Happy Trails asked for a description of the course and I thought I should get right on it - not because I don't want to work...haha but because starting Wednesday, September 1st, race fees go up $10.00 and perhaps you all would like to decide by then whether to participate or not. (Of course I don't know why you wouldn't want to participate!) If you haven't checked out Happy Trails' latest run, you should! EPIC! In comparison, the Bear Chase course to them will be more like a lamb than a bear!
I'm told by my running coach (who is the race director), this course is not a highly technical course. Which is good for trail newbies. He also says it is interesting enough for more experienced trail runners -so everyone should have fun!
On the Bear Chase website you can find official maps and course descriptions. Here are my thoughts about the first big loop that everyone in the Half-Marathon, 50km and 50m does...before the Half-Marathoners hit the big loop, they do a .6 mile loop - I haven't done this section, so I can't give you my perspective. If you are curious about elevation gain, and aren't we all - 900 feet for half-marathoners, 2,050 feet for 50km and 3,600 feet for 50 miles.
Mile .6 - 2.1 (Half Marathon) Mile 1 - 1.5 (50km/50m)
The first few miles of the course are my favorite. You start around the Boat Landing of the Bear Creek Lake Park and follow Bear Creek. As you follow the creek, you are in and out of tree cover - welcomed shade if its hot outside. The course is a little bit of gravel road and mainly single track. The single track can get a little sandy in more than a few spots. It is a very gradual incline, but not much - you shouldn't really notice it. You'll hear and see the creek and its a relaxing way to start things off.
Mile 2.1 - 5.1 (Half Marathon) Mile 1.5 - 4.5 (50km/50m)
After the first aid station, (at the Mile 2.1/1.5 point), you cross the river (on a bridge - you don't get wet yet), and run along the other side of Bear Creek, in and out of tree cover. This is a lot of fun, as there are a few bumps, so you can go wee as you come down the trail (there is a gently decline as you follow the river back). This section of the trail is not sandy like the first part, and there are a few rocks and tree roots, but nothing too technical. I tend to achieve my second faster pace along this section. After following the creek for about 1 or 2 miles, you head out into the open space and if you look to your left, you'll see Bear Creek Lake and Mount Carbon as you run through Pelican Point. You'll run away from these two landmarks - you have a few miles to put in before you get to them. There is a little section of asphalt road and you come down a rocky sharp road that turns to double track trail that takes you to the concrete bike path. Best to run on the outside of the double track as it is sandy in a lot of sections through here. You'll spend a second or two on the concrete bike path and get on a single trail that will lead you slightly up to the camp grounds. You quickly make your way through the camp grounds, down a little hill, cross a creek (over a bridge), and onto a double track. You can make some good time along a nice straight away as you approach the Mile 5.1/4.5 aid station.
Mile 5.1 - 8.4 (Half Marathon) Mile 4.5 - Mile 7.8 (50km/50m)
This is where things get way interesting! As you leave the aid station, you make your way down a very small incline (a little rocky) to Turtle Pond. I think during this section, you might find a little tree cover, but just a small section. The trail will take you right between Bear Creek Lake (to your left) and Mt Carbon - straight ahead. You will make your way up to Mt. Carbon by going slightly uphill on a double track trail, through the middle of a prairie dog community. Then you go up Mt. Carbon the easy way. I'm not sure how hard you'll rate the ascent, but it is short and over quickly. As you approach the top, the trail gets a little narrow. You level out. Catch your breath here and enjoy the quick, steep, and a little technical downhill single track on the backside. My fastest pace is on this section. As you level out at the base, you enter a different trail, with growing tree cover as you approach the river crossings. So if you heated up on your way up and down Mt. Carbon, there is relief! Just a short uphill here, then you come down and as the tree cover thickens, the river crossing appear. This is a fun section, if you don't mind your feet getting wet! I'm not experienced at river crossings - so I go it slow. The river bottom is mainly rocky, so be careful, don't turn an ankle! The three crossings are fairly close together, right after the third one, you pick up a concrete bike path and make your way up a slight incline to the next aid station. Watch out for flying golf balls - the course is on your left. And there are some condos on your right.
Mile 8.4 - 10.7 (Half Marathon) Mile 7.8 - Mile 10.1 (50km/50m)
After you leave the aid station, you'll pick up a single track and go up a hill. My coach would call it a small one, but depending on how hard you've pushed it, you might feel it. After you make your way up this little incline, you'll eventually level out after a couple of rollers. The beautiful foothills are straight ahead, and you'll follow an irrigation ditch on your left (rolling farmland and the golf course on your left too) and Morrison Road on your right. You can make up some time in this section of the course as it is mainly straight and flat. To me, this is the most difficult part of the course because I find it boring. There is nothing technical to entertain you - its flat and smooth. I'm thinking the speed monsters will like this section a lot. I'm hoping a band will be stationed along this stretch...but I guess that isn't fitting for a trail race.
Mile 10.7 - 13.1 (Half Marathon) Mile 10.1 - 12.5 (50km/50m)
After the aid station, you'll head towards Bear Creek Lake. But first, you'll need to manage one more little uphill. It looks a little daunting, and you might say, why do I have to go up? But trust me, it looks far worse than it is. Of course this is where I run out of fluids when I'm on my own...so maybe my memory can't be trusted? Anyhow, this part of the course varies from single track to double track. Nothing technical, unless you count dodging grasshoppers. There are millions of them here. I've tried running in the track, between the tracks, and I can't say one is better than the other. Save a little energy for the finish, because you'll cross a little wooden bridge, head through a picnic area and go down a steep hill - and you'll want to take it fast (I like to) but sometimes if you have nothing left, it might hurt a little. I think the finish will be exciting. Folks can see you come down the hill, you'll see the finish with Bear Creek Lake in the background.
If you've run the course, leave your perspective in the comments so folks can check it out! I'll try to spice this post up with some pictures this evening! And clean up any grammar errors! Happy Running!
P.S. Training is going well. I'll update in the next day or so. 56 miles planned, and I think I came in at 50 or 51. Feeling tired, but very pleased about covering 30 miles this past weekend!