North Face Bear Mountain 50m 2010
7k of climbing
Technical singletrack and carriage roads
I almost didn’t get to the start for this one. After the incredibly hot 7 Sisters last weekend, I told Steph that if race day for Bear Mountain was going to be hot, I would not run. I believe 50 miles in heat is a town in hell. As my luck would have it, things cooled down prior to the race, so I started to get organized. I had a good amount of trouble trying to figure out the logistics for this race, mostly due to the fact that I depend on liquid calories, and don’t do the Gu. I have no issues with most races with rational drop points, but Bear Mountain only has drops at 28 and 40 miles. I finally decided to put my trust in the aid stations, which ended up being problematic.
One of the reasons I was not initially excited about the race was the 2009 event. The short version of that story was an incredibly fast start (with the help of Dave James), which resulted in a death march over the last 2 hrs when Brian Rusiecki left me for dead. I also had trouble with the 5am start, which forced an early race pit stop. Many of the early top 5 runners either dropped out, or lost substantial time in the second half of the race. Despite having run 7 Sisters with Brian and me, Leigh Schmitt ran away from everyone pretty early in the race, and beat me by 27 minutes.
After a couple of 50 milers last fall that were much better paced, I was committed to a sane early pace for the 2010 race. I then looked at the entrant list and saw Max King, Timmy Parr, Michael Arnstein, and Oz Pearlman. When Brian told me Geoff Roes was coming, I thought he was joking. Last year, the race was almost all from the Northeast, and I had no idea why so many west coast runners and fast road guys were showing up. The likelihood of a sustainable early pace seemed low, very low. While some were touting the technical nature of the course, I was thinking it wasn’t technical enough to keep road guys like Arnstein or Pearlman from a fast pace. I guess my memory was being selective and focusing on the carriage roads in the second half of the race.
After waiting for the last racers to get registered, the run started 15 minutes late at 5:15am. Geoff and Tim went to the front, and set a very reasonable pace. I was shocked and happy. Brian and I were talking about 7 Sisters and other races, but I suggested that we might want to quiet down. I though Geoff and Tim might crank up the pace if it seemed too comfortable for everyone. While I was handling most of the terrain pretty easily, I could still feel 7 Sisters on the climbs. As long as they didn’t start hammering the hills, I was OK. For most of the early miles, I sat around 7th or 8th, and just tried to conserve as much energy as possible.
Despite my objective of running an evenly paced effort, I was soon accused of initiating the real racing. I think there was a misunderstanding. There was a long technical downhill around 8 miles in, and Geoff and Tim slowed down considerably. I had noticed that a few people in the lead group were struggling with the rocky sections, and I didn’t want to give anyone a free pass. I drifted up past Geoff and continued to make my way down the hill at a very easy pace for any of the New England guys. I wasn’t working any harder, I was just braking less. Leigh said something about hornets in a nest, and Tim Geoff, and Gerry Sullivan started to run a bit harder. This was bad timing for me, as I began to feel the need for a pit stop. A mile later, I had to stop and watch the lead pack disappear in the woods. Even though it was only about 9-10 miles into the race, there was no one anywhere close to the lead pack at that point. It took me a while to get back on pace, and I didn’t want to repeat my mistake of last year when I ran too hard to catch up with the leaders.
When I finally managed to reel in Michael Arnstein, he picked up the pace a bit, and I suggested we try and work together. I still wasn’t feeling great, especially on the climbs, which was troubling considering how early it was in the race. We got to the aid station at 13.9 miles, and here is where my trust in the aid stations became an issue. I needed soda, and they had Pepsi, in the bottle, recently opened. I probably killed half the bottle trying to fill up my water bottle as it foamed all over. I know that they were trying to go low-impact this year and reduce the use of cups, but you can’t serve carbonated soda to runners. I asked for Nuun tabs, and they pointed me to a jug of Nuun water. This has no calories. I stared at an aid station volunteer in disbelief, and he magically produced Nuun tablets out of his pocket. Someone said they were not supposed to give them out, which is funny, because the tabs were listed right in the race packet. These aid station decisions were not made by the race volunteers, who were extremely helpful throughout the long day. I finally left with my tabs and my carbonated soda and chased Mike onto the singletrack. With all the carbonation, I lost about a third of my Pepsi as it blasted out of the bottle. Mike was worse off than me, though, as he only took water, and we had a technical 6.8 mile leg ahead of us with plenty of climbing.
