Saturday, May 12, 2012

The North Face Bear Mountain 50 Mile

WTF, was not really prepared for this.  As soon as this was over, I swore I'd never run it again, but then again in the middle of most races I swear off running forever, so I'm already coming around now that I don't have pregnant woman feet anymore.  Had an awesome weekend, this was a road trip with Steve, JD and Carlos, all great guys who were fun to hang out with.  Might have to make this an annual getaway!

After Pick Your Poison last weekend, I took the week off and didn't do a single thing even close to exercise.  50km up and down ski hills is not advisable a week before a bigger race, but this blog has it's title for a reason.  I knew my legs would be affected, just wasn't sure to what extent.

Road Trip!
I was the last to be picked up, just before 10am on Friday.  I had just finished packing and was going over my list when the doorbell rang, good timing.  I was up late doing work the night before, then had to take the kids to school so in the end slept about 4hrs.  No problem, I figured I'd sleep in the car during the 8hr drive...

Got there just before dinner, only slept about 20 or 30 minutes, we were chatting the whole way.  We checked in at the hotel, then drove to the area near the course to find out where the shuttle buses depart from, also to get a glimpse of what we were in for.


A few hills it would seem.  Beautiful country, really enjoyed the scenery.  Next we hit Walmart to grab some food for breakfast.  Our hotel didn't have coffee makers, Steve wanted to buy one but instead we grabbed Starbucks cans. We then went to Applebees for dinner, it was close and there wasn't much else around.  Filled up on pasta.  Steve really wanted to start celebrating with beer, maaaaaaybe we should run the race first.  Somehow the 4 of us ended up ordering different fruit flavoured lemonades instead.  I think Steve lost a bit of his manliness right there...

Back to the hotel, got our stuff ready for the morning.  In bed by about 1030pm, the lack of sleep the night before knocked me right out, which was a good thing as my alarm was set for 2:15am...

Race Day!
2:15am. WTF am I doing here... We're leaving at 3:30am to get the shuttle, I need that long to make sure I've 'dispensed any excess cargo' if you know what I mean.  I had a bagel, banana and my usual Mr. Noodles.

Out the door at 3:30am to meet the shuttle, which took us to the start finish.  Great set up here, this is obviously sponsored!  Lots of breakfast options, I had more bagel, banana, oranges and coffee.  We dropped off our bags and hung out waiting for the 5am start.  I wore a crappy plaid shirt for warmth that I could throw out when the race starts, my girlfirend will be happy.  We all headed toward the start line and wished each other luck.  Carlos headed closer to the front, I was back a bit then Steve and JD hung back farther.

And We're Off...
5am start is in the dark, so you need a light.  Problem is, it will be light out in 45min and we don't reach our drop bags for another 6hrs or so at mile 27 to drop our lights off, so I brought my smaller headlamp and just carried it in my hand for light, then when the sun comes up I can just clip it to my belt, plan worked great.

As soon as the race started we turned up a hill where the trail was covered in loose rocks of various sizes.  This part sucked, it was dark and we were all still crammed together so you couldn't see what was coming up to step on with so many people in front of you.  Eventually, the crowd thinned out but the rocky madness wouldn't end!  Whenever we had some dirt trial, it didn't last long and it was back to rocks.  Sun came up soon, that made it a bit easier to see the deadly rocks, but we still had to step on them!

I was feeling pretty good...too good in fact.  I started passing people and picking up the pace.  I'm an idiot, I forgot what 50 miles feels like and I wasn't even thinking about it, I just kept gunning it.  For the next 2 hrs or so, I kept passing people and running hard.  Then, reality caught up with me...

Ok, This Sucks
At 10 or 15 miles in, I was spent.  I'm not trained enough right now to run this hard, plus last week's race can't be helping.  My toes kept cramping up and my calves were twitching on the verge of cramping too. I tried not to focus on  the fact that I had at least 35 miles to go, but at this point I was not enjoying myself at all.  Friggin rocks.  Everywhere.  Big rocks, little rocks, dry rocks, wet rocks, loose rocks, sharp rocks, everywhere frigging rocks!  WTF!  W......T.......F!!!!!!! (That's the best I can do to relay my attitude at that point).  The hills, climbs and decents were plenty, but these didn't bother me, just the unrunnable rocks.

I was really down in the dumps for a bit here, which is unlike me.  I was exhausted, cramping, then at the 20 mile aid station I felt nauseous.  Never been nauceous during a race before, not used to this, unlike some fellow runners (Chris!).  I had some food here and chicken broth, my stomach settled down over the next little while.  I decided the best way to get this crap over with was to keep moving and get this crap over with.  My pace had been slow for quite some time now, I was wondering if Steve and JD would catch up soon.  I just kept going at a slow pace, this part felt like forever.

