BEAR 100: My Unofficial Finish

I did not quit

PRE-RACE

Thursday, September 23, 2010: John and I dropped the kids off at my parents’ house in Nampa and then picked up Sam. After loading all his gear, making a stop at Subway for an early lunch, and swinging by the church for an improptu prayer lined up by Tina for safety and strength, we were out of town right on time.

Drop bags at Leland’s Trout Farm, organized and labeled by aid station destination.

We had no problem finding Race Director Leland Barker’s Mountain Valley Trout Farm in Smithfield, UT, where we dropped off my six drop bags in a monumental lineup of bags piled in organized chaos. Because the race had grown so much this year, the pre-race meeting had to be moved from the Trout Farm up the road to a municipal park. We drove over to the park in Sugar, UT and met up with all the other crazies from the Boise area (eight of us). I was excited to see Allie and Margaret from Montana there also.

Deep breath.

I summoned the guts to go talk to Andrew Barney, who I had first met along the trail at the BigHorn Trail Run back in June. I was in the 50 mile race and passed him in the last 10 miles of his 100 miler. He was kind enough to give me some advice and show me his race notebook. I had thought my preparations were over the top, but after seeing the data he compiled and his awesome spreadsheet, I didn’t feel so bad at all. Next time, I will be more over the top. More planning with my crew; less trying to be like Dennis. 🙂 Just be myself!

Bruce Copeland showing off the course markings. Pink and reflective for straightaways, and double-flagged pink and yellow at turns.

The pre-race meeting was a fun affair, where we really got a feel for the race director’s heart. Laid back is definitely the right word to describe Leland Barker and company. A question about cell coverage out on the course was met with a roar of laughter followed by…no answer. Someone asked about whether runners would be weighed pre-race. Well, the scales didn’t come in, so NO. We are all ultrarunners here. You know how to take care of yourselves. Your crew can decide if you are fit enough to continue. Love it. Leland informed us he had forgotten to order the belt buckles in time, so we would have to wait to receive those. Haha. It was getting better and better. After listening to descriptions of course markings, aid station fare, a few rules of the race, and a word from the Ham radio director {rousing applause}, we took Leland’s advice on a restaurant and headed back to Smithfield for dinner at Callaway’s.

The food was delicious, but the service very slow (two large ultrarunning parties completely overwhelmed their service staff), so it was a little later than we would have liked by the time we got back to Logan and checked into the hotel. A few last Facebook comments, and then I was lights-out by 9:30 pm, doing my best to relax and actually sleep. It was a great night’s sleep until about 1:30 am, when someone directly above us started walking around on a very CREAKY floor. I think I dozed a bit more until the alarm went off at 4:45 am. Aggravating, but not the end of the world. Unfortunately, I had not rested/slept as much as I would have liked the week leading up to the race. None of that mattered now. It was what it was. This was race day, whether I was rested or not.

Pre-race pasta dinner

START

Friday, September 24, 2010: I made last minute agonizations about whether or not my Nathan pack contained the appropriate equipment and gathered my gear, which took minimal time, as I had neatly laid it all out the night before. No need to dress, as I always sleep in my race garb the night before a race, gaiters and all. I made a last-minute decision to don a bandanna instead of my other usual headgear, the orange BSU hat. It turned out to be a fine decision.

5:00 am. Need I say more?

As we were getting ready to head out the door, I realized I had not planned what I was going to eat for breakfast. We had some stuff in the car, but nothing sounded good. As it was sort of going to be a long day (ha!), and I probably would be burning a few calories (ha!), I acquiesced when John offered to run back inside and grab me a bagel from the hotel. Pre-race breakfast: 3/4 plain white bagel, a cup of apple juice with a handful of corn chips at the race start, and a vitamin B drink I chugged down when I first awoke.

Sam’s shirt is all wrong. It should say, “I am Emily’s hero.” Cute, Dennis.

The race start was a high-energy affair, where we all informed the race director that we were, indeed, present, and then proceeded to take plenty of group pictures with our eight Treasure Valley runners represented. 170 starters, bobbing excitedly in the dark, headlamps lit, not knowing what the next day and a half would bring…

L-R: Jeff, Paul, Dennis, Sam, Emily, Wildman, Trail Thrasher, Jon. Front: Lynette.

And with little fanfare, we were off, jogging slowly up and out of the subdivision, soon reaching a trailhead and the trail we would climb for the next couple hours from 4860’ elevation to an early high point of 8800’.

Where’s Waldo? Right before the “GO”

FIRST OF TWO DAYBREAKS: FULL MOON AND FRESH LEGS

Start (4860 ft. elev.) to Logan Peak AS (10.5) (8800 ft. elev.)
10.5 miles in between (3 hours, 18 minutes)
No Crew Station; No cutoff
ETA 9:10 am; Actual arrival 9:18 am, 9:21 out
4700’ ascent, 700’ descent to mile 10.5

Ben Blessing had informed me he was going to run with me for the first 20 miles so he wouldn’t go out too fast, and I was happy to have the company. Actually, we had a lot of awesome company and conversation as conga lines of people ebbed and flowed up and up and up through 4,000 feet of elevation gain. The climb started immediately off the starting line. It was dark, but I never did even turn on my headlamp. I tried to once, but Ben told me to turn it off. Off it went. Yes, SSgt Blessing. Of course, Ben was right. The full moon was brilliant, and enough people around me had on headlamps that I never needed mine.

Rock cairns.

This first piece of trail was defined by amazing rock cairns. People had taken a lot of time and thought building some of these displays. This was a day full of promise – we climbed higher and higher, and as the sun also rose higher, the incredible foliage for which The Bear is known was revealed.

Daybreak: nuthin’ but climbing.

Along the trail, I met Chad Fisher from Boise who told me he was into CrossFit. We talked about that for a little while, because the boot camp workouts I have done since January had included some cross-fit components. We regaled the benefits. Chad posted a picture on Facebook after the race, and I wished I had remembered to copy his idea afterwards for the benefit of Tanya, my boot camp instructor. Chad had written in Sharpie on cardboard: WOD (workout of day): 1 mile x 100 times. 33 hours, 36 minutes. Great job, Chad!

That beautiful rolling section between miles 7-9 somewhere. The views were spectacular.

With the exception of some rockin’ runnable trail between miles 7 to 9 or so, it was all climb up to the first aid station at mile 10.5. Ben was so cool to hang with me, waiting up ahead and just taking it easy, giving advice and just generally being encouraging. Several times I told him he didn’t have to wait for me, but like the more seasoned runner he is, he just knowingly stated that it was much better to start out very slow. It made me wonder if I was going out too fast – if this was a very slow pace for Ben, then it was probably NOT a very slow pace for me. Regardless, I was feeling VERY good up to this point, virtually pain-free and feeling relaxed. I did not feel like I was pushing the pace at all.

View back down to Logan.

Turns out, Ben’s slow start would not cost him too much time in the long run. He ended up having a tough race, but regardless of covering the first 20 miles very slowly and taking an hour and a half nap at mile 75, he still finished in 31:26.

AS 1: Logan Peak.

WHAT HAPPENS ON THE TRAIL STAYS ON THE TRAIL

Logan Peak (10.5)(8800’) to Leatham Hollow (19.7)(5141’)
9.14 miles in between (1 hour, 54 minutes)
Crew Accessible, No cutoff
ETA 11:15 am; Actual arrival 11:15 am, 11:30 out
3700’ descent from 10.5 to 19.7

We were just getting warmed up, having a blast on one of the most fun sections of the course. We had gotten up high and the views were spectacular – fall colors in full bloom everywhere. I believe it was through here that a lady I dubbed “The Pink Lady” passed me and Ben, and I remember Ben enthusiastically commenting (Yeah, nice outfit!!!) on her all-pink costume – thick headband, tank, and running skirt. The Pink Lady would become significant to me later on in the race.

