Tony Grove Mile 52 - Photo: Aric Manning[/caption]
It seemed like an impossible undertaking. After every 50 miler I've done I've wondered whether I could turn around and run the course again. The answer was always no. The mind is powerful, controlling expectations, setting limitations, and fostering belief.
As late as July (two months ago) I was certain I wouldn't even run another 50 miler and had zero interest in doubling that distance. I can't even pinpoint when I decided I would or could do a 100 mile race. Was it after pacing Tim Waggoner. to an incredible finish at Leadville 100 last month? Maybe. I finally committed to the Bear 100 on August 27th just four weeks before the event. It's not like I wasn't in shape. I mean I just easily cruised with Tim for 50 miles at Leadville. I simply needed my mind to set the expectation and foster the belief that I could complete 100 miles.
My normal free-spirited approach to races wouldn't work this time, so I set about planning. The training was the easy part - get in longer runs and trash my quads with ankle crushing descents, long, steep, repetitive descents (this comes into play later).
The final week of the race arrived and I found myself with no pacer. Tim W. would have come along but had family commitments out of town. Second place finisher at the Bear 100 last year, Nick Pedatella, offered up his pacing services but just two weeks removed from racing at the Wasatch 100 left him with a hip injury, so he was out and I was on my own. Secretly, I was happy to be running alone. I needed to do this solo. A few days before the race Aric, Pearl Izumi's Team Director, offered to crew for me, which I gratefully accepted. He was the anchor to my adrift aid station plans.
The days before the race were long and edgy. I had spent more than a reasonable amount of time studying splits, the course, segments between aid stations, weather, everything. Finally, I felt confident I could go under 24 hours and set solid splits for a 23:30 finish. I know it sounded ambitious but my mind had set that expectation and I trusted my body to follow.The more I visualized it, each section, the pain, the fueling, the finish, I felt the nerves fall away. Replacing the nerves was impatience. My focus was so narrowed and lucid on the race that I couldn't concentrate on anything else.
Finally, two days before the event we were on our way to Utah. I rode with Rick Hessek and his wife Jill with Scott Jaime and his family caravan-ing along. We stayed with in-laws and relatives of Scott. Scott, Rick, and I did one last four mile run on Wednesday before the early Friday morning start. I felt fresh and strong, which was a relief since I had felt sluggish and tapped of energy the previous week. The last day before the race I met with Aric, gave him all the gear I would need during the long day, warm clothes, lighting, nutrition, all of it. He already knew my splits and had taken the time to make a laminated split card about the size of a credit card for me. At the top of it he wrote, "YOU GOT THIS!" I would look at those words and repeat them several times during the run. Aric has no idea how those simple words helped me.
[caption id="attachment_560" align="aligncenter" width="224" caption="Split card Aric made"][/caption]
I hardly slept he night before and was up at 3am, showered, had a cup of coffee and was forced to eat real food since I didn't have my normal pre-race Clif bars, so I had cereal, a banana, and bagel.
A minute before the start (me, Jon, Rick, Scott)"
The start was warmer than I anticipated, so I just wore light arm warmers and gloves along with a short sleeve shirt and over shirt, which was peeled off in the first 1,000 feet of the initial 3,700 foot climb. Once reaching the top of Logan Peak at 8,500 feet, the views were incredible looking back down onto the town of Logan emerging under the soft morning light.
I clicked off my headlamp and assessed what was going on around me. Suddenly, Dakota Jones came up behind me and I gave him the trail. We exchanged greetings and I commented that he was smart to be conservative early. Then he moved on, likely concerned at being in twenty-something place with me.
I hit the first aid station at 2:28 into the run, two minutes ahead of my predicted split. Next aid would be in ten more miles and the first time I'd see my "crew", Aric. Aside from my stomach (from the unfamiliar, and large, breakfast) I was feeling good. I was getting concerned with the growing blister on my Achilles area of my heel. The new socks I pulled out that morning were a bit too long, so I had some extra fabric bunched up around the heel.
I came into Leatham Hollow aid station at mile 20 and Aric filled my bottles. I was 15 minutes ahead of my split, arriving at 9:45 (3:45 into the run). The long single track descent leading into Leatham was irresistible but I committed to back off over the next section. I told Aric about the blister and that I'd do a sock change at the next station, Cowley, mile 30.
The next ten miles went quickly; I had caught up with Rick and we ran together for about 5 miles until I pulled away, reaching the mile 30 Cowley aid station ten minutes up on my splits at 12:00 noon (6 hours into the run). I ended up switching out both socks and shoes, which stopped further blister damage. Rick pulled out of Cowley a couple minutes before me. It was a long climb up a gravel road and I came to an intersection of trail off the road. There were remnants of course marking flagging barely noticeable, so I turned down the path and came to a big circle for what looked like a place for atvs to turn around. I didn't see any trail, so I went back out to the road and continued up it. After a bit over a mile with no flagging I decided to turn around and give the path another look. I finally found a trail and flagging about 100 yards down it. So, 2 miles and over 20 minutes wasted but at least I was on course again.
