Get it? Barely, bear, bear-ely? Riiight...
Being a complete moron, I signep up for TNF Bear Mountain 50 Miler again this year. This is a stupid sport, so I guess stupid people do it, ergo, I am stupid. So last Friday I ended up in my friend Steve's car, travelling toward New York City. I was supposed to camp with a bunch of other people I know, but due to a last minute personal crisis, Steve just happened to have a spare bed available in an honest-to-god hotel with a shower and a coffee maker. I immediately ditched my ex-friends and Steve became my BFF.
Fast forward to Saturday, 2:30 AM. I'm actually awake when my phone start its wake-up song, volume slowly increasing. I do not want to get up. The thought of running until 6 PM tonight fills me with dread. I know what to expect: total devastation. My biggest training week this year has been about 6h30min. I don't think I've run more than 50km in a week. I've had a few solid long-ish runs of about 4 hours but that's it. On the other hand, the running I did do was sweet. All trails, tons of climbing. I hang on to that thought.
A couple of hours later, I'm standing in the freezing cold with Chris, looking at the first waze go. A wave start! What is this, a triathlon? Anyway, Dean Karnazes, heard but not seen, says go and we do. I guess I'm going to run after all. Damn it. I immediately decide to DNF at mile 20. I think I'm addicted to DNFs. I haven't finished an ultra since this very race exactly a year ago. We run in the dark. Fuck, were there that many rocks last year? That being said, the terrain seems a bit dryer. The race is what it is. Of course, I overdressed and I ditch my light shell and headlamp in Chris' drop bag at the first aid station. Steve was in the first wave, but he decided to wait for us so all three of us are running together. I guess my plan to run by myself and drop quietly is out the window.
We run. It's actually kind of nice. I feel good, but then again it's early. We run. We drink. We eat. Every 30 minutes my watch beeps and I eat a gel. We pass aid stations. First thing I know, it's a bit before 10:30 and we're at the 20 mile aid station. If I quit now, I'm going to have to spend all day at the start/finish, waiting for these two guys and I don't have any money with me to drink beer while I wait. I decide to keep running. I'm actually feeling pretty good.
Suddenly, a black fly flies straight into my eye. Than one in my ear. From that moment, until late afternoon, we are surrounded by small clouds of black flies. When one gets in my eye, I try to get it out with my finger but then I push salt from my profuse sweating right in there and my eye burns like hell. Did I mention it's also getting quite hot? It's not unbearable but I'm definitely sweating.
One things that is different from last year is that I'm not busting my toes on rocks. I've run a lot of trails in the last few months and the combination of that and my new Cascadia 7s seems to do the trick. When we finally get to the top of the infamous river of rocks, I'm actually in a pretty good mood compared to last year. The race is coming to an end, I've stopped thinking I'm quitting at the next aid station and my feet are in decent shape as far as my toes are concerned. My ankles are a different story. My right ankle is a ball of pain, but I've come to accept it.
Anyway, we stop even trying to figure out the math and we just run at what is now a solid pace for us. There are a few heartbreaking uphills but nothing serious. We eventually see the tunnel that tells us we're extremely close. A few minutes later we cross the line, in 13h32min, an extra 15 minutes compared to last year. We drink ou beer and get out of there as fast as we can.
Bear Mountain is definitely the hardest 50 miler I've ever done. There are very few easy trails. Most are covered in rocks and when they aren't, there are leaves hiding some rock spur waiting to trip you. There was even a big rattle snake right by the trail on one of the climbs. I'm sure there are a few tougher courses, but it doesn't mean this one is easy. It's a bitch. I wish I'd had a bit more volume going into it but with work and regular life being what they are, I did what I could. I went into it without having even run a 50k this season and mentally, I felt the strain of wondering if I could finish. Running so long while self-doubting sapped my energy a little but in the end, I did it. It was nice having Chris and Steve there to shame me into finishing. I knew they had no business running as slow as me, but they had raced two 50k races in the previous two weeks and were feeling the strain. I only raced 25k last weekend so I was a model of restraint compared to those two idiots.
As much as I hate to admit it, except for the time and brain farts, the race went perfect. I ate all 25 gels that I was supposed to eat. I salted just enough. My piss was beautiful and plentiful. My feet didn't get banged up too bad, I don't even think I will lose any toenail. Everything went fine.
I don't know if I'm going back next year. I wish I wasn't but this race is really well placed in the calendar. Early May is nice and cool and it's also a good time to give a first big effort so I guess it's possible that I'll be back.