Here's why music and heaphones are not condoned at races:  A woman caught up to me and as she passed, I gave her a customary "How ya doin'?".... Met with silence, I noticed she had headphones on and didn't hear a word.  Just after that we were approaching a road, there was a volunteer waiting at the road and he shouted to us "Please wait for the car to pass".... Uh oh.  The woman was 20 metres or so ahead of me and not slowing down, so I yelled to the volunteer "SHE'S GOT HEADPHONES ON!".  She was looking down at her feet due to the rocks and didn't see the voluteer or the car.  Just as she reached the road and looked up, the car slammed on the brakes and she jumped to the side, clearly startled.  The car waited while she went on her merry way.  Jackass.  I'm not against wearing headphones, but if you can't hear people yelling at you, turn it the fuck down.  I waited and let the car go, then I too went on my merry way. 

After some extended climbing, we come across some vast rocks, reminded me of Muskoka and the Canadian Sheild.  Some were so big to cross, we couldn't find the orange ribbons indicating which way to go next as there's no trail once you're on each rock.  I was with another runner, so we helped each other look for the ribbons at a few points here.  I started to run ahead a bit after this, then he shouted from behind me, "Are you from Ontario?"... How the hell did he know that?  I waited for him and said yes, I was, why? He said, "I think this is your driver's licence".  Yikes!  I'd brought my driver's license along this morning in case I needed ID for the packet pick-up.  Like anybody is going to show up at 4am and falsely impersonate someone so they can run 50 miles... Don't know what I was thinking there.  It fell out of my pouch on my belt, I moved it to a zippered pocket on my shorts. 

Well, I guess everything happens for a reason.  We ran together for the next hour, and I completely forgot about how crappy I was feeling.  His name was Stanley, he's a Washington Capitals fan so we chatted about hockey and sports.  He paced a buddy at Leadville, so we chatted about that for awhile too.  His friend who ran Leadville would be at the finish, I told him I'd like to talk to him after.

I was feeling good now, Stanley could tell so he told me to go ahead, which I did.  I picked up the pace a little, feeling a bit better and not too far from the halfway point.  I then realized I hadn't pissed yet during the race, now 5 hours in.  This says how hard I was having to work, I usually go more frequently than that but it hadn't even crossed my mind yet.  I let out a stream of what looked like orange juice (I was way dehydrated), then pushed on to the 27.7 mile aid station, just over halfway.

27.7 and Counting
I sat down in an empty chair here.  I was handed my drop bag (they couldn't locate some other guy's bag, he was pissed) so I downed a few cups of fruit cocktail I'd brought.  I also tried a 5 Hour Energy drink, well I only drank half so I guess it's a 2.5 Hour Energy drink.  I've never had one before so I didn't want to drink the whole thing in case there were any side-effects for me.  I felt nothing, probably should have had the whole thing.  I ate some food here and took my time.  I was waiting for the 1 potapotty to be free so I could lube up some private regions, but it was never free so I just turned my back to everyone and went to town down there.  I took a staggering 13 minutes here (not lubing, just in general), but it felt good to rest up.  The last few hours had been a grind, I was fine taking my jolly time here.

I started down the hill out of the aid station, then picked up the pace and I was off to find more rocks.  The way way back still has many ups and downs, but more downs.  Still, more rocky creekbeds, mud, even sharp decents that needed to be climbed down.  At one point we came out to a road that went uphill, I started to run up until I realized it went on forever.  This was the only point that blackflies were noticable, the rest of the time they were fine.  One guy I met had a fly stuck in his eye.  I could see it right there but he couldn't get it out!  He was spashing water in it in vain...

They way back wasn't so bad mentally because I knew every step was closer to the finish.  Some of the decents we dangerous and crazy, but it was fun.  Still not enjoying the rocky rough footing, but I was more used to it now.  Stanley passed by me at some point, he had a pacer join him at 27.7, the brother of the Leadville dude I'd chat with later.  He was moving pretty good, looked strong.

When I got to the 40 mile aid station, had more food and downed the rest of my 5 Hour Energy drink.  Still no effect.  I picked up the pace, knowing it was the last 10 miles of this rocky madness.  I will say I ran pretty well after each time I took the 5 Hour Energy.  Not sure if it was the drink of or not, but I seemed to be in good spirits both times, maybe just coincidence.

