I'm about a week late posting this, but The Bear Chase 50-miler on October 3rd ended up going very well...
After a surprisingly good pre-race nights' sleep, I found myself standing in the pre-dawn chill wishing I'd put more forethought into my starting clothing choice. Apparently shorts and a t-shirt at night in Colorado in October aren't the recipe for warmth... who knew?
Anyway, like I previously posted, I entered this race on a whim knowing that it had PR potential, having a total elevation gain of less than 4000'. In my mind I basically pictured a higher elevation version of Rocky Raccoon in Texas, and that turned out to be a perfect comparison, minus the ankle grabbing tree roots all over the place! Another similiarity to Rocky Raccoon is the multi-lap course design; for The Bear Chase runners are required to run four 12.5 mile laps. Courses like this are by no means my favorite, but they make for good psychological conditioning which is such an integral part of ultrarunning.
I started the race running with the likes of Dakota Jones and Jamie Donaldson, at a leisurely pace that felt very sustainable. It's surprising how easy running 8 minute miles all day should be... on paper, at least! You always think, 'This is nothing, I'm gonna kill this course!', only to be reminded that you're human once fatigue decides to stealthily step in and kick your butt slowly and painfully as the distance and time increase!
By mile 5 I'd intentionally opened up about a 30 second lead for the sole purpose of getting my obligatory first bowel movement out of the way while not losing the lead pack. After this pit stop I was shortly able to catch up with Dakota again, and we pretty much ran together for all of Lap 1.
After this first lap I became skeptical of my ability to run sub-7. Granted, there was a pit stop involved, but despite a pretty hard effort, it had taken me 1:39 to cover the first 12.5 miles, which was about 4-5 minutes off my goal pace. At this point I was in 2nd place, but Dakota caught up with me shortly (after a pit stop of his own) and soon I had to duck into the trees for bowel movement #2 and I wouldn't see him again until the finish.
By the midway point of lap #2 the legs were getting extremely heavy and the previously mentioned time goal no longer mattered. I now just wanted to push through the fatigue and finish, letting the time take care of itself. I wasn't ruling out a PR, I just didn't want a specific time goal anymore since my body was at less than full strength.
The remaining laps were uneventful. Basically, there were 3 small but noticeable climbs on each lap, as well as 3 river crossings per lap. These were the only features that broke up the monotony of 'left foot, right foot, repeat'. It got much hotter than expected in the early afternoon which made for a tough fourth lap, but still this was a race that while not exciting, did offer an ideal course to run fast on.
My laps were as follows (approximately): 1:39, 1:44, 1:53, 1:59.
FINAL TIME: 7:16.xx (50 Mile PR) - 3rd Place Overall
(Results can be found here.)
All in all, this was a great experience and yet still very humbling; Dakota ended up pulling out the 'W' in 6:39, despite having just run his first 100-miler the weekend before. Impressive.
My confidence, which is like a never ending rollercoaster ride, is currently through the roof again. With only one more big race left in 2010, I'm ready to end it on a high note and then go into my much needed off-season.