Run Rabbit Run 100
Run Rabbit Run is a race that has been on Apryle and I’s radar for several years since our time in Colorado. Finally this year seemed to be the right time to sign up and make the pilgrimage back to our former home. I had a series of unsuccessful spring races including Black Canyon 100K and Lake Sonoma 50 miler, but after an Issy 100 FKT and move back to the Issy Alps, I thought that I might have a great day in Steamboat Springs.
I was confident about my training leading up to the race which included a 115 mile week punctuated with a burly 60 kilometer long run with 17000 vertical feet. Additionally, my race week taper was going smoothly and the legs were feeling refreshed. I knew I could climb and run trails, but the biggest question was the elevation.
Our flight departed on Wednesday evening late and delays made sure that we did not get more than 30 minutes sleep, but the most painful part of our travels was parting with our feathered friends for the four day adventure. We arrived in Denver in the thick of rush hour on Thursday morning and made our way over to Steamboat Springs.
Compared to our misty cool maritime weather, the heat and dryness of Colorado was stifling. Apryle and I went for a short prerace jog along the trail near the start finish line and then I picked up my race bib and we checked into the Steamboat Lodge down the street. We passed out after the prerace meeting and slept for about 11 hours before waking on Friday to make the final race preparations.
I was not wild about the noon start, first, it was in the low 80s by the time we started, second, it meant that there would be more night running, limiting the time to enjoy the course views, and third, it increased the prerace nerves with all the idle time. I was sure to be quite liberal with sunscreen use and water consumption prior to the race and once it started I felt as ready as I could be.
The first 4.5 miles was a steep climb up to Mount Werner following a ski lift path. I kept this ascent under control and easy paced and when I reached the aid station I was pleased with my water consumption and patience. The next 6 miles were smooth and trending down hill, therefore I increased the pace to an 8:30 average. My surroundings changed from slope with low growing vegetation to moderately thick forest which seemed to cool the ambient temperature.
I reached the Long Lake aid station in about 2 hours and 20 minutes and continued with a pack of about 4 runners down to the Fish Creek Falls TH. The descent was mild, with the exception of a few technical spots nearing the lower switchbacks. The scenery was beautiful with the yellow Aspen and red/gold leaves of other deciduous shrubs. However, this section was made quite difficult with the continual stream of other runners that started earlier in the day. An out and back at this juncture was perhaps not the best decision, but at any rate I enjoyed seeing Apryle at the aid station here!
Apryle got me some ice for my arm sleeves and to chew on as I climbed my way out of the ravine. I was surprised with the heat how little ice the aid stations had in the cue, but Apryle was prepared as always. I was relegated to a hike back up to Long Lake aid station, took some time to refuel and then hit the trail again. The 8.6 mile route to Summit Lake aid station was a mix of sparse Ponderosa Forest and upland meadows all above 10000 feet.
I began to experience digestive issues upon reaching Summit Lake aid station and was having trouble keeping food and water down. I ran down Buffalo Pass Road to the Flash of Gold Trail. The temperature was dropping and my surroundings were darkening which typically means that my energy levels diminish. However, in this case I was feeling a little stronger weaving the single track around the rock outcroppings. It was a gorgeous evening and two large Moose snacking on some willows to my left added to the mystique.
Upon reaching the arbitrary prominent point the switchbacks began, and continued for about an 1.5 hours. In this time I wove my way through what appeared to be mostly Aspen and wondered if I would ever reach the Dry Lake Aid Station. Nearing the conclusion of the switchbacks I began to vomit, and continued to vomit the remaining contents of my stomach. After the first wave I tried to replenish, but shortly before reaching the aid station my body rejected the nutrients. I reached Dry Lake aid station utterly defeated, I had stopped sweating, my body was shaking and my muscles were beginning to cramp.
Luckily Apryle was there to get me warm, and some volunteers offered a chair, some blankets, tums and salt tabs. The EMT evaluated my condition and suggested that I end my race at this juncture. Apryle pulled up the rental car and I intended to drop the race, but Apryle convinced me to take some to time to rehydrate and refuel before throwing in the towel. We sat in the car and debated whether quitting at this time was due to an insurmountable physical condition or due to hurt pride. Was I stopping to save myself the humiliation of yet another poor race performance, or because I truly was incapable of finishing the race. As I sat in the car I thought about my first 100 in Leadville six years prior. I thought about my hunger to finish that race, and all the successes and failures since that fateful day so many years ago. I thought about how underwhelming my ultrarunning career was shaping up to be. I wrestled with the idea that maybe I am not meant to run ultra distances.
Sitting in the car I stared out into the darkness, but I was not processing my visual field, I was visualizing a dream that was now fading into the surrounding darkness. I once envisioned myself crossing the finish line in first at the biggest events in ultrarunning, but as years pass without even a glimmer of that possibility it is difficult to visualize that as anything more than a dream. How could I motivate myself to drag my body through the cold, dark, lonely Colorado night in the midst of dehydration and calorie deficit, without the slightest hope of the romantic finish that I have visualized for the past thirteen years of training… But it suddenly became clear, winning and glory is reserved for a very select few, and is only achieved for those that can overcome adversity at any cost. How could I ever possibly realize my dreams if I abandon when times are tough. The whole purpose of running 100 mile races is to fall to life’s lowest moments and then muster every last ounce of energy to rise to the occasion and push beyond perceived mental and physical limits.
