Sunday, December 1, 2013

Where Eagles Don't Soar: The Beer 2 Mile!!!

Captain Beermerica
Some sports enthusiasts call it the ultimate test of athletic ability. It requires speed, stamina, mental fortitude, an iron gut, and above all else, the ability to chug beer faster than a college frat boy. Meet The Beer Mile. In order to win, contestants needs to be ale to slam four beers in about six minutes. Oh yeah, and they have to do it while running a mile. No event in the world is harder.

Well, except of course, for the allusive The Beer 2 Mile!

Last year I finished 2nd at the Silicon Valley Beer Mile Championships with a respectable -- though not world class -- time of 6:39 for the mile. Two-time repeat winner Chris Weiler ran 6:14. So I knew that I was going to have to step my training up this year if I wanted to dethrone the man that beer milers reverently call "Der Kaiser".

My training was going great, thanks to two-a-day beer chugging training workouts, and I felt like this might be my year to bring home the coveted Beer Mile Championship trophy. Five days before the race I got together with some friends my running club -- Quicksilver Running Club of San Jose -- to attempt a beer mile practice session.

Mock Beer Mile Training Run

I was joined by teammates Marc "Eagle Dick" Laveson and Harris "The Younger" Mason, both of whom were beer-mile virgins, having not yet broken their beer-mile cherries or tested themselves in the ultimate arena of battle. We met a small dirt track in an undisclosed top-secret training facility in San Jose (fine, it was actually a middle school).

Mock Beer Mile with Marc and Harris
Here is the race report from team race co-captain Toshi Moshi "Pimpin' Chick'n" Hosaka:

The starters were John Burton (the reigning champ), Marc Laveson (beer miler rookie), and Harris Mason (also a beer miler rookie). To be fair, all the participants had run earlier in the day (John ran a 5K and a 10K race in Santa Cruz, Marc had just ran a hilly 16-miler in Sierra Azul, and Harris had also ran in the morning).

While John had a clear advantage and experience in a beer miler, Marc is known to finish Das Boot as a warm up and Harris was the dark horse - he seemed comfortable with his choice of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, the highest alcohol by volume (ABV) at 5.6%, while John and Marc went with the safe choice of Coors at 5.0% ABV.

In the end, the reigning champ, John Burton would take the title at 5:38, followed closely by Marc Laveson at 5:59 and then Harris, comfortably going sub-7 at 6:48. This is a great accomplishment by the rookies and we have real potential to become the next beer miler champion in the PA series (Note: the actual distance was about 0.8 miles).

Lap 1: John slammed the first can in 5 seconds followed closely by Marc who took a little over 10 seconds. They were neck and neck for the first lap. Harris had a malfunction with his beer can (the pull tab came off) and had a late start, but that did not seem to faze him. We noted a bit of beer left in John's 1st beer can. To prevent this from happening again, we will have each runner turn the empty beer upside down on their head after finishing each can.

Lap 2: As John finished his second can in less than 10 seconds, it took a little longer for Marc to finish his. A neighbor peeked in from his backyard at the event in wonderment.

Lap 3: The gap widened between John and Marc, but Marc still has not given up. John seemed relaxed in his strides.

Lap 4: John took it easy and savored his 4th beer while Marc and Harris both struggled with theirs. It was painful to see them finish the last beer.

John was drinking another bottle of IPA after the miler because he was thirsty.

An Already Bad Idea Gets Worse...

The world's fittest athletes alcoholics
For the last couple of years people had started talking -- mostly in hushed whispers -- about whether it would be possible for anyone to run not just one, but two back-to-back beer miles! Eight beers and eight laps around the track. Could it be done? Sure, there was a video floating around the Internet of some guy claiming to have done it in on a grassy knoll while his mom filmed with a shaky video camera. But like the alleged US landing on the moon, it looked like it was likely faked.

Last year a couple of guys talked a lot of smack in the days preceding the race about possibly attempting the beer 2 mile, but in the end it proved to be just that -- all talk. However, this year, the whispers grew louder. After brainstorming with my buddy and Quicksilver teammate Greg Lanctot over a couple (dozen) beers, we both agreed that we would put fear, sanity, sobriety aside, and attempt the impossible -- the Beer 2 Mile.

The Beer Mile(s) Championships

Greg and I each arrived at the track with eight cans or Coors. While carrying my bag of beer from the car to the track, I couldn't help but notice just how much eight cans of beer weighs. It felt like about five pounds! Suddenly I realized just how stupid of an idea this was. I about to try to chug five pounds of beer. Oh no! But oh well, it was too late to quit now. Well technically it was too early to quit now, as how we hadn't even started yet. But you get the point.

