Run Rabbit Run Race Report
**** This is a long report, skip to the "***" for the meat or even just read the last paragraph.
Kendrick Callaway so graciously volunteered to be my crew for this race and we had a great time hanging out Wednesday through Sunday morning. Thursday evening and Friday morning Kendrick and I put together a plan for the race, something I found to be way more involved that I thought it would be. So involved, that I didn’t have the finishing touches for the plan or the packing of equipment and nutrition until 12:35pm before the 1pm race start. While the plan ended up being a great success, I should have mapped things out earlier for the sake of me and the crew.
Matt Bourquin and his Girlfriend Allison drove all night Thursday to arrive at 4:00am Friday to watch my race and help crew. It was awesome having them join.
Thursday night I slept in 2ish hour chunks starting at 1:00am. Sleep is never “good” for me the night before a race and this time was no different. The day or two leading up to the race my legs were feeling pretty good and I had no real problems to speak of with regards to my health or my taper.
Toeing the line, I was ready to go. As planned, I power hiked most of the monster climb up the ski runs to the peak of Steamboat hovering around 5th to 7th place behind Dylan Bowman, Tim Olson, Lara Miguel, Mike Wolf, Karl Meltzer, some other guy I don’t know and surprisingly, Lizzy Hawker. Things felt fine and I honestly think I was spending less energy, breathing easier and sweating less that most my competition up the steep first 5 miles. Once at the top and through the first aid station, I was in 6th with Karl and Dave James behind me by a minute or two at the most. I felt good, but not great running down the trail towards Long Lake. Leading up to the race I was very much insecure on how a 100 mile race would go and as we started the downhill running, I felt things were fast and the pace was not what I expected. I got caught in the moment and kept pace. Not long after the top I caught Miguel Lara and Dave James caught up to me. Dave and I then ran into Dylan at the first of a number of less than well-marked trail intersections. There was a wooden sign for long lake with a race sign pointing down hill for the 100 mile. Fortunately, we realized we needed to go to long lake first… something Nick Padatella didn’t do. As we arrived at the lake Miguel, who caught back up to us at the junction, stopped to drink out of the lake and I didn’t see him again after that. Almost to the aid station, we saw Wolf and Olson just 45 seconds out of the aid station as we arrived.
Down, the three of us continued running pretty aggressively, more aggressively than we should have. Just before the road, Dylan stopped to get water out of the creek and Dave and I kept going where we caught Wolf, Olson and Nick Pedatella. Nick knew he was done, but seemed to be in good spirits and would end up placing 3rd the next day at the 50 mile after a 20+ mile jaunt in the 100 mile. Dave took the lead by 15 seconds and Pedatella, Tim, Mike and I enjoyed some light conversation to the high school. Catching Mike and Tim, I wasn’t feeling that great at all, but was happy to be distracted once running with good company.
My crew was flawless and efficient and I was treated with a 1 mile jog with Matt across the busy roads of Steamboat. Enjoying a little lead on the rest of the guys due to fast crewing, I jogged on. I hid under the excitement, as I knew I wasn’t feeling as I should only a quarter into what became a gnarly, carnage filled 100 mile that I wouldn’t see the second half of. I felt much worse that I normally do at the 25 mile mark in well executed 50 milers. I quickly transitioned into a hike up the ski hill across town where the off trail route was only a few degrees away from hands and knees scrambling. I always feel best on the steeps, it felt like I was taking a break and I sort of was as it was all hiking. At the top I once again was confused and ended up taking a round about line that added a minute or two to my time. ALL the trail markings were yellow… at the height of fall colors in a place that is world famous for it’s golden Aspens. Dave was close enough behind to see my route and followed suit. Once back on route I saw Tim running the correct route a half mile back and that would be the last I saw him until I was in a car driving down to the hotel 3 or 4 hours later.
The next 30 miles was the strangest 30 miles of my running life. I wasn’t feeling at all like I felt I should for the first half of a 100, but not bad, as again, I was climbing up. I shared the lead with Dave on much of the up hill, casually climbing and going back and forth with each other. Likewise Dave was right on my tail going down to the Cow Creek aid station. I was keeping pace, but I began to know I wasn’t going to be able to keep this up. Leading still both in and out of Cow Creek, I was encouraged by my crew and I flew through the aid. On the dirt road and hitting mile 30 I was just waiting to blow up. Waiting to blow up in the lead at a race with $10,000 for first, strange. I was well nourished with nearly 400 calories of Vitargo an hour, s-caps and more than enough water. Feet were happy in the Hoka Bondi and Injinji Socks. The equipment, crew and even weather was cooperating, but the body and mind wasn’t.
**We were now passing a lot of Tortoises (they started in the morning) and one lady said to me as I passed “you are the WINNER!”, it was too much and I told her over my shoulder “I’m the leader, the leader”. On the trail and approaching the 1/3 mark of the race I began to barely run, then finally I pretty much had to walk. I was in the lead and walking. I was just waiting for Dave and wondering what I would say. He passed, but was also slowing down and encouraged me, even turned around and told me to look at the cow pie on the trail someone turned into a smiley face.
