Waiting for his “go bag”, Bear 100 Endurance Race competitor Luke Thomas and his pacer, Jose Sosa, cheered those finishing on September 25th, along Fish Haven Canyon. Luke, #355, began the race with approximately 300 others at 6 a.m. on Friday morning in Cache Valley. By mile 62, Luke’s knee insisted the elevation changes of more than 20,000’ were too much. At the aid station in the Franklin Basin, Luke was forced to climb in the car with Jose and drive to the finish where he was listed as “DNF” (Did Not Finish).
Luke and Jose, both from the San Diego area, met at endurance races and agreed that the Bear 100 is among the elite contests across the country. Luke called the Bear 100 “brutal” and said it “certainly tests your metal.” He normally runs three 100-mile races annually including the Bad Water in Death Valley (135 miles) and the Rock ‘n Roll in Arizona. Back home, Luke spends his time in front of a computer engaged in E-commerce. He appreciates these outdoor adventures for the life-long friendships they engender.
After this trek with Luke, Jose is considering competing in the Bear 100 next year. Jose admits he comes to endurance racing in a somewhat unusual way inasmuch as his background is in heavy metal. No, not guitars or sound synthesizers. He means high rise steel construction as an ironworker. In fact, he spent three and a half years in the heart of New York City helping rebuild Tower #3 at the World Trade Center. He met the Obamas on the job site. Jose believes his metabolism takes easily to ultramarathons. As a result, he thinks nothing of his routine that puts him into races that are invitation-only. Jose calls the tendency to race repeatedly then try longer and harder “an addiction.”
Race director Cody Draper is among those who can’t leave marathoning alone. But while the race was Saturday’s focus, Cody gave full credit to those handling the aid stations. Calling them the “stars” of the 36-hour race, he gave the volunteer aid station members his full admiration for bringing water, pizza and other provisions that kept the racers going through the toughest terrain. “I’ve heard nothing but praise for them,” he said. He likewise hailed the 80 ham radio operators who tracked the race entrants through the entirety of the 36 hours and beyond to assure everyone was accounted for. Bee stings seemed to have been the most worrisome and unexpected attack along the trail but plenty of band aids were needed at the finish line as well. The ice-cold waters of the Fish Haven Creek were welcome on faces and feet too. Leland Barker, the original race organizer, did not run in 2021 in deference to helping with administrative tasks at the finish line. Joyce and Steve McCown, owners of the property where the race concluded, stayed awake most of the night and grabbed power naps between directing traffic, answering questions and hosting enthusiastic spectators. McCowans enjoyed sharing their home’s pastoral scenery along Fish Haven Creek and hoped supporting the race simultaneously did good things for the community.
Among those benefiting were Adam Loomis, #20, of Kamas, Utah, who finished at 18:45:57, winning first among male racers and honors as the 8th fastest male finisher in the Bear 100. Rebecca Windell, #11, from Winthrop, Washington, clocked in at 21:45:00 was fastest among the women on Saturday and her finish time made her the 5th quickest female finisher in the race’s history.