My last few runs going into the Bear 100 left me feeling far too tired. I had complete uncertainty and a lot of doubt going into it. Training runs were plagued with legs that felt like lead and I was becoming winded on even the smallest climbs. I was certain that I pushed my body too hard over the weeks leading up. Besides, I had no pacer and no crew. This was going to be a grand personal experience into my first major distance outing.
Driving to the event with DJ and Tobias, I started to feel a little better about the numbers I had put in since Kat'cina in early August. As well, noting that my hamstrings hadn't produced any grief since before pacing George at Wasatch, this was another mental boost. The 3 of us enjoyed a good pre-race dinner at the Beehive including fun conversation and decent food which made us more antsy to start the march. We dropped off Tobias at his hotel, while DJ and I opted to drive to Mount Logan park and sleep at the start. Sleep was sporadic at best.
Being my first 100, I just wanted to maintain and finish. I used a watch with a timer alarm reminding me to hydrate or eat. No mileage, no other settings. The thought of looking at a watch to remind me how many miles I had gone, or had yet to go, seemed mentally deflating. Leaving the start, the course pushes up through neighborhood roads for about a mile before blending into the Dry Canyon trail towards Logan Peak and the first aid station. Nearly 10 miles with 5k of vertical right off the bat forces you into conservative movement. The field was spreading out evenly while we dropped down the other side. It was nice to settle into your own pace without feeling pushed, or held back by conga-lines. I feel that I went out at the proper effort. I maintained a casual pace without torching the quads. Matt Schrier caught up to me being conservative and we chatted it up to the #2 aid station at the bottom of Leatham Hollow where crews and family aligned en massé to cheer runners. Needless to say cowbell sales were probably off the charts leading up to this event.
The run up to Richards Hollow was on a wide, gravel road. Albeit, an incredibly gorgeous canyon in the morning with boisterous cattle roaming freely. Though, motivating myself to push was difficult along this ascending grade and I was starting to feel the heat affecting me slightly. The AS chief mentioned I was sweating an awful lot and that I should attempt to cool off. Basically he said in the nicest way possible that I looked like shit. Out of Richards Hollow AS and into the canyons namesake, I made little effort to push. It was a mixed bag of light jogging and easy hiking. I was getting passed through here by a lot of runners. I payed no attention to dropping back in the field, not a concern of placement for me. I stopped once to try and pee, which would be the only time I would end up peeing anytime within the first 50miles. Not good. It was still far too early in the day for myself too put any true force into climbing and with my neglect to dial in my electrolytes, pushing hard wasn't on my mind at all. I ingested a few gels, one energy bar and a couple salt-sticks to keep me upright. I needed calories and fluids. My temperature was off the charts and I was close to blowing a gasket. Kendrick, from Boulder, caught me and I did my best to hang with him on the climb, we stuck together closely going into Cowley AS at mile 30 and my first drop bag. I refueled here and put some Heed electrolyte drink in my water bottle (Hammer sponsored the event). Leaving there, I quickly I caught up with a chatty group and held on to the top of Ricks Summit starting the descent to Right Hand Fork, through a few herds of sheep.
This is where the wheels came off in shrapnel-like form. I wasn't doing well with the Heed drink and my temperature gauge was still in the red. I got some serious gastrointestinal issues before reaching Right Hand Fork AS which forced me into a very slow downhill march. I started to get chills. – It was only 90º but I was having flashbacks from hiking near Escalanté with my wife a few years ago when I lost all electrolytes, got heat stroke badly, stopped sweating and nearly passed out. – So I stayed slow in my pace. My new goal was simply to reach Right Hand to recover without going deeper into this coal pit. Getting there I was in a deep mental fog. I drank 2 cups of coke, 2 cups of ginger ale, slurped down 2 cups of watermelon, and one cup of grapes. I laid down in the shade, took off my hat and drank a full bottle of water. I met Hillary and her dog, Condor, which quickly got my mind off the nausea and heat. Feeling refreshed, I tossed some grapes and potato chips in a bag and headed out slowly. I saw DJ and Kyle coming into Right Hand Fork AS but I was still groggy. It took me a second to recognize those guys and get my words straight, but I was upright and moving better.
Climbing up Willow Creek to Mud Flat was difficult. Hot, but I was moving better. Still exposed in the sun and quite toasty! Descending along the road I had a serious boost in spirits. The course dips off and follows Temple Fork creek. A gorgeous section of trail cut perfectly through lush grass and flowing water. Very mirage-like, I thought "surely this can't be real" several times. I stopped along the creek more than once to splash water on my arms and face. It was a well received mile of trail before connecting back on the gravel road to Temple Fork AS for a quick in-and-out.
