Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Bear Chase Race 100K - 2014

The Bear Chase Race website had been using my picture (picture of me, not taken by me) for the past two years, so I felt a need to return to the place where my ultra running career started, just 3 years earlier.  I had run the half marathon in 2010, 50K in 2011, 50 miler in 2012, but had skipped last year to run the URoC 100K.  Now I was back.

Having run 3 100K’s and 3 100 milers, I was feeling relatively confident in my abilities, but trying to break 11 hours would mean besting by PR by more than 45 minutes.  So, just days before the race, a friend volunteered to help me out – no pacing, just crewing to get me through the aid stations quicker.  That was a welcomed surprise, but she wasn’t satisfied with my 11 hour goal. “No, you need to break 10 hours” she said.

Dropping my 100K time from 11:48 to under 10:00 in 7 months, with temperatures almost 30 degrees warmer, and only 2 weeks after Run Rabbit Run (the longest, toughest race I have ever run) was beyond crazy.  It was borderline stupid.  The last time someone planted such a crazy idea in my head was at the Coldwater Rumble, where I got too cocky and suffered my first DNF.  Should I really risk a “good” race for the minute chance that I could have a “great” race, only to crumble and end up with a “miserable” race?

Runners gathered in the pre-dawn darkness at Bear Creek Lake Park.  4 years ago, at the inaugural race, before running the half-marathon, I stood by and watched in awe as the 50 milers took off into the graying light.  That would inspire me to run the Bear Chase 50K the following year, the start of my ultra running “career”.  Now, I was toeing the line as a seasoned ultra runner, about to …

I still wasn’t sure what I was going to attempt, let alone what I would actually accomplish.

The clock struck 6:30, and we were off.  I was about a third of the way back and within a few hundred yards, the front-runners were already off-course, though luckily by only a bit.  I had walked this part of the course the previous night, so I yelled out to them and we all regrouped.

The 100K and 50 milers started together, as we were all running the same course.  The 100K’ers would just run an additional 12.5 mile lap.  The two distances had different bibs on, but they were difficult to differentiate while running.  I kept my cool and let the speedsters run up ahead.

I peeked at my Garmin more than I should have and I was a bit slower in the first few miles than I had hoped, but I was surprisingly smart enough to stick to my comfortable pace and not chase a goal time.  It turned out that the climb over Mt. Carbon wasn’t nearly as slow as I had hoped, so my overall timing wasn’t off by that much.

After two years as the race’s “poster boy”, lots of runners commented, mostly as they were passing me.  It was kind of fun to be the “celebrity”, though I didn’t much like being passed by so many, and they all seemed to take extra pleasure from passing “that guy”.  Oh well, I kept my cool and continued on with my comfortable pace.

On the first climb up Mt. Carbon, everyone was still in a hurry and ran on past me, as I fast-hiked my way up.  My theory is; if you’re not going to be able to run this on the last lap, don’t run it on the first lap.  I try to approach all of my races like this, and it usually works out well.  There was a day when I would have run up that hill, only to suffer, head bowed, later in the race.

I made up some time and positions on the other side, as I don’t hold much back on the downhills.  Soon, we came to the first creek crossing.  This early in the morning, with the sun barely up, the water was more than a little refreshing.  I knew that by the next lap, the cold water would be welcomed.  Two more crossings, and I sloshed onto the pavement for a short section, leaving a trail of wet prints behind.

Soon after the aid station, we hit the trail along the irrigation ditch.  Though only slightly uphill, I felt like I was crawling along at a snail’s pace.  The sun was now up and the heat was already starting to build.  I wasn’t thrilled with my performance on this section, but I remained calm and patient, knowing that there were many miles to go.

I hadn’t checked my watch in a while, so I was quite surprised to see 1:58 on the clock as I went through the Start/Finish, especially since I wasn’t really pushing.  I swapped bottles of Shaklee Performance, grabbed some chips and Honey Stinger waffles, going through the aid station pretty quickly and felt even better heading into the second lap.  From then on, I don’t think I was passed by anyone, though we now had a mixture of 100K, 50 mile, and 50K runners on the course.

I felt pretty good throughout the race.  My stomach felt like it was on the verge of getting unsettled a few times, but I just made minor adjustments to my eating and drinking, as well as taking lots of S-Caps, and it never got any worse.  My friend also gave me an ice bandana to use.  It’s basically just a bandana, folded over into a triangle with the edges sewn, and a zippered opening to put ice into.  When I would first put it on with fresh ice, it was so cold that my neck and shoulders almost cramped up, but man did it cool me down.  Much of this race course is out in the open, with no shelter from the sweltering sun.  With a high in the mid 80’s, the ice bandana allowed me to work hard, without overheating my core.

I completed the fourth lap (50 miles) in 7:58 – half an hour off my previous 50 mile PR!  I was stoked!

I had asked to know my position before the last lap and through the chaos of the aid station, I think I heard that I was second and the leading woman was 25 minutes ahead.  I must have miss-heard, as she was way further up than that.

I tried not to focus on my placement.  My goal was to run that last lap in under 2:02 so that I could break 10 hours.  It was far from a sure thing, as my 4th lap had taken almost 2:03.  The fatigue of 50+ miles was starting to take its toll, but at the same time, I no longer had to hold back.  I tried to keep up a reasonable pace in the first 10 miles or so, then gradually picked it up as the finish got closer.  With two to go, I knew 10 hours was within my grasp (though not by much) and I just gave it all I had, running an 8:15 for mile 62 and a 6:55 pace for the last half mile.

I crossed the line in 9:58:02! First place male, second place overall.

The winner, Kaci Lickteig, beat me by 1:17:17, but I didn’t care.  I beat my initial goal of 11 hours by over an hour, set a new 50 mile PR by over half an hour, on my way to setting a new 100K PR by 1:50:22.  And, other than being exhausted, I felt great.

This was probably the best race I’ve had to date.  I ran smart and hard, maintaining pretty even splits the whole way:

The Bear Chase has been exceptionally well managed since the very first race in 2010.  For a fast, relatively easy, ultra, right here in the metro area, it can’t be beat.  I also love the fact that they partner with Running Guru to provide lots of high resolution photos, for FREE!  All the photos here are courtesy of Running Guru - THANK YOU!

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