I was fortunate enough this last weekend to participate in and finish my second ultra marathon, Endure the Bear 50k. Like the Cuyamaca 3 peaks race, Endure the Bear took place in the mountains, except these mountains stood about 2000 feet higher then Cuyamaca Peak. The race took place in elevations of 7k to 8k ft.
We headed up there after work on Friday night before the race to catch as much sleep as I could. After a 3 hour drive and several hours of restless sleep, we got up at 5am to begin getting
ready to be out the door by 5:40. After gear experimentation at the last 50k I made a few changes. I bought a camelbak that was 20 oz larger (70oz), ditched the thigh compression sleeves that caused intense chaffing, and added my new Hoka Stinson Evo shoes. I went against conventional wisdom by wearing shoes I had never been on the trail with before. The shoes had only seen the road in the 2 weeks that I owned them.
After check in at 6am we hung out until the prompt race time of 7am. I placed myself in the middle of the pack before the horn blew. The run began on a steep paved street from Bear Village that led to the trails. I quickly got ahead of most everyone except the insanely fast front runners. I started to conserve my energy and started doing some fast hiking like everyone else. After a few miles of hiking and running I was out there in the wilderness with just one person in front of me and one behind me. The lady in front of me seemed to know what she was doing so I started to use her as my unofficial pacer. Every time she would hike I would hike and when she ran I would run.
For 5 miles or so I continued to keep her within a 50 ft distance ahead of me. Eventually I was close enough that she said to me that she was impressed that I could keep up with her hiking. We chatted it up for awhile when we were hiking and I came to learn she was Keira Henninger, the race director of Leona Divide 50 miler and a very talented ultra-marathoner.
I followed her through the complete first loop of the course, which consisted of fire roads, a lot of single track trails and a few technical sections. I was originally planning on taking breaks at the aid stations and not running every flat and downhill sections. I really wanted to keep up with her and she did
not eat anything the entire time, which meant that I had to grab food and try to eat it while running to close the gap between us.
After running for a few hours with just the two of us, we finally caught up with someone, and a person behind us caught up as well. At mile 18 we all took a short break to refuel and we learned that we had cleared the first 18 miles in less then 3 hours.One of the runners proceeded to ask me in a serious but possibly joking tone about whether I was planning to run the rest of the course as a negative split. I just laughed it off and didn't respond.......
I ended up heading out from the aid station before the others, to get ahead a bit, but that
did not last long since I hit my first major wall. The reality of not being able to hold that impressive pace for the rest of the race finally set in and I was starting to recognize the fatigue of my body. It took me quite a while to get past this mental and physical wall I was facing. In the meantime Keira came from behind and rocketed forward as if it was only the start of the race. I guess it truly was but a training run for her!
After a mile or two of hiking uphill on the second loop with someone else I met up with on the trail we began to run on some nice single track amongst the big pine trees. After running for a few miles
we reached one of the many aid stations (there were 14 total?) . Thinking that I must getting close to the end I asked the volunteers what marker I was at. They told me I was at 38k! It was about 10:30 at this point, so if I only had about 8 miles to go, I knew I would be able to do that distance in under 2 hours and get a 5 hour time. I was re-energized after hearing this, so I put on my music and started to run through the building pain in my hips and feet(Hokas can only help my injuries so much). I ran for several miles at a very fast pace by myself not seeing anyone except a gal who was occasionally catching up to me on the single track.
About 45 minutes later I started to fade near an aid station I tried to get an update on my mileage, they told me I was at 38k!!! After disagreeing with them that they must be wrong
I continued on up the steep rocky technical trail for the second time. I was in denial for the next few miles, hitting my next big wall as I realized they were right. Eventually I made it to the next aid
station after walking for 45 minutes and asked what marker I was at and they told me 42k. 8k to go and it was around noon, so I had just under an hour to do a 8k run in the mountains if I wanted
that sub 6 hour mark(my primary goal). The gal who was on my heels earlier caught up and I decided to ignore the growing pain in my hips and feet, and begin running again. After charging all of the last major hills with sprints, in a attempt to get the last 4 miles done before 1pm with 30 minutes to go(not sure why I thought I could run 7:15 minute pace out there) my hips finally completely gave out . She passed me, and I slowed down after realizing I was not
going to try and pass her again(chicked for the 4th and final time in the race). Knowing I could not meet my primary goal, I walked the last few miles in pain, losing all sense of determination to press on. My secondary goal was to shave off an hour from my previous 50k attempt. After a painful descent down the the last trail I finally made it back to the paved road, the final stretch to the finish. As I hobbled towards the finish line, a lady began to jog past me, she may of been running the 30k, but I was not going to take the chance of being chicked one last time, so I ran the last 1/8th of a mile stretch to the finish line...passing her in the process ;-)
Results: Time Pace
17th 6:12:40 12:00
I shaved off a hour and 7 minutes off my last 50k time, so I met my secondary goal!! The sub 6 hour time on a mountain 50k race eluded me this time, but I will be back!
Final thoughts on the Endure the Bear 2012 50k:
- Most beautiful trails I have run on thus far(not hiked on), lots and lots of huge pine trees and views of mountains/lakes.
-Great mix of single track, fire roads and technical trails, you get a little of everything!
-Brutal elevation for running at if you train and live in the flat lands... 7k to 8k feet peaks.
-Trails are in full use by the public during the event, which is ok except for the very fast mountain bikers blazing the trail.
-Very small racing field, so if you like to be alone out there on the trails, this one is for you.
-The 50k course is a trail that leads you up the mountain and connects you with a large 2 loop section that comprises most of the course, then you reconnect with the trail that led you up the initial ascent.
-Over 5000 ft of elevation gain in the thin air :-)
Thoughts on the Hokay Stinson Evo's:
- The Hoka's were extremely stable across a variety of terrain, I did not roll my ankle even once. Typically I roll my ankle at least twice on a run like this. The traction was much better then any shoe I have used before as well.
- The great cushion in the shoes help you run on even the most painful of injuries,but still have great ground feel for traversing technical terrain.
- They run a bit narrower then I need and the speed lacing caused them to get loose, which caused some nasty blisters all around both ankles. This could be fixed by installing the regular laces they supplied.