Start with a 100 mile race in the mountains, strip out any crew support or pacers and add a bunch of winter weather– snow up high, mud down low, and temps in the low 20s all through the night– and you have last weekend’s Bear 100. Lucky for us, Christy and I were both able to say we had a great time.
I improved on last year’s finish by 45 minutes, finishing in 5th place in 21:38. If you take out some 30+ minutes spent at the 13 aid stations, that averages to around 12:30s for 100 miles on a course with over 22,000 feet of vertical gain. Yes, I’m pretty happy with that.
But since I’ve been here a few times now and have already done it unsupported, I knew what to expect. I think it was actually Christy’s race that was the most impressive. Not only was she running here for the first time and knew very little of the course, but she too was going unsupported, something she hadn’t done before. It was only her fourth 100 miler and she had no crew to help her at aid stations, and no pacers with her as she headed into the night on unknown trails in the freezing darkness. That’s a big deal, which was compounded somewhat by lingering concerns after last years shall-we-say “challenging” day at Steamboat 100. (I can remind her now that she swore off 100 milers that day.) And as if all that wasn’t enough, she sometimes doesn’t do well in the cold.
Despite all the factors stacked against her, she finished in 28:26, right near her goal time. She got the Grizzly buckle she wanted (sub-30 hours) and earned redemption for last year. She showed up ready and put together a really good race. I can’t emphasize enough how impressed I was for her to take this on in this fashion, and to finish so well. Way to get back on the horse! (Maybe she’ll do a post of her own and share some thoughts?)
What obviously stood out from this race was the weather. Things have been pretty nice the past couple of weeks, but this year’s race coincided with a wet, wintry blast from the Northwest that covered much of the high parts of the course with several inches of snow and dragged the temps down into the low 20′s through the night. The lower elevations saw rain, and certain stretches of the course, aided by the horses and cattle in the area, were slick mud.
Hundred-milers are hard enough when everything’s just right, and this added hurdle surely contributed to the number of DNFs (about 90 of 266 starters), but in the end it proved manageable for Christy and me. We made sure to load our drop bags with ample “just in case” items. If anything, it wasn’t the cold and snow but instead the slick mud and wet cow pies that were most frustrating. They required a delicate step to prevent slipping, which was tiring and usually slowed the pace to a walk.
In hindsight I actually think the cold weather proved beneficial. By moving steadily and not stopping too long at aid stations, it was possible to stay warm and not sweat much at the same time. I found I didn’t need to drink as much fluids as on a warmer day, which may have also put less stress on my stomach.
Thankfully, the only precipitation we encountered came in the form of one short period of graupel by Tony Grove, which thanks to the cold temps, just rolled right off of us to the ground. Had it been a bit warmer we may have actually gotten wet.
At every aid station through the night I asked the temperature and it was always around 21-23 degrees. But they were ready, setup with warming tents, campfires, and loads of hot drinks and soup, so the race actually plugged along like normal.
And that’s the end of our running season, at least as far as official events go. The winter storms have been coming through weekly now, and were looking forward to winter. In the meantime we’re putting our feet up.
And Christy’s already talking about how to be faster on this course so we may be back in 2014.