During this long, fun, rocky downhill section, I rolled the outside of my left ankle and luckily was able to hop out of it without completely committing. Close call. Luckily, the pain went away and did not affect me the rest of the race. I started getting hungry and ate a lemon Luna bar and a GU out of pure necessity before getting to Leatham. Keep the calories coming in, Emily.

 

Ben.

What happens on the trail stays on the trail: Ben is a lot of fun, and if you know him, I’m sure you can only imagine his antics. I will protect his privacy on most of these things, but someday you may want to get his advice on how to collect large, soft green leaves. Maybe he was taking them home to press and dry. I don’t know.

Allie had left Logan Peak (10.5) just as I arrived and it took most of the way to Leatham (20) before Ben and I caught up. Soon we joined up with Jon Kinzer, and eventually we all rolled into Leatham together, Ben hooting and hollering as usual (a custom that lasted the first half of the race but seemed to fade with night, as John noted), where we met up with John and Sam for the first time. I was feeling really good at this point, no pain in my legs. Happy to be there, enjoying the most beautiful day imaginable. We descended a lot, but we were just rolling along at an easy pace, Ben continuously reminding me to not go too hard. However, once at the aid station, Ben was through in a flash, off like a bat out of hell. That was the last time I saw him until Bear Lake.

Me, Ben, and Jon roaring into Leatham Hollow.

COWBOYS AND AN OUTHOUSE
Leatham Hollow (19.7) to Richards Hollow (22.5)
2.84 miles in between (32 minutes)
No Crew Station; No cutoff
ETA 12:00 pm; actual arrival 12:02, out at 12:03
300 feet of climb from 19.7 to 22.5

I had sort of been dreading this piece of the race, as it was just three miles straight up a dirt road to the next aid station. However, my preconceived notions could not have been more mistaken. It turned out to be a very beautiful dirt road section characterized by close-in trees and a cattle roundup in progress. It was idyllic. Kinzer and a new friend Erika were near me on this section. We smiled and waved at the cowboys, and they all asked if we wanted rides. We laughed when they said they would much rather die traveling their way than ours. Soon, we passed a ranger station with {gasp} an open outhouse, so I didn’t have to use the bushes. Perfect timing!

Jon and the Cowboys.
Jon and Erika.

That was the first time in the race I had needed to use the bathroom, which was concerning me. Usually I have to pee a time or two right off the bat. However, I was trying to drink most of the water in my pack in between stations, and my electrolyte/H2O balance was good, with an S-cap or two an hour, something I maintained well for the duration. I never felt dehydrated. The second half of the race was a different story. While I only had to pee a couple times total in the first half of the race, all of a sudden in the second half, I started having to hit the bushes at least once or twice an hour.

Outhouse!

TRYING TO KEEP UP WITH JON
Richards Hollow (22.5) to Cowley Canyon (30)
7.5 miles in between (2 hours, 16 minutes)
Crew Accessible; No cutoff
ETA 2:30 pm; Actual arrival 2:19 pm, out at 2:23 pm
2100’ ascent, 700’ descent from mile 22.5 to 30

At Richards Hollow (23), I grabbed a pre-made PB&J sandwich in a baggie, stuffed some trail mix in another baggie, and kept right on going. This was not a crew aid station, and we had just had a stop three miles earlier. My water would be good until mile 30.

At this juncture, the course headed off the dirt road and turned onto a trail that would take us 7.3 miles up through a canyon to another dirt road leading into Cowley (30). We meandered through meadows and were treated to beautiful rock formations in cliffs on either side and serene ponds backed by beaver dams. Jon Kinzer and I were near each other in this section –if we were both walking, he would leave me in the dust. I had to run to keep up. He has an amazing walk.

Jon.

It is important to note that this was also Jon’s first 100 mile race. He has completed three Ironman triathlons, and he is a Marine, so I knew he was tough. But when he went on to complete this race in 34:56 on 0-20 miles per week of training, it really showed how tough he is mentally. Crazy.

Beaver dam.

After coming out onto the road, I was passed by the amazing Peros – Deb had been calling me “Bandanna girl” whenever we would meet up. We exchanged some comments about the stunning weather, and we all stopped to take pictures of sheep and their shepherd. I commented on their great pace. Steve said they were racing according to his heart rate monitor, keeping the rate low to moderate, and that they were right where they wanted to be. The Peros are like ultra superheroes, and I felt honored to share a bit of trail with them. They went on to finish in 32:06.

Steve and Deb Pero.

Jon Kinzer had gone on ahead by then, and it would be much later before I would see him again. I was still running well at this point, easily tooling through the couple miles of easy dirt road descending into Cowley (30). I could tell from above that John and Sam were not at the aid station yet – no white Xterra parked there. I was a little disappointed, but thought I would take advantage of this and make it a quick stop.

I loved all the aspens.

As I stood wondering what looked good at the food table, Steve Pero advised me that a banana was about 120 calories and would be a good choice. Who was I to argue? I ate the banana, and it tasted good. I grabbed some other fruit and goodies, filled my pack with water, and checked out. 161 out! (Checking in and out of each aid station with the radio operators was mandatory.) As I walked out with Allie, she asked how I was doing. I off-handedly said I had a few hot spots on my feet.

The shepherd and his sheep.

This really caught her attention. You better take care of that now. Blisters can ruin your race.

Who was I to question the experienced, Hardrock-finisher Allie? I turned around to get my drop bag and fix my blisters exactly when John roared up honking in the Xterra. Great timing! Margaret ran out to Allie to make sure there was nothing that she needed, and that was the last time I ran near Allie for the remainder of the race. She went on to finish in a fantastic 34:38, a time she was very pleased with.

Fixing my feet at Cowley.

John retrieved my drop bag that contained clean socks while I washed my feet. Margaret, John, and Allie helped me patch my two spots of biggest concern – left 4th toe and right big toe. After putting on clean socks and the same Mizuno Ascent trail shoes, and I was ready to go.

Foot.

John, Sam, and Margaret had taken Allie’s vehicle up to the race finish at Bear Lake so they wouldn’t have to go get it after the race, and that’s why they were a little late getting to that aid station. Sam notes that he enjoyed hanging out with John and cruising around trying to find aid stations on the way back from Bear Lake. That was a blast. On this excursion, John had picked up a couple of plain McDonald’s hamburgers for me because I had thought a hamburger might sound good sometime along the way. What a sweetheart. I took one of the hamburgers and headed out into the warm afternoon.

Heading out of Cowley.

TURN OUT THE LIGHTS, THE PARTY’S OVER…NO WAIT, IT HASN’T EVEN BEGUN
Cowley Canyon (30) to Right Hand Fork (37)
7 miles in between (2 hours, 2 minutes)
Crew Accessible; No cutoff
ETA 4:30 pm; actual arrival 4:25 pm, out at 4:32 pm
800’ ascent, 2100’ descent from mile 30 to 37

After leaving Cowley (30), my legs were starting to feel less fresh for the first time in the race, the day was warming up, and there was another long climb on a boring gravel road ahead. I was starting to feel a big fatigued, not bad, but I just wasn’t enjoying this road section. I actually had to take my first bush stop, so I got out my iPod at the same time. I do not run with music generally, except for on the treadmill, but I had stuck my iPod in my pack, thinking I just might want it at some point in the race.

After the pit stop, I turned on the music. Boy, was that a good move! Turn out the lights, the party’s over… the vibrant melody of Willie Nelson resonating through my earbuds was just what I needed at that moment. My spirits lifted, pace quickened, and I knocked out that gravel road section, soon turning off onto a delightful single track downhill ride through aspen tunnels and close foliage that took me into Right Hand Fork (37). Those miles rolled away with the tunes rocking, reminding me of all those treadmill runs where my garage door was the Bear finish line. I don’t remember my blisters bothering me too much through this section after the Cowley tape job.

Loved this trail heading down into Right Hand Fork.

