Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Bear 100

The Bear 100 finish line banner

For starters let me say that the Bear is a fantastic 100 mile trail race. The trail is challenging with around 22,000 feet of climb, most single track, but does have some nice dirt road sections just when you want them. Leland Barker, RD...along with Errol Jones and Phil Lowry put on this classic in the northern Wasatch mountains. Aid stations did a great job this year. I would have liked to have seen more soup out there - it was mentioned in the pre-race briefing, but only one aid station had any when we arrived. That was disappointing, as soup is one thing both Deb and I count on during a run like this.

I didn't get to see the whole course, unfortunately. It turned out to be a very warm day, which my stomach never has liked. The one mistake I made was not to bring my maltodextrin, which I use as my fuel. Flying to races I always bring less and thought I could get by on water and Ensure, but it didn't work out. When it's hot, everything has to go right for me to finish.
As race week approached while still in New Hampshire, the weather forecast was for upper 60's in the mountains during the day and low 40's/upper 30's at night, which is perfect! When we watched the news wed night in our hotel (more on that later), the talk was of a return to summer! Now mid 80's during the day were predicted....and some told me it got near 90 degrees in the middle of the day. See how pathetic I am in the heat.....

Steve's not having a very good day

Back to the hotel....and I am only mentioning this as a warning to future Bear runners. Before making reservations, I asked a fellow Wasatch Speedgoat Mountain Running teammate where they would recommend and he said he stayed at the Econolodge and it was fine. The morning of the race as we were packing the car to drive to the start, a runner who I don't know came by me with a small cup in his hand screaming about bedbugs and blood all over his sheets! Deb went up in our room and saw nothing anywhere, but we only had about 2 min. to check, and the bad infestation in that one room leads to the very possible infestation in other rooms as well. We are being safe rather than sorry, and she's now in the process of washing everything in our bags in hot water with extra soap and drying in high heat in the dryer. We're also fumigating the luggage and the car. Since a call to the hotel produced no response, we called the Board of Health.
So remember this if you go next year....Don't stay at the Econolodge in Logan, Utah!

On to the race...The race began right on time at 6AM in front of the Hyrum Gibbons State Park where we all left our vehicles to return to on Saturday night. As I have started to do since losing my speed to older age, I start by walking, letting the field run away from me. Deb and Robert Andrulis joined me. It's such a nice relaxing way to begin. After maybe a mile on local neighborhood roads, we hit the trail. It started flat, but soon was climbing....up, up for about 3 miles. It was fun running along with Ed Furtaw and Rick Valentine talking about races we had been at. We were in the middle of a long congo line of runners with no chance of passing on the narrow trail, so the speed was set. The turn at the top put us on the Syncline Trail, which wandered up and down around and about and eventually at the top we reached a nice runnable jeep road which brought us to the first aid station at around mile 10.

Congo line and Deb reaching the top of the first climb

We were having fun still and joined Barb Sorrell out of the aid station, but soon the sun came up and with it the beginning of the end for me. There was one really fantastic bit of runnable trail in here somewhere where we went downhill for 10 miles....10 miles! It was on a beautiful single track trail with hardly a boulder or root to trip on. Deb and I both ran this a little too aggressively and felt a need to take a small break at aid #2, about 20 miles. The 2nd and 3rd aid stations came quickly and we were still doing OK, going back and forth with Ed Furtaw but by the 3rd aid station, it was flat out sunny and hot. From #2 to #3 was only a 3 mile slightly uphill road and I walked and jogged from shade patch to shade patch. Here I was really beginning to come undone...and the next stretch was a long uphill, 5 miles if I remember right, so we both loaded up with Cokes and Ensure and started the hike up.