Under 12 Hours?
I had no time goal going into this race, but partway through I'd decided I wanted to keep it under 12 hours.  After mile 40, I figured if I could get to the next aid station in under an hour I'd have a shot.  Next station is at 44.4, approx 7 kilometres.  One hour to do 7 kms?  No problem, let's go.... Then, and hour later.....WTF?  Still not there!  Where the hell is this aid station?  Took about an hour and 10 minutes to do 7 friggin kms....Yikes.  So at 44.4, I decided to keep plugging along but I really wasn't sure if I had time.  There was no way to know, it all depended whether each stretch had smoother sections or more rocky sections.  I just figured at this point if I go over, I'll just keep it as close as I can to 12 hrs.

When I got to the final aid station, it's only 2.8 miles to the finish.  I was still borderline on time, but my competitive nature kicked in, fuck it I'll give it a try.  I ran all the way up the hill out of the station, then decided to keep going and I picked up the pace big time.  I sprinted the downhills and flats, and ran every uphill.  On rocky downhills that I would normally have been tentative on, I sprinted and tried not to focus on my sore feet, I knew it wouldn't be for long.  People were stepping out of my way when they heard me coming and cheering me on (this was just like my energy burst on the final loop at Oil Creek, but that was due to double espressos and chocolate covered espresso beans).  I started passing all of the people who'd passed me in the last hour or so, they were all hiking up the hills while I ran past like a madman.  I passed Stanley on one of the final climbs, he yelled out a cheer for me as I passed.

Then a spectator I was passing said 'Half a mile to go'.  I asked him if he was sure, he said yes so I kept up the pace right to the finish.  It was great to come out of the trails and see the finish area, I just wanted to sit down and have some food and beer!

Carlos was waiting at the finish to congratulate me, that bastard finished it over 2 hrs ago... I miscalculated the time near the end, finished in 11hrs 53 minutes, I didn't cut it as close as I'd thought, but I had no idea how long it was going to take.  If I hadn't gone hard near the end, I would have been over 12 hours.  But really, who cares?  I didn't have a time to compare it to having never done this before.

I hung out with Carlos and waited for Steve and JD.  Had beer and some food, good food.  I was hoping to meet Dean Karnazes who made an appearance, but unless you're as fast as Carlos you don't get to see him.  He was there for about an hour, handing out medals to the winners and did a run with the kids.

Good swag bag, they gave a nice tech shirt with minimal logos for a change, some nice black arm sleeves and 2 bottles, one with hand held strap.

Eventually Steve and JD came in.  They wanted to beat Chris' time of 13hrs 18 minutes from last year.....They came in at 13:17!!  A friggin minute! Hilarious.... I'm sure Chris will be back next year for revenge...

We all had food and then caught the shuttle back to the car and then hotel to shower.  Then, back to Applebees so we can celebrate properly with beer instead of lemonade.  Next morning we were all up early, our internal clocks were messed up, we were on the road just after 8am, took just over 7hrs to get home...

So, That's That
Had a great weekend.  Turning this into a road trip was awesome, company was great and we all had fun.  As far as the race goes, as soon as it was over we all said never again. The course layout and hills were fantastic, country and views were beautiful, but rocks were just crazy-stupid-insane-fucked. But, as I sit here and type this a week later, hmmmm.... I do like a challenge, I'm drawn to that extra-level of difficulty that a course like this offers..... Ahh crap.  At least my feet have a year to heal.

I was sore after this race, but my Montrail Mountain Masochists were great, almost no blisters, even after the rock madness.  I had very minimal ass chafing (usually my downfall).  It hit me a few weeks ago that I shouldn't be wearing cotton underwear (duh), it just stays soaked the whole race, so I just wore compression shorts without underwear.  This really helped the chafing in the rear, but presented new problems in the front that we won't get into.

New Solomon calf sleeves worked great, but the rubbing actually left cuts on my shins.  Not a problem, but add another 50 miles and it might be.

Now I've got 5 more weeks until Mohican 100 Mile.  I've been resting this past week, so now I'll go hard for 4 weeks and rest for the final week.  I may have guilted Steve into coming with me as a pacer, he feels bad that they were all going to do Mohican but then everyone changed their mind to do Laurel Highlands 70 mile instead, but I'd already signed up for Mohican.  We'll see.

Here are the links to pics.  You can get a taste of the rocks, but it gets much worse than these pics will let on.  My number was 217, Steve was 17 and JD was 21 so due to the similar digits they put some of Steve's pics under mine, and mine under JDs.  Weird coincidence with 300 people...
Morgan - bib 217
Steve - bib 17
JD - bib 21
Carlos - bib 255
Time to get ready for Mohican, I haven't even been thinking about it as I'm so focused on Leadville, I should probably focus on this for the next month...

Take care,



  1. Good job, Morgan! Way to tough it out on those crunchy trails and kick off a new season. Save your legs for Leadville!

  2. Hilarious race report, I'm pretty sure this is the best one I've read. Hope to see you at a few more OUSER races!