I was not supposed to run the Bear this year. I was drawn out for Wasatch. During peak week (3 weeks out) of training for Wasatch, I realized I had mistook the trail work deadline and was not allowed to run. That was a bad night and I’ll spare you the details (but ask Tommy – his version is probably entertaining). The next morning, Tommy forwarded me an email response he had gotten from the RD of Bear saying that he’d let me run his race (two weeks after Wasatch). I was grateful to be able to utilize all the hours spent training for Wasatch! **Let me just insert here how awesome it was that Tommy was willing to do that. He was already signed up for Bear as his first hundred, so although it was to be an amazing experience for us both, it meant I could no longer pace him through his own experience nor be there at the finish line to watch him cross.
I trained on roughly 45 miles averaged per week. Some weeks I hit 50-60 but that was earlier in the summer. The last two months it was closer to 40-50. Ideally it would have been more but with two trainees in the house plus real life, job, kids, you know the routine – I was happy with what I got. The weekend that Tommy and I had planned on our longest peak run of 40 miles, it rained like a mofo so we had to cut the run short and ended up with 28. I do have to say that I feel like I had plenty of time on my feet training with a lot of vert and technical in the miles I had. Quality over quantity. I had plenty of runs over 25 miles this summer, probably at least 9. I also tried to keep up with my once/week tempo runs.
The night before the race I ate a 6 oz steak, sweet potato, salad and at least 46 rolls at Texas Roadhouse. Protein, fat and carbs. The morning of the race, 2 hours before go time: 2 scrambled eggs, a piece of toast with jam, 1/2 banana, my Core Power protein shake and a piece of bacon. Mmmm, bacon.
My nutrition plan was at least 150 calories/hour at minimum. I had five 5-oz flasks of raw unfiltered honey that carry 120 calories along with lots of aminos and sugar per oz. I planned to drain a full flask every 4-5 hours and supplement with whatever sounded good of real food at aid stations. That worked until about mile 45 when I started puking (it was hot as hell). The thought of honey after that was worse than getting hit in the face with a giant log. I had run out of my usual electrolyte drink about a week before the race but “luckily” found some sample packets in a bag in my garage and put those in my drop bags. I realized at mile 3 when I opened my bottle cap and heard a fizzing sound that my electrolyte powder from the sample packets was rancid (it has a little protein in it). Taste confirmed. Doh. I had to fill my bottle with nasty Heed at the aid stations but hardly had any. I used salt tabs as my main electrolyte replacement, taking one per hour since the start and as many as 4 per hour in the most intense parts of the heat. Saved my butt! At the aid stations I survived on chicken noodle soup, watermelon and about ½ cup of Coke from mile 50 on. Somewhere in there someone handed me the most amazing stale and cold grilled cheese sandwich I’ve ever had. Oh ya, shout out to quesadillas too.
Mile 1-25: Loud Talkers and Mall Walking
Took things slow. Power hiked every uphill, mall walked or ran the flats (depending on the temps and if it was shaded or sunny) and crushed every downhill. The night before at dinner, Stephen Lindsay reminded me of something I already knew, but his phrasing stuck in my head and I repeated it during the race: walk with purpose. Not all walking is equal. There is a HUGE difference in a 16:30 min/mile walk and a 20:00 min/mile walk, especially over the course of 100 miles. Even on the last miles of the race, I forced myself to “walk with purpose” when I needed a break and kept it under 16:45 min/miles as much as I could. Thanks for the phrase Mister Stephen. The first 19 miles passed surprisingly quickly thanks to me eavesdropping in on a loud-talkers conversation behind me. I wisely picked up a cooling towel in my drop bag at mile 19 and kept it around my neck. Around mile 22 a sizeable climb began on an exposed part of the trail about the same time that the temps started cooking. I slowed my pace quite a bit, partially on purpose but honestly I couldn’t keep my breathing steady in the heat. People started passing me like crazy and I was getting a little pissed. The next miles into the Cowley Canyon aid station just never frickin ended but I maintained a steady jogging/power hiking pace on this long flat section.
Mile 25-50: My Nativity Cameo
The climb out of Cowley Canyon aid station blew goats. It was probably the hottest part of the course for me. I was keeping up really good on my water, salt tabs and honey (along with some potatoes and whatever from the last aid station). Kristyan (my crew captain extraordinaire) poured ice down my sports bra and my boobs were frozen but a little frost bite on the ladies was worth keeping my core temps down.
I wrapped my cooling towel, freshly drenched from the aid station around my head and tied it under my chin. I looked like I had run straight out of the nativity. I didn’t care about my biblical fashion because the heat didn’t seem as bad this way. After I reached the summit and started downhill, I started to feel really good. I passed a lot of people on the downhill coming into Right Hand Fork and came into the aid station on a second wind. No stomach issues yet.
I picked up my first pacer Jena and we headed out. Bless her heart for agreeing to this. She was telling me how it didn’t feel that hot while I was panting like a dog. Chatting with her kept my mind off of the miles and even though we were mainly walking, time passed quickly enough. I started getting nauseated and couldn’t tell if I needed more food or if food was making it worse. In these scenarios I err on the side of eat anyway, which I did and promptly started into the barfs. Poor Jena, who has probably never experienced the lack of pride that comes from puking out your intestines while you pee your pants at the same time. This was basically the highlight of miles 40-50.