I pulled into Right Hand Fork (37 miles) 25 minutes behind schedule but Aric brushed it off and kept me focused. The next segment was totally exposed in the heat of the day. This was my only miscalculation in my meticulous splits; I only gave myself 90 minutes to do it and with 8.3 miles of solid climbs under a hot sun it would have been tough to cover on fresh legs. I reached Temple Fork (45.2 miles) in what was my lowest mood and worse condition at 3:30pm, 9.5 hrs into the race and 30 minutes behind schedule. Doubts on a sub 24 hour finish seeped into my mind but Aric would have none of that. I stayed there for 15 minutes and was now 45 minutes off pace. The climb out of there and to Tony Grove at mile 52 was atrocious but I maintained pace and brought myself back to 30 mins behind. It was now 5:30pm and 11.5 hours into the race. Catching up to, or making up time (Hopi Indian word is sunki), is not as simple as just running hard in long distances; there's a razor sharp line you have to find but not go over. I could've probably just raced one section hard and been caught up or even well ahead of schedule but doing so would've jeopardized the pace later or even ended my race at some point. Now that I was coming into the second half of the race I could start pushing closer to that edge.
Photo: Chris Gerber
Photo: Chris Gerber"
Photo: Chris Gerber
The plan here was to switch from handheld bottles to my Nathan race vest, which Aric had filled with 70 ounces of water and ready to go. I also slipped on my McDavid calf compression sleeves, ate soup for the first time and decided to switch to EFS shots solely for energy, since my stomach had been cramped and badly hurting since the start. I began feeling better shortly after this stop and picked up the pace. I peeled away the shroud of doubt that had smothered me the last 15 miles and felt good. I realized that I was now running further than I ever had (50 miles). I felt better and better, enjoying the views, the smells of the mountains, and the thoughts of running faster.
I reached Franklin Basin (mile 62) and told Aric we found the perfect formula in soup, EFS, and Ibuprofen. I felt stronger and better here at mile 62 and 13.5 hours into the race than I did at mile 20. I told him we needed to tighten up the aid stops (my fault totally for the long stops) and I'd have to push hard for the last 38 miles for any chance at a sub 24 hour finish. Shortly after leaving Franklin I clicked on my headlamp. It was a long, rocky climb out of the aid station and I passed one runner, then saw another headlamp up higher on the trail and realized I must be feeling stronger than many of the folks I would encounter. So, I made the decision to put everything into every pass when overtaking runners.
I came into Logan River (mile 69) at 9:25p, still 25 minutes off my needed split. but I was running out of my mind now and focused. I could tell Aric was feeding off my energy and getting excited himself. He'd have a big smile and say things like, "Man, you're doing great!" He said that most coming into the aid stations looked really rough, including the front runners. I told Aric I needed to reach Beaver Creek (mile 85) by 2am at the latest to have a shot at 24 hours, so I poured everything I had into the next 4 hours, blasting by runners, breathing like I was running a 10k, just opening up everything I could find within my mind and body.
All my fears of running at night never materialized; I never got tired, never slowed down, my energy and attitude were high. I was actually enjoying the night. I can't remember ever seeing so many stars and it was a full moon, just perfect. The contrast of temperatures from the canyons to the upper ridges was stark, 30 degrees to 50 maybe. There were two horrific parts of the course that, at the time, made me swear I'd never return to the Bear. One was after the Beaver Lodge aid station at mile 76, a jeep "road" that transformed into a snowmobile trail after crossing into Idaho. It was the steepest, rockiest, longest ascent I could imagine. I literally told the next small aid station volunteers that it was the worst thing I'd ever done in trail running. The other awful section was the 5 mile descent from over 9,000 feet to 5,800 feet at the finish. Never ending. The best training I did was a lot of descents, allowing me to fly down the hills for the entire 100 miles. My quads are barely sore since the finish.
Before reaching that descent I ran through the last aid station, Ranger Dip, at mile 92.2 without stopping. I didn't realize it but Rick was standing there in the AS. I was finally ahead of my splits and knew I had 24 hours in the bag and most likely sub 23. Unfortunately, I couldn't find my way after the long, crazy descent. I only had maybe a mile to the finish and I was at 22:38. 22 minutes to go mostly downhill to the finish! The course markings were not helpful and there's no description on the website whatsoever of the finish after the descent. Thus, it took me 27 minutes to find my way to finish in 23:05. At mile 52 I was in 20th place and finished 9th overall. Remarkably, I only drank 40 ounces of water for the last 11.5 hours of the race.
This course is amazing. I was, and still am, fairly aggravated that the buckles weren't ordered and not available at the race (I bought and brought a new belt just for the buckle). I really like the plaque they give out with your name, time, and placing. The food and awards were fun. Jon Teisher received his Rocky Mountain Slam award. Nice to hang out with him and Katie.
Pretty crazy that we ended up standing in the same order as we were at the start photo 36 hours earlier... Me, Jon, Rick, Scott, don
Thanks to Scott Jaime for several things: long runs with me, setting me up with a nice outfit for the race and the hospitality shown by him, his family and relatives. They made the event even more memorable and fun. Thanks to Rick Hessek and his wife, Jill, for letting me ride to and from the race with them. It was nice chatting with them and made the long ride go by fast.
And finally, I owe this race to Aric. Without him it would have never gone as well. He always knew what to do and say, kept me on track when things were bad and fed encouragement and energy to me when things were going well. I only hope I can repay him with a day of pacing or crewing some time soon. Thanks for everything Aric!
Thanks for the inspiration:
I'll post more photos on this report as I receive them...
Pearl Izumi shirt
Mizuno Shorts with side pocket
Rudy Project sunglasses
Pearl Izumi socks
Inov8 Rocklite 312 (mile 1-30)
Pearl Izumi Syncro Seek III (mile 31-100)
Nathan handheld bottles
Nathan HPL 020 race vest (70 ounces)
Nathan arm warmers
McDavid Calf Compression Sleeves
Petzel Zipka headlamp (start)
Petzel Myo XP headlamp (night)
Cateye handheld light (night)