Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Patience Practice

pa·tient adjective \ˈpā-shənt\ 1: able to remain calm and not become annoyed when waiting for a long time or when dealing with difficult problems or people. 2: done in a careful way over a long period of time without hurrying.

was not very patient at my previous ultramarathon race – The TARC 50m. And I paid for it …dearly. So, I vowed that the next time out, things would be different. As it turns out, The Bear Brook Trail Marathon would be that “next time” and just like at the TARC 50, the weather would be warm and muggy. Perfect conditions for working on practicing patience!

I’ve run this race twice before and wrote about it HERE and HERE. However, to say that I’ve run “this race” before is not entirely accurate, because Co-Race Directors Ryan Welts and Kristina Folcik-Welts have changed the course every year since its inception in 2012. Last year’s changes included reversing the course direction and adding a half mile for good measure. This year’s changes were a bit more drastic. Due to some “alleged” logging along the course, there were two additional re-routes. One which added a mile and another which added a mile AND a mountain!

Below are highlights from my race this year broken down into Aid Station (AS) segments. Please note that all segment distances, as well as the overall race distances, are approximate.

Because, at this race, nobody really knows how long it is…

Start to AS #1 – 3.5m – 40:09 (11:25 pace)
There were 200 runners at this year’s race, which is more than both of the previous two editions. And it seemed to me like all the “new” runners were “fast” runners. Because once the race started, it felt like everyone took off like a shot! I was getting passed left and right on the first (One Mile) trail. And that trend continued as we climbed the trio of Catamount, Cascade and Carr Hills. But, patience was my mantra for the day, so I let everyone who wanted to get by do so without a fight as I glided easily through the early portion of the race.

AS #1 to AS #2 – 4.5m – 44:33 (9:53 pace)I didn’t stop at Aid Station 1 since it was just 3.5 miles into the race and I had more than enough water/supplies in my Nathan 2014 HPL-028. The Lowland and Lost Trails were wet, but not much worse than usual and I made good time in this section despite still running real easy and still letting people go. I got mildly annoyed when someone chose to pass me (and almost knocked me over) during a technical water crossing - when most of the rest of the section was wide-open double-track! Patience I repeated. Patience.

AS #2 to AS #3 – 3.5m – 34:30 (9:51 pace)
Again, I blew through Aid Station 2 after already having consumed a GU packet (one per hour) and a couple electrolyte tablets (two per Aid Station). But, had to stop shortly afterwards to smooth my socks and tighten my shoes in an attempt to circumvent a “hot spot” that I was feeling on my right heel. Eventually I passed the handful of people who went by me during that un-planned pit stop. And, as it turned out, those would be the last people who would pass me all day. I cranked up Podunk Road, passed the RD’s coming down the opposite way, and pulled into AS 3 feeling good.

AS #3 to AS #4 – 5.0m – 52:07 (10:25 pace)
I stopped briefly at AS 3 to re-fill my nearly empty 1.5 liter hydration bladder before heading to the summit of Hall Mountain at the start of the fourth segment. After coming down off its rocky top I was pleasantly surprised to see that someone had pruned back the brush along the Hall Mountain Marsh Trail.  Nice! Then quickly realized that any time gained there would be lost along the very wet, and very overgrown Unmaintained Trail. However, my spirits were raised once again after the “hillbilly hairpin” as I started picking people off on the way up the Hall Mountain Trail.

AS #4 to AS #5 – 6.0m – 59:35 (9:50 pace)
A couple quick splashes of Heed (and a piece of PB&J) at the Aid Station and I was off - onto the longest segment of the day. I passed a few more people coming down the Lynx Trail but started to notice a tightening in my left quadriceps. I must have been sub-consciously over-compensating for my sore right heel by putting more weight onto my left side. It was uncomfortable, but not debilitating. And I cruised through this section. At least until I got to the added portion off of the Hemlock Trail. This seemed never-ending.  Add to that the sun exposure (and the heat of the day) and I was starting to warm up. Big time!

AS #5 to AS #6 – 2.5m – 23:23 (9:52 pace)
After another partial-fill of my hydration pack, a couple cups of Coke, a piece of PB&J and a handful of M&M’s I started down the Pitch Pine Trail. Just 7 miles to go. I passed a couple more people who were struggling along the Bobcat Trail. This section, being the shortest of the day, passed very quickly and before long I was crossing over Podunk again to the new Aid Station at Hayes Field – where a volunteer said, “Just 4 miles to go”! I blew right past while checking my watch which read 4:14 and change. For a brief moment I thought I might have a chance to break 5 hours - if I could just hang on.

AS #6 to Finish – 4.5m – 60:26 (13:25 pace)
I got a bit confused during this section of the race. For some reason, I thought that the Cascade/Catamount re-route meant that we wouldn’t have to do the little rollers along Bear Brook. Now, these “rollers” are not terribly taxing, but after 4 ½ hours and 27 miles of racing they can be rather formidable – especially when you’re not expecting them! So, despite passing a few more people here, I kind of lost it mentally. Which is not a good thing when you’ve got a couple “mountains” directly ahead! Eventually I pulled it together, power-walked the steeper parts of Catamount and hobbled down the other side to the finish – passing more people at nearly every turn.

I finished fairly strong at the end, despite a left quad and right calf who were beginning to cramp badly. I stopped my watch at 5:14:48 (10:40 pace - based on what I believe to be the 29.5 mile distance of the race). My slowest time yet at Bear Brook, and yet, still somehow a new course PR! Thanks Ryan and Kristina!

After finishing the race, and attempting to cool off by the kiddie pool filled with ice and cold drinks, I wandered over to the scoring table to see what place I finished in. 27th I was told – 10 places lower than last year. I was feeling kind of bummed about that until I noticed a piece of paper which listed the runners bib numbers as they came through Aid Station #2 at approximately 8 miles. My bib number - #288 -was listed in 47th place. Which means I passed 20 people during the last 21+ miles of the race!

I’d like to think, despite the mental anguish inflicted upon me by Catamount Hill, that if the race were longer I would have passed even more people. Which is a good thing because, based on my 2014 Race Schedule, Bear Brook will be one of the shorter races I do all year! And, despite being my slowest time, it was the first time in three races here that I actually felt good for the duration of the event! I guess patience IS a virtue.

…not to mention a pretty darned good way to run an ultra!
At the Start - photo courtesy of Jeremy Merritt


  1. I was a volunteer at the hall mtn stop, I am glad you had a good race

    1. Thanks Tami! You guys were awesome out there!