The course took a short out and back going in and out of Right Hand Fork (37), and as I headed in, I passed Margaret and Allie as well as Jon as they were heading out. I was not far behind them at that point. Arriving at Right Hand Fork, I noticed that Sam was all suited up to run. This was the first point that pacers were allowed to join the race, and he was antsy to run, seeing all the pacers heading out with their runners.

Arriving at Right Hand Fork.

Do you mind if I start running with you now? All the other pacers are going out. (I could almost hear the please, please?)

 

{Sigh} Sure, Sam.

I was not planning on picking him up until the next aid station. Not wanting to ruin Sam’s day or cast negativity on the race, I agreed. Sam told me later that he was also concerned about my early-forming blisters and was worried they would start affecting my race. He thought jumping in early would help. He felt that he needed to be there. And he needed to run. Mostly, he wanted to run.

Resting briefly at Right Hand Fork.

After sitting for a minute, it was time to go. As Sam and I left the aid station, I chugged down an Ensure, always good energy.

RUNNING WITH SAM
Right Hand Fork (37) to Temple Fork (45)
8.2 miles in between (2 hours, 24 minutes)
Crew Accessible; No cutoff
ETA 7:30 pm; actual arrival 6:56 pm, out at 7:28 pm
1200’ ascent, 900’ descent from 37 to 45

This section was not particularly memorable. Sam and I came out of the trees and crossed a spectacular golden meadow, dotted with huge boulders. Then the trail emerged onto another gravel road, which took us up and over another mountain. Sam and I talked for a while at first, and then I asked if he would mind if I put the iPod back in. I was really enjoying it through the last section and thought it would help me find a good pace again.

Sam.

We finally turned off the road onto a nice single track that took us down into and through another meadow, following the river for a couple miles into some campgrounds, finally coming out onto another gravel road and down to mile 45 by the highway. As we descended, I noticed the shadows getting long and the sun getting lower over the hills. Good call planning Temple Fork (45) for my switchover to night clothing. Sam said I had a pretty good pace going through this section. I think I was listening to Gene Harris, Live. 🙂

Arriving at Temple Fork.

I was hurting a bit as we rolled into Temple Fork (45) about 7:00 pm, and I knew I needed to check my blisters again. However, I was not hurting as much as the guy we passed not far from the aid station. He was stiffly moseying down the road, hands in pockets, looking as if he might be doing some serious soul searching. He almost sounded delirious as he told us he had pain like he was feverish and had a knife in his back.

You know?

Ummmm…not really. We wished him the best, but he said he was done when he got to the aid station.

Coming into Temple Fork, Mile 45 about 7:00 pm, 13 hours in to the race.

After a pit stop in the outhouse (a real treat on this course to have a few outhouse opportunities), I was herded to a chair, and John brought me a cup of soup. A volunteer asked if I needed anything, so I handed him my pack to refill with water. This was my first encounter with Dr. Marc Collman, a dentist from Ogden, who had finished his 10th Wasatch Front 100 two weeks prior (he let me rub his 10-Wasatch ring for good luck).

Yikes! Dr. Marc working on my blisters.

Dr. Marc brought back my pack, and I tried to drink a couple cups of soup and eat the other stuff John brought me. I quickly put on my long pants, long sleeved shirt, and hat, got my gloves ready to go, and tucked an extra long sleeved shirt and rain jacket into my pack. I finally took off the shoes I had been wearing for the first 45 miles.

My bandaids and blister patch from Cowley (30) were all dirty and peeling off, so Dr. Marc got out his kit and went to work, patching the two worst blisters with lidocaine patches and tape. I was very grateful for him – he was meticulous and painstaking. I had a sense of well-being with him working on me, although his meticulous ways translated to a very long stop at this station. The blister patch on my fourth toe had peeled off everywhere except for on the blister itself, where it was WELL-adhered. It was not pleasant having Dr. Mark remove that patch.

Outfitted with clean socks, new shoes, and warm clothes, and with a belly full of two cups of soup and some potatoes and cheese, I felt like a million bucks. Well, maybe a quarter-million. We took off into the twilight, straight up a big climb over to Tony Grove.

GLOWING EYES IN THE BUSHES
Temple Fork (45) to Tony Grove (52)
6.7 miles in between (2 hours, 52 minutes)
Crew Accessible; 7:00 am cutoff Mile 52
ETA 10:30 pm; actual arrival 10:19 pm, out unknown, probably 10:35 pm
2700’ ascent, 500’ descent from 45 to 52

I set out of Temple Fork (45) with a cup of cheesy potatoes in hand, and as we immediately had a huge climb off the highway, and as I had just chugged at least two cups of vegetable soup and eaten who knows what else at the aid station, I started to feel queasy. This was the one and only time in the whole race that I even had an inkling of stomach problems. I cautiously bent over by the side of the trail a couple times, handed off the potatoes for Sam to finish, took it easy for a few minutes, and before long I was feeling fine again.

Cow eyes in the bushes.

Sam, on the other hand, was having a rough time with his clothing issues. He was overheating with his tights on, as we were in the middle of – what else? – a tough climb – AND he lost his gloves on the trail while we were fixing something in my pack.

So stop and take off your tights, Sam. You’ll catch up!

No that’s okay.

Well, then, stop griping! {Grumpy}

Along this piece of trail, we encountered lots and lots of cows. They kindly made cow patty trails along the trail ahead of us. One cow followed behind us for quite a way, with Sam shooshing and yelling at it to take a hike. Ha! All we could see was dozens of pairs of glowing eyes pointed at us from the brush.

A mile or two out of Temple Fork, we turned on headlamps, even though there was a beautiful full moon. There was enough tree cover and rockiness on the trail that headlamps were necessary. Just for Jenny [Stinson], we turned off our headlamps and looked up at the stars in the middle of a dark meadow. The moon was so bright, we actually couldn’t see all the stars, but it was an awesome feeling to exist in that moment, surrounded by silence and moonlight.

The most memorable thing about this section was the cows. Other than that, it was defined as the first section working through a knee problem. Back at Temple Fork, in its “used” state, I had torqued my right knee when sitting with my foot up getting my blisters worked on. As soon as I arose from the chair and started walking, I knew something was wrong. Nothing to do but keep going, and it was fine on the uphill sections. Downhills, however, were another story, and after we completed the epic climb toward Tony Grove (52), the somewhat short descent down to the lake was agonizingly slow and frustrating. I simply could not run at a speed I would have otherwise been able to. This became a defining theme of my race.

Finally, we wove through some camp sites and around a small lake (which I saw in pictures was absolutely stunning) to Tony Grove (52). I had sent Sam on ahead to get himself taken care of and let John know I was coming.

Me and Sam at Tony Grove.

John had a chair set up for me with bean soup and lukewarm chocolate waiting, so I sat down for a few minutes to get rejuvenated while eating. I didn’t want to sit too long, so I was after Sam that we needed to get going. We had spent too long at this aid station, and I was starting to get cold. I heard that the night temperatures were in the 20s, although cold was never an issue for me like I heard it was for some people. We trained all winter last year in temperatures anywhere from 0 to 30 degrees, and I feel like I had my cold-weather running gear dialed in. I only felt the cold when we stopped too long at aid stations. Time to get moving.

Drinking soup and hot chocolate at Tony Grove.

When John and Margaret left Tony Grove, John did not realize that she had crawled in the back of the Xterra. The car was completely full of stuff. She had taken a break from her pacing duties and crawled right in on top of everything and went to sleep. John started driving, and Margaret said Where are we going? out of the blue, scaring John half to death. Haha.

 

TWILIGHT ZONE
Tony Grove (52) to Franklin Basin (61)
9.6 miles in between (3 hours, 37 minutes)
Crew Accessible; 9:00 am cutoff Mile 61
ETA 2:00 am; actual arrival 2:12 am, out unknown, probably 2:22 am
800’ ascent, 2100’ descent from 52 to 61

According to John, I just coasted through the first 52 miles, which may be true, but this is where it started getting a little dicey.

