Friday, October 5, 2007

2007 Bear 100 Race Report

Redemption! I can't express how happy I am that I didn't have to wait a whole year to avenge my dnf at Wasatch. I had trained hard all year long to complete my first 100 miler and I only made it 48 miles. My stomach malfunctioned while everything else felt fine. I went for a long run the following Saturday on a pretty tough route and when I was done I my legs were feeling well enough to do the Bear. I called my good friend and training partner Peter and asked him to talk me out of doing it, still thinking it might not be the best idea and his reply was "do you need a pacer?" That sealed the deal and I signed up. I was still hesitant since I had never been on any of the trails and wouldn't have a crew but in the end it didn't matter.

The short report: I ran conservatively the first half, had a small stomach issue at mile 49 and fixed it at mile 53. Ran/shuffled/hiked the next 40 miles with the world's best pacer, my good friend Peter, then ran the last 7 miles all the way to the finish for a time of 27:32, good for 17th place. If you want the longer version keep reading.

I hitched a ride to the start with Wasatch Speedgoat Scott Mason and on the way we discussed a number of things one of them being my dnf at wasatch. I revealed that I had decided to try perpetuem in an effort to get a few more calories during the race and that's when I learned that it doesn't necessarily work for everyone. I decided to remove the mix from all of my bottles and drop bags and go with gatorade instead. This proved to be a good move. We arrived at Leland's (RD) trout farm a bit early, picked up our race packs, left our drop bags and headed off to the start. On our way up Cub River canyon, just outside Preston Idaho, we noticed some smoke coming from the hillside and soon realized that part of the course was going to wind it's way through this burnt area. Come to find out it was a controlled burn, that had now been going on for 2 weeks (at what point is it no longer a controlled burn?). We grabbed some excellent grub from the Deer Creek Inn then I retired to my tent located a few yards from the start to get some shut eye. I slept surprisingly well and woke up at 5am ready to begin this 100 mile adventure.
The 6am start came soon enough and I was feeling anxious to get going. 88 runners set off up the dirt road and after a few minutes of running in the dark I could hear strange sounds coming from the side of the road. It was a large herd of cattle and we had a apparently startled them enough that they started running parallel to us. There was one problem with that, we eventually had to make a right turn that would cut in front of them. Sure enough we made the right and just in front of me I saw Ken Jensen speed up to avoid a close encounter with a cow. Ken and I joked about it as we made our way up the singletrack on a climb. I was with Ken for the first few miles but after he stopped for a nature break I was in no-mans-land running through the burned area we had seen the day before. In the distance I could still make out a headlamp and followed it right when I should have gone left. I only ended up going about a half mile out in the wrong direction and decided there was no way I would let it stress me out this early on. Once I got back on the right trail I started reeling in runners on my way to the first aid station. I made a quick stop, filled my bottles and headed out.

Now the sun was coming out and the brilliant fall colors were amazing. The stunning views really made the miles fly by. This next section included the biggest climb of the day and I eventually caught up to Tim Seminoff and The Rocket. They had a very comfortable pace going and I settled in behind them learning a great deal along the way from these two veterans of the sport. We hit the top of the climb and began a long descent to the next aid. The miles just seem to kind of blur together through here until I reach the Danish Pass aid station for the second time at mile 42. I was a bit hungry and decided to eat half a boiled potato and half a banana. About a half an hour or so after this my stomach started to feel a little tight so I slowed my pace down, I think I just ate to much at one time.

The next aid station was just plain cruel as we had to do an out and back to Bloomington lake that included a descent on the way out and of course a steep climb on the way back. After climbing out and getting back on the main trail I popped an electrolyte capsule. Ten minutes later my stomach erupted and I instantly felt better. About that same time Scott came by and suggested I slow down and keep drinking my water. I knew all I had to do was make it to the next aid station where Peter was meeting me and I would be fine. I definitely fought off some negative thoughts through this section as my mind would drift back to three weeks prior when I was reduced to a stumble. By the time I made it to Paris aid station at mile 53 Peter already knew what had happened. He proceeded to sit me down and have me drink some broth, after that I drank some more and before I knew it we were off with all of our lights as the sun was starting to set. I had spent 33 minutes at Paris, which was way longer than I had intended, but it was time well spent getting my stomach back in order.

The next section is one that we would repeat between mile 82 and 90 in the opposite direction. It is also one of the longest sections between aid stations at 8 miles. I took my time making sure I didn't upset my stomach again and after a couple of miles I was able to run again, especially the descents. I was now in unchartered territory, having never run this far before. But that really isn't what consumed my thoughts, it was the threat of the snowstorm that had been predicted to hit by 11pm. I only mentioned it in hushed tones to Peter in fear of jinxing our perfect weather day up to that point. Slowly my energy was returning and before we made it to Dry Fork aid station we saw a headlight coming toward us. It was the other Wasatchspeedgoat, Karl Meltzer, on his way back already. He was 22 miles ahead of me and moving at a very good clip going uphill. He would go on to break the record by over an hour, finishing in 18hrs 50mins, simply incredible!
I made a short stop at the Dry Basin aid station while Peter and I gathered supplies out of my drop bag. The legendary Roch Horton runs this aid station and he has experience on this course so I asked him how technical the climb was after the next aid station, Millcreek, because it looked awful on the profile chart. Not bad at all he replied. As I would find out later I should have asked him how steep the climbs were instead.

