Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Bear Chase Trail Run 50 Miler (Race Recap)

Lakewood, CO
Sunday, September 25
Ultra Marathon #2
Weather - SUNNY, very slight breeze in the morning, cool temps at start, HOT (mid 80s) at the end

"Never Say Never" - Justin Bieber

**Warning. Super duper long.**

I'm not sure WHAT I was thinking when I signed up for the Bear Chase 50 mile trail race. I mean. I sorta read the website. I sorta glanced at the elevation profile:

I sorta looked at the course profile. I mean. I should have realized what I was doing. But. I often do things without REALLY thinking about it. So. I registered. And other than building my mileage base a teeny tiny bit (I started the RLRF marathon program at the beginning of August), I didn't do ANY specific training. No trail running. No runs longer than 20 miles. And yet. I found myself waking up at 4:50 am on a Sunday morning and heading out to the lake to run FIFTY MILES. Seems unbelievable. I hadn't even been really THAT stressed out about it. Which seems weird. I mean, I remember how worried I was for my first marathon. And my first 50k. But this? I mean, it was just too insane to even think about.

So we left the house at 5:10 am, for the 25-30 minute drive to the lake. We get there in plenty of time, especially since we ended up being able to park like 50 feet from the start/finish area. SCORE!! It was still SUPER dark. A bit windy and chilly, but since it was still dark, we knew it was going to warm up.

Fifteen minutes until the start
We sat in the car and waited until about 6:05 before using the bathroom. Using the port-o-potty in the dark is TERRIFYING. By the time we got back to the car we had to apply our sunscreen and get our drop bags ready. I still wasn't freaking out. Have I mentioned that 50 miles is just not even comprehensible?? We drop our bags, L makes another bathroom stop. And then, we barely have enough time for a few pictures:

Still pretty dark!
We started back of the pack
So. How do you mentally prepare to toe the line of a FIFTY MILE RUN??? Well. You just go... I wanted to start in the back, mainly to pace myself well. I mean, for 50 miles, I do NOT want to tire myself out.

Yes, that is Marshall Ulrich in green. He only did three loops...
We were pretty much in the VERY back, but we settled into a pretty decent pace, following 4-5 other runners. The course was pretty well marked, but if you weren't paying attention, there WERE lots of splits in the course. So it was even more important in the beginning that we were following other runners.

Miles 1-3.2 (36:46)

The course is really nice. Shaded, wide and beaten down trails. This is going to be nice later in the afternoon when it starts to heat up. Even though L and I were running "together," there is a lot of single track, so we can't run side by side. Pretty uneventful first few miles. Feeling good.

Look how clean my shoes still are!

Miles 3.2-7.8 (55:18)

First lap there is only fluid at the aid station. No big deal. The course is "green" so since I only have one small bottle on my belt so I had purchased a hydrapouch for my electrolyte drink. This thing was AMAZING. I am notorious for messing with my belt and it just clipped right on and I swear I never even noticed it was there. Grabbed my drinks and off we went. So. Where is this major elevation change? A few ups and downs, but we haven't encountered anything yet. Not too long after we get passed by the super fast 50k'ers. This was tough, on the single track we had to jump off the path. One girl fell... I stopped to make sure she was ok, she said she was. And off we went. We leave the nice tree covered path and enter the first of the barren wasteland... We see a ginormous mountain. And what looks to be... people on it. Yep. There it is... We run to the base and then we are walking. It is steep. The insane super crazy fast people waste their energy and run up it, we walk. Some conversation with a random guy who has also run Greenland. We agree this section of the course is similar to the crazy hairpin uphill around the 4 mile mark of Greenland. We make it to the top... and REALLY narrow & rocky single track with a slight downhill. Literally you would fall down the side of the mountain with one wrong move. Hard to go fast. Get to the base and and we enter a tree covered area by the golf course. I misread the sign about the river crossing. (This is when reading course profiles might be helpful. The sign said "Three River Crossings" - I read it as "Three Rivers Crossing") There is a nice cool breeze I would describe as "cave wind." We run by the golf course, up a small incline and then down a steep, wide, rocky decline. We then arrive at the river crossing. At the time I thought it was THE river crossing, turns out it was the FIRST river crossing. Deeper than we thought:

Toward the middle it was upper calf deep
Squish, squish. We are in another wooded area, wider path. Then we come across a second river crossing. Huh. That was unexpected. This one was not as deep. 

