The past few weeks after the UltraRun were spent making sure all parts were accounted for both inside and out. Residual muscle soreness was alleviated by a higher sense of recovery techniques I already use daily – ice, 100% compression, easy zone 1-2 workouts, proper hydration/eating, and massage thanks to Jessica at Sports Massage Therapy, and Molly over at Yoga Oasis who was visiting from out west for the month. Inwardly, my mind was solid strong and the key was making sure blood work was ok and my digestive system kinda returned to normal. The store has been busy so just keeping on top of things on all fronts was paramount. Gina got a serious stomach virus (and all of her office) last weekend and was really out of it. That was also the weekend we got SNOW!!! Yes dare I say it. It was a heavy blanket of the white stuff which made it nice and cozy inside, but by Sunday you wouldn’t have believed it as all was gone. Thankfully, Gina was feeling a little better and that was relieving, but as the week progressed, other challenges began.

I was in contact with Karhu about running as The Bear again for the Charlotte 10/4 Miler which is hosted by our south store’s owner, Donny, and his crew at Start2Finish (www.charlotte10miler.com). I haven’t run as the Bear since the 90 degree day at the Firecracker 5k, but the challenge here was running the furthest its ever been pushed before. It would be great publicity for Karhu as they were a sponsor but also for the contest as Beat the Bear was in effect. First 10 cats to finish ahead of me would win a pair of shoes! Now some serious fast guys do this race anyway, and for me, doing a 1:10 was my wildest goal, so there would definitely be winners. I wasn’t going to obtain the suit from Megan Neldo until Thursday so there was no chance to test run in it. But on Tuesday morning, a bigger challenge arose – that stomach bug.

I woke up early on Tuesday as usual but wasn’t right. I was hot, and I needed to hit the can. I felt so weak. Gina knew right away I had it. I only had #2 symptoms, but my head was full of nausea too. After several trips to the john, I was awaiting the ol’ yakking that Gina had, but thankfully there was only one episode of that. I tried to walk around, even lift a weight to stretch but nothing. I didn’t even fight it. I was done. Luckily it was a cold, dreary day and Gina already told Dana and Megan not to let me near the store. I simply tried to lie down and let my body heal. The whole morning was restless pain all over and was by far harder than any workout I could have done that day. I was chilly and couldn’t eat or drink anything. I finally took some chewable baby aspirin and water and went to bed. I was lights out for a solid 3 hours and woke up feeling a hell of a lot better. I had strength to walk around, drank a bit, ate half a Metrx bar and Pocketfuel, then just relaxed. I did some computer work as Gina came home early. It was a relief that I was feeling so much better, but didn’t chance it doing much more than letting everything settle. Ouch. A close one.

I did a nice steady long workout on Wednesday and felt back to normal, other than having my stomach resume activity and making sure I didn’t pass it to anyone else. I walked some extra and was soooo happy to have some java too!! By Thursday I was ready to roll and now had to focus on Saturday’s event. The Bear was in the house and I started making a few adjustments to the head for secure fit, while Gina did the initial hemming on the legs. The weather now was calling for cold and rain which isn’t great news when your running on a green-way in a huge furry suit and a 15 lb head. Challenges. Mind games. Bring it.

Sure enough Friday night it was still wet and raining. Word was the route was slippery on some bridge areas but otherwise usual puddles to splash through. Race was still on. Well, we woke up at 5am on Saturday morning and it was pouring. Ironsherpa hemmed the Bear another inch to allow for more lift but the question was how water resistant was the outside. I knew I would be warm inside. I wore my skinsuit, 110% socks and arm warmers. I Aquaphor-ed everything and then did it again. I had some good rain gear to stay dry and Ironsherpa got geared up herself as she and Eimear were volunteering at the mile 8 water stop. We ventured out into the dark and carefully drove through the puddles down Park Rd. It was easy parking next to Earthfare (prime sponsor) and it was even better that they had it open for everyone to stay dry. Big props to the Start2Finish crew for holding fort through the morning.  I checked in Karhu Bear and we surveyed the crowd slowly gathering. Brad and Ashley were running the 4 miler and it was great to see them. By 7am, I gave Ironsherpa a big hug and kiss as she and Eimear left to go set up the water stop. It was still raining good. I had the keys to the X and Brad helped me get into the suit at 7:15. His race started at 7:30 so he and Ashley were off to the start. I had 15 minutes extra so I was near Earthfare as fellow runners were able to identify the Bear since I didn’t put the head on yet. Was all good fun and cheering. Finally it was game on and I put the head on and walked in the rain to the start. I was warm indeed. Didn’t feel a drop of rain. We were at the start for a good 10 minutes and as the rain still fell, I didn’t feel it getting heavier. I was cheering some fellow runners gather up and all looked like they finally wanted to get going. Time to become a Bear. I took three deep breaths and started my RS800cx.

