Last year I was a charity runner for Running with the Bears marathon, and I had such a great time (and a PR) that I decided to do it again in 2015. I had originally signed up for the half marathon, and signed the Dashing Wife and Dashing Son up for the 10k, but I realized that, with my running schedule, I should do the full marathon to keep my miles up.
I really like this race because it is small, in a rural setting, and it all goes to benefit foster kids. The money raised by charity runners goes to their Powder Quest program (and other things), which takes the foster kids up to a ski resort in Lake Tahoe to teach them to ski or snow board. It gives these kids a chance to forget their problems and, as former participant said, focus only on not breaking their neck heading down the mountain.
I have a soft spot in my heart for foster kids. The Dashing Sister is adopted (shhhh, she is 32 and we haven’t told her yet), as are five of my nieces and nephews. Plus, my parents were foster parents off and on while I was growing up. I really don’t do much to help out my fellow man, but if I can do something that helps a kid get dealt a better hand in life, I might as well.
Not only do all the proceeds from this race go to benefit foster kids, this race has no restrictions. It is a Boston Qualifier that you can run with headphones, a stroller, and your dog. How cool is that?
Last year, the Dashing Dog only ran 8 miles with me. She didn’t have any long runs, so I didn’t want to push her too hard. Besides, if I would have ran with her, I wouldn’t have placed in my age group. This year, I got in a 20 mile run with the Dashing Dog two weeks before the race. That run was hot, and ugly, and nasty. It was one of the slowest road runs I have done in a long time. I ran about the same pace as I did during Way Too Cool 50k, and that was a trail race with some nasty, nasty climbs. Our 20 miler didn’t really have any big climbs, and it was mostly asphalt trail, but we were sucking wind the whole time.
Despite only having a 20 mile run under her belt/leash, I knew she could complete the marathon. I wasn’t planning on any real time goals, other than finishing. The Dashing Dog has run a full marathon in training back in January of 2014, and we did that in 4:10, which included a long water stop. I figured we should try to beat that time, if we could. Otherwise, I just wanted her to be the fastest dog. Somebody in the Dashing Family should be first in a race, why not the dog?
Leading up to the race, I had been doing my normal training, getting in long runs when I could. This included the 20 mile run I mentioned above, plus a 20+ mile run at Tahoe Rim Trail 100 when I was performing pacing duties. Unfortunately for the Dashing Wife, she rolled her ankle, and then just when it was almost healed, she rolled it again. So, she hadn’t run anything in a few months. She was just going to walk the 10k with the Dashing Son.
At first, we were going to leave the Dashing Puppy at my parent’s ranch because he isn’t well socialized (he likes to bark at a lot of stuff). Then Mountain Circle, the organization that runs the Running with the Bears races, said that they were going to provide medals and bibs to all canine runners. We decided that he should run and get a medal too.
Before the race, we spent a couple days at my parents’ ranch. We helped out on the ranch, mainly changing out lights in the barns so that my 75 year old step-dad didn’t have to climb the ladders. We left the ranch and took a nice relaxing drive to Plumas County. We stayed on Highway 70 for most of the drive. Once we drove past Paradise (the town of Paradise, I wouldn’t have Eddie Money get you two tickets to this place) the road follows along, and sometimes over, the Feather River. It is a very pretty drive, and while a couple of the arms of Lake Oroville were quite low, the river was flowing nicely.
During the drive, the Dashing Daughter slept while her brother played on his Nintendo DS.
Last year, we arrived late at the Pasta Feed, but this year we were early and we went to our cabin. We were a little bit more on the ball and instead of staying in a hotel in Quincy, we rented a cabin. It was a 3 mile drive on a dirt road,
and through (yes through) a creek.
The cabin was a 2 bedroom 1 bath place that was perfect for our family. Dogs were allowed (there was a mudroom), and it had a Jacuzzi tub. No, I am not going to tell you where it is, because we may stay there next year.
We got settled and unpacked, and then went to the pasta feed/packet pick up. I got to see my favorite race director, Josie, and the Director of Mountain Circle, Shawna, and Jennifer, and some other folks I remember from last year. There aren’t too many races where the race director remembers your name and will give you a hug. And this wasn’t because I was “famous” they did this for everybody.
