Monday, September 28, 2009

Grumpy Bear Lives!

I just got back from an awesome weekend at The Bear 100. The whole thing was a bit of a blur, with a whirlwind 14 hour drive to arrive in Utah just in time for the pre-race briefing, a little "31 hour running tour" of some beautiful wilderness in the Wasatch/Bear River Range, followed by a 14 hour non-stop drive back to Banff. Phewff. Me so tired!

The Reader's Digest Condensed Version: I finished! It took me 16 hours to run the first 62 miles and then it took me almost 16 hours to run the last 38 miles. Yikes! The wheels fell off, but it was a fun ride.

Oh yeah, I was grumpy at the finish line. Can you tell by the photo? Hot, tired, grumpy and very unlike my usual self. I finished The Bear 100, a Very Grumpy Bear. It was kind of funny in retrospect, but let's just say I sure was happy to be done! It was real hot day when I finished my race and I was some kind of hot, thirsty as well as being mentally and physically DONE. But I finished!

Grumpy Bear Leslie

Angela was the Super Star Support Crew. Full of good energy, support, wisdom and good vibes at every aid station. Having been there and done that, she gets it! It was awesome to have her along for the adventure.

The Bear 100 is an awesome little race that runs from Logan, Utah to Bear Lake, Idaho. This 100 Miler is a tough one, with 21, 986 feet of climbing and it's a nice mix of single track, jeep roads and ATV trails. The scenery is awesome. It's a gorgeous corner of the world, and the course is described as "A cool autumn loop through the pines, golden aspen and the red maples of the Wasatch/Bear River range." There were some gorgeous fall colors out there, but this years edition of The Bear was downright hot in the day and c-c-cold at night.

This was my first 100 mile run and while it had been on the radar for awhile, I just signed up less than a month ago. There wasn't any specific training for me and I thought I had a good enough base to give it a go. No pressure. Just fun and an attempt at something new and exciting! Naturally, I brought the camera along for the run.

We started off at 6AM in the dark, with a big climb right off the get-go. It was good to meet up with Quinn Fitzpatrick, one of Danni's friends from Whitefish. Quinn and her hubby are good people! I got to visit with her for the first 15 minutes or so, but Quinn was a girl on the move. She was climbing fast, strong and smooth. Her hubby played pacer and support crew and it was their wedding anniversary! Happy Anniversary, you crazy kids.

That first climb was just like running out my back door and up Sulphur Mountain, with a similar elevation gain. It was a beautiful day when the sun came out and lit up the mountains and the valley.

I met up with a nice man named Robert Villani who was in awe that I was from Banff. He had once worked as a National Geographic photograper and spent 40 glorious days in Banff National park. He listed a whole bunch of trails, and naturally, I had been on pretty much all of them in the last 2 months. Robert was from New York City and I was in awe that he had made the trip to Utah to have a go at this crazy challenging mountain ultra, coming from such a flat place.

Soon enough, I rocked up to the first aid station all happy and relaxed and having a great time. Ang was there to meet and greet and make me feel like a superstar.

The day went by incredibly quick, I was feeling comfortable and strong and my perceived effort was pretty easy. I was enjoying myself and loving up the scenery, so different from my own backyard and so pretty. The maple trees were awesome, we don't have maples here and don't get much fall foliage that is red. I was a happy girl. I was running on new trails, in a beautiful place on a gorgeous day.

I had been rocking through most of the aid stations pretty quickly all day. I just wanted to stay in motion and get as many miles under my legs as I could in the daylight hours. Finally, as the sun went down I took 15 minutes to change my socks, clean my feet and put on my tights and warm clothes as I headed off into the evening.

My first section of night running went great. I hooked up with some other runners and we chatted away into the fading daylight and turned on the headlamps for some fun night running. We rolled into the Franklin Aid Station at around 10:00 in the evening. Looking back at the numbers, this meant that I had traveled 62 miles in 16 hours. I hadn't been paying attention to any of it, just working my way from aid station to aid station. At the time, I had no idea of how far I had run or how far I still had to go.