The horn goes off and I settle into a nice rhythm. The first 2 miles are mostly on the road so it was just time for me to get some space and see how the Bear held up. I also wanted to make sure I wasn’t near anything since I was unfamiliar with this area of the green-way and with conditions as they were, wanted to make sure I had plenty of spacing for puddles. I hit the green-way and it was all good. I hit mile 2 and do a quick glance at the watch and I could only see 14 something. I had my “paws” on as they made for great gloves and could barely see the watch. The green-way was actually much better than anticipated. Sure some puddles, but nothing that would make you lose traction or any significant muddy spots. Run whatever tangents you could. I was picking off a few each mile and by mile 4 I was starting to heat up to the point I needed to ditch the arm warmers. I quickly stopped at the mile 4 water stop and had one volunteer remove my left arm one (ironically she even returned it to me at the finish), I threw a dixie cup of water in my “grill” and continued on.

It stopped raining and didn’t the rest of the race! That was great as I now was able to remove my other arm warmer and felt much cooler. I started to take in the scenery as I was very comfortable with my effort but was pushing mile 5 and still wanted to make sure I wasn’t overheating. I was well balanced with my FAST3 Fulcrums (purple color) and just shortened the stride a bit more on the slippery sections. Every mile I tightened the head a bit and now was starting to feel like hunting people down. It was sparse but by mile 7, there was a nice pack within sight that I could devour. I was able to catch another glimpse of my RS800cx and though I didn’t have a clue what my heart rate was, I saw a 7:20 kinda split and thought maybe I was on a 1:15 pace. I figured once I got to mile 8 and Ironshepa’s stop I would just rip the rest of the way. I got to her water stop and gave her a hug while taking another dixie cup of NUUN. We exited the green-way and were back on the roads so now it was open viewing to hunt then people down. Yum. Now I am really confident on balancing myself on solid ground. Chomp chomp. Then th cruel twist of a huge climb in some neighborhood between miles 8.5 and 9.5. Holy crap.

I was huffin’ and puffin’,  I was just churning blowing past - cause I was passin folks too. I got a last cheer from Hollywood and Daniel Matena on their cool-down jog as they would finish 1-2 in the race. Yo. Once I got to the top and back down a nice stretch of last road towards the finish I just was pushing it. I did a huge bunch of hunting folks down and had 2 more just in front of me. One a lady with headphones and the other a dude who was just ahead of her. I made the inside pass of her but quickly she found another gear and was determined not to lose to me. I was able to pass the other guy and made the left turn for home. OMG, I saw the clock and couldn’t believe it  – 1:11!!!! I got a big hug from Brad and Ashley. Then grabbed Megan Neldo from Karhu for a few photos. My heart rate dropped back down to the 90′s in less than 5 minutes so the whole thing was a success!!!! I was surely dehydrated as I was soaked sweaty inside, but the suit was certainly water resistant as I didn’t feel wet from the outside at all. Granted my chin was rubbed a bit raw and my right inside knee was starting to get close to it. My feet were wet, but all systems were checked. Brad helped me get to the X and get some water and contact Ironsherpa to let her know I finished. Brad rocked 3rd in his age group and was elated given the fact that he wouldn’t have come out if it wasn’t for me running as the Bear. Ashley is making her way back from a slight stress fracture and clearly is back in form finishing just as well. I made my way back to the finish as I started high-fiving, paw-pounding, and bear-hugging each finisher. I was helping hand out finishers medals too as it served as my cool-down. Brad served as my guide as I was being asked to take pictures with finishers and their families, kids, vendors, etc. Then, it started to rain again at the 1:40 mark.

Runners coming in were troopers today. Their faces proved their efforts. Everyone started to get soaked again. Crowds dwindled as the rain got steadier. Brad finally left as he was getting a little cold and thanked him again, gave him a bear hug for his win too! He was able to get some stats and I came in 35th overall, even 9th in my age group! Hilarious! I was stoaked with the effort and couldn’t wait to see the heart rate file. But now, I was still handing out medals and hugging finishers. It was awesome fun. The race cut off was 2:30 and as the clocked passed 2 hours, Ironsherpa and Eimear showed up and they were soaked to the nill. We tried to make light of everything and put on some good fun. We made our was back to the X but not before stopped at Earthfare to warm up with some java and stashing some delicious cookies and bananas that were being handed out. Big time props to all involved today – Start2Finish, Earthfare, Karhu, and all the volunteers. The Bear can go the distance. Look for Karhu Bear in the results link below. There is also a Finish Line Video link on the race website, but don’t know when that or if it was active on race day. That would be fun to see the finish if it was active.


We got home around 10:30 and now it was damage control – off with the suit, hang dry before washing it that evening. I stretched and made note of rashes. My chin was bad. Gina shared the stories from the water stop as she got dry and did a quick wash of everything that got soaked. Her and Eimear were awesome today. After settling back and drying off, we had some java and pancakes – no honey – biscoff!!!. The day stayed wet and dreary. Later in the shower would I be able to painfully feel other spots that got some bad chafing – my scalp and right ear. Oooooooooooooooooooooooooo the sting. Slowly did the soreness come as expected but everytime I looked at the Big Bear Head staring at me as it dried off, the smiles and fun that people got from it today – priceless and worth it.

Now its re-tooling as I prepare for the Charlotte Racefest Half Marathon (www.charlotteracefest.com) which will serve as my last running race before making the switch to full on triathlon mode. No costume, just me.

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