Bear 100

Photos by Sue Norwood

Teton Range
Beautiful scenery going to the Bear 100 - Teton Range, WY

Hans & Susie
Pre-race briefing at Mountain Valley Trout Farm.

Working on a strategy at Danish Pass mile 20.
Working on a strategy at Danish Pass mile 20.

Jim approaching Danish Pass mile 20.
Jim approaching Danish Pass mile 20.

Jim's shoe change.
Jim's shoe change.

Hans & Susie
Hans & Susie taking in some carbos.

Susie waiting for Hans and Brent Craven with crew at Danish Pass mile 20.

Jim and Tater running the ridge at mile ~40.

Jim descending German Dugway Road mile 91.

A look back at German Dugway from Leland's Ledge.

View of the valley at the top of Leland's Ledge.

Cub River Valley from mile 97 - almost home!

Fine Table Mates
Fine Table Mates - Hans-Dieter Weisshaar, Betsy Kalmeyer, Dick Curtis, Bill Rideg, Susie Weisshaar, Errol "Rocket" Jones, Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil

And the winners are Ruth and Hal.
And the winners are Ruth Zollinger and Hal Koerner III.

Jim Gets the gold.
Jim gets the gold.

Nice Hardware!
Nice Hardware!

2001 Bear Report

by Jim O'Neil

To finally avenge a DNF is very satisfying. I've been looking forward to finishing The Bear since last September. It wasn't, however, as much fun as I thought it was going to be; this course was a lot more difficult than I remembered.

This year we were able to camp 30 feet from the start/finish area in a nice shady spot at Deer Cliff Inn. It was great knowing all I had to do was step out the door of our camper and start running. The bad part was that I forgot about checking in. Leland reminded me about that as I approached the group in the dark with less than three minutes to go. Oops!!

At 6:00 AM we were off. I found myself running the first section with Betsy Kalmeyer, winner of the Hardrock 100. What an honor. But I knew I'd better let her go before we started the long uphill that was soon to come. We made the single file ascent, still in the dark, looking forward to the panoramic views just ahead.

The brilliant fall colors we saw last year were not to be. Insufficient moisture this year turned the maples from green to brown. Yellow aspens still added a striking contrast to the fall landscape. Like last year, the orange and yellow ribbons were sometimes a challenge to spot. Just before the first aid station, I watched a group of runners head down into a canyon instead of taking the sharp right turn at the top of the hill. A couple of us noticed this event and sounded the alarm. Not too long afterwards, Ted Schuster and I somehow followed this section in reverse. When we realized our mistake, we reversed direction and stopped John Medinger, Brent Craven, Max Welker and a couple of others from following us back out of the canyon.

I was feeling pretty good, my legs were strong as I pushed the climbs. At the aid stations, I tried to watch my food intake so I wouldn't get sick later on. I was well ahead of my scheduled 30 hour pace, but knowing I would slow down later, I wanted to get some miles in the bank early; at the 50 mile aid station I was on a 29 hour pace.

Although the weather was perfect, it did get kinda warm during the afternoon; luckily we had a little breeze to keep us cool. Last year we watched stars galore against a black sky. This year we had cloudy skies and felt a few raindrops during the night. The night was VERY, VERY long, almost 12 hours of darkness. Several times I stood motionless on the trail and was amazed by the complete absence of sound and light.

By mile 74 I was dealing with the inevitable nausea that I experience during 100's. Sue suggested that if I got rid of everything, I might feel better. Sure enough, within a few miles I was eating saltines and drinking lots of water again. I still passed on the hash browns at Fred Riemer & Company's 90 mile aid station; ice water was great though.

There were lots of runnable/walkable trails and roads, but there were also miles and miles of boulder fields, dry stream beds and open meadows to navigate. The aid station folks were great, they knew what we needed and got it for us quickly. The course markings were more than adequate this year. So who's fault was it that I took two wrong turns and ran an extra mile? I had the written directions in my hand, but my brain had trouble following them.

It was nice having Sue out there to crew, she listened to me whine at the 50, 58 and 74 mile aid stations. She commented that I was in much better spirits by the time I reached mile 91 where she paced me to the finish. This last section from 93 to 95 can only be appreciated by those who have completed it. Up and over and down, sometimes on all fours, sometimes holding on to trees and rocks for support. I cannot imagine how the front runners navigated this section in the dark, it was hard enough in daylight. Sue is amazing; she did it twice, once as she was securing ribbons to trees on her way out to meet me, and the second time pacing me home. I dubbed this section, "Leland's Ledge." It may improve over time, but then The Bear wouldn't be The Bear.

