October 13, 2012

The Bear 100

My second 100 mile race, the Bear 100, was quite unusual.  Missoula and most of Montana has been covered in a thick cloud of smoke.  For two weeks I muscled my way through the smoke for better or worse.  It ended up being for the worse - I was constantly nauseous, my lungs were burning and my sinuses were flaring up.  Being stubborn isn't always a good thing.  I tried driving 3 hrs in each direction and all I found was more smoke.  After a short, claustrophobic freak out I settled down and bought a gym membership.  I still hate the idea of running indoors not to mention that the gym plays reruns of the Kardashians on 90 inch flat screen right in front of your face.  Needless to say I was quite skeptical of my fitness heading into the Bear 100.  I had a solid base from earlier in the year but I wasn't quite as sharp in my training and workouts as I was before Western States 100.  I would be well, well rested for this one.  Lisa, Chloe and I headed South to Logan, Utah and found some fresh air!   

We had two special guests fly in for the race - mom and gram.  The morning finally came.  Lisa, mom, Chloe and I headed to the start.  The start area was flooded with people and Chloe was quickly becoming the main event.  Barking and charging after racers and other dogs - oh Chloe.

Here is what was to come...

Out of nowhere some guy in the crowd said "Are you ready to start?" then he looked around for a minute and said "really guys, I said start".  That was it - we were off.  It was the most unofficial race start I have ever seen and I loved it.  

The early miles started off like all 100 milers do - dark, slow and conversational.   Ten of us ran and hiked together for the first 10 miles, up 4000 ft, to Logan Peak.  I was surprised at how much hiking we did on this section and how separated we were this early.  There was plenty of running to do later so I focused on running smooth and being patient.  After the Logan Peak aid station it was time to descend down to Leatham Hallow.

100 yards before the Leatham Hallow Aid Station (mile 20).

The next stretch was a 3 mile dirt road with about 3 inches of powder dirt on top.  Cars and ATVs went screaming down this road and created huge dust clouds.  It took me an hour to clear my lungs of that dirt.  From Leatham Hollow (mile 20) to Cowley Canyon (mile 30) I ran with Matt Hart and Hal Koerner.  We were still running easy and no one wanted to take the lead.  

Gram and Chloe waiting at Cowley Aid Station

Trying to get rid of the rocks in my shoes at Cowley Canyon

The section from Cowley Canyon (mile 30) to Temple Fork (mile 45) was mostly game trail that followed a creek bed.  The weather for the race was perfect, sunny and upper 70s low 80s, but this particular section was really hot and dry.  I was starting to overheat and had the first signs of dehydration.  Being dehydrated this early into a 100 miler can be a race-ender.  On this stretch I must have jumped into the ice cold creek every time it crossed paths with the trail.  I must of jumped in 5 or 6 times and I was relentlessly chugging water from my pack.  After an hour of this my body finally started to turn around.  As I came into the Temple Fork Aid Station I knew Hal had about 15 min on me and that Matt, Nick, Ty and the rest of the race were right behind me.

Lisa bringing me into the Temple Fork Aid Station

Always looking for someone to refill my pack.  Trying to kick the dehydration.

I set off from Temple Fork (mile 45) up a steep climb to the half way point - Tony Grove.  It was on this section that my race would take a dramatic turn.  Up until this point I had been running conservatively and was battling a touch of dehydration.  This section had the second biggest climb ~3200 ft and was frustratingly steep.  Again I found myself power hiking more than running.  Around 3 miles from the aid station I started seeing the bright orange jersey of Hal climbing in front of me.  Slowly I made up ground on the climbs and finally caught up to him and we ran together for a while.  Hal looked pretty beat up and urged me to go on.  When ever you move into the front of a race you always get a surge of adrenaline.  I used mine to power up the rest of the climb and put as much time on Hal as I could.   The Tony Grove aid station was set by a beautiful alpine lake that was reflecting the changing fall colors - inspiring.  As I rolled into Tony Grove (mile 52) I noticed I was ten minutes under my friend Mike Foote's course record of 18:34.

Lisa meeting me at the Tony Grove Aid Station.

 Chloe strapped down to a boat!!!  I kissed Chloe's big face on the way out.

I took 5 minutes rest at the Tony Grove aid station.  In 100 milers it is always good to sit down and let your muscles relax.  The hard part is convincing you brain that you need this and that you aren't just losing/wasting time.  After 5 minutes I saw Matt Hart coming down the trail and knew it was time to get moving.  The less your competition knows, about where you are and how you are feeling, the better.  Next stop was Franklin Basin (mile 62).  There was a good bit of downhill on this section that really hurt my hamstrings.  My hamstrings were starting to cramp again just like Ice Age 50.  I took some extra salt and started chugging water again.  That seemed to work just as I came into Franklin Basin.  Due to crew restrictions, I wouldn't see Lisa, Mom, Gram and Chloe for the next two hours.  I loaded up on gels, salt and grabbed my headlight in preparation for the coming darkness.

