Sometimes you learn from your past mistakes, sometimes you don’t. Sometimes you can blame external factors that cause you to fail, but sometimes you only have yourself to blame.
I had been worried about how the Bear 100 would go, but as the days drew closer my confidence soared. At least to the point where I knew I could do the race, it would only be about what my time would be. It was all about just finishing the race and that I knew I could do. I knew this would be difficult and the experience at Harricana 2 weeks before made me feel better about this. So where did it all go wrong?
We had flown to Salt Lake City on the Wednesday before to give us lots of time before the Friday morning start. We met up with Gary on our layover in Minneapolis and got to SLC on time, picked up our rental car (Ford Expedition!!!) and off we went to Logan, about an hour and a half north of SLC.
We checked into the Hampton Inn and set about relaxing. Thursday we checked out the GPS to see if we could locate some of the Aid Stations for Joan and they seemed to work to a tee. So then we headed out to the race kit pick up and pre-race talk. Probably the most laid back kit pick up and talk ever. The talk mostly centered on how much they had improved on the course markings and how no one should get lost. It was also one of the few races where I didn’t know anyone personally. There were a few “celebrities” there though, Bryon Powell from IRunFar.com, Errol “the Rocket” Jones and somewhere about’s there was supposed to be Anna Frost, here to do her first 100, but I didn’t see her.
We went back to the hotel to get our stuff ready and then headed to our pre-race dinner. We decided on burgers at a diner downtown that was very well reviewed and they were definitely good.
We got up at 4:15 a.m., although it only felt 6:15 a.m. to us, as we were still, more or less, operating on eastern time.
We drove to the start which was in a small park at the edge of town in Logan.
We got there with plenty of time to spare and just chatted while we waited. The next thing I know I am standing beside Anna Frost and so I turned around and introduced myself and wished her the best of luck, Joan, Gary and myself then chatted with her till almost the start of the race.
What a great, down to earth person she is.
The race start was like the rest of the events surrounding it, very low key. Before we knew it we were off and running.
The first mile is on pavement through a subdivision to the trail head and is all uphill. We had decided to take it easy and just walk the up hills and see where that got us. The trail turned steeply up hill and we got into the conga line. It was a long steady climb, 5 miles worth is what we were told. Gradually the sun started to rise and we would look behind to see the amazing views down the mountain. I would stop to take the odd picture here and there.
I was also using my poles. Although I had used them at Harricana, this was the first big test and I found that it definitely made the going easier up hill. The only problem was trying to access other things with the poles in my hands. A new Ultimate Direction pack also confused things slightly, but I got the hang of it quickly.
We crested the top of the mountain to some incredible views, which pictures just don’t do justice. The first aid station was just before 10 miles and was a welcome site. We made quick work of it and got going again. There were guys taking swigs of Jack Daniels there!! At 10 miles?
I would say that was a recipe for disaster.
A mix of climbing followed by downhill’s was the norm for this race. The climbs were generally long and the downhill’s just as long if not more so at times. The next aid station was at 20 miles and would be the first opportunity to see Joan. I started running with my North Face Ultra Guides and felt it may be time to change them up already. The downhill to Leatham Hollow aid station was a very long single track that wound around the mountains. I had one nasty fall that banged up my right knee. After that I put my poles away as they seemed to get in the way on the single track flats and downhill’s. Gary had left me behind at this point and I was struggling a bit. I think I was pissed that we had talked about running the whole thing together and he had already taken off. As it was he was waiting at the next aid station with Joan.
We both had to relube our feet and I changed into my Hoka’s, then off we went. The next stretch was a long, mostly uphill, climb on a dirt road. We mixed up the running with a lot of walking and my mood got better. The next aid station was at the end of the road, where we headed up a trail. Again lots of climbing followed on a mix of single track and jeep roads. Gary and I ad run most of this together, but he would take off on the downhill’s and I would leave him behind on the uphill’s. Into Cowley Canyon aid station it was a very long downhill on dirt road and I flew down this stretch, feeling good and taking full advantage of gravity. I still expected Gary to pass me at any time, but he didn’t and only caught up to me at the aid station.