Crossing #2

More running through the woods, a pretty muddy section and then... ANOTHER river crossing. I'd argue the third was the deepest. 

Crossing #3

We come out of the water, a short run and then hairpin turn onto pretty much the only paved section of the course. Golf course on the left, houses on the right. Jog all the way up to the second aid station at Fox Hollow.

Miles 7.8-10.1 (31:47)

Use the port-o-potty. It is placed on a hill and I almost fall in. Terrifying. Dump the sand/gravel out of my shoes. Use some hand sanitizer and grab a handful of skittles (oops, thought they were M&Ms and a pretzel, refill my bottle and head out. A wide open space of skinny single track. One pretty big hill fairly close to the aid station, and then lots of little uphills and rocky downhills. The downhills are really hard, I feel like my ankle keeps rolling. Then along a creek and I'm running off to the side of the trail, discovering it is easier to run in the longer grass. Keeping a good pace.

Go around the bend and see a skinny trail along the road and the next aid station.

Mile 10.1-12.5 (29:58)

Grab more food and fluids and then head out, we cannot believe we have only covered 10 miles. This is insanity. We are still with a decent sized group of people and then we make a 180 and see... YET.ANOTHER.HILL. Blech!!! This hill is steep. No attempt at jogging/running up this. And of course... what goes up, must come down. Skinny, rutted single track down the back side. Through a wide open barren wasteland, another 180 turn, down a wider trail. Back up (again), and then a turn, across a footpath and a few zig zags. Gradual downhill, and then... we are at the street! HUGE downhill, around the parking lot, past the boat ramp, through the parking lot and athlete village and...

I think I'm saying, holy crap, we are only done with ONE??
...we cross the line for loop #1.

Loop 1 - 2:33:43

Mile 12.5-15.7 (40:01)

Stop at the bag drop. Grab more gels and a new piece of gum. Reapply sunscreen. Get more food/fuel, and then off we go. We are pretty much alone this time around. We start running, and after a few minutes, we wonder if we went the right way... We come across the right path, but yeah, we went the long way. Oops. L starts running a bit faster.

I stop to take a quick picture, and by then L is really too far ahead. I can't comfortably chase her on the trail. She is not turning around to make sure I'm behind her. She waits for me at the aid station, where yadda yadda, we refuel.

Mile 15.7-20.3 (59:45)

The course is not closed and there are other people out and about. I come across some horses (yes, horses) and then turn a corner and she is gone. She is so far ahead of me that I can't see her :( I keep going, but at a comfortable pace. I use this time to make sure I get a shot of the mountain that we have to run up:

See it in the distance? I promise, it's huge. Probably two minutes after I take this picture I trip over a loose rock and fall. Into horse shit. Yeah. Not something I ever thought I would say mid race. Sucks even worse because I don't want to contaminate any of my stuff. So no water, no wiping the sweat off my face. Just grumbling about how dirty and smelly and gross I am now. And I'm not even halfway through the second loop...

Flat barren part of the loop right before we head up the mountain, and there is this sign. I find it amusing:

I see L coming up from the middle of the base headed toward the mountain. Turns out she started chasing some random people out for a morning run and went the wrong way. Oops.

Head up the mountain AGAIN and take this shot of the lake:

Notice that there is not ONE cloud in the sky? Yeah. It was HOT. So we struggle up the hill, scary single track along the side of the mountain and back down again.

I have like 4 pictures along this section but I'm not heel striking in this one...
Get to the sign announcing the riverS crossing and no cool "cave wind" this time. Boo. The river crossings were even BETTER this time around. Got to clean up my arm and legs from some of the dirt and horse shit. Exit the woods, head back up the paved path and arrive at Fox Hollow.

