"You know what Scott, I think you could bounce back from this on the next section" said the great Errol "Rocket" Jones at the mile 29 aid station of the Bear 100. I had already dropped from the race and told my friend Amanda to go one without me. I wasn't in any real pain, but I knew it wasn't my day. I had been getting over a tendonosis in my hip for several months. I had run 20 miles once in three months. My mileage was down, my weight was up and my fitness was at a low I hadn't experienced in a while.
Don't get me wrong. I was having fun. The Bear 100 starts in Logan Utah and almost immediately climbs to somewhere near Jupiter.
It's a Hardrock 100 qualifier. It's a graduate level course. For someone like me (i.e. a painstakingly mediocre flatlander who spends little time climbing, descending, or at altitude) just finishing this course while actually in shape would be tough. The Bear is, well, a bear.
"It's a very gentle downhill, the perfect stretch to see if you can bounce back. I only turned back because I puked." The Rocket is from Chicago so I have always been fond of his writing. He's a legend. He is a co-RD of the race and has done it 16 times. If anyone knows, it's him. I took his advice, saddled up, let the HAM radio guys know I was "un-dropping" and got back into the race with a new vigor.
Oh, one more thing about the Rocket. He's a total fucking liar. No gentle downhill. No easy trail. Just up up up in the blazing sun. The only part of that section that I enjoyed was seeing his puke spot on the side of the road and thinking "serves you right." :)
So I trudged onward. Reluctantly. To mile 36.
At that point I knew I was only kidding myself. But something dawned on me. It was beautiful. I wasn't in severe pain. And you know what? there really wasn't anyplace in the world I would have rather been. So I made the best of it.
At mile 36 I considered dropping, but then decided to run until the sun set. So I took off. About a mile down the trail I stopped. I wondered what the hell I was doing. I was kidding myself. So I turned back to the aid station to drop. Halfway back I stopped and started criticizing my decision. this continued for about a half hour, until I started criticizing myself about spending so much time criticizing myself. Eventually I decided to just call it quits. I headed back to 36 and dropped. Again.
It's really hard to make these decisions. It's even harder when you're injured. As I packed my bag in shame my friend Amanda came rocketing into the aid station in tears. She missed the turn, ran six extra miles, and was now in danger of missing the cutoff. I asked her if she needed me to jog a bit with her and she said yes. So I un-dropped. Again. As a consequence three things happened: 1) I got to give her a little more support in hopes of her making it to the finish; 2) I got to run until the sun set;
and 3) I found an injured Haley Pollack and got to keep her company while she limped in to 45 in the dark.
Two of the Flatlanders finished this amazing race. I was glad I could be there to support them both. I'll be back for more next year. Hopefully making the best of it again.