Idaho/Utah Bear Lake Double Race Report

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Idaho/Utah Bear Lake Double Race Report

A Double Marathon Race Report

So a lot of people thought it was crazy when Leah and I signed up for the Bear Lake Double Marathon. What kind of crazy people think about running 2 marathons back to back? (never mind we’ll get back to that later)

Here is the tail of our Bear Lake weekend so settle back, this could take awhile!

We left for Salt Lake City Utah on Wednesday so that we would have some time to get acclimated to elevation and have some down time before the first marathon on Friday morning. The flight was awesome! Best decision was to check a bag which is something I never do. Everything went off without a hitch. If you have never flown into Salt Lake City you are missing out. The entire flight was visual eye candy. The weather was clear and since I had the window seat, was able to appreciate the different landscapes as we flew. Once we arrived and picked up bags we were ready to start our adventure. Budget car rental did not have the mid sized car we booked. No worries, they promised an upgrade if we could just wait 20 minutes or so. Weeel upgrade they did to a hot cherry red Mustang Convertible! We were going in style.

Bear Lake is 2 ½ hours away from Salt Lake at the very tip of Utah (that is how we are able to run two states) and a very beautiful drive. Thank God for Leah and her West Virginia upbringing! I don’t know if I could have driven through the mountains on the one lane highway without having a heart attack. The views however were spectacular, even the view from the gas station Subway where we stopped for lunch offered incredible snow capped mountain views.

Our first view of Bear Lake was awe-inspiring and our accommodations for the weekend, well all I can say is that I am spoiled for traveling for quite some time. We had a 2-bedroom 2-story condo overlooking Bear Lake that was bigger than my first house! The rooms were gorgeously decorated with balconies off the dining area and master bedroom. We also had 2… yes 2 bathrooms and all the comforts of home.

After doing a little grocery shopping (had to pick up the Lady Case) we were ready to call it a night.

Time Zones! Aurgh! You would think after a long day of traveling we would have just dropped but it was just not the case. I don’t think the sun ever sets in Utah. It was light until about 10p and the sun rose at 5:15a. Leah and I were up at 3a but stayed in our rooms attempting to sleep. By 5:30a both of us called it quits and decided to start the day by driving around the course and checking out what Bear Lake had to offer.

Thursday was an eye opening adventure.  First of all the temperature in the morning was very cold, about 35 degrees with a steady wind. We dressed in layers since the prediction was for 80’s by mid-day. Starting out we headed North around Bear Lake. In just a few short miles we entered Idaho where we came upon a big sign that noted all the historical spots along Bear Lake. We were so into that. It noted that the Oregon Trail was through these glorious mountains. Both of us decided that those who came out west with wagon trains were just plain crazy, since driving those winding roads was hard. One site was a memorial to Idaho native and the sculptor of Mount Rushmore, Gutzon Borglum. We were excited to see it. As we were driving we noticed the marker noting Historical Site Ahead with an arrow pointing left. We took the first street past the arrow but it was a dead end. What? Where was the monument? Leah said that she might have seen something by the tiny court house (I didn’t even see the court house) so we turned around. Yes, there it was, the memorial to Borglum. Now picture if you will a small area about the size of a patio with 4 corners marked with stone pillars that are about knee high. In that area is a rock that is about the same height, on that rock is a very small statue of Mount Rushmore. Leah said that it looked like something you could pick up at the Mount Rushmore gift shop! We figured that’s exactly what they did too! One souvenir, one rock, a hot glue gun and bam!, you have yourself a monument. The other historical sites were about the same. We saw a turn off for the Minnetonka cave but decided to hit that on the return trip since it wasn’t even 9a yet. We drove around the lake the long way and made it to the town of Montpelier, Idaho population 476 (we read a sign that said the original settlers were a group of 35 so not a huge growth spurt in the past 150 years). I really had to go to the bathroom and luck would have it, we spotted a coffee shop with an open sign in the downtown area.
Now again imagine 4 small 1940’s Formica tables for 2 placed in an area that couldn’t measure more than 4X8 and that would be the extent of this coffee shop. I really had to go to the bathroom so as soon as we walked in I immediately asked for the restroom. I was told it was straight back and did not even stop to look around. In the bathroom I had plenty of time to look around. Holy Cow, the walls were covered from floor to ceiling with articles, poems and political cartoons. I probably spent way too much time reading some really conservative local views. Too make things fair there was a small, small, small area that had some liberal cartoons and articles. I couldn’t resist taking a picture! Once I came out I was more than ready for some coffee. The first thing the owner said to me was “I don’t have any of that soy stuff if your looking for it”. While I was in the bathroom Leah, who is lactose intolerant had ordered her coffee. In order to keep the peace I order a regular Mocha (and not the skinny sugar free vanilla latte, extra hot with an extra shot that I usually order), we didn’t want to get lynched. Leah hit the potty while Carla the owner introduced herself and the other 2 customers. Word must have gotten out because within a few minutes the place was packed with locals checking out the strange and exotic women driving the red convertible. Everyone was really friendly and helpful. Carla even called the Caves to see what time they opened for us. They had suggestions of key places we should go and made us feel welcome. Fun Fact (Leah’s phrase for the weekend)! Did you know that Montpelier was once terrorized by none other than Butch Cassidy and his wild bunch. Yes the famous outlaw had his own sign marking his visit and withdrawal of funds from the local bank.
Since the caves were going to open in 10 minutes we decided to turn around and go exploring.
The drive to the caves took us through Cache National Park. All I can say about the drive is WOW! It was so incredibly green and beautiful. We even got to meet some free-range cows up-close and personal. Cows have the right of way on winding roads. The caves were only 10 miles from the main road but it took us about 25 minutes or longer since it was mostly up hill. After we arrived we purchased tickets for the first cave tour of the day which was starting in 10 minutes, just enough time to visit the outhouse and take some pictures. Gabrielle, our tour guide was a super cute gal about 19 years old. I figured it would not be a very educational tour when she pointed out what they call Cave Corral and I quote “We call this cave coral, I don’t know how it get’s formed but we call it cave coral anyway” The tour was to take 60 to 90 minutes depending on how fast the group could walk. Leah and I were thinking. No big deal, we run marathons right. Wrong! The tour took us 744 steps in and 744 steps out with a total elevation climb of 1000 feet! Still not thinking this was a big deal we joined the group.

