Thursday, October 2, 2014

50 before 50: The Bear Chase Trail Race 50 Mile Race Report

Well... the smile says it all..   I made it!!   On Saturday September 27th, 2014, I completed my goal of running a 50K (2 actually), and a 50 Miler before I turn 50 in two months!   That gives me 50 more years now for a goal of a 100K and 100 Miler! :-)

So, if you want all the gory details, stay tuned for a full race report below and a lot of pics from the day.  If you just want to cut to the chase, 1. I finished! 2. I finished before the cutoff! 3. I didn't hurt myself, and 4. I'd do it again and am already looking for a new distance goal.  :-)

 And before I forget, this was a really really well run race, and the volunteers were amazing! I would highly recommend this one for sure.

Boom, now you can get back to what you were doing, or just scan the pics and skip the blah blah blah...    BUT.. if you love race report blah blahs as much as I do...   here you go :-)

Pre-Race dinner...  yum!
So... the race was up in Lakewood, CO... about a 2 hour drive from here, so we headed up the afternoon before and stopped for some pre-race fuel at Tokyo Joe's...   good stuff!

Fellow INKnBURN Ambassador Rebecca Walker

Ali Smith, Tonia Smith, me, Christoph Sholtes, and Dan Smith. 

After a so-so night's sleep (I always struggle the night before), my wife delivered me to the parking/shuttle area around 530AM and I headed over to the Start/Finish area.  Here I had the pleasure of meeting a number of folks from the different Facebook running groups I am part of and it was so great to meet them all in person (not all in the pic above).  It's one of the few times I've been at the start of a race and known so many people...  that was pretty cool.  What was not cool was that I didn't put enough time in my morning for coffee!!  Ah well, I corrected the problem with some caffeinated gels at the first aid station!

Mile 3 or so?
So, with the sun still not up yet, the 50M and 100K'ers all took off at 630 AM for the first loop of our adventure (50M was 4 laps, 100K 5 laps).  The trail started of meandering alongside a creek for a mile or so, and then looped back on the other side of the creek working its way back. At this time it was pleasantly cool, and the single track was smooth and easy to run.  I was running a little faster than I told myself I should, but it felt so nice out and I knew that once the sun came out it was going to heat up fast.  The trail stayed in the trees mostly until the first aid station (3.2 mi).  There I grabbed up some gels, topped up my bottles and tried to get a little food in.

Mt Carbon

Eventually the trail exited the wooded areas and we ran along the lake/reservoir.  Here is where I started to feel that sun...  gently warming at first, but I knew it was going to get hot in a hurry.  Mt Carbon was the first significant climb with one switchback and a long traverse up the side that you can see in the pic above.

Upon reaching the summit, you could see Denver off in the distance (hard to see in this pic).  From this point on was a nice downhill run into the golf course area of the trail.

After winding behind homes and around the golf course a bit, the section with the water crossings came up. I wasn't sure what to expect at first, but came to welcome this section later.  In the course of 1/2 a mile or so, there are 3 water crossings like this one.. the deepest being about mid calf on me.  Refreshing for sure, but I wasn't sure how my feet would holdup getting wet 12 times throughout the day.

After the third crossing, the trail exited out onto a wide sidewalk path that ran between the golf course and some amazingly huge and beautiful homes, on up to the 2nd aid station at mile 7.8.  I refueled with some food from the station (PBJ, Chips, Coke... ugh.. I know I know..) Also, I was carrying with me Mama Chia pouches (which really work well for me), Fuel 100 Electro-bites (which I alternated with gels from the aid station), and S Caps.  I stuck to a schedule of taking in one of those items every 3 miles at least, and when it got hot, one S Cap every 30 minutes.

From the 7.8 mile aid station to the one at 10.1 Miles (Just before where this pic was taken) is what I came to call later the "hell" zone...   Just over two miles, but it felt like 10! Primarily because that section is totally exposed to the sun, and has some very long stretches where you can see the trail way way off in the distance so it felt like I was not even moving.  I did ok the first time through here, but I dreaded it on the next 3 laps..    Eventually after leaving the aid station at 10.1, there was one more climb to negotiate... not that it was super steep or long, but when you have been cooked by the sun and your legs are complaining, it is difficult to fight your way up the grade.

