When my brother registered for The Bear 100 he asked if I’d be willing to crew him. I’d be two weeks past my Plain 100 race and able to drive the truck, but probably not yet ready to run. As luck would have it, the day before the race we found out that we’d have 2 crew members rather than 3. Ready or not, I’d have to run.
Kerry and I drove Tyler to the starting line in Logan, Utah before dawn. 300+ runners and countless crew and pacers stood around in the chilled morning air until the final countdown sent the runners out on the course. Kerry and I spent the next 2 hours shuttling a car to the finish in Idaho, grabbing breakfast, and heading to the first crew accessible aid station.
Tyler cruised through the first aid station. We had a few hours to kill so we drove back to Logan for burgers and beer at the pub. Boy, crewing a 100 mile race is much more relaxing than running a 100 mile race! We made it back out to the course as Tyler battled hot spots on his feet and tried, without much success, to keep calories down and fill his stomach.
Tyler took off alone for the first stretch of night running. He left the aid station but quickly returned to borrow a set of trekking poles to help with the steep climbs ahead. Kerry and I shuttled up to the next aid station where he donned his running gear, ready to pace Tyler through the night and the next 30+ miles.
Tyler and Kerry sauntered off into the dark and I drove ahead to the next aid station, contented to be comfortable in my sleeping bag rather than taking a 30 minute dirt nap like I did 2 weeks prior in the Plain 100. Tyler and Kerry covered the miles slow and steady and rolled into the mile 75 aid station shortly before dawn. Both were a bit rocked and cold and Tyler walked in telling us he was planning to drop out of the race and sign up for another 100 miler to get his Western States qualifier. I nodded at his statement, put him in my sleeping bag, and told him we’d talk about it when he woke up.
As the clock wound down on Tyler’s 20 minute nap Kerry and I discussed the next 25 miles. The sun was coming up, Tyler was still moving, and though he wasn’t eating much, we thought we could keep him going with enough fruit snacks and Ensure to get him to the finish line. We woke him up, put his shoes back on, filled him with a cup of coffee and a few snacks, and sent him on his way, a little dazed and stunned that we hadn’t let him drop.
I moved 10 miles up the course, laced up my shoes, and waited around a fire in the drizzling rain for the guys to arrive. When Tyler rolled in we sat him in a chair and struck up a conversation with another runner, Kan, who had been sitting there for 20 minutes. Kan’s crew (his wife and daughter) hadn’t been able to traverse the 4×4 mud road to the aid station and he was cold, wet, and ready to drop. Kerry and I quickly procured warm dry layers from our gear, as well as some of the race volunteers, bundled both Kan and Tyler against the rain, and without giving Kan a chance to argue, I set out with the guys to complete the last 15 miles of the race.
Kan was a seriously strong runner and crushed the steep climbs while Tyler hung back a bit pacing his breathing and preparing to run the downhills. Kan stuck with us though, and we became a team of 3, methodically knocking off miles and counting down to Fish Haven, Idaho and the end of The Bear 100.
The guys made great progress through the wind, rain, and mud, leaning heavily on their trekking poles and making friends with the other runners pushing for the finish. We made the final descent into Fish Haven, Idaho and I split off to catch up with Kerry at the finish while Kan and Tyler plodded the last mile together. Finally, 34 hours and 33 minutes after the start, Tyler and Kan ran across the finish line, official Bear 100 Finishers.
We grabbed a couple of cold brews, sat out chairs with Peter Brennan who had also finished, and waited out the thunderstorm for the awards ceremony before retreating to our AirBNB house to shower and sleep. Kerry flew home early the next morning and Tyler and I made our way back to Logan to spend another day in Utah watching football and drinking beers, glad that our summer 100’s were behind us.