We got our bibs and our bags. Do you know how some races don’t really give you anything in a goody bag? Not Running with the Bears. You get a whole bunch of stuff.
If you are a charity runner, like I was, you get even more stuff. And you get a special shirt.
During dinner, Shawna gave a talk about the history of the race and what they need to do to get the race organized. To get all this stuff, Josie and volunteers send out 7000 requests to companies to get donations for the goody bags. Trying to get companies to donate 600 items for a bunch of runners to help foster kids is a bit daunting. Amazingly (or maybe not), there were lots of donations from the local community.
The towns of Greenville and Taylorsville are not known for being thriving metropolises. Greenville has a bit of a downtown, but it isn’t big, and Taylorsville doesn’t even have a four-way intersection (I don’t even think Greenville does either). But these small towns donated some really neat stuff. A chocolate mint goat milk soap, for example. Oh, and the chocolate/caramel bear claw. That was yummy.
By the way, if you have a company and want to donate 600 samples to a great cause, (or maybe 100 really awesome things to charity runners or to the age group winners), email Josie at firstname.lastname@example.org
The marathon came out of an idea that Shawna had to try to raise funds from a wider circle than the local community. She said the spaghetti feeds and golf tournaments were a complete bust. She then said that this year, the charity runners had brought in over $29,000 in donations. This number actually went up to over $30,000 by the end of the weekend. We also heard about a foster kid who is one of the 3% of foster kids who go to college that went through the Powder Quest program and how the program really helped him turn things around in his life.
On race morning, I was up super early to get ready for the race. I let the dogs outside and found out something. It was cold! I was expecting mid-40s, but this was much colder. I was smart and brought my jacket from AR50. I got dressed in proper Dashing Dad attire, which I haven’t worn nearly all year because I have been racing as a Buffalo Chip at my other races. Then the Dashing Wife got ready and we got the kids into the car with their pajamas on, got the dogs to load up, and off we went.
We got out the door 15 minutes later than I had wanted, which, in parent terms meant we were on time. There was no traffic, and we got decent parking by the start line. My race started 90 minutes before the 10k, so I grabbed the Dashing Dog and went to the start line.
It was really cold! I couldn’t keep my legs from shivering in the port-a-potty. Turns out they set a record low that morning at 36°F (1°C). No wonder I thought it was colder than CIM. I did about a quarter mile jog to warm up, did my stretches, and mingled with the crowd. I saw the guy who drove out from Chicago last year (he did that again this year), and met a couple of Buffalo Chips who were out running (turns out there were about seven other Chips running the full).
I lined up a little too far back at the start, but managed to push myself to the front of the middle before the horn. The Dashing Dog was not too happy about being with all the crowds (she really doesn’t like people, but she is getting better.) At the horn, we all took off, and after about a minute, I remembered to start my Garmin. That is the first time in 60 races I have forgot to do that. It was cold and I was still wearing my AR50 jacket.
My goal for this race was to take it easy, mainly for the dog. I wanted her to finish the full marathon. So I wasn’t pushing myself. At the first aid station (which was 50’s diner themed), I grabbed some water and walked for a few minutes as I took off and stowed my AR50 jacket. I just shoved the ball-o-jacket into my pocket, which I had them put in my hydration pack at the next aid station. I also took time to pee at that aid station (there was a port-a-potty).
The third aid station was, by far, my favorite. They were MASH themed, and they did a great job. Radar and Klinger were there, the signpost was there, they had army jeeps, and tents too. Apparently they also had these peanut butter balls that are amazing, but all I grabbed was water and electrolyte. Still, their set-up was impressive enough for me to stop and take, not one, but two pictures.
The fourth aid station was the hillbilly aid station. They are always entertaining, but they did freak out the dog. I also had to stop and poop in their outhouse decorated port-a-potty. (I know, TMI, but it is my recap). Every time I stopped at an aid station, I would have regain ground against the folks who would pass me. I was still hoping for a sub-4 hour finish, but it was getting harder and harder to get my overall pace into the 8s. I knew it had to be in the 8s because I always lose time in my fulls on the second half.
