Run Rabbit Run 100 miler (actually, 106)
The Camaraderie of Suffering
“What will it take to get to the next aid station?”
In December 2017 on a run up Mt Rosa it seemed like a good idea to sign up for another 100 miler, the Run Rabbit Run in Steamboat was intriguing. I plunked down $235 before the rate went up and immediately texted a picture of my entry to Nicholls. Around 3 hours later he texted back a screenshot of his entry and “F U”. Let the fun begin!
Busted ribs in January did not get training off to a good start! February, March, and April were looking better and May brought some quality training by going up the Cog steps and surrounding trails, CT Segments 2 & 1, and 3 days in a row of Summits County jaunts. Then another rib-issue, not as bad this time… but embarrassing to say it was from stretching and boxing with Miles. June brought a couple 30+ milers (Pikes double crossing, 10 peaks in LCW) and July was another strong month. By August I was still injury-free and feeling more confident after pacing Geist 50 miles at the HL100, another trip up Pikes, and pacing Eric 38 miles at the LT100. The night runs and long hours on the legs really helped. One last LCW loop with Nicholls two weeks out and it was go-time!
The week before the race I stressed (as usual) about food, clothes, conditions, aid stations etc. Thursday came and I loaded everything into the car and headed to Denver to ride up to Steamboat with Stinger. This worked out better so I could attend the pre-race meeting without us pulling Miles out of school early. We headed right to Jake’s place, met Nicholls and Cassin at the pre-race to hear the usual doom and gloom, then back to Jake’s for a feast they cooked up. Jean and Miles arrived shortly after. I went to bed a little after 9pm and fell right asleep, but was awake by 11pm and couldn’t fall back asleep. I tried everything, but don’t think I managed more than 3-4 hours of sleep the entire night. Pretty typical!
Final packing, applying Glide, bacon/bagel sandwich, and anxiety gagging was right on schedule. It was a nice chilly morning and there was the usual pre-race buzz at the base of the mountain near the starting line. I wasn’t really nervous, just glad that this thing was about to start! 8am, and we were off. Nicholls and I planned to stay together as best we could since our pace was similar in the LCW recently. We talked about the usual nonsense then started the 4k gain up right under the gondola. Jean, Miles, Stinger, and Jake took the gondola up and were there to cheers us on. After that it was ski service roads (where we followed a Keith look-alike) along Chisholm Trail and Storm Peak Challenge Trail to the 4.4 mile Mt Werner aid station where we arrived in about 1:35. We transitioned quickly re-filling water and grabbing some snacks.
Next the Mountain View Trail heads east and was slightly downhill and mostly runnable singletrack. We each kicked a few rocks and roots, knowing there was plenty more of that to come. We were thankful for the shade as the day was definitely heating up. The trail joined the Fish Creek Falls trails and continued to Long Lake as we passed runners in the other direction. We arrived at Long Lake after 3:05 (15mins ahead of our projected time), spent a few minutes eating and drinking, then headed back in the same direction.
Fish Creek Falls Trails… beautiful indeed, but a whole new type of torture. The meadows and aspen groves were nice, but it was hard to enjoy them knowing we had to come back up this way and it would be even hotter. The trail got steeper, the shade went away, and the terrain was so rocky that it was hard to look around and think about anything but sore feet. The first moments of doubt crept into my mind. I felt bad for the tourists coming up the trail and having to stand aside for 300 runners in each direction. Nicholls kissed the dirt at one point. Arriving at the Fish Creek Falls Trailhead 35 mins ahead of schedule (4:25) we met Jean, Miles, Stinger, and Jake. An extra mile (18 miles total so far) was tacked on and I didn’t like the self-doubt creeping in. Regardless, we applied more sunscreen, filled up with Tailwind, ate a few bites, and headed back out. Ugh! The trail up was brutal. 2,500ft of climbing with runners coming the other direction and the heat just blasting off of the rocks. I couldn’t stomach warm Tailwind anymore and I wanted to drop, just 20-ish miles into the race. “Get to the next aid station”. We dunked our hats in the stream at every opportunity. After the longest meadow in the world, Long Lake aid station finally arrived, 25miles in, and somehow 45mins ahead of our estimate. We spent a little more time here, and I switched to straight water and hammered down some calories from my drop bag.
Next was ~8.5 miles along the Wyoming Trail north towards Summit Lake. It was a nice mix of gentle uphill and short sections of downhill. The temps were much more pleasant since we were higher up and in the shade as we hit the 10,557ft high point of the race. I tried to catch up on liquids and food with somewhat success. My attitude definitely improved, and some tunes sure helped. I refused to think about more than just the current section of the race. Summit Lake arrived slightly sooner than we thought it would, around 5pm (~9hrs and 33 miles in) still 45mins ahead of our estimated time.
From our drop bags we gathered our warm clothes and headlamps for the night and were sent off down the trail being told “We’ll see ya in the morning!” A couple miles of runnable downhill along the rocky road then we turned off onto Flash of Gold Trail. It soon became apparent why it was named this, as the views in all directions were spectacular of the aspen groves on the surrounding hillsides. The miles peeled away quickly and an hour later we were at the small, but lively, Billy’s Rabbit Hole aid station. They said 10 miles to the next aid station, which was demoralizing, but fortunately the glowing aspen groves and gorgeous sunset really helped. The lead Hares passed us, we passed a “5 miles to Dry Lake” sign, then the inevitable… on with the headlamps. There’s always an adjustment period for the eyes, and the constant poofs of dust from every step didn’t help the lack of light. The switchbacks never ended, moral took a hit, and eventually we were pulling into Dry Lake around 8:40pm (12hrs and 40mins)…. 4 miles higher than their listed distance (47 instead of 44) and now 25 minutes later than our estimated time. WTF?!
