Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Bear Chase 50 Miler

I don't know what it is about it, but the 50 mile distance has intrigued me for quite some time. It seemed like it would be long enough to truly test my limits, but not as extreme as a 100. Most people can get it done during the daylight (definitely a plus in my book!) but you're still out moving for almost an entire day.

So sometime in January or February of this year, after my first marathon, but (surprisingly) before my first ultra (which was in March), I decided to sign up for the Bear Chase 50 Mile Trail Race.

Despite having plenty of notice for this race, I honestly did not really train for it. Now don't get me wrong, I was running long distances all summer, but mostly for my Pikes Peak training. After Pikes I took a few weeks off (due to my foot issue and I got a tattoo), so when I finally got back into things, it was a little tough. I only ended up with one good weekend to run long in September before this race - the weekend of the Lead King Loop 25K. I didn't want to completely sacrifice my time at Lead King, but I knew I needed more than a 15 miler to get me through a 50, so I did 2, back-to-back long runs: a 17.5 miler on Saturday and then the 15.5 mile race on Sunday. Still not what I would've planned had I had more time , but I figured it was better than nothing.

So all of a sudden, after signing up for this race 7-8 months ago, it was just about here! I knew I wasn't as ready as I would've liked, but knowing I had done Pikes Peak Marathon helped calm my nerves a little. I decided to just go out there, pace myself, fuel well and keep moving no matter what - and hopefully that just might get me to my first 50 mile finish!

Thankfully Scott had the weekend off, so we headed back over the mountains again (I swear I've made this drive at least 20 times this year!) and ended up staying at a hotel in Wheat Ridge to make for a quicker morning, rather than going all the way north to my parents house. We got in around 9, and I was in bed around 10.

After a terrible night of sleep, I was up at the lovely hour of 4:00! Took a quick shower, dried my hair and got all my race gear on. We left the hotel a little before 5 and stopped at Starbucks so I could get a bagel for breakfast before heading to Bandimere Speedway where I would catch the shuttle to the starting line.

I got to the start at about 5:45. Lots of time to get my race bib, circle through the bathroom line and change my mind several times on what I wanted to take with me as far as fluids were involved. I kept going back and forth between the handheld and my hydration pack, before finally just settling on the handheld (I knew the forecast was calling for really warm temps and I figured the pack would be really hot and sweaty on my back).

The 100K and 50 Mile races both started at 6:30am, so I headed to the starting line a few minutes beforehand. I took a few pictures , although it was still a bit dark out:

Lining up at the starting line!
The race consists of 4 x 12.5 mile laps, so I'm going to summarize each loop here with pictures (although the majority of pictures were all taken on the first lap).

Lap 1: 2:34:10
Clothing - Pink Tank, Run Happy Visor, Ultimate Direction Waste pack so I could carry my sunglasses
Mile Splits (1-12): 11:09, 10:45, 11:00, 12:01, 11:17, 14:10, 11:35, 13:41, 13:28, 11:25, 15:42, 11:31

At 6:30 everyone was off. I settled into a nice slow jog for the first few miles and ended up talking with a girl named Riley for sometime. The course was great - a soft dirt trail that was very runnable and mostly flat with the exception of the occasional small hill. The sun was just coming up as we started so it was still nice and cool. About 20 minutes in and my watch beeped for the two mile mark and I immediately got The Fray song stuck in my head, "48 To Go" (the song is talking about States, but they sing "2 down and 48 to go."). If I didn't like that song so much, I probably would've found that to be depressing.

This was much prettier in real life!

This is one of my favorite pictures I took on the course!

The first aid station was a little past the three mile mark. I filled up my water bottle and continued on. The next section would be the longest stretch without an aid station at a little over 4 miles, but with Mt. Carbon (a bit of a climb) it made for about an hour between stations. This wasn't an issue on this first lap, but I definitely ran out of water on the later laps as it got unbearably hot.

About to start the ascent up Mt. Carbon

Views from Mt. Carbon
You could see the Denver skyline from the top of Mt. Carbon
After Mt. Carbon was a nice downhill stretch before we ran along the perimeter of a golf course, and then into a treed area where we would soon come to the set of 3 water crossings. I was pretty nervous about the water crossings going into this race, but they actually ended up being my favorite part - especially as the temperatures got higher throughout the day. The first 2 crossings are fairly close to one another, and then the 3rd was about a 1/4 mile beyond that.