After this aid station, we ran towards the half marathon turn around, and I was still seeing my breath at 7:30am. The next few aid stations were the belly dancers and the go cart kids (which were really loud). And then there was the Hawaiian themed aid station. I think they were the Mardi Gras themed station last year. They did not disappoint, mainly because they had pineapple, as well as a bunch of other fruit.
In my opinion, pineapple is the absolute best thing during a run. It is sweet, but tart, and it is amazingly refreshing. It is like watermelon. I hate watermelon, except when I am running. Anyway, I grabbed a cup of pineapple from them and kept going. I don’t remember the themes of any of the aid stations after that, except for the cheerleaders at the last aid station, but there may not have been a theme. I should also point out that all of the aid stations were awesome. They were supportive, they had water, electrolytes and snacks. They even had water bowls and treats for the dogs at every single aid station. There were only three dogs doing the full, but they still supported the dogs.
Thank you aid stations.
Speaking of dog support, I did not let the Dashing Dog drink from any of the dog bowls along the course (except one). I carried my hydration pack for her. I watered her at every aid station and during every walk break I took. I know that she likes to lay down and drink when she is tired, and I didn’t want her to do that. I also didn’t give her any treats, because I carried some in my bag. She has done long distances before (this was her 5th time going over 20 miles) and doesn’t need extra food during. I gave her treats at the end of the race, and extra food later.
I should also say something about the course. It is not a flat course. There are hills. I didn’t consider any of the hills real killers (except Bear Bait Hill, see below), but they are on the verge of “do I walk this or run this hill?” For the most part, on the way out, I ran the hills, but on the way back, I walked several sections to conserve energy.
Also, the half marathon course (which the marathoners run) is very scenic. You have pine covered hills on one side and grassy valley floor on the other side for 12 miles and you get valley on both sides for about a mile. Some of the half marathoners saw a calf being born. The middle part of the marathon course is about 12 miles of mountain road. Steep pine covered hills on both side with a river at the bottom. Of the 30 –odd courses I have run, Running with the Bears is definitely the most pretty. Escape from Alcatraz is a close second, but for a completely different reason.
I was doing some mental calculations while I was running on the lead runners. Last year, the lead runner did a 3:03 marathon, so I figured the lead folks would be running around a 7 minute pace. I figured I would see the lead runners heading toward the finish when I was at the 12.5 mile mark. I was about dead on. I was at 12.3 miles, they were at 15.6, and the first two runners were only separated by about 15 seconds. Third place was about 0.4 miles behind them.
The first place guy at that time went on to win by a few minutes. It was his first marathon. Bastard won the race and got a BQ on his first marathon. Don’t you hate that?
I will say that everybody was very excited to see the Dashing Dog running the full. Including the photographer. I saw him first around mile 11, and he kept driving forward and catching me at the next photo spot.
At least until the turn around point. Luckily for me, I like the paparazzi, and posed for a couple of shots. Including this one, when I was watering the Dashing Dog.
The Dashing Dog and I kept moving along. At this point, I knew that a sub 4 hour marathon was out the window, but I was still shooting for a doggie PR of under 4:10.
I am proud to say that I caught up to everybody who passed us during my potty breaks, and I passed even more people towards the end. I was slowing down, but not as much as others. It was almost like I knew what I was doing.
As we were heading towards the finish, we were passing the other marathon runners. Everybody (including the front runners) were cheering me and the Dashing Dog on. Not sure if it was that I had the dog or not, but I remember a lot of “good jobs” and high fives on the way back last year too. One of the runners was a walker. She left early (I passed her around mile 10), and when I was at mile 17, I saw her again. She was older (I’m not guessing) and was Scandinavian (based on her accent). I went up to her, told her she was doing awesome, and gave her a great big hug. I love runners.
I was very happy to hit the Hawaiian aid station on the way back. Have I mentioned that I like pineapple?
Around mile 22, I spotted a friend of mine who was running the half (she ran last year too). You know you run too much when you can spot a friend’s running gait from 200 yards away. I gave her a hug, and said that I was still shooting for a sub 4:10, and ran off.
I passed a guy who had been doing really well earlier, but was walking at this point. I walked with him for a little bit and warned him of the Bear Bait Hill at mile 23. This hill killed me last year. It is a 90 foot climb in about 0.2 miles (27 m climb in 300 meters). Steep, but not super-steep, unless it is within 3 miles of the finish line. This year, I was expecting it. I ran up until the 23.1 mile mark (the 10 mile mark for the half marathon), and then power walked to the apex. I ran down the hill (never waste a downhill) and kept pushing along.
