I wanna say it one more time: TNF EC BEAR MOUNTAIN 50M.
What was I thinking about when I decided to do this race? Just about 365 days before Michelle and I did our first trail race: the Bear Mountain Half Marathon in 2012. It was a blast. It was hard, it was tough, it was…the past.
Before the 2012 Half we contemplated the idea of going to Bear Mountain early in the morning the day before our race and watch those crazy guys running the 50miler. Then we opted for some deserved rest and race preparation, since we were approaching something we thought was going to be special. A certain attraction for the ultra distances was there, we were probably not conscious of how much we wanted to do ultras, or maybe a bit scared of not having the preparation to run them.
The 2012 Half was the race that igniteded the passion that ultimately brought us to Leadville a few mounths later. The same passion that brought us to the Febapple, back to the Bear, in Cayuga and in the Dolomites for the LUT this year, and who knows where it will bring us in the future.
For some reasons the desire to run Bear Mountain 50 grew up with time and when registration opened, we signed up immediately, knowing that a downgrade to the 50k was always an option. Michelle and I have started preparation for the Bear 50 around mid-december. That’s when our classes were taking a 3-week break and we thought we needed to increase our running regiment instead of taking a break: I joined Warren Street and ran with them consistently thoghout the winter, while Michelle got more into hot yoga and started logging more miles on Saturdays with the Jack Rabbits folks. For one reason or another we did not hit the trails until the beginning of January, and that made me feel a little unprepared, at first.
We trained well for a good four months, visiting often the trails of Bear Mountain and Harriman State Park, trying sections of the course, especially those on the west side of the Palisade Interstate, and sometimes going back to the well known path of the half marathon. After all, a good workout at Timp
Pass is always useful and helpful.
Preparation was good, our times in road races were improving and wee were seeing the results of our hard efforts paying off. We conquered our first 50K in February in nasty weather conditions, and the 50 miler was not scaring us any longer.
I was also the first one to break into the trails after the copious snowfalls in February. What a pleasure to leave my footprints on virgin white soft snow. It really made me feel I was becoming hard core.
A couple of times I went for a run up there late in the afternoon, finishing well after sunset, and believe me: the pace gets very quick when you hear coyotes howling on the other side of the valley.
Michelle had a minor issue 3-4 weeks before the race, when going up the trail around Silver Mine Lake, she fell and hit hard the knee. This kept her quiet for about a week and it ate up a lot of confidence that was regained only with the strong perforamce at the Unite Half.
On the other hand, I felt pretty strong, fast and I thought I was as ready as I could get. At one point I thought that 9hrs could be broke easily, but being the first 50, I should have probably stayed quiet and waited for the last 10miles to gain some time off the clock and gain some positions. The only thing I was missing was one last long run up in the trails to get the adrenaline rush going.
So 10 days before the race we were off for a long run. While driving up to Silver Mine bad luck already checked in: I forgot my trail shoes back home, and it was too late to drive back and get them. Well, it was ok I thought: I have my regular running shoes, so I can just go with them…at the end of the day I used them for training up there all the times in 2012. After parking we took off. No water or drinks with me. Only a gel just in case. When the weather is not too hot I prefer to have as little as I can with me, and enjoy the pure simple joy of running with nothing bothering: loose belts, heavy water bottles, or tight backpacks. We took offf into the rocky uphills of the Long Path Trail, and I felt really pumped up from being able to run easily without breaking a sweat all the sections we found in the first 6-7 miles. Then we reached a flat stretch on top and I felt a very sharp pain needle-like under the ball of my foot. I stopped, limped for a few feet and took a short pause. Then restarted. The pain was coming and going and I would not really understand what happened. All of a sudden I was not invincible anymore. All of a sudden I was confused and frightened.
I spent the next 4 days icing the foot, hoping to resolve the issue. When-during the weekend-the foot was still swallen, and walking was unbearable, I decided to search for medical help. After an XRay that excluded fractures, the doctor told me I had a bone spur and I should stop running. This was not the type of the advice I was looking for; clearly.
The next few days were uneventful, spent with a little note of sadness knowing I would not have run next Saturday and that, had I made it to the start line, I would not have been in the conditions I wanted. Still I spent hours in the evening thinking about getting better, refusing to take any pain killer cause I wanted to listen to my body and any sign of improvement I could perceive.
Thursday came and I was still grounded with only one option to still explore: another doctor that was recommended by Stephane.
I called the clinic and set up an appointment for Friday morning with Doc. Minara. It was the solution to my problem; he identified the problem as an inflammation of the nerve between the second and third toe and he did not recomment using a cortisone shot because it would have weakened the entire bone structure of the foot and I could not have run the race next day.
He thought a chance was still there with an injection of something non steroid based and some pills for the pain. I got also a sticky pad to glue under the foot and relieve some of the pressure exerted on the ball of the foot. Dr. Minara also recommended to stop running if the pain was going to be unbearable after taking a pill during the race.
Relieved, happy and hopeful I left the clinic at lunch time and drove back home to pick up all the gears that had been accurately prepared for more than a week.
Bear Mountain was now awaiting. I was now sure I was going to be at the start line. Not sure in what conditions, not sure if I would have experienced pain during the race, but sure I was going to be there with the other 600+ runners who were crazy enough to face the Bear