I can't say enough about this last section, so I won't. I did manage to gather the strength to run most of the last four miles at a pretty good clip. I was about three miles from the finish when I spotted Tropical John giving it his best. I remember John and one of his "Pacer Babes" passing me just before the 50 mile aid station. Although Sue assured me I wasn't last, I knew better; I hadn't seen anyone since mile 58. It really didn't matter though, I knew I was going to finish. My comment to Sue was, "John's been ahead of me the last 45 miles, he ought to stay there." But I was feeling good and running seemed to be the fastest way to get this thing over with. "Sorry John, hate to do this, but . . ."

The numbers are increasing each year, with 29 starters this year. Hal Koerner is the only winner the race has known, setting a new course record every year the race has been run. My friend Tom Hayes finished in second place, way to go, Tom! Ruth Zollinger also set a course record in only her third 100 miler. Betsy finished the "Mountain Slam" in fine form: Hardrock, Leadville, Wastach and The Bear.

The awards/post race dinner was lots of fun; we enjoyed dining with our table mates, Betsy and Dick, Hans-Dieter and Susie, Bill Rideg and for a short time Errol Jones. Finishers received handsome bear buckles and really cool plaques engraved with their names and finishing times. I certainly plan to do the Bear again next year. Many thanks to Leland Barker and all the very, very hard working and dedicated volunteers.

2001 Bear Report

by John Medinger

Herewith a personal recount of the Bear 100 Mile Endurance Run, held near Preston, Idaho on September 28-29.

Management summary. Yes, it was a bear. Things went reasonably well for a pretty long while, then got kind of ugly toward the end. To paraphrase Hollis Lenderking's famous line, it was an 85-mile run, followed by 15 miles of medieval torture. But, I made it. 32:53. Vincit qui patitur.

Long-winded version follows. If you are lacking time, patience, or band width, hit your delete button now.

The Bear course is strongly reminiscent of the first half of the Wasatch course. There are some canyons with maples and aspens and lots of ridge-top running, with sweeping views in all directions. Frequent spectacular fall colors. Two small wildfires near the course. Dry grasslands, dusty trails, lots of rocks. 90% of the course is above 7000 feet, and about half of it is above 8000. The climbs, with two rather nasty exceptions, are not terribly steep. Some of the footing is pretty good, some of it pretty awful. There is one two-mile section of the course (details to follow) that is about the worst quality trail I have seen in a race anywhere.

The race is very small (29 runners, the largest field in the three-year history of the race) and low key. RD Leland Barker is a quiet, unassuming type. The pre-race briefing is held in his back yard. We were weighed in la Western States, but not weighed during the race until mile 74 (!).

The race started at the rather luxurious hour of 6 a.m. It was still dark, but sleeping until 4:45 a.m. is much preferable to the 2:30 wake-up call at Vermont or Leadville. The first mile is on a good dirt road and then we hit the trailhead with a long 2-mile, 1200 foot climb. First light appears near the top of the climb, a good thing since the next several miles are pretty technical, crossing meadows, some bushwhacking, even climbing through a barbed-wire fence at one point.

Immediately after the first aid station we are climbing up a creek bed, quite literally at times. At one point there is a well-defined trail off to the left and the guys in front of me take it. I follow, and about mile up the trail a runner is coming back down. Apparently, this isn't the way and we go back to the creek. This is the only time all day I get off course.

Following this is a very demanding climb, more than 3000 feet of elevation in a little over 4 miles. It is quite steep in places, and we pass through maples, pines and eventually aspens on the way up to the ridge top. The maples, unfortunately, are pretty much just brown. The summer was unusually dry in this area, and the more normal brilliant red colors are just not there this year. The aspens are in full color, however, especially on the southern slopes, where they are absolutely electric.

Much of the middle part of the course has long runnable sections, as we stay on rolling ridge tops for the most part. The rest of my All-Babe Crew arrives by the time I reach the 32-mile aid station. (Kathy Hamilton had arrived on the day before the race; Lisa Demoney and Lee Remick flew in from Oakland race morning and made the two-hour drive from Salt Lake City to arrive on the course at about 1 p.m. Dapper Don James, who was going to pace Errol Rocket Jones, was also in tow.) Runners are allowed pacers from mile 28 onwards; Lee immediately jumped in to keep me company.