Leaving Tony Grove (52), we were advised that we faced a rolling four-mile uphill section, followed by a four-mile downhill piece into Franklin Basin (61). I think it was during this part that we heard an elk bugle, and then a while later, a cow elk zoomed out of the brush right across the trail in front of Sam. The night was so cool after that! says Sam. I was a ways behind Sam, but I did see the elk, and the glow from Sam’s headlamp shining off the elk had made me think it was a car crossing a road up ahead. Weird.

Me at Franklin Basin.

Getting close to the aid station, we started to encounter campsites. None of these campsites was the aid station (a recurring theme), but I did encounter Dr. Marc – who I had found out was The Pink Lady’s brother – out about a half mile out from the station with a flashlight. He stopped me to make sure I was still feeling okay. My feet were fine. Any new problems were numb, my feet were still dry, and I did not want to disturb the mojo by LOOKING at them or taking my shoes off. Nope – these were 55 mile socks and shoes.

Arriving at Franklin Basin (61), I was looking for my Starbucks Doubleshot that I had asked John to bring for me from Tony Grove (52).

He didn’t have it.

What???

Turns out, John had to park the car a ways away from the station and hadn’t brought anything up with him. This was a bit demoralizing. Not wanting to be a jerk, I tried to let it go, grabbing some dark chocolate espresso beans and two caffeinated latte Powergels from my drop bag instead. I think they helped a bit, but, disappointingly, nothing seemed to clear the cobwebs as distinctly as I was hoping, especially given my heroic success at ridding my body of caffeine dependency over the two months prior to the race.

Jon Kinzer was so very cold at Franklin (61), so John had made a spot for him by the big roaring fire so he could get warm, take a nap, and then get up and go with me and Sam when we arrived. Jon slept for an hour and a half waiting for us. How the heck he got so far ahead, I can’t comprehend. Maybe someday I’ll learn to move that fast.

Jon Kinzer, the coal miner, freezing at Franklin Basin.

We didn’t spend too long at Franklin (61), just enough to chug a cup or two of soup, and then the three of us were off into the darkness. We were very slightly behind pace at this point, but not too much – not enough to worry about – but in my inexperience, I was starting to worry. This was the start of my downhill slide.

DARKEST BEFORE THE DAWN
Franklin Basin (61) to Logan River (69)
7.1 miles in between (3 hours, 2 minutes)
Crew Accessible; 11:00 am cutoff Mile 69
ETA 5:00 am; actual arrival 5:24 am, 5:58 am out
1800’ ascent, 1500’ descent from 61 to 69

Accompanied by Jon Kinzer and another girl and armed with caffeine, Sam and I headed back into the cold, clear night. Just out of the aid station, we turned off the road onto a trail that crossed the river again.

Jon has an amazingly fast walk. Once we started climbing again, I simply could not keep up, and I really started struggling with pace. Jon and the other girl seemingly flew into the night with powerful uphill strides, yet I was slowly and drowsily trudging uphill.

Someone said this wasn’t a very big hill!?!

Whatever!?!

In reality, these weren’t the longest or steepest climbs of the race, but somehow this particular climb seemed interminable. I remember crossing a downed tree and straddling on top to lay my head down. I don’t think I was there too long, but I’m not sure. Not more than a minute probably. Afraid of falling asleep on the trail and missing the rest of the race, a voice deep in my brain said keep moving, keep moving. I’d actually had bad dreams before the race about that very thing happening.

Physically, I was feeling decent, aside from my knee. No major pain, just muscle fatigue. But mentally, I sank lower and lower.

At one point, as we scooted under a log, I think I asked how far we had gone on our way to the next aid station. Sam said a ridiculously low number and giggled.

That’s not funny, Sam! {Grumpy}

He laughed again, a very giddy laugh. There’s nothing we can do about it.

I knew that, but in my muddled state, it made me mad. I never asked how far again.

Memories of these night sections are foggy, and even a day after the race, I could only remember discombobulated snippets of reality. I was in a twilight zone. Those dark miles from 52 to 75 were surreal visions of grey and black and the white light of my headlamp. Outer space.

Sam says the night went so fast. He was praying all night. It just flew by.

I did try to keep moving at a decent pace after we crested the summit of that climb out of Logan River (61). I adapted a walking jog-waddle for the flat and downhill sections because the torque in my right knee prohibited any fast downhill running, and I even managed to pass someone doing this. Ha! A small victory, but it was pretty short-lived.

Sam occasionally talked to me about stuff, but I had a hard time processing it. I could hear the words, but my brain allowed absolutely no emotional response to them. My brain was dead to anything other than self-survival.

Just keep moving.

I remember slurring my words and grunting responses.

Fatigue lent itself to anger. I was angry at Sam’s shirt, angry at myself, defeated, sleep deprived.

I am no one’s hero!

Somewhere on another planet back around mile 13, ultraqueen Wendy Holdaway had told me I would find the bottom of my soul within 100 miles. This is where I found it. If I had even remembered that Wendy Holdaway existed at that moment in time, maybe it would have lent some perspective, and I might have talked myself out of it. But I was on a path of self-destruction, immune to any rational thought.

Logan River (69) should have been such a happy aid station. A wonderful crew comes every year to operate it. Christmas lights festooned the entire campground, including a path leading in.

Not too long before the aid station, Sam had made a comment I’m sure was meant as a joke, but it nearly made me suicidal.

We should be eating at Denny’s by now.

Instead of feeling festive, I was inconsolable. We reached the aid station, where I ran straight into John’s arms and broke down sobbing.

I’m so slow! I’m behind my time! I’m not going to make it! I’m letting everyone down! I wailed. {Good grief. Get a grip, lady.}

 

You’re right on time. I don’t understand. John said. What do you need?

I just need food! I’m hungry!

 

The weird thing is that at this time, I was only 15 minutes behind my planned pace with plenty of time to make up any deficit. However, I could feel it slipping away from me. It wasn’t so much that I was 15 minutes behind right now. It was that I was 15 minutes behind and SLIPPING FAST. It was too much for my feeble mind to comprehend continuing on at a consistent pace. My downhill running was stymied. My uphill hike was pathetic. My moral state was deplorable. I knew I at least needed to keep the pace we had been going, but I irrationally felt that was impossible. Thus, despair set in for the next 20 miles. I was exhausted, sleep deprived, mush brained, and frustrated that my knee had prohibited me from making really good time into that aid station on a beautiful rolling descent.

After my meltdown, sitting in a warm trailer, being counseled by John and Dr. Marc and eating potato stew.

Regardless of my mental state, one of the best parts of the race was getting to see John at almost every aid station. He was always positive. After the race, Sam commented to me that he realized just how important friends and familiar faces were. Just seeing someone you know out there is so much of a morale booster.

Logan River (69) was a tough point for a lot of people. I was not the only one struggling. John remembers he saw some major carnage. A speedy-looking guy from Brazil we remembered seeing at the start was shaking so hard John thought he could be having a seizure. Completely unprepared and underdressed for the cold, he was shaking so hard he had to drop out. There was also a guy who was puking dramatically and loudly, unable to hold down even small sips of water. You aren’t going to get far in one of these things if you can’t even drink water.

 

GLORIOUS DAYBREAK
Logan River (69) to Beaver Mtn. Lodge (75)
7.2 miles in between (2 hours, 53 minutes)
Crew Accessible; 12:30 pm cutoff Mile 75
ETA 8:30 am; actual arrival 8:51 am, out at 9:04
1300’ ascent, 1500’ descent from 69 to 75

Jon Kinzer once again materialized at Logan River and decided to head out with us, and we hung with him for about two minutes before he disappeared into the dark on the other side of a large river crossing shortly out of the aid station.