Finally the course brings you back to the start/finish and the main aid station.   I finished the first 12.5 mile lap in 2:49 or so... the only time I would be under 3 hours for the day!

Getting advice from the boys for lap 2

What was really awesome was having my wife and boys cheering me on each lap.  And, since the laps were so long, they had time to go to Chatfield and the corn maze, a movie, and dinner!  I got to do what I love, and they had a great day as well!

So, off I went again for lap 2.  By this time it was getting warm.. actually felt really hot to me but I knew it was just going to get hotter! Heat was the one thing I couldn't really train for... up where I live it seldom gets out of the 70's, and today it was supposed to be pushing 90..

Coming into the 2nd aid station, lap 2...  needing a double refill!

I ended up completing lap 2 in 3:17.  Slower than the first lap, and by the time I finished it, I was really feeling the heat.  I tried to eat more at the aid station, but was starting to experience mild waves of nausea that made it difficult.  Nothing sounded good, which was a bummer because the stations had some great stuff!

Cue Lap 3, or what I fondly call "The beat down"...   I knew that this would be a really tough lap, but it was compounded by the fact that the heat of the day and the sun were peaking..  and my stomach felt like crap.  I literally spent most of this lap just trying not to puke, and trying to continue moving forward.  I didn't want to eat or drink anything, but continued to force myself to stay on schedule, otherwise I knew I would be doomed.. at some point I wouldn't be able to keep going.  At the first aid station in lap 3, I was happy to meet another Facebook friend Heidi, who was working that station. She was a lifesaver as she grabbed my sweaty hat off my head and proceeded to load it with ice.  With it perched back on my head, and the ice almost giving me a Slurpee headache, I slammed down some chips, ginger ale, and Fig Newtons (Yum!) and headed off to meet Mt Carbon and the "hell zone" yet again.  During this time (at least I think it was around this time) I also met Sheila (in the pic above) and we got to run together for a bit and to chat some as well.  That was a nice distraction as we both had an opportunity to go off about how hot it was!  

Basically I survived this lap.. that is about all I can say about it... finishing in an agonizing 3:52.  BUT...  I did survive it... I went through probably the lowest points of the whole race, and probably the lowest lows I've experienced in an Ultra and I got through...  Those of you that have experienced this know what I'm talking about...  I went through several periods of asking myself "why are you even out here... why are you even doing this? You don't belong out here..."..    ugh.. 

So, being in that state, I was so happy to see my friend Mark Lofquist (Paleo Runners)  coming up the trail about 1/2 mile away from the loop finish.  Despite recovering from an injury, Mark came out to pace me on the last lap of the day, and I couldn't have been happier.  We had a few chuckles, I got some of my whining out, and we headed in to the main aid station to gear up for the last go around. 

The boys met us and ran with us across the start/finish which was awesome...   I was still moving, but wow, talk about some aches and pains at this point.  Mark appears to be signaling to the bar tender for a round of beers! 

So I managed to reload some fuel, some salted water melon, and tried to get my head on straight for this final go around... at this point I had run 37.5 miles... 3.5 further than I ever had before, and that felt good. 

Off we went, with the boys leading us out for the first 1/4 mile or so...   At this point I was having a hard time keeping my legs moving!  But, as we entered the shady tree-lined section along the creek, the air began to cool down finally as the sun was getting lower...  we started this lap just before 5pm, and I was happy to be ahead of the 6pm cutoff to start the last lap.   Also, it was going to be dark before I finished this lap, so it's a good thing I brought a headlamp.... which of course I forgot in my drop bag!

So, for the next several hours Mark and I ran on.. or at least I tried to run on. He shared some of his paleo pancakes and strawberries with me, which were amazing.  We managed to hit the water crossings before it got too dark, so it wasn't super creepy!  My feet started to hurt, and I could sense some blistering coming on, and my right foot was really stinging leading up to the water crossings.  After we got out of the next aid station and headed to the "hell zone", I was glad that it wasn't nearly as hellish since it was cooler, and it was getting pretty dark so you couldn't see how long a straight stretch it was.

