Thursday, October 3, 2013

The 2013 Bear 100

One hundred mile runs are ridiculous.  Thursday morning, I gathered up multiple pairs of shoes, jackets, gloves, tights, dozens of little packets of slimy gel, two headlights, a couple hydration devices, duct tape, a Sharpie, water proof drop bags and other miscellaneous items.  I had arranged for a hotel in Logan and one in Garden City on the shore of Bear Lake.  My sister-in-law, Amanda, and my sister Aimee were going to meet me at mile 30 to assume crew duties.  My wife and not yet two year old son, Lars, were to join me at mile 62 to also follow along after getting off work and making the drive.  Tom Goth and Dominique Maack were going to spend their weekend doing whatever it took to help me along this journey with Tom acting as pacer and Miss Maack joining the crew.  Add to that 13 aid stations with genuine buffets and cheery volunteers and these events seem to be more like an expedition than a race.

And yet again, just as in Leadville, I found pure freedom for the first half of the race.  The air was crisp with a coating of tacky snow along the high passes.  With dramatic swirling clouds, brilliant aspens and the threat of precipitation, I felt energized by the weather.  I was grateful for a healthy body that was allowing me to run even if it was a bit gingerly.

Over the six weeks since Leadville, I had been hampered by a inflamed plica on my left knee.  Ice, ibuprofen, a medrol dose pack, and a steroid injection had done little to correct the problem.  Oddly, I was able to hike and descend some of the steepest slopes in the Wasatch foothills without pain.  I didn't commit to actually starting the race until the week of and was willing to "walk it out" if needed.

Jogging on the pavement from the start, my knee felt fine but I was determined to play it conservatively, especially given my debacle at Leadville.  Heading up the first long climb, I hiked in the chase pack at a comfortable pace intermittently chiming into the conversation and switching back to Frightened Rabbit and Lord Huron on the Ipod.

Contouring towards the first major descent, our footfalls were padded by recent snows and my knee felt surprisingly normal.  Descending, I let a half dozen runners go by so as to not aggravate anything and in the process became distracted by the stunning scenery and started taking pictures and "instagramming" while on the run.  I was so psyched I wanted to share what I was seeing.

Crazy alpenglow over the Wellsville mountains 
Over the next 50 miles, I enjoyed talking to Aaron from Durango, Cody from Ogden, Anthony from Silverton, Jeason from Carbondale, Mick from Salt Lake, and a few others.  I moved up steadily to 3rd by mile 37, energized by the wintry weather, seeing Aimee and Amanda, and soaking up encouragement from Ben Lewis who was supporting his incredibly fast wife.

Even the roads were goregeous

At one point around mile 30, so absorbed by the moment, I opened my arms to the skies as if to become part of my surroundings...all this while Katy Perry sang on rambunctiously...

Let's go all the way tonight
                                                                 No regrets, just love
We can dance, until we die
You and I, will be young forever

I confessed this to my sister and Amanda who had a good laugh at my expense somewhere along the way.  By the long climb toward Tony Grove, I began to feel some pain in my injured knee as well as the "good one" which I suspect was from 50 miles of compensating unknowingly.   I knew I had been dying a slow death since the start but I had been so engrossed in the moment that 4 hours, 6 hours, 9 hours, had passed and it was as if I had been out for 30 minutes.  Passing 50 miles in around 9:30 it was clear that my knees couldn't ignore the passing miles.  I decided it was time to slow down, walk as needed, and to definitely quit eating gels.  I had already had a blessed run.  

Typical - course markings inside some old skull (photo taken from Joey Luther's blog, check it out for more great pictures)
I trotted into the Tony Grove aid where it was lightly snowing and started to eat.  After my third bowl of soup and multiple pieces of pumpkin chocolate bread the volunteers where aghast at my gluttony.  The previous few runners had all breezed through  and I'm guessing they were a little worried by my lack of urgency and appetite.  Not caring and laughing I yelled that number 44 was checking out.  This was received with more weird looks and my sister corrected me and checked number 64 (mine) out.  I had convinced her to pace me from there to the Franklin aid (62) and we were beginning our march into the snowy afternoon.  

Pretty common sight this year

She has just started running with much reluctance this summer but has stuck with it and I think will make a fine runner someday.  I hope she enjoyed slipping around in the snow and then barely jogging the long down hill into the Franklin Basin.  I definitely enjoyed her company and found it quite special that our first run together was 10 miles of incredible fall colors, single track, and a few cows that we ushered off the trail.  

Afternoon walk through the snow with sister Aimee

I think Aimee decided that she likes trail running

At the Franklin aid, I was delighted to see my wife and son along with Tom and Dominique who were joining Aimee and Amanda.  Lars ran up and gave me a little hug.  I lingered beyond reason while a couple more people ran through before deciding to finally give chase.  Hiking quickly uphill was pleasant.  Running (jog/walking) the flats or downhill less so as the impact was increasingly bothersome.  Tom was a first class pacer and downloaded the GPS track onto his watch and could always tell me that we were exactly on route and how far it was to the next aid station.  

