‘B-E-A double-R U-N, Bear Run!  And bear and her cub and a rub-a-dub-dub, c’mon little bear come ‘n give me a hug, bear run!’

I kept this little jingle up for far longer than Aaron could bear (pun intended), as we trotted along Jeremy’s run with Matt, Heather, and Keith.  Heather was very amused that the first time Keith called out ‘Bear!’ that her instinct was to run in the opposite direction of the bear while Matt, Aaron, and I shot back towards Keith to try to catch a glimpse.  The black bear of course took off like a bat out of hell, and I just caught a glimpse of its head (or maybe it was its butt).

But our second ursine encounter was amazing.  Matt and Heather must be bear-whisperers because in all our running in Shenandoah Keith, Aaron, nor I had ever been able to watch a family of bears so casually as they shimmied up and down trees, rooted around in a creek bed, and balanced along fallen logs.  It was a mom and two cubs, so we made sure to keep a comfortable non-threatening distance.  Although black bears aren’t nearly as dangerous as grizzlies for humans, you still have to respect the aggression that a momma bear has around her cubs.

We saw one more bear in a tree — as soon as it caught a whiff of us it lumbered down with a smack, bringing the canopy down with it.  Remarkable how such large animals can run so fast.

I was in high heaven — FIVE bears.  Maybe the bears were so active because the park was technically closed due to the government shut-down, so humans had been scarce for the past week or so.  Or maybe because it’s October and those bears are busy stuffing in the acorns before the cold weather hits.  There must be a very health bear population in Shenandoah because in addition to the five live bears we saw many huge piles of bear scat of all different designs littered all along the trail.  I was having awful PMS as well as a sore hamstring, so I took every opportunity to stop the group to look at more poop.  I don’t know if any other women experience this, but for me PMS feels like being slammed by a bus.  Each month my period can’t come soon enough because I’d way rather have daggers in my belly than have those days of droopy malaise that feels like a combination of a hangover, a cold, and what I imagine to be how the end of a 100 mile run feels.  I try to be careful not to schedule races during PMS time, because trying to get that loaf to move is hopeless.

Matt and Heather are great fun to run with (and clearly good luck for spotting bears), so I’ll do my best to get them to come and liven up WUS from time to time.  Each of them have come to WUS a couple times, but it’s a trek from where they are out in Virginia.  B-E-A double-R U-N, Bear Run!



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