First let me apologize for keeping you in suspense about this weekend. The way it is, I wasn't sure I am going for Bear 100 till Wednesday. Between injury, been untrained and my life, Thursday morning I was still undecided. But there were a few things - and a few people - that made this possible. Montrail granted me comp entry to the race. Steven, my friend from Boise, on the way from Teton races offered to run with him and his friend. Later, he bought a camper and offered me to stay with them as well. Then a week before the leave date, on a run in Forest Park, Adrien offered to come over and crew and pace me. I had told him that I don't ask my friends for this kindness anymore unless I am offered, and there he was, with a ticket in his hands. Not to mention after Cascade 100 DNF I felt the need to finish 100 miler and my 10th at that. It was set.
Our flights arrived to Salt Lake City late, and we made it to Leland's ranch (Bear's RD) at 7 pm, 2 hrs after the meeting was over. The lowest key event I ever went to - I got my number with not a single word but "hi, you are late". We drove to the campground - start/finish of the race - and found Steve's camper, where Steve and Paul were waiting for us. The first person I bumped to was Lori #2 from Teton! It was a hoot to see her again; she was crewing for her friend. By 10 pm we retired to our beds.
Morning was usual, although because of the cheerful guys I wasn't my usual grumpy self (felt too guilty for this). I packed my bottles with gels and set the bags for a few aid stations for Adrien to take care of. Mingled with crowd of usual 100M junkies, Hans, Karl Meltzer, Montrail girls, John Hemsky (4 years ago to date we both ran our first 50 miler in NY), and at 6 am we were off.
Steve promised that he and Paul start slow and will be with me for as long as I need it, but when I say "start slow" - I don't lie. In 10 min they were too fast for me and I felt like I am working too hard, so I slowly disappeared behind in the dark. After a mile and half we hit the climb - a serious one...but as it turned out, there were no easy climbs at Bear. We slowly made our way to the ridge, amongst controlled fires on the ridge, often going in smoke, as the light was coming up at 7:30, breathing thing air. As we leveled off for a bit, at every runnable section I had many people running by me, passing as if they were on fire. That was totally fine with me. I kept my power-walk I resolve to every race and paid attention to the views. They were magnificent! Taking pictures and stopping to take care of "business" (and yes, my luck is such that practically every race falls on "that time of the month") put me behind almost the whole field, and I came to first AS at 11.7 miles in 2:45, on the clock of my predicted pace chart.
Coming to first AS.
Adrien and Lori were there jumping and ready to romp. I shed my shirt and jacket, had my tomato juice, put my pack with gels and i-Pod and took off. Life is fun and games during an ultra, and I completely submerge myself in it. Slowly the daily worries step away and the moment sets in, nothing but this step, this breathe, this view, this person next to you...
There is a creek we run along and inside a bed of, and my clumsiness make me fall into water a few times - after what I simply walk inside it for a while. My feet are holding nicely though, in double-layer socks and Montrail Odyssey.
By Danish Pass, mile 20, I am an hour and half ahead of pace, and although it was my miscalculation, I am bummed out Adrien is not there. I have only one gel left, so I try to pick on AS food - and I can't. I don't eat solids on the run, nothing looks pleasant or desirable. I fill both bottles with calories and go on to yet another brutal climb. But the day is gorgeous, so are the views, and I strike conversations with people around me, feeling strong and not over-extending my energy. My injured hip doesn't give as much as a hint of pain, but my left hip is talking with trochanteric bursitis pain of the climbing straight up, and by 2:30 pm I pop my first pill. Nothing I haven't felt before though, and I am not worried a bit.
About a mile out of AS at 30M Adrien is greeting me with a camera. As we run together, I realize it's far away from an AS, and I scold him with "crewing within 100 feet" rule - it's his first time, and Bear has no strict rules, but I adhere to those to a "t". As I run in, Steve and Paul are at the aid station, and I yell "I knew I'd get you, boys!” They laugh and obviously I move through much faster - not only because of help, but it's my staple too, not to spend time at the aid stations. Adrien packs my shorts with more gels and promises to show up at mile 40.
I love my walking. I am not sure where I learned it, I think I was born with it. I begin picking runners one by one, without breaking to run unless it's a downhill. One guy seems young, and I ask his age. 23 - good for you, kid! I tell him" trust your body, don't push it - and press on, dancing to my tunes. I bet it looks funny as I make arm waves holding bottles in both hands. Dirt rocky road is annoying for a big part here, but I am in a great mood as I enter Danish again and see Adrien with my tomato juice in hands, my headlamp and a load of gels. What a great day, I am so glad I came! AS personnel notes how efficient he is with me - and to think he's never even been to a 100M race before! I get a good luck kiss and keep "dancing with the Bear" for the next section.
There is a long winded steep downhill into Bloomington, and I see almost the whole field but the first few guys. There are 5 women in front and we high-five and smile. At the bottom I fill my bottles, pick a slice of avocado and tell them I am self-efficient, nothing else is needed. Volunteers laugh as they let me out. The climb out is horrific, but I am in a great mood and push on, happy that in 6 miles I am picking up my pacer and won't be alone anymore.