Leaving that aid station, I felt great, so I was surprised when the wheels fell off about 10 minutes into the next section of trail. They fell off so quickly it was startling! One minute, I was moving confidently, quickly and fluently and the next moment, I found myself staggering through the woods feeling nauseous. Whaaaat?!? What went wrong? Evidently, I had let the gas tank run a little low and then it plummeted below empty. My forward momentum was slowed to a stagger. When I managed to get down some calories, the energy would only last me for a very short period, think 10 minutes of energy max. I was confused, feeling awful and reduced to a slow march. I was also super sleepy and barely able to keep my eyes open. It was all so sudden. I was trying to put down whatever food I could, but it was hard with the nausea. I was also taking some ginger Gravol, the natural Gravol to try and abate the Barfies. Fortunately, I had my running buddy Ken along and Ken was trying everything in his power to get me back on my game. Ah, the random encounters with strangers, turned friends. Now this is what running ultras is all about! Ken rifled through his pack and came out with a plastic cup of peaches, which I slurped down in a few hungry gulps. Fortunately, they brought me back from the dead. Yes! Ken had to leave me behind to battle my demons, but the peaches sure were a life saver. I rolled into the next aid station and it had taken my nearly 3.5 hours to travel 8 miles. Ouch. It was time for a little timeout. The aid station folks at the Logan Aid Station were rocking, they had a fun ambience going on, tunes blaring and it was a great vibe in my depleted state. They also had soup on the stove and I inhaled 2 cups of chicken noodle with rice, which put me back in the game. It was getting so cold, I left the aid station wearing my lightweight down coat. I needed all the help I could get to stay warm! I was moving so slow that I wasn't generating heat like I usually do and the coat was a lifesaver more than once.

That salty soup was good medicine, it took a little while to kick in, but when it did I was a New Improved Leslie! On this stretch, I picked up some boys from Jackson Hole, Wyoming to run with for a stretch. When they heard I was from Banff, I had to laugh when they asked: "Do you know Miles?" Why, yes I do. That kept us entertained for a stretch, running along in the dark in the middle of the night. I managed to pick it up marginally on this section and actually run. I was back in the game and feeling better for these miles, but it didn't last as long as I would have liked. After the next aid station and more soup, the wheels fell off again.

In my mind, I remember this section as being really long but when I look at the map, it was only a bit over 5 miles and it took me almost 2 hours to travel this section. Holy crap I was moving slow. There was a long, gradual climb up a double track road and on this section, the Sleep Monsters found me! I was a mess. I lost track of all of the people that I had been walking/running with and I found myself alone again, staggering up the trail all over the place. Thank goodness for my poles, they kept me upright and it was no small miracle that I never bailed once during my run. When I found myself barely able to keep my eyes open and staggering, I decided I really needed to just sit down and take 5 minutes and try to get some more calories in me. I was just, so depleted. So, I sat down and dug out some liquid calories-an emergency Boost drink and sucked it back. I was freezing and still wearing my down coat to try and stay warm and somehow, I spilled half of it all over myself and my hydration pack and it didn't even bother me. In fact, it made me laugh. Looking down the trail, I got even more confused when I thought I saw a car coming up the jeep track which turned out to be 2 guys running together. One of them turned out to be my saviour! Don was a craggy old guy, who was definitely an ultra veteran. "Hey" he said calmly, "You should get up and start running with us." I remember saying something about being too slow and too cold and that my pack was covered in Goo. "Well then, we had better clean you up!" With that, he picked up my pack got out his water bottle, hosed down me and my pack, put my pack on my back and gave me a push. A proverbial kick in the ass. 5 minutes later, the Boost kicked in and I was back in the game! I came motoring up to Don and he said, "See you're fine. I knew you still had legs."

Soon after, the sun came up and the frost came out and I could see my breath. It was a lovely morning and the sun gave me a little boost in energy. When I showed up at the Beaver Creek aid station, I scared the crap out of Angela who was trying to catch some Z-Z-zzz's in the car. She jumped into service, while I tried to get down some more food. I've never struggled so much with the eating and running and it seemed to be a constant battle on this night and this morning. I know I wasn't getting nearly the food I needed and I was battling to get any food down at all.

7:50AM - Dead Sexy.