Completely refreshed and solid on my feet. The best I had felt since the first climb. We crossed Highway 89 and up the 2nd largest climb through Blind Hollow. Near the top of the climb I was feeling great. Even ran up some sections of the climb and felt strong when hiking. I certainly expected that I could go back to eating my standard nutrition, if not more. I reached in my pocket for a Kind Bar. I took 3 bites of it. 4 minutes later I was back to nausea and slowed to a crawl with more GI. The milk-chocolate covering turned my stomach upside-down, quick. My jaw had the metallic-twanging-pre-vomit-feel and I was salivating like a hungry dog. I should have brought it all up and hit the reset button, but I held it down. I drank water and hoped to dilute the mess I had made in my stomach. The slightest bit of dairy turns me upside-down. I should've known better. Subsiding the tendencies to hurl and 10 minutes of taking it easy I was cresting the ridge and back to running beautiful single-track into to Tony Grove. I wasn't yet 50 miles into the run and had defeated two major issues that I don't normally get myself into.
Arriving at Tony Grove I had some amazing assistance from Jeremy Cox who was waiting for his runner to come through. He gathered my drop bag, refilled my moral support bags of chips and grapes, handed me some potatoes covered in salt and topped off my water. It was great to have some help through this aid. It boosted my mental spirits once again, yet my stomach was still slightly off and the thought of sugary gels or bars made me queasy. Though, I did grab a few from my drop bag and stuff them in my pockets, hoping that my stomach would return to normal later in the night. I grabbed my headlamp and headed out feeling solid. Running a good chunk of the climb and feeling solid on the flats. I stopped to pee for the 2nd time of the day about 2 miles out of the aid and was happy that things were coming around. Fluids were back to normal hue of light yellow. I continued to consume all of my water and tried to finish off every grape and chip in the bag before reaching Franklin Basin AS at 7:10pm. Pretty ecstatic rolling into the 100k point I had trumped my old PR by more than 2 hours. I was now feeling great mentally and physically, but as it got dark while standing at the aid, I went to switch on my headlamp to make certain everything was good with it, but nothing happened. No batteries. I neglected to put batteries in my headlamp at Tony Grove! Mindless move of idiocy. I stood there like the biggest doofus ever, wondering what to do. I chatted with a volunteer and they scurried to help locate some batteries but they didn't have anything. Another prepared runner, Carter, came through and asked what was wrong. He quickly admitted his paranoia of having his batteries die during the night so he mindlessly packs 3 sets of new batteries in his vest, he quickly handed me a fresh batch of 3 triple A's. Carter, you're a lifesaver!! I owe you! Carter peeled out quickly and I followed suit once I had a spark of light.
With electricity beaming from my head I marched up the hill to Steam Mill Pass alone. Pitch black and searching for the reflective course marking strips which were easily seen from a respectable distance. A light drizzle was starting and the breeze was kicking up. Lightning was starting to crack and burst all around the course. It was a bit erie to be on this climb alone. I was searching for headlamps in front and behind me. I stopped to listen for people, but hearing nothing aside from what seemed to be wolf howls… I mean, definitely not confirmed, but it sure as shit sounded like it. After an hour of marching up a respectably steep climb in dark silence, I needed a good distraction. Either push hard to catch someone, or wait. Neither of those appealed to me, so I popped in the headphones and turned on some tunes for the first time of the run (Yes, I carried my iPhone. No I didn't take photos). I placed one headphone in and it was a welcomed distraction and albeit a bit motivating. Rolling over Steam Mill pass I was back to jogging after another pee break and caught up to a runner (Sarah ?) and her pacer from Australia. It was nice to be in a little group. We were moving together well and meandering through herds of upset cattle. I nearly got kicked by one that we spooked standing just off the trail. Getting hoofed in the hip could've been bad. The Aussie just laughed at me hysterically for freaking out so badly… hmm. I continued to march and eat my chip-grape cocktail into Logan River AS. My feet were starting to feel a little fatigued while coming down on the gravel road so I took 10 minutes to lay down and refuel. The head medic was happy to assist and offered me a thick yoga mat. Laying down on a pad with my legs straightened at about mile 70 was quite rehabilitating. He brought me some veggie broth with some salted potato's to help keep me warm. Carter rolled in looking strong and took a seat. I started to wonder where I passed him? Either way he was quickly through and I was motivated and got out of there before getting too comfy. Leaving there I was within a mix of 5 – 6 runners. We yoyo'ed back and forth all the way to Beaver Resort Lodge and my final drop bag.
