Burning River 100 Race Report

Many 100-miler runners complete their races with no crew or pacers. They are stoic, gritty, and determined. They are not me. I usually get the crew together before I commit to signing up for the race. It’s a team sport, and I thrive on the shared energy of friends.

But last fall, I witnessed several old school solo ultra runners click through the miles at the Ozark Trail 100, and I was inspired to level up my mental game and complete a 100 miler on my own. I chose  Burning River 100 for my adventure because it’s a Western States qualifier, a drivable location, worked with my schedule, and I crewed and paced a friend of mine there two years ago.

The learning curve of transitioning from a crew to running solo was steep, and here are a few lessons I gathered along my journey.

1. CREATE CHECKLISTS. My friend Deb, who has completed many 100s on her own, puts a checklist in each of her drop bags to ensure she doesn’t forget to do something. It’s one thing to create the checklist, and it’s another to follow it. I left the aid station at mile 23 wearing both my waist belt and hydration pack, even though my checklist said “drop waist belt.” That mistake triggered me to slow down at the remaining four drop bag stops, and physically touch and review each item on the list before setting the list back in my bag and leaving the station.

Todd Chandler checklist

2. GET YOUR MIND RIGHT. In addition to the mistake above, I also carried trash I should have dumped and missed a turn on one section of the course. While crewing my friend Barrett at Kettle Moraine, he got off course, and I could hear the frustration in his voice. I simply reminded him to get his mind right, and I had to give myself the same reminder with my own mistakes. When frustration strikes, deal with it quickly, and move on, especially if it means forgiving yourself.

Todd Chandler running Burning River 100 Race

3. WORK THE PROBLEM. When you feel bad, drill down to find the root cause. Am I low on energy? Do I have a hot spot? Am I low on electrolytes? Do I have cramps? Once you have the problem identified, work to find the best solution. I was having tightness in my calves and hot spots on my feet. When I got to the next aid station, I was able to borrow a Thera gun to loosen up my calves and then elevated them to reduce some of the inflammation. I also cleaned my feet and put on fresh socks.
 
4. MAKE A GAME OF IT. The mud was bad for the first part of our race, but when the second rain storm came, I knew that section was going to be even worse the second time through. I was bummed at first, but then was able to turn it into a game. I couldn’t really run through the slop, so the first game was to see if I could make it through a section without falling. Then I challenged myself to see how many steps I could take before sliding. It changed my mindset and kept me going.

5. TALK TO YOUR FUTURE SELF. I was struggling at mile 77, so I started texting with my very special lady friend (wife of 32 years). She told me, “Future Todd wants you to keep going. Slow and steady; take lots of breaks; you have a lot of time.” That clicked instantly with me. I could picture future Todd being disappointed about quitting or see him bragging about finishing. I need to spend more time talking to that guy.

Todd Chandler message to future self

I learned a great deal from running solo, and I’m sure I’ll do it again. There’s a few things I could do better, but I sure enjoy being crewed more than running solo, and crewing someone else is better than being crewed.  I learn so much from crewing others, and I have a ton of fun hanging out and celebrating their achievements.

Todd Chandler learnings

- Todd Chandler

His favorite PATH projects gear: 

Graves shorts. The stretchy water repellent fabric is great, and the pockets are fantastic! I also fell in love with the Pyrenees T19 hooded long sleeve - the hood stays up, the cuffens are outstanding, and I love the opening for my watch.


4 comments

  • Thanks for sharing the tips! I really like the checklists and that you formalized it to the point of laminating. The positive self talk/ self affirmation bullets are the best idea ever! Congrats on the self-crewed finish!

    Brian
  • This is awesome. I’ve been planning a 100 mile route for a while and everyone keeps telling me it’ll be impossible without a crew … these tips are somewhat affirming my gut instinct which is … SOLO!!!

    Liam Lonsdale
  • Great Job. I am pretty sure I wouldn’t be able to finish with all those lightning and MUD. I really enjoy the video. The beer seems so satisfying , which makes me want to try a solo, almost. Bravo and Thanks for sharing.

    Alfred
  • Congrats, Todd! Great story, great advice, even (sort of) inspired me to try a 100-miler without a crew…

    Dan

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