I made good progress through this next section to Millcreek aid station and Peter recognized the fact that I was making a good pace and wisely hurried me through. This next section is known as the roller coaster because it is up and down, with a net elevation gain. Some of the climbs were horrifically steep, but I was able to keep moving, even if it was very slow. As we approached the next aid station Peter commented that it was the 75 mile mark. That made me feel good and motivated me to keep my pace up. Again my stay was brief, although I did sit down this time to remove some debris from my shoe.
The next aid station seemed to appear rather quickly and I was anxious to keep moving through there since I felt good and the weather was still holding. I knew that if it started to rain or snow our progress would be significantly slower. Next up was the Dry Basin aid station again. I was happy to reach this milestone but at the same time I knew we had a long 8 miles ahead of us back to the Paris aid station. As we pulled in to the aid station I noticed some empty seats around very inviting fire. Roch saw me standing there and pulled a chair back for me a little bit, but I said no thanks, that looks like stepping inside the Brighton lodge at Wasatch. He knew what I meant so instead of sitting down I grabbed another cup of broth and left while Peter was still gathering supplies.

The 8 mile section that I was now on would prove to be the hardest of the race for me. I had some real low energy cycles during this stretch. I was still able to run the descents but there just weren't that many as we were mostly climbing back to Paris. One of the tactics I employed to catch a breather on some of the climbs was to take a nature break. Thankfully I was staying hydrated enough to make this work. Peter informed me that I was now about 30 minutes ahead of my schedule to break 29 hours and told me I should start thinking about going under 28. It was a good confidence booster but it certainly didn't make this section any easier. At one point Peter told me he though this might be the last climb and I laughed out loud claiming he had no idea whether it was the last climb or not since he hadn't been on the course either. It did help me realize that it didn't matter if there were two or five more climbs ahead of me, I just had to keep moving forward.

About an hour before reaching the Paris aid station as the sun was coming up, a big cloud rolled over the ridge line and before we knew it we were running through fog and snowflakes. It was quite a surreal experience, most likely enhanced by the fact that I had now been up for over 24 hours straight. The cloud moved so incredibly fast that it looked like a time-lapse film happening before my eyes. Shortly after this we hit the last descent that led us to the Paris aid station at mile 90. I made a quick stop, filling my bottles before heading out to the dirt road that would take me down to the last aid station just 3 miles away. As we approached the crest of the pass we could see only the tops of the mountains surrounding us. A cloud had moved in hiding the valley below, it was truly an awesome sight to behold. Just then a sudden wave of elation overcame me and I hopped in the air while throwing my arms above my head. I realized I was going to make it! Peter decided to capitalize on my mood and encouraged me to run. I started with a shuffle and after a few minutes something happened, I wanted to run. So I started jogging and before I knew it I was in full stride leaving Peter behind. I ran into the next aid station filled my bottle and said goodbye just as Peter arrived. He had parked his car at this aid station and we had decided earlier that it would be easier for him to just drive down rather than run with me and try to find a ride back up from the finish.

I now had 7 miles to go, 2 to 3 of which are along Leland's Ledge or the Devil's Den. This is a notoriously tough section that includes small rock scrambles, and downed trees all on a side hill with poor traction. It's not exactly what I wanted to see with 93 miles in my legs, but it felt good to get some trail diversity and kept me mentally sharp. Eventually I made it back on to normal trail and started striding it out once again. I couldn't believe how good I felt. I'm sure I was only running 8 minute miles at best, but it sure felt like sub 6's.

Once the guest ranch came into view where the finish line was located my pace increased even more and I couldn't even feel my feet striking the ground. Peter was there giving me a big cheer along with Karl and Cheryl. I was instructed to make a left around some cars where I saw Leland (who had run the race as well placing 2nd in 20:54) sitting in a chair with a watch and I came to a stop directly in front of him. He calmly looked up and said you haven't crossed the finish line, which was apparently a small banner just a couple of feet away. This made me laugh, then I jumped across the line to stop the clock at 27 hours 32 minutes. It was a low key ending to a low key race and I felt great! In fact it is the best I have felt after any ultra that I've done so far.

Thanks to the volunteers that kept us going at the aid stations, and to Leland, Errol and Phil for putting on such a great race. Special thanks to my good friend Peter for pacing me through the night, he knew exactly what to do and what to say in order to keep me moving. Running with a friend is always fun. My family deserves a thank you as well, without their support and encouragement I wouldn't even try. Now for some time off...

1 comment:

Brian Beckstead said...

Glad to see you run well! You didn't look so good last time I saw you at Wasatch. Nice Job!