05 May 2014

Bear Mountain 50 Miler: No Matter What, It Eats You Alive

Bear Mountain. It's a tough place. Why the hell would anyone run an ultramarathon?

As Sir Edmund Hillary so-famously said, "Because it's there."

For the 5th time, I set out to run the North Face Endurance Challenge Bear Mountain 50 Miler. I had just run Lake Waramug 50 Miler the week before, but figured I'd probably be okay.

Hmmmm, that's to be debated.

This course is one of the toughest 50 milers out there. Steep uphills, impossible to run downhills (due to steepness and loose rocks), twists, turns, more uphills, rock gardens, rocks, rocks, more rocks, and just butt-kicking trails for 50 miles. Fun, right?

The North Face puts on a fairly basic race, with very basic aid stations, no frills. The volunteers are very nice, but some of them have never been to an ultra before. (We probably horrified them, shoveling M&Ms into our mouths with muddy hands while rubbing lube on ourselves....) The course is very pretty, and also, pretty tough.

I started out HARD. I suck on the technical, so I run hard where I can. While running the initial part, I quickly realized that um, I probably should have changed the batteries before the race. Ooops. So it was dark and that was a little tough.

Luckily, it got light quickly...

The course is tough enough as it is, but on Wednesday, it poured all day. I think it may have even rained some on Tuesday too, and even Thursday morning, but Wednesday, it just poured the entire day. I ran twice and both times it sucked. I literally have to change every article of clothing because I was soaked through, even through my rain jacket. Ugh. So the trails were basically mud puddles for 50 miles, with lots of streams too. The stream crossings that you can normally pop across with some careful positioning on rocks had submerged rocks. 

My feet were wet and muddy for 50 miles.

I changed my socks once and wish it could have been more. My feet felt horrid - I kept getting mud underneath the pads of my feet, and it hurt so terribly. My gaiters did nothing because the mud kept seeping in from the top. 

I was running pretty hard the first 10 miles and felt good. I sucked on the technical, but did what I could, and ran hard. At the second aid station, I got there, and was still ahead of mid-pack, and there were FOUR pretzels. Four. I ate three of them, as I was starving, but how could they be running out of food so early? Aid stations were running out of gels and all sorts of things. It sucked.

I was also hungry - really weird for me. Before 3 hours had passed, I had already eaten 4 gels - which is really weird for me, as I rarely have such a strong appetite running, esp for gels. This become problematic as I ran out of gels before my drop bag, and ended up eating a lot more solids than normal. But my tummy was mostly okay the entire race (good thing since they didn't seem to have any ginger ales).

I ran. I walked. I laughed. I breathed hard. I ate gels. I drank water. I looked at how gorgeous it was. I had fun.

The course had changed in a few spots, so that was a little confusing to me. I think it may actually have become easier.

The mud was hurting my feet. The front of my shin sometimes hurt. My back hurt from my water bottle waist belt. But it was fun. Why was I doing it? It was fun. I ran with so many of my friends, and got to chat with heaps of great people.

Clearly I am psycho to be posing like this just before the 50k. (photo (c)Kenneth Tom 2014)

Around 40, I felt okay. Not amazing, but okay. I set out from Anthony Wayne, crunching on those Delta cookies I saved from my last flight and pretzels. And then I began running. YES!!!!!!!!!!!

I picked up the pace, passed some people, ran with others, and chatted. I caught up to Melissa and we ran, chatting for a while. Then we got to that section where it's a ton of steep downhill with lots of loose rock. I noticed the front of my shin started hurting. Ouch. More than before. When I pulled into the pre-Timp Pass aid station, I let the medics ice me as I shoveled pretzels into my mouth. Then I left, refusing Ibuprofin as I had already taken Aleve. As I headed towards Timp Pass, which is the worst part of the course (You climb up a steep mountain and then back down, and running is pretty impossible w the steepness and loose rocks....), tears pricked the corners of my eyes. I tried to stop and stretch, and nothing would help.

The last five-ish miles were a death march. I was in agony. I stopped to rub, walked, ran when I could, and oh, was I in pain.

A mile before the finish, probably less, John Budge caught up w me. We finished again, so happy to see each other. As soon as I finished, I immediately went to the medical tent to get ice for my legs. And rest my weary feet....

Finishing again w John Budge. (Photo (c)Chip Tilden 2014)
It's Monday now. I begged my doctor to squeeze me in and despite resting for two days, I still had pain. They aren't sure if it's tendinitis or a stress fracture. An MRI tomorrow will determine that. Until then, I'm icing, resting it, and wearing a splint. And looking forward to the next time I will run, which will NOT be Bear Mountain.


Erica House said...

You are such a beast.

Chad ontheNorthCoast said...

Two 50s in two weeks is epic! Great job Cherie!