Monday, September 29, 2014

Bear Chase Trail Run 50 Miler (Race Recap)

Lakewood, CO
Saturday, September 27
Ultra Marathon #11

After I ran the 50 mile at Bear Chase in 2011 I swore I would never do it again, mainly because of the 12 hour time limit. For most of the year, NYC was the goal race, so when registration opened, I initially registered for the 50K. But then, I signed up for a 100 mile race in November and thought I might as well bump up to the 50 mile and see where I was at. Thanks to the addition of the 100K distance in 2013, the time limit was now a luxurious 15 hours.

And then I starting watching the extended forecast. With every passing day the forecast was for warmer and warmer temperatures. I was cursing myself for upgrading. I have run this race three times already and I know how hot it gets. A brief conversation with my dad:

Me: "Will I see you on the course again?" (he has been known to ride his bike over to the park to spot me on the course).
Dad: "Yeah, I'll come see you. IN THE EMERGENCY ROOM. You should be running something shorter."

Uh. Ok. And with that in mind...

I woke up at 4:40, hoping to get out the door in about a half hour. I had packed 99% of my things on Thursday, to allow for things I would inevitably forget to load up on Friday night or Saturday morning. I had a piece of pepperoni pretzel pizza for breakfast and a cup of coffee. Headed to the race around 5:15. I arrived at the lot at Bandimere around 5:40, briefly talked with Dan about possibly pacing, then got on the shuttle to head to the start.

I had picked up a bib for a friend, and was worried about having the time to find him before the race, stash my things and use the bathroom. Luckily, I found fellow INKnBURN ambassador Jeff with no problems, and we did the quick bag hand off. I ran into Courtney and Luke, who offered to let me use their tent to store my bag so my stuff would be easier to find. It was GREATLY appreciated as by the time I had arrived the drop bag area was pretty much full.

Quick trip through the bathroom line, and one picture before the start.

Jeff and Me
I had no idea how the day would go. Other than the marathon I ran on Labor Day I hadn't logged anything longer than a half marathon since the beginning of August.

Loop 1 (2:36:48)

I was literally the last runner across the timing mat as I knew I would be going slow and steady all day. My calves are unpredictable and can seize up with virtually no notice. I didn't want to end up causing a traffic jam if I needed to walk on a single track section.

The first few miles were fairly quiet and uneventful. Briefly, I felt a bit chilled in the shaded area, but knew it would heat up fast, so I was grateful for the cooler temps.

The race started about 20 minutes before sunrise, so we were able to have a nice view of a beautiful sunrise (before the giant ball of fire tried to kill us all):

The only near fall I had was very early in the race. I tripped over a root or a rock. Regardless, I managed to catch myself without actually hitting the ground. Hurray!!

My legs had finally started to warm up, and after only a few short walk breaks, I felt good enough to actually run. I didn't have to grab anything at the first aid station and headed out toward Mt. Carbon.
Heading to Mt. Carbon - Loop 1 (This whole section of the course was under FEET of water last year)
My strategy for Mt. Carbon is always the same. WALK. I am a terrible uphill runner and I know it just tires me out.

I swear, it's taller than it looks
I started chatting with a guy who remembered me from Chase the Moon (turns out it was Dustin Lee). It still felt cool running along the backside of Mt. Carbon, by the golf course until we entered the "woods" with the river crossings. The water was DEFINITELY deeper than I remembered.
River Crossing - Loop 1
It wasn't super hot yet, but the river crossing still felt nice. I remember commenting to Dustin on the short sidewalk portion of the course that it usually felt uphill here, but at this point in time it seemed flat. We parted ways at the aid station so he could change socks. I can't remember if I grabbed any food at this stop - might have taken coffee cake. I had some coke and headed out of Fox Hollow to the Cattail Creek aid station.

It is somewhat flat (maybe a gradual uphill) until you hit this monstrosity of a hill about a half mile in. I have never taken a picture of that particular hill, but it is SOUL CRUSHING. I power walked up the hill and then ran almost the whole section in the "marsh" until I had to stop and use the bathroom at the aid station.

Overlooking the golf course
I was feeling great at this point, and even the last 2.4 miles from Cattail back to the start seemed to go by decently fast. I really only recall walking "Mini Mt. Everest."
View from top of "Mini Mt. Everest"
I was really surprised when I saw how fast I run the first loop. Back at the start I grabbed a 1/4 PB&J, filled my water bottles with more Nuun and ice, reapplied sunscreen, briefly talked to Luke and headed out.

Loop 2 (2:39:59)

It was starting to get really hot. I had seen my friend Kate changing clothes at the start line and within a few minutes she cruised by me. She made the run look so easy!

