This was my 6th North Face Bear Mountain in a row. I like the course, lots of rocks and some climbing - I feel like it suits me as a runner. Yet a win here seemed to elude me every year. It rained heavily in the days proceeding the race which made the trails wet and slippery. This year brought some stiff competition with 3 strong North Face athletes and a good contingency from Canada.As always, the 5:00 am start feels ridiculously early for a 50 miler where the winners take around 7:00 hours to finish. This year it kind of felt like I was sleeping when everyone took off, and I got shuffled backwards. My game plan was to run easy in the early miles and let the super fast guys wear everyone down, and then pick up the pieces as people fell apart. When we hit the first road section around 4 miles in, I could still see the leaders, so that was a good sign. They headed off into the woods and I figured there were about 20 or so guys ahead of me.
(Brian, early morning running)
I caught a couple of guys here and there, but still I was still pretty far back in the group and I couldn’t see anyone ahead of me. Through the first 20 miles, when I would go into an aid station, I knew I was farther back then I wanted to be. It seemed that everyone was bored at the aid station because they had to wait so long until I showed up after the lead group went by. This definitely did not inspire confidence for the race, I was in no man's land.Most of the trails on a slope had water running down them, so it felt like running through a stream bed. Everything flat had big puddles that you had to navigate and tip toe around, or smash right through the middle.
(Brian, running through the rocks)
Around 20 miles I was looking forward to my favorite part of the race, the rock ledges that you get to run up and then traverse for a few miles. Unfortunately, they changed the course this year and replaced the awesome trails with a road / dirt road loop around a campground. I can’t think of anything that inspires me less than a road loop with a small out and back. This is the pits.
(Brian, enjoying some single track)
Seeing the dirt roads, I had lost some motivation. I hadn't caught anyone for a while and I was running on a road in a trail race. This kind of stunk. I tryed my typical self motivation techniques - calling myself a cream puff, swearing at myself, and nothing seems to work, I only had one gear - slow. I needed a dog to come bite me on the ass to piss me off or something to get the blood flowing again. Unfortunately, all the dogs I saw were on leashed and none wanted to bite me.
(Brian, crossing the finish line in 5th place)
Around 40 miles, I passed one guy that is walking which moved me into 5th. How I passed 10 or so guys out there I will never know. I felt like I only passed about 4 guys and somehow I just moved into 5th – huh. I was still moving well, I just not with the motivation I needed. I ask around and 4th guy had 17 min on me, so I figure that it was hopeless to catch him. I kept the pace solid and ran it into the finish. At the end I still had energy, which I figure is a good thing since I will be running Massanutten Mountain Trail 100 miler in 2 weeks.