Sam and I, on the other hand, took the crossing very slowly, as it was of utmost importance to me to not get my feet wet – I had powdered them with Sam’s AMAZING Monkey Butt foot powder at Mile 45, and they still felt good and dry. My blisters were all tolerable, and I wanted to keep the same shoes for the duration of the race ‘cause they are my most favorite pair!

We crept 3/4 of the way across the river on fat logs, frigid water roiling a few inches under our feet…and then the logs ended. Uh oh.

Until this point I had been wondering why I kept hearing reports of people falling into the water. At mile 70, when you combine slick, wobbly rocks with tired, wobbly legs, it’s not hard to imagine a full immersion. Sam was a HUGE help at this point because I was not feeling so sure on my feet. We synchronized an intricate, and probably comical, two-step across the remainder of the river on big, slippery rocks. We probably could have won an Ultra Dancing with the Back of the Packers contest with that performance. Still dry, yay!

Sam really, really enjoyed running through amazing tunnels of aspens, even though it was still dark. (He had been awake the whole day before and had been running with me all night – why was he still having a great time when I was so low?)

As I recall, dawn crept across the sky somewhere in the 7 o’clock hour. I remember almost nothing of the hour before that, but I do remember my world transitioning from black to grey to gold. Like a beautiful gift, the sun appeared over the meadow on the horizon just as we neared the summit of that section’s climb from the basin behind us. Hunters with rifles on horses waited off to the side of the meadow while we passed.

After this, it was pretty much rolling flats and downhill as we descended into Beaver Mountain Lodge, a ski yurt operating as an aid station for this day. It seemed like forever that we could see the ski runs carved on an adjacent hillside. The aid station took a very long time in coming.

It was miraculous – we emerged from the draw into a beautiful meadow just as the sun rose over the horizon.

I found running almost impossible – Sam will have to remind me if I was able to run at all. I think I was trying to adapt my knee to some sort of downhill lope. But I was still demoralized and frustrated, even with the stunning beauty of a new day surrounding me. Maybe the dawn did bring a little life to my soul, but not as much as I had hoped for.

Daybreak.

John had arrived at Beaver Mountain Lodge quite a while ahead of us and found Ben sacked out amidst piles of gear taking a lengthy nap. Finally, Ben got up and started muttering about how tired he was; Ben’s contribution to a conversation about the finish line festivities involved Oompa Loompas and edible grass like on Willy Wonka – and the girls from Hugh Hefner’s house…Yeah.

And just like that, Ben was gone…into the dawn.

Even when Sam and I arrived, Beaver Mountain Lodge consisted of bodies of people who had quit and were waiting for rides, with bags and gurneys lined up all around. The gurnies were there for ski season, but the scene reminded John of a war zone.

John exchanged my knit hat for sunglasses, and Sam emerged with BenGay from his drop bag, which he rubbed on my knee in hopes that it would loosen it up and help me get my run back. It felt a little warm on my knee, but I can’t say it worked any magic. On the plus side, the thick dirt crust on my legs combined with the white analgesic paste created a lovely pattern on my legs that remained to the bitter end.  🙂

ONE STATE DOWN, ONE TO GO
Beaver Mtn. Lodge (75) to Gibson Basin (81)
5.4 miles in between (2 hours, 8 minutes)
No Crews; 2:00 pm cutoff Mile 81
ETA 10:30 am; actual arrival 11:12 am, out 11:14 am
1300’ ascent from 75 to 81

Before the race, I had put a clean shirt in my drop bag at Beaver Mountain, my dad’s Crater Lake Marathon shirt from the early 80’s. I thought it might give me some inspiration for the last quarter of the run. For a moment, I considered not worrying about changing, but at the last moment I decided to just do it.

So, back in daytime running garb and carrying a cup of hot coffee in one hand and a cup of hot (yay!) chicken noodle soup broth in the other, Sam and I left Beaver Mountain in blazing daylight, the day warming quickly. The coffee and broth helped rejuvenate me a little bit, but my pace was still so slow. After navigating a tricky section of the race course that involved several turns, we made it across the highway to the jeep road that would lead us up to the Gibson Basin aid station (81).

Even John got confused leaving Beaver Mountain. First he passed us out by the road heading up one way, and then we ran into him again heading up the road we were taking to the next aid station. I knew this was not a crew accessible station, so this worried me, but I tried not to think about it. Sure enough, pretty soon John was heading back down the treacherous Jeep road toward us. Whoops! After a quick kiss for John, Sam and I continued up the road, and John headed down to figure out how to really get to the next aid station. Like us, John had not slept at all to speak of since 4:45 am the previous morning, so I can’t imagine he was firing on all cylinders either. Haha.

It was 5.4 miles straight up to Gibson Basin. We passed from Utah into Idaho and stopped to take pictures of the sign. Arriving at Gibson, I quickly refilled my pack, grabbed a couple bites of melon, and checked out, leaving Sam to catch up.

THE DAY GETS WARM…JUST KEEP MOVING
Gibson Basin (81) to Beaver Creek CG (85)
4 miles in between (1 hour, 35 minutes)
Crew Accessible; 3:00 pm cutoff at Mile 85
ETA 11:45 am; Actual arrival 12:49 am, out at 12:50
300’ ascent, 800’ descent from 81 to 85

The road out of Gibson Basin led about a half-mile straight across a meadow, and we could see people way out there turning to head up the hill to the right. I remember trying to run across this flat piece of road. I don’t know if you could call it running. It seemed too tiring, so I resorted to walking just like everyone else.

The long road leading out of Gibson Basin.

This brings up another recurring theme – EVERYONE walks faster than I do. A couple powerwalked past me like I was standing still, talking and laughing – well, he looked pretty focused, but she was SMILING. I could not comprehend it. Plus, I was irritated because she made me hot just looking at her in her fleece pullover. I had removed my long sleeved shirt a couple miles back, and the temperature out on that exposed section was very warm, probably pushing the 80s. I wished I had some of what they had, but I didn’t know how to find it. Maybe I didn’t want it bad enough. Part of me had given up, yet I refused to quit.

Arriving at Beaver Creek CG (85), and after navigating a series of very stressful creek crossings on Mile 85 legs – thank goodness John was there to assist me (it wouldn’t have been such a big deal if I wasn’t trying so hard to keep my feet dry) – John told me that I needed to find 30 minutes somewhere. I couldn’t fathom this. Push hard, he said. This was the first time pushing hard had occurred to me. This may seem crazy obvious, but for hours I had been trudging through the depths of despair. How do you push hard for another six hours when you have already pushed for thirty? That is maybe the ultimate 100 mile question.

Allie and Margaret coming into Beaver Creek CG.

But John got me thinking. Push hard? That’s, like, something you do in a marathon or a 5k or something. I’ve done 85 miles. It was beyond my comprehension. The doubt in myself was too overwhelming. If I would have re-evaluated my pace schedule earlier in the morning, maybe I could have convinced myself that I could still make the cutoff and get back on track. However, the enormity of my “behind-ness” had grown huge in my head like a bite of bad food in my mouth. I was very hard to convince that my slowness could be un-done. My doubt was overpowering, and ultimately what “ruined” my finishing pace.

I was exhausted. The day had grown hot. Fifteen miles, and the ascending and descending within them was overwhelming. John kept saying, Push hard. You only need to find a half hour somewhere. That’s it. You can do it.

John was right of course. I believe I could have done it, had I mustered my fire a couple of hours sooner. I may have been depleted of fuel at that point. Nothing sounded good, and I had had a hard time eating enough. While John was filling my pack with water, I made myself a half of PB&J sandwich, groaning and half-laying across the folding table, propping myself up with my elbows. Two teenage boys and their father, who were manning the aid station, glanced at me with little interest, mostly ignoring me. Nothing was offered, nothing looked good. But I made that sandwich and checked out, with John hugging me and reminding me once more that I could push hard.

