The Conquer the Bear challenge, launched this year with February’s second annual Snowshoe the Bear, included five athletic events and, ultimately, 11 contenders, who completed races in snowshoeing, mountain biking, running and paddling. The final, daunting competition was the completion of the 26.2 mile marathon in Saturday’s Run the Bear, which was the culmination of eight months of training for the 11, many of whom had never tackled such tests of athletic endurance.
For the oldest of the final contenders, 53-year-old Doug Heyes, the completion of the challenge is remarkable in that, in 2000, a spinal cord injury while skiing left him paralyzed—intense physical therapy and determination made possible his amazing achievements this year, including a successful run in the marathon in less than six hours.
For Conquer the Bear’s youngest contender, 13-year-old Jordan Romero, the completion of his first marathon came on the heels of a record-breaking 16,000’ summit to Indonesia’s tallest peak, from which he returned on Labor Day, before competing in a Big Bear Middle School cross-country meet in Hesperia’s 97 degree heat last Thursday.
Even for professional racers like Heather Devito of Big Bear Lake, the series presented plenty of challenges—including being bumped out of her kayak during July’s Paddlefest, and then, one week later, red-lining her way to the finish line in the Multisport. Devito had pushed herself in the final sprint, only to be surprised (along with all others) with the final ropes course, dubbed the “ropes of pain,” at the finish line. She tells KBHR that she’d “left everything behind” in that final push and, by mere seconds, missed out on a podium finish in the Multisport competition.
For 48-year-old Diane Bradley, a mother of three and popular waitress at Thelma’s, this was her foray into mountain biking and kayaking, and though her knees were taking a toll during the marathon, she ran it to completion, beating out Poway contender Jasmine Kall, half her age, with just six seconds to spare at the finish line.
In addition to Heyes, Romero, Devito, Bradley and Kall, final Conquerers in the series also included Ted Devito, Jeff Villepique of Big Bear City, Dave Emig of Fawnskin, local mountain biker Steve Kinney, and South Bay power couple Wes Barton and Tiffany Meyers, who made the trek to Big Bear for every event. Though each of these 11, out of the original field of 25+, is a winner in having accomplished such challenges in less than a year, the Conquer the Bear titles, based on overall times in five events, went to Heather Devito and Wes Barton. Second place finishes were earned by Tiffany Meyers and Ted Devito, and third place positions went to Diane Bradley and Steve Kinney.