Miles 20.3-22.6 (36:27)

Use the bathroom again. Almost fall in again. Dump the sand/gravel out of my shoes again. Refuel again. (Sensing a pattern?) Off we go... it's getting INSANELY hot. Melting. Still some people on the trail. Hot. Tired. Feeling ok, but man, this is taking forever. If I could actually look off the path without fear of tripping and falling, it would be a nice view:

Mile 22.6-25 (34:12)

L stops to use the bathroom, I refuel and hang out to wait for her. A guy sits down on the medical cot and says he is quitting. I think he is joking, he was ahead of us. Nope, he is not kidding, he is done. The volunteers have already arranged for him to take the short cut back to the start. Hmmm. We walk off together and are still with a small group of runners. Up that other stupid gigantic hill. Scary, skinny, painful single track down the backside. Hot, hot, hot through the barren wasteland. Up that hill, around the corner, across the bridge, yadda, yadda, yadda... L runs off ahead of me, I can't/won't chase her.

But look! Still smiling after 25 miles!
Cross the line, still feel... as good as can be expected.

Loop 2 - 2:50:21

Halfway done
Miles 25-28.2 (45:24)

Grab more gels. Grab new gum. Reapply sunscreen. Refuel. Blah blah blah. Start off again. Yep, we had taken a wrong turn the last loop. We laugh about how we got confused. Course is pretty well marked, we should have been paying more attention. We run past a group of cyclists waiting on a picnic bench. They are trying to be inspirational telling us we have already run a marathon so we are halfway there. Yeah, yeah. Best part was the little toddler with them. The kid kept yelling "you guys are nuts!" Hilarious. L stops to use the bathroom. I tell her I'll keep going (walking) and she can catch up. I use the opportunity to "tweet" for the first time ever in a race...

There are a group of people ahead of us. Wow. We thought we were alone on the course. Yay for people!!

Still appreciating the scenery. Sort of. It's shaded but the sun is coming through the trees and it is DAMN HOT. Roasting. L is running ahead of me again a bit. Where on earth is she getting all this energy? I'm tired. Two of the women in front of us stop to use the bathroom. I have a little bit left in me, so I'm determined to run as fast/far as I can while still in the shade.

Trees on one side, empty space on the other... I kept expecting some of the 3-4 people we passed to come running past us, but it never happened. Caught up to a girl "jogging" (more like walking with jogging arms), and passed her right before the Pelican Point aid station.

Miles 28.2-32.8 (1:10:29)

By the time we are refueling the "jogging" girl is coming up. She tries to cut a corner around the aid station. They make her turn around and go around. Heh. I ask what time the cutoff is to start the last loop. They say they don't know. Off we go. Woman chases us down to tell us it's 3:00. O.M.G... is this EVER going to end? I'm so tired. HOW ARE WE GOING TO MAKE THE CUTOFF? WE ARE GETTING SLOWER. L still running ahead of me a bit. Not fast enough so I can't stay with her. Through the last of the wooded area, back in the barren, to the base of the stupid, stupid, huge mountain. !!!!! Up we (slowly) go. Another first. I send super whiny texts to J about how tired I am. By the time we get to the top, start jogging, we are getting passed by more of the 50 milers. Hard to jump out of the way with a cliff on one side and a mountain on the other. HOT. Run out of water this loop. SO THIRSTY.

Come to the river crossings. Man. This is awesome. I love these. Exit the wooded area, take off my shoes halfway up the path. My feet feel AWESOME with no shoes on. I decide to walk in just my socks until the Fox Hollow station.

