We were looking to make a trip to Colorado for awhile and Bear Chase Trail 50k was the perfect reason.
The Bear Chase race description reads “50 mile, 50k, Half Marathon and the Baby Bear 10k Trail Race at beautiful Bear Creek Lake Park, in Lakewood, CO. An excellent race for first time ultra marathoners, runners will experience a variety of challenging terrain and sweeping panoramic views throughout the race. The course is pretty fast (by trail/ultra standards), and not overly technical.” I won’t lie it took a lot for me not to step up to the 50miler here after the Hawk 50 DNF, but after a lot of thought and lots of conversations with the hubby especially, I stuck with the 50k distance which was definitely the right way to go. I wanted to use this race simply to get back on the horse after a summer of poor training runs culminated by a DNF at my first 50mi attempt. This was a way to put bad thoughts of all that behind me and make sure my body and especially my GI system got with the program. And I’m not sure my psyche could have handled a potential DNF on the 50 again. All my races since Dogwood Canyon 50k last year have been in Kansas and on the same trails, so while the familiarity is good..when things go wrong it can also mess with your head. So I was glad for a new, unfamiliar course and scenery! I was going to just enjoy the 50k and finish a race in a new state! Oh and lots of pictures to follow below!
We got into Dillon, Colorado Friday evening and spent a relaxed day on Saturday with a little hiking to get acclimated to the altitude. Granted Dillon sits at 9200ft and change, whereas the race was actually 5000ft and change as it was closer to Denver. It was still higher elevation than what this girl is used to! We headed to dinner at Dillon Dam Brewery and I had a IPA and Tuscan wrap made of grilled chicken and veges and fries. A good nights sleep Saturday and I woke up at 3.30am the next morning. House was still pretty quiet. I got dressed, bib all pinned in. Given what the race days weather was going to be, I opted for my Lucy skirt, black short sleeve shirt and North Face arm sleeves along with Halo sweatband and Mizuno cap. Put on comfy sweats and warm jacket over my running clothes and I headed upstairs and worked on a bowl of oatmeal from breakfast and got my hydration pack ready! Pretty soon Lisa, Coleen and Dave were up and getting ready as well. We had about an 1hr 15min drive to the shuttle area, so I made sure I had some food and hydration ready for the drive and time before the race.
We started our drive towards Denver and pretty quickly it started raining, which in turn turned to snow, but thankfully it was pretty light and quickly disappeared as we descended down the mountains. Yeah…not sure I’d like driving downhill with steep grades of 5-6% when roads are wet and slushy! Have I mentioned I absolutely detest driving in the snow . We pulled off once for a quick potty stop on the side of the highway..hey when you gotta go..you gotta go!! I made sure I was drinking my shake of coconut water and Raw Protein Chocolate for some extra hydration, carbs and protein along the way. We got the the shuttle area, parked, grabbed our stuff and was on the second bus headed to the race start and by around 5.50am we were there with plenty of time for our 6.50am race start.
While waiting for the start, I ate a honey stinger chocolate waffle, drank a little more and hit the porter potties twice to make sure I was all ready for when we start. I really liked the fact that there were volunteers by the porter potties making sure the 50milers and 50k’ers were given first priority as the start times times got closer so they were able to start on time. The race had a staggered start with the 50miler going at 6.30am, 50k at 6.50am, Half Marathoner and 10k’ers following after. Slowly it was time to go. We got set up at towards the back end of the start. This was Lisa’s first 50k..so she had some nerves going. But it was a great atmosphere with the full moon just above the start/finish line!
6.50am and off we go!! I had not worn my Garmin for this race as I didn’t want to worry about pace and distance, but pretty much just time. Instead this was the race debut for the Soleus Ultra Sole watch which just gave me overall time and more importantly had a pretty darn loud hydration alarm which reminded me to eat and drink at least every 30mins. The 50k’ers had to run the Baby Bear 10k loop first (I just love that name) and then do the two larger 12.5mi loop that the 50milers were running. The course was marked extremely well! You’d have to really try and work hard to get lost here! I kept pace with the group fairly well…but felt my breathing was a little rushed and shins a little tight. I think I saw Dave jump off to the side to grab some pictures and when I slowed down and started walked to let shins loosen up and get my breathing controlled he went by. That was the last I saw of Lisa, Dave and Coleen until the last 3miles of the first 12.5mi loop. I took my time and ran my race. The trail was great. So much different from what I’m used to at Shawnee Mission park and Clinton..almost similar to River Trails when it comes to the technical aspect. Lots of rolling up and downs, but that is to be expected. It is Colorado after all! After a little while I had the faster half marathoners and 10k’ers blow by me. They were definitely some fast runners out there. I swear I could hear the heavy breathing barreling down on me as they came up behind me. I would run along the edges of the trail when they came through as they most certainly had a lot more momentum going! The course pretty much runs along Bear Creek for the first few miles meandering through single track and horse trails that cross through the area. The course would then open up towards the last sections of the Baby Bear loop and you’d be surrounded by mountains. AMAZING!!
