Just over a month ago was the last race of my 2011 season, and thankfully - after a mildly disappointing Leadville 100 in August - I was able to end my year on a high note.
September 25th was the 2nd annual Bear Chase 50 mile trail race near Morrison, CO. This same event is where I set my old 50 mile PR in 2010, and I was optimistic that I could repeat the feat in '11. Adding to the excitement of running a fast time, this was to be my dad's first 50 mile race. Did I mention he turns 70 next month?! Needless to say, we BOTH were looking forward to this one.
After spending the night in the back of my Xterra in a Walmart parking with Holly the night before the race (that's love), we arrived at the race start bright and early to unseasonably warm temps. The sun hadn't even poked its head out yet and it was already in the 60's. As great as this is for spectators, it brought a wave of dread to those of us who would be running the 50k and 50 mile races.
|(Holly taking one for the team. Now that's love...)|
The first lap went smoothly, and after leading for the first 6 miles or so, I felt like the pace was a little hot, so I fell back and let a lone runner break away. After he disappeared, we had a nice little pack of 5 or 6 of us who ran together for the remainder of lap 1. Included in this group was last minute entry - and training partner of Killian Jornet - Marcel Battel. He was in the U.S. vacationing from Barcelona, and just happened to be in Colorado on the weekend of the race.
The first lap was a little faster than planned (1:31), but Marcel and I stayed together until about mile 16 when I finally had to take a pit stop in the bushes. Although I closed the gap on him late in the race, this would be the last I saw of him.
After hitting the trail again, I ran solo for the majority of the next 34-ish miles. Despite my bathroom break, my lap 2 time was still in the mid-1:30's (for 12.5 miles).
Lap 3 was all about enduring the heat and mental strain of repetitive courses. As I came into the start/finish aid station for the last time, I was completely spent and starting to cramp. I needed to pull off a sub-2 hour lap in order to hit my goal time of under 7 hours... the way I was feeling led me to believe it wasn't going to happen though.
I hit lap 4 with the sole goal (no pun intended) of just running (or jogging) as much as possible, even if it was slow, and pushing through the pain. I got a HUGE boost when I ran into my friend Alex Nichols a couple miles in. He ran with me for a portion of the last lap as he was out on a training run, and it was nice to have a familiar face to talk to for a few. Shortly thereafter, I lapped my dad who was cooling off at one of the aid stations. By now it was in the 80's and my heart went out to him for having a lap and a half left to go...
After our goodbyes, I continued my sufferfest. From here it was a miserable blend of heat, fatigue, blisters, thirst, and cramps. I had to start walking some of the uphills, and as I got to the last aid station (about 3 miles to go), I realized that I was likely not going to hit my goal time. I knew I still had a PR in the bag, so I just kept putting one foot in front of the other and - as usual - questioned why I had to choose such a painful sport.
With a about a mile to go, I looked at my watch and saw my time was at 6:52. The thought of pulling out a sub-8 minute mile seemed impossible, but I wasn't going to go down without a fight. The pain (cardio and muscular) hit an 11, but I just kept cranking and telling myself that I could retire and never run again if I somehow managed to break 7 hours. This incentive surprisingly works almost every time, yet I must have short term memory loss, because I always come back for more.
Anyway, I tossed the bottles and waist belt and sprinted in at 6:58.55, which was good for 2nd overall. About midway through lap 3, the early leader blew up, and was already resorting to walking on the uphills, so the only person I wasn't able to reel in was Marcel, who won with a time of 6:49.xx.
|(Literally SECONDS after finishing. Ouch... Marcel on the left.)|
As exciting as this new PR was, the real highlight of the day was bringing my pops in for the last mile and getting to see him finish. Hats off to his accomplishment. Besides the distance and the heat, just being on your feet for 11:48 is pure hell, yet he did it with a smile!
|(My dad rocking it at the 20 mile mark!)|
Since then, I've barely run at all as I've been nursing nagging foot pain and burnout for the last couple of months. I'm almost fully recharged, and just decided last week that I'll start training again in about a week, with the goal of being fit in time for Rocky Raccoon in February.
Lastly, I was informed yesterday that there's an article about me in the December 2011 issue of Trail Runner Magazine. As soon as I finish writing this, I'm out the door to go pick up a copy!
Just saw these guys about 3 weeks ago in Denver. Enjoy...