Okay coming from Michigan and sea level I had no idea how elevation would affect me. Bear Lake sits at 6,000 feet. To counter any elevation sickness, Leah and I had been drinking water like camels. Other than congestion for me and a slight headache for Leah we thought we were doing pretty good. Pretty good until we had to climb 744 stairs that is. Oh my Lord! I never was so out of breath in my life. My heart was beating like I had done a 100 yard dash at full speed just going up stairs at a walk. The only thing that made me feel better was that the guide and the two little kids with us were as out of breath as me. Our group was varied in ages so we did have to wait for others to catch up several times which gave us a chance to get that heart rate down and breathing back to normal. The caves were really cool, not only to look at but in temperature. Inside the thermometer read 40 degrees. I was happy that I had worn a long sleeve shirt, a sweat shirt and my running club jacket. I was extra happy I had all those layers on when I fell down a step right on my elbow! The man next to me thought I broke my arm, that’s how hard I fell. Leah said now she understands why I’m not a trail runner. In all fairness it was very dark and the steps wet and slippery. Other than a scape on my camera, a scrape on my thumb, scrape on my elbow (which would have been a disaster had I not had on all those layers) I was fine.

After the tour we stopped for lunch then headed back to the condo for a much needed rest. At the condo we saw that some new neighbors had arrived. Their car had a 26.2 sticker so we decided to introduce ourselves. Jon, a Marathon Maniac was also in Bear Lake to run the double with a friend. He had his wife and daughters with him as support crew. He was an experienced runner who had done doubles before. We spent at least an hour and a half talking about races and places. He told us that the worst part about running your first double was worrying about running your first double! We were skeptical to say the least. We were joined by his friend and got a suggestion for a good pizza place for dinner. Leah laid down to try and get the headache to go away, and I took a mile and a half walk into what you could loosely call town. There I met up with Carol and Betty, two 65 year old 50 State Club members who were also running the double that weekend. I told them where I was staying and that I walked into town. I asked them to walk around with me but Betty stated that their hotel was right next to the store we were in and that at her age she was saving all her steps for marathons.  