Our crew was there and a huge help, Miles even made a “YOU GOT THIS!” sign that he held in one hand, and a tissue box for his stuffy nose in the other hand. At first I was pissed that we weren’t even halfway, then I thought “what will it take to get to the next aid station?” Back on our feet and thankful for 6 miles of downhill into town. The double track along Spring Creek Trail wandering across bridges was easy on our legs. It took about an hour and a half to get to the Olympian Hall (around 10:30pm), where there was a rockin’ wedding going on, various states of runners and crews, and a chill to the air. Kiki, Cassin, and Eric (minus his voice) were there also, Eric would get a couple hours of sleep in his truck then pace when we returned. Our awesome crew took care of our needs and got us moving again. My stomach was all cramped up and I couldn’t put down more than a few chips, watermelon, and coffee. Since Miles was sick and we were later than projected, Jean and Miles went to Jake’s to get sleep, while Stinger and Jake had a mission of their own before returning.
Now for a nice little nighttime stroll all around Emerald Mountain on the west side of Steamboat! The uphill kept us warm and the “Lane of Pain” after a few miles was exactly that. Next we wandered the mountain bike singletrack trails for awhile before returning to the Lane of Pain. I couldn’t eat much, but after each few bites my stomach felt back to normal and I had a burst of energy. Hhhhmmm. Four miles of downhill chatting with a Patriots fan and we were back to the horse barn and Olympian Hall. Stinger spotted us first and it was obvious him and Jake stayed awake and hydrated at the bar!
It was 2:30am, ramen and coffee never tasted so good. Nicholls and I even split a beer while he tried to apply duct tape to his torn up heel. Jake and Stinger were entertaining, uplifting, and helpful. After 20mins we headed out into the cold night with Eric and Kiki as pacers and an enormous 4k worth of climb ahead. We walked the entire 6 miles up Spring Creek Trail to Dry Lake, even seeing a lumbering porcupine along the way, arriving around 5am, 21 hours and 74 miles into this journey. More ramen and coffee.
Kiki and Cassin traded pacing and we almost missed a turn following other teams, fortunately Cassin spotted the correct route. This next section was my favorite of the course, climbing along the Ditch Trail and Grouse Trail. The trail was steep but along fun rocks and back to spectacular views and what’s that?!.... aaahhh, the rejuvenating sun. It’s always boost and instantly raises the energy level. I was also starving and my stomach cramps went away, I was eating and drinking like a champ. The 6 miles to Billy’s Rabbit Hole ticked off easily and we even jogged a bit laughing at Eric’s new favorite “your mom’s butt is so big they use it as a movie screen” jokes. It was 7:30am and the cheese quesadillas and bacon were delicious. Another 4 miles of trails and road then we arrived in good spirits at Summit Lake, around 8:45am with 84 miles under our belts. It was still too early to say “we’ve got this”, but that thought was creeping closer to our lips. Here John Knotts caught up to us and it was great to chat for a few minutes while we ditched our nighttime and cold gear in our drop bags. More ramen, coffee, and assorted other junk before we convinced our legs to start moving again.
The ups and downs along the Continental Divide wasn’t too bad and we actually jogged several of the short downhills, passing the time with random subjects and nonsense. It was warming up once again and another hat-dip in the stream near Long Lake felt great. Just before 11:30am we heard the cheers of the Long Lake aid station crew. These folks were awesome! We sat in the shade, ate plenty of bacon and junk food, and even had an ice cold beer that was incredibly refreshing. At 92 miles, and NOW we started to believe that we were going to finish this thing.
The next 6 miles were pure torture. It was getting hot again, the trail kept going uphill, and it never seemed to go in the correct direction down towards town. Ugh, we all suffered and talking came to a complete halt except the occasional cursing and complaining about the extra miles. “Would it really matter in a week?” It wouldn’t, but I was still pissed! Just when we thought we would crest the ridge and drop to Steamboat, the trail kept contouring then dropped to the saddle with Mt Werner before finally one last climb around Mt Werner to the aid station…. at mile 100, and 1:45pm (29hrs and 45mins). Eric wisely caught a ride down, Nicholls and I ate, got ice cold water dumped on our neck/back, then smiled knowing we were on the home stretch.
6 miles and 3,500ft drop? My gosh that sucked! Steep, rocky, hot, down down down. Nicholls had “the lean” going on and we jogged and walked. Kiki and Steve met us along the way and the miles slowly ticked away. One more trail and the finish was in sight! We jogged it in, and Miles and Jean ran in the last 100 yards with us to get our congratulatory hug that stopped the clock. I was too mad about the extra miles to get emotional and cry my eyes out. Thank God that’s over! 31 hours and 28 minutes. As we laughed later, this was a new PR for Nicholls and I doing something stupid together. We received our finishers belt buckle and beer mug, and Stinger and Jake led us to the beer tent. Jean and Miles got us settled in chairs where Eric and family were. It was hot, the beer was cold, and it felt grand to stop moving! A few beers, some pasta, and plenty of laughs then we headed back to Jake’s.
Shower, beer, food, then I went to bed at 7:30pm shivering. I woke up a few times throughout the night to limp into the bathroom and chug water. Sunday was pizza and beer for breakfast, then heading around the corner to watch the Eagles game and eat more. I napped on the way home and we sat in traffic on I70. Surprisingly I wasn’t that sore and my legs felt okay. The next several days was catching up on sleep, eating constantly, and odd aches and pains in my feet and legs.
Ended up 60th out of 168 finishers and close to 300 starters.
Hardrock 100 qualifier and now a 1% chance of getting in? Sure, I’ll throw my hat in the ring!