It’s been nearly a week since race day and I’ve been trying to put into words what an amazing race/weekend this truly was. I know my words won’t do it justice but I’ll try. I’m so thankful for the experience put on by the running with the bears team and Mountain Circle. I’m also thankful to even being writing a race recap since I’m now officially into month two of my treatment for chronic lyme disease.
Race Prep: We signed up for this race back in December. I believe we had signed up the moment it opened up as it is a very small race. I think about 300 people plus the charity runners. This all benefits Mountain Circle. They are a non profit that helps foster children and adoption. What better then not only to help children but to build families? Family is really what matters, the love that family brings. It had been on our radar since the summer before when my husband announced “i’m going to run with bears”. Okay I guess I’m down, why not. Must. Feed. Race. Addiction. Then life happens, and then my lyme diagnosis. I got cleared by my doctor and we decided to go forward with the race. It’s always nice to get out of the desert. So we contacted Josie the race director and she put us in contact with Amanda who looked for lodging for us. How nice is that? When do you ever have race officials helping you with your stay? We decided with two dogs and our toddler of terror (just kidding:) we would stay at Copper Creek Camp. It is as summer camp during the week.
Our Accommodations: We stayed in a little cabin. It was cute, rustic. There was enough room for the whole gang. A little chilly a night, but once we figured out the sleepwear and sleeping bags we were cozy. Talk about being in nature. There was a huge buck in the middle of the soccer field as we pulled in, a duck pond, a horse barn. This would be a great place for a group of friends. My only regret is not bring a hot pot to make coffee.
Packet Pick up/Pasta Dinner: Despite being a very small race, this was the most organized race hands down. Picking up our goodies and swag bag was a breeze. We then settled in for our pasta dinner. This also benefited Mountain Circle, who also takes the foster children on trips such as the snowboarding trip shown in the race video. There was also a Brooks pop up shop. I purchased a hat with the bears logo and a couple of temporary bear paw tattoos. I may have one still on my leg (shh….). Both the race director Josie and Shauna (Director of Mountain Circle) made it a point to say hello and welcome us to the race. That’s just the feel of this race, you are a part of something. You are welcomed to this community with open arms. We finished dinner and let our little guy Ryan play on the play ground.
Starting Line: The Marathon ( which my husband was running) started at 6:30, half marathon at 7 and the 10k (which myself and my motely crew of Chester, Winnie and Ryan) started at 8 so I had time to kill. We parked in a cow pasture, as fog was hugging the meadow and the cows were mooing, temps climbing into the mid 40s. I had to pinch myself, did I die and go to Heaven?? Plumas County is simply beautiful. I felt this way in Hawaii. Living in the desert makes you so appreciative. Anyway Chris took off and I got us situated. It was hot mess express as I tried to put on costumes. (We were attempting a spin of Goldilocks and the three bears. ) The race started at someone’s picturesque farm house. The grounds were set up with food, a sweat check, bouncy house and porta potties….well how was I going to use those?? As I found a post to tie the dogs two, the next door neighbor offered to watch my crew for me. Seriously? These people were just so sweet.
The Course: From a post card, really. I’ve never seen a place like this. I was nervous. Since my diagnosis my longest run had been about 3 miles. I hoped for muscle memory, it was a stretch but maybe…My cranky toddler feel asleep the first mile in. I had a deer cross our path about mile 2. I had no desire for music, didn’t look at my watch other than to check my heart rate. I was at peace for 6.2 whole miles. One of my symptoms of Lyme is anxiety. I had none here, so thank you Bears. A moving meditation of pastures, horses, shaded roads, goats, sheep…. The other runners on the course were the friendliest enthusiastic bunch I had ever met. It was an out and back course, with a few rolling hills (nothing I couldnt handle with a stroller). We cheered for each other, smiled, waved… I spent the rest of the course when Ryan woke up chatting with him about the animals, stopping for doggie potty breaks, just being.
Aid Stations: The half and full marathon get to experience a bunch where the people dress up in themes as a fundraising contest. We had a couple that were amazing. At the turn around point they had water, a trough for the dogs to cool off in, ultima (an electrolyte) , cut up water melon that Chester snacked on. Some races allow dogs. This race was truly dog friendly. My last aid station before the finish was a one stop shop. Water for me, cut up bananas for my son and a doggie water bowl for the pooches.
The Finish: I have never seen such a genuine enthusiastic race crew. The literally ran up the up hill finish with you, cheering their heads off. (the did this for hours including for the bad as$ runner who lost a significant amount of weight and rocked her first marathon finishing in about ten hours). You are an inspiration. This course has no time limits and is accessible to everyone. We finished and picked a cool spot under then tents and enjoyed our goodies (gluten free chips, oranges, water, salty nut crunches ). The dog finishers also got these cute little packages. My husband finished shortly after coming in 4th overall in the marathon. Not a PR for him but snagged second in his age group. They got a medal for that as well as prizes (he got a hat and water bottle).
Post Race: We spent a lot of time there, talking to other runners. My husband had spent about 20 miles chatting with another runner. I hope some day the vegan conversations will seep in…we’ll see. I shared a diaper with a gal that ran the 10k, got some wipes from another mother, this race was a family. Ryan got some icecream. Chris had his post race beer. A vegan truck arrived. The photo booth from the dinner was back. We eventually left to rest and would return there later for the hoedown.
The hoedown: This was the after party. It started at 5. We had dinner, drinks, listened to live music. There were raffles and a turkey poop bingo, a makeshift dance floor. It did not feel like California. At least the California I’ve gotten to know over the last two years. There was country music playing, all around good cheer, folks saying congrats. I had the race director come chat, relaying a conversation with a Mountain Circle staff where the term “super mom” was used to describe me. This coming from someone who has a full house of biological and children brought into her home. I can’t tell you what that meant to me, as someone with Lyme disease on my bad days feels like a failure as a mother. Those days when I have no energy and we watch Cars over and over and maybe color. My experience isn’t unique though. Everyone was made to feel special and a part of this great cause, great race, great organization. You were not just a receipt, people cared. As I sat there with my family sipping a glass of wine (that another runner bought of course) I marveled at this experience, enjoyed it.
Do this race. Wherever you are in the country, world. As I mentioned before, we have a bit of a race addiction so we’ve done a few, big small, long short, color runs…the gammit. This wasn’t just a race, this was an experience. Everyone was so friendly and welcoming: from other runners, race officials, the women who runs the health store we made sure to open her door so I could carry out my belongings, just everyone. This is the best of the best. We’re due to move next year so I dont know if we’ll be back then, but rest assured we’ll be back. As soon as I kick this lyme to the curb I can say I’d love to be a charity runner myself. I always said I needed my first marathon to be special. I can’t imagine anything more special than Running with the Bears. Here’s to hoping.