Despite literally walking the entire section from Right Hand Fork to Tony Grove, I somehow came into Tony’s around 13:10ish elapsed time which was even a tiny bit ahead of my projections. I credit it to the “walk with purpose” pace.
Mile 50-75: Wedgies and Sing-a-longs
I came into Tony Grove feeling somewhat better because temps started to cool but stomach was still a little touchy. I changed my pee pants, addressed some hot spots on my feet and ate some chicken noodle soup and a cheese burrito. I spent a little more time there than I hoped (aimed for 10 min, spent around 15 because I changed all my clothes and had to fix my feet). I picked up Pacer 2 – Mr. Sam Jewkes. My nausea was gone and energy levels were back up so we made really great time, running a good portion of this section. Whenever I started to slow down, Sam would remind me that this was a good runnable section so we needed to take advantage. What an A hole. He did a great job of entertaining us all – us being every person we passed with his never ending portfolio of songs from high school choir. He reminded me when I needed to eat and mostly ran in front of me so I could chase him and that sweet never ending melody. We passed a lot of people. I was happy. We ran a good section of these miles with Kendall Wimmer, Jason Brock and Brady Adams. We were in and out of aid stations almost without stopping as I had plenty of water, temps were cool and I’d grab a cup of noodles and a sandwich or something on the go. I feel inclined to tell you that I had a significant wedgie from here on out.
Mile 75-Finish: Obscure 80’s music that no one but MVH listens to and Moon Walking
I came into Beaver feeling so good that I was able to slow jog even the small uphills. My crew was great, Sam had kept me fueled and smiling, and MVH was ready to roll as soon as I arrived. In fact, he told me we needed to leave in two minutes. What an A hole.
I had zero stomach or GI issues and having some aid station food in my belly I set off on a decent jog. The feely goods left quickly and within an hour I was death marching up the hill toward Gibson Basin. I wasn’t sick, just sapped of energy. By this point, I had no panic or thoughts that I wouldn’t finish, I knew I was making good time. MVH just kept me running the flats and downhills and power hiking the ups. As soon as I ate a good amount at Gibson Basin, my energy was restored and we were again running the flat section called the Sinks. At one point I looked up to see Matt moon walking back and forth across the mud. I was jealous. He also got hot chocolate at every aid station. I was jealous. I was afraid it would bother my stomach or give me the shits.
I must give credit where credit is due here: horrible music. I have no idea where in the hell Matt gets his playlists but they are aweful. So aweful I love them. I think I spent at least 5 of the 6 hours with him wondering who the other one person on earth is that actually has the Flash Gordon theme song downloaded. Time went by surprisingly fast. Confession: I came home and downloaded the Flash Gordon theme song.
By the time we had hit the Beaver Creek campground aid station, I had a pretty good idea that I would be under 28 hours. I knew as long as I kept up my calories that my pace could stay steady. I was able to catch up with Matt Williams and Jennilyn about 2 miles out from Ranger Dip.
I started to get a pain in the top of my foot that was pretty significant but didn’t want to take the time to figure out what was wrong. I made good time up the last climb out of Ranger Dip and knew from there it was just a painful downhill to the finish. At some point along here I realized I would be under 27 hours which fueled my fire. I kept up with Matt W as much as I could. We crested the summit overlooking the lake just in time for the sunrise. It literally took my breath away. I yelled at the mountains “I’m happy!” probably 5 times at the top.
The whole way down I was thinking about how Tommy had probably finished a few hours before and would be waiting for me across the finish line. I remembered my last 6 miles at Wasatch last year and how I was able to run for a small section but mainly walked the last bit. I couldn’t believe how much stronger I was feeling this year.
The pressure of hoping I would make it was gone. I knew I had made it. The main feeling I remember thinking along the last few miles was gratitude. Grateful that I was still running at mile 98. Grateful to have a husband that could empathize with my suffering and elation. Grateful for Jena, Sam, MVH, Kristyan and Aaron for taking their time to be there when I needed them. Grateful for the morning glow on the aspens on the way down. I remember thinking that all of the barfing, peeing my pants, chaffing, exhaustion, legs begging for mercy for seemingly endless hours were worth that last 20 minutes of pure happiness. I’ll be honest, I was also thinking about that damn pain in my foot but I figured my season was over so let the freaking thing be broken – I didn’t care!
I crossed the finish at 8:24am. 26:24 for 100 miles. 7th female to cross. 4 hours and 40 minutes faster than my race last year. It was completely unexpected. But then again, I somehow feel like my strongest version of me during these tests of body vs mind. I had put a lot of faith in the very conservative first half theory. I shouldn’t say “faith” because as a running coach, I advocate this with my clients. It takes self control and letting go of anxiety to let people pass you. I nearly ran the second half as fast as my first half. All the walking in the first half both saved my legs and reserved my energy systems. It also saved me from a DNF in the heat. It’s been 2 days since I finished this race. I am still smiling about it. This is the first race I can honestly say that I raced to my physical potential. I started off this year with an injury that left me questioning whether I’d be able to run consistently enough to have a satisfying year. I am reservoir of satisfaction right now. Can’t wait to do it again.