Saturday’s Bear 100 was about as good as it gets for me.
After three consecutive years at Hardrock, and running no other races at the 100 mile distance, I mistakenly came to believe all 100’s are like that massive San Juan suffer-fest. They’re not.
And the early July date of Hardrock, being so close to the spring skiing season which has always taken priority, usually means I’m just barely feeling ready, and it really takes a lot out of me.
So the added training afforded to me by the Bear 100’s late September date, and the relatively flatter course, with 22,000 feet of climbing (compared with 33,000 at Hardrock) and all at a considerably lower average elevation, set me up for a really good day.
Here’s the super-brief summary of how it all went: I made it to the first major aid station feeling really good and slightly ahead of my estimated splits for a 24-hour pace. I knew then, that if I kept my focus and was smart about things, I could get the sub-24 finish I was shooting for. I was warned about the mid-day heat being pretty punishing, and it earned the credit for my one low point of the race, somewhere around mile 40. After that, things just got better. The temperatures cooled and I got back in my groove, and as the sun was setting, and despite making a wrong turn that cost me ten minutes, I was actually gaining time on the 24-hour splits I had to meet. Around mile 67, I picked up Christy, who kept me on target through the darkness. I fell victim a second time to deficient course markings, and after a 25-minute detour, Christy rallied my demoralized self to the final aid station, at 4:05 am. I took off on my own from there, knowing that the last split of a 100-miler is strangely often my fastest, and I knew 1:55 was more time than I needed.
I pulled into the sleepy finish before the slightest hint of dawn hit the sky, at 5:41am, and I smiled when I realized Christy and Jen hadn’t even gotten there yet. Back in 2009, I regrettably missed Christy’s finish at Leadville, which was something I’ve always felt kind of bad about, so I deserved that short stretch of time alone in the chilly darkness.
And it was also at that same race in Leadville where Christy took the household title of “fastest 100 miles,” with her 25:41 finish. The time proved impossible for me to beat, because as I mentioned earlier, I was only running Hardrock, where a 25-hour finish is practically the course record. My finish here at Bear, an even two hours faster, has returned the title back to me. Unless she takes on flatter course somewhere, she may have a hard time getting it back. I’m not counting her out though. There’s nothing wrong with a little healthy competition in a relationship, right?
So it was just a really good day. Back in 2002, at my disastrous debut at the Leadville 100, I remember thinking how odd it was, or just downright nuts, to start a run and see the sun rise twice before stopping. Prior to this day, in two Wasatch’s, one Leadville, one Bear, and four Hardrock’s, I’ve never finished without seeing the sun rise twice. Sure, finishing times are very course dependent, and starting times and sunrise can vary greatly between races and time of year, but it was always a sort of loose goal to get to finish a 100 miler before that 2nd sunrise. Sometimes it’s the little things that matter most.