I had to change my strategy early on. I was feeling mostly ok, but just sort of... "off" in the head. Not really dizzy, not really light-headed, just "off." I walked a bit more than I should have, but tried to run all the flats and downhills and anywhere there was shade.

Looks like the middle of nowhere (really, on the way to Mt. Carbon)
Have I mentioned the sun was TRYING TO KILL ME DEAD???
Halfway up Mt. Carbon
Everything seemed just a "tad" harder than the first loop. Mt. Carbon seemed to take longer and seemed steeper. I got a second wind at the top of the hill and felt like I flew down the backside and over the rivers and through the wood (see what I did there?)

The water crossings felt EXTRA great his loop:

I took off my shoes halfway up the sidewalk. Just as I remembered from years past, it felt GLORIOUS. I knocked all the sand out of my shoes and everything dried up almost instantaneously. More coke and coffee cake at Fox Hollow. Thankfully, they are giving out ice water now. The sun is practically boiling the water in my jet pack. So hot.

I run about half the section to the horrible hill. Already struggling. Run most of the section in the marsh to Cattail. See friend from run club a the aid station. Hot. Grab pickles and more PB&J.

Valley near Cattail
Everything is a blur until I get back to the aid station. I am REALLY surprised that my pace seems to have not changed substantially from the first loop.

Reapply sunscreen. More Nuun. More Mountain Dew. Talk briefly with Courtney (who had to drop due to illness) and Luke. Head back out. Halfway done.

Loop 3 (2:57:23)

And then the wheels start turning. I mean, nothing HURTS yet. I am tired, but not in pain. I had no real goal going into the race other than to hopefully be done before it got dark enough to require a headlamp (maybe around 12.5 hours). If I could maintain a reasonable pace... what if I could beat my other 50 mile time?

The giant ball of fire in the sky is trying to kill me. No doubt about it. There are still ZERO clouds. It is hot. I am not feeling well. I have taken a handful of gels by now (maybe 4), but just tiny bits of food. I feel light-headed and... well, HOT.

I'm pretty much only running downhills and half the flats. I am finding it increasingly difficult to keep moving. My IT band is holding up but putting up a bit of a fight running down the back of Mt. Carbon. Salvation:

The crossings are AMAZING. Maybe I will  survive after all. Shoes off again, walk up the sidewalk, more ice water, more coffee cake (getting stale), run/walk until I get passed the hill. Half run, half walk until Cattail.

Still monitoring my time, I am definitely on track for a possible PR as long as I don't totally fall apart.

Loop 4 (3:16:08)

I cross the line for the last time until I will finish. More Nuun, pickles, and Coke. More sunscreen. I see Ben and he asks how I am doing. I say, "great, I think, on track for a PR!" Dan chases me asking if he can pace me now. Ben tells him no pacers allowed until 3. I arrive about 15 minutes too early for one. So I headed out. Much more walking than running. Right as I'm heading into Pelican Point Dan shows up with a pacer bib. Looks like I will have company for the last 10 miles.

I tell him the ULTIMATE goal would be to finish by 6:00, secondary goal would be to PR. I hate to feel tired. I hate for things to hurt. But I REALLY wanted a PR, and a BIG one. I turned off the headphones and tried not to hate Dan too much for his harassment encouraging words. On fresh legs, he was anxious to run and was scurrying up hills like it was nothing.

Somewhere around the river crossings (about 45 miles in), was when my body finally started to hurt. My right hip was bothering me, and on the climbs my ass was aching with every step. I did NOT want to stop. I wanted to keep moving, I wanted to run. I WANTED THAT PR.

I ran tiny bits here and there. I tried to open up my stride (sometimes it is really a bummer being so short). I barely stopped at Cattail. It was going to be VERY close for me to hit that OMG goal of 6:00, which would put me at finishing in 11.5 hours.

My Garmin 220 (with an 8-10 hour battery life) had lasted 10:44:xx until mile 46.75, when I put it in watch mode so I could monitor the time.

I hurt so bad. Dan ran the last section until the road. ran down the big hill, on the first section of road. I walked to the corner and then ran it in until the finish. I COULD NOT BELIEVE MY EYES WHEN I SAW THE FINISHER CLOCK STILL READ 11:30:XX.

I had done it. I hate making goals with myself during a race because INEVITABLY, something will go wrong. Yet somehow, the impossible had happened. I had run a 22 minute PR on the day that Colorado decided to mirror the surface of the sun.

Not sure I could smile bigger if I tried.