That lasted for about 40 min and another climb, but by third hill, as my i-Pod ran out of charge, I am bonking. How many mountains I have to climb today? There is a hope that out of 21,000 feet of gain we already did a good 15k, and I try as I might to keep a good mood going, passing here Montrail teammate Kelly. Thankfully, there is a downhill into the AS at Paris, mile 53, and I get my smile back.
Lori and Adrien are there waiting with night gear. I do my full strip-change and re-pack my bags. Now that I am 3 and half hours ahead of prediction, I needed to re-think what I am taking with me. No more drop bags or crewing, all goes in, including lots of cloths for the morning snow storm. I decide against changing shoes or socks here - you know, if it's working, it ain't worth changing. At 7:20 pm we leave for yet another climb, turning headlamps on...
Adrien quickly asks my state, and I tell him I am as always, hike the hills, run downs, and alternate between a shuffle and a power-walk on flats. He pushes me hard up, and I soon tell him to slow down - can't go that fast. I explain that my pacers usually stay behind and follow my lead, but as I find out, it doesn't quite work with Adrien. He keeps getting ahead and setting the pace the whole night. I suffer, try to work, but from time to time blow up with "can't go like that". I am not sure what he thinks of that and worry.
The night loop is long. It gets colder, but we move fast enough to keep the heat going, and having a ball talking. There is a long field stretch, and the conversation is awesome (what goes on trail stays on trail), I am wide awake and moving well. My night splits are hit on the spot so far, I am happy and move in and out of AS's fast. At one of them (Dry Creek, mile 61) I see many guys sitting around the fire, as I walk in and exclaim: beware of chair, Scott (Mason), what are you doing here, get up! And to volunteers - I need tomato soup, quickly, please (they later told this story to all runners behind, and Steve and Paul laughed hard, recognizing me in it). Lori tells me I am in second - how did this happen? Still a long way to go...
Scott gets up and follows us on trail. I make a wrong turn - the only one in the whole race. As much as I was afraid of Bear's glory of been poorly marked course, it was wonderful so far, not a glitch. I walk along some cow path, but see no ribbons and remember a glow stick up behind - Adrien goes back to check it out, and sure enough, that was our trail. Not so much of a trail, just bush-whacking through the woods following ribbons. What's that about? Not much fun, and I get aggravated that we still climb a lot. Every time Adrien tells me it’s going to level off in 20 feet, there is another climb right after – liar! I don't know what device Leland used to measure the gain, but it's not 21,000 already, that's for sure. And did I mention altitude yet? The fact that since we did first "hill walk" at the start from 5,000 feet, we are staying the whole race between 8,000 and 9,000? Where are my lungs gone? At some point I shine my headlamp on an animal in the middle of the trail - I thought it was a bear cub and start shaking for mama bear to be around, but Adrien says it's badger (sp?), which still can hurt if upset. He (Adrien) yells and throws some rocks, then grabs my hand and makes me run through this section just in case, promising to be my big brother. Hmm, I am 6 years older, but I comply, I never had a brother, especially a big one.
Finally, I am in a midst of 100M disaster. It is postponed pretty darn far this day, should be happy, but climbs knocked me off my feet. I swear a lot and ready to cry, but can't ruin my reputation with Adrien. What kind of example is that for his upcoming first 100 miler? I hate been viewed a "strong runner", I want to be a girl! I don't want to push, don't want to work for a delusional goal; I want to sit down on the side of the trail and curl up! We enter AS them (mile 71?) and I collapse on a chair, trying to pull a blanket on myself. Lori is here, massaging my legs, and Adrien shoves a cup of soup in my hands. Leave me along! I get angry and beg to sit, but they kick me out, "25 min behind first woman, go!" Argh!!!
Another climb...what a brutal horrific course! What kind of moron made it up?! It's on a gravel road, relentless 4 miles, and I hit my low point of the whole race. Nothing hurts, just complete exhaustion, I am not trained for a 100M race, especially such hard. After a few exclamations, I tune in to my unsettled stomach, announce that I am about to throw up, and turn to the side of the road. Stupid caffeinated gels come out with water, but the soup stays. How weird. It feels better fast, and in 10 min I am able to swallow a vanilla gel and begin pushing the walk again. As soon as I see an AS (Copenhagen Rd, mile 75), I make Adrien to promise me to let me sit down and shut my eyes for exactly 5 min. I do that - it feels great! 5 min is often all we need to get revived. I get up with renewed energy and we move on.