This was about 30 miles in and it was getting very warm. I got loaded up and off we went again.
I hadn’t been eating anything very substantial, lots of fruit and fig newtons etc. If I had a complaint about this race it would be the food at the aid stations. Although it was typical of what you normally get, I think races could do better. I don’t want junk, M&M’s, chips, pretzels etc. P&B sandwiches suck, unless I’m very hungry.
Another climb followed on more jeep roads. After this things became a bit fuzzy at times. It was only 7 miles to Right Hand Fork, but it was a lot of single track and downhill and Gary was struggling here a bit so we walked a lot of it. We finally got to a fork in the path with a guide sending us one way and others coming back the other way. The only out and back on the course into Right Hand Fork. I changed socks and relubed my feet again and filled up my water. I wanted to go to the bathroom, but the only one there was busy!! After a fairly lengthy stay we begrudgingly headed back down the trail. The water here had been in a large plastic container and when I tasted it, it tasted like plastic. That was difficult to “digest”. It was also very hot at this point. We walked to the trailhead and continued on. I had forgotten to wet my buff and cloth so took advantage of the creek beside us to do just that. It was nice and cold. There were some amazing vista’s all along the course and felt privileged to see it all. This section was about 9 miles and about half way through I was feeling rough. I had put it down to not eating, but at the same time didn’t want to eat. I tried one of my honey stinger bars, but the chocolate had melted all over. It was a mess and was tricky to eat. I got through some of it. After coming through a cow pasture we hit a road and came across a girl doubled over. This didn’t look good. We got to her and found she was feeling just like me. She had only heed to drink and was feeling the effects of it. We offered her some of our water and Gary gave her an apple. She ate half and gave me the other half. I ate some of it and it seemed to help. An unmanned aid station was at the top of the hill and we got some of the remaining water there. After that it downhill on a long gravel road for a long way and it felt good to run again. We passed quite a few runners here before heading back off road through a sheep meadow, crossing a river and following the river on nice single track.
Another long downhill on road took us into Temple Fork aid station.
A quick fuel up, grabbing our head lamps and a jacket just in case and were set to go. The clouds had started to come in and the temperature had dropped significantly, darkness was coming soon.
Out of this aid station we climbed on single track for a long way up a canyon. Lots of cattle in the surrounding hills and fields, as well as an Elk that came tearing through the bush after having an altercation with a bull up the mountain side. There was a lot of climbing here, but we were pushing on strong. I don’t remember much of the run into Tony Grove aid station, except that it was dark when we got there and I needed a rest. I got some black been soup and sat in the back of the truck while Joan looked after things. Gary had some chicken noodle soup and then threw it all back up. We were now over half way through. It seemed strange that it was dark already and we were only half done. Once we were on the go again we felt better, but I think Gary was struggling. It was a long climb out of Tony Grove, but an easy climb. We ended up with a string of us in another conga line going up. When we finally got to the top Gary didn’t want to run, so we walked, it was quite technical anyway. We ran a bit here and there, but it was a long 10 miles to the next aid station, which I do not remember at all. After Franklin Basin at 61 miles we wouldn’t see Joan again until 75 miles and Beaver Lodge. It was in this section that it started to rain. Very gently at first. I put my jacket on but it was still too warm. We hit a long flat stretch that I wanted to run, but Gary didn’t so I stuck with him and we trudged on. Soon the ground started getting a bit muddy. It became difficult going and then it became treacherous. On the side of a hill trying to navigate the ankle deep mud and stay on the hill. I had my poles which made it somewhat manageable, but Gary was all over the shop. A couple of guys went by us like we were standing still and wondered what we were doing wrong. After about 45 minutes of this we were out of it and I was hopeful that, that was all there would be. Soon we were back into it again and it was a lot worse. Gary asked to borrow one of my poles. As soon as I gave him it I was down and out. I could barely stand for any length of time and was almost resolved to crawling through the mud. We must have “crawled” through the mud for an hour, before finally coming to a dirt road. At this point both of us felt like shit. The mud had sapped our energy, we were tired and wet and Gary was feeling borderline hypothermic. We walked down the road and followed it to the next aid station at Logan River. It was a bit like a triage unit. We got some hot soup and sandwiches of some sort and sat by a nice warm fire. We left the aid station and had to cross a river. There logs and rocks to use so as not to get wet, but Gary slipped off the logs and ended up in the river and so walked across though it. I was luckier and stayed “dry”. We then climbed straight up and all of a sudden there were “runners” in front of us and behind us. It had become very busy. As a group we struggled on. Eventually we could see the next aid station, but as we approached the lightning resumed and soon it was pouring down. The aid station didn’t seem to get any closer! It actually seemed to be getting further away. Was it actually the aid station?