From the Garmin:
Miles 1-5 (12:26, 12:37, 12:33, 12:23, 11:56)
Miles 6-10 (13:55, 12:13, 13:14, 13:49, 12:40)
Miles 11-15 (13:18, 11:06, 12:44, 12:52, 11:23)
Miles 16-20 (12:38, 12:51, 13:47, 10:29, 12:49)
Miles 21-25 (15:56, 12:43, 14:21, 12:29, 12:59)
Miles 26-30 (13:56, 12:33, 12:47, 14:57, 13:01)
Miles 31-35 (16:15, 12:58, 17:16, 14:43, 14:10)
Miles 36-40 (14:49, 13:19, 15:12, 14:48, 14:02)
Miles 41-46.75 (16:20, 14:50, 17:37, 14:09, 16:26, 19:01, 15:21)

Dan headed off to change clothes and I immediately found beer and a seat in the grass.

Beer never tasted so good
After sitting and absorbing everything that happened I realized I should eat something. I was hoping for grilled cheese, but there wasn't any. Instead, I had delicious pancakes and sausage. Dan offered to pay for me to sit in Elevated Legs for 20 minutes. I swear I felt like a new person after:

  • 50 miles is hard. It's especially hard on a super hot day. However, I think it helped me this time to know EXACTLY what I was in for. The only other 50 miler I have run was this same course, in very similar weather. I made sure to hydrate as best as I could, and I tried to stave off cramps as best as I could. I think I ran about as smart as I could, considering the conditions.
  • I did NOT hate the experience as much as last time. The last time I was racing the clock to finish in the course cutoff of 12 hours. Arguably, I am not as fast as I was in 2011, yet I managed to finish substantially faster.
  • This is one of the best trail races I have run, which is why I have now run four years in a row. From start to finish, everything is planned very well. The course is very well marked. Never have I felt like I would get lost or miss a turn. Course markings - A+
  • The aid stations are wonderful. The volunteers are top notch. I would have preferred something other than Honey Stinger gels (I just don't like how they taste), but I always bring my own so that was a non-issue. They always have a ton of different "ultra" foods out. Fig newtons, sandwiches, chips, pretzels, salted watermelon, M&M's, pickles, Coke/Mountain Dew/Ginger Ale. AND ICE. THANK GOD THEY HAD ICE.
  • The finish line party is the best. They leave EVERYTHING up for the very last finishers. As a back of the pack runner, I cannot even express how much this means to me. I love arriving and still having the announcer there. Still having PLENTY of beer and soda and food. It's so nice to not be alone at the finish.
  • I will obviously run this again next year, although maybe not the 50 mile. Gotta let the PR stand for a while.


  1. I made it look easy....haha for the first lap and a half maybe...definitely paid for it later! :)

    Seriously awesome PR though! I was impressed with how quickly you went through the aid stations!!! I still haven't plugged in my garmin to compare moving time with overall time, but I know I wasted a lot of time stopping at all of them!

  2. Congrats! Wow! The sun is my nemesis too, so I totally understand being hot and miserable.

  3. Yay for the PR! I've noticed you' ve been picking up the pace lately. Maybe you were just in a tiny slump, and now you're out? Because you've had a bunch of good races of late!

  4. Awesome. You faced off against adversity and came out the winner. I am really impressed that you can continue to knock out these really long races, have a positive story to tell, and thanks again for the awesome pictures. Would love to know more about the elevated legs.... I have not heard about them. And I do know what you mean about pictures of hills that don't do them justice.

    Again nice work!

  5. Impressive demonstration of grit, Rebecca! It was good to see you and A at the aid station in the half on Sunday.

    1. How did your race go Dave?? Great to see you as well!

    2. The race was challenging but fun, and I was happy with my time. My wife ran her first 10K there too, and eventually she forgave me for not telling her there was a BIG hill in the 10K course (oops!).

      I have already read your follow up post that the three pounds came off and more. I am curious since you have done several ultra runs. Do you usually see a temporary weight gain after an ultra?

  6. Great job! I am so impressed with you, way to grit it out and get a new PR, especially in the heat. As always I love your outfit..super cute! I need to try those elevated legs, I saw them at the Ragnar Relay I did, but was too cheap to try them out.

  7. OH, thank the (running) gods! They way it was going I wasn't sure this would end well. CONGRATS on your PR! One of these days, I will run an ultra. Until then, vicariously is just fine.

    (P.S. seriously...why aren't you dating Dan?)

  8. I LOVE this!! and so curious about dan (just like comment above). you are mentally stronger than you think!! nice work. i don't know if I will ever have the balls to do an ultra.


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