Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Bear 100 - 2015 and 2016

The Bear 100 – 2016 Edition

Centerfold of the December 2015 Edition of Ultrarunner Magazine. Feeling good early on in the race. Photo: Myke Hermsmeyer. Thanks to UR Magazine for the photo.
Before I go into the 2016 Bear, I need to recap the 2015 edition since I hadn’t posted anything about my run. I went into last year’s race with very little pressure or expectation on myself – I started the race simply to try and have fun day in the mountains and minimize any head/feet/stomach issues that might arise during the day. I wanted to stay within a relatively easy pace through Logan River (mile 68) and then I see how I felt at that point than then decide how my day was going to end.

It was a hot day and I was managing the heat well and running comfortably all day. Jen and Mara were crewing for me and I was in and out of aid stations quickly. After a long climb out of Temple Fork (mile 45), I felt relaxed and energized running into Tony Grove (mile 52). The next section to Franklin Basin (mile 62) is my favorite part of the course – It’s scenic and involves a little climbing, but most of the running is a mix of technical and smooth single track. I arrived at Franklin again feeling great and stopped for a few minutes to see Mara and Jen. Before I started the race I asked Jen not to tell me how many people were in front of me or how I was doing compared to previous year’s splits. But as I was leaving Jen told me the first place guy had just left the aid station. What? I asked how many people were in that group. She said, no, THE first place guy just left. One guy. That’s it. I was surprised since I was sure that there were at least 5 people in front of me. As soon as I left the aid station, I said to myself, I guess it’s time to start racing.

I caught the lead guy a few minutes out of the aid station and we chatted for a few minutes. I then took off at a good clip up the steep climb. The flight or fight response kicked in, my heart rated soared, and I was determined not to let anyone catch me even though I knew that there were several very fast guys behind me. I would push the next 35 miles as hard as I could with the assumption that a handful of guys were right behind me.

I arrived at Logan River (mile 68), downed a can of coke and took off. I ran most of the climb up Peterson Hollow and flew down to Beaver Mountain (mile 75) just before 8:30pm. I loaded up for the last 25 and told Jen that I feel great – food was going down well and my feet and legs felt fresh.

The last 25 miles were stressful and invigorating, yet they were uneventful - I was all alone with no one in front of me. I had no stomach issues and my body felt great. I had no idea how close anyone was behind me, so I just kept pushing all the way until the end. I finished in 1st in 19:01:07.

It was a special day for so many reasons including having my wife and daughter crew for me. 

Award ceremony with RD's Leland Barker and Errol Jones

The 2016 Bear 100

The Bear is one of my favorite races – The course is difficult with a good mix of big climbs, technical single track, some fast terrain, and unpredictable weather. These are a few of the reasons I’ve started the Bear for the past 6 years. 2016 was my 5th finish.

Just as last year, I went into the race with no other intention than having a fun day in the mountains. I was running sans crew this year as Jen and Mara stayed home due to the weather forecast, which called for rain, snow, and cold temps through midday Saturday.

We started off and once we hit the trail there was a group of about 10-15 guys that were in front of me. Within 10-15 minutes, it started pouring and wouldn’t stop until well after I finished the race. It was going to be a long, wet, and muddy day. The only thing I was focusing on was staying relatively warm throughout the day.  

Photo: Nan Schmid

Photo: Nan Schmidt

I took it easy all the way through Temple Fork and ran into the aid station with Ryan Weibel. At this point he and I were in the lead with several people a few minutes behind us. I was feeling good and eating a lot due to the cold weather. I grabbed a few things out of my drop bag and headed up the long sloppy climb to Tony Grove. I was climbing well and thought that I would put some time on the people behind us. As I arrived at Tony Grove (now just over the halfway point since the course had been changed to an out and back) Ryan was leaving and a few minutes in front of me. He looked like he was moving well. Another few minutes of digging stuff out of my drop bag and I was on the move again. Maybe 2-3 minutes out of the aid station the first woman (now 3rd overall) came flying by me along with several other guys who weren’t far behind. I guess everyone else was climbing as well as me! It was a super fun descent back to Temple Fork – We were running down in what felt like 6 inches of sloppy mud. 


Photo: Sunaad Nataraju‎
I got to the next aid station (Spawn Creek) and Ryan was leaving just as I arrived. I made the gradual ascent along the creek trying to run, but the mud was so sticky and heavy that it just didn’t make any sense so I kept up a good hiking pace. I got to the gravel road and looked back and the first place woman was a few minutes behind me.

I picked up the pace on the descent into Right Hand Fork and again saw Ryan leaving a few minutes ahead of me. Once again I saw the first place woman just as I was about to start the long climb up Ricks Canyon. She was the only one I saw, so I figured I had at least put a few minutes on the group of guys behind me. Again, I decided to try and push the pace on the climb to see if I could put some distance on the people behind me. This was the last time I would see anyone behind me. The climb felt really long and I managed to catch Ryan and his pacer Barry at the top of the climb.

We chatted a bit and made the descent into Cowley Canyon. We talked about how well the woman behind us was running and that we should work together to put some space between us and the rest of the field. I think I jokingly said that if it comes down to it, we’ll sprint it out on the last block to the finish line for the win!

Over the next 25 or so miles Ryan, Barry and I constantly pushed each other to move a bit faster, eat a bit more and not slow down. It really seems that Ryan and I were complementing each other – he would be moving a bit faster in sections when I was slowing down and vice versa. I’ve come to enjoy running 100’s without a pacer, especially at night. That said, the constant conversation of architecture, travel, kids, etc. between the 3 of us made the miles fly by.

We arrived at Leatham Hollow, stocked up and made our way up the last significant climb of the race. It started to snow and get frigid at the top. As we crested the summit, all 3 of us clearly needed to get down to lower elevation fast. I was soaking wet and starting to really get cold for the first time all day. We slowly made our way down the rocky, loose, wet, ATV trail to the last aid station. We stopped for a few minutes to get some warm liquids in us, but all of us started to shiver and decided to make the final 6 mile push of rolling Bonneville Shoreline Trail back to the finish. We didn’t say much and I think we all knew that we weren’t going to get caught. We simply moved to well over the last 30-35 miles for anyone to catch us at this point. We hit the road and savored the last mile or so before the finish line. Ryan and I finished as co-winners in 19:33:30. 

Final Descent. Photo: Bryan Schlinkmann
Thanks to Leland and crew for putting on such a great race and all the volunteers who sat in the cold and wet weather all day and night to support the runners.

Thanks to Fuel100 for their support and making Electro-Bites. It’s nice to have a unique non-sweet source of fuel. 

Thanks to Altra for shoes. 

Thanks to those who let me use their photos.

RD Leland Barker.