It was here that my legs really started to tire, but Mark kept encouraging me on.  At one point, I took a page out of Jason Robillard's ultra running primer "Never Wipe Your Ass with a Squirrel", and instead of slowing down, I tried running as fast as I could for as long as I could. Which, in retrospect, may not have been the wisest thing to do considering I couldn't see the trail any more, but it gave my legs a wake up call.  From that point forward I think I was running more than walking... and I could hear Mark behind me say..."hey.. that mile was 1 minute faster than the last.."  and then " oh hey.. that one was 2 minutes faster than the one we just did"..   And the gap to the finish finally began to close.

As we neared the end, I could see fireworks off on the horizon.. not sure what was going on, but it was cool.  Of course, Mark took the opportunity to start messing with me by saying "what fireworks?" implying that my mind was shot...   which after the heat of the day, it really could have been.  But then he proceeded to ramble on about Dean Karnazes and gold panning, and who knows what else... or maybe I imagined that...

So, the last and final lap was covered in 3:41 (11 minutes faster than the beat down lap), and Mark and I finished by the lights of our cell phones...     What a tremendous rush to finally hit that final step and to see my wife and boys at the end.  I was also happy to see Ali and Dan Smith from CO Ultrarunners cheering me on at the end..

Woo hoo!  I made it! I got my 50's before 50!  What an amazing feeling to finish, and to try and comprehend the distance I had covered.  I still find it hard to believe...   I told myself after finishing this one I would enjoy a break and not think about what was next...     but of course, less than a week after this milestone I'm mentally looking forward to a 100K attempt in 2015... and who knows... a 100 miler may be in that future too?   But not to jump ahead.. one step at a time as they say... I'm just going to relish this one for a bit :-)

If you were wondering about gear etc, I ended up running the whole race in the B2R Trail Performance shoes, INKnBURN,  the Orange Mud VP2 Vest (review coming up next!), Switch Sunglasses of course, and a generous helping of Rocktape for my ankle/achilles, and small patches on the balls of my feet in my normal hot spots.  I ended up with very small sub surface blisters on each foot which faded away in two days, after a few days of rest, I felt great... and today I went for a 5 mile trail run which really felt good...  so a much quicker and better recovery than I expected!

So.. there you go.  If you stuck around this long.. thanks! Also, I want to give thanks to my family and friends.. I appreciate all the support you have given me... it means a lot and pushes me onward!

 If you have any questions/comments, feel free to leave them below thanks!

Happy Trails!


Oh! one more thing... I can't forget my friend Rob Sanchez, who I saw on the trail several times (once handing out SunRype bars!).  He took a pic of me as I climbed Mt Carbon, and when I saw it, it looked familiar.. then I realized why :-)


  1. OK I got something in both my eyes while reading this. Nice write up. Nice work. It was an honor to have been a part of it.

    1. The honor was mine! Looking forward to doing that again sometime :-)

  2. Great recap! I know the agony of lap 3. The "beat down" - so true! Great job in unbearably hot condiitons!

  3. Fantastic write up. It felt like I was there. Thank you for being a continual source of inspiration for me. I can't wait to reach these sort of milestones in my running career and share my stories with you!! Congrats!!

    1. Thanks Elaine! I can't wait hear your stories when you make the leap next year!

  4. Killer write up! Thanks for the inspiration Jeff!

  5. Awesome recap -- it was brutal out there, even in the shade of the AS tent so I'm seriously impressed!

    And glad to be off assistance with the brain freeze -- made you forget how much it sucked, right?! ;)

    1. Yes it did! A great distraction.. especially when some slid out of my hat and go trapped behind my pack.... that felt great! Great to see you out there and thanks so much for volunteering!

  6. Wow, just wow! Like Mark, I had pepper in my eyes reading this...also got a few good chuckles in as well (what fireworks?) Such an inspiration are you, you family must be so proud, and what great example to set for your children! Hugs for a job very well done. Some day I will be out that way to run with you two, I can promise you that. Congratulations! L.

    1. I look forward to that day Lorraine! Thanks for all of your support... you were there at the beginning! :-)

  7. nice post man, you always come up with really interesting and informative post.

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