Lisa bringing me into Franklin Bridge aid station.

Heading off to Logan River aid station

You will notice that this was the last of the pictures.  That was due to the darkness but also due to the fact that I hit a really good stretch here and started flying.  You never know how long a good patch will stay so I just rode it and for the next 40 miles I felt really good.  The only thing that slowed me down was a mother cow who charged me to protect her two calves and two porcupines that were on trail in the middle of the night.  At each aid station I was gaining more and more time.  I knew I was running well when aid stations weren't fully set up and my crew were arriving just as I was about to leave.  There was no way they could tell how good I felt and were heading to the aid stations based on course record pace.  I never asked what my time was or looked at my watch.  I wanted to keep this moment, this feeling, suspended in time forever or at least until I finished.  The fun eventually ended at the last aid station Ranger Dip (mile 92).  After you leave the aid station there is an unbelievable climb up to the highest point of the course.  I was still running most of it but at some points it was so steep that I came to a stand still.  That was only a warmup for the steep descent of 3200 ft back down to Bear Lake and the finish line.  On the descent you are continually tricked by the seemingly nearby houses and flickering street lights along the lake.  With a mile to go I forced myself to look at my watch and saw that I could finish before it was officially Saturday.  I rallied on the flat streets leading to the finish line but when I made the final turn I thought for sure I was lost.  It was pitch black and not a soul was stirring.  Lime arrows pointed me into someone's backyard.  In Montana, you dare not run on someone else's property in the middle of the night unless you enjoy firearms..   Eventually I heard distant claps coming from the endless darkness.  Mom and Lisa were waiting alone by the finish line.  At 11:49 PM Friday night I crossed under a dark finish banner and collapsed with my first 100 mile win and a course record of 17:49:45.  Classic mountain 100 miler atmosphere.   Don't belive me.. watch the video?  

Much of Saturday was spent hobbling and petting Chloe as mom, gram and Lisa went shopping. The awards ceremony was Saturday evening.  I knew how it would go.  "Who the hell are you?  Where did you come from?  Who is the guy?"  Even the race director, Leland Baker,  seemed to examine me at each aid stations trying to figure out who I was and could I keep this up.  To his credit, I loved everything about the Bear and not just that I ran well.  I loved the low key atmosphere, the amazing trails, the friendly aid station workers and the trail markers were more than adequate both day and night.  Can't ask for much more than that.  

It turns out that a group of racers came all the way from Chapel Hill, NC to race the Bear.  They peppered me with questions about my NC State sweatshirt and forced me into a group picture.  Go Pack.

This wooden plaque is one of the coolest race awards I have seen.  Love the Grizzly carved into it.

Bear 100 Belt Buckle

A plaque to remind you "how did I just do that".

Couldn't have done it without my crew cheering me on and chasing me for a 100 miles through day and night.  Special thanks to Gram and Mom coming all the way from Cleveland, Ohio to help me.  Gram gave me a kiss on the cheek when I was really dehydrated and helped turn my attitude around.

As always, my permanent crew of Chloe and Lisa were leading the charge.  Lisa has got the crewing thing down to a science (except for that first aid station..)!  Chloe did good too at least she didn't bite any other dogs this time.  We just have to teach her not to jump on my lap after a 100 mile race.  She did however provide hours of entertainment.  She hid under a table in the hotel room for 2 days after  a fly buzzed by her ear one time.  I got rid of the fly and she still wouldn't come out from hiding - big baby.   Next race is the North Face Endurance Challenge 50 miler to end the season.  I have some unfinished business there in the hills around San Francisco....I haven't forgot.


October 8, 2012

Dirty Dash

Inspired by all the racing I have done this year, Lisa decided to throw her hat in the ring.  She was extremely (overly) excited about this Dirty Dash race coming to Missoula.  My initial thoughts were - what is this Dirty Dash and why is held at a horse park?

The smoke was out in full force.  Probably the worst smoke day of the year and here we are at the horse park - yee haw!!  I started to feel uncomfortable almost immediately aka the parking lot.  A full grown man was wearing a sparkly woman's bikini bottom and NOTHING ELSE and pounding a beer while in full sprint... must be the warm-up.  Can't wait to see what his stretching routine looks like.

Lisa had done little preparation for this race save getting a brand new, white OULA t-shirt.  Let's do this 9573.

