Monthly Archives: September 2013

that voice in your head shouldn’t hold you back : two bear marathon race report

There’s an old voice in my head
that’s holding me back
– well tell her that I miss our little talks

–  Of Monsters and Men

I’d reached sort of a crossroads with running.  Since running Grand Ridge back in August, I’d been fighting some nasty foot injuries. It’s been one of those stretches where I’d been searching for a bit of motivation and confidence too. 

It’s easy to get excited about races.  It’s harder to get excited about the day to day workouts that make marathons and ultras possible.  Since Grand Ridge, I’d since maxed at 17.5 miles, not good enough to call myself ready.

The problem was that I’d registered for the Two Bear Marathon in Whitefish Montana.  Earlier in the year, my friend Ken from the Eastside Runners had proposed the trip.  It had been on my list for several years.  It was in a beautiful part of the country, and was an opportunity to clink off another state on my path to being a 50 state marathoner

It had sounded great at the time, but not so much as race day approached.

relaxing in our suite at the lodge, the night before the marathon

relaxing the night before two bear

Several of us flew into Kalispell the afternoon before the race.  Friends arriving earlier had been kind enough to pick up our packets (thank you Sue!), and we enjoyed a nice dinner at local hotspot Ciao Mambo.  Then we settled into the opulent suite our friend Laura had arranged for six of us to share at the Kandahar Lodge, just outside town.


stuff is laid out and ready to go

Being around friends helped settled my nerves, but not quite enough to get to sleep.  I got up the next morning just ahead of my alarm, having slept fitfully.  After a light breakfast, we headed out to catch  the shuttle to the starting line at the Lion Mountain trailhead.

At 7:30 sharp, we were off.  I didn’t know the course well at all.  I could say that I’d wanted to go at it with “fresh eyes”.  Fact is, I’d not done my homework.  So, my race plan was really simple.  I’d take a walk break every mile, and run how I felt the rest of the way.  The course had a fair bit of ascent along the way, so I’d need to take things a bit easy on the hills.

early miles of the two bear mrathon

early miles along the trail

I settled into a fairly conservative pace in the early miles, as we wound along the Whitefish Trail.  There were some climbs, but nothing terribly steep.  I yielded to a number of others early on, really wanting to stick to my simple plan.  We were mostly in the trees, but would occasionally get a glimpse of the mountains around us.  Very nice.

As the field spread out, I took more notice of the copious amount of bear scat on the trail.  I took to clapping a bit, hopefully enough to alert the grizzlies that a dangerous human was on the way.  This was mostly the only sound I’d hear for most of mile 9 through mile 14, other than when I’d come upon an aid station.

running along "the cliff" during the two bear marathon

running along “the cliff”

Following a significant downhill section, we hit the road in between mile 14 and 15.  This was a definite adjustment.  With more of the course ahead visible, it was more important than ever to silence The Blerch (the demon in your brain who likes to say “you can’t”).  As we rolled along the lake, my Blerch and I exchanged a few words.  My walk breaks were shorter, in hopes that I’d be able to pick the pace up a bit.

As I passed mile 20, I stopped taking walk breaks, and focused on keeping things steady.  By now, the sun was shining down on to the asphalt and we could see long undulating ups and downs ahead of us.  I had to block the voices in my head telling me that I was tired and hot.  By the time I came to the marker for mile 26, I was ready to be done.  I crossed the finish in 4:2439.

It took a few minutes to settle down.  My pace and heart rate had both been faster for the last few miles, and I could definitely feel it.  Mike had already come in before me, and soon after, Janet, Ken, Sue, Kirk, Trish, May, Laura, and Dave all came in.  All remarked at how nice the trails, how tough the stretch on the road were.

I received possibly the most painful post-race massage ever – which was probably just what the doctor ordered, as it definitely loosened me up.  We celebrated with a nice dinner in Whitefish, and then retired for some drinks by the fire at the lodge where we planned the next day’s recovery hike.

along the trail to hidden lake

our recovery hike, near hidden lake

on the way up to logan pass, along going-to-the-sun road

looking back towards logan pass

We did a nice recovery hike the next day, from Logan Pass, inside of Glacier National Park.  The group of us headed up to Hidden Lake, enjoying a windswept lunch at the Continental Divide.  We reflected on the race over drinks by the lodge’s fireplace, and then hit the road early the next morning for a longer hike.


that’s a pretty steep drop – which is why the green cable is there. picture by ken o’neill


picture by ken o’neilllooking down the trail from the chalet back to the loop trailhead

a couple of miles above the loop trailhead

The brave among us (everyone but me) headed back up to Logan Pass to hike the 11 miles down the Highline Trail.  This involved long stretches on a narrow trail, with a sheer dropoff down to the Going-to-the-Sun Road below.  I opted for a milder version from the Loop Trailhead, meeting the rest up at the Granite Park Chalet, where we enjoyed a mile-high lunch with a panoramic view of the mountains.  It was amazing.

Sitting and writing about this at home, I reflect on several things.  I am very happy with my quality of effort during the race.  You can’t necessarily see that in every 4:24 marathon.  And getting to enjoy the race and one of earth’s most beautiful places with good friends was great.

charts and graphs for running geeks


First – the pace chart.  Looks great – but can’t claim a bunch once we factor in the difference in elevation between the first and second half (much more climbing during the first half).


The heart rate chart looks very good.  I was able to keep my heart rate down during the climbing, and pushed things towards the end.


Here’s the course profile


… and here is heart rate (in orange) overlaying the course profile.  It shows an upward trend towards the later, flatter miles.