One of the river crossings.
There's a short section of concrete sidewalk just past the water crossings until reaching the second aid station around mile 8. I had some food, filled my water bottle with whatever electrolyte drink they had and headed on. This section from mile 8 to the a little past the mile 10 aid station was my least favorite. It paralleled a busy street for several miles and was so exposed and hot. Good thing the aid stations were close together! I reached the next one, grabbed more water and applied my first layer of sunscreen for the day. The last few miles were okay before finally some descent which meant I was almost done with my first lap! I ran through the chute and finished lap #1 in 2:34:10 - my fastest lap of the day.

This was pretty, but SO, SO hot...!!!
Seriously, not a single tree anywhere?!

Lap 2: 2:56:15
Clothing - Purple T-Shirt, Run Happy Visor
Mile Splits (13-25): 16:03, 10:58, 11:09, 14:40, 12:24, 11:50, 14:33, 12:49, 16:15, 13:12, 17:01, 14:37, 13:17

I got in from lap #1 and scrambled through my drop bag trying to find my body glide. Of course, stupid me had taken it out earlier in the morning to put some on before the race and couldn't figure out where it was (or if it had even made it back into my bag). Instead of wasting any more time looking for it, I texted my mom who was coming later in the day and asked her to pick me up some more. Meanwhile, I changed shirts to a T-shirt until I could get my under arm chafing issue resolved (hence why I have 3 different shirts on in the various pictures), grabbed some food and started my second lap.

I walked for the first bit of this lap so I could text some people that I had finished the first lap before finally picking up the pace and running again. I pretty much ran from here until the first aid station where I grabbed more fuel and kept going. Mt. Carbon was just as steep as before, only it was hotter now. The descent was just as fun as the first time, and the water crossings were SO much fun and felt amazing!

Yay for Water Crossings!
After grabbing more fuel at the second aid station I kept going. I was already starting to feel tired by this point which wasn't the best sign. I wasn't even half way done yet!!! But I just kept going. Because that's what you do in ultra's. You just keep moving. It continued to get more and more hot. I finally passed the last aid station and had 2 miles to go. My mom was going to be there, so I texted her to let her know I was about 25 minutes out. I kept on going until finally reaching the dirt road, running down a hill, and towards the finishers chute, finishing Lap #2 in 2:56:15 - quite a bit slower than the first, but still a decent time.

Lap 3: 3:31:11
Clothing - Run Happy Tank, Runners Roost Visor
Mile Splits (26-37): 28:43 (stopped at aid station for awhile), 13:17, 12:36, 19:39, 13:34, 16:28,15:06, 21:20, 17:47, 13:21, 18:41, 14:39, 19:31

As I got in from lap 2, I quickly found my mom, grabbed my Dad's Garmin to get it looking for satellites (my Garmin battery life is only around 7 hours - so I decided to just switch it at the half-way point), applied the body glide she gave me and switched shirts again to my mesh "run happy" tank - which is my coolest shirt I had since it was THE HOTTEST EVER. I applied more sunscreen, grabbed more fuel, thanked my mom and then started lap #3. I texted my family and Kellee who would be pacing me to let them know I had made it half-way (and that I would hopefully see Kellee around 3:00 to start my last lap).

This third lap was my worst of the day mentally and performance wise. It was just so demoralizing to know I had already been out for 6 hours and yet I still had an additional lap after I finished the one I was on (which was going to take me at least 3 hours). So I walked a bit for the first mile of this lap. After all, I was out here to enjoy this, so I just decided to slow down for a minute and take my time. I started chatting with a girl wearing a Mt. Sneffels Marathon shirt who was doing the 50K. We stopped and took pictures at this sign:

I'm trying to point at the "50 Miles" if you can't tell.
Finally, after about 15-20 minutes I started running again. I kept it up pretty well until reaching the next aid station where I filled up on more fuel and once again kept going. It was a lot of run/walking at this point. And then of course all walking as I reached Mt. Carbon. Once again SO HOT. Then down some more, past the golf course, and then the WATER CROSSINGS. What a welcome sight. It was so hot out and my water in my handheld was hot and gross, all I wanted to do was drink the river water....don't worry, I didn't. I did, however, pour a bunch of water all over my arms and the back of my neck. It felt so good!