By now, the 29 runners had pretty much completely spread out and it had all the energy of a training run. For most of the rest of the way, I was not in visual contact with any other competitor. It was nice to have Lee's company, and I started feeling better than I had in the a.m.

As we ran along the ridge top we could see smoke from a nascent forest fire not far from us (maybe a mile) to the east. At one point we could actually see flames, and soon thereafter heard the drone of a borate bomber overhead.

At the Paris Canyon (50.1 miles) aid station, reached just after dark at about 8 p.m., we ran into Paul Butkovitch who, along with Wasatch Fred Riemer, staffed the best aid station on the course. He told me that the Rocket had left an hour and forty minutes earlier, but was grouchy.

I still felt good. The chase was on.

The next stretch was probably my best of the race. It was about 7.7 miles to the next aid and even though it was now dark, it was pretty good trail and I managed to run virtually all of it, passing three runners. When the field is as small as this, passing anyone is kind of a big deal.

At the Dry Basin (57.8 miles) aid station, Kathy took over the pacing chores. She would get the full gamut of emotional states over the next 32 miles. The big downhill section out of Dry Basin was a big disappointment as we stumbled down through a huge boulder field. I have never seen anything quite like it. This entire meadow, perhaps a half-mile in diameter, was filled with two- to five-foot boulders. It was almost as if someone were growing boulders here. It was so rocky that the trail virtually disappeared; you just picked your way through the rocks as best you could, headed for the glow stick on the other side of the clearing.

Finally onto a road and over to Danish Flat (mile 66.2). Though my legs are still OK, by now I am getting tired, owing in part to the fact that it is now 2:30 a.m. I learn that I have closed on the Rocket and he is now only about 40 minutes ahead, though apparently in better spirits.

After Danish Flat there is a bit more downhill, we cross a creek, and then the climbing begins. We are now at about 6900 feet elevation and will climb up to 8700 feet over the next dozen miles. One of the big disadvantages of not knowing the course is that you are a little unprepared for the bad stretches. This was going to be one of them.

So, OK, I thought to myself, you got to mile 70 or so before you started to struggle. So, what exactly did you expect? Given that I had gone into the race with a nagging hamstring tendonitis problem and it seemed to be holding up OK, this was probably about as good as can be expected. But, both Kathy and I were a little taken aback by the difficulty of the climb. It was long, it was the wee hours of the morning, and it was just steep enough to make it really hard. Finally, we get to the crest, and pop out onto a paved road, the only bit of pavement on the course. Soon thereafter, we hit another trailhead and a sign that says Copenhagen Basin Road, 1 mile. This mile takes 27 minutes, one of several such sections on this course that takes longer than the published distance would suggest. And, while I am not accusing anybody of anything, it wouldn't at all surprise me if the entire course were a tad longer than 100 miles advertised.

Finally getting to the aid station (mile 74) at 4:30 a.m. we learn that Errol had arrived about a half-hour earlier and had decided to take a short nap. He was still there, but was up and getting ready to leave. I had decided to fix the blister on big left foot and change shoes. Somehow, in the process of doing this, I failed to put the orthotic in my right shoe. And didn't even notice! (I have not run a mile without orthotics since 1980) Further testimony to 1) how bad my feet felt and 2) how poorly my brain was functioning.

Since all the shoe changing took about 10 minutes, I had assumed Errol had left in front of me. We continued to work on the uphill to the next check point, but I was now really starting to run out of gas despite having been able to continue to eat throughout the night, a rare occurrence.

At about mile 80, Errol came up from behind, mimicking my catchphrase its your worst nightmare, Bud! We hung together for a while, but he was somewhat rejuvenated from his nap and I was starting to really struggle. He pulled ahead a bit, though didn't get completely out of sight.

It went on more or less like this for about 10 miles. I was suffering from lack of energy and will. I was no longer able to do much at all with the runnable sections. There all of a sudden seemed to be many more rocky sections and many more uphill sections. The course profile fails to confirm this, but that's what it seemed like. Dawn finally came (and, boy, is it a loooong night this time of year nearly 12 hours of darkness, compared with barely 8 at WS or Vermont) and the usual surge of energy one gets at first light didn't appear at all. Morning inched slowly forward. I thought of Red Spicers great line from 15 years earlier. I hammered down the trail, passing rocks and trees like they were standing still.