I have never seen anything quite like this...  it was very.... American.  A full on celebration of dirt, beer and being out of shape.  The race organization was passing out beer at the starting line.  Here's to you Mr. Moose!!!!!!!

This American dirt celebration includes (obvsiously there is mud, beer, costumes and people who shouldn't be running) obstacles to test one's agility and resolve.  Watch young kids launch water balloons at the racers... and I got another great shot of Mr. Moose.

Lisa took a solid face plant on the pipes.  One severely intoxicated individual, outsmarted the competition with a nice backstroke through this section and proved to me that beer (in the right hands) can be a performance enhancer.

I just love it when the smoke hits the mud at just the right angle...

Somewhere between the pipes and the slip and slide I managed to lose Lisa's race t-shirt.  I did a quick recon of the area but someone snagged it.  Lisa is going to kill me.. at least she is smiling in the photos. 

Ok, well I missed the rest of the course because I was trying to hunt down that punk kid who picked up Lisa's shirt.  Though I never found that kid, I did manage to catch her at the finish swamp.

Watch the guy in a green cutoff tee behind Lisa shove his friend face first into the swamp.  He had a lot of fight in him.  My vote for performance of the day.

With smoke filled lungs, a stomach filled with PBR and a mud covered body Lisa reflects on this great "American" experience.  Where else in the world would you find your neighbors, friends and family on a Saturday morning drinking beer, cross dressing, climbing hay bales, swimming through mud and coughing profusely from extended smoke inhalation?  I don't know what Obama and Romney are so worked up about - the American Dream is alive and well!


Encore?  Lisa and her OULA friends had rehearsed a dance for a flash mob.  The only problem is that they couldn't stop dancing from the time the finished the race until their "secret" flash mob was set to take place.  It wasn't hard to figure out that 20 women, all wearing the same OULA t-shirt, were dancing together by the stage.  Eventually the song came on and this is what transpired...

October 7, 2012

Grand Tetons & Yellowstone

After the race Lisa, Chloe and I had two days to spend playing in the Grand Tetons.  On Saturday we napped and explored the national forest to the East of the Tetons.

Chloe is a big fan of Wilderness Areas and I am a big fan of Jedediah Smith.   Jedediah was one the first explorers of the West and survived a bear attack.  We had our own bear to protect us.

We let Chloe take the lead on our hike and she brought us to a beautiful waterfall and rock wall.  I lifted all 100+ lbs of Chloe onto that rock.  Lisa and Chloe pose in Teton Canyon.

As we headed into the town of Driggs, Idaho to get some lunch the clouds started to move in.  I asked Lisa if we should turn around and cover the tent in case it stormed.  She said "nope".  Sure enough it stormed and all of our stuff was soaking wet.

I jerry-rigged a drying rack by tying some tent string from the steel bear box to the Jeep.  Chloe, our smart little girl, laid in the shade of our drying rack.

On Sunday we woke up early, had a free breakfast at some fancy resort, then headed to the West side of the Tetons.  On the way we crossed the Idaho / Wyoming boarder.  Forever West!

Unlike the National Forest on the East side, Grand Teton National Park does not allow poochies to roam free in the wilds.  Before we left I booked Chloe a nice 5 hr poochie day care session.  When we arrived the shop was actually closed for the holiday.  That didn't stop them from selling me a 5 hr voucher or from telling me they would be open!  Fortunately the owner was in the store, listened to our sob story and allowed Chloe to stay in the front room for a couple hours while Lisa and I explored the mountains.  How much is that doggy in the window?  Not for sale.

Now poochie-less, Lisa and I drove to Jackson Hole Resort while trying to spot a moose.  Jackson Hole is a monster ski resort with trails in every direction - yes!  Surprisingly I had no soreness from the race yesterday.  I grabbed my water pack, a few gels and hit the trails up to 10,000 ft.

Lisa, smarter of the two, took the tram up to the top of the mountain.  While running I was wondering; one - would I see a moose or a bear (I forgot the bear spray again); two - would Lisa see me running up the trail?...  I never saw any wildlife save a loud, angry marmot but Lisa and the people on the tram spotted me running up the mountain.  "Look at that idiot running up the mountain when there is a nice, comfortable tram that takes you up in 5 minutes".

Lisa and I explored the mountains for a few hours then picked up Chloe from the pet shop.  It was time to officially enter one of the most beautiful places in the US - Grand Teton National Park.  Dave and I visited twice a few years ago but were shut out by clouds and rain.  On my third attempt the weather was just right!

Chloe wasn't feeling like her normal photogenic self.  Can't tell you how many retakes we had to get this one!  Maybe she was upset about the pet shop thing...

