Race Report: 2015 Bear Chase 50 Mile

“You know what we get to do today, Brooks? We get to play baseball.”

That quote from The Rookie is a good one to reflect on when times get tough in an ultramarathon. Prior to this scene in the movie Jim Morris, the aging main character, has been on the road with a minor league team facing struggles and doubts about his chances of ever making it to the big show. He has a revelation of sorts as he wanders towards the lights of a baseball field and finds a little league game in progress. As he takes in the scene, the viewer gets a sense that this is what it’s all about. He remembers that through it all, his love of the game is what will carry him through the tough times. Energized, he makes the declaration to one of his teammates before their next game with a big goofy grin on his face.

At mile 35 of The Bear Chase 50 mile race I was telling myself, “You know what I get to do? I get to run trails all day!” I’ll admit, the big goofy grin might have been missing by that point of the race. After running for the past six hours, I was starting to overheat and slow down. I was fighting the disappointment that my hard-fought training was not being put to good use.

Why do you keep going in a race even when it’s not going well?

Because you get something out of doing it that is bigger than anything you’d get by not doing it. Because you paid good money for this, dang it. Because if you weren’t here, for better or worse, you’d wish that you were. Because it doesn’t always suck. For the love of the game.

How can a course this easy be so hard?!?

That was the question playing over and over in my head as I struggled to the finish line to find an end to my suffering. On paper, the course looks like an easy setup for running a Personal Best time, and for many runners it works out that way. I am not one of those people. For the second year in a row I was alternating shuffling and walking on terrain perfectly suited for running, dragging my sorry butt to the finish. As an added bonus, this year I stopped dead in my tracks 50 meters from the finish line and doubled over in dry heaves before finally puking in the grass.

Ahh, classy.

I have been involved with the Bear Chase event as a photographer, crew member, pacer, or runner for the past four years. There is something special about the race that keeps me coming back. In a word, quality. Every person involved with the event gets it. Race Director David Manthey, Ben Reeves, and everyone all the way down to the last volunteer are there for the love of the ultrarunning game. It shows in how they care for the runners, and in everything they do for us.

The Bear Chase Trail Race is a special and unique event that has something for everyone. Veterans will be challenged to run fast, and new runners can find a supportive atmosphere to push themselves farther than they have ever gone before. What the course lacks in high mountain passes and alpine meadows, it makes up for with an accessible yet isolated environment. Singletrack, stream crossings, climbs, and descents all within view of the downtown Denver skyline makes for a truly uniqe and beautiful setting. Put this one on your calendar and you won’t be disappointed!

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[This report was also published on page 60 of the Jan/Feb 2016 issue of Ultrarunning magazine]

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2015 Year End Stats

What a challenging year! Trying to juggle raising a family, maintaining a demanding career, and two very time intensive hobbies (running and photography) was a handful. I also finished an online degree program, spent 50 hours driving with my daughter to qualify her for a license, spent many days searching for and test driving cars for my son, graduated my other daughter from high school and sent her off to college, and set a new PR for miles run in a calendar year.

2015 stats

2015 chart

Training wise, I made a serious effort to prioritize consistent running. This had been taking a back seat over the last couple of years to some other activities (mostly photography). A year ago, I made a conscious decision to get the miles in any way possible. Early, late, sometimes even three runs in a day. I made it happen.

I was pleasantly surprised when I started checking my stats in late November and realized that 3,000 miles was in reach. I hadn’t really considered it, because an Achilles injury in the May/June timeframe had really set me back. Thankfully, that plus some lingering hip issues have mostly been resolved and I am feeling pretty good heading into the 2016.

I shot 11 races this year, but will cut that significantly in 2016. It was a hard decision, but I terminated my contract with the Highlands Ranch Race Series. I have nothing but fond memories of working those races for the past two years, and will miss it a great deal. Ultimately, it was a time-based decision. I need some of that weekend time back in order to pursue other goals.

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What’s next?

I have training dialed, but now I am hungry to race well. I only had one decent race this year, and I want to focus on preparing for and executing on race day. My world doesn’t revolved around racing, but it gives me a goal to work towards and adds clarity and purpose to my weekly training routine. Most of all, it offers a great way to explore my potential, which is really what I’m after. I feel like I seldom ever get near my potential, and whatever it is, I want to get closer to it on a more regular basis.

Thanks everyone for your support, inspiration, and motivation – and Happy New Year!

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Indian Creek Long Run

I was itching to get out for a good long run while the weather was still nice.  The cold and rain are moving in, but the weekend still looked great!  I had originally wanted to run one of the races taking place in the mountains near my home, but ruled that out earlier in the week due to time constraints and feeling not quite ready to bite off another ultra after a dismal finish at the Bear Chase 50 miler 3 weeks ago.

I decided to head up on towards the race course and see some friends and cheer on the runners.  Making up my route as I went, I figured I would be out for at least 20 miles.

I ended up feeling great and put in a nice 32 mile run and had a fantastic day on the trails.

And a nice 4,200′ of climbing.

I linked up with the race course at their 8 mile mark just as some of the last runners in the 50 mile race went through.

I got to say hi to a few friends and started up the big climb with a long gap before the 50k runners would come along (they started two hours after the 50 milers).

James W. was leading the way and would go on to win the 50k by running wire to wire in the front.

I hung out a an aid station for a bit and enjoyed the fact that I didn’t have to grab something and rush off like usual.  It was nice to just enjoy the vibe.

The fall colors were a little past their peak, but still awesome.  I love the scenery at this time of year, and the weather was incredibly nice!

I ran with my new birthday present (Nathan Vapor Air pack), and it worked great.  I was totally self-supported for the full 32 miles and very comfortable.

I filled a Hydrapack SoftFlask with 3 scoops of Tailwind powder which got me through the first two hours, then I switched to water and gels for the remainder of the run.

It was great to finish early enough to enjoy lunch out with the family, as well as a little Halloween costume shopping…

This run was much needed confidence booster, and I was so grateful for the chance to spend some time in such a beautiful place.

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