The Bear 1000 – A Review in Pictures

Get it?! Like a picture is worth 1000 words?! So like, The Bear 100 turned into The Bear 1000?! Well, at least I laugh at my jokes.

Crewing for Matt is always extremely fun, even though he never believes me that I have fun. This time was my first time solo crewing, and just before the trip he surprised me with an early birthday gift that included a bunch of fun camera toys that I could try out during the race. Here’s my recap of our time in Utah, in picture form:

1.

IMG_0201
Crew Prep: This is one of my favorite times before a race, and definitely the most important for me. I am very bad at judging how long it should take him to get from one aid station to the next, so he helps me by calculating his goal times for each aid station, writing down what he will need at each aid station, and how long it will take me to get from each station to the next.

 

2.

 

IMG_0247
Course Sneak (Peak) Peek: Love getting a chance to see the start of the course in daylight, since it’ll be dark when he starts, and we won’t be back at the start since it’s a point-to-point race.

 

3.

IMG_0251
Bib Pick Up: The time that I always feel like I’m more nervous than Matt. He has nerves of steel when it comes to race day, and doesn’t let anything bother him, throw him off, or get his heart rate going faster than it needs to be.

4.

IMG_0250
*WARNING* Sappy Moment: That moment before a race where I see that face, and am so incredibly proud of this man, and feel overwhelmed with gratitude that I get to see that face every day of the rest of my life. Followed by “if he survives this ****ing race”

5.

IMG_0270
First Aid Station: He always comes in looking so strong and determined at the first aid station. I knew he had had a solid start to his day! I also was wearing a North Face onesie and everyone at the aid station was looking at me funny, but hey, I was warm as hell.

 

6.

IMG_0455
Photo Break: Took a pit stop after the first aid station along the road to the next aid station. I had just gotten a tripod and wanted to test it out with the river. A few minutes after I took this photo, I met a little girl with her grandmother and helped her collect leaves along the river.

 

7.

IMG_0443
Waiting: At aid station number 2, just waiting for Matt to come in. The sun was shining, and it was a beautiful temperature out now (it had started out very cold in the morning, so it was so nice to soak in the sun, play with my camera, and read a book.

 

8.

IMG_0414
Pupdate: Also met this very cute dog, but I forgot his name. He was a puppy there with his mom, who was crewing for his dad. He was learning to walk on a leash since he lives in the country and doesn’t need a leash at home. What a foreign concept to me as a city-dweller!

 

9.

IMG_0401
Aid Station 2: Matt coming in strong at the second aid station. Look at that handsome goddamn face with that handsome goddamn smile.

 

10.

IMG_0454
Pit Stop: Another pit stop for the crew after aid station 2. The river was just too beautiful, and the day was too lovely to miss.

 

11.

IMG_0397
Aid Station 3(?): Another aid station down. Matt came into this one looking a little less strong, and very hot. The sun felt great to me since I wasn’t moving, but it was hot for someone around mile 30-40 of a 100 miler.

 

12.

IMG_0381
Honestly though.

 

13.

IMG_0380
Could we have asked for a more perfect day?

 

14.

IMG_0339
Pretty sure it snowed HEAVILY the year before.

 

15.

IMG_0386
New Lens Fun!

 

16.

IMG_0279
Gourmet Meal: No further explanation needed

 

17.

IMG_0305
On The Road Again: On the way to the next aid station I saw lots of cows! We had spoken with a woman the day before who had crewed for the race, and made sure to warn me that the cows weren’t fenced in at this portion, and can sometimes be in the road. Glad she gave me the heads up, since on the way back down it was getting dark.

 

18.

IMG_0293
Pit Stop: Took a pit stop at a park right by Aid Station #4 (?) and it was worth every penny. I paid to park, got my gear, and took off on a little hike around the lake. It was absolutely stunning.

 

19.

IMG_0337
Selfie Game: The selfie game was strong with this one.

 

20.

IMG_0286
Selfie Game +1: The tripod really added some oomph to my selfie capabilities, but also made it really difficult to set up the shot correctly.

 

21.

IMG_0296
This Lens Tho.

 

22.

IMG_0472
Aid Station Number 5 (?): He came into this aid station looking a little down on his luck. Luckily he told me about Jeremy, switched his gear in his pack, and took off with his new running buddy, Jeremy.

 

23.

IMG_0498
Sunset: Now is when the camera fun really began for me. I didn’t get a lot of varied photos, but I had a hell of a time testing out exposure times and capturing the night sky.

