It has been so long since I ran a race I was truly in in love with, so this recap might be difficult. If you missed my post yesterday, here was my experience on Saturday volunteering for the ultra portion of this race. Finally, remember that awesome night I spent in Highlands Ranch with Brooke, Logan, Aimee and Cassie in July? That race was put on by the same RD and had many of the same characteristics. (Also, by registering for Chase the Moon, I was able to get a discount for the Bear Chase, so why not?)
Anyway, I was slightly familiar with the Bear Chase course because a few weeks ago, Mary and I had met there to run and check it out. We got a bit lost and had no idea if we were on the right trails, but Bear Creek Lake Park is small enough that I knew what I was up for (including Mt. Carbon, which is kind of a beast of hill in the middle of the course).
Saturday night, David said he would meet me at the finish of the race. He asked if 9:00 was about right for my projected finish (with a 7am start). I laughed and said maybe closer to 9:30, anticipating the single track, sandy trails, the 900 feet of elevation gain and my insistence that I would take the race nice and slow to enjoy the scenes. I was not about to kill myself on this race. But I did say maybe 9:15 would be the earliest I would finish.
Sunday morning I awoke at 3am and was wide awake, even though I did not need to get up until around 4:45. I laid in bed and read for a while before realizing at 4:15 I was not getting back to sleep. To the coffee machine I went! A couple cups of coffee and a bowl of oatmeal later, I was in my clothes and ready to go. I wrote David a note saying, “I will see you at 9:15. I am feeling optimistic!”
Without traffic, it was a 20 minute drive to the parking lot. Just as I was parking Mary texted me to say she was there. In the cold, dark parking lot we managed to find one another and get on the bus to the start/finish area. We were both chatting with our nervous energy about our preparation and the course. After the bus driver got lost (how did that happen?) we arrived at the parking lot and got in the porta potty line. It was cold out there, but we knew it was perfect shorts weather. The sunrise was amazing:
That is Mt. Carbon in the background, where we climbed at mile 6-ish.
After fueling, body-gliding and dropping our bags we were ready to hit the start area with about 5 minutes to spare. I was ready to go and I knew Mary would be ahead of me, so I wished her good luck and before I knew it, we were off. The race starts with a .6 mile loop around the parking lot to make up for the 12.5 mile bigger loop that we do. So the beginning was nothing too exciting. The first two miles were spent trying to find my pace in the midst of the crowds and the single track course. Miles 1 and 2: 9:35 and 10:08
After 2 miles, we crossed a bridge and continued along single track back the way we came but on the other side of the river. I was in a good spot with the right pace; not too much passing or being passed for the next 3 miles. I was trying to keep it at 10 min/miles to avoid crashing later on, but I was a bit faster than that. Miles 3-5: 9:24, 9:25, 10:08
Before I knew it, we were at the base of Mt. Carbon. I saw runners going up the same trail that Mary and I had done weeks before. All I knew was that on that one day, I had run up the entire thing with no walking breaks. I was SLOW but I still ran. So I knew I could do it again. And I did! By the middle of mile 7, I had reached the top and passed some people walking. I did not care if I walked other hills later on, but I had the confidence that I could run up this one. Miles 6 and 7: 9:59, 10:25
The best part of mile 7 was that after making it to the top, you run along a ridge for a bit before you begin descending. I felt like I was flying! And then I saw a photographer and I took the best race pictures of my life. I was so happy:
Seriously. All of my road race photos, I look miserable, bloated and ready to puke/cry. This just captures my attitude perfectly right about then.
And the race photos are FREE!!! Sorry to the people behind me for taking up all the picture :)
The one part I was not expecting in this descent was how far we were going down. We went down to a lower elevation here than the start/finish line. And I knew we would finish the race by going down, so that meant I had a lot more climbing ahead of me. Not long after this picture was taken, I was running along enjoying myself when I came to the water crossings. The people in front of me embraced it, so I had no choice but to splash right in. I think I said out loud “I can do this” and it was FUN! There were 2 more within a few minutes and they were all equally fun. Mile 8: 10:48 (all downhill but 3 water crossings which slowed me down).
Then the challenging part of the course began. Miles 9-12 were mentally tough. We turned onto a bike path and headed uphill past a golf course. With my feet wet and heavy, running uphill on cement was a challenge. Then when we got back on the trail, we were greeted with a nice, very steep hill. I was still feeling good from the high of the first half of the course so I let myself slow down and take it easy.
I was piggy-backing with a guy for a while. We were together just at mile 10 when a massive mud puddle was in our way. He seemed to hesitate so I took the opportunity to pass him. But just as I was there going through the mud, he turned around and knocked into me. I fell over and off the course a bit. I yelled “Sh!t” out loud (it happens) and he never said a word. I was totally OK, but if there are two people on a trail together and one falls over in the mud, distressed, the other should at least acknowledge you, right? Well, I spent all of mile 10 pissed and determined to not let this guy pass me again.
When we got to mile 11, we were definitely up on a ridge and somehow another large hill appeared? I thought we were done with the hills! I walked a bit and the dude passed me. But as soon as we started the descent, I passed him and never saw him again. Miles 9-11: 11:57, 11:30, 10:50.
Mile 12 seemed to go on forever. The terrain up on this ridge was tricky for your footing. Like most single track mountain biking trails, it was in a V shape and I just never felt like I could get my feet in the right place. And I knew somewhere we would be coming across a downhill soon. Mile 12: 11:03
Finally, Mile 12 was over and I knew the end was near. I could see runners ahead of me disappearing from the ridge, so they could only be going down, right? Indeed. When I got there, I found the trail down steep and pebbly, so I needed to be careful with my feet. That pebble road soon led to a paved road which took us to the parking lot and the finish line was near. I kicked it up when I was confident I would not fall. People were cheering. I made it across the parking lot and up a little hill to the finish line when I heard Mary yelling my name. She said something about 2:15, so I pushed it as hard as I could. Mile 13: 9:37 and then 12 seconds at a 7:04 pace (my Garmin registered the course as 13.04).
My head was down; I could not even look at the clock!
Thanks for the photos, Mary!
Turns out, I had finished in my best case scenario with a time of 2:15:03. I was ecstatic because I know I tend to run slow on trails and I was expecting to run much slower. I will take it! I got to regroup with Mary to see how her race went (she rocked it!) and meet her family for a few minutes before I wondered off to get my phone and wonder where David was.
David had arrived and a volunteer told him he had to park in an overflow lot where he was literally the only car way up on the ridge. He was walking down the hill I had just run down when I called. He was not happy he could not park right near the finish line (because there were empty spots), but he found me plopped in the grass and all was OK.
We were able to enjoy a great breakfast of Flippin’ Flapjacks while sitting out in the sun. These are seriously good pancakes. I had them at Chase the Moon and Bear Chase and they do not disappoint. Seriously, this race is that good that it is worth traveling here for. If you live out of town and want to run it next year, you can stay at my house!