MA, USA)

The Beast of Burden Winter 50 Mile Ultramarathon Medal

The Beast of Burden Winter 50 Mile Ultramarathon Medal

The Beast of Burden Winter 50 Mile Ultramarathon was my first ultra-distance running event ever.

Actually, it was my first time running a marathon distance, too.

And, guess what? I was wildly unprepared, but I had an awesome time, and I don't regret it at all.

Why? Because sometimes you win (I never expected to podium, haha), and sometimes you learn.

And, I love learning.

I love learning, because it allows you to reflect, adapt, and apply. I knew going into the race that it wouldn't be my last, and that whatever the experience of running an ultramarathon would be like, it was something I'd do again (with more knowledge on how to train, race, and recover).

I'd had the good fortune to drive out to Lockport, NY (outside of Buffalo, NY) with good friend, Ryan Trott. We'd arrive the night before so that we could fuel up, meet some other racers, and get mentally prepared for the "battle."

We've had some discussion since as to whether the race began late morning or in early afternoon, but in either case, I'm glad it wasn't at the break of dawn. I'm not so much of a morning person, unless I absolutely have to be.

The Beast of Burden Winter 50 Mile Ultra Marathon Course

As I do with most races, I aim to review the course prior to the start of the race. I know that some people study the course, and create strategies, accordingly. However, unless there is some sort of orienteering involved, I'm usually just looking for a general "what to expect."

This course happens to be completely flat, basically a sidewalk, running along a canal tow path; and out and back of 13 miles out, and 13 miles back (or just about that much - the total distance of one "loop" is actually 25 miles).

I don't recall entirely, and didn't double-check my Garmin or Strava details, but have a feeling that the total elevation gain over that 13 miles was about 3 feet, in total. So, not an uphill course, by any means.

I know that our mountain running friends might find that pretty boring. But, I love challenging myself with things that push me outside of my comfort zone.

If you only do the things that you're already good at, how are you ever going to grow?

One of the other challenges present was that this was to be a Winter ultramarathon race, outside of Buffalo, near the end of January.

The weather was probably going to be awful. We had to be prepared for anything, really. There could have been an inch of snow on the ground, or 8 feet of snow (we'd seen what the "lake effect" could do, from watching the news). Luckily, there wasn't much snow on the ground; a few inches, at most. But, even that can wreak havoc on your ankles, where the small twists and turns, that you'd barely feel in short distance races, add up over the course of the number of steps and repetitions that you see over the course of 50 miles.

I'd say that I was overdressed, initially, with what were probably too many layers (even layers on my hands with both gloves and mittens). That combination did come in handy at 4am, when the wind was whipping, and we were completely exposed to the elements, not having any real tree cover. I'm additionally thankful for the hand warmers that I kept in my pack for just that possibility.

As I was heading along the course, it was about 7 miles to the first aid station, where my stay there was short. An additional 6 miles brought us to the turnaround point and a second aid station. If I had to guess what I had here, it was probably cookies, soup, and pizza. Haha, ultra-running food. I was hungry, and at the time, didn't have a real strategy for what my nutrition was to be like during that race.

Aside from enjoying the calmness of the scenery, the great conversation with other runners, and that my feet weren't hurting (yet), the 2nd 13-ish miles was unremarkable.

Heading back out at the next turnaround, for lap two, didn't take too long either. However, my second lap did. Remember that live and learn part. That was setting in. Where this race was years ago, and it was my own first experience with it, I'd relied a lot more on strength training (I'm so glad that I did), and not enough on putting in quality mileage in preparation. You'll often hear people very committed to one or the other. The truth is that you need a solid harmony of both in order to be your best out on the course (not to mention a few other variables of great importance).

That second lap of The Beast of Burden Winter 50 Mile Ultramarathon tested me both physically and mentally. But, that is part of why I absolutely love getting out there for the challenge. I want to have to push, to find that extra gear, to really earn the finish line.

On this second lap, my lower back, my ankles, and my feet were tested greatly. None of the three had experienced enough quality repetitions, week over week, in the build-up to race day. And, they were screaming at me.

I wasn't moving fast enough for there to have been that much of a cardiovascular challenge at this point, and that's where the frigid temps and the winds really caught me.

There's something about being out there, not moving as quickly as you'd like, at 4am, completely exposed, and with the winds seeing your vulnerability!

Aid stations brought fuel, warmth, and the happiness, comfort, and support of the aid station attendees. Can't imagine how I'd have faired without them!

Those same aid stations also brought too much sitting.

Those chairs are too comfortable!

After having decided that it was time to get to the finish line, I'd left the final aid station, partnering up with another runner whose headlamp was on the fritz. We navigated the course, the winds, and the darkness together, until the sunrise brought renewed energy and enough light to make a final "dash" toward the finish line.

Even if not everything goes your way (during a race), there's still something amazing about completing the course, the distance, the time, or whatever the goal is. I was happy, mostly to have had the experience.

Too often, people dream of doing things, yet never have the courage or confidence to make the attempt. As I've heard many times before, I'd rather die with exhaustion and experiences than to die with regret (of not having lived my dreams).

Is the Beast of Burden Winter 50 Mile Ultramarathon a race I'll return to?

It isn't on my immediate list, though I will say that where they have a Summer version of the race, as well, I'd like to complete both the Winter and Summer versions within the same year.

They also have a 100-mile option at both the Summer and Winter events, so that may be something to train for in the future.

Interested in running it yourself? Check out the Beast of Burden website and register today!

Readers - have you run the Best of Burden Winter 50 Mile Ultramarathon, or any of their events? Leave a comment below and tell us a bit about your experience! (Have a lot to say? Write a whole page using the links below!)

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