 

24.

IMG_0495
Warming Up: Waiting by the fire for Matt at the next aid station. He rolled into the aid station with Jeremy looking extremely tired and very cold. I knew he was in for a rough night then, but I did my best to encourage him. He kept mentioning how bored I must be, and I kept assuring him I was having a lot of fun and so happy to be there for him. He left a few minutes after Jeremy since he needed a bit more time to warm up by the fire.

 

25.

IMG_0494
Nighttime: Capturing my first starry sky thanks to Matt’s birthday gift!

 

26.

IMG_0488
The last photo I took before Matt rolled into mile 75 and dropped from the race.

 

I wish now that Matt could have known the fun that I was having while he was running, as I think it would have lifted his spirits and pushed him to go further than 75 miles. I also wish I had captured any photos of him at mile 75. While he would have hated to look at the photos knowing that he dropped and didn’t finish the race, the look of raw emotion on his face and in his body language was extremely intense. I’ve never seen him look so emotional.

I understand and respect his decision to drop from the race, and am thankful he went on to finish another 100 miler the following month and keep up his Western States Qualifying streak. He’s truly an inspiration to me, and see him so down on himself post-Bear was absolutely heartbreaking to watch. He ran 75 really tough miles – something I can only dream I will get to do in the future, and something most people are simply not able to do. I’m an incredibly lucky woman to spend my life with this man, to get inspired by this man, and to be supported by this man.

 

 

 

 

What a Bear – 2017 Bear 100 Race Report (sort of)

I tried to write this blog post back in October, my race report for my first DNF at the Bear 100. I didn’t finish it. I didn’t really want to.

One and Half Runners was supposed to be a place for self-reflection. It exists for Colleen and me to catalog our running experiences: good or bad, fun or grueling. Colleen has been amazing at capturing the difficulty of chronic injury and illness and has been open and honest about how difficult it is. I relish every opportunity I get to read one of her posts as it provides an authentic peek into how she is progressing and growing as an athlete.

Then there’s me. One DNF and I went into full-on “woe is me” mode. I didn’t write this post. I didn’t write a report of my successful finish at Javelina. I didn’t write about my plans to run Boston or Miwok in 2018. I just didn’t want to. To be honest, I didn’t really want to think about running and certainly didn’t want to write about running. But now, three months removed from the DNF, the approach feels disingenuous. I didn’t take the time to reflect on my experience or try to grow as a runner. I signed up for Javelina for some closure, but that was obviously a reckless decision. So, time to reflect some and recap a bit to try and grow as a runner.

IMG_0250
Nervously waiting for the start.

A bit about the race. The Bear isn’t quite at high altitude, but it certainly has a lot of up and down. Through some pretty remote parts of Utah and just into Idaho (though I never crossed the state line) the Bear was one of the most beautiful races I’ve ever had the privilege of running. I usually geek out about the details of a race, but the Bear has a low key vibe with a barely functional website, so I tried to remain laid back about my approach. The first 20 miles are some of the hardest with a huge climb out of Logan, up Logan peak, and then descending back down to the valley. During the first 10 mile-long descent, I already felt some aches in my quads. Looking back, this was just the first mental slip up. I was absolutely fine, but a bit of doubt slipped in so early into my head that I think the whole day got derailed within those first few hours.

IMG_0256
Nothing but sunshine and sore quads at mile 20.

I met up with Colleen at around mile 19 for the first time and told her I was feeling off. But I’m not a quitter, and I certainly wasn’t prepared to DNF a race when I wasn’t injured and was definitely fit. So, I plugged along. The miles just went by so slowly, with so much more effort than I was used to. Sure, at Grindstone it rained so hard I basically got trench foot and I wanted to fall asleep on the side of the trail because of the 6PM start, but that made me feel like a bad ass! The Bear just made me feel weak and ill-prepared. I saw Colleen again at mile 35 and 45, each time looking admittedly worse for wear.

Leaving mile 50 and starting the second largest climb of the day, I was fortunate enough to run into Jeremy. Jeremy is a bad ass dude from Salt Lake City who has run pretty much every ultra I dream of doing. We chatted for the 8 or so miles between aid stations about why we push ourselves to these extremes, what these races mean, and how fortunate we are to do them. My spirits were lifting and our legs were starting to turn over faster. Finally, I was out of a 50 mile funk and ready to finish this thing! We came into the next aid station and got taken care of by our respective significant others before taking off for another dozen or so miles together. The sun set, and the last few miles of this section began to feel never ending. But I wasn’t alone, and finally I felt like myself.

