Not many feelings compare to the one you get when, with thirty-five miles of running to go, you reach behind you for a drink of water. And realize your water bottle isn’t there.

Running the Bear Chase 50 miler was somewhat of an impulse decision. Located in Bear Creek State Park in Lakewood, CO(, it was a mere fifteen minutes from home. With a price tag of $65, it is cheaper than most marathons I’ve run. Besides, I was still smarting from missing the last fifty miles of Leadville.

Nicely organized, the 50 mile runners began right at 6:30, with the 50k, half marathon, and 10k starting at intervals after. While the trail never felt crowded, there is something demoralizing about watching runners fly by, even knowing their race is half or less the distance.

The second loop was a bit more solitary, making it easier to settle into a pace, but also meant there was no one around to let me know my water bottle had slipped the bonds of my waist pack. The morning cloud cover had kept the temperature a pleasant 60ish degrees, but it was threatening to warm quickly.

I didn’t mean to sound quite as panicked as I did when Randall, the photographer from Running Guru, asked how my race was going. He dug in his pack and pulled out his spare bottle. A Nalgene never looked so beautiful.

At the end of the second lap, I handed back the bottle, grateful and hopeful mine was still on the path. I was saved by a thoughtful spectator in case it wasn’t. As luck would have it, it was still there.

Most GPS devices have a battery life of ten hours or less. My beloved Garmin 310XT has twenty. Three runners had given up finishing in time after their devices died and their morale waned as they had no idea the time. One told me I had already inspired her to keep running just by running myself. She, I and Ben, on his first ultra, came around the last stretch together. I had “pulled” Ben up the last hill, and he repaid the favor by encouraging me to run across the finish, he last and me next to.

But never mind that. A race that long isn’t about winning or losing. It is about what it takes to even show. Finishing is a bonus. Helping someone else is icing on the cake. The amazing thing about small races is that your victory is everyone’s, especially the under-applauded volunteers, who were still at the finish line, junk food and beer in hand. Thank you.ImageImage