 

DIRTBIKES, DUST, AND DOUBT
Beaver Creek CG (85) to Ranger Dip (92)
7 miles in between (3 hours, 8 minutes)
Crew Accessible; 4:30 pm cutoff at Mile 92
ETA 2:30 pm; actual arrival 3:58 pm, out at 4:03 pm
1200’ ascent, 600’ descent from 85 to 92

Aside from the last two, this section was probably the most pivotal piece of the race in terms of my finishing time. The next seven miles from Beaver Creek (85) to Ranger Dip (92) were interminable.

I was a lugubrious heap of flesh shuffling through hot dust.

I had my iPod back in through this section, but my brain had ceased its ability to be motivated by it or even comprehend the songs. I think Eminem’s Lose Yourself (I know, don’t judge) came on during this section: You only get one shot, do not miss your chance…,This opportunity comes once in a lifetime… The lyrics were appropriate, and I remember trying to find motivation there, but it just was not coming. I could not muster a faster pace.

I tried to envision myself sitting down back at Beaver Creek and saying I’m done. I couldn’t envision that. At the same time, I couldn’t envision myself covering the next seven miles of hot dusty, mountainous terrain. But it didn’t matter. I knew I wouldn’t let everyone down by quitting. I knew I would not be happy with a DNF hanging over my head for the next year. Plus, it was only one more aid station, and then onto the finish! What was so hard about that?

Defeat, despair, desolation…they had a grip on me for 20 very frustrating miles.

Sam tried to encourage me. You are an amazing person and an amazing runner and you inspire a lot of people, and not making one cutoff does not change that. My negative state got the better of me, and despite firm resolve prior to the race to STAY POSITIVE, EMILY, my pessimism had established a pretty firm grip.

I am NOT amazing, I am NOT a hero, I am NOT a good runner, and I am NOT going to make the cutoff!

John’s encouragement at Beaver Creek was invaluable. He lit a spark in me that did not manifest itself immediately, but it was slowly building. I was so caught up in the fact that I was an hour and a half behind my schedule, and my doubt caused me to lose focus of my goal through those most difficult miles.

Despite all that, I still did believe that I would make it past the Ranger Dip cutoff in time and that I would still finish the race without being pulled off the course. See? Shows that what you believe will most likely come true. If I had believed all day that I would finish by the 6 pm, I’m sure I would have done it.

But the spark was there, deep down. Sam and I trudged through the seven miles that seemed like 70 from Beaver Creek to Ranger Dip, the longest miles of our lives. I was trying to block it out. I knew it would seem like forever. That was to be expected. I was on autopilot, blocking out the heat, the dust, the discomfort, the exhaustion. Zone out. Just keep moving. I was not smelling the barn yet.

To add insult to injury, this section of the race was characterized by hot dust, blazing sun, and ATVs! There must have been 20-30 ATV riders who passed us on this road, as well as two idiotic carfuls of young men in a Jeep and a truck who had gotten stuck and then passed us later, giving us approximately zero inches of clearance. We were not too inclined to move off the road either. We would have been easy pickings.

Sometime in the later stages of this torturous climb, The Pink Lady and her pacer blew by us (at a walk) like we were standing still. Her pacer was “the meanest guy I could find,” Dr. Marc, The Pink Lady’s brother, told me later at the finish line.

The Pink Lady looked like death, like she could not possibly have anything left. Her face was smeared with sweat and sunscreen. Her eyes were half closed. She had a tottering hike-cadence that I should have been able to match. Her clothing was stained with dirt. But she was doing it. She was pushing and being pushed. She wanted that buckle worse than I did. This was her 8th Bear, and it would be her first official finish. She wanted that buckle BADLY, and her pacer was going to make sure she got it. She had a drive where mine was missing. Her pacer was handing her Ensure to sip every couple minutes and whistling at her like a dog to make sure she was staying up to pace.

They offered me an Ensure on their way by, but I couldn’t even muster a coherent response. I should have taken it. But it was so confusing. WHY ARE PEOPLE ASKING ME QUESTIONS!?!

 

I should have gone with her. The Pink Lady, Celeste Collman, finished in 35:55, with five minutes to spare.

After a very long, 1200’ascent over about 4.5 miles, we finally summited out into breathtaking views of rolling hills and meadows with glimpses of Bear Lake off to our left from nearly 9000 feet elevation. Having no idea how far we had come or how long we had to go to the next aid station, the crest of the hill with those views of the lake made us think we were getting close. Three and a half miles was not close. It was endless. We could see the road rolling far out ahead of us.

Bear Lake from high above.

I could see The Pink Lady and her pacer just hammering it down below us. I wished we had gone with them. If I would have had an inkling of hope, I could have gone with her. My hope had gone on vacation and was waiting for me at Ranger Dip (92). I didn’t believe…not yet.

A mile or two away from Ranger Dip, hot and delirious in the afternoon sun, Sam started hallucinating aid stations. At one point, he even started clapping and cheering for me saying the aid station is right there! I looked but saw nothing but big rocks, trees, and dirt. I’m pretty sure those are rocks, not cars, Sam, I said gravely. These things become matters of serious debate at Mile 90.

After many rolling hills and many false aid station sightings, we arrived at Ranger Dip at 3:58 pm, 32 minutes before the final cutoff for that aid station. People who arrive at that point at 4:30, the cutoff, do not make it to the finish by 6 pm. But I had two hours to do eight miles. Sounds do-able, right? Well…

Somewhere late in those miles before Ranger Dip, I began praying about my knee. It had hindered me from running fast at all on the downhill sections where I should have been able to make up time. I knew if there was any chance AT ALL to finish without getting pulled off the course, I would need to be able to run the last section to the finish on the steepest descent of the race.

Lord, if I even have a chance, if I am intended to push and make an attempt at finishing this race by six, please give my run back. I will take it as a sign.

SMELLING THE BARN AND A MIRACLE FOR MY KNEE
Ranger Dip (92) to Fish Haven (100)
8 miles in between (2 hours, 46 minutes)
Crew Accessible; 6:00 pm cutoff at Mile 100
ETA 5:30 pm; actual arrival 6:49 pm
700’ ascent, 3300’ descent from 92 to 100

At Ranger Dip, the air was festive, even though Sam and I were the only runners there. This is the home stretch! I was still lamenting the unlikelihood that I would finish in time. One of the guys at the aid station told me that he had seen people come through after 4 pm, even after me, and still finish before six. This was exactly what I needed to hear. I had to try. A bit of clarity was seeping into my foggy brain, and I thought again of all the people at home waiting to see the next set of numbers appear on the spreadsheet, thinking of me and praying for me. I absolutely felt those prayers and believe they were the ropes that kept me from plummeting.

I tried to get down low and capture how steep this last climb really was.

After inhaling some ramen noodles (the best food in the race, according to Sam, and I am tempted to agree), and refilling our water, we were out of there, with one final climb and one huge descent between us and the finish line.

The last climb. It was really steep.

This was not a long climb, but it was definitely steep, gaining 700 feet in less than a mile. I put my hands on my knees and vowed to not stop. I plowed up that hill, only looking back once to take some final pictures, and then I stowed the camera for good. It was time to get down to business. We left the aid station at 4:03 pm, and I remember looking at my watch at the summit at 4:13 pm – I’m not sure if my watch and the race clock were exactly synced, but regardless, we climbed that hill in less than 15 minutes. Rock on.

C’mon, Sam. You can do it!

And then we started down. Steep down, rolling down, gradual down, catch-me-in-a-net-steep down. And I was RUNNING. The twist in my knee had vanished. Maybe it was the adrenaline, maybe it was the power of the mind knowing I was on the last stretch. But I prefer to believe that I was experiencing something miraculous as a result of the prayers going up for me. Thank you!

Sam said one of the best moments of the race was watching me pull out my funk which took forever. The cutoff time was in doubt, says Sam, but I never doubted you would snap out of it. He was amazed at the power of prayer and at the energy I displayed after leaving Ranger Dip. That’s when I was back in the game and anything was possible. Very impressive.