Barb Sorrell coming into aid station #3, about mile 25

Much of the rest of it was a struggle for me and I think Deb knew it...saying things like "How are you doing, you're getting quiet". I actually tend to do better when I'm alone and is why we usually don't stay together in these things, but we were hoping to finish together as we neared our 8th anniversary.
A lot of this section I was with Deb and Robert Andrulis, both who were doing fine, so I try to move a little quicker as to not hold them back. Last year at Hardrock, I did my own thing and after Ouray around mile 50 I was flying up the trail. Here, trying to stay with others, Deb because that was the plan and Robert because he's a good friend made me move quicker, overheat more and stupidly drink less because I was getting overheated, along with the slight nausea that always comes with running in the heat. At Hardrock, Robert was the first runner I went by in the dark heading up to Engineer's. Hardrock was also cooler last year.

Deb obviously feeling great and having fun

At the next aid station, which I think was around mile 30 it was now brutally hot for me. I filled my bottles with water, but scowled at the Ensure Deb was wanting me to take. Robert's crew gave me some ice to put under my hat and away we went. Robert eventually pulled away as I was really slowing down now, dragging Deb back with me. By the time we reached the miles 38 aid, I was really a mess. Sick, feeling weak and I just walked over to the river and sat in it until I started to shiver. I then told Deb to go and I would catch her later after it cools down.

So after some convincing, Deb moved on to catch up with our teammate, Beth Simpson Hall...but not before taking care of me. She brought me some Coke and a cup of Alka Seltzer, which I gagged down and got some more Coke before leaving. I was still a little woozy when I left, but needed to keep moving even if just slow walking. I left the aid station, knowing I shouldn't just yet and started up the hill. I struggled up even the smallest climb as the body was just too overheated and I had only taken in a small amount of calories the past several hours in the form of Coke and even that was only a few small cups. The one bad thing about not taking in calories is your don't think straight...if I had been thinking wisely I would have stayed at the aid station until my stomach was better and my head clear.

Some beautiful section of the Bear 100

This next section to the 45 mile aid station was not a good one. I saw no runners until we reached a road and had taken no calories with me, so I'm basically a sinking ship. I was trying my hardest to sip my water, but even that was causing me to gag....not good. I reached a road, which was actually a pleasure in the waning sunlight. It was cooling down, the sun was going behind the ridge and an aid station with hopefully some much needed soup would be coming up soon. Along here at the bottom of the road I caught up to Chuck Wilson, who was out of water and having his own problems. I offered him some of my water because I was having trouble getting it down anyway and he took a half bottle of warm water. I mentioned that the river looked mighty fine and he later told me he took my advice and drank from the river, which helped him recover.

The sun is going down around mile 43

In to the aid station I go, feeling like the world wanted to come out of my stomach and the as it did it was also spinning. I was in trouble and knew it, but I have a knack of being able to hide it, which isn't always good. I walked up to the table to see if they had some soup and a smiling Karl Meltzer said "Steve, how about some soup?" Oh, man do I ever want that! This is like a dream come true for me...it's cooling down, it's dusk and I now have soup! And it's my favorite....Campbell's chicken noodle! I sat down in front of Karl's table and as soon as I emptied the cup, would hand it back to Karl, who's fill it up for me. I think I had four little mini cups, sat for maybe 20 minutes, filled my bottles with water and headed out with Robert Andrulis and Chuck Wilson and his pacer. Something I was forgetting to do is to dump some electrolytes into my bottles, but figured the soup would take care of it, but I still should have dumped the caps in the bottle because I was so far behind.
The sun is gone, coolness is setting in...

Hiking up the steep 3 miles was a real struggle and until the soup kicked in, it would be. Chuck pulled away, then Barb went by and before you know it, it happened. My stomach reeled and up came all the soup and any water I had in my stomach. Not good...

From here on in it was just an awful struggle, but one thing did happen that took my mind off of it.

