Race Report: Bear Bait 25k

Welcome back to the wild world of ultramarathon training. By this point, you’re read all about my current training cycle and I chase down that ultramarathon goal. Yeah, I know, the BUTS Bearly was supposed to be my tuned up/dial in race before Mississippi 50; however, that was when I was waitlisted for Bear Bait and I was offered a spot! I’ve spent the last two weeks making minor tweaks to my running plan to accommodate a taper week and working out the kinks in my hydration and nutrition plan based on BUTS Bearly.

Today you’re getting my full race report for Bear Bait Ultra – 25k (15.53 mile) Race

Check in:

They did a good job offering three days/times, one of them was close to where I live even. Unfortunately, an accident blocking one of the bridges between me and the store kept me from getting my things ahead of time. However, like most ultras, the field is small and it was really easy to get my packet on race day.

It was another cold race. Fortunately, the temperature was more consistent than BUTS.

Starting line:

The start line was just outside the check in area and had a larger crowd than I anticipated but there were four distances offered, so it makes sense. The 50k, 50 mile, and 100k runners started at 6:30 and the 25k runners started at 6:45 once the sun was fully up. My weather app says it was a brisk 34F at the start, my body said we were somewhere in Antarctica.

Four laps ~3.75 miles long

The course:

First off, due to COVID, they were not allowed to run last year’s course. The Florida Forest Service would not issue their usual permit to run at Bear Lake, so the race director moved it to a local adventure and zipline park. I’m glad they were able to find a new location but it makes it tough to compare last year’s run times to see what I thought I could accomplish. I’ll give you my goal, stretch goal, and finish time below.

Weather: A brisk 37F at opening and race start but warmed up for about 45F by the time I was done around 10am. Windy but you couldn’t tell in the woods and the sky was that perfect winter blue and clear for miles. I started with every layer I had, including my windbreaker. The windbreaker and gloves came off at the first lap and I was relatively comfortable for the last three laps. It bit me post-race though.

Gotta wear a whole lotta gear on these cold races

Trail conditions: Overall, great with only a few minor “I hate this” points. There were a few creek crossings but every single one had a bridge so my feet stayed dry! The trail was primarily single track but very technical due to the roots. The only breaks in that were one slightly swampy area and a 0.25 mile long stretch with deep sand which I came to loath.

Terrain: Flat. Mercifully, blissfully flat compared to BUTS. In 15 miles I had ~500ft of elevation change. There were a couple steep drops but nothing terrible for a 25k runner. It will be a challenging course for those running into the night.

Aid stations:

Since this was a looped course, I came through the aid station three times during the race and finished basically in the aid station. They had a great selection of food, well laid out in small cups so runners didn’t put their grubby hands into communal bowls. In all honesty, I hope that trend continues long after COVID. The big barn type structure that housed the aid station also allowed runners to make their own drop bag areas. At the last minute, literally between the long runners going and the 25k runners going, I unloaded most of my snacks, dropped them in my big plastic tote, and hauled the tote to the drop bag area. It was really nice to be able to cruise into the barn, grab some of my own snacks, drop a water bottle or jacket, then cruise out with a small cup of chips. Very well done, possible the best aid station set up I’ve seen.

Did I hit the Pain Cave?

Yes, but it was minimal. On lap three I got a little cranky, but after a small cup of Coke at the aid station, I felt like I was flying through lap four. Then, of course, the face plant. If you follow me on Twitter, you saw my short, terse TL;DR version of the race report.

The short version is that I was hauling ass on the home stretch and tripped turning off the paved road headed towards the barn. Full tumble and I skidded several feet on my face. Like all good wounds above the neck, it bled like a SOB and looked worse than it was. It freaked a couple people out, it freaked me out, but no permanent damage. I cleaned up before driving home and again in the shower, now my face is just swollen, but its 100% why I have no pictures at the finish line; I looked like hell.

Even worse, I had been silently battling it out with another woman for over 3 miles that last lap. She had nipped at my heels but never moved to pass until I feel. To her credit, she checked to make sure I was ok before zooming off and I ran like hell to try and catch her again but it didn’t happen. I came in 10 seconds behind her. I’m not mad at her in anyway, I tripped and losing my lead was 100% my own fault, but it’s just so frustrating to be so close and lose the lead at the very end.

Oh the Pain Cave. Especially bad when you’re picking gravel out of your face.

The unknowns:

The biggest unknown was the course. It was the first time in nine years they hosted the race at this location so none of the racers really knew what to expect. I usually like to look at the spread for the times to get an idea where my pace will fall and how I might do. But, with no prior race stats it was a big unknown for timing, trail conditions, and elevation change.

Just like BUTS, the other impact was the cold. I did not want to drink my water. It was cold, I was cold, and I had a hard time making myself drop ambient temperature was directly into my core when I was already cold. And just like BUTS, I saw the impact of that later in the race when my heartrate was jacked up through the roof (165-180bpm) even when I was running an easy pace on a gentle downhill. I had hoped that drinking from a bladder pressed against my back would warm it more but it was just so cold outside. While I was driving home, in a heated car with heated seats, I was shaking from cold. Cold water to the core is just a killer.

My heartrate was cranked… looks almost identical to BUTS

Crew:

No crew for this race at my distance, but there was limited access for pacers on the 50k, 50 mile, and 100k course despite COVID. Mostly, they were there for safety for the folks still running through the night.

The finish line:

Not as minimal as BUTS but low key. I flashed my numbers and they recorded me complete, I snagged my cool medal (really, ceramic), and headed to my car for the drive home. I didn’t even stay for BBQ because I finished fast enough that it wasn’t out yet!

