Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Making Friends with the Bear

The Bear 100 - Logan, Utah to Fish Haven, ID
This isn't one of those blogs! I'm not going to spend thirteen paragraphs boasting about what a bad-ass I am or recounting how I had to dig deep to overcome insurmountable odds. Nope, that's not how it went down.

While finishing the Bear 100 was perhaps the hardest thing I've done, oddly there was no epic struggle. No fierce battle between man and elements. No fight to the death. Rather, it was just a matter of  punching the time clock and putting in a full day's work.

Yes, it was a brutal course with somewhere between 23,000 and 27,000 feet of elevation gain. Yes, it got warm during the day and cold during the night. Yes, I was ridiculously tired and actually fell asleep on my feet several times. Yes, it would have been easier if I'd had a crew and/or a pacer. Yes, I probably should have asked for coffee at the aid stations or packed some 5 Hour Energy. Yes it took me nearly 29 hours to complete!

But part of me didn't care. It had been a long racing season already. I'd trained hard and raced strong at Tahoe Rim Trail 100 in late July. I'd gone "all in" at the  North Country 50 Run in Michigan in August and nearly hospitalized myself. I just didn't have much left, physically or mentally, to go hard at the Bear.

So I gave myself permission to take it easy. Permission to jog instead of racing. Permission to walk whenever I felt like it. Permission to sit down on a rock and take in the views without worrying about how much time I was losing.

No crew. No pacer. No GPS. No headphones. No trekking poles. No performance enhancing drugs. No cell phone. No bullshit.

It was nice! Well, it was nice for the first 50 miles. And even later when it started to really suck, like in the middle of the night when I was stumbling along the trail barely able to stay awake, I always knew I would get the job done. Even when I started to have fantasies about how nice it would be to DNF and curl up in a sleeping bag, I knew I wasn't actually going to quit.

I was cold. I was tired. My feet were shredded. And I still had 25 miles to go. It sucked. And I knew there would be more suckiness to come. But I knew I could handle it.

A brutal yet beautiful course

Finally, at the last aid station with only 8 miles left to go, I decided to break all my rules. I downed an energy drink, popped a pain pill, and actually put in a bit of strong running. I hammered the last section of the course like I was running a 10K. Clearly I had a lot left in the gas tank.

When I crossed the finish line there were no tears of joy. I didn't let out a primal scream or high five anyone. I just sat down under a shady tree and quietly enjoyed a cold bottle of water. I had earned it!