Stoned Bear

The Sleep Monsters weren't quite done with me yet, on the big climb out from the aid station I was sleeping on my feet. Lots of people past me as I made me my way slowly step-by-step up the mountain. It was like aliens had taken over me. Someone gave me a caffeine tablet, which I appreciated and it cleared the cobwebs a little bit, but not a lot. I'm usually such a strong climber and here I was doing the Death Walk instead of the Power Walk. There was no power in the power walk!

An eternity later, I hit the last aid station where I lollygagged for over 15 minutes. My little brain wasn't working so well and it took me ages to just get organised, refueled and get my ass in gear. The sun had come out and it got really hot, really quick. On this last 8 miles of trail you climb to the high point of over 9,000 feet and then descend to 6,000 feet. That's close to a 1000 metre descent in the last 8 miles of a 100 mile race!! I cursed, complained and shuffled to myself all the way down the hot, dusty, gnarly, bitchy, technical descent. It took FOREVER. Me, who considers herself a decent downhill runner was reduced to a walk with poles. It was just too steep for me to run at that point! In the last 2 stages, I think at least 10 people past me. And it didn't bother me in the least. I was just walking, slowly, stuck in neutral but moving forward. I can't say it was fun. I was hot, grumpy and bothered.

Finally, Big Bear Lake came into view and it was like a mirage off in the distance. It seemed to never get any closer! I passed one older guy on the descent that had random, uncontrollable noises coming out of him. I could feel for the guy. I was grumpy-pants and on the verge of anger-tears.
At least we got treated to a lovely section of maples, shortly before arriving in town. I was feeling totally sun-stroked and grumpy. Did I mention that I was grumpy?!?

The finish line was oddly anti-climactic for me. Grumpy Bear had taken over and I just wanted to get out of there, jump in the creek, eat some food and nap. So that's what Angela and I did. I usually enjoy and thrive on the after-race socializing, but I was DONE. I couldn't string together a phrase for the life of me! I would have love to chill and hang, but I needed food and naps even more. We hopped in the car and drove the hour+ back to Pocatello, Idaho where we got a cheap room and hit the Sizzler. I loooooove the Sizzler Salad bar!

Overall, this was a great experience. I already have amnesia over all that I endured out there on the race course and blown it up into a big, wonderful adventure in my brain! Truthfully, the last half of the race was NOT fun but in the equation of overall experience of good vs. bad? Fun vs. sufferage? I think good and fun won over bad and sufferage. As for the actual race, The Bear 100 is an awesome race. A well organized event, a challenging and scenic course, great aid stations, great people = good times, even if I was grumpy at the end.

As for running my first 100 Miler, I learned a lot. I do believe you need to run a 100, to learn how to run/race a 100. I'm sure I could analyze the thing to death, but I'm not going to. I managed to get to the finish line of my first 100 and I'm pretty happy about that.

The true Ultramarathon ended when I rolled into the driveway in Banff late Sunday night, wired on *excito-toxins* (Angela's word for caffeine and chemicals...). I love a good road trip. It took a Super Big Gulp Diet Coke to get me home in one piece, but a word of caution: Never drink a Super Big Gulp Diet Coke before bedtime! Even if you are exhausted. While the *excito-toxins* got me home, this tired girl didn't sleep much that night.

Full results of the Bear 100 here.


kristen said...

Congratulations Leslie! I don't think I've ever seen a picture of you in a beautiful place when you're NOT smiling. You were definitely a grumpy bear- but it is nice to know that you're human too :)
I'm glad the good outweighed the bad.

Meghan said...

The Grumpy Bear! That is soooooo cute! Congrats, congrats, congrats! Thinking of you and wishing you a happy, grumpy bear smiles recovery!


ianL said...

great job Leslie, i think we all knew you could do it. there are ups and downs in every race, and getting through the downs is what makes the ups so special.
i've said it before, and say it again.


Tom Craik said...

Great report, Leslie! Thanks for the comment on my blog, it meant I found yours. Great pics, good stories.

One of the manly men.

goSonja said...

Awww, grumpy bear! Wow, you did it. Seriously that is insane, it's amazing what the body will go through and still move forward. Your mountains in Banff are so pretty compared to our UTAH/CO mountains. But the colors are nice here.

Sooo, since you had sooo much fun...WS100 registration is open...?? Just a thought.

Would you suggest lots of sleep deprived night running for anyone thinking of a 100 miler?

Nicola Gildersleeve said...