Miles 32.8-35.1 (32:12)

I have to sit on the cot to put on my shoes. They seem concerned. I ask what happens if we don't make the cutoff. Told that if we don't cross the line by 3 we will be pulled off the course. OMG. NO WAY. I HAVE NOT BEEN RUNNING ALL DAY TO GET PULLED OFF THE COURSE. I suck it up and start to run. L is struggling. She tells me her knee pain is back and that it feels like it is going to explode. I tell her we have like 57 minutes to go or we will have done this all in vain, and what does she want to do. She wants to keep going. So we keep going... as best we can. By the way, the song "Friday" by Rebecca Black is an AWESOME race song (although I have the Glee version). Totally pumped me up.

It is at LEAST a billion degrees out. Maybe more. I have never been so hot and thirsty and tired in my life. Super super super super SUPER happy to see the next aid station.

Miles 35.1-37.5 (32:38)

The volunteers are super nice at the aid station. I am super grumpy because I don't think we have enough time to get back to the start. They cheer us on and tell us they "know we can do it." Annoyed. Refuel and head out. Stupid hill, skinny single track, 180, wider trail. We come across two men that are STRUGGLING. One is sorta trying to jog, the other has literally given up. He is stopping after the 3rd lap. I'm disoriented, have no clue how far until the start area. We have 12 minutes. J is texting asking if we have made it to the start area yet. Do not respond. Irritated. Volunteers from the last aid station come by on a bike and tell us we can do it, we have a mile to go.

WTH. I can't run a 10 minute mile right now!! I'm about ready to cry. I cannot believe we are not going to make it. Screaming. Then, all of a sudden I see the street. I have never been so happy. Come down the bottom of the street and start heading toward the boat ramp... and J jumps out. OMG! He has never come to a race! Gives me the boost I need (and a kiss) and off I go. We cross with literally, less than 5 minutes to spare.

Loop 3 - 3:00:45

3/4 of the way done... barely made the cutoff!
Miles 37.5-40.7 (58:40)

Immediately mixed feelings. I mean, I would have been pissed if I would have missed the cutoff. But I'm so tired and now I still have another loop to go. Grab GU, gum, cake Icy Hot on my thighs, apply MORE sunscreen. Refuel, and we walk off... Literally, we are walking. My legs hurt SO freaking bad. Unsure I will ever be able to run another step. We probably walked about a mile. Try to jog here and there, make it maybe a tenth of a mile and then stop again. How are we going to do this??? The best part of the last loop is commenting on how "this is the last time I will see you ____." insert TONS of profanity. I was kind of looking forward to the aid station more than usual because L's boyfriend had volunteered. We hadn't gotten a picture of the two of us yet, and I was going to have him take one.

Realize that just keeping moving isn't going to be enough. We can't even walk a pace fast enough to finish in 3.5 hours. Running by now is literally torture. My legs ache. No one is behind us. We are pretty sure we are the last ones that made the cutoff. Blech. Do not see L's boyfriend at the aid station.

Miles 40.7-45.3 (1:14:43)

Cannot take any more of this heat. I think I am going to faint. Pretty sure I am not eating enough, but been so stressed with the cutoff times that I don't have time to eat, much less chew anything. All of a sudden, we see L's boyfriend monitoring one of the major turns. SUPER quick picture (hurry, we need to make the cutoff!)

We really were out there. Really!!
Get to the wasteland before the mountain and we actually see someone at the peak. Maybe we aren't so far behind after all. We need to make up some time after all the walking at the beginning of the loop. We actually jog the whole side of the mountain and downhill to the sign for the crossing. Mostly to a run/walk, the best we can. The river crossings are freaking amazing, and when I get to the paved section I walk without my shoes again. Seriously. Feet never felt so good.

Miles 45.3-47.6 (41:05)

Hear the volunteers - "Yay, the twins are here!" (We don't correct them). I ask at the aid station what happens if we don't cross before the "course closure" at 6:30. She says it will be a DNF. I am devastated. We have come SO far. I know we only have like 5 miles to go, but I really don't think I can do it. I grab a half a banana, and we do an even more pitiful run/walk then before. This time I am texting with Heather. Thank you Heather! It really helped motivate me to run for the bling (seriously, I'm not being sarcastic). L then tells me she hates me and wants to choke me. I don't really blame her. I'm pretty miserable too. If I had the energy to do the jig when I saw the last aid station, I probably would have done it. Too weak.