Just after I stepped across a small creek, I heard a noise in the woods to the right. I ignored it, then heard a branch crack and some snorting. WTF! I turned my light, a wonderfully bright Fenix LED light over my shoulder and saw 2 eyes at eye level with me about maybe 50 yards or so. The eyes were walking towards me at a steady clip and with each step I heard a snort, like real heavy breathing. All I could think of that might be that large on all fours was a grizzly bear. My heart raced and I turned my light away from the beast and started to hike up the hill as fast as I could.(stupid, if it was a bear, but who's thinking straight at that point?) It was pitch dark and all I could see was what my light was shining on. I had visions of being mauled on the side of the trail and no one finding me until the next morning... and then the beast spoke ........mmmmmoooOOOOOOO!
It was some free range cow that was not very happy that these bright lights were going by. She may have been as scared as I was! The good news was, I was going to live. The bad news was,
I was going to live.....

But of course, then it brought me back to the race and the climb and how I was feeling and then BARF! It happened again....walk take a sip of water and BARF! This continued all the way up and then back down this 8800 foot climb. I also had a splitting headache and at this time realized that it is not my day....yeah if I was thinking right, I probably would have talked myself into sitting for a bit and going on, but all I wanted was relief from the stomach reeling and retching. On the way up and down the hill I had to sit down on the side of the trail many times as many runners went by, all stopping to make sure I was alright. What a fantastic sport this is...it's a stupid sport, but the best people in any sport are ultrarunners. I walked into the aid station after getting a little confused going through a camp ground and stepped up to the table and told the timer I was not going on.

So the next day I asked Deb....so what did I miss? Her words were that the views were much nicer, but it also got even hotter and the climbs were steeper and higher. She hooked up with Beth Simpson-Hall and together they made their way into the morning and to Deb's first 100 mile finish since 2003 Hardrock.

A smiling and happy Beth and Deb after their finish

The finishing touch of the Bear is enjoying Leland's trout on the grill, along with some shrimp on the barbie, veggie burgers and veggie soup.

Thanks to Leland, Phil, Errol and the many volunteers working the aid stations and timers calling in the times all day long. The Bear is one fine and unique 100 mile race and I highly recommend it. I hope that I get in next year because this race is becoming so popular that I see a lottery in it's future. Hope not...

Deb's Race Report
(Steve had the camera, so I have no photos, just song lyrics )

Life is Good
Life is good, the grass is green
The good Lord smilin' on you and me
Gonna knock on wood
Sweet sunshine everywhere I look

You love me like no one could
Life is good

For the first 38 miles, I had the pleasure of Steve's company. We had no goal but to finish, so were not pushing the pace, just enjoying being together in those mountains. The morning was cool, scenery was great, legs were fresh, life was good.

Stuck in the Middle With You....
I don't know why I came here tonight,
I got the feeling that something ain't right...
Okay, this is just plain dumb. I made a pit stop along the way while Steve waited on the road.
Ducking behind some weeds, I suddenly realized they weren't weeds... they were some kind of burr - and they had attached themselves all over the inside and outside of the little spanky pants that I wear under my skirt. You guys, never mind. It's a girl thing. well, seeing as these little buggers are the inspiration for the guy who invented velcro, they weren't just attached, they were STUCK. I had to pluck them off one by one by one... I think there must have been near 100 of them. Steve is out on the road calling, "Deb, are you okay in there?" I don't think I ever got all of them, because I sure did feel them the rest of the race.

You Say Goodbye, and I say Hello.
I don't know why you say goodbye, I say hello..

Once Steve got sick, and insisted I go on without him, I sadly left the aid station alone, but learned that fellow Nanny Beth Simpson-Hall wasn't long gone from the aid station, so I set out hoping I might catch her, thinking it'd be way fun to run with a fellow goat. I did finally see her on a trail across the draw, and caught up eventually.