Beer chugging is all about good form!
Realizing ahead of time that we would probably be in no shape to drive home (or to even walk home), Greg and I each brought our own designated drivers, who would also function as our crew chiefs and cheering section. In Greg's corner was fellow Quicksilver Running Club teammate Dan Decker, a highly accomplished beer drinker in his own right. Dan and Greg have been known to close down bars. Heck they once even closed down a brewery!

In my corner was my wife Amy and our six year old son. Yes, I brought my son to an event that involved grown adults running around in their underwear and puking in the field. More on underwear in a minute. Also, helping out in my corner was fellow Quicksilver Running Club teammate Jeff Clowers, who I have been coaching this year. I often tell him that if he doesn't feel like puking after a workout, he isn't running hard enough. I assume he always thought I was joking. But now he probably doesn't know what to think.

So, about the underwear. I guess it was just me who was running in underwear. And in my defense, it was really more of a speedo than underwear. And, most importantly, it was part of my "Captain Beermerica" costume, designed to intimidate my competition -- or at least confuse and disorient them. Who can concentrate when some guy is flexing in front of you with his "junk" clearly visible?

Thankfully the race finally began and I was able to get moving (it's COLD standing around in your underwear at night -- even with arm warmers!). Tim Reynolds and Chris Weiler both slammed their first beer in under 5 seconds and took the race out hard. I tucked in behind them for the first 100 meters but then grew impatient and decided to up the ante. I moved past them into the lead -- which was probably a foolish, impetuous move.

Beer Mile Champion Tim Reynolds with trophy!
I held the lead for the first 3 laps and was starting to think that I might actually win the Beer Mile race en route to hopefully also winning the Beer 2 Mile! That would have been quite the accomplishment. But alas, Tim Reynolds slammed his 4th beer before I was even half-way done with mine. Chris Weiler and I gave chase, but Tim had already opened up a 20 meter lead and he was flying. Tim ended up winning with an amazing time of 6:04 while Chris finished just a few seconds behind him in 6:08.

Once I realized that I wasn't going to be able to catch Tim and win the mile, I backed off the pace to conserve what was left of my strength for my second mile. I think I crossed the line in around 6:13, but there was some confusion (mainly mine) as I stopped to grab my 5th beer before proceeding to the start finish line. So I think I was officially listed as having run a 6:23. In any case, it was significantly faster than my 6:39 from 2012!

The second mile proved far more difficult than the first mile. Shortly after chugging my 5th beer I was forced to make a brief pit stop on the side of the track where I deposited the contents of my stomach in the grass. I also made several more pit stops after my 6th, 7th, and 8th beers. As per the official beer mile rules, I also had to run an additional "puke penalty lap". Thankfully I managed to run the 9th and final lap without any unscheduled stops.

Beer 2 Mile Champions -- Greg and John
Staggering across the finish line, I became the first person to ever complete the Beer 2 Mile event at the Silicon Valley Beer Mile Championships in a time of 18 minutes and 10 seconds. But I was not the only man who made history that day. Less than 3 minutes later, my teammate and partner and crime, Greg Lanctot also crossed the finish line triumphantly -- also after having run an additional penalty lap.

I am not suggesting that Greg and I are the two baddest men on the planet. But we're definitely a close third and fourth behind Chuck Norris and that Dos Equis beer guy. Stay thirsty my friends!


zapmamak said...

I vaguely remember hearing stories about legendary beer 2 milers (arent those considered the ultras of beer milers?) at the beer mile event I participated in the day before the Born to Run Ultramarathon last year. Holy crap! Thats a respectable time for chugging/puking/running. I managed to bruise my forefoot during mine and felt like my stomach was going to explode so I have a lot of respect for serious athletes like yourself. Ha! Also, great choice on running apparel. Way to psyche out the competition and give the ladies on the sidelines a little eye candy. I like your style man. ;-)

Rachel Pidutti Williams said...

Was catching up on some of your older posts, because I'm home sick from work. This cheered me up. That costume is somehow both the lamest and most beautiful creation I have ever seen. Bravo. And bravo for the 'athletic' accomplishment as well, obviously.

Rachel Pidutti Williams said...

Was catching up on some of your older posts because I'm off work sick. This cheered me up. That costume is somehow the lamest and most beautiful creation I've ever seen - Bravo! And bravo on your 'athletic' accomplishments as well, obviously.

Big Johnny Burton said...

LOL. Thanks Rachel!

Big Johnny Burton said...

I was going to say "Thanks Medal Slut" but I figured others who didn't get the reference would be shocked and appalled :)