Final time:

3:11 for 14.72 mi (course was just shy of the billed 25k). The unofficial results showed me at the 10th place woman and 15th overall. Not too shabby and I’ll be interested to see how I stack up against the full field.

My goal was sub-4:00 with a stretch goal of sub-3:00… yes, there was a full hour spread there. Unlike road running, the terrain and trail conditions have a HUGE effect on your run times. If you read my race report for BUTS Bearly, you know I missed my goal by nearly 15 minutes. I’m very happy to have been that close to my stretch goal and it was mostly because the course was so flat.

Overall thoughts:

This felt like a little bit of redemption after BUTS kicked my … well, you know. That said, it was humiliating to literally fall on my face so close to the finish line and have to come limping in looking like I was indeed bear bait and had lost a fight with the bear. But, the pace was good, it was a beautiful, if cold, day. I feel more ready for Mississippi than I did after BUTS.


The Gear List:

I’m going to start adding gear lists to all my runs so folks can see what I’m carrying and how it changes between courses and weather. Some affiliate links, most aren’t.

Clothes:

Mask: Under Armour Adult Sports Mask – required to run. Must wear item for check in, race start, and going through aid stations. Since it was so cold, I kept this on for the first 2 miles or more, it was warm and didn’t hinder me in any way.

Top: Nike Women’s Dri-Fit Element Long Sleeve Running Top – This one is a good top (45-55F) or middle layer (<45F). Plus, thumb holes and it covers half my hand.

Tank top: Running top from Skirt Sports, who is in the middle of owner turn over. The shirt is about 5 years old and no longer offered which is a bummer because it fits well on top with a loose middle. Great as an only layer (>60F) but does well as a base layer too (<60F).

Bra: SheFit ULTIMATE SPORTS BRA – a qualified “good.” I like that you buy based on cup size and both the chest band and shoulder straps are adjustable; it’s probably the most comfortable sports bra I have. That said, the metal loop that holds the chest band tab tears my back up after 5 miles. I wore two very large band aids under it and had no problems, but it’s something to note.

Tights: Curve ‘n’ Combat Boots Empowered Black (V1) – As with my bra, its not desired as running gear but it fits me well and does the job. These are designed as weightlifting tights and the dimensions are for a woman with thick legs. Like, babe you are squatting 225lbs as a warm up and the squat boots/thighs are strong and the waist is small! They fit me perfectly but if you have a more traditional runner’s body then they may be too baggy or slip while you run.

Socks: Balega Blister Resist Quarter Socks – These are thick and comfy but the “blister resist” is only as good as how well you lace your shoes. I did not lace my right shoe tight enough and have a small blister to show for my slipping around inside the shoe.

Shoes: Altra Olympus Trail Shoe – These have the thickest soles of my trail shoes which was good for all the roots on the trail. If it hadn’t been as technical, I might have considered dropping down to my Lone Peaks which have a thinner sole and are lighter weight.

Gaiter: Altra Trailer Gaiter – Designed specifically for Altra trail shoes and fits well (will not work on other shoes!). Kept out the sand pit I slogged through around mile 3 of each loop.

Gloves: Cheap ($1) knit cotton gloves bought from either Michaels or Hobby Lobby a few years back. I highly recommend finding a very cheap cotton glove to carry. Expensive bougie gloves are great but get lost so often… buy the cheap ones and they’ll never disappear on you.

Hat: Brooks and probably some type of dry fit? It was a gift from my wonderful spouse so I have no idea where he purchased it. Wears well and kept my head warm.

Nutrition:

Vest: Ultimate Direction Ultra Vesta 4.0 – This is my “new to me” but “older model” vest I got on sale for half price. There’s a new version but I’m glad I gambled on buying this one as it’s been a real champ. Lots of easily accessible pockets, good bottle holders, and the bladder holding set up keeps it from rattling around or slipping its loops like my other vest. Not as easy to access the bladder for refills once it’s on but I didn’t need a refill this race so it hasn’t impacted me yet.

Liquid Salt/Carbs: Gatorade Endurance Formula Powder – purchased with coupons on the Gatorade website which is good because I don’t love it. It’s not as strong a flavor as regular Gatorade and it does well for replacing salt/carbs quickly but… I dunno, maybe I’m too picky, I don’t love it. But, I’m kind of a cheapskate and won’t buy anything new until I finish this container.

Snacks: Both the Honey Stinger Organic Energy Chews (caffeinated version) and the Honey Stinger Organic Waffle. For the cold, this wasn’t a great pairing. The waffle was stiff and hard to chew from cold and since the chews are caffeinated, they aren’t a good “only” option. I supplemented with snacks from the aid station during this race. But for a race in more normal temps, they work really well for me.

Other:

GPS: Garmin Forerunner 945 – Y’all know I love this watch and I’ve talked about it before, the good and bad. I didn’t have any tracks walk offs today and I’m confident in the recorded distance/time. Also, can confirm the Incident Detection worked as advertised… except that it doesn’t send if you have no cell service. Probably a good thing or I would have scared the hubs! I was rattled enough that I didn’t have my wits about me in time to halt it sending the distress call. Fortunately (for today) it couldn’t complete the send.


Happy trails!


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One Comment on “Race Report: Bear Bait 25k

  1. 🥶 sorry it was so cold. Very sorry you fell but happy no permanent damage. Or damage that might keep you from training for the Mississippi race.

    Like

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