Monday, October 3, 2016

The Bear Chase 100K

Right after my DNF at Lean Horse, I toyed around with the idea of doing some sort of "come-back race". I went back-and-forth on whether I should do one. Signing up for races last minute is always pretty expensive, plus the fact that I'd been training all summer, I was exhausted. Not to mention that thought, "what if I failed at my come-back race?!" This was especially prevalent since one of the ones I was considering was The Bear Chase 100K, which has a pretty tight time limit (for us back-of-the-packers anyways). So, that was it. I was settled on not doing one.

Until last Wednesday, anyways.

Someone in a local trail running Facebook page announced that they had an entry into the The Bear Chase that they were looking to transfer since they were injured and couldn't do it. Hmmm I thought... maybe this is a sign that I should do it after all? After messaging back and forth and her giving me a pretty good deal on the race entry, I was set. I WOULD be doing a come-back race after all!

I was, of course, still VERY worried about the time cut-offs. I ran The Bear Chase two years ago as my first 50 miler, and it took me 12 hours and 31 minutes. To be allowed to continue in the 100K, I had to get to the 50 mile point in under 11 hours and 30 minutes. Yeah...quite a bit of a difference! Granted, I did know that I had A LOT more experience under my belt this time around. Also, the weather was supposed to be a fair amount cooler than two years ago (and heat is always a major slow down for me). The other good news was that this race would still give me an official 50 mile finish if I didn't make the 100K cutoff. So I figured, I might as well give it a shot. This would force me to push myself to run it a little faster than normal. Best case scenario I would make the 11 1/2 hour cut-off, continue on and finish the 100K (and have an awesome come-back race). Worst case scenario, I'd have another 50 mile finish - and maybe even a PR of some sort, even if I couldn't make the 11 1/2 hours. So...I was set!

The race consists of 5 x 12.5 mile loops (so, the 50 miler was 4 loops) with a total elevation gain of 4250 feet. For Colorado trail running, it's a fairly "easy" course - however it's still mostly singletrack with rocky sections and some nice hills thrown in, along with 3 water crossings per lap (that's 15 total for the 100K!). I knew I was capable of making the time cut-offs if I had a good day. But that's the thing with Ultra's, you just never know what the day is going to bring... Nevertheless, I was hoping for the best!

LAP 1 - 2:24:16
Splits: 11:31, 11:11, 12:42, 11:02, 12:39, 11:25, 11:59, 11:30, 10:44, 11:14, 11:34, 10:45

The race started promptly at 6:30am, right as the sun was rising. Since I knew I was going to be close to the time cut-offs, I didn't want to go out too conservative. Now, don't get me wrong - I didn't go all out. But I didn't hold back as much as I normally would in an ultra. I ran at a comfortable, sustainable pace. Running all flats and downhills and power hiking the uphills. I was a little confused when we reached the Mt. Carbon climb only 2 miles in - since when I ran it a few years ago, it was closer to Mile 5. They must have moved the starting line, and since it was dark I hadn't really noticed!

Heading up Mt. Carbon for the first time!
Looking back from the base of Mt. Carbon
After the climb up Mt. Carbon, it was downhill until the water crossings. It was still early and I knew these would be COLD, but thankfully they weren't too bad. I ran through them and finally got to the first Aid Station, right around 4 1/2 miles. I grabbed a banana and topped off my handheld water bottle and headed out to the next section, which was always my least favorite part. It's about 3 miles of singletrack paralleling a highway, and it's completely exposed (no trees). Since this was the first lap though it wasn't bad at all and I quickly made it to the second aid station. I grabbed another banana, added tailwind to my handheld and headed out again. The second largest climb is right after this aid station and I was happy to be done with it and headed downhill to the last aid station - which was were the starting line was when I ran this 2 years ago. This new shift wasn't bad physically, but mentally it was a little tough. My mind wanted this to be the end of the first lap, but I still had 3 more miles to go! At least it was pretty since it was all through the tree's! I finally made it through and finished Lap 1 in 2:24:16 - about 10 minutes faster than I did Lap 1 in 2014.

LAP 2 - 2:33:46
Splits: 13:28, 11:33, 13:15, 10:37, 12:10, 13:51, 11:39, 12:47, 11:34, 11:15, 12:24, 12:08, 11:59

As I came into the starting/finishing area, I saw a few Skirt Sports Ambassadors who were doing the 50K. I quickly said hello to them, grabbed my hydration vest (that my dad had to drop off because I'm, dumb and forgot it - so, thank you!!), dropped off the handheld, and continued on. I knew one of my biggest challenges would be making sure I didn't waste too much time at aid stations - especially since I would end up going through 18 aid stations and I knew the time spent there would really add up!

