10 May 2011

My Favourite Distance: Bear Mountain 50 Miler Race Report

Ah, the Bear Mountain 50 Miler.

First off – I had fun. A lot of fun. In fact, this was one of the most fun races I’ve had. (Most fun, of course, was the Burning Man Ultramarathon!)

Second – I did PR, but not by as much as I wanted. Still, a course PR is a course PR! (And this includes getting lost twice, helped two fallen runners...)

Bear Mountain. It’s rough. It’s tough. It’s technical. (For those who may not know – technical generally refers to trails w/ lots of rocks, roots, streams, and other trippable items.) It’s hilly.

It’s also gorgeous. The trees were in bloom – white and pink flowers of different kinds. SO much green. And water – a lot of creek crossings, and forget trying to keep your feet dry. And climbs that give you amazing views – breathtaking. And those downhills...just amazing.

The weather was perfect. It was chilly at the start, and I began in a long-sleeved t-shirt, running skirt, and of course, my gaiters. A lot of others not wearing gaiters stopped to empty their shoes out, so I'm really glad I wore them. Plus, they were pink, as was my whole outfit, and I try to be colour-coordinated when I run. Always pink.
Within a few miles, I was sweating and left my long-sleeved t-shirt and headlamp (which I forgot, thanks, Scott, for lending) at my drop bag at Anthony Wayne Aid Station. And kept pushing.

The course was mostly very well-marked. Between the second and third aid stations, the ribbons were sparsely placed (and thus, I got lost, with four guys from the U.S. Coast Guard on my heels...) - apparently, there was some course marker vandalism the day before, though the course was mostly well-marked. I especially liked towards the end, when Nelson wrote little messages on the arrows for me, "This way, Cherie!" "Go Cherie!" Nelson marked the course

Early on, Johnny Rodriguez caught up to me. We have a running joke (haha, I just realized the pun after, not intended!) about how he's my ultra fiancee (I can't remember how this started exactly - he is actually married so it's more of a jokey thing) and we set our "wedding" - Mile 75 of the H.U.R.T. 100. And then we'll get divorced at the finish line. We ran together, talking a lot, laughing, swapping stories.

People sometimes seem surprised when I tell them that I talk during ultras. It's not a super fast sprint, so we have plenty of time to talk about races, our crazy families, our love life, our dreams, that sort of thing. It's funny but on the trails I sometimes feel very comfortable letting all my emotions spill out. I guess it's because on the trails, I'm the rawer, purer version of Cherie.

Johnny and I chatted a lot, helping runners in trouble - giving gu, electrolyte pills, checking in with people who were struggling. A lot of those on the trails were newbies (The North Face markets the race well, but those who race don't always train well.), so we offered whatever advice we could. He fell behind after we checked in with another struggling runner and I pushed on.

I ran with a guy in just Vibrams and shorts for a while, from Cobble Hill. We chatted about running, about Vibrams, our training. I told him about ultras I ran. He freaked when I apparently almost stepped on a snake (which I'm glad I didn't see or step on).

I kept on. 

At Mile 27ish, I was super excited to see Iliana who was yelling at me about electrolytes, gu, getting me to eat/drink/do everything. I hugged her and was so happy to see her. Having a friend out there is always amazing. Speed burst! I left her, noshing on the organic vanilla animal crackers as I sped down a hill.

I began talking to a guy who remembered me from Umstead, and a super nice woman...who very shortly after, tripped and completely face-planted. Her adrenalin didn't let her realize she was so hurt, and both Dave and I were worried. Two other runners came along, and stopped, offering help. Three more runners came, one of whom was a paramedic from Montreal, and she said that Sue shouldn't finish. "She needs...I don't know the word in English." Stitches. Yes. On her forehead, nose, and perhaps lip/chin. She chipped a tooth. Her face was covered in blood. She was still smiling.

(In a marathon, would this happen? Seven people stop to help someone they don't know very well? Probably not. And this is why I love ultras.)

We all took off. The French Canadians and I ran together, chatting a little. They encouraged me to do the Ultimate XC, which I want to do but think it's going to be too crazy with my racing/work traveling schedule. They got a little ahead of me...and then Rachel (the paramedic) tripped. I stopped with her, checking in and she was hurting. Bad. She did end up finishing, though, with bruises and cuts all over.

And I ran alone. It was fine: the words were dark and deep, yes, Robert Frost, but beautiful. Pretty flowers. Lots of green. Creek crossings occasionally. Hills. Rocks. Lots of rocks. And I sang: alone in the forest, I opened my mouth and sang. And felt great.

I heard a hissing in the grass - a snake, probably - and I screamed like hell and let the adrenalin carry me fast, faster, fastest!

Mile 27-40ish were my favourite miles - lots of runnable portions, great fun. I felt so alive, so happy.

My armpits started chafing (ugh, need to put body glide AND deodorant in my armpits, apparently), so I took off my shirt and ran in my black sports bra, which messed up my pink colour theme. Argh!

At Mile 40, I met up with friend, teammate, Mary, who offered to pace me. She was great. She was wearing extremely bright colours, full of tons of energy. We got in all sorts of discussions, about a lot of things I can't post on my blog in case my mom decides to read this. She also pushed me, encouraged me to eat, and ran back to get my water bottle (going up two hills!) when I forgot it at the final aid station.

Around Mile 45 or 46, you hit Timp Pass. This sucks, but doesn't suck as much as it did last time. I was tired. My legs were heavy. I tried to move but it wasn't working. Still, I passed some people. I think one person passed me the last ten miles; we passed people. I was feeling strong.

And we got closer. The last ten miles are quite runnable, with just a few hills to torture you. My legs felt like jelly. "Mary, I feel like I'm sprinting," I joked, and that's what it felt like. She was super encouraging.

And I ran in. Nelson handed me a purple flower right before I crossed the finish line, and it felt so victorious!

I didn't PR as much as I wanted, but I did. And I had a lot of fun. The weather was perfect (well, a little hot, but I'll try to not complain!) It was beautiful. It only rained for a few minutes. I'm getting better at technical running. I hung out with good friends. It was an awesome race...

...and yeah, I'll be back next year!


Lauren said...

Great job, you are my hero. I just wrote a body bucket list post and mentioned ultras. Mary or "M" in my comments section told me about your run and your blog. Well done. Love that you run in pink and can even think of a PR during an ultra.

Mark said...

I like the candor and emotion in your report. Too many autobiographical race reports I read remind me of a dry WALL STREET JOURNAL article. So many runners talk about "me-me-me" and make the race sound so businesslike, but don't notice nor mention other runners around them, scenery along the trail/ road, etc.

If you like the rough trails of bear Mountain, have you ventured a bit farther north to what I consider one of the greatest (and most remote, in places) wilderness areas in the lower-48, the Catskills? I recommend the Escarpment Trail race if you can get in, though it is usually same week as Vermont 100.

Ran 11 miles EASY with my Tuesday Running group tonight-- other than 50MPH wind gusts and sandstorms, it was great.

You will leave me in the dust on the "hills" of the 3100 mile course in Jamaica Hills!

Best aloha,

Mark D