We descended for a long ways and then turned back towards Beaver Lodge. Making our through the trees and the rain, we came across another section of mud, a guy passed us and went right through like it was nothing. I tried and ended up down the hill in a ditch covered in mud. I noticed then that there was a road beside us, a paved road. It must be the road to Beaver Lodge. It was, but the course detoured us back up another sloppy hill. When we got there I was destroyed. I had never felt this bad. I told Gary I was done. I Couldn’t go on.
The aid station was in the lodge, with some warmth (hard to believe we could feel so cold and miserable after the heat earlier). I saw Joan and told her I was done. I had a hard time keeping myself together as I said that. She said no way and she would get me back on track. I disagreed with her. We went inside and I sat down and had a complete breakdown. I could not see myself going on for another 25 miles.
Gradually, somehow, Joan managed to turn me around. I got a fresh set of shirts etc. on. Changed back into my UtlraGuides and got a garbage bag to wear to keep the rain off. Apparently Gary was ready to set off by himself at this point, although I wouldn’t know this till after we got home. After some sustenance we headed back out and surprisingly I felt ok. We ran across a field and a road onto a dirt road and then started the usual climbing up the road that slowly became less of a road. It was again muddy in spots but manageable. It was another 5 mile climb to the next aid station and we would cross the Idaho border in this stretch. We got to the Gibson Basin Aid station with only 19 miles to go. The sun was up and it was still raining. From here we had to cross a large meadow on a double track that was basically flooded or muddy most of the way. It was more tough going, but things were looking up, or at least we should have been because more climbing followed. Then more downhill and the mud returned. We were trying to find ways around the mud by going through the bush rather than on the dirt track. The last downhill section was all rock and technical. It was also pouring down rain. We had step across stones to cross the river to the aid station. I was soaked. I got there before Gary and sat by the fire. Joan welcomed us and asked what we needed. I was ok, but Gary needed new socks and relubing. At this time Gary said that he was not enjoying this anymore and was not having fun. This meant that he wanted to quit. Although I was feeling ok, I was also tired, wet and looking for an excuse. Gary gave it to me and we decided that we were done. As much as Joan tried our minds couldn’t be changed.
To this date I still can’t believe I dropped so easily with only 15 miles to go, and 8 hours + to complete it. I can’t believe that I couldn’t be convinced to go on. And I’ve been kicking myself ever since. All that way to DNF! My mind has not been right ever since and I will suffer this one until I go back and try again. What didn’t help was seeing all the runners that were way behind us that still managed to finish.
But, what’s done is done and all I can do is look forward to coming back in 2016.
The next week I read that the area got 2.8 inches of rain from when it started to late Sunday. That’s a lot of rain. And a lot of mud!!!!
Goodbye Lobster - Jim Milton, aka Lobster and Smokey. My friend. I will miss you. R.I.P.
2 weeks ago