The carbonation was not really helping my stomach, so I tried to hold wait until it was totally flat until I drank much. It was fun running with Mike on the technical sections, as he threw out expletives every time we had a steep, technical descent. I was really impressed with how well he was doing after he told me he never runs trails. I told him that the second half of the race was more runable, which I think helped him deal with the rough sections. We both began to feel better by the end of this section, with Mike really starting to roll on the easier stretches. I stopped holding back on the rocky sections, as Mike was able to compensate when the footing improved. I really don’t know how he made it through that section without any calories, but it might have cost him later on during the race.
The next stretch was also a long one at 7 miles, and I waited for Mike to stuff some fruit in his face before heading out. This doesn’t seem long, but I think Mike had us throwing down a couple 10 minute miles in the previous section, at least according to his GPS. Interestingly, his GPS was also telling us that the course was long, and I think he had us at 22.2 by the time we hit the aid station at 20.7. I don’t know if it was the bananas or the smooth terrain, but Mike opened his stride some more, and we were making good time as I tried not to push too hard to stay in touch. Luckily, there were enough small hills and stream crossings which allowed me to reel him back in. To my surprise, we ended up catching Timmy Parr, who was walking, and then Gerry Sullivan, who had been leading at 13.9 miles. It was a welcome relief to be feeling good enough to where I thought I might end up having a strong second half.
We finally got to the 28 mile aid station and our bag drop at about 4:18 into the race. They had Coke in cups, nice and flat, and I also threw some Gatorade in there with the Nuun tabs. This worked much better. I offered to wait for Mike, but he told me to go on, so I ran on down the trail at an easy pace. I thought he would catch up quickly, but even when I could hear see him, he didn’t seem to be gaining any ground. I was really itching to start running harder, and Mike was apparently having a rough patch. The next 6.5 miles seemed to fly by, with the exception of a very long road hill that tries to suck the life out of you. It began to rain on this stretch, which was refreshing, but wet shoes weren’t making anyone faster.
I wanted to pick up the pace even more through the 34.2 mile station, but I knew there were some miles at the end that would be hard on the legs, so I held back a bit. I had no idea where Geoff, Leigh, and Brian were, but I was feeling confident that I wasn’t going to get passed by anyone. I was still rolling through the 40.3 and 44.7 mile aid stations, and it was fun to weave through the 50k runners after running alone for about 2 hours.
The last 5 miles takes you back onto some very technical and hilly singletrack that did in my legs. My calves and quads tried to tell me that they were done for the day, but I worked out a compromise where I would back off on the steep hills, shorten my steps, and they would let me run the last 2.5 miles. The descent from Timp Pass is still one of worst trails I have ever run on, and the intermittent rain didn’t really improve the footing. I was extremely happy to see the last aid station, especially when I realized that I was probably going to be under Leigh’s course record from last year (7:44). Although the flagging was confusing with about 5 colors all tied together, I managed to navigate my way back to the finish for a time of 7:37:56. While I never saw him, Brian was only about 3 minutes ahead of me. Geoff ran strong all the way to the finish, putting time into everyone with fastest last 5 miles to finish with a 7:06. Leigh improved 22 minutes over his 2009 time after chasing Geoff closely for about 30 miles. Mike ran faster over the last few miles than everyone other than Geoff to just miss breaking 8 hours.
I was happy with my decision to wear the 310’s for the race, but my feet are a bit narrow for that model, and I had some movement in the toe box at times after the rain started. I ended up with a couple of small blisters on my Morton’s toes that I didn’t notice during the race. I probably would have been better off in my tried and trusted 320’s, but I’ve been having good runs in the 310’s. I almost considered something lighter, but the stability, traction, and stone protection of the 310’s was appreciated early and often throughout the race.
Although I doubt I could have stayed with Geoff, I do wonder how Brian and I would have done without our 7 Sisters warm-up. Despite some lingering fatigue, we ended up closer to Leigh than last year, but he did try and hang with Geoff for much longer. I could have skipped other New England races, but 7 Sisters is definitely one of my favorite races. The crazy thing is, my legs feel better after Bear Mountain than they did after 7 Sisters, so I guess a 50 miler helps with recovery!
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
North Face Bear Mountain 50m 2010