Since our experience that morning Leah and I decided to try and find some toss away clothes or as Leah calls them, Hobo Clothes, for the next day. On our way in to Bear Lake we had seen what appeared to be a yard sale in a building by a gas station. Great!
We looked through some racks and came up with some fabulous Hobo sheik styles. My day 2 covering was black velvet with rhinestones! Now to pay became an issue. You see, there was no one there. We walked around the building and other than a sign on a door that said “We have nothing to do with the Sale Out Front” there wasn’t a clue as to who we should pay. Other cars arrived with people looking for treasures but no one was around to make the sale. We started to walk over to the gas station when a gal from the station walked over. Before we could ask she stated firmly that she didn’t have anything to do with the sale, that the people running it were told to pack it up a week ago and she hasn’t seen anyone since then (we think her door was the one with the note on it). Now here was the dilemma, do we leave money hidden somewhere when others are watching us or do we just take the much needed toss away clothes and not pay. Weeeel against our moral feelings we took our clothes and high tailed it back to the condo. When we first saw our upgraded car we joked about being Thelma and Louise (just driving the car, not with the bad ending of course) and here we were stealing stuff! Dave joked with Leah that they probably would have a BOLO out for us by the next day.

For dinner we ended up going to the Bear Lake Pizza Place which had really really good pizza. Surprising enough, Jon and his family showed up as well. After setting our alarms for 4a we tried our best to sleep. Tried is the key word here. All I could think about was how hard walking those steps was, how fast my heart was beating, how the closest hospital was 35 miles away (yes I noticed that sign as we were driving in on day one) how I was a thief for taking my green sweat shirt and not paying. It was not a peaceful night.

Friday race morning came with 35 degree weather with forecasts of temperatures hitting 76 by mid day. I have to say this was the most casual race I have ever participated in. There was no national anthem, no pre race speech, just the race director asking us to line up for a picture, then shouting GO! Because this was a double marathon for most people you had the option for starting early. Hey no worries, just let them know your time when you finish! It was all so laid back. I want to say that there were about 140 folks running, with many using the early start option. Aid stations were every 3 miles which consisted of a port o potty followed by a table with one person manning a jug of water, jug of Gatorade, cups and in later stations GU and fruit. It was like an organized group run. We saw Jon in the morning and his friend in the morning. I knew from the day before that he considered us rookies and no matter what, did not want us to beat him. Could we have? Oh yes, did we, Oh No! and here is why. You see there were a few things I knew about the course and some things that I didn’t count on. First the course for Friday was starting in Utah and running around Bear Lake Idaho, finishing at a park. The climb in elevation went over 1000 feet and most of the worst hills began at mile 20-26, this is what I knew. What I didn’t know was that running at 6000 feet is hard! Not on your legs but on your breathing. We couldn’t get up to any speed without gasping for breath, you couldn’t run and drink because again breathing was impossible. That was the first thing that made it hard. Number 2 came as well number 2’s! I had a bit of intestinal issues. Put it this way, there were port of potties every 3 miles and I stopped in all but 2 of them. I would describe my Friday marathon as a 26.2 mile colon cleanse. Even with all the potty stops we still managed to stay in with a group of runners most of the way. It was fun to play leap frog with groups of people. Now even if we had exchanged names with folks (which we didn’t) I find that giving them a nickname in my head works best. So we had the Middle of the Road gal, for the gal who, even though it was not a closed course liked to run in the center of the road, cool glasses guy who wore his Versace glasses and had great matching running clothes, Mr. New York from, you guessed it New York, Cute 50 year old couple and many others. Jon however became the jerk and here is why. After running this very hard race most of the way with him, after waiting and cheering his friend in to the finish, after talking to his family and giving congrats they just took off. Why does that make him a jerk, well you see since this was a point to point we needed to take a bus back to the start. By not offering us a ride, Leah and I had to wait until the last finisher crossed the finish line, 2 hours after we finished! They had a big suburban that could have easily fit us. We were right next to them at the condo. Heck I think they parked next to us at the start! I know it’s not a big deal but at the time when you are so tired and not exactly rational it seemed huge, especially when we finally made it back to the condo and they had showered and gone out to eat already. Insult to injury!
Here are a few things we learned Friday: you can’t breath and drink at the same time, Leah will share Fun facts with everyone making everyone long to see the memorials along the route, people in Idaho and Utah have no sense of humor, like the one and only unsupported stop that had water, Leah asked if this was the beer stop, answer “You can have all the ROOT beer you want when you finish” not to worry they were handing out special water from the St. Charles River (I’d rather have had a beer) Idaho has pelicans, not Idaho Tater Birds (which is what Leah named them since we didn’t know what these huge white birds were).

First marathon complete!

That afternoon we headed back to the park for packet pickup then out to dinner. Thankfully Leah had some Imodium to help my still revolting tummy. Then it was setting the alarm for 4a and into bed.
Sleep was a bit better since after all we survived the first day.

