Bear Bait Ultras.
I don't know that there are words to fully describe this experience, but I'm going to try! The Bear Bait Ultras 50 Mile event was the most challenging, yet fun, race I’ve tackled. I don’t really know where to start. I’ll try to start at the beginning a go from there. In the days leading up, I was more nervous than I'd been since I can really remember. It was the first “new” thing I’d done for a long, long time. Last year I did a 50K, but I had done training runs of 30 miles, so it wasn't that big of a stretch. But this time, last year’s 32 miles at the 50K was the furthest I’d ever run. And, a marathon was the longest distance since then. Yet, here I was. Getting ready to run a 50+ mile race. 13 times around a nearly 4 mile loop. So, roughly 52 miles. 20 miles more than I've ever run before. That's a great unknown.
I was trained as best I could be. Complete trust that my coach had me physically ready. But, so many variables. Race day forecast was warm with a high chance of rain. I prepped and planned. Fueling. I had no idea what I would want, or be able, to eat. So, covered all bases. Gels, chips, crackers, cookies, and more. Hydration. I’ve been a Gatorade girl, but had recently tried Tailwind and liked it. So, brought both. And water. Gear. Buff, visor, sunglasses. Extra shoes, socks, clothes. Handheld bottle. Hydration vest. So much stuff. Contingencies. Vaseline, Pepcid, ibuprofen, cold sponges. Goals. Can’t head to a starting line without a goal. I originally had a goal of 9 hours in mind. Reasonable, it seemed. Then, I saw the course record was 8:59:21. Okay, my A goal is the course record. 10:23 pace. My B goal, to finish. For a first race of this distance, I didn’t see the need for an intermediate goal.
Race morning, loaded up the truck and head to the race site. It’s already in the mid-60s. Find a prime parking spot. The loop runs thru the parking lot, so parked right where I’ll be running by. I went to check-in while hubs got my personal aid station set up on the tailgate (side note for those who may be interested in this race: they have a great aid station, just thought this would be easier since I had no real idea what I was doing). Munched on a bagel with honey while we waited for sunrise and pre-race briefing. Grabbed a handheld filled with Tailwind.
Finally, it was go time!! Coach said the first 10 miles should feel easy. So, decide to go by feel the first lap. Easier said than done. I was totally over-thinking it. Does this feel easy? Easy enough? I’m breathing kind of heavy. I can’t keep this up for 50 miles. Man, that mile was 10:10. It didn’t feel that easy. Am I going to be able to keep this up?
Finished lap 1 in 39:12. Heading into the second lap still had Tailwind in my bottle. I grabbed a Honey Stinger waffle, and off I went. Munching and sipping. I told myself to settle down. Enjoy this. Find a comfortable pace and enjoy the run. The weather is good. Warm, but good. The trail is good. One big puddle, but my feet dried before I got back to it. It’s a good day. I relaxed. Quit over-thinking and just ran. Except for a quick pee break on the side of the trail. Lap 2 done in 37:06. Start of the third lap, I grabbed an Uncrustable PB&J and fresh bottle of Tailwind. After the first few bites, my stomach expressed some dislike. I realized earlier it didn’t seem settled, but I thought it was just nerves. I kept eating. I needed to get calories in. My tummy disagreed. I struggled through about ¾ of the sandwich before I cried uncle. Refocused on the trail. Not my grumbling stomach. Things sort of settled. My pace was comfortable. A couple of “too fast” miles, maybe. Still, legs feeling good. Gut, not so much. Finished lap 3 in 36:02.
