My Ultra-Crazy Year In Review

2019 – A year that would best be described as a year packed full of challenges, turmoil, self-doubt, and rebounds.

Yearly Mileage: 2500/1897.6, came up short*
Avg. Monthly Mileage: 200+/158.3, came up short*
Avg. Weekly Mileage: 50+/36.4 came up short*
Set Monthly PR 250+/Nope
Set Week PR 62+/Nope…
Complete the Leadville Trail 100/DNS*****

Other assorted PR/Milestones
Ran 100 miles for the 1st time at the 2019 edition of the VA 24-hour Ultra Run Against Cancer
I ran the Cleveland Marathon in a nontypical running outfit
I ran 100.6-miles at the Cape Fear 24-hour endurance run
I finished and published my 3rd running themed book, “UNFINISHED” and ran my 4th JFK50.

JANUARY:  I opened the year hosting the 7th annual Ultra Crazy New Years Run at Umstead State Park in Cary, NC.  This gathering was our biggest and best yet with close to 35 runners joining us in an “almost organized” self-supported training event.  The “almost” organized part nearly got me in trouble.  Going a little above self-supported, we had all the trappings of a race but without the $$$$ or special event permit, (ooopps).  Looking like more of a race then unorganized training run the State Park Rangers were a bit upset with me.  The running joke of the day was that I would be thrown in jail once I completed my 50-miles.  All in all, we had a great time and will be back with proper permits and following all the North Carolina State Park rules.

UPDATE: the 2020 event had near 70 runners…..and proper permits!

2019 50-mile Ultra Crazy Finishers
Jillian Breitwieser
Karl Breitwieser
Andrea McHugh
Claire Cochrane (our new friend from DD100)
and I (Brian Burk)

The Leadville Race Series lottery results were posted, and I was officially informed of my return trip to PBville to take on the Leadville Trail 100.  In little over 8 months, I believed I would be back on 6th and Harrison St. chasing that coveted Leadville buckle.  Little did I know my running life would take a drastic turn.

FEBRUARY:  As the iconic Don McLean songAmerican Pie goes “But February made me shiver.  With every paper, I’d deliver.  Bad news on the doorstep.  I couldn’t take one more step.”  In my search for vertical and training opportunities for Leadville, I headed to the Uwharrie mountains with a few friends.  The goal for the day was simply a 20-mile training run and north of 2,000 ft of vertical.  Descending from the first trip to the summit my toe clipped a rock causing me to go full superman into the surface below.  This section of the trail was littered with leaves and rocks. As luck or lack of luck would have it directly in the path of my now airborne body, and more concerning my left knee was a very jagged and well-weathered rock. For a moment that seemingly lasted forever…time stood still. 

Laid out on the ground while trying to catch my breath, I seriously wondered if I had broken my leg or was it potentially much worse.  Once the shock and extreme pain subsided, I noticed my running pants were already spotted with blood. I nervously inspect the wound. At first glance, I believed I had dodged a bullet. 

On the bright side, after I got my wits together, I ran 18.5 more miles and in the short term though I was still on the road for redemption in Leadville. Little did I know, this tumble set off a series of events that threatened my very running career.

MARCH:  From that fateful day forward running was very painful. After many stressful miles and three doctor visits, I received the news that I did not have any structural damage to my knee.  Although in the words of my knee specialist; other than tearing a ligament or breaking a bone that the point of impact was at the absolute worst location possible.  He had a technical name for it but in “Brian speak.”

The rock impacted my knee right at the termination point of the patellar tendon and the tibia.  Although everything was intact, I now had a golf ball size lump on the impact spot and a very painful running gait.  With a caution that I should let pain be my guide and a statement that I could not make it any worse, I was excited to run the Wrightsville Beach Marathon.

Wrightsville Beach Marathon:  Nearly a perfect race weekend greeted the running crowd.  Before the marathon, I had a successful book signing at the EXPO while meeting fellow runners and a few social media followers. No matter how my knee felt I was very excited to run 26.2-miles and hopefully prove my knee would hold up. 

My knee did well for 21.5-miles until it didn’t.  I held onto a sub-4 pace for most of the race then a pain in my right hip of all places became too much.  A collateral effect of my gimpy left knee I believed caused my right hip to flare up. This new issue forced me to run-walk the remaining 4.7-miles to the finish.  My 28th marathon finish was in books but the door to a troubled year was cracked even wider open.

APRIL:  The ultra-running community provides many opportunities to meet and interact with new people.  I met Clare at the Devil Dog 100 in 2018.  She ran the 100k, I ran the 100-miler.  Early in the rain-soaked race, we shared a few miles together.  During our conversation, she mentioned her plan to run the Umstead 100 race.  I explained that this event was held nearly in my backyard. After a few miles of Q&A I offered my help as a pacer if she needed someone.  I was lucky enough to be able to help her run her first 100-mile race. 

I’ve been fortunate to help two runners reach their first 100-mile finish. This has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my running life.  To help a fellow runner reach their goal and to give back to the running community is an awesome way to spend the day.  I vow that one way or another, running or volunteering…I will be at the Umstead 100 from now on.

Virginia 24-Hour Ultra Run Against Cancer and team “Run for Life” what can I say.  We rock. We set course records.  We had five runners reach 100-miles.  And as is becoming a custom we won the team event AGAIN.  Unfortunately, 100-miles comes with some issues.  My knee and hip stayed a bay for most of the day, but two days after the event a new problem arose.  The inside of my right foot became very sore.  As is my practice I went to the intern and thought I found the culprit and it looked grim.

