Burning River – A Salty Interlude

Shillin’ veggies last fall.

Saturdays are a little crazy. My husband grows organic veggies and we sell them at market on Saturday mornings. It’s super fun, but a lot of work. I have to wake up early and be ON for 3-4 hours as I hustle baby eggplants, sweet corn and heirloom tomatoes. After the market I had to run home and relieve the sitter and then wait for my husband to get home so I could take his pick-up truck (yeehaw!) down to the National Park for the epic Burning River adventure. And this adventure would unfold during my normal naptime. Coffee to the rescue.

I threw my stuff in a bag, kissed hubby and the kids goodbye and hustled down to to the CVNP. I wanted to make sure I brought some extra gatorade in case Clove needed it so I was sure to throw 2 and a half bottles in my bag, along with a change of clothes and other sundry items. Of course I forgot half of what I wanted to bring, including the body glide. Oh man. And as I was bumping along in the pick-em-up truck I stuck my hand in my bag digging for the half-full bottle of Gatorade and was dismayed that all I felt were soaked clothes: the bottle wasn’t closed all the way and my dry shorts and t-shirt were now soaked and reeking of fake strawberries. My shorts, in particular, were so wet I could wring out puddles of sweet pink liquid. Grrrreat.

I had about 2.5 hours before I needed to head to Clove’s 65 mile aid station, so I figured I’d squeeze in my long run while I was in one of the best running parks on earth. Ginger had time to meet for about half of my run and we headed off on a thankfully not sweltering afternoon. Clove and we really lucked out on the weather front!

Ginger and I had a great chat as always and I was bummed she couldn’t join me for the rest of the adventure. But she left after about 6.5 and then I headed out for hopefully 5.5 more, but wasn’t sure what I could do. I decided to head the other way on the path and was feeling kinda blah. But then I realized I was coming up to the BR race course. I saw a man coming my way and I smiled and before I could tell him how awesome he was, he said, “Hard Core!” and pointed to my belly. Ha! It felt like we mutually made each other’s day.

I headed up a little further and there was Clove’s hubby DB! I’ve only met him briefly before so was worried he thought I was a loony being all excited to see him. But I told him he looked great and he gave me the you’re-just-saying-that-to-make-me-feel-better-because-I’m-totally-falling-apart look. I was still hopeful it would pass for him and he’d rally. I asked him if Clove was ahead as he was running off, and he yelled back that she was way ahead. Good! About a minute later I saw another friend Mel, who looked awesome and went on to run an over 2 hour PR and take seventh place! Go Mel!

I drank about a gallon of water and headed back. I honestly wasn’t feeling great. I was having Braxton-Hicks contractions periodically and they freak me out, especially at the end of a long run. And then around mile 10, my foot suddenly hurt. I thought it might shake out, but it wouldn’t. Yikes. I still had a way to go. I stretched it out and tried again. No dice. If I didn’t start running, I was going to be late and possibly miss Clove. NO. I said ‘f’ it and just started running/limping. Within a minute, it felt fine. And hasn’t hurt since! (moral of the story is that sometimes things hurt and it’s not an injury – don’t freak out!)

I made it to the lot. Beep! 1:47:19. Time to pick up some snacks and hit the aid station. After chat breaks with Ginger and pit-stops and a little cheering and freaking about the foot thing, I didn’t have a lot of time. I hustled the truck to the nearest grocery store with a/c on high in hopes of maybe kinda drying out the Gatorade-soaked shorts, parked and ran through the store like I was a contestant on Super Market Sweep. I came blasting out and jumped in the truck and went to pull in the parking lot to the aid station just in time and found it JAMMED. Filled to the brim. I had to finagle my way out in the unfamiliar truck and make my own spot at the end of the driveway, I booked it across the lot with my bag of ice and gym bag full of extra Gatorades, and was thrilled to hear Clove should be in right on time and in fourth. As I waited, I realized that without the Body Glide I was a chafed mess, and running around after the run in the sweat-soaked shorts because I didn’t want to change into the Gatorade-soaked shorts was just making it worse. UGH.