Miles 47.6-50 (32:32)

We thank the volunteers. They tell us we look pretty damn good for having run over 47 miles. Thanks. We feel... as good as can be expected? We actually had made pretty good time the last loop, and I was "mostly" confident that as long as we jogged at least half of the last section that we would be able to finish in the time limit. Up stupid gigantic hill, down steep single track. The sun is FINALLY behind a cloud (gee, thanks) and the diminished blinding sun helps a bit. I finally start to think... holy shit. I am going to ACTUALLY RUN 50 MILES. L is ahead of me and I make sure to tell her that I have nothing left and ask her to make sure not to leave me in the dust so we can cross together. I see the street and sorta tear up. OMG.

We feel like we are running really fast. We can hear the announcer (yay, there are still PEOPLE AT THE FINISH LINE!!) We jokingly ask the last course volunteer if there is a shortcut... no, not if we want to run the full 50. Fine. Around the boat ramp, through the lot... and thanks to L's boyfriend, here is a video of us "running" to the finish:

Loop 4 - 3:27:23

Official Time - 11:52:20
Overall Place - 53/80 (Only 54 finishers, 26 DNF)
Division Place - 13/14 (Includes DNFs)
Gender Place - 16/22 (Includes DNFs)
Lap 1- 2:33:43
Lap 2 - 2:50:21
Lap 3 - 3:00:45
Lap 4 - 3:27:23

I hit the lap button on my iPhone. Collected my GINORMOUS medal. All while making the comment... "I may never run again." I was psyched to see that there was still BEER!!! The guy gave me two :) I had J take a finish line picture of me and L:

Yep. I can SMILE when I am done running FIFTY. FREAKING. MILES.

So. What are my thoughts? Well. This was by FAR the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. Even while I was running, the thought of actually RUNNING 50 miles seemed impossible. I don't know if I just never thought I would be able to do it. I don't know if I thought that if I just tackled a little bit at a time that I "might" do it. But we did it. We finished with 7:40 to spare for an official time. There was still one runner behind us, and she is still listed in the results and got a medal, even though she finished almost 15 minutes after the cutoff. 100 people were originally registered. Only 80 started. And only 54 finished. I think that makes me pretty damn awesome.

The volunteers on this course were AMAZING. Always running to meet us to ask if we needed anything, always being supportive. Definitely couldn't have done so well without them! And the course itself? I'll admit, tough, but pretty amazing. I might be back next year... but maybe just for the 50k...

I recognized someone I friended off Facebook, and we chatted for a few minutes before we headed off to pick up the kids.

FYI. I can barely move. But I promise... I'll be running again. Soon.


  1. Congrats on being insanely awesome! I've mountain biked most of the trails the race was on and yea...those hills suck!

    The Husband also read that trail sign as "Three Rivers Crossing" and we biked it until we came to the river, then I made him turn around. I'm mean like that.

    But seriously, you did awesome in finishing your race! That evening I ran on a tiny portion of the course and thought of you! Also, the runner on another blog I read ran the half an mentioned falling in front of two women...was that you!? Here's the link to her recap: http://runwithjill.blogspot.com/2011/09/bear-chase-trail-12-marathon.html

  2. what a great recap- i was laughing about having the horse shit on the legs- gah! How awesome to say you did 50- I don't think I'll ever get enough mental fortitude for that- kudos!

  3. Wow, B, wow! You guys are amazing. I liked that J surprised you, what a great guy.
    And, you are right, porta potties in the dark are super scary.

    Skittles, not M&Ms, I agree, a big disappointment.

  4. insane. i am way impressed. i don’t know if i could do it-much less on a course like that! i hope you take several rest days and enjoy lots of beer!

