Wow. I got worked by the Run Rabbit Run 100 miler. I’m really happy with the results. I know I can race in the mountains now and given a few simple twists of fate, I think I can and should be much more competitive in years to come in mountain racing.
The race started out steep and slow. While I was trying to be conservative, starting near the back of the Hare division, I still worked hard for a 76 minute first four miles! Heading straight up a ski slope is quite a way to start a race.
In general, the first 16.5 miles did not suit my strengths so I was content to save energy and simply get through the first part of the race. Along with the big climb, the first 16.5 miles also included a technical descent down Fish Creek Falls trail. I watched Nikki Kimball bomb down this rocky stuff and thought maybe she’d blow up (she went on to win the women’s race!).
Got to the bottom of the first big hill, met up with Arya, and had four miles of downhill road running. He and I ran sub-7 minute mile pace for this section. I felt good and enjoyed running a few people down as we made our way into Olympian Hall aid station.
I could sum up the first part of the race such that I didn’t feel great, I didn’t feel horrible, I knew the course wasn’t playing to my strengths yet, and I could also tell that many around me were very much racing already. Looking back, I think I did this section well given the circumstances.
The middle of the race saw me getting into my rhythm. While it was still a struggle for me to climb the front side of Emerald Mountain, by the time I got down to Cow Creek at mile 29 I was feeling pretty good and in control.
We headed out on a dirt road for a couple miles before getting back to single track to slowly climb back over Emerald. I was around a couple guys and it was at this point that we started passing tortoises. I put on my music and was actually comfortable running the grinder uphills. I began passing people. My stomach was good, I was eating well (all Powergel at this point), and I was hydrated. The sun was starting to go down and I was happy with how the race was going. I figured I was somewhere near the top 30 in the Hare division.
For me, the middle portion of the race ended after the technical climb back up Fish Creek Falls. It was now dark, and cold. I’d taken a quick rest at the 45 mile aid station to put on more clothes, eat some solid food, and simply stop for a short break. Up until that point, I hadn’t stopped for more than a few seconds at any aid station. I didn’t even go into an aid station tent until mile 81.
Once I was up high again and in the cold night air, this is where I met up with my limiting factor for this particular race. I moved well up to the aid station at 52 miles. I was quickly out of the aid station and into the darkness. I was mentally sharp and rested. I was well fed and hydrated. I was catching people. But then my breathing started getting worse. I didn’t realize what was going on right away though. I would get tired, shuffle a little, and then realize I needed more walk breaks. I was fine with this knowing that I was running well overall and still feeling good physically. As the race wore on though, I realized that my chest infection from the previous week was flaring up again. My cough got worse and I began producing some spectacular yellow and brown mucus chunks from my lungs.
By the time I got to the aid station at 73 miles, my thoughts of racing had departed and the new idea of simply finishing was now securely entrenched. Mile 73 was also my last crew access point so I took the opportunity to regroup mentally and physically. I hopped in the car, Julie and Arya cranked up the heat, and I rested. I got ready for the remaining cold night, I tried to eat more solid food, and I prepared my mind for what was ahead. I was well ahead of the cutoff so I knew that even if I walked 30 minute miles the rest of the way, that I’d make it. However, I didn’t want to do it that way.
After an hour rest, I jogged the little downhill out of the aid station before beginning the long climb back to 10,000’+. Along the way I passed my brother. He was roughed up and said he was dropping due to really bad blisters. I completely understood and didn’t make an effort to push him to keep going. His disappointed face said it all. We shared a moment, gave each other a hug, and wished each other the best.
At this point the sun was coming up. It was still cold but a new day was ahead. I was surprisingly not sleepy, probably a combination of the late start (12pm) and the two rest breaks. I had a couple Hare guys around me at this point and as I powered out of the 81 mile aid station I did so with a sense of urgency, still wanting to beat as many hares as possible. The problem was that on nearly every running surface, and going uphill, downhill, or flat, I would go into coughing fits, have my stomach tense up, and generally have difficulty breathing after just short stints of shuffling (it wasn’t really running at this point). My legs were pretty good given the circumstances but I couldn’t keep up with the oxygen demands and walked way more than I should have, had I not had this limiting factor.
I pushed on though and despite it feeling like it took forever, I eventually made it back to the finish in 25:07. I was 14th male in the Hare division; I think I’d been as high as 12th but I lost a couple places during my hour nap. Many more men had dropped out along the way. I ran with the 4th place woman for many of the final hours too which kept me moving better than had I been alone. I crossed the line, hugged someone that was there giving hugs (I remember reading that my race wasn’t over until I hugged someone), and then with much anticipation and relief, I sat down knowing the run was over. It was just after 1pm on Saturday.
As much as I would have liked to have been more in the mix and in the top 10 of this race, I am very satisfied with both my race results and my season. I feel like I can finally race mountain races. I have had some good finishes, both at White River 50 and Fat Dog 70, and even during Run Rabbit Run, my legs, mind, and body felt strong and capable of the 100 mile mountain distance. Given what I had on race day, I feel like I did my best and I am satisfied with my effort. I’m not satisfied with my place or time though. I know I can do much better.
This year saw big improvements not only in my endurance fitness, but also major improvements in strategy and race planning. This is a much bigger component than many realize, and one that I discounted heavily in my earlier attempts at ultras. There are people that are tougher than me and luckier than me that have had success without as much planning, but I’ve found that there is way more that can be controlled and planned for in these long races that goes a long way toward keeping my mind and body working toward the end goal of maxing out my effort over a really long distance on race day.
With this in mind, I eagerly look ahead to my next racing season. I now plan on working on my speed again as I target flatter, faster courses for the winter and spring. I have ambitions to run a fast road marathon as well as potentially running the Rocky Raccoon 100 again at the end of January. I’m also targeting a fast 50 mile course sometime this spring.
I’m looking forward to training again. Since the racing season started at the end of July, my workouts have been almost nonexistent as it’s been a continuous cycle of race, recover, repeat. I miss track workouts and training.
I also plan on putting my name in for the big race lotteries. With the Run Rabbit Run finish, I’m now eligible for the Western States 100 lottery, the Hardrock 100 lottery, and UTMB (I got enough points from this season’s finishes). My plan is for next summer to be another mountain racing season and I’ll know by early next year what races I’ll be gearing up for.
Lastly, I owe a ton of thanks for all the support I’ve been given this season. First, thank you Phil Kochik of 7Hills Running Shop. You’ve hooked me up with shoes, you’ve helped pay for races, and you’ve been there cheering me on as I proudly wear the 7Hills green jersey in my races. Thanks for the support.
I’ve had awesome crew. Anna and Kristin were there for the White River 50 making my transitions through aid stations look like a well-oiled machine, while Arya made the trip from Seattle to Colorado for the 100 miler. He was there as a pacer and a helping hand as I got through this crazy race. Thanks friends.
Julie, you are amazing. You were there for all my races, quietly dealing with the challenging and thankless task of crewing me. You were always there, always ready, and even accepting of my gross sweaty kisses. You make this way more possible for me and I’m seriously thankful. I’ll be ready to change roles and crew for you as soon as you find your next race. I love you, and thank you.