As I made my preparations, I wasn’t sure what to think. The Bear has a reputation for being super laid back, and with a new course, I wondered if that would pose any problems. At the same time, as the new course took shape, I became really excited to run it. It looked a lot better than the old one, and after running the last 7 miles in July, I knew it would be a killer course.
Race day came, and true to fashion, I had forgotten something at the starting line. Luckily, Jared Campbell was more prepared than me and lent me a spare headlamp. The first 20 miles were fairly uneventful. After some confusion at the first major turn on to single track, everyone lined out and I was pretty much running by myself, with an occasional glimpse of Nate, Ty and Jared cruising ahead. After refilling my bottles at Logan Peak, I started the killer descent down Leatham Hollow. The colors were out of this world! I caught up to Jared Campbell and was content to run along with him and enjoy the good company and the beautiful colors.
From there until Temple Fork, I ran by myself and as it started to heat up, I concentrated on keeping hydrated. I was running with my Nathan Pack that holds two bottles, and I picked up a 3rd handheld bottle at Right Hand Fork. I tried to remember an S-cap every hour, as well as popping an Orange-ginger Nuun tablet into my hand-held every time I filled up. I think the Nuun, as well as eating as much solid food as possible-Snickers bars, PB&J’s, soup, banana’s and Pringles- instead of an all gel diet, kept my stomach under control for the first time in a race over 6 hours. I think I only ate 10-12 gels the whole race. I need to take a moment to thank Jared Campbell’s girlfriend Mindy. She was at a few of the aid stations through this section and was a great help to me in making sure I had something to eat and drink as well as providing a few encouraging words and a smile. Thanks Mindy! It was also a nice surprise to see my my Dad and his wife Denise at Temple Fork and Tony Grove. Thanks for making the drive up just to cheer on a haggard runner for 3-4 minutes!
Leaving Temple Fork I felt great. I ate another PB&J and started the climb up to Tony Grove. I don’t remember much of the climb, except that it was beautiful, and I loved getting towards the top with the aspens all aglow. Talk about inspirational. I have to admit, at one point, I just sat down on a log for 3-4 minutes, ate some gum drops and soaked it all in. Being dead tired didn’t have anything to do with it at all. Then I got to Tony Grove. WOW. What a beautiful setting. One of the highlights was running by the lake before the aid station and watching a guy catch a fish with his kid. At Tony Grove I picked up my first pacer of the day, Preston Aro. Preston paced me at Wasatch in ‘05 and I knew I would be in for an entertaining 25 miles. I drank a Red Bull (At least I think I did-it gets kind of blurry from 35 to 85) ate some soup and a banana and off we went. It was over the nest 45 minutes that I experienced my only real stomach issues. Nothing too serious, but enough that I had to slow down and let the sloshing work itself out. From there until Beaver Lodge, Preston and I had a great time. I didn’t push the pace too hard, choosing to power hike most of the uphills rather than run them. I was in a pretty solid 4th place at this time, and was thinking I’d be happy to stay there, and maybe pick off Leland. Preston and I had a great time talking about lots of nonsense and enjoying the magical twilight. We only got off course once or twice, and it wasn’t for more than 3-4 minutes a time. Approaching Beaver Lodge, we got off course for the third time. I honestly don’t know where or when it happened, but all the sudden we were on the main road and there were glow sticks off through the trees and arrows on the pavement pointing in other directions and the aid station was no where in sight. I was getting pretty bummed as we wandered and lost minute after precious minute. Finally we flagged someone down on the road and they pointed us back up the road. “How far?” we asked. “Oh, only ½ to ¾ of a mile.” I almost sat down and started to cry. I’m not kidding, real tears. Or I could have kicked something real hard, luckily Preston kept his distance. That was the lowest point of the race for sure. When Preston called Brooke to let her know how I was and told her that we had spent the last 25 minutes wandering, she was concerned that I’d be a little upset, and in his understated fashion, Preston told her that I was acting “a little grumpy.”
Fortunately, we made it to Beaver Lodge and Jim was waiting for me. I swear he had just taken 2 No-Doze and had 3 cups of coffee because he was bouncing off the walls. I refueled with some soup and coke, gave Preston a hug and told him thanks (at least I hope I did) and we were out of there. Jim kept saying crazy things like we were going to win the race and overtake everyone in front of us (at this point Nate, Ty and Leland were around 1 ½ hours, 1 hour and 35 minutes ahead) and all I could think was he was crazy. I was happy to hang on to 4th. When we left the aid station, Jim asked if I wanted to lead or if he should. I said I would, and that lasted about 2 minutes. Without me realizing what was happening, Jim started running in front of me and for the next 25 miles, he never let me catch up to him, except on the downhills. Talk about making me mad. He kept saying cheesy things that you only find on inspirational posters and all I could do was grunt in reply. The short of it is that we hammered those last 25 miles. I think I ran every step of runnable uphill, and I wouldn’t have done it if Jim hadn’t been the relentless task master. Say what you want about pacers, but I was sure glad to have one at that time. As we came into Ranger Dip, Shane Martin and Jeff Lamora were there to tell me that Nate was only 5 minutes ahead of me. Apparently he had been pretty sick over the last 10 miles and had to walk a lot. With a surge of adrenalin I jumped out of the chair and told Jim to get moving, we were done. I won’t say that we powered up that last mile of climb, but we went as fast as we could and towards the top we saw some lights. I thought for sure it was someone flagging the course, but as we got closer, I realized it was Nate and his pacer Larry O’Neill. I truly felt bad for Nate when I saw him because he looked terrible, and he had run such an awesome race to this point. We chatted for a second or two, and then I finished the last of the climb. I was finally on familiar territory as I had run this section a couple months before. All I had to do was hammer these last 6 miles and it was over. I even began to think that I might be able to 1) run the last 25 in under 5 hours 2) break 21 hours and 3) pass Leland for 2nd. Jim has spent the last year running the flat beaches of California and this last descent, the most brutal of the whole course, fried his quads. I gave it all I had and soon was running by myself. I couldn’t eat, couldn’t drink, it was all adrenalin. I hit the road and Jim caught up to me and told me to turn off my light. He had seen lights on the ridge behind us. I thought he was playing games, but I did it and tried to push it the last mile of pavement. We were probably running a blistering 9-10 minute pace. I knew that I was going to run the last 25 under 5 hours, I knew I’d break 21 hours, the question was Leland. Finally we saw the glowsticks marking the finish and turned down the driveway to finish in 20:56:58. I overtook Leland’s time and finished in 2nd. Jim wasn’t playing games with me, because Nate came cruising in not 7 minutes behind me to take 3rd.
What a great race, and a great day. I know there were a lot of frustrated runners due to course confusion. I was lucky that my one detour was relatively short-lived, and didn’t lead to anything more serious than a few extra minutes being on a beautiful course. If I don’t get into Wasatch in the future, then I’ll be back to run the Bear again. Who knows, I may even choose the Bear instead.
Thanks to everyone who helped with this adventure. Foremost to Brooke, Sam and Andrew for putting up with my Sat mornings away from home. Thanks to Preston and Jim and all other race day help that came my way, Greg Norrander for the great photos, and thanks to Wasatch Running Company for their support and excellent service. Happy recovery everyone.