Saturday, July 12, 2014

Race #11: The Bear

This was my third year running the Bear and I really wanted to break an hour, last year I ran it in 1:05:05 and my first year I ran it in 1:01:27, so I knew I would be close. But, I didn't exactly train for the over 1500' elevation gain with all of my other races this year, so by the time I got to mile 4, I had pretty much written off being able to finish in under an hour. This gave me a good excuse to take a few pictures while I was running, which is definitely not something I've done the past two years. My Garmin actually had the elevation gain as 1732' (and an elevation loss of 97'), so I'll be using those elevation numbers for the mile recaps below.
  • Mile 1: 11:05 - right off the starting line, we started climbing. Elevation gain: 353'
  • Mile 2 - 11:42 - more climbing. Most of the first 3 miles are on gravel roads which include some switchbacks. Elevation gain: 178'
  • Mile 3 - 10:53 - the only flat part of this course comes in this mile, partially on the gravel road and then again when you go around the track at McRae Meadows, through the Highland Games campground. At this point, you can see the top of Grandfather Mountain and realize how much farther you still have to go! Elevation gain: 182'
  • Mile 4 - 13:21 - immediately follow the easy track portion, you climb a large grassy hill and start going up the entrance road to Grandfather Mountain. At the second water stop before you get too far into mile 4, you get another glimpse of the top of the mountain (2nd picture on the left below). Elevation gain: 553'
  • Mile 5 - 14:29 - the worst part of the climb is at the end when you can see all of the switchbacks you still have to climb and right before the finish is a super steep portion. Elevation gain: 375'
As I was making my way around the next-to-last switchback, I looked at my watch and realized there was still a possibility that I could get to the finish in under an hour. My legs were dead, but I continued my plan to walk around the corners of the switchbacks and then try to run as fast as possible on the straight stretches. My official time came in at 57:54 - a full 2 minutes under an hour!

Now, my Garmin only had the distance at 4.75 miles, with a pace of 12:11 / mile, but my official pace based on the 5 miles was 11:35. So, at least I have an excuse for thinking that I wouldn't make it under an hour if I kept my pace (5 miles at 12:11 pace would finish in 1:00:55). 

One of my awesome friends came with me to the race and met me at the top. Since he was able to drive onto the property, once I finished, we walked back to his car and got to take some more great pictures as the sun set over the mountains. 

Once we made it to his car, we easily made it off the mountain, which was much nicer than having to wait for the buses / U-haul truck / photographer's car / however else you can make your way down the hill. We even picked up a couple of hitchhikers who were making their way down the road and took them down to Linville so they didn't have to walk the 5 miles on their own.

I felt miserable during a lot of the race, but once I finished and got to see the great scenery at the top, I started to forget about all of that… so maybe I'll do it again next year!

Have you ever run an uphill race? 


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