bear chase 50 mile race report, part 1: pre-race and lap 1

yesterday (10.14.12) melanie and i walked the entire 12.5 mile bear chase race course. and that was my first real, extended activity i’ve had since the day of the race (i’ve worked out/ walked regularly, but nothing more than an hour or so). i wanted for her to experience that course, that place, since it now means so much to me. a couple of observations welled up from taking time to move all the way around again:

one, driving up to that place again for the first time, i was very moved/ excited/ happy/ proud/ weirded out. just driving up. i had not been back out that way since the race.

a second observation is that, inevitably, each of the individual laps are blurring into a consolidated memory mass of 50 miles, so that now, the 12.5 mile course almost feels like it is 50 miles in and of itself. it’s a bit strange. i still have plenty of very distinct memories of each lap, though, too, so things stand out. but, that little loop is now a place where time and distance and memory bend and flex for me.

anyway. more observations from yesterday will be incorporated into the report itself. here’s part 1 of my race report. pre-race and lap 1.

pre-race kitchen. sporting colors for team orrange!

pre-race
slept quite well, which was something of a surprise. up early, oatmeal for breakfast and final packing. ben (crew) and jack (1/2 marathon) arrived at the house and we carpooled over. runners to the runner shuttles and ben straight to the park, as they allowed crew access, but no race drop off. a bit strange, but it worked well. super smooth and organized. this is a very well run race. can’t say enough about how great everyone was all day long.

got in line for the port-o-lets, and shortly thereafter a volunteer shouted out that 50 mile races had priority in line (boo yah!) so that went well.

last pic before heading out!

i was nervous for this race, but not like other races. in previous races this summer, i was nervous because of a sense of competition with friends. for this, i was nervous simply for the scale, for the great unknown of miles 27 and up, and for how much i suspected it was going to hurt.

at the starting line there was a mini-reunion with tracy and christie hires (hooray!) as they were running the half and then volunteering. we also saw #wce member becki lynn as she was working the event with the timing company.

but soon, the countdown was on for the start. i took my place at the back of the line, saw our neighbor jake and wished him luck, too. cinched up my straps on my pack, shook out my legs and it was go time!

lap 1
before the race, i’d sent a tweet to several ultra-runners to ask their advice for my first ultra. duncan callahan (2 time leadville winner and all around ultra phenom) replied: “be conservative early. finish strong. be tough.”

and so, i listened. i went out super easy, and watched the pack (100 or so were running the 50 miler) run away. i’m pretty sure at one point i was actually dead last, which was fine with me. i knew it was going to be a long, long day and i just had to run my race. my goal was to finish lap 1 feeling as if i’d not really done anything.

early on lap 1. feeling amazing.

the beginning of races are funny… i distinctly remember having the feeling about half a mile in that there was no way i was going to be able to do this… legs felt terrible, etc, etc. but, then i loosened up and settled into a rhythm and was fine. just 49.5 to go. 🙂

the first part of the course bobs in and out of the trees along bear creek and i have a strong memory of popping out at one point and seeing the brilliant full moon setting over lookout mountain. i stared and stared, burning a mental snapshot into my mind of that glorious image…

after just shy of a mile, the course hooks back downstream and i saw becki again, as i passed her timing station, and was excited to hear that i’d see her on each lap! it’s amazing the little boost one gets from seeing a friendly face and familiar voice. sigh. affections.

sunrise on mt. carbon. thanks fellow runner who snapped this pic!

i stopped at one point around mile 2.5(?) or so and pulled my phone out to actually take a picture of the rising sun on mt. carbon… absolutely gorgeous morning. breathtaking.

about 30 minutes in, i began my feedings. my plan (according to the wisdom of scott jurek) was to take in a few carbs every 15 minutes, all day. that plan went well for lap 1.

at mile 4.5 or so, i was shocked to see a herd of antelope go FLYING by me, in the form of the leaders of the 50k race. flying, i tell you. the leaders ended up passing me again on lap 3, too, and they CRUSHED the 50k course record, averaging 6 min/ mile or so for 31 miles. good for them. i was trying to keep my pace at less than half of that…

i did open up my stride a wee bit on the downhill side of mt. carbon, because it just felt soooo good to run fast and free a bit, but i reigned it in shortly thereafter, because i still had 43 miles to go.

stream crossing #3 of 12 for the day…

splashed through the 3 stream crossings and had my picture snapped by course photogs. sometimes, runner pics are embarrassing. but, my feet felt pretty good on the back half, even wet. the stream crossings weren’t going to be much of an issue.

in trying to honor duncan callahan’s advice, i also had to reign it in a bit near the end of loop 1. it took some discipline to remember how long the day was going to be…

the start/ finish line was the only place that runners were allowed to be “crewed” by friends/ family. so, the #wce (melanie, my sister carolyn, ben, sarah, anne & jack) set up camp and were prepared for my aid stops for the rest of the day.

ben & sarah meeting me at end of lap 1. photo by anne.

so, as i rolled in right before the start/ finish line #wce was in full effect. ben and sarah came out, asked what i needed and ben shot off to get it ready, as our camp was just the other side of the line. (by the way, it’s a really great idea to have an ultra-runner on your crew for your first ultra, because they just KNOW). anne was at the line with her camera to capture shots of jack, who would be along very shortly, too.

i was right on schedule. i had a cup of pudding (soooooo gooooood. bill cosby was right about jello pudding. dang.) and some coconut water. it’s kind of overwhelming to have so many people scrambling to take care of you.

the #wce is amazing.

changed out shoes and socks, put on calf-sleeves, refilled my bag and i was on my way out for lap 2.

lap 1 time: 2:28:08
total distance: 12.5 miles