Running on Empty
Looking out at the road rushing under my wheels
I don't know how to tell you all just how crazy this life feels
I look around for the friends that I used to turn to, to pull me through
Looking into their eyes I see them running too

Running on, running on empty
Running on, running blind
Running on, running into the sun
But I'm running behind
Beth had a pacer for the night section, a friend of fellow goat Corey (who was working an aid station at mile 62). Jim McGregor was just the nicest guy, and he just took me under his pacing wing too... and was like a crew at the aid stations, helping both of us and staying positive and upbeat and steady. We picked up another newbie hundred miler, Barry, along the trail, but Beth led the parade the whole way. She is strong and steady, that gal! Running with Beth and gang made my race.
We travelled well at night, a good long section of downhill running and we hiked strong on the ups. We hop scotched with several runners, Duane Nelson and gang, Matt, David, and several others, and at one point passed Chuck Wilson barfing on the trail and Tim Seminoff pausing to put on some extra layers in the nightime chill. We knew that seeing Tim meant he was not having a good day, but he was pretty quiet so we travelled on.

Here Comes the Sun
Little darling, the smiles returning to the faces
Little darling, it seems like years since it's been here
Here comes the sun, here comes the sun
and I say it's all right

Barry, doing his first 100, was having a low point during the night and talked of dropping out at the next aid. Jim wisely counseled him to wait for the morning, as those "witching hours" before dawn see us all having doubts . "Nobody is allowed to drop at night. You'll feel 100% better when the sun comes up", he said. It's just always true, isn't it? Barry hung in there, and did indeed make a comeback.. Yay, Barry!

Love or Confusion?
O-oh, my mind is so messed up -uh, goin' round and round
Must there be all the colors - uh,
Without names, without sound, baby?
My heart burns with feeling, but, uh
Woe, but my mind, its cold and reeling
Is this love, baby, or uh-huh, or is it confusion?

Leaving the aid station at the ski lodge, we simply could not find the trail out, and the directions were confusing too. It was morning, the glow sticks were not glowing, and we couldn't find markers. After about 15 minutes of frustration, we finally got on track. Maddening!

Here Comes the Sun... with a Vengeance...
Sun, sun, sun, here it comes...
Sun, sun, sun, here it comes...

Man, did it get hot quick that second day! The last 20 miles got nasty hot, often exposed on those ridges. There was no soup at the aid station, and I was barely able to get down any calories by this point. Not drinking much either. I have figured that I only drank about 1 bottle every three hours on average. Yes, I was dehydrated. These last miles would be a grind.

Cowboys Like Us
Cowboys like us sure do have fun
Racin' the wind, chasin' the sun
Take the long way around back to square one
Today we're just outlaws out on the run
There'll be no regrets, no worries and such
For cowboys like us
At one point, I was briefly ahead of Beth and gang, and met a cowboy on horseback, who offered to give me a ride up to the top of the hill. Maybe I looked extra pathetic. But that would have been cheating, wouldn't it?

Lost Without You
I'm lost without you
Can't help myself
Okay, this was plain maddening. On that last downhill, just a few miles to the finish, I had to make yet another pitstop! (I think there were dozens). I had no toilet paper. But, I did have a glove. Don't ask.

Happy Trails!
Happy trails to you, until we meet again.
Happy trails to you, keep smilin' until then.
Who cares about the clouds when we're together?
Just sing a song and bring the sunny weather.
Happy trails to you, 'till we meet again.

Some trails are happy ones,
Others are blue.
It's the way you ride the trail that counts,
Here's a happy one for you.
Is that corny enough for you? I was very happy to get to that park. It's been 5 years since I have gotten to the end of a 100, and I was beginning to think I just didn't have it in me anymore. I needed this finish. I was glad to have shared the trail with friends new and old, glad to have witnessed the Bear, glad to hang out in the sunshine and finally SIT DOWN, and especially glad to throw away that glove....

To view all the photos & videos I took go here...

To see the results go here...

For the equipment, I started in my LaSportiva Fireblades, knowing that I'd be running more in the first half (little did i know I wouldn't be) and had planned on switching into the softer and more comfortable LaSportiva Wildcats. Deb did switch to her Wildcats at mile 51 and said the shoes were great.
We both went with our Nathan Elite 2V bottle packs instead of the Nathan HPL #020 hydration packs because of the amount of good aid stations. I also don't like the backpack when it's hot, so it was a good choice.
For fuel, we chose a variety of things....Glucerna meal replacement drink, Gu Crumbles and First Endurance Liquid Shot...none of those things worked after awhile. I usually use plain maltodextrin, but didn't bring it. Big mistake.