Lap 2 was pretty similar to Lap 1 - I knew I was still on fresh legs and wanted to continue to take advantage of that, so I ran a majority of this lap as well, excluding the climbs. I did start adding in PB&J's into my fueling which seemed to work pretty well for me. Along this lap, I passed my friend Joni who was doing the 50K and would also be doing the Half Marathon the next day! Then as I was nearing the end of my second lap, I got passed by the winners of the 50K who were coming in (so I was at Mile 24 1/2, and they were at 31 - AND they started 1/2 hour after me). It's always neat to see the speedy folks come by! Some people are super human! :)

Coming in right before the finish of Lap 2.

LAP 3 - 3:01:43
Splits: 15:42, 11:54, 15:06, 13:24, 16:02, 14:32, 15:14, 15:55, 12:49, 15:35, 14:00, 13:11

I was pretty happy I managed the first two laps in about 5 hours. This gave me a little bit of a cushion for the remaining laps - but I also knew from experience that Mile 30 is where my body really starts to feel tired. So I still needed to push myself a lot on this next one. I had a pacer lined up for Lap 4 - so I took solace in the fact that I just had ONE more lap by myself and then I would have someone else to run and talk with!

At the beginning of the lap, I got lapped by Grand Junction runner, Giff, who went on to win the 50 miler in under 7 hours (averaging a little over an 8 minute pace for 50 MILES - amazing). Most of the rest of this lap is a blur, but I know I just continued on, running as much as I could and stopping at aid stations for snacks (more PB&J's, potato chips, and oranges at one aid station were really good!). I knew I was slowing, but I was happy to still be running a majority of this lap!

At the top of Mt. Carbon. You can see the Denver skyline off in the distance!

LAP 4 - 3:17:13
Splits: 16:21, 14:02, 14:18, 15:26, 16:52, 16:47, 14:41, 16:47, 13:15, 16:15, 14:13, 14:30, 14:34

As I came in from Lap 3, I had a nice cheering squad - my pacer, Kari, was there along with Jayme - a friend and fellow Skirt Sports Ambassador who was volunteering, and my mom was there too (a nice surprise!). It was about 2:30pm at this point. This meant I had 3 1/2 hours to complete Lap 4 - which gave me a little bit of a cushion (I was predicting I would only have 3 hours per lap). Plus, I now had a pacer!

I grabbed my second watch and some food, and we headed out. From the get-go we were constantly talking, which always really helps the time go by faster! This was actually my first time ever meeting Kari, but she was awesome! We talked about everything from races to our pets, to Skirt Sports (of course, since we're both ambassadors!).

Kari and I right before starting my 4th Lap!

When we were about 1/2 way through this lap is when I could really feel myself getting to that "I'm ready to be done," exhausted feeling. Running was getting harder and harder, especially on the flat sections. And the downhills, while I was still able to run them at a good pace, my body was hurting. Nevertheless, I kept at it! We got to the last aid station just before 5pm. This meant I had one hour to go 3 miles. I could do this!!! I could make the 50 miles / 11:30 cutoff after all! I told Kari my goal was do these 3 miles in 45 minutes and we got pretty close to that time frame, coming in from my 4th lap, with 50 miles under my belt in 11 hours, 16 minutes and 53 seconds! A 50 mile PR by OVER an hour!

Documenting my 50 Mile PR!

LAP 5 - 3:16:16
Splits: 18:00, 12:12, 16:02, 13:13, 18:40, 16:40, 14:16, 16:22, 14:23, 14:56, 16:24, 14:52

At this point, I was THRILLED I had managed to come in under the time cutoff. The days leading up to the race, and even during the race, I knew I could do it. But I also knew it was going to be seriously hard. So I wasn't letting myself think about it too much - I wanted to be mentally prepared to not make it... I knew that things were going to need to go really well for me and I was going to have to push myself immensely to make this time cutoff. So the fact that I DID do it, just left me so happy and on a serious high that carried me through my last lap! I thanked Kari, grabbed some more PB&J and Coke, said Hi to Jayme and my mom (and thanks so much to Jayme for getting some pictures for me!), and then left for my LAST lap!

Kari was only able to stay for one lap (she was recovering for a Half Ironman she had just done!) and I had been torn on which one to have her help with, but overall I'm really glad I picked Lap 4. The second-to-last lap is always harder mentally than the last lap. Even though I was now alone, going on 50+ miles, and it was going to get dark soon, the fact that I KNEW I was on my last lap, made it a lot easier. Plus, with how happy I was that I made the cut-off, I headed out on this lap running almost all of it until reaching the Mt. Carbon climb. I power-hiked up that thing like a boss, and then ran the fun downhill section to the water crossings. My goal had been to get the water crossings done before dark, which I managed to do! I snapped a picture of them (since I hadn't gotten one yet), and headed to the first aid station for the last time!