I've always wanted to visit Jenny Lake.  Lisa and I hiked back to the lake just before sunset.  It was better than I had dreamed up in my mind.  To top it off, some foreigners had taken to skinny dipping and screaming down shore from us.  My experience in national parks like the Grand Canyon, Carlsbad Caverns and Zion is that foreigners and national parks don't mix.  

The Tetons are a beautiful back drop to Jenny Lake.  Mountains and lakes do mix.

Ah Yellowstone, one of the classics.  The only problem is that is so big.  This was my fourth time in the park and I still have NEVER hiked a backcountry trail... one day.  We arrived late Sunday night and threw our tent out by Yellowstone Lake.

This was Lisa's first time in Yellowstone so we did the grand tour.  We started with the geothermal sites.

Of course we went to see Old Faithful - nothing quite like it.  No matter how many times you go, it always takes an eternity to go off and takes your breath away when it finally does.  When we first arrived Chloe slipped on the slick surface and almost fell into a geothermal puddle.  I managed to catch her flailing body right before her big paw was about to hit.  Needless to say she was a bit agitated after that.  She wrapped herself around the bench and made several attempts at biting and barking at anyone who walked by.

After the fun at Old Faithful we continued on to the little grand canyon.  By this point Chloe was getting thirsty - real thirsty.  She stared at that waterfall for a good 5 minutes.

Lisa by the Lower Falls  of Yellowstone National Park.

All in all we didn't see any wildlife and smoke from the wildfires made our tour pretty uneventful.  After three days of camping, hiking and driving we were ready to head back home.  I love the stone arch as you leave the park from the North.

"For the benefit and enjoyment of the people"

September 23, 2012

Grand Teton 50k

Getting High: No Smoke

Ever since moving to Montana I have wanted to revisit the Grand Tetons.  Every time I had been to the Tetons in the past it was either cloudy or rainy.  Even though I had been there two times prior I had never seen the peaks of the Tetons with my own eyes.  We left smoky Missoula behind us and headed out to the Grand Tetons for some camping, running and racing at altitude.

We departed after work on Friday and headed through some nasty thunderstorms to our campsite in Wyoming.  It rained throughout the night and Lisa allowed me the honor or putting on the tent cover during a rather large down pour at 2 am.  

It was an early morning start (4:30am) and Lisa was not very excited - she normally sleeps until 11am.  We drove up the steep switchbacks to the Grand Targhee ski resort and I checked in.   The Grand Teton races are pretty low key but the scenery makes up for it ten fold.  We were warned that a black bear sow and her cubs had been spotted several times recently on the course and were advised to carry bear spray - oops left mine back at the tent site.

The race started in the dark and headed straight up a 2000+ ft climb up Fred's Mountain.  I picked this partticular race for the chance to run between 8000 and 10,000 ft.  The course did not disappoint!  I was breathing deep on the first climb, which was up to 10,000ft.  You basically ran along the spine of the mountain with big canyons to the left and the ski resort to the right.  Great stuff!

The course took the shape of a cloverleaf with a central aid station that served as the start, finish and three other aid stations.  Lisa and Chloe waited patiently at the center aid station for me to return.  Chloe was not on her best behavior and attempted to bite s little boy.  Bad girl.

The central aid station.

After finishing the first three loops I was headed back up that monsterous climb to Fred's mountain AGAIN.  While running the other sections I was dreading this final loop back up to 10k ft.  I had to power hike two or three sections this time but I kept telling myself it was good training for the Bear 100 coming up in 30 days.

7000 ft of climbing for a 50k is tough at altitude

Second time up Fred's mountain - not moving quite as fast anymore

RunningTimes wrote a small write up on the race. I'll let them recap the race.

Grand Teton 50m and 50k – Driggs, Id.

Rising ultra star Chris Kollar (Missoula, Mt.) smoked the 50k course in 4:22 to win by over an hour and set a new course record by almost the same margin. Kristina Pattison (Missoula, Mt.) did the same on the women’s side with a 5:35 course record run. In the 50 miler, Sada Crawford (Sierra Madre, Ca.) topped all comers, male and female, with a 10:02 winning time.

There is a lot of talk about prize money and incentives for ultra races but my favorite award for racing an ultra is a unique object from that area.  At the Grand Teton 50k they handed out these beautiful Grand Teton tiles painted by a local artist.  The old wooden frame is good touch too.  

Overall it was a great race.  The course was well marked, the trails were great and the red, yellow and orange foliage mixed with jagged peaks was inspiring even during the difficult times.  This was great preparation for what is turning out to be a very competitive Bear 100 on September 28th.  

Originally from Strongsville, OH, I spent 8 years in Raleigh, North Carolina and have since recently moved to Missoula, MT. I have been a runner all my life and have recently started pursuing ultra marathons. Any excuse to be outside and on the trails.