In three weeks we're running a 50 mile race in the Massanutten Mountains in Virginia and it will be nice to be down there with our VHTRC friends one more before the winter sets in.

Until then, have a great fall!
Steve & Deb

Monday, September 7, 2009


Trail and profile of the loop we did

This past weekend (Labor Day weekend), Deb and I decided to do one last tough long run/hike for the Bear 100, which is three weeks from this past Friday. The plan was to do the Great Traverse, which is a 26 mile loop in the Adirondack Mountains in upper New York...but we had Tucker with us so....

Let's start with the campsite, which was fantastic. We camped at Sharp's Bridge, which was about 15 minutes from the trailhead. We chose our campsite online so had no idea what we were getting, so picked one that looked as remote as possible and it turned out to be a good choice. We were down on the far side of a hill, near a small river and away from all the other campers. The other campsites were pretty close to one another with hardly any trees between, we had a great site. We went into town and had a great burger and a beer at the Ausible Inn, sitting outside on the deck taking in the small town of Keene Valley.

The next morning we were up around 5:30 and after getting our things together, went into town to grab a cup of coffee and an egg sandwich. Yumm! We then drove down to the trailhead to begin, which was the Roostercomb trailhead. The day felt broken up to us, so I will break up the report into sections.

Deb ready and rarin' to go

Section one - Parking area to the south side of Armstrong

The day was going to be a good one, sunny clear skies and 70's...we started the day by slowly hiking up the trail towards Roostercomb, which at the base was 2.5 miles. We then had a 1 mile out and back to the summit and also a small one tenth of a mile out and back to see Keene Valley from that outlook. So back at the trail after climbing Roostercomb we were 4.7 miles into the day. After some steep climbs we reached Hedgehog, then Lower Wolfjaw, which was another 2.5 miles in from the base of Roostercomb. Lower Wolfjaw was at 4165' (7.2 miles) and up next was Upper Wolfjaw, 1.5 miles ahead. But first we had to descend down into a valley between the Wolfjaws, then climb back up to the summit of Upper Wolfjaw at 4175' (8.7 miles). Our next hill is Armstrong, but we never get to see it! As we climbed and as we were nearing the summit, we came upon a ladder that was a good 30 feet up. We couldn't see a way to get Tucker up...he's too big to carry and he's not a circus dog able to walk ladders. There was one possibility in a small ledge that was perpendicular to the ladder and an animal trail that led to the small ledge. I climbed the ladder to entice Tucker to come with me, then Deb led him to the small ledge, but he looked at that skinny ledge and the 20 foot drop alongside and he just didn't feel good about it, so turned around. One of our rules is to trust the dog's instincts, so we turned around and headed for a small side trail we saw between the Wolfjaws. We stopped on top of Upper Wolfjaw for lunch, which was a nice sandwich and a Coke that we carried. We both got a fuel kick from that!

We guessed we maybe went a half mile to the ladder and back, so we're now at about 10 miles at the trail head. The trail went 2.5 miles to John's Brook Lodge, where we would hike up to Mount Marcy, the high summit of the Adirondacks. So at John's Brook Lodge we were approx 12.5 miles.

Section 2 - John's Brook Lodge to Mt Marcy at 5300' (5.5 miles)

The climb up to Mount Marcy was uneventful...it was a nicer trail than the other side in that there was plenty of water for Tucker, it was single track and the climb was manageable until we neared the top. Along the way we met several hikers coming down (it was getting later in the day) and one in particular was a couple hiking with their daughter. The man was leading and nodded as he went by, then the woman and daughter (maybe in her 20's) stopped to chat a bit. When all of a sudden the daughter said "Daddy, he has a 100 mile shirt on!" I had my Hardrock shirt on and the guy perked up and asked how many finishes we had and what other 100's we had done. We asked why he asked and he said he had done Western States and was planning on running another soon. He was easily in his 70's...he then asked us if we knew Jeff Washburn (who is a good friend of ours) and we realized what a small word it is. Here we are hundreds of miles away from home on a strange trail and we bump into a fellow ultrarunner. So if you ever run into Bob Faulk, tell him we said hi!