Saturday Marathon morning.
Once again cold and windy when we woke. Today we were catching a bus to take us to the start. This sounded great since we would be basically running  26.2 miles to the car, meaning when we were done, we could leave which since we had to check out of the condo by 2p was huge. Today’s start was a bit more formal since we were wearing timing chips but other than that the field was about the same size of 140. Most of the Marathon Maniacs that raced on Friday had left to run another Utah reunion race so there were quite a few new faces.
On the bus ride I sat next to Jill, a native of Utah and first time marathoner. She was so cute and thankfully not in my or Leah’s age group. She was planning on running around 4 hours but the elevation (which was much higher than her home town) ended up being her downfall. Having run the day before Leah and I each had a plan as to how we were going to run. She was going with a run .90 and walk .1 of each of the beginning miles, while I was going to run slow, then walk up all the hills (the beginning held most of the courses hills). It was amazing to me that even with different strategies we kept each other in site most of the first half. The most enjoyable thing I did was every time I got to the top of a hill I would stop, raise my hands over my head, then bring them out to my sides and just celebrate the fact that I was fortunate enough to be there. What a glorious way to look around and smell the roses. It helped me really stay in the moment and also appreciate the beauty around me. By the half way point I had caught up the Leah and we played a game of leap frog. If you know Leah (and I know some of you do) I have a new nick name for her. From now on you may refer to Leah as “Candy Pants”, why candy pants you may ask? Well that day her outfit included these really cute running shorts that had dots on them, intermixed were dots with swirls that looks amazing like startlight mints! Hense, the name Candy Pants! Any time I got too far ahead I would yell, “Come on and catch me Candy Pants”. I’m sure everyone around us thought we were pretty strange. At mile 19 I spotted Jon about ¼ to a ½ mile ahead of us. I said to Leah, Look who’s just ahead, we can’t let him beat us. Now I know that wasn’t very sporting of me but after the looks I endured yesterday and all I just wanted to beat him. Leah looked and me and said, I wish you hadn’t said that, cause now she was on a mission. Yes, Jon was going down and he didn’t even know it! It took Leah about 2 miles to catch him with me just behind. Once I passed Jon, my running push was done. I knew I wouldn’t let him pass me so I settled in for a relaxing finish. I stopped to walk often and chat with other runners who were also coming in to the finish. Leah was like a power house! She was so incredibly strong holding her form all the way to the end. Me, I was just living in the moment. I was a mile away from finishing when it really hit me. I was going to finish this double marathon almost 10 minutes faster than I ran the first, feeling incredible too! I watched as Leah made the turn into the park. She had made it. Now all I had to do was turn myself and I would be there! What a rush to see that finish line. In my usual style I gave everyone around me a hug and proceeded to dance to the awesome music they had playing. I was so pumped and energized. At that moment I think I could have run it all over again. Sick I know! Leah and I went to get drinks and see what snacks they had to offer as well as check our times. It was so cool getting hugs from all our new friends and stating what complete bad asses we were to have run 2 marathons in 2 days. To my amazement I placed 3rd in my age group, see miracles really do happen (that and being old, and having only 7 people in my age group but I’m not complaining). Yes I did get an award to prove it. Now it was time for us to get out of dodge. We really needed to get back so that we could shower and check out with little rushing.
Everything went like clock work and we made our way back to Salt Lake City and the airport Marriot where we celebrated with cold left over pizza and even colder beer. It was a perfect ending to a pretty awesome day. We did try to go to the hotels Jacuzzi to finish off our lady case but again remember my Utah has no sense of humor comment, well they are really good a passing judgment too. Leah could barely contain herself when the young family that was sitting in the Jacuzzi put their 6 month old in (which by the way is a big huge no no since the water is 110 degrees at the lowest) and I couldn’t stay once the guy in the pool started to laugh maniacally (he was all by himself at that point) at nothing. No worries though cause once again we had to get up at 4a to get to the airport for our flight!
Back in Detroit we gave each other hugs and made our way home. Two states and Two marathons down!
Oh, guess who we saw in the airport? Desiree Davilla! She was coming back from a promotional 10k in New York. When she heard that we had just run a double marathon, she marveled that we were still walking (and walking normal at that). That just made it all the sweeter.

So what’s on tap for me next? Missoula Montana on July 8th. I’m really looking forward to visiting the home of the Big Sky Brewery and participating in the Beer run on Friday night. I’m traveling solo for this one so I’ll need to behave! Wish me luck with that one.