Last year this race was about redemption after Wasatch did not go my way, this year the Bear was my focus for the whole season. So shortly after losing out on the lottery for Wasatch I checked out the Bear website and found a pleasant surprise, a new course. The old course was good and I certainly would have been happy to run on the modified figure eight, but the new point to point course really had me excited. It looked to be tougher with a bit more climbing, long distances between aid stations (over 7 miles on average) and did I mention it was point to point? I passed along the good news to Storheim, who also lost out on the Wasatch lottery, and he was in. Peter graciously agreed to pace me once again so it was set.
Standing in the dark waiting to start I thought about the trail in front of us and wondered how many runners actually got out on the new course. I had every intention of getting out on a few sections before the race, but I could never find the time, so I was running it "blind" like most of the other runners. I think that sometimes this is a benefit since you can't get too nervous about something you know nothing about. By the same notion it can be easy to get lost when you are unfamiliar with the trails so a few days prior to the race I decided I loaded some of the critical course intersections on my GPS so I could use that to find my way if necessary.
6am finally arrived and 76 of us headed off for a 100 miles of fun. After winding our way up through the neighborhood we came to the mouth of the canyon and the first trail intersection. Half the runners in front of me turned right, the other half went straight, then everyone stopped. I looked at my GPS and quickly confirmed that we were supposed to go straight and we were off again. I should have realized this was a sign of things to come. As we made our way up the 4,000'+ climb a small goup of us formed behind the front runners including Scott Griffith, Brian Beckstead, Jon Wheelwright and another guy I didn't know. After hitting the top of the climb we made our way down a rough atv road and I decided to find out who the unknown guy was. I introduced myself and found out I was running with Paul Sweeney, a man with many ultra's under his belt including a win at Hardrock in 2004. Right after that I led Brian and Paul on to the singletrack and instantly felt a surge of energy. The canopy of aspens we were running under created a colorful tunnel that blocked the early morning sun and made it hard to hold back on the long steady descent to the aid station at Leatham Hollow - mile 20. Scott was slightly ahead of us and left as the three of us came in to refill bottles and get set for the next section. A friend of mine was there, Aric Manning, and informed me that Storheim was running just behind Nate McDowell and Ty Draney. I was stoked to hear he was doing so well, but at the same time I knew we had a long day and night ahead of us.
(still happy leaving leaving Right Hand Fork)
Photo credit Greg Norrander go here for more great pictures.
The next section was the shortest between aid stations at a little over 3 miles. Brian, Paul and myself were fairly close together through this section and the next long descent to Right Hand Fork aid station. Right around this point we caught up to Carter Williams and he tagged on to our little group. As I left the aid station I jumped ahead of those three and tackled the next climb. It was now getting pretty warm and I was trying hard to stay properly hydrated as I climbed up the steady grade. I really felt as though I was holding back and being conservative when I looked down and realized there were no footprints in front of me. I stopped and ran backwards, then forward again scoping out the trail, when I remembered the GPS. At first I looked at the map on the GPS and tried to run toward the trail I saw but it was to confusing. Next I picked out the closest point and had the GPS navigate to it. This is where I realized the problem, I was one drainage further over than where I needed to be. I immediately started my bushwhack climbing over fallen trees and making my way through sagebrush going straight up to a ridgeline. I wasn't really in a panic but I was extremely frustrated. Everything had been going my way up to that point and looking back I can officially say this incident was the beginning of a new chapter in the race. I made it to the top of the ridge and realized where I needed to be as I saw the trail another 1/2 mile below me. I traversed across the hillside and intersected the main trail just in front of Paul. We chatted for a few minutes before I charged ahead, anxious to make up for lost time.
I arrived at the Temple Fork aid station, mile 45, still ahead of my pace schedule by a good 50 minutes so I decided to try and put down some real food instead of just gels. For some reason soup sounded good and I downed a small bowl as Paul arrived. We each sat there for a few more minutes before I convinced him we needed to get out of there. We crossed Logan Canyon road and started the steep climb up blind hollow to Tony Grove Lake and the next aid station. Paul fell behind pretty quickly as I kept going with a steady pace, I was obviously feeling pretty good from the energy I consumed at the aid station. Before to long I started to feel my stomach tighten and the energy high was gone. I was trying to hold back the inevitable, but at mile 48 everything that was inside my stomach finally wanted out. The "free range" cattle watched as I stepped off the trail and took care of business. I took advantage of the post puke endorphins and tried to find the top of the climb but when I when I finally topped out I did not feel like running. I was now 3 for 3 in 100's, puking every time at the 48 mile mark. I knew I could make it right, but it did not stop the negative thoughts from trying to break down the barrier I put up.
I finally saw the lake and knew I was close, so I picked up my pace a bit. That turned out to be a mistake as I had to pull off the side of trail in sight of the aid station and let my stomach do it's thing again. I felt awful as I saw my kids come running up to greet me then retreat back to the aid station. Next I saw Peter and just like the year before he knew exactly what to do. I drank plenty of broth as my family helped me change into my night gear. I put on new shoes, socks, undershirt, long sleeve top and a headlamp before heading out with Peter to try and beat the sunrise. I thought about my family and especially my mom, since it was the first time she had come to an ultra. I mostly just didn't want them worrying about me all night, but there nothing I could do about that now. I was sitting in 13th and I was behind my pace schedule by about 20 minutes when we left.