MAY:  An annual trip for Michele and I.  Once again, we headed north and took on the Cleveland Marathon.  This year, Michele walked the 5k and half marathon while I ran the marathon.  I originally wanted to and signed up to run the “challenge series” but with my compromised knee/hip and foot giving me fits I backed down and “only” ran the marathon distance.  My 29th marathon, but this was going to be different.

On perhaps the hottest day of the year, I ran 26.2-miles of the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon in full Cleveland Browns ensemble.  From top to bottom I was geared up for a game on the gridiron not to run the city streets of a marathon race.  Sporting an NFL regulation Browns “game-used helmet of #90 Mark Word, “FanSince 71” jersey, game-used pants, socks, bright orange shoes and carrying a regulation NFL football.  On this day I did not set a PR, but boy did I have fun with the longest touchdown run ever……….

I will be running the Cleveland Marathon in 2020 to once again run in full Browns Glory!  COME RUN with me and get a DISCOUNT when you use my special discount code BB2020.

JUNE:  With every run, I was hopeful the nagging issues with my knee/hip and foot would disappear.  Unfortunately, what happened was that my compromised gait birthed more issues.  With Leadville looming on the calendar, I pushed my injured body much further than I should have.  My running life came unglued during a routine run.

After an easy 2-miles of a 7-mile run the pain became so unbearable that with a broken will I had to shut it down.

With a little downtime and wanting to stay connected to the running world, I began to create custom running award displays.  You can check out my works here at Ultra Wood Designs

JULY:  I spent the remainder of June and all of July spinning miles at Planet Fitness avoiding the LUNK alarm and wondering if I would be able to reclaim any form of running.  As the days on the calendar progressed Recovery, Leadville and the Morgantown marathon were looming presences.  Would I recover? Should I defer my race entry to Leadville? Could I bounce back to enough to regain some running form to run the marathon in Sept?

Finally, the days on the calendar forced my hand, I had to make the call.  With a heavy heart and nearly defeated spirit, I deferred my chance at redemption and postponed my return to Leadville until 2020.

You can pick up the book that started my call to the mountains, Running to Leadville a story that will steal your heart, and uncover the drama of a 100-mile race while simultaneously captivating your thoughts around life, love, relationships and running.

AUGUST:  smack dap in the dog days of summer, when I should have been immersed in the Leadville charm, eating High Mountain Pies (pizza), I was cross-training and hoping the endless miles on the stationary bike would pay off.  6-weeks out from the Morgantown marathon there was a gleam.  On a routine day, of a normal week, I laced up my running shoes and wondered if my legs would hold up?  One major question haunted me, was the time off enough?  Or was my knee worse than I had realized?  On a hope-filled summer day, I ventured out on an easy trail run and awaited to find out if my body had repaired itself?  With every step, every footfall I hoped I still had some miles left in my tank…and I feared finding out on the next landing stage of my stride that this comeback attempt would prove my running days were over.

5-weeks out from Morgantown I a training plan that I hoped my legs could hold up to and that I could get back on to the comeback trail.  4-weeks out I put in 35 miles of slow and easy running miles.  When the end of August rolled around I was hopeful.

SEPTEMBER:  3-weeks until the big day and my life began to fall into the normal pattern of marathon training once again.  Although this time I knew farewell that in the days leading up to marathon Sunday a lot could go wrong.  2-weeks out I was able to put down 47-miles including a strong 15-miler.  Normally a taper week the marathon I ran the furthest, I had all summer, 15.5-miles. From 15.5 miles to a marathon…not sure this is in any training plan.

Morgantown Marathon, Yes it’s hilly and I do not recommend the “injured to a marathon in 6-weeks” training plan.  It worked but….

OCTOBER:  After surviving the marathon my next goal was to see if I could build up the miles and return to the ultra-marathon stage.  The Cape Fear 24-hour endurance run would be the perfect venue.  My initial “A” goal going in…a 50k.  Ok, maybe…50-miles.  A 100k if everything went well.  100-miles…that’s crazy talk!  Why not?

NOVEMBER:  My 4th JFK50-Mile Endurance Run.  Some races just call you.  Some races you just need to have on your resume.

I’m first a runner, but also a storyteller.  My 3rd book focuses on relationships as much as it does on running.  Just as the JFK50 stretches your abilities as a runner with three varying course terrains, I wanted to stretch myself as a storyteller.  I believe I did just that while paying tribute to an Iconic race.

UNFINISHED — Sometimes a run or race is more about life than we ever imagined.  A story about running and relationships. 15.5-miles on the Appalachian Trail, 26.3-miles on the C&O towpath, 8.4-miles of rolling country roads and two lives forever interconnected. Get your copy today or share with a friend.

DECEMBER:  My 5th finish at the Seashore Nature Trail 50k in Virginia Beach.  Running and finishing an ultra-marathon is special.  Seashore was my first ultra…a race I nearly DNF’d.  I learned a lot since then, I have met a ton a great people, ran a lot of miles and experienced a lot of life. It was good to come back to where it all began. It was a great day to return for my 5th finish and earn a 5-time buckle. Tops on my list was seeing so many friends…experiencing the freezing cold tidal waters, running with reindeer ears and living in all that the day had in store.

For all that 2019 was…it was a success!

What were your 2019 highlights… Leave us a comment and tell us all about them.

Peace, love, running with puppies, and pizza…

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