Unfortunately the cow pie didn’t work and I continued to walk. I walked and walked and walked. For over 30 minutes I walked and I began to really wonder where the heck Tim and Wolf were, had they dropped, had they taken a wrong turn, was Dave and I the only ones even in the running for this race? My complete ignorance and inexperience in the 100 was at it’s absolute best here. Walking for ages, I was fully committed in my dropping and having a huge pity party. While yes, everyone slowed here, I was living in a 50 mile race mindset. I was unbelievably under equipped to be walking. I had at least 7 more miles to the next aid, it was nearly dark, I was on single track, I had no light and I had no shirt. I enjoyed that I was going to be in the dark, freezing and in the mountainous forest. I wanted to be punished, I sucked. I decided to stop walking and stretch. I stretched for 3 or so minutes when Dylan rolled up. Instantly I snapped out of my punishment session and made the excellent choice in running with Dylan. My legs were sore, but moving. Dylan wasn’t having a great time either with a good bit of moaning and even a little dry heave over some gel. We walked most of the steep and not that steep up-hill. I appreciated the company and magically my legs, energy and attitude was improving. I was in disbelief.
**We made our way down in the dark and things weren’t too bad with Dylan’s light. The last off-trail 35% slope was ridiculous, I fell on my butt twice. At the aid station, I grabbed some clothes, drank some water, filled up with Vitargo and was off… in second place again. After another wrong turn for a minute or so, we were across town and to the high school where I had just a little time on Dylan. From the high school I went straight up the road following the yellow flags… and missed the right turn to go up Fish Creek Falls. Apparently people were yelling after me and Fred, the RD even drove after me. I was running well, confident and ready to run 100 miles. For the first time since the first 5 miles, I really believed I could get this race done. I ran most of the 5 miles and 1,500 foot climb and was eager to catch up with Dave and surprise him with a come back from the dead, a dead walk at least. Running into what I thought was mile 49, I was given the news that I was at the mile 62 aid station.
*It all sunk in that I had taken a wrong turn. I wasn’t furious, I was just bummed and in disbelief. All sorts of things flooded the brain… I can’t run all the way back down and then up, I’m done, I was in second place and pushing, I am feeling good, it is over, I’m done and then… a guilty satisfaction of stopping. I finally got the brain to focus and proposed someone drive me to the bottom and that I’ll re-start the race from there. After what seemed like a long, albeit comfortable, drive down the dirt road and arriving at the high school, again, Bryon Powell contacted the RD and I was clear to go. I was dropped off, running and in shock. 10th place was at the aid station. I started running on awkward, but functioning legs. I was passing all sorts of people, mostly Tortoises and right away realized I had not been passing anyone on the other trail, how dumb of me. In the Air Force and military, when you make stupid decisions under stress and in a wartime environment, that propensity to be stupid is called the “fog of war”, well I was deep in the fog of war running up Spring Creek instead of Fish Creek Falls.
***Still feeling good I made my way up and eventually caught a seriously hurting and walking Mike Wolf. Mike was unbelievably positive and gave me all sorts of encouragement after I told him my mistake and how I was all of a sudden behind him. As I left Mike he said “pass them all!” I was still doing great and was optimistic for all of the climb. As the trail comes to the top and flattens out for the last mile or two I fell into a deep and dark place once more. I was walking, I was in the dumps and worst of all I was feeling sorry for myself. “I ran an extra 5 mile and 1,500 feet of climbing; it is over”, this was my mantra. It was frosty cold and I immediately sat down by the fire once at the aid station. I bundled up and began an uncontrollable shiver that further made me feel sorry for myself. I had hit a low and I was in the wrong place, a place I could easily quit. I signed up for a ride down that “is leaving now” and started to stumble and shiver my way to the vehicle. Deep inside me the voice of Ultramarathon reason spoke, “you should try to run”. I tired to run in the parking area where the ground was rough and uneven with weeds, ruts, dirt and rock. I couldn’t really “run”. I tired once more and then I quit the race. I quit, I failed myself, and those who believed in me. I had some bad luck, I wasn’t on my A-Game, but nonetheless, I didn’t make the right decision and completely failed to meet my baseline goal of finishing when I damn well could have.
***On my way up Fish Creek Falls I witnessed people walking up the trail, in pain, alone and five hours longer at it than me. I passed people who aren’t gifted as I am in endurance running, I passed people who have 9-5 jobs and obviously less time to train than I do. I passed Bossic at mile 30, who was on blood thinners and had blood clots in both his lungs shortly before race day. They didn’t quit. They pushed on. They finished what they started. This wasn’t track, or cross country, a 10K, a marathon or even a 50 mile, where place, pace and finishing times are often the focus, this was a mountain 100 mile. The essence of this race, and I’m confident it is true for all 100 mile races, is to finish no matter what. Being convinced I wasn’t going to place well in the race and that I couldn’t “run” at the moment, I quit. I completely ignored the spirit of what it was all about. I’m embarrassed and utterly disappointed. Despite knowing the 100 would be different, I didn’t see this coming and this has been a really tough, emotional lesson to learn. I have the highest level of respect for everyone who finished the Run Rabbit Run 100 mile.