Ok, this was the deal. If my knee held up, I was going to give this thing all I had. I ran tentatively at first, building until I was running as fast as I could, making really good time, probably doing a 9-10 minute per mile pace through some of those miles. I tried to outrun Sam. (He will only admit to being a little bit worn down on the way up that last hill.)

Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive came on during on this piece, and my excitement was mounting. I again thought of those treadmill runs where I visualized The Bear finish getting closer with each step. On every run for the last two months, I ran the last miles of the Bear, but now it was real. This was the moment of truth. I could push hard and try to salvage some of my pride, or I could give up and let it all go.

I had two hours.

Back at Ranger Dip, the aid station captain had identified himself as the race sweep and told me that since I had passed through his aid station before the cutoff, he would allow me to finish the race, even if I was not going to get there by 6 pm. But I had to try.

Coming out of the trees, getting closer to Bear Lake and the Finish.

Finally, we came out of the trees, but we could see that we were still a great distance from the lake, still pretty high up. Next was a section of deep dust and rocks going straight down an ATV trail that would eventually take us out to the road into town. This was so very difficult. My faculties were not entirely intact, and it was treacherous trying to navigate this super-slick dirt over rocks without crashing. There were a couple times when I did actually take this approach. After slipping on rocks, I would just give in to the fall and slide down as far as possible on my backside. It was a pretty good strategy.

A couple miles from the finish, a runner (Green Shirt Guy) came bombing past us with a terrified look in his eye. Apparently, he had passed through Ranger Dip right at the 4:30 cutoff, and he was racing the sweep to make it to the finish. He asked if he was going to make it.

How far is it? he asked.

We told him we weren’t sure, but we were pretty sure that we weren’t going to make it.

I remember looking at my watch then and it said 17:53 – only 7 minutes to cover what we were sure was over two miles. By this time, we knew we wouldn’t make the cutoff, but it was okay. Shortly after terrified Green Shirt Guy sprinted past, the race sweep came roaring up.

Is that guy going to make it? we asked. We wanted to make sure we were not throwing away our chances by not sprinting it in from here. No way, he said.

Okay.

At that point, we pretty much decided to get there when we got there. In hindsight, I do regret this decision, but it seemed okay at the time. It was enough to finish. If we had kept on running and pushing, I feel certain we would have finished by 6:20 pm. But this was not where I was losing my official finish. That happened 20 miles ago. This was where I was simply finishing, and I was happy.

We looked over to the left and saw Green Shirt Guy hiking…what? Another hill?… Turns out, we were not emerging onto the town road quite yet. We had to take a left and go over one more little hill with a water tank on top, and then we could descend down over the river and onto a gravel road through a rural subdivision that seemed to go on forever. We were walking at this point.

Sam realized he had cell coverage and took the opportunity to call Davina and Tina to give them an update. I talked to them both, and it was surreal to get to tell them I was finishing as I was actually doing it. Maybe those special phone calls were worth not running hard to the finish. I don’t know.

Along this stretch of road, we encountered Kerry Flaker (her husband Jeff had finished a few hours earlier, his first 100 also), coming out to scout our position. It was so wonderful to see her smiling face. And then about a quarter mile from the main highway and the finish, we saw Margaret Heaphy up ahead, and we broke into a run. Yay! I had been choking back tears for the last mile, knowing that this was it. On some level, I had succeeded. Seeing Margaret, the tears vanished, and I got excited. We reached the highway and Margaret broke off to cut across the finish area. We passed a smiling Allie standing out on the highway, and then we turned onto the driveway, about 100 yards from the finish line.

THE FINISH

All the fatigue melted away, the pain vanished, the defeat became victory, the tears became smiles. Euphoria took over as I ripped my pack off, hurled it on the lawn, and sprinted to the finish with a smile plastered on my face. Dennis, Paul, Lynette, Ben, Jon – they were all there waiting for me and cheering as I finished. They waited for me! That meant a lot.

Me and Sam coming down the driveway to the finish.

I didn’t quit, I said to John as he hugged me under the finish banner. I didn’t quit. I know – it’s obvious I didn’t quit, and it seems simplistic to say those words now. But it seemed profound to me at that time, and it was a mantra I had been repeating for the last eight miles. So many times I felt like I could have quit when I didn’t know how to keep going. But…I didn’t quit through the lowest of lows. I didn’t quit even knowing I wasn’t going to get my buckle. I didn’t quit.

 

So happy to finish.

After a fun picture-taking session complete with Dennis showing off his clap-pushups, a really nice race volunteer brought me a plate of food and bowl of shrimp. Dennis set me up with a chair and a blanket – I was getting cold even before I finished. I felt pampered and rewarded, even though I was not getting any special recognition from the race.

All of us finished!!! L-R: Dennis, Sam, Me, Ben, Paul, Jon, Jeff, Lynette, Margaret, Allie. Tony had already left.

As we drove out of the parking lot heading up the road to our hotel in Montpelier, I exclaimed that there was a moose RIGHT THERE! John and Sam laughed at me and pointed out that what I was seeing was really a life-size, wrought iron, 2-D black moose-shaped yard decoration. I swear it was full-bodied and that it was moving. A little way up the road, John said he kept thinking the reflectors on poles by the road were runners with headlamps. I guess that’s what 40 hours without sleep will do to you.

Sam is my hero of the day.

SPECIAL THANKS

To Sam, my friend and running buddy, who did the best he could do for me by traveling a great distance with every intention of helping me. Ultimately, it was me who needed to help myself, but that does not diminish my appreciation for Sam. He helped so much with navigation when my brain was getting mushy by always being ahead and bird-dogging the course flagging, and we never got lost like a lot of people did. Sam was invaluable when it came to creek and river crossings. He supplied me with S-caps and other tasty snacks. He rubbed BenGay on my dirt-caked knees at Mile 75 to help get me moving better.  He put up with my ridiculous bouts of grumpiness. Thank you.

To John, an ultra newbie just like me. Together we are going to get this thing down. You were the best thing that could have happened to my race. Thank you for being there at every point you could. Thank you for being unfailingly upbeat. Thank you for pushing me. I would not have wanted to do it without you.

The next day.

TWO DAYS POST RACE

I feel great except for my toes. My feet and ankles are still swelling quite a bit (swelling lasted two days post-race), and I am tired. The crazy swelling of my hands (and Sam’s too) that we had most of Saturday during the race went away almost immediately after the race. I will take a nap this afternoon. I essentially have no soreness to speak of. My right knee is still a bit sore to the touch, but with a little rest to heal it up (I will have to rest anyway because of my blistered toes), it will be back to normal in no time.

 

I finally got to take my shoes off at the hotel. My entire fourth toe was encapsulated in blister. My shoes stunk sooo badly, and my socks were like dirt clod patties. 

ONE WEEK POST RACE

  • Blisters mostly healed.
  • No soreness, even in the few days after the race.
  • Extreme tiredness remains.
  • Legs feel heavy after sitting.
  • Woke up in cold sweats Monday and Tuesday nights after the race.
  • Went to boot camp Wednesday and it about killed me – not the workout itself; that was fine – but later in the day, I could hardly function. Did not go Friday.
  • Thursday evening, 5 days post-race, I was able to run 3.6 miles at a decent pace, but that was my limit. I was running with Ben, and we were having a good time talking, but finally I had to drop off. Knee hurt later that night after sitting. Need to take it easy.
  • My nose took a week to get through the worst of the chapping.
  • Two weeks post-race: Went on an 8-mile trail run in the Owyhees, and although the overall pace was really easy, I still managed to roll my left ankle again, shooting a searing pain from my ankle bone down. Ok, that’s it. I’m taking an entire week off from running and boot camp. Self-imposed resting exile.
  • Three weeks post-race: I am still tired, but I finally feel like I am on the road to normalcy. I have been exceptionally tired the past three weeks, even now, but granted I have not been to bed too many nights before midnight. It is hard to get up earlier than 9:00 am. After a week of no running at all, I ran 4 miles in my new NB101’s with great success. The ankle is still weak, but I wrapped it and forged through a couple close calls of nearly twisting it to come out of the run with more confidence and a great appreciation for the joy of running.
  • Four weeks post-race: I think I am back to “normal” now. I ran 25 miles this week following my rest week and feel really good. Loving my NB 101’s.

