The first climb we just got in line and walked. After several miles I was a bit worried we had started too slow but we had great conversations with the likes of Tom Remkes, RD Bruce Copland, Eric Johnson, and several others. The weather was pleasant although a bit warm. But we just meandered our way up the mountain. 1st aid station was no rush and a few minutes slow but it's a hundred miles so we didn't care. Roger and I ended up running the next 10 miles with Shane Martin which is always a pleasure. We did however begin to noticed a trend that would occur frequently over the next 75 miles and that was passing people who went out too fast.
AS #2 and we were in and out and closing in on AS #3. It was already starting to warm up a bit and so I drank as much as possible. I had a drop bag at AS#3 with another water bottle and some food. Who knew 22 miles would go by so effortlessly? The climb to Cowley is beautiful, remote, and ever so gradual. With the temperature rising I took every opportunity to bath myself in the cool stream which we crossed numerous times. I was still holding back when minutes before the aid station I drank the last of my water. It was perfect timing...literally in fact as we entered the aid station 3 seconds behind schedule! Not a bad prediction for 30 miles. I filled my water bottles with ice and Nuun, ate a bunch of solid foods including stuffing a hand full of pretzels into my pockets, and was off. Roger started to feel a bit queasy over the next section but he kept pace as we motored along. Soon we reached a pivotal junction and noticed a runner far ahead who had missed the turn. We shouted and yelled for 10-12 seconds before the runner heard us and turned around. It was the eventual women's winner Katherine Dowson. However, moments later I felt so good going down into Right Fork that I gaped Roger by the farthest of the race, 2 minutes, as I cruised to AS #5 mile 37.
My wife was there and we took our time changing socks, eating food, and refilling our again empty water bottles. I knew the next section would be bare and hot so I loaded up and off we went. To my frustration I slipped while crossing a stream not 10 minutes from the aid station soaking my right foot. Nothing I could do but keep moving and hope the blisters could be kept at bay. I always hate this next section. It is exposed and miserably hot. I again ran out of water but by drinking at the aid stations and polishing off all my water in between I managed to stay relatively hydrated. Again at Temple Fork my wife was there to greet us and get us what we needed. I didn't need much. After 45 miles I was barely feeling warmed up and off we went. With more shade and being late in the day, it cooled off nicely. Roger started to feel better and soon we were having an emotional experience flying through the mountains. It was great.
Tony's Grove is always a wonderful welcome. It's gorgeous this time of year especially at that time in the evening. As we entered the AS Roger saw Dave Hunt and yelled at him to come run with us....so Dave with that gleam in his eye sprinted to his car, got dressed, grabbed the necessary nutrition, and was sporadically running with us, all in a mere 10 minutes! It was awesome. Dave grandfathered me into ultra running and it was so fun having him along for the next 11 miles. White Pine is incredible. Truly the most beautiful part of the course and with the sun setting it only increased the beauty. I started to feel the effects of running nearly 60 miles at that point but I quickly snapped out of it with Dave and Rogers enthusiasm. Soon we we cruising effortlessly on the long gradual descent to Franklins. We ran with Mike from CO for most of the later half and passed friend Davy Crockett. With flashlights ablazing we entered Franklins AS yelling and hollering with excitement. In 3 minutes I had on a fresh shirt and an overflowing backpack fresh with goodies thanks to my wife and Matt . Dave had left us but Golden Harper was now on pacing duties. With lights and trekking poles (one each) we were continuing onwards. What was a terrible 7 miles in 2008 seemed like a cake walk in '09. We had moved from 36th place to 18th place and there we would stay. It was quiet now but Golden took great care of us despite my stomach turning a bit sour. I barely blinked at the spot I dropped from the race in '08 and as we entered Logan AS to the triumphant musical greeting I smiled at the prospect of what I was doing. Once past that point, the monkey was off my back and I was redeemed. Roger however was gorging himself on the homemade salsa, which after a moments reflection I quickly followed suite.
The temperature finally started to cool down but it didn't effect us. We were in the zone. My feet were getting a little sore but otherwise I felt great. For being only 7.1 miles this section did drag on a bit but entering mile 76 Beaver AS was great. A bustle of activity as Golden, Dave, and soon to be pacers Danny and Brian Tavoian waited on us hand and foot. It was touching to me and a perfect example of what true friendship is. I am indebted to all of them. Roger and I by this point, although wordless, were going to finish together no matter what happened. This experience sealed our friendship, and thankfully we now had 2 pacers to look out for us. I did hit my first major slump leaving Beaver AS. I just got tired and my stomach wanted to know nothing else. We walked up most of the next 5 miles to Gibson AS where I had some of the best soup and watermelon of my life. It hit the spot and we were off. I was feeling great now but I could tell that my feet were breaking down. Roger also struggled a bit through this section but with little hesitation we made it to AS #12 mile 85. Golden and Dave were waiting at 4:45am to help us out.The next 7 miles were tough. Roger and I yo-yo'ed back and forth with random highs and lows. My blisters blew up and I had to resort to a mere shuffle but on we went to the final aid station Ranger Dip. With the sun coming out and the smell of the finish line before us we didn't wait around long. Neither of us could eat much aside from soup and by this point both of our feet were toast and that technical downhill to finish the race was ridiculously painful. For the first time in the race we slowed down past our goal splits but we didn't care. With friends helping us on and an awesome pregnant wife, we ran the final stretch. It was super emotional for many reasons yet I had overcome and accomplished. Tied for 18th place in a time of 27:25.37 Roger Smith and I crossed the finish line. I was so happy.
Miracously I have recovered so well. Maybe it was giving Geoff Roes a ride back to his car from the finish line that kept the adrenaline flowing, or the incredible grilled trout and shrimp at the finishing BBQ, or maybe it was my new even midsoled "zero drop" shoes, possibly is was the outpouring of love and friendship involved in getting me to the finish line. Regardless, this race just did it for me. It's indescribable but undeniable. The Bear 100 '09 just rocked my world!
Thanks to all the volunteers and race directors, family and friends, congrats to all finishers, may you all hybernate well this winter. Keep fueling the Bear!