Loved the read- Nice work! Can't wait to do my first one soon.

My only comment- Why a DIET super big gulp? You probably just burned 10 million thousand calories...

Deb said...

Girl you rock!! Congrats, that is totally kick ass! I'm so happy for you!

Quinn said...

So great to meet you, Leslie! You did an *awesome* job -- fun to read your account of the Bear. I loved the Logan station too -- a tough one to leave. For claiming to be so grumpy, you contained it well -- I would not have known!

Danni said...

It makes me feel better to know that even you get tired after running for 987349387987 hours. You did really well and masterfully fought those demons. You're awesome!!!

Backofpack said...

Congrats Leslie! From what I've seen, 100s are never pretty. Never! You did great - first 100, minimal training! Well done.

Hone said...

Great race report!!

Congrats on the finish and the sold time you threw down doing it.

It is okay to get grumpy at 100s. They are a "bear" to finish. haha

Leslie said...

Hi K! Hi Meghan! Hi Ian! Thanks for being a great moral support crew!

Hi Tom! Welcome aboard the craaaazy train.

Hi Sonya! Now there's an idea, practicing your night running! Fer sures, that's a great idea. I'm going to use it for my next big run! :) It wasn't so much my body that slowed me down, but my brain. I'm going to leave WS all for you! Wouldn't it be fun if you got in to run WS as your first? As for me, WS is too damn hot and too damn early in the season....

Hi Nicola! HA! Good to hear from you. I think the "excito-toxins" are higher in the Diet Coke...
Chemicals AND caffeine! I'm glad I NEVER drink that shit, 'cause it really does f%&*@#*k you up.

It looks like you are back in the saddle with an incredible recovery! You go!

Thanks DEB! It was awesome....

Hiya Quinn! Great to meet you and your snooogums. I have amnesia already...WASN'T THAT FUN?!?

No, Danni! You were the superstar getting it done at 100 in the Hood. Whoot-whoot! I *heart* Danni!

Hi Michelle! HA, you really are the expert on crewing people for 100's, so I'll take your compliment! And you are right...
It wasn't pretty!!!

Hi Evan! Is it just me or have you turned in to Thomas Dolby?

Stuart said...

Great job and congrats on the finish, looks like we both need to inveest in some caffeine tablets!

Jill Homer said...

Awesome job, Leslie. Geoff told me what a gnarly course it was - just tons of climbing, and hot. Way to fight those demons ... like great grumpy grizzly bears after 24-plus hours. Reading your report reminded me of my first 100 - a 100-mile bike race, no less, that took me 25 hours (about 33 of those were on my feet, pushing the bike through the slushy snow, so I can totally relate to that feeling of "dead on my feet.")

Anyway, come do the Susitna 100 in Anchorage in February! I'll be there on my bike and I bet Evan will run it. Power from the North!

If not, hope to see you sometime this winter for Banff Winter Training Camp. You and Keith are awesome.

- Jill

Leslie said...

Hi Stuart!
wow-it looks like we both had a wee adventure the weekend past, yes? I took away a LOT AND learned a few good lessons to take away for the NEXT TIME!!

Hello Ms. Jill and thank-you!
So many similarities in all endurance events! I got lots of room for improvement...I'll be planning some night runs before embarking on any future adventures. While I admire those who do the wintery/Arctic races, can I just say: NO FRICKIN' WAY!!
Those things are c-c-c-cold. Any dangerous. And uncomfortable. And COLD. Back to the hot tub for me...
I've got a chill.

But I'm all over Banff Winter Training Camp. It will be MUCH more civilised.

Laura H said...

Congrats on finishing your first 100! Lots of good lessons there - and good positive energy as usual. Yes, even the grumpy Leslie manages to have a positive edge to her! :-p Happy recovery!

brendaontheRun said...

Congratulations!! Did you get a nice buckle?

Leslie said...

Hi Laura! Hi Brenda!
Yep, I have my belt buckle and Race Amnesia already! In my head my tough, exhausting race has become a fun, exhilarating adventure!

Paige said...

Wowza, congratulations on your finish at Bear, that's awesome! Bear is on my list for sure, but gotta get a few more mountain runs on these legs before I tackle this one :) GREAT report, and killer pictures!


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