Getting in the lodge I took far too long to get situated. I changed into some 3/4 length tights, ate some more potatoes, went to the bathroom again and had the chip & grape bags refilled. I was sweating standing in the lodge and needed to get out of there. I downed a couple bowls of broth again, chugged a ginger ale and was out. Long sleeve shirt, jacket and tights was warm! I was pouring sweating again descending to the road from the lodge, and wondered if this was too many layers? I knew that we still had to climb back up to 2 different passes at 8 and 9k, respectfully, so keeping the layers on would be wise. I knew it was going to get cold, but I was in disbelief through here. During the steady 7 mile march up to Gibon Basin there started to get some spurts of heavy rain. Just as I arrived at Gibon AS the gates above opened up and the trails went from tacky and perfect, to messy, gloppy, shoe-sucking-brown-ice. The 4 miles to Beaver Creek were a mess. One little trick to enter the aid station is hopping over a 5' section of river or wading through a 20' section of it. Of course I opted to hop it and on legs that have gone 85miles with heavy and wet shoes. The sound I released during the hop should have been used to call in cattle. Painful. Being that I was already wet, I should have just waded through. Oh well.
Beaver Creek was a pretty good party. I was told that a runner had taken a 3 hour detour somewhere between the Beaver Lodge and Beaver Creek, skipping Gibon Basin and ending up at a vacant campground. (Found out later that it was Carter). It had been raining for over an hour now and volunteers were again boisterous and cheerful to keep us warm and moving. The smell of breakfast and good home-cooked food filled the air. I did the usual diet refill and headed out within a few minutes towards Ranger Dip. The deep water ruts along the climb proved to make no match for any heavily lugged tread. My Helios' were shedding the muck just fine since there were no massive depths in the tread for the mud to get sucked into. Not that I was hauling ass, or gripping any better than the next person, I did notice less mud sticking to my feet than the others. The water ruts would suck you into the troughs, forcing you to stay within the depths of the water. This proved to be more beneficial anyhow as your shoes would catch on the tiny rocks rather than slipping mud, providing in some sort of forward motion as opposed to sliding back three steps for every one. Cresting the 2nd highest point of the day it was chilly and windy again, I had travelled through the storm and it hadn't yet billowed over the ridge yet. The Ranger Dip aid station was still pretty dry. Lucky to have pushed on through the night and to have a dry and steep final climb ahead of me.
I started to get sub24 anxiety at Ranger Dip. My watch read 4:34am when I left. I had less than 90 minutes to climb to the highest point of the course, on the steepest section of trail, on legs that had gone 93.5miles. After the climb comes the steep and rocky descent, some 3000' to the finish. It sounded quite daunting. Still grateful that it hadn't started to rain yet, I left Ranger Dip with true conviction and a purpose. I gave everything I had on the climb and tried my hardest to float down the descent, but it just wasn't enough to hit the negative 24hr mark. About 3 miles away I realized this wasn't going to happen, but I didn't let up. I figured that I had gone this far so why should I put in any less effort now just because of a time? I had passion for moving through mountains, still, so I pushed through to the finish. Nearly to Fish Haven the heavy rain started (Fish Haven would go on to receive 2.8" of rain during the day). The fresh smell of lake air mixed with the rain bouncing off the pavement was welcoming. There was one bustling couple greeting finishers at Gladys that were directing runners toward the finish line. I tapped the banner at 24hr:13m:46s official. What a day!
I sat at the finish for a while when Joe Dean (DJ's pacer) walked up with a badly rolled ankle which forced him to discontinue pacing him at Beaver Lodge. Joe and I went on to crew for DJ at the final 2 aid stations – Beaver Creek and Ranger Dip. Joe's wife, Becci would pace DJ from Ranger Dip to the finish. Apparently DJ was running within sub 24 hour pace when his stomach started to reject everything out of the blue. Seeing DJ being able to push on, after his epic bout of stomach issues was nothing short of inspiring. All of the sections that were dry when I went through, were now soaked and gloppy. He fought through and made it happen. Proudly finishing well under the 36 hour cut-off, and his 4th 100 this year!! I think I was more elated for him than myself.
My first 100 is in the books! I can't believe I did that! I ran 100 miles! Like, all of them. – I fought a lot of elements along the way, but pushed forward. I never really got emotional exploits at anytime, other than really missing my wife at a couple points. I was joyous to complete the journey. I focused on following the course with a full heart and a passion for moving. I'm more than excited to toe the line at another 100 in the future.
With tremendous gratitude, I thank all of the aid station volunteers that braved the mountain elements to help all of the runners get comfortable in order to push on and finish.