I dropped my empty bottle and picked up no food heading into lap four. It was getting a little warm, so took a minute to squeeze some ice cold water (from a soaked sponge) on my head and shoulders. Then, just ran. And tried to ignore my tummy troubles. About halfway thru, felt the need to “go”. Okay, hold it until you get back to the pavilion. It went away, but my stomach was still not happy. Lap 4 done in 37:20. Before heading out for the fifth lap, I popped a Pepcid. Grabbed a fresh bottle of Tailwind and a Huma gel. Within a few minutes, the Pepcid did its job and my stomach felt better. Started sipping. Just kept running. Then, I started to feel my knee. I’ve had issues with it in the past. Nothing serious. Doc says nothing structural, but on occasion, it tightens up. Always recovers well with some ice and ibuprofen. But, I’m not even halfway done! Just keep on. Start on my gel. Tummy didn’t like that. (I think it was the flavor. The cinnamon hit hard.) Doubt starts creeping in. Will my knee hold out? What if can’t keep eating? Finished lap 5 in 37:25.
When I got to the truck, my personal aid station, I exhaled “shit”. My husband “Shit what?”. Me “Everything already hurts”. Downed some ibuprofen and another Pepcid. More cooling off with a sponge. Needed to give my tummy a break, so diluted the Tailwind left in my bottle with water. Took off again. Tried to focus on footing. Keep my knee from twisting. Stomach settled. Had to get my mind back. Knee didn’t get worse. Finished lap 6 in 39:39, immediately followed by a visit to the bathroom. Good news – that took care of my stomach issues! Grabbed a fresh bottle with Tailwind and another Honey Stinger waffle. Off I went. Almost halfway done.
Laps 7-11 sort of blurred together. I was counting each lap. But, they were much the same. My stomach felt better. My knee was okay. I didn’t really feel like eating, but I would grab a few potato chips and a swallow or two of Coke most laps. (OMG, cold Coke was sooooo good!! At one point, I said “This Coke is the best fucking thing in the world right now” and meant it.) Kept sipping on the Tailwind on the run. Lap 7, 40:37. At some point it rained. Started out light and feeling great. Then hard. With a strong wind. Tough conditions. Lap 8, 38:20. The trail turned from nice to sloppy. Ankle deep mud in a few spots. The kind of mud where you can lose a shoe. Was running thru water nearly half the time. Feet soaked. Legs coated in mud. Lap 9, 39:50. Kept putting one foot in front of the other. Then, the sun came out. Got hot. Used the cold sponges each stop. More rain and wind. More sun. Lap 10, 39:44. Through these miles, I was just waiting for my legs to not go anymore. I can walk for a bit and still have a great debut time. Just a little break would feel so good. No. You did not work this hard to stop now. Everything hurts. My feet ache. My legs ache. My back. My arms. My shoulders. I’m tired. You are not stopping as long as you can physically keep going. Of course it hurts. You knew it would hurt. Lap 11, 39:47.
Two laps to go. Pacers are allowed the last two laps of the 50 mile race. Hubs asked if I wanted him to go. “Nah, I’m good”. Fresh bottle and on my way. Only two laps to go. Just two laps. This is the next-to-last time I’ll go over this root. My back aches so bad. I stopped for a quick stretch of everything. So close. Must keep going. I’ve banked time, I can take it easy. No, keep on. Don’t stop. Finally, the end of lap 12. 39:56. To husband, “You coming?” Grabbed a fresh bottle and off we went. Last lap. I totally took advantage of having someone to talk to. It was a great distraction from the pain. The hurt. Alright. Halfway thru this lap. Only two miles to go. 50 miles. I’ve already run 50 miles! Almost there. Up the steps to the pavilion for the final time. Yes!! Now, I can stop. Lap 13, 40:22. 51.6 miles in 8:25:16.
I take a look around. Soak in the fact that I am now an ultramarathoner!! The race aid station is under the pavilion, along with the drop bag area. So, there’s 30-40 volunteers and runners hanging out. The race director calls me over. “First female 50 mile”. Clapping. “First OVERALL 50 mile”. More clapping. Cheers. “Female course record”!! I could not have imagined a better day. A better race. It was tough. I wanted to quit. But, I didn’t. I pushed myself to accomplish something I wasn’t sure I could. But, I didn’t do it alone. Coach. Husband. Friends. Family. The running community. I am so thankful for all the love, support, and encouragement!!