We continued on up and soon reached the trail intersection with the trail that comes up from Marcy Dam and there were now many hikers. Before this, we rarely saw anyone. Soon we were on the summit of Mount Marcy, 5300', 18 miles , getting yelled at by a ranger for not having Tucker on a leash in the Alpine Zone ;-) It was chilly up here, time to move on....

Deb and Tucker on Mt Marcy Summit

Section 3 - Onto to Haystack

The hike to Haystack was not very long, maybe a couple of miles, but you had to go down, down, down to the trailhead up to Haystack. Then it was a mile up to the summit. When we reached the intersection it was 5PM, now 10 hours into our day. Deb wasn't sure we should attempt it that late in the day (we were getting tired, it was going to be getting dark earlier). But I said it was only one mile and we only had to climb 900 feet, how long could it take? It was a steep and rocky climb up the trails, legs were beginning to burn and quiver from all the climbing we had done already so far. I was watching my altimeter and as it was nearing the summit height of around
4900', I yelled back to Deb that we must not be very far. We then came to a clearing with a great view of Haystack and little Haystack in the distance. We also saw the trail go down into the depths of the forest and hikers climbing up out of the forest on the other side of the valley and my interest in continuing onto the summit waned. I told Deb that it is now 5:30, we have about 9+ miles back to the car and it would be getting dark around 7. We asked a hiker about the trail ahead to Haystack and he said yeah, that it went way down, then back up. So we turned around back to the trail intersection at the bottom of Haystack, maybe around 21 miles.

Section 4 - Haystack trail intersection to the car

The trail down was nice, somewhat rocky at the top, but leveled into a dirt/slight rock trail along John's Brook. Along the way, we spotted something large and brown move into the woods and Tucker did, too and chased after it. Up there it could be anything, even a Bear...and when he came out he had lost his pack and the new filter bottle we just bought. So between the two of those things, easily 100 bucks. I went in looking for it, while Deb stayed on the trail yelling out so I wouldn't get turned around. I looked all over and never saw it....but I did see a fresh pile of Moose poop, so now knew what it was he chased.

On we go, nothing we could do about the pack and bottle....we now lost a half hour looking for it and the sun was going down behind the ridge. We ran as much as we could, soon reaching John Brook Lodge again ( 24 miles). We didn't stop, even though the food coming out of the windows smelled great! We had another 5.5 miles to the car!

We got out our headlamps and started to run, but it was just too dark and we were tripping on the rocks, so changed to a fast hike. It was not worth getting hurt now with less than three weeks to go to the Bear. It was typical night moving when you think you are going faster than you are. We passed several lean-to's with the inhabitants yelling out a greeting while cooking their dinner in the dark. Next up we saw what looked like many lights and could not figure out what they were! It was a parking lot at the trailhead and the lights were the car and truck reflector lights. But we may be at the trailhead, but the main road where our car is, is still a couple of miles down a road. So we jog down, now not worried about tripping on anything and soon reach the road, then walk the half mile or so to the Roostercomb parking area and our car. 9PM...about 30 miles give or take and close to 10,000' of climb give or take several feet.

We were hungry, tired, dirty, it was late but we didn't care. We drove to the campsite and washed up in front of a roaring fire and Deb cooked a nice meal of beans and rice which we washed down with a few beers while watching the fire lick at the air under what appeared to be a full moon with owls hooting in the distance.
It was a magical evening that topped off a magical day.

Up next, the Bear 100 on September 25th!
Steve and Deb