Water crossings!
Documenting the water crossing! 
I chatted with the aid station volunteers very briefly (who made sure I had a headlamp - which, I did, plus an extra because I'm paranoid!) and then headed into the sunset through the section I don't like. It was during a long, flat stretch that I realized I could power walk at the same, or possibly even a little faster pace than I could run at this point in time - and it hurt a lot less. So I settled into a mix of that and running before finally seeing the second-to-last aid station! Roost Teammate Rebecca and her daughter were volunteering at this one, so I chatted with them for a minute and drank some coke, before heading off again. I had one last major hill and then it would mostly be flat or down until the finish!

Sunset on my final lap!
At the top of the last hill, I passed the only other runner I had seen since I started this lap. I said hi to him and continued on - with a little bit of nice downhill running, and then back to power walking on the flats. I walked straight through the final aid station, thanking the volunteers, but not taking anything as I was just ready to be done! I kept at my power walk/jog thing for my last 3 miles and finally finished my first 100K in 14 hours, 33 minutes and 7 seconds! And, to top it all off, I finished second place female - which meant I got some pretty sweet awards as well!

All my awards and bling!
Race: The Bear Chase Trail Races
Location: Lakewood, Colorado (at Bear Creek Regional Park)
Distance: 100K (62.5 Miles)
Bib Number: 460
Date: 09/24/2016
Weather: Started at around 50 degrees, got up into the low 70's. Mostly overcast, although there were a few stretches of sunshine. Also some wind in the afternoon.
Gun Time: 14:33:15
Chip Time: 14:33:07
Overall Place: 13 of  15 (20 Starters)
Gender Place: 2 of 2 (3 starters)
Division Place (F20-29): 1 of 1 (2 starters)
Fuel: Tailwind (diluted), Clif Shot Blocks, PB&J, Banana's, Potato Chips, Oranges, Coke

Check out that buckle!
So... overall, I loved this race! I had a GREAT day. The weather was mostly great (a little hot at times and a little windy - but nothing too bad) and my fueling went well. In all honesty though, during the race, I actually felt like I wasn't eating enough because I was scared to over eat after Lean Horse - but it all seemed to work out well and I felt good through the maybe this was the perfect amount after all! I was also able to keep my mental game in tact and was in a good mood basically for the entire race. I had one moment during Lap 4 where I got a little nervous I was getting too tired and wasn't going to be able to make it - but somehow pushed through that. I had fun during this race. I finished this race feeling really proud of myself - for not just assuming I couldn't make the time cutoff, but actually working towards it and proving I could. I'm really glad to be ending my ultra season on this note!

  • Awesome SWAG. I got a finisher's medal AND a buckle (the buckle is for 100K finishers only), which was AWESOME!
  • For finishing 2nd female I also got a really cool trophy thing, pint glass with $50 Runner's Roost Gift Certificate, and a box of EFS Endurance Fuel.
  • Really well put on, organized race. The course was marked really well, and they even put out glow sticks for our last lap despite there only being a few of us left on the course after dark. I thought that was really cool and respectful of us back-of-the-packers still out there.
  • Great aid stations with AWESOME volunteers who were super helpful.
  • A nice course - I know not everyone likes looped courses, but I think this is a great one. 12.5 mile laps mean that it doesn't feel too boring, since you go 2-3 hours between seeing the same thing again. It also had a nice variety of terrain (hills, flats, gradual and some steeper ups and downs, along with water crossings, some singletrack and some wider sections). Also, the nice thing about looped courses is that you don't need a crew since you can just have an organized drop bag ready.

There's honestly not too much I didn't like about this course, but if I had to be extra picky:
  • I don't love the section of this course that parallels the road. It kind of takes away from the "trail" experience.
  • The time cutoff for the 100K is very strict and makes us back-of-the-packers feel kind of excluded (and extra slow). That being said, all of the other distances have VERY generous time cut-offs, and I did learn that the stricter 100K cutoff is because the park requires everyone to be out of the park by 10:00pm.   
A little inspiration from Leadville 100 founder Ken Chlouber.

And so to end this post...a repeat from what I already posted on social media...but seriously, DON'T LIMIT YOURSELF. I really came so close to not doing this race because I didn't think I was fast enough to make the time cutoffs. You can do SO much more than you think you can. 4 years ago I ran my first EVER 5K after always saying "I wasn't a runner." And now I've ran 100K. And someday I will run 100 Miles!


  1. Loved reading your race report Kate and so happy I could be there to see you! You are a strong inspirational woman and I am so proud that you met your goal!

  2. Congrats!!! I too hate that open stretch.. especially when it's hot! Well done!

  3. What an accomplishment, Kate!! So freaking proud of you!! <3

  4. "I power-hiked up that thing like a boss" I love this...Great job.


Flattop Mountain & Hallett Peak

I've been wanting to hike to the top of Hallett Peak ever since I found out it was the gorgeous mountain towering above Dream and Emera...