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.



  1. Performance of the year in 2012 and hardly anyone knows about it. I guess if iRunfar doesn't cover it, then it never happened? My 2013 Western was like yours- left me wanting. This race keeps tugging at me. I'm going down to the Logan area this week to have a look.
    Best wishes on your recovery,

  2. Jeremy,

    My thoughts exactly (on the irunfar piece). Just saw your result at Bear, huge congrats man! I heard the weather was crap and you still ran sub 18 hrs.... Any thing else planned for 2013? I'd love to come west and hit some Idaho trails with you when I'm healthy. Keep in touch.


  3. Hey thanks Chris. I'm an Ohio boy too. I took 20 years off of running and didn't feel its pull again until I moved west. The mountains have that power I guess. I have some connections and friends in Missoula and I find myself up there a bit. Maybe next spring when the snow still covers everything in McCall. Take me to the Big Dipper. You should come out here for prime mountain season next summer. We put on some cool races, or just go for some long runs with me. I'm feeling unusually motivated after a 100 so I may see some more action this year. I've got some thinking to do. I'll keep in touch.


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.