Whatever. I chatted with some friends while I waited. They asked who I was there to see and I told them Clove and they all said, “Oh she’s amazing! We love her!” Seriously, anyone I saw that heard I was waiting for Clove took the time to gush about her awesomeness. She’s loved by the running community! Soon the third woman came strolling into the aid station looking fresh. But I knew Clove was in hot pursuit. And then a surly park ranger came to tell us that we needed to move our cars or they’d be towed. WHAT?! After all that, I was not about to miss Clove so I ignored surly ranger lady and hoped for the best. And as luck would have it, Clove came in just seconds later and looked smashing! I wasn’t sure what to do. I didn’t know who was there for her or anything. I saw she had a team so I ran to my bag and grabbed my camera. I decided the best thing I could do was stand back, let the crew do their job and document the occasion.

Clove and her pit crew captain, Robin.

Her crew were straight outta Nascar. They refueled her. They lubed her up – in her case it was vaseline all over her back. Clove informed them of her terrible chafing on her back. A volunteer had poured Gatorade into the wrong compartment of her camelbak and it seeped out all over her back, which caused the nasty red chafing all over her. Suddenly my mishaps made sense. And then she was off again.


Skinny Beast (Jay) cooling Clove off after her crew applied vaseline to her poor raw chafed back!

On to the next station. I hustled to the truck and heaved a huge sigh of relief that a divorce was not on the horizon, jumped in and proceeded to make every wrong turn possible, taking forty minutes to get to the aid station that was about five miles away. But I got there and it was breathtakingly beautiful. I saw the woman who seemed to be Clove’s head crew member and introduced myself. She was another amazing woman – are all women runners amazing? Seems like it! She told me DB dropped out shortly after I saw him. He was at this aid station so I went and reintroduced myself. He explained that he hates ultras and he hates trails and he’s never doing another again. He seemed disappointed, but also surprisingly content. His day was done, and now it was all about Clove.

Based on my conversations, I decided to continue my stay-out-of-the-way strategy waited with camera in hand for Clove to come charging out of the woods. The woman who was then in second came in and looked pretty bad. She was definitely struggling. Yet she was in and out of the aid station, but only managed to walk out. A couple of minutes later the then-third woman came in and really camped out in the aid station. By the time she headed out, I was hoping Clove was just a couple of minutes back. And she was.

Arriving at Pine Hollow – Mile 71.1!

She came into site and looked great. She was egging on the crowd and eating up the attention – good signs. She got some food and her headlamps and seemed to be doing ok with the chafing. She was in and out in a flash, and seemed eager to get back out to chase down second and third. All business. Good runner girl.

Clove and Robin all business – taking care of that back!

And that was it. She headed back to the woods in search of the darkness and two other women, and it was time for me to get home to put the kids to bed. When I arrived home, I was exhausted. We put the kids down and my husband and I chatted about our days and checked the results one last time – Clove was now in third and within striking distance of second – and went to bed.

At 1:47, I woke up and went to my laptop to see how things turned out. I was pleased and knew she had to be, too! I sent Clove a text and drifted back to sleep and dreamt about the rolling hills and the miles and miles and miles of my soul sister.


Salty Running boss and mother of 3 little ones with PRs of 3:10:15 (26.2), 1:25:59 (13.1) and 18:15 (5k). I love to write about running culture, mental training, and fitting in a serious running habit with the rest of a busy life.

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  1. Oh man I didn’t know that was Clove, I was at the aid station where that happened (unless this happened to more than one poor person) and was so mortified that one of the volunteers did this, they literally just opened up the camel back and poured in gatorade instead of into the bladder, ack! I offered to run it under the hose, but she didn’t have time. So sad to hear it chaffed her back all up and this was at mile 18, so she had to deal with that a long time!

  2. The duct tape was a perfect fix! You do what you gotta do …

    And ultimately, it made for a totally awesome story. For every 100 you run, there’s always one thing that you’re just completely unprepared for – this time it was Camelback!!!