Dashing Dog and I were slowing down by this point. I kept telling her (and myself) that there was only a little bit more to go. We run 4+ miles during our weekday morning runs, so I said the last two miles is like the run home. But those last two miles were hard.
I did some walk breaks, graciously took some water at the aid station about 1.3 miles from the finish (I think this was the cheerleaders). There was a smaller hill at mile 25.5, which we walked. But, like I did last year, we ran the last half mile to the finish. I must say, the dog knows what I am saying. Probably because I say the same things on our training runs. “Only 1 mile to go. Just 1500 meters, almost there” stuff like that. She knows when to pick up the finishing pace. It was probably the fasted half mile of the whole race.
We gave it a final kick up the gravel driveway to the finish line.
The Dashing Dog was the first canine for the marathon, and she got a doggie PR with a sub 4:10 time.
While I was doing my run, the rest of the Dashing Family was doing their 10k. They walked it, as the Dashing Wife had not had a chance to train, and she had to push the Dashing Daughter in the stroller. Apparently there were some arguments about riding in the stroller when she didn’t want to walk.
After my run, I mingled, rested, got a beer (they only had IPA and Pale Ale, neither of which are my favorites. Next time, I hope they bring something less hoppy), hopped in the ice bath for a few seconds, and cheered folks as they crossed the finish line. Including the 8 year old kid who finished the half marathon with this mom.
It was coming up on noon time, so we wanted to get the kids fed. We piled back into the car and drove back to the cabin. We had to drive some of the marathon route, and some of the folks were still on the course, including the lady celebrating her 70th birthday and took 10 hours to finish. Running with the Bears staff supported her the entire time. There are no time limits on this course.
When we got back to the cabin, the Dashing Dog was ready to play. She wanted to play fetch. I wanted some food, a shower, and a nap. So, we fed the kids, took showers, and took a nap (well, the Dashing Son played on his DS while the rest of us napped). Then we went to the hoedown.
The hoedown is another big party for the race. They had barbequed pork and chicken, a cash bar, snacks, a petting zoo, face painting a bounce house, a live band, and a dance floor.
Overall, the race was a great experience. I still loved every minute of my time associated with this race. Well, maybe not Bear Bait Hill, but I was prepared for it this year. While it was my second worst marathon time, I am not complaining. I didn’t push, I spent too much time at the aid stations (and port-a-potties), and I was carrying extra supplies for the dog. My legs were still sore from the 20 miler two weeks earlier. So, I think it was a great run.
Also, I had nearly fully recovered within three days. Even on Monday, I didn’t have co-workers asking me what was wrong with me.
I highly recommend this race as there is a ton of support, a beautiful course, and it all goes to a great cause. And my dog got a medal! Also, my medal was pretty cool. A double spinner. I got gold for the full marathon, the half marathoners got silver, and the 10k folks got bronze.
Speaking of a great cause, I want to extend my personal thanks to all the sponsors for the race. Not just the folks who supplied stuff in the goody bags, but the other stuff as well. Mountain Lifeflight donated medics and a fricken’ helicopter to make sure that if anybody got hurt really bad they could get to the hospital, which was a couple hours away by car. Artic Ice donated 3,000 pounds of ice, Alhambra Water donated all the water for aid stations, Reno Running Co. donated a bunch of stuff (socks for charity runners, shoes to the DFL finisher, and stuff for the age group awards), Whole Foods donated a bunch of food, Plumas Sanitation donated port-a-potties (very important), Ultima was the sports drink on the course, and Brewing Lair donated beer (also very important). The goody bag donors included Acure Organics, Baby Gourmet, Barney Butter, Clif Bar, Dreamwater, Enjoy Life, Kimmie Candy, Liberty Orchards Bars, Little Miracles, Nature’s Bakery, Salba Chia, Ultima, Ruby Bay Jerky, Earth’s Care, Love Child Organics, Beanfields, Evergreen Market, Lundberg, Namaste Foods, and Nordic Naturals.
I have already signed up for next year, and I am going to be a charity runner again. If you want to donate, click here.