I put on my iPod and the first song that began playing was AWOLnation’s Passion. I began to revive on the intensity of the music (in addition to tortilla chips and ice water). “You’ve got a little you could use much more… passion”. Perhaps Aaron Bruno was correct, I needed to get back on the trail and search for my passion. I sprinted back onto the trail and told Apryle I would see her again at Olympian Hall. I descended Spring Creek trail and made my way into downtown Steamboat Springs.
The Olympian Hall aid station was hopping and I used the energy to catapult myself up Blackmere Drive. Unfortunately my 9 minute mile pace doubled to 20 minute miles up the 800 foot climb to the Lane of Pain aid station. This aid station was also lively with music blaring and camp stoves warming hot soups. The aid station staff said that there was only 4 miles of trail before we arrived back at the comfort of Lane of Pain. Unfortunately I crawled through this section despite its relative ease, unable to keep up with my friend Marvin Sandoval (met in Leadville in 2012). When I finally arrived back at the aid station, I shoveled down some chips before beginning the descent back to Olympian Hall.
Six monotonous switchbacking miles later I arrived back at Olympian Hall and chatted with Apryle before retracing my steps through town back onto the Spring Creek trail. Throughout the six miles stretch Marvin and I traded positions several times until we reached the Dry Lake aid station. I felt better this time into the Dry Lake aid station, but still not great. I left the aid station as the sun was rising and Marvin and I hit the Ditch Trail. It was a beautiful stretch of trail, with willow shrubs blanketing the ground and Aspen stands in patchworks. This appeared to be a perfect spot to run into a Moose. Fortunately I did not see any of the ill-tempered ungulates. Upon reaching the Grouse Trail I teamed up with Salynda Heinl. We ascended the trail back up above 10000 feet and enjoyed the picturesque views of Colorado autumn with the iconic yellow Quaking Aspen filling the ravines below the undulating ranges.
The temperature quickly went from a cool 40 to a hot 80 when the sun rose above its hiding place to the east. We jumped back onto the Flash of Gold trail and arrived at Billy’s Rabbit Hole aid station and I slathered on the sunscreen and tried to shovel down some cheese quesadillas. The temperatures soared as we reached the Buffalo Pass Road and we made a quick stop at the Summit Lake aid station where I refilled Tailwind. Our pace was pedestrian for another 8.6 miles to the Long Lake aid station via the Wyoming Trail. However, we enjoyed some good conversion which was helpful to pass the time in this stage of the race.
Out of the Long Lake aid station I was alone, my pace was continually worsening on the approach to Mount Werner aid station. The heat was stifling, my stomach was turning again and my right knee was beginning to ache. The snaking trail seemed never ending and by the time I reached the Mount Werner aid station I was in a frustratingly demoralized mood. Fortunately my favorite person in the world was there waiting for me; Apryle had made the steep trek up to the final aid station to cheer me into the home stretch.
Apryle’s presence was at the aid station was helpful, but my right knee would not allow me run down the final easy switchbacking stone road. Therefore, I slowly walked my way down the road until I reached the sign directing me onto a twisty banking trail that said finish. However, this sign meant very little as there was still another mile or so of twisting trail. My hands were swelling to a point that I could not even bend my fingers, my black long sleeve shirt was absorbing the suns rays endlessly increasing my body temperature. I was completely miserable and to top it off I was still be passed by other runners every couple of minutes. I finally saw the finish chute and was able to hobble/jog my way across the line. Unfortunately, I could not find Apryle, and we enjoyed a laugh that she was at every checkpoint but due to a little back luck missed me crossing the line.
They handed me a buckle and a large mug at the finish, but what I was most excited about was the chocolate milk! I chugged down a few and then we got back on the road toward our hotel in Kremmling. We stayed at the charming Hotel Eastin full of old western memorabilia and art. We got a good nights rest and then for the final leg of our journey returned to Rocky Mountain National Park.
We enjoyed scones and berry coffee cake on Grand Lake, searched for moose in Kawuneeche Valley, and drove over the iconic Trail Ridge Road. We stopped at Alpine Visitors Center and I inspected our alpine restoration work on Huffer Hill from the summer of 2013. Unfortunately much of our alpine plants had been trampled. Somewhat dejected we descended to Beaver Meadows and visited our former place of work; we stopped by the greenhouse and our old apartments on Sundance Circle.
Once in Estes Park, we had some Nepalese buffet with Will and Shelly Spear. Will is an incredible wildlife painter and Shelly a PhD student who helped Apryle with field work during her masters research at Colorado State University. After catching up, Apryle and I drove up to Lumpy Ridge and enjoyed a short 5.5 mile out and back hike to Gem Lake. The hike was one of the first runs I did upon moving to Colorado so many years ago and a perfect way to cap off an overall successful adventure. Even if I did not get the result I hoped for; I am pleased that I overcame my personal struggle to complete what I started.
20,505 vertical feet