IMG_0470
Jeremy and me on our upswing.

We got to the aid station and split up to tend to our separate needs. I used the restroom, got more clothes on, and tried to eat a lot. The temperature was dropping fast and I was quickly too cold and had to sit by the fire. Jeremy yelled to me he was taking off and to catch him, but that was the last I saw him. I stayed by the fire trying to warm up, but it never happened. I contemplated dropping here, before even trying to catch Jeremy, but I was still mentally far away from a DNF. I got out of my chair and away from the fire, and took off for a 15 miles on my own.

Out of the aid station I went, immediately starting to shiver. I’m not used to being cold during races, and the extreme chill made me uncomfortable and mad. I had no idea why I was lingering so long in aid stations and why my internal drive was so pathetic. I slowly warmed up on the climb and a long runnable descent had me striding along at a solid clip. I made it to the Logan River aid station (which is not crew accessible) and ate some noodles and waited for some runner to leave with me for the company. Again, if I had just started moving here I probably would have felt so much better, but the cold night left me oddly powerless. When I finally left 10 minutes or so later, I was greeted with a wide river crossing. I fell, submerging my gloves in the freezing water. Out the other side, my body was shaking rather violently as I power hiked desperately to warm up.

My race was over. I was cold and my gait was getting funky with the fatigue. The terrain was getting more technical, not easier as I had anticipated. I just wanted to stop. The next 7 miles from Logan river to where I would drop at mile 75 were extremely hard. I thought about how selfish I was for making Colleen crew for me for 30 hours in remote Utah, alone. I thought about how much money I had spent to get to the race, and how quitting seemed so wasteful. The race was going to be my qualifier for Western States and Hardrock – now what? The pity party raged on for about 2 hours, and when I death marched into the Beaver Mountain Lodge, my decision was made to quit.

Colleen did an amazing job trying to get me back out the door without seeming pushy. Apparently Jeremy was only 15 or so minutes ahead of me, which honestly deflated me even further for my decisions to wait so long at the aid stations. Jeremy went on to finish in 26 or so hours, and I’ve frequently said how if I had stayed with him I’d have a belt buckle for the Bear 100. But that’s a weak excuse and I don’t think I could’ve made it the last 25 miles in 6 hours. I do wish I had company, either Jeremy or a pacer, to drag me that last quarter. I know physically I could’ve done it, but the Bear broke me down and made me accept my first DNF.

I left the aid station and cried in the car. I cried the next morning at the AirBNB. I probably cried a few other times. Colleen was now in grief counselor mode as I tried to reconcile what had happened. Honestly, I thought I would slowly turn into the 50 year old ultrarunner without a single DNF on his ultrasignup account. And if I did have a DNF, the story behind it would be worth telling! But no, at the Bear I simply was worn down, beat up, and could not bring myself to finish. I’ve replayed the race in my head to many times. I think about the end result pretty much daily.

A month later I went on to have a successful race at Javelina. Obviously motivation was high, but I did it alone, without the pressure of making Colleen sit idly for hours or wiping snot from my mustache. And that is a good summary for how I feel about the whole thing. Mentally, I think my race at the Bear is the logical conclusion of 3 years of break-neck ultrarunning. I spent 2015-2017 going to whatever race I wanted, pushing hard, and finishing by any means necessary. In Utah, I couldn’t. Physically, I think I was fine and fit to finish. But mentally, I was at the end of my rope. At the end, I was exhausted by the high benchmark I had set for myself. The march to mile 75 to drop, all I had was feeling selfish for the sacrifices myself and others had made to help me get there.

But what I’m left with is a greater appreciation for being a part of this wonderful sport. I’ve been so lucky to travel the country and meet so many amazing people. I feel like a trail runner, and one that’s excited for all the adventures to come. It feels much less like a need to prove myself and more an opportunity to experience magnificent places and push my boundaries.

A note from the Half Runner:

Matt loves to think I get bored and hate crewing for 30 hours, but I honestly had the most wonderful time crewing solo at this race. Matt got me some fun camera toys for my birthday, so I spent the day enjoying the weather, taking photos, reading books, and making friends with all the other spouses/significant others there supporting their crazy runners. And met a cute puppy! Stay tuned for my recap of Utah, in photo form!