Temps were in the mid 40F range and the sun was bright as we moved along. The day couldn’t be any more perfect! I didn’t really stop at any aid stations during the first 10k loop and just had water, one salt tab, one honey stinger gel and one stinger chew pack. I came into main aid station 1:30, popped my arm warmers off, stuffed them in my drop bag, grabbed some pringles and a PbJ square and kept moving. Honey Stinger was also a sponsor so I grabbed a fruit smoothie gel for later as well.
My breathing was normal and my shins had loosened up so I just trotted along the second loop and was really enjoying the scenery and the mountains. I had a few short conversations with other 50miler and 50k runners and several women complimented my skirt as well. I went through aid stations quickly and grabbed pretty much anything that looked good at the time. One of the things I was focusing on was keeping food and drink down which was a huge problem for me during Hawk. I was not going to overthink what I ate and simply made myself eat something that looked good when I got to each aid station. I made sure I was drinking at least every 15mins and eating some thing small every 30mins and also grabbing something to eat at the aid stations. I had vanilla and Oreo cookies, PbJ squares, honey stinger gels and waffle, M&Ms, skittles, banana, but kept away from oranges, watermelon and anything too acidic. I checked in with the aid stations to see where I was at as far as mileage and around the halfway mark refilled my pack and also had then put some ice in there. It was warm, but the colder the water the better I felt. I drank some soda for some extra pep and kept on moving. The volunteers at this race were rockstars!! You could spot them easily as they were all wearing matching green vests. They were so helpful and few that were at the trail intersections all day would remember me and was so encouraging and friendly!
It was just constant forward motion now. I had my iPod ready as for the most part I ran alone with some occasional chatter with other runners. I never needed the music as the nature that surrounded me kept me totally happy! The website stated it had a 1930ft of climb throughout the full 50k with a decent climb coming as you headed into Mt. Carbon. I remember seeing the runners ahead go up and thinking oh crap..but as I made my way I simply kept my head down and thought of all those Ogg repeats and power walked my ass up! It was basically some switch backs which with a little more hill work and training I know I will be able to run. I power hiked the inclines and ran the down hills during the Mt. Carbon loop which you hit twice for the 50k.
Looking at where I need to go….
Looking back at where I came from….
At the top…..
Headed back down…..
Once you come back down from the Mt. Carbon loop you head into an area by two different golf courses and a little paved running alongside the course. You hit the first golf course, then it the 3 creek crossings which were around or a little over ankle deep. The water was cool and refreshing and all three within minutes of each other. Then you run by the second golf course into an aid station.
On the first loop I filled up my pack with more ice at this aid station as it was starting to get a little warmer. I also took my shoes off and got some debris out of my socks. Shoes and socks were pretty wet after the water crossings. I grabbed a cookie and some pringles and moved along. During my second loop, I just got some ice and moved forward as it was around 4miles to the main aid station at this point.
Its definitely a fast course as there are a lot of straight sections where you can see the other runners and of course all set with in the most wonderful backdrop of mountains all around you!! There was one more aid station during the last four miles and while headed into that during my first loop, I had Laurie Euler who lives in the area run at me and give me a big hug. Finally I meet you in person Laurie! That was a very unexpected and nice surprise indeed. Towards the end of the first loop with about 2miles to go I finally caught up to Lisa, Coleen and Dave. Lisa had been dealing with some health issues so they were taking it easy. I chatted a little and walked a little with them, but Coach insisted that I keep on moving. So move I did. I hustled through the last 2 miles and finished up the second loop at 4:37:22. I changed socks, hit the porter potty, grabbed some more food and couple of advil as my left glute was getting pretty tight and moved on.
Now that I knew what was coming ahead, I just had to keep moving! I was getting tired and my left glute was bothering me…but hey less than a half marathon to go at this point so forward motion it was. Whenever I had to walk I power walked like crazy! Coach would be proud! I passed a quite a few 50k runners on this last loop just power walking along. The 50k runners had red bibs..so every time I saw a flash of a red bib ahead of me I’d hustle to try to get past them. Up and down Mt. Carbon loop, water crossing done 3 more times, and onto the last two aid stations!
During the last 2miles it started to rain a little and it got pretty cold. Thankfully it passed pretty quickly and cooled things off just enough to really invigorate me!
I see the 1mi marker to the start/finish line and I start running as I’m ready to get this done! A few curves out of the trails and into the paved road on at Bear Creek Lake Park. I see the finish line and start running as fast as I can towards it. I see Coleen right by there with Lisa who sadly had to drop out per the advise of the medics. I just ran and ran and crossed that finish line overjoyed!!
My second official 50k race DONE! DONE with a time of 8:02:41 which is a PR and more importantly DONE with NO GI issues…which to me was the bigger success!! (Ok…pretty sure a sub 8 would have happened if I didn’t stop to take pictures, but it WAS my first race in Colorado after all )
Bear Chase 50k is definitely a must do Colorado race! The RD David Manthey put on a great event! The course is amazingly spectacular, the weather this year was beyond perfect, the aid station and event volunteers are some of the nicest I’ve ever met and I am beyond thrilled at how it went! The aid station were really well stocked and even though I didn’t partake the post event food and drink was excellent. let’s not forget the great goodie bag, awesome Mizuno tech race shirt and kick-ass finisher medal! So many reasons to come do this race!
I’m so happy I picked this for my first Colorado race and have no doubt I’ll be back to try this again in the future…and next time I will skip the pictures…maybe .