At the next aid station one of the volunteers was the best ever and filled my water bottle up almost all with ice! I knew it would melt really fast, but the cold water was AMAZING while it lasted. Another amazing thing I found myself drawn to were pickles! They just really hit the spot (and are a great racing food because of all the sodium in them). And then the lovely (note the sarcasm) section paralleling the highway...it was SO hot....there were no trees anywhere. But I kept going....relentless forward progress, right? Oh and did I mention it was hot?

Shortly before reaching the third aid station a girl passed me, running with seriously no effort at all....that was the SECOND time she had lapped me. She ended up being the overall winner of the 100K with a time of 8 hours and something-minutes. Some people are truly amazing. I however, was putting a lot of effort into things...and still going SO slow. I went through the last aid station of this lap and at least had a little bit of hope now. I had less than 2 miles until I finished lap #3 and could pick up my pacer!!! It was hope! I just knew having company for the last lap was going to be so helpful. I texted my mom and Kellee to let them know when I was about a mile and a half out and continued on with my run/walk.

Reaching the downhill was exciting (as always)! I rounded the corner and saw Kellee and she joined me as I ran through the chute to finish Lap #3 in 3:31:11 - my slowest of the day (and oh how glad I was for it to be over!).

Kellee running me in from Lap #3!

Lap 4: 3:29:45
Clothing: Same as Lap 3!!! I finally found what worked I guess :)
Mile Splits (38-50):  15:24, 13:17, 18:00, 18:32, 14:35, 17:26, 15:27, 22:23, 15:50, 14:22, 16:30, 12:59, 10:41 (<--- Check out that last mile - this was seriously my fastest mile of the day!!!)

Over 3 1/2 hours for Lap #3 was a little demoralizing, but there was hope: I had a pacer now! Kellee was there waiting and all ready to go! I replenished the sunscreen and body glide, ate MORE snacks, and then we were off. I had 12 1/2 miles to go and I would FINALLY be finished (and be an official 50 MILE FINISHER!).

We walked for a bit at the beginning since I had just eaten before finally starting to run for about a mile or so. Then it was a walk/run until reaching the first aid station where I filled up my water bottle with more ice and even put some ice down my sports bra (that was the aid station volunteers idea and it was brilliant!). Then we headed out towards Mt. Carbon. Kellee took some pictures along the way:


Heading up Mt. Carbon was the slowest ever. By this point in the day, even the tiniest hill felt so tough and required SO much effort! My legs were seriously dead. The good news was that it was over a mile of down hill after I reached the top, and I managed to run for over a mile straight (that was a first in a long time).

And then we finally reached the best part ever - the water crossings!!!

Getting to the aid station just past the water crossings was a good feeling because for the first time all day I knew I was going to finish. Now don't get me wrong - I never once thought about giving up - even through all my tiredness and complaining, it didn't really occur to me to drop out. BUT getting to mile 46 made me realize that I could finish. I was going to be a 50 Mile Finisher! 4 miles was nothing compared to the 46 I had already done. Yes, it could still take awhile, but I was going to do it!

So we kept going. Unfortunately, right after that aid station, the course switches direction and we were running RIGHT INTO THE SUN. It was painful. I had to bend my neck over so the sun was above my visor, which was super uncomfortable. I did, however, manage to pick my pace up a little bit. I think it was the feeling of hope I got at the last aid station. So although I was still run/walking, I felt like I was at least running more than I was walking. Kellee got this awesome picture of me running this section:

After another mile or so the sun went behind the foothills. This was good and bad. Good in the fact that it was no longer painfully in my eyes, but bad because it meant I was slowly running out of daylight. But I kept the pace up and soon we were at the LAST AID STATION! Whew, what a relief to be at the last aid station. Just over 2 miles to go. I could really do this!