  5. WOW! You are pretty damn awesome!!! This is so great! (Sorry, but I laughed at the falling in horse shit thing.) I absolutely can & cannot believe you did this & you better be so, so proud. I love this... and it kind of KIND OF makes me want to do one someday. But only kind of. :) (I'm still working on the whole 26.2 seems like a LONG way thing... let alone 50?!?!) SO COOL! CONGRATS!

    BE PROUD!!

  6. I found your blog while looking for a race recap of the Atlanta Half. When I noticed you were doing an ultra I stuck around. :) I'm training for my first 50 miler in December.

    Congratulations - great job. I can only imagine how tough it is to stick with a loop course when it is hot and you are so tired. I'd want to quit! Good on you for not doing so.

    Oh yeah, get some gaiters! They are cheap and work wonders for keeping the dirt and crap out of your shoes. Dirty Girl Gaiters makes cute printed ones.

  7. Congratulations! What an accomplishment ! I would love to run an ultra one day. Also the idea of completing 50 halfs in 50 days brings a smile to my face :-)

    I found your blog via http://oual.wordpress.com. Good luck with the Ragna Relay too.

    This is my blog http://conquering26-2.blogspot.com/

  8. Congratulations to you and your sis! I started to tear up a bit while watching the video--so inspiring! But where's the horse shit? You look clean!

  9. Effing goosebumps just reading this!!! :) You're such a rock star!

  10. What a great recap!! It sounds like a pretty intense race!

  11. Way way AWESOME! This was a great race report! I read every word and completely enjoyed it! Can not even begin to imagine doing 50 miles. And it was a very eventful day for you! Not sure if it was Jill or not that fell in front of you but she has a great RR too. I'm sorry I laughed about the horse shit...but you knew we would right...I bet you laughed just a little too...at least once you got it off. :)
    Congrats on a great race!

  12. You are an inspiration! Congratulations! Wow! Just Wow!

  13. And THIS is just another reason why you are my female running hero!

    I think i got blisters, shin splints, a side stitch and bowel problems just imagining running this along with you two. I am so glad you two stuck together one this one. What a crazy, hard, kick ass day!

    *Congratulations doesn't even sound like enough of a word for what you just did!*

  14. Wow Becca - You & L are just amazing. I can't fathom running that far. So impressed with you guys. Would you have guessed this, a few years ago? Crazy, girl!

  15. You are AWESOME!! I will respond more tomorrow after I have more time to read it all...but how did you snag your race pictures? I tried to right click but it wouldn't let me!!

    You did awesome, wow!!

    Ok, more tomorrow....

  16. I am still shaking my head in awe. You BOTH are incredible. A super big Congrats!! Loved the recap, laughed and cried with you both. And great BLING too!

  17. Ok, I had time to read the entire report now. OMfreakingGOD!! You are amazing (and your friend, L, too!). I seriously was roasting and I only did the half and was done by 9:15, but as I was standing out in the field waiting for my PT, I felt nauseous and knew I'd never be able to do it. Btw, I know I saw you two...I remember those two cute "twins" coming by. Fun!!

    Well done, lady - I am in total awe! When my PT told me he was doing the 50K and he hardly ever ran, I never believed anyone could do it. But he did. And you did....and that gives me hope!! Thank you!!!

  18. I loved that look on your face when you crossed the finish line! That sigh of relief. But it's more than just relief, and you know what I'm talking about! :)

    congrats! that's awesome! hope to see you on the trails soon!

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  20. Congrats! I was the 47th finisher. I remember you coming across the line as I contemplated how in the hell I was going to drive myself home! Great job out there, and with the report, and I hope to see you at the race next year!


  21. Congrats!!! 50 miles is so amazing. I can't even imagine:). Looking back over all the races you have done and how far you can run now...pretty amazing!

  22. Great report! Amazing job on your 50! You are freaking awesome.

    But it did remind me of how the mental issues go during the 50...with another one coming up for me in November, I needed the reminder that it won't be all sunshine and roses. But it will be worth it!

    I love that you didn't give up and you guys finished together. Awesome!


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