At Logan River, night had fallen and it was frigid.  I tried to sit in the tent for a while but was quickly becoming chilled.  I waited long enough for my grilled cheese sandwhich to come off the grill and then walked out eating on the go.  Greasy cheese in one hand, I tried to balance my way across the river on fallen logs but fell in, soaking both feet.  I cursed for a second but realized it didn't matter.  I'd change shoes in a few miles.  

This pattern continued for the next 20 miles.  Hike hard up, pass a runner or two, get passed on the down, eat a lot, and repeat from aid to aid.  The night was clear and the high passes had a delightful amount of snow through which I shuffled to limit the impact of running.  Doing the math, I realized that in spite of taking the foot off the gas since mile 45, I might still finish under 24 hours.  Which while not "fast" in terms of being competitive, most seem to agree it's the mark of a decent 100 mile mountain run.  

More soup.  More Coke.  More hiking.  Now my calf is aching and I think I may have strained it.  I'm getting worried and my math is fuzzy.  I tell Tom that we are going to just walk straight through the last aid station.  Ten minutes later while still fumbling with a pair of wind pants I get passed again.  

Hiking up the final climb I pick up a stick and hobble my way up.  I'm kinda pissed as I think the 24 hr mark is out of reach.  Finally cresting the climb and seeing the lights far below I allow myself to look at my watch again.  I'm confused.  It's 3 AM and I've been out for 21 hours.  Pity party over, I start trying to run again, this time with the governor shut off.  

For 42 miles, my mind seemed unwilling to let my legs hurt and limited my running to a shuffle.  Now with the end in literally in sight, I could shift from conservation mode to racing again.  My race looks a lot like a JV high school runner - start fast, die a little, and then charge home!

Although "charging" is probably too dramatic.  I jogged to the finish, gave Tom a sincere thank you, hugged my wife and really didn't feel too emotional.  I thanked Leland for the incredible race, sat down for a few minutes, and then drove to the hotel and went to bed.  Certainly relieved to be done, I think I was sort of sad to no longer be "out there" among the wild, moving solely from moment to moment.  I had just finished but already felt a sort of nostalgia for the day. 

The race exceeded every expectation and was a beautiful contrast to the scene at Leadville.  In the end, I finished in 22 hours and 28 minutes which was enough for 8th place.  After, a couple hours of sleep, we got up and walked down to the lake where we skipped rocks and Lars splashed around on the beach.  The day was calm and time had slowed.  Life was simple and I was content.   

Lars splashing in Bear Lake on September 28th


  1. wow, congrats! how did the knees feel the next day or this week?

  2. Congrats again on the great race.

  3. Great run Andy! Happy to see you nailed it.
    On a side note, I had an inflamed plica a few years ago and after trying to fix it for several months I ended up having it removed and I haven't had any pain since (in the knee). The doc also found that the inflamed plica had roughed up the cartilage on my patella so he smoothed that out as well. One other thing he found was that the plica had folded on itself and probably wouldn't have ever fully healed. I'm certainly not saying you should have surgery, just sharing my experience with that nasty little piece of soft tissue. Good luck.

    1. Thanks Christian! You still getting out? Let's do some walking up some foothills sometime...and then some skiing soon!

  4. What a great story. Congrats!

  5. Nice work, my friend. Of course, you have to suffer through my ortho consult now. I'm stunned that you survived the second ultra in 6 weeks. Shows what a sick bastard you are. The plica thing needs some investigation. The diagnosis is soft. An MRI would probably help. I know surgeons who don't believe in them. As you're aware, the differential contains a few other possibilities. Most of this stuff just goes away if you stop being stupid, like running a hundred miles on a sore knee! Glad it was a grand time. We'll now see if you can afford the "cost".

  6. Andy,
    It was nice to meet you at the awards party. Bad knee and all, you were getting around well...maybe just the buzz of finishing. No one looks worse than me after these things. I was sick and in a world of hurt. Wish I had the energy to chat more. The were lots of good people to meet, but I could barely move. I will remember your big smile and your beautiful family. Really cool to share all this with them. It seems we have similar backgrounds with a similar genesis to this sport- off the couch climber guys who throw ourselves into 100's. I think it is good prep for hundreds because we know what adventure is supposed to feel like and we accept uncertainty for the outcome. With some more focused training, you never know how high you can go.
    Best wishes,

    1. Thanks for the kind words Jer! I enjoyed your race report...really strong running! It's funny, on the first climb I asked around to see who was way off the front. Karl said, "That's Jeremy, we'll hopefully see him again." Well, we did see you again...the next day at the awards! I look forward to seeing you again and getting some advice at some of these silly things in the future.