POST RACE THOUGHTS

Reading back over this report, I realize it may seem to you a report of a slow decline to failure. Maybe my inability to obtain a buckle could be deemed by some as failure. I fell short of the race’s arbitrary, albeit rather generous, time limit. But I covered 100 miles. I do not feel negative about the outcome.

You may think I make a lot of excuses for what went wrong. It may seem that a lot went wrong, period. It may seem like many things could have been changed. This is hardly the case.  I do not feel the race was a negative experience, nor do I think I could have done anything differently. It is easy to re-run the race after the fact.

In reality, a lot went right, and I truly feel like I did the best I could under the circumstances during the race. I do not have to live the next year wondering if I can go the distance. There are no excuses. Like anyone who wants to improve, I am evaluating this race, and I will do many things differently at future races. I will go back to Bear next year and get my buckle. I found the bottom of my soul, and I am not sure I like what I found. As much as I wanted to be positive and have fun the whole race, I found  1) that was probably an impossible goal, and 2) that I am a person with doubting, pessimistic tendencies. These traits will not be changed on race day. This will be part of my training. Positive, positive, positive. Eat, sleep, breathe my next 100 miler. Just as in the Christian walk – body, mind, and attitude: always training.

I am the sort of person who tends to do things in steps. I look back at where I was three years and nine months ago, just starting to run again six months after giving birth to Margie – out of shape and starting from scratch. Two years ago, I ran my first marathon. A year and four months ago, I ran my first 50k. Three months ago, I ran my first 50 miler. This was my first 100, but definitely not my last. I went the distance. I have a foundation to build on. I will be back next year, and mark my words, I will earn my Bear buckle.

Simply getting through my first 100 was the best learning experience of all. You just cannot know how you will react to those late miles until you have been there. Now that I know what some of my struggles seem to be, I can anticipate them and be stronger, tougher, and push harder next time. I knew before the race that I would have highs and lows. I knew I would find the bottom of my soul. I had been reminded of that early in the race by a veteran. But I did not have the perspective within myself to remember that later on the second day. Now I know how I respond to sleep deprivation. I know how I respond to extended periods of doubt and despair. I have a better idea of what I need from a pacer and crew. I know 100 times more than I knew before this race; yet I still have 100 times more to know.

My journey continues. I hope you will come with me.

A BREAKDOWN OF THE RACE, LIST-STYLE

Successes and Good Things

  • The HOT coffee and HOT chicken broth at Mile 75 shortly after sunup rocked.
  • Brooks Ghost 2 shoes for 55 miles!
  • 40-50 miles per week was adequate training to finish the Bear in 35 hours.
  • Shirt change at Mile 75 was good. Could have used a toothbrush and face wash.
  • Feet were tolerable, in spite of the 15+ blisters. I couldn’t wait to get the shoes off my feet, but I did not have extreme foot pain.
  • Legs never hurt like crazy, just tired, without much run left in them.
  • Caffeine at miles 61 and 69 was a good thing. I think the Doubleshot was the most useful.

Need to Improve

  • Make sure to eat a little more. I remember being hungry coming into quite a few aid stations. I would hopefully avoid more lows by staying more fortified with fuel. Drink more Ensure, especially later in the race when it’s hard to take in too much food. Probably needed more calories. After a while it was not appealing to think about eating, but that’s exactly what I needed.
  • Plan aid station procedures more carefully with crew and pacer beforehand. Make an aid station list to quickly carry out, and then get out of there. Overall, if I have a crew/pacer, some pre-race planning would be in order. I can’t fathom why I didn’t do this, but it would have made a big difference.
  • Should have tied bandanna around my knee. Duh! That’s what I had extra bandanas for!
  • Should have run the race in at the end instead of walking for two miles after we realized we were going to be over the cutoff.
  • Should have paced with The Pink Lady, who finished in 35:55.
  • Needed to stay positive and not let despair and defeat rule my race for such a long time. Every runner has lows, but mine lasted for too long. Realize that achieving goals is possible as long as I am still moving.

 

Food
Many people ask me what I eat to stay fueled on a 36-hour jaunt. Here you go: The following is everything I can remember eating, a pretty complete list, omitting only random little stuff I probably grabbed from aid station tables.

  • a raspberry crème Powergel
  • multiple oatmeal raisin walnut cookies
  • several handfuls of melon
  • 3/4 of a banana (that Steve Pero advised I eat at Mile 30)
  • Cliff mango gel (yuck!)
  • lots of S-caps and plain water – success!
  • 1 plain McDonald’s hamburger (thanks, Honey!)
  • 2 handfuls dark chocolate espresso beans
  • @4 caffeine latte Powergels
  • cup of coffee
  • cup of hot chicken noodle soup broth
  • slice of cheese pepperoni pizza
  • two halves of PB & J sandwich
  • 1 Starbucks Doubleshot can
  • @4 cups vegetable soup
  • 1 bottle ensure
  • couple bites of potatoes with cheese
  • 3 margarita-flavored, extra sodium Shot Blocks
  • 1 espresso Hammer Gel (blech)
  • 1 mint chocolate GU
  • small bowl of ramen noodles
  • bowl of bean soup
  • cup of hot (lukewarm) chocolate
  • potato stew with 2 rolls (awesome!)
  • chips
  • trail mix
  • lemon Luna bar
  • Nature Valley granola bar

AN ALTERNATE FORM: RACE REPORT REBUTTAL
by Dennis Ahern

In Mountains I run.
Sunrise, sunset, sunrise, ON!
Fall colors my mind.

BOISE TRAIL RUNNERS (AND ALLIE) BEAR 100 RESULTS

Dennis Ahern 28:34
Paul Lindauer 29:27
Tony Huff 29:27 (1st 100)
Lynette McDougal 31:21
Ben Blessing 31:53
Jeff Flaker 33:11 (1st 100)
Allie Wood 34:38
Jon Kinzer 34:56 (1st 100)
Emily Berriochoa 36:49 (1st 100)

7 thoughts on “BEAR 100: My Unofficial Finish”

  1. Awesome report my friend. From chuckles to tears, you let me enjoy a small part of your journey. Failure is never an option, and I’m pretty sure failure has never been part of your vocabulary. You are a winner – you set out on that 100 mile journey and finished. Despite that clock – you Finished, that takes true grit. You show more heart, more courage, more determination, more focus, more follow=through, more spirit and more character than anyone I have ever met. 100 miles is just that 100 MILES – Your journey is just beginning.
    I am so proud of you my friend!

  2. I was on the edge of my seat this whole report! I feel like I was right there with you. You don’t know failure it is NOT a part of your vocabulary my friend. You are a Hero and you have inspired me to do more. I have a whole new perspective on running now and I owe that to you! You make me want to be better and know that I too can accomplish things that I never thought I could or would… Thank you for sharing your journey with us. Love you my friend!!! 🙂

  3. It was a very, very hard run (walk). Chances are, if you do this race again next year, you will take several hours off your time. You got some good stats too, which will help. See you at Zeitgeist!

  4. Emily, Michelle and I enjoyed hearing about your exciting adventure! Hopefully I can use this as a roadmap someday! Thank you for sharing!

  5. I’m just posting a comment to tell you that I read this RR again for about the 60 millionth time. I don’t think I can get tired of it. The more I know you, the more I love this report. 🙂

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