We headed out of the aid station and kept going. There's one last big hill about 1/2 mile past the aid station and it felt so good to reach the top of that. It was, for the most part, all flat and down hill to go! At 1 1/2 miles to go I texted my mom and Scott to let them know we were ALMOST there. The sun was really starting to go down by now though, so I did my best to keep my pace up - which I did a pretty good job at considering my very last mile of the day was my fastest of the day! I guess the thought of finishing combined with the impending darkness really motivated me (and Kellee letting me know we only had 1 mile to go!!)! We reached the last big downhill section, rounded the corner, and there it was: the finish line! And for real the finish line (as opposed to the other 3 times I had crossed it between laps). I was DONE! I finished in 12:31:16!!! Not breaking any records by a long shot, but I had done it! I completed 50 miles on my own two feet in one day!

FINISHED!!! (note how it's just about getting dark out...)
This bling was most definitely earned!
Me with my awesome pacer Kellee!
Scott and I post race!!! (I wish I had gotten a picture with my mom too - but forgot, so THANKS MOM for coming!!!)

Race: The Bear Chase Trail Races (Available distances: 100K / 50 Mile / 50K / Half / 10K)

Date: 09/27/2014
Distance: 50 Miles

Total Elevation Gain: Approximately 3400 feet
Weather: Sunny and so unbearably hot!!!

Bib Number: 77
Gun Time: 12:31:28
Chip Time: 12:31:16
Garmin Moving Time (so not including aid station stops):  11:46:50
Average Pace: 15:02 minutes/mile
Overall Place: 53/83
Gender Place: 20/33
Division Place (F20-29): 3/4

-Pretty course that isn't overly technical
-Good course support/aid stations - would prefer another one in between Aid Station's #1 and #2
-Well marked course
-The Water Crossings were A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!!!! (And body glide on my feet seemed to work well to avoid any blisters from said water crossings)
-Swag: good quality T-Shirt, medal, and nice personalized bibs
-After several attempts with the clothing, outfit #3 worked: My Brooks "run happy" mesh tank was awesome in the heat (although Body Glide is needed for any tanks I wear - I chafe where my arm swings against the side of my torso - cannot forget this!!!). Also, my Headsweats visor is better than my Brooks visor - especially in the heat.
-Pacers were allowed for the last lap! Mentally it was SO nice to have Kellee for the last lap. I had something to look forward to throughout the day (especially during the dreadful 3rd lap), and someone to talk to for the last 3 1/2 miles.
-Pickles! Seriously, I don't know what it was, but these were hitting the spot.
-Soda - this was a nice change from your standard electrolyte
-FREE Race Photos! That was pretty awesome!
-Chick-Fil-A for my post-race meal...YUM! :)

-Too hot!!!
-I would like the T-Shirt to be more customized to the race distance - at least for the Ultra's vs. Half & 10K
-I really could've gone for some grapes (they had grapes at Pikes Peak Marathon and they were awesome)!
-Probably could've used a larger handheld since I was running out of water during that longer 4+ mile stretch.

Course Map (1 Lap)
Elevation for 2 Laps (25 Miles)
Overall, I think this went well for my first 50. Going in, I kind of wanted to do this in under 12 hours - however given how hot it was and the fact that I didn't do any specific training for this, I am happy with how it went. As with my first 50K, I think the "lap" course worked well - access to my stuff every 12.5 miles, and I could see my mom in-between laps. I think I did a pretty good job fueling throughout the day as well. It was a cupless race, so I alternated between water and electrolytes between each aid stations, and just snacked on all of the various foods at each aid station: bananas, cookies, chips, pickles etc. In general, I don't necessarily think I paced myself well, BUT I also think a lot of this had to do with not doing any specific training. Had I followed a specific training plan, and maybe done a 50K about a month out, I think it might've made a difference.I also am really glad I had Kellee pace me for the last 12 1/2 miles. Having a friend to talk to for the last 3+ hours was SO nice.

It's weird though - I don't know if it's because it was a lap course or what - but it didn't feel like I actually ran 50 miles. I mean it did, but it didn't. It did in the sense that I was out moving for 12 1/2 HOURS, but it didn't when you think about how far 50 miles actually is - that's like going from Fort Collins to Broomfield, or Olathe to Grand Junction - 50 miles is far! It's weird to think I did that. But...I know I did! I have the race results - with chip timing - to prove it...oh yeah and a big shiny medal!


  1. Ready to do another? Great pics!

    1. Not "ready" per se, but I do think I will do another sometime! :)

  2. You did a super job on your first 50M trail race! You ran smart and had fun. It's hard to ask for more than that! Well done!


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