Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. ~W.H. Murray
A certain someone in my life quotes the above any chance he gets. Anytime I’m uncertain and wavering or he is confused and uncommitted, “Until one is committed, there is hesitancy…” seems to unconsciously blurt from his lips. I had assumed since certain someone has an MBA and the first time I heard him talk about the quote was in reference to business school I had just assumed Mr. Murray was some sort of business guy and the quote had something to do with investing and that Providence was just our mortgage company and honestly I just stop listening once he starts rambling off the quote.
Turns out Mr. Murray was a Scottish mountaineer and writer and this quote comes from his book The Scottish Himalayan Expedition. Now knowing this quote stemmed from mountain climbing and travel and adventure breeds new meaning and life into these words for me.
The Month Before the Bear
I was totally uncommitted and hesitant about running the Bear 100 Mile Endurance Run. Completing a one hundred mile footrace was a secret goal of mine, and for a huge time of my life a goal I thought totally impossible. Hundred milers are something totally tough, badass, amazing people do, not something a little thing like me could do especially after three major hip surgeries.
Eight weeks before the race I made a list of reasons why I was afraid to run thinking maybe if I acknowledged my fears they would go away for good!
- 100 miles is unfathomably far. It actually sounds quite miserable.
- I haven’t been running enough.
- I rather spend my days wandering the mountains with my dog taking photos of flowers than putting in long training runs.
- The logistics are too stressful – pacers, food, crew, food, electrolytes, food, shoes, food, etc. oh my.
- My training is leaving me with little energy for friends, family, work, and all the other more important things in life.
- I’m afraid I will break my body… I mean my hip surgeon did say “it’s not like you’ll ever be able to run the Wasatch 100.” Although he did not say anything about running The Bear.
- Fear of pain. Actual pain.
- Fear of not finishing. I have never not finished anything (except a PhD, but that is another story).
- Fears of hallucinating and/or actually dying.
The Week Leading Up to the Bear
Somewhere during the few weeks leading up to The Bear, I got stoked! I was going to do this thing! The shin splints I was dealing with magically went away with some dry needling and I had a fantastic last long training run of 25 miles with 7,000 feet of gain and averaged 13 minute pace (which is super fast for me especially with all that elevation!). I felt amazing, strong, and ready! I wrote an essay about how badly I wanted to finish this race for a writing class and finally started telling people I was running (except my mom -eek!).
I chose the Bear 100 over the Wasatch 100 as my first hundred miler because I really struggle with the heat and the Bear was LESS LIKELY to be HOT. Well hot it was not going to be… My favorite local weather blog called for The Most Exciting Week in Months on Tap and forecasts began calling for severe thunderstorms, hail, wind, below freezing temps, and feet of snow. Funny since it hadn’t rained in like four months! The forecast continued to get worse and worse and a certain Bear veteran advised runners if you didn’t have extreme winter backcountry travel experience to sit this one out.
The drop bags I had planned out for months had to all be rearranged and I spent an entire day at REI and the Backcountry warehouse spending money I didn’t have on waterproof mittens, a new jacket, goretex trail shoes, and more baselayers. Any anxiety I had about running was now channeled into how to just stay alive in these conditions.
The Night Before the Bear
The day before the Bear was gorgeous – temps in the 70s, a light wind, and not a cloud in the sky. Perhaps all the forecasters were wrong and it was going to be perfect weather come race day. But you could almost smell the impending doom in the air and the race organizers took the weather forecast seriously and announced a reroute of the course the day before necessitating a third re-organizing of my drop bags.
The course was now an out and back from Logan, Utah altogether avoiding high elevation terrain. Re-organizing drop bags and crew plans the day before a race was almost more than I could handle. This isn’t the way I had imagined my first hundred miler going down.
Heading up to Logan that afternoon, the most frightening cloud I’ve ever seen was making its way over the Great Salt Lake. It was like a giant, black, shelf of doom – the sort of cloud that would send you running for cover in the Midwest, but we’re in Utah and we don’t get tornados so shew! Still I watched that cloud and I just knew this was a tornado cloud and sure enough there was a TORNADO! And then the rains started and they were the kind where you had to pullover on the highway because you couldn’t see sh!t and they didn’t stop.
The Actual Bear
I woke at 2am to the sound of a total downpour outside, I remember thinking over and over again, “I don’t want to do this. I don’t want to do this.” I didn’t want to do this! One hundred miles is going to be difficult enough under perfect conditions, and this is just ludicrous.