Finally, we got to mile 90. Wasatch Fred and Paul were there cooking breakfast. How do you like your eggs? No eggs, but those greasy salty hash browns went down pretty good. Lisa was going to pace me from here to the finish. We all left together, Lisa and I, Errol and Dapper Don. Errol was clearly stronger on the trail, but had spent a little more time in the aid stations. He wanted to go in together and we started to trot on the downhill. After a couple of minutes of this, I told him to go on ahead, there was just no way I could sustain it. He offered to wait, but I told him not to bother, it might just be a while.

The three miles of good downhill to the last aid station went quickly. The next bit of trail would not.

Immediately upon leaving the aid station we ran into Sue Norwood who was making sure the trail was marked. We had been warned about the next section. How bad is it, I ask. You'll be cursing Leland in no time, she assured me. Boy, was she prescient!

We took a turn onto a deer path and entered the section known as Leland's Ledge. It is barely a trail, maybe four inches wide. Leland called it a deer path, Errol called it a squirrel path. It hugs the contour of a fairly steep hillside, sometimes climbing steeply up for a few steps, sometimes steeply down for a few. There were three places where you had to climb over boulders that were three feet high. The uphills were tough and the downhills were treacherous in the loose dirt. In the 2+ miles of this, I probably had to use my hands about 25 times. If this had been early in the race it would have qualified as a major nuisance. At this point in the race, it was marginally dangerous. Adding insult to this was how long it was taking. Believe me, at mile 93 you just want the race to be over. And now there was this section to negotiate that was taking forever. I don't think anyone made more than 30 minute miles through here. I was undoubtedly even slower and not very happy about it, as my dear pacer can no doubt recount vividly.

Finally, we turned down the hill on a marginally better trail and as we descended it quickly got even better. And that emptied out onto an ATV track that was wide, if occasionally still rocky. A left turn onto a single track and only two miles to go. Along came Jim O'Neil from Montana, whom I had passed about 40 miles earlier, running down the hill at a pretty good clip. Uh oh, competition, Lisa told me. Let him have it, I said, well past the point of caring.

The trail ended at the dirt road that we had started on, 99 miles earlier. Only a mile to go. Looking at my watch, I told Lisa that we should try to run some of this to make sure that we broke 33 hours. And so we did, reaching the finish in 32:53:58.

Epilogue. The Bear has a 35 hour cutoff and there were several folks behind me, so I was startled to learn that I was the last finisher. All of the runners behind me either dropped out or missed the cutoff times. My crew was concerned that I would be disappointed to learn that fact, but I think it is pretty cool. Once I have actually won a race, but I never have finished last before. Part of my reason for running the Bear was to have a new experience and this is just part of it.

Hal Koerner from Colorado was the winner, in a new course record time. Hal has won the race all three years. Ruth Zollinger was the women's winner, breaking Betsy Kalmeyer's course record and becoming the first woman to break 24 hours.

 1. Hal Koerner III        21:49:26 !
 2. Tom Hays               22:38:09
 3. Ruth Zollinger  (F)    23:56:51 !
 4. Tim Seminoff           26:56:11
 5. Dean Tucker            27:24:04
 6. Dennis Haslett         28:18:30
 7. Betsy Kalmeyer (F)     28:26:02
 8. Mary Workman (F)       28:50:26
 9. Rock Horton            29:10:17
10. William Rideg          31:15:05
11. Dennis Baniewicz       31:41:19
12. Virgil Bass II         31:44:47
13. Errol Jones            32:06:26
14. Ted Schuster           32:10:05
15. Robert Lisey           32:49:25
16. Jim O'Neil             32:50:15
17. John Medinger          32:53:58

Brent Craven                   dnf
Hans-Dieter Weisshaar          dnf
Paul Ralyea                    dnf 
Max Welker                     dnf
Robert McMillan                dnf
Tatjana Burkewitz              dnf
Stan Beutler                   dnf
Debbie Barner                  dnf
Allen Ray                      dnf
Kelly Bradbury                 dnf
Eric Clifton                   dnf
29 starters

Tropical John

The End

See you all in 2002.