Tuesday, September 30, 2008

2008 Bear 100 Mile Endurance Run

The Bear 100 is about a decade old, but what intrigued me about this years running was the new point to point course from Logan Utah to the shore of Bear Lake in Idaho during the peak of the fall colors... and plenty of peaks to climb too. I've never been to an ultra that was not laid back and full of friendly people but the Bear is the epitome of "low key" races. It was really just a big group of friends out playing in the hills (most meeting for the first time).

The Bear 100 is very similar to the Wasatch 100 that I ran in 3 weeks ago. It has a few thousand feet less total elevation gain and it tops out under 10,000 feet but it probably makes up for it with a more rocky, rugged and remote trail. The middle of Wasatch is unfortunately marred by some paved road sections that seem to drag on forever but not so at the Bear: once you drop into Black Smith Fork canyon around mile 19 and lose sight of the Logan/Cache valley you are really in the wilderness.

The best part of the race for me was the chance to be paced and crewed by my mom, dad and wife Lindsay. They had a harder job than I did - long cold waiting in the night, many miles on CRAZY jeep/atv/mountain goat roads and one grumpy runner. I really enjoyed the experience though and it was fun to finally show my folks what ultras are like.

I ended up dropping at mile 70 but I knew it was the right choice. I was on a great pace until mile 50 and I still had plenty of time to finish but I knew I was playing russian roulette with my knees from the start. They were a big reason for dropping out of Wasatch earlier this month and in the 3 weeks between I probably ran a total of maybe 15 miles. They felt fine the week before the Bear, but on the very first downhill of the race the pain was already building. I toughed it out as long as I could but after mile 60 I couldn't run at all and knew that I was starting to do some real damage.

I'm not disappointed because I did accomplish most of the goals I set for myself. I made a conscious effort to have fun and enjoy spending time with my pacers and fellow runners. I met some new friends, saw scenery that very few people ever see and I was even beating all of my time goals up till mile 45. I'm also usually plagued by nausea during most races but I managed to hold it together until it got dark. If the second half of the race had gone as well as the first I would have even placed in the top third of runners! I learned plenty too, like I need a lot more practice running through the night.

A few of the highlights:

The Good

* The amazing fall colors! All of the leaves were turning. The aspens were a brilliant glowing golden yellow and the forest looked like it was on fire. I'm a total sissy but my favorite were the arches of pink and red maples?. It looked like the trail was covered in rose petals.

* Free range cattle greet you with a surprised MOO in the strangest places. Lindsay and I had fun making our own animal noises while she was pacing me at night. Sorry if the elephant calls scared anyone - they are deadly creatures!

* The aid stations were hard to leave! Even though I was surrounded by my crew the moment I walked into an aid station, at least one volunteer would find me and offer to help. I was the most impressed at the Logan River aid station where I ended up hanging out for a couple hours. As soon as you come within sight, everyone is clapping and cheering and ringing cowbells. There was a dutch over cook (I really missed out on that being too nauseous to enjoy it). They sat me around a fire and when that wasn't enough I was huddled into a propane-heated trailer with a plush bed and blankets to warm up. As soon as the runners passed through most of the volunteers would take a nap right in their seat so they had enough energy for the next runner coming through. It was pretty impressive and I clearly need to earn more volunteer karma next year.

* BEST. CREW. EVER. I love you guys, you are awesome!

The Bad

* Free range cattle means dodging birthday cake sized cow patties every few feet. I'm glad my sense of smell and taste left quick because I must have smelled wonderful. Joey describes my normal, non-poop covered running scent as "rotting flesh" to give you an idea.

* The aid stations were spaced pretty far apart compared to any other race I've done. Most of them were 8 to 10 miles apart and it can be frustrating to keep anticipating them for hours on end. I think this is really more of a lack of experience on my part though. I'm sure that with a few more under my belt I'll learn to stop anticipating and just stay in the moment.

* Maybe it was just my exhausted state, but it seemed like Leland Barker the race director saved the steepest, nastiest, most technical and hardest to navigate trail for after dark. I don't hold anything against him and I love a good challenge, but ouch! The worst came around mile 67 or so. The race directions warn about a sharp 120 turn that is hard to miss and they aren't kidding. My dad was pacing me at that point and after two wet, muddy creek crossings we found a runner going the opposite direction toward us. We were at a 4 way intersection and he said that he had been lost for the last half hour trying every direction but couldn't find any course markings. After looking at the directions that my ma had cut into notecard size and waterproofed - we realized that we were not supposed to cross the two creeks and had the pleasure of crossing those again. We eventually found the turn and realized it would be tough to see even in the daylight.

The Ugly

* The sea slug! I'll get Lindsay to put some pictures of it up for your entertainment, but I guess somewhere before mile 36 I grew a bright red blood blister that covered one of my toes. I knew something was wrong once it went numb. It really freaked some people out at the aid station, and a very, very nice woman (whose name I missed) grabbed a blister kit and started triage. 15 minutes later and I was ready to run again but 4 days later it still looks pretty gnarly. P.S. if you see this nightowl, I owe you a blister kit.

* My grapefruit-size knees! I've seen a couple doctors (really like the sports doc I just visited). I'm on plenty of pain killers and I've had my knees drained and injected with cortisone. It looks like I may not be running again for a little while... but my doc is going to work with me to get things straightened out so I can have as many years of 100 mile attempts as possible.

* The Logan EconoLodge. I've stayed in plenty of cheap and dirty motels before, and I'll spare you the details, but stay at your own peril!!!

Anyway, thanks to everyone who checked in on me or watched online during the race. I was thinking about all the people who support me while I was running and it gave me a lot of strength. I feel extremely fortunate to even be able to show up at the starting lines of these events and I couldn't do it on my own - so thanks for reading!

1 comment:

Trevor said...

Ryan. Your blog is great! I love reading about all the races and I love seeing how you're doing and what you're up to.

I hope your knees get to normal size and stay there!