It was great to have Peter keep me company as the sun started to set. This next section was one of the longest between aid stations at 9.7 miles so I was a little worried after the puking episode, but I just took it easy on the ups and jogged the downs. Just as the light was starting to fade I spotted something moving on the trail in front of us and Peter ran ahead to investigate. It was a porcupine that wasn't really interested in getting off the trail at first, but when he grew tired of running in front of us he waddled off in to the bushes. It took me nearly 2 1/2 hours to reach Franklin Basin aid station and close the chapter on the low point of my race. I was feeling better as I sat down to nice warm bowl of soup and saw many of my friends. David Hayes was working the aid station, Greg was there snapping pictures, Scott was waiting for his friend Phil to come through, and some old friends from my bike racing days were there working the aid station, Jamie and Brian. I really didn't want to leave but Peter insisted we get moving.
From here on my memory is kind of fuzzy but one thing I definitely remember is my level of frustration rising as we struggled to stay on the trail. Glowsticks were few and far between keeping us second guessing if we were on the right trail or not. The GPS helped somewhat but the batteries were nearly dead and I forgot to pack extra. Having a second set of eyes was invaluable.
On the way to the Logan River aid station I was shocked to see Brian walking slowly up the trail. He was in a bad way and we asked if there was anything we could do. All he wanted was his wife to come meet him on the trail with his trekking poles. Once we got into the aid station we not only found his wife, but we also found Brian's friend Dave Hunt. Dave jumped into action and took off up the trail. Brian would end up making a wise a decision and call it a day once he made it to the aid station.
Somewhere through here we came upon the Logan River and there seemed to be no easy way of crossing. There was a skinny log, but it was unstable and covered in frost which seemed kind of dangerous. So with no other option we just plodded through the cold shin deep water. I didn't realize that it caused my feet to go numb until an hour or so later when they started to thaw and got the achey feeling that comes with the warming sensation. Once my feet were warm again they were fine.
Near the 75 mile mark we started the descent to the Beaver Lodge aid station. I was definitely feeling better as I picked my way down and passed a few runners. Just as we thought we were getting close we realized we were lost again, of course this was very frustrating. At the lodge I stayed outside while Peter filled bottles and I sipped on some more soup. I was shocked when I saw Carter walk around to where I was sitting. He had been at the aid station for a while trying to put his stomach back together. I wished him well before Peter and I took off for the last 25 miles. It was now a little after 1:00 am and I had moved up to 8th place, but I was way behind my goal pace for a sub 24.
Peter started talking about trying to make it under 26 hours, which seemed reasonable, so I made that my new target. We made a strong pace over the next 4 miles that were all uphill to the Gibson aid station. Even though I was feeling good I could still feel my stomach tighten whenever we pushed a little to hard, but that was about to change. Just as we pulled into the aid station the first place woman was leaving with her pacer. Peter hustled us through in less than a minute and next thing I knew I was running on the semi-flat section. Within a quarter of a mile we caught Kim and her pacer and kept going. She decided that she wanted to hold my pace for bit and stayed fairly close over the next few miles. This proved to be a valuable tool that Peter used to keep me moving at a quicker pace over the last 20 miles of the race. When the terrain would open up he would occasionally turn around and tell me that he could see their lights and I would push a little harder.
Approaching the next aid station we hopped a couple of streams, grabbed some soup and took off. I didn't know it at the time but Kim was only 8 minutes behind me at this point confirming that Peter was being honest about seeing lights and not just using it as a motivational tool. By this time I had stopped asking Peter what time it was or what kind of pace we were on, I just wanted to be done at this point.
As we a came up to the next aid station we made a plan, Peter would fill the bottles while I grabbed a Red Bull I had stashed in my drop bag. Our friends Jeff Lamora and Shane Martin were running this aid station and they were very helpful. I remember Shane telling us that we had a 600' climb that lasted for about a mile then it was all downhill to the finish. The climb was very steep, kind of like the "Grunt" at Wasatch. I'm not sure how long the climb took, but I remember Peter telling me that if I flew down the descent I could go under 25 hours. That was all I needed to hear as I let gravity work for me this time. After a grueling ~4 miles of nasty-torn-up-from-throttle-twisters trail we were dumped out on a paved road. I told Peter there was 2 miles to the finish and asked him how much time we had, a little over 13 minutes he replied. I told him it would be close but I had to at least give it a try. The scene in front of us was incredible. As we ran east toward the lake the sky was starting to turn orange silhoueting the mountains and creating a stunning reflection in the lake.
We made the left turn on to the main highway and I knew we had about a mile to go. I pushed a bit harder and as we rounded a bend in the road I noticed someone running in front of us. Peter dismissed them as an early morning jogger and just about the same time Eric Taft turned around to see us coming. He immediately picked up his pace but I still caught up to him. I told Eric I was trying to go under 25 hours and he should run in with us, but he couldn't hold the pace. A quarter mile later I turned the corner to the finish and ran to the end of the lawn where my family was waiting. I came across the line and the woman holding the watch said 24 59 38. I tried to process the information but I had to ask her again, 24 hours 59 minutes, 38 seconds, 6th place. Yes! I threw my arms in the air and pulled Peter up off the ground to celebrate. A little less than a minute later Eric crossed the line. I told him I felt bad for passing him so close to the finish but I was so focused I couldn't stop. Ty Draney took the win, Storheim overtook Nate McDowell toward the end to grab 2nd, Leland Barker was a very close 4th and Scott Griffith was 5th. Official results here. I took the liberty of deciphering the spreadsheet and posting a little different version here, that contains splits and such (look down in the lower left for the splits sheet).
The night before the race my daughter told me "I have hope in you" and that phrase ran through my head many times throughout the race. Thanks to my family for their support and encouragement, not just on race day but all throughout the year. Thanks to the Lindgren family for lending Peter to me for a long day and night, the experience would have only been half as fun without him. Peter deserves credit for keeping me focused and on track, thanks man, that was a good time. Finally, many thanks to Leland Barker and his crew for the new course and support during the race.