I finally got up around 4:30 am and tried to eat something, but my nerves prevented me from getting much down except for coffee. I sent my mother a text message that I was off for a long trail run and that it is going to be cold and that I’m scared and that all my friends will be there to support me, but wish me luck. I hadn’t told her I was running a hundred mile race because I didn’t want her to worry and she replied with a “you’re strong, go girl!”
At 6 am us runners were off in a steady rain and I cried the entire first mile. I cried because I was scared, yet I was proud to be at the start and at a place in my life where I thought running 100 miles was something I could do.
The first eleven miles were relatively uneventful and flat as far as trail running goes. It was wet and cold and slippery, but okay. The first climb was welcome since it warmed me up a bit, but the first major descent was a disaster. The mud was shoe suckingly thick and the going was slow and I was like OMG 85 more miles of this!
My plan was to only think in terms of mileage or time to the next aid station and enjoy the scenery and take lots of photos, but the cold and rain made it nearly impossible to get out a gel let alone take out my phone for a pic. I started to have chaffing issues I didn’t even know were possible and had to have some alone time with a jar of vaseline in a pit toilet at mile 20.
I changed my socks at mile 32 and was horrified. My feet were wrinkled, cracked, swollen versions of their former selves and I shuttered at the idea that they will never be the same. I lean towards being overdramatic and I actually remember asking an aid station volunteer if they will need to be amputated if I continued. Surprising how amazing a new dry pair of socks felt… well for about 5 minutes until I was back in the ankle deep mud.
It was at this point that the rain let up a little bit and I got my first glimpse of the surrounding mountains that I said outloud to myself, “I’m going to do this. I’m going to finishing this f-ing thing!” I kept a steady pace, because you had to keep moving to keep warm. The minute I stopped at an aid station the shivvers would start and you just couldn’t go there. It was at about mile 44 than I full on face planted into the mud. I can still hear the squelching sound as I pulled my hands out of the mud, wtf am I going to do with these clay mud caked hands? A few moments later the lead runner came towards me and I said high five with my mud dripping hand and totally got denied 🙂
The miles ticked by and I had my crew waiting for me at mile 47 to look forward to. I was stoked to see my friend Andrea and Devra waiting for me, but super sad to see my good friend Jean (the one that roped me into this thing in the first place) wrapped in an emergency blank calling it quits with a bum hamstring. The shoe sucking mud was reeking havoc on everyone’s bodies and my own hamstrings were tighter than usual. I did a complete clothing change and prepared to head out into the night with my friend Andrea pacing me the next 14 miles.
My pal Colin warned me that the next mile is horrible, but that it does get better. At this point the trail was a literal river of mud reminding me of that awesome mudslide scene in Romancing the Stone. It was at this point that I decided to quit. I wanted to get to the high point of the course (the turnaround point), see all the snow on the Aspens, and then I was done. Andrea and I nearly crawled up 2,000 feet of mud, at one point I stepped over a log and into a knee deep puddle and just laughed and laughed. And then it started to snow!
As badly as I wanted to finish a hundred mile race, this wasn’t the sort of race I wanted to finish. I knew if I kept going through the night, I would be destroyed for at least the next month or even two and it was my favorite time of the year and I wanted to be able to be back on the trails to enjoy it. The Bear was more about survival than running and I wanted to run. I didn’t want to put my pacers through this hell and I didn’t want to risk doing any damage to my body. The mud was just getting thicker and more slick and icy and I guess after not being able to run for three plus years it just wasn’t worth it.
The awesome thing is, I know I can do it now! I ran 54 miles through the mud and cold and yuck and I wasn’t even sore except for the blood blisters on the bottom of my feet and the shoulder I fell on when I face planted in the mud. I learned a ton like I can eat a cheese sandwich while I’m running at mile 45 and that salt pills make me feel better when my joints start to feel creaky even when it is 30 degrees.
I’ll never forget a fellow runner telling me I can’t quit because I’m too happy. And I was. Happy to have run through those conditions for 15 hours and happy to be done 🙂 I had an absolute blast and quit with a smile on my face. Sure I was disappointed to have DNFed my first race, but in a way it’s exciting to know it’s still out there undone.
I can’t thank the volunteers that braved those conditions enough and I’m so amazed at all the runners who persevered and finished the race – the mental tenacity seriously blows my mind. And thanks for those that were able to pull out their cameras and document the absolute craziness! I can’t wait for The Bear 2017!