It is cold on this ridge; I am glad I pulled a second jacket and long pants on (well, Lori and Adrien put it on me, really, but glad I carried it in a pack). The white flurries begin to fly, the wind picks up, but it's not a storm yet, it's been delayed. The ridge is vast and empty, almost scary. But the woods are worse - we have more climbs coming! This is cruel; really, it's a loop course, how come we go up twice as much as we go down?! I am swearing off 100's and resolve to change my log in to olgav50 (instead of olgav100). I just want to make it to the end and get my 10th finish, and I retire. I am done, this is insane, everybody is right. Despite that, my walking is strong enough to progress further and further along, until we get over with this loop.
Here starts the drizzle. 5 am? Just a bit after, rain comes, and we shiver. More climbing, rain turns to snow, really cold now. More climbing, I am calculating my times for the 90M AS and afraid I don't make it now under 30 hrs. The hills are slippery, wet snow and wind hits the face, the light comes up, but the mood is down. How many ridges do we go around for this stupid Paris AS? I need to be there by 8 am! I read reports, something is wrong with the last 10 miles of the course, and regular folks take 4 hrs to get through. Hello, Paris?
It's finally here, 7:57. There is hope, but oh, how much I hate to be "on a minute", still have to fight! We leave; I don't even refill, and make 3 miles downhill rocky road to the last AS. I can't talk; I just ask with my eyes what's next. Volunteers point to the bushes behind. Leland’s Ledge...holly crap! As soon as we step on it, I understand the time for this section. Too bad neither one of us took a camera for the second half of the run. It is not a trail. It just Leland, in his upset mind, weaved through the edge of the ridge, along rocks, over fallen trees, between bushes, putting trail markers. And it still goes up, as he didn't think we had enough, and the steps are simply torturous! I mean, they are dangerous, for normal fresh people, and we have 93 miles on our legs! I swear loudly as I try to grab for rocks and branches to not slide down on the ridge. Sick. Not fun, not funny, sick. Psychopathically sick. Forget 30 hrs. I am trying to scout up the ridge in case there is a road and am ready to be disqualified if I find one. That thing last almost an hour, and we probably made a bit over a mile. Hail starts now, what else can we have today? Finally, we get on some ATV road and after some rolls hit a cow trail steep down. No, really, the RD is out of his mind, I am thinking as I am trying to not fall face plant on this path. I wonder how many more miles and what time I have left. Adrien keeps looking over the shoulder to see if we're getting caught. I could care less at this point.
Here is the road I recognize. 1 mile left! Oh, joy. There is a cow show goes on next to our campground, and a man on a hourse tries to stop us. Ha, no way! I look at the watch and can't believe my eyes. I am going to break 29! I firmly tell Adrien I am not running a step, but the excitement takes over, and I shuffle a few times. Last turn. My dear mama, I am done...
28:42. That was my finishing time. That was OUR finishing time, because there is no freakin' way I could have done it by myself. I am untrained, off the injury and full of life changes. And I just broke 29 on this crazy Bear course. What a day...There is no big hoopla, just Leland sitting in his truck after two sleepless nights and his own race taking times by the watch. Very appropriate ending for this kind of course, really...
We hit the camper, and with a beer in hands I am shivering in my sleeping bag. I've been dreaming about it for the last 5 hrs. The blisters on our feet are horrific, the heels, the toes, the blood - rocks are crazy here. But the balls of my feet are perfect, to my complete surprise. That let me move, and I am thankful. I go to Leland and thank him for the run. Yes, I did tell him all I thought of him on that Ledge, and he told me the stroy of how it was born. Then he went on with description of the idea of the race and new coming changes. We chat for 15 min, and I am almost ready to come back to run it again. It'll take me all of 2 hrs to decide I'd like to do that in a future:)
I am not very good at expressing what I feel, but I am trying to tell Adrien my deepest tanks. I am a much better writer than I am a talker. He'll just have to read the story. And wait for a few emails next week, as my feelings settle in and words begin to form. The accomplishment is not realized yet. Lori walks in - under 29, second woman, 10th 100. I am starring at her. I am a Grizzly Bear. I better go pick up my buckle, as we need to leave for SLC to catch a plain. I am a Bear. Greg Pressler gave me this name on our first run on December 31, 2004. You are the Bear. The Bear represents strength, conviction of heart, and determination.
I am a Bear. I will go through my life with conviction of heart, and determination. But most importantly, I will go through my life with the power of friendships, with a presence of my friends. You all are Bears. Believe in yourself.
p.s. Couldn't sleep - normal for after a 100, so had to do a quick report while fresh. Photos are curtesy of Adrien, Lori and myself (thanks again to Scott D for the camera gift!!). While I swore off this course, Leland did a great job for this run (BTW, he runs it every year too, and this year he did 20-some hrs, second male, while marking a course some extra – oh, and next year the course will be re-routed to its original idea of point to point). Karl broke CR by over an hour on his way to the win. Steve and Paul finished in 31:xx, happy campers. Thank you, guys, for offering the trailer and a great company before and after the run! Thanks to Lori for laughs and good care! And to Adrien for an awesome job crewing and pacing - welcome to the 100's club!
p.p.s. Scott Jurek won a Spartathlon for the second year - yeah!