Wasatch 100

Wasatch 100

Saturday, September 21, 2013

2013 Run Rabbit Run 100 Race Report

Last year I was really excited to see a new mountain 100 miler in Colorado and it immediately became a priority for me.  This now gives Colorado three great races (I don't count running in circles for a 100 miles a mountain race): Hardrock, Leadville, and now the Run Rabbit Run 100 in beautiful Steamboat. 

Steamboat is one of my favorite Colorado ski towns.  The ski area is next to town with a great bus system and many things to do besides skiing.  It is 3.5 hours from Denver and I have had fun in both the summer and winter.

The race starts in two waves - the tortoises and hares.  The tortoises start Friday at 8:00 am and the hares start at 12 noon.  To lure in a very competitive field they had $30,000 in prize money for the winners (hares of course).  The route has several out-and-backs plus a few loops with over 40,000 ft of elevation change over the 105 miles (that is what my Garmin 910 showed).

Leading up to the race I trained with many back-to-back long runs and other mountain ultras through the summer.  I would say, I started the race in the best condition in several years with strong focus on climbing.  

Another good aspect of the RNR, is the corresponding 50 miler which has been running since 2007.  It  starts at 6:00 am on Saturday which allows for all the runners to finish together on the same day.  Also, this allowed for Kelly to enjoy a race too.  As support, Kelly met me once in town to cheer me on yet my goal was to do the event unsupported and without pacers.

(The race briefing and the starting area at the base of Steamboat)

 (Myself, Amy O'Connell, & Nick Lang - Members of the Runners Roost Mountain/Ultra Team)

The morning of the race I was able to sleep in (until 6:00 am) and take my time getting my gear together. I even had time to get a coffee at Starbucks before walking from condo to the start/finish area.  Before the start there was a quick briefing and it was great seeing all my teammates and Kelly there for the start.

The start began with an immediate climb up the face of the ski area.  Personally, I was feeling great with an aerobic heart rate and soon I found myself in the lead group of climbers.  Normally, I would be concerned except the elites were not in our group so I kept my march moving forward.  The next four pictures show the gondola climb.

Towards the top of the gondola climb we were done with the switch-backs and turned straight up. Other then the rain, this was the only time I got wet from all the condensation on the grass.  The weather was perfect especially knowing it has rained all night.

I made it to the top of the gondola in 45 minutes to the cheers of spectators. There was still more climbing to reach the top of Mt. Werner except it was easier on a gradual service road.
Top of the Mt. Werner is the 1st and last aid-station yet I did not stop since I had plenty of fluid in my pack.  The next 7 miles went by very fast with a good single-track trail descending to the Long Lake aid-station.  Long Lake would be my base and the major aid-station form most racers since we had three stops at various points in the race (Mile 11, 52, & 93).  This time in I just filled my small bottle and ate some PBJs.  
 (View from backside of Mt Warner on the route to Long Lake)
A half mile from Long Lake is the Fish Creek junction.  Arriving at this spot, I had a short run to Long Lake before returning to head down Fish Creek.  I would be back up later in the evening.  The next 18 pictures are all of the Fish Creek descent.  Needless to say, I got passed by a few runners while I was taking pics and video yet it was worth it and one runner stopped to take my picture.  

The Fish Creek descent is the most technical section of the race.  After two mile easy single-track it began a sharper drop into the canyon with lots of rocks and ledges.  In this section, I was more aggressive then usual running at a good clip and keeping up with the other runners except for picture time.  

After departing the canyon, I still had four miles of running on an annoying paved road into town.  This is the only part of the course I did not like yet I understand that it is the only way to get to the Cow Creek loop.  In town, I got to the light just as it turned red and had to wait a few minutes before I could cross and then join the trail along the river to Olympian Hall.  This was a fun aid-stop to some cheers from Runners Roost team members who where there crewing and to see Kelly as I refilled my bladder and got a new supply of Gu Roctane.
Leaving Olympian Hall there was an immediate four mile 1,500+ft climb to an unmanned aid-station.    On the way up, I passed three runners yet at the top I decided to slow down due to the daytime heating. Soon after reaching the top,  I was passed by Amy who was leading the women which is very impressive knowing she had just finished Leadville a few weeks earlier - my team rocks!

The next 4.5 miles was great single-track section weaving down the mountain to the Cow Creek aid-station.  I still had a good pace with only one other person passing me. The next eight pictures show the section to Cow Creek.
(The road going up and unmanned aid-station)

(View back toward town above and to the south below)

 (Amy O'Connell as she was about to pass me)
(Later I would be running through the aspens below)

(Eating chips at the Cow Creek aid-station - Thanks Sean Westine for the Pic)
The first mile out of Cow Creek was on a road where it began to rain for the first time.  When it rains, I always have an internal debate about putting on rain gear.  Since there is no way of knowing how long it will last it is hard to determine if it is worth putting on a hot coat for a few minutes of rain drops.  In shorter races I will just get wet and run through it yet in a 100 milers, more precaution is needed.  So I put it for about 30 minutes until the rain stopped and the clouds blew out. Compared to what I saw across the valley my rain was nothing compared to the storm hitting the hares by the ski area.
The section leaving Cow Creek is one of the longest segments in the race with great single-track (except the first mile) rolling through thick aspens and great vistas.  It was a long gradual climb that was mostly runnable.  On the way up, I began having issues with right my leg and had some discomfort in my right knee too.

 (Below is Nick Lang passing me at mile 37 from the Roost team who also finished Leadville and in this race he killed it with a sub 30 coming in 17th.)
Mile 38-42, was the section that redefined my race.  As I began running down the steep decent to Olympian Hall, my right knee really began to bug me.  The downhill made it even worse and as I compensated to the other leg left knee started to hurt too.  Just before 6:00 pm, I made it back to town to reload at the aid-station and it was nice to get off my legs for a few minutes.

For the only time in the race, I gave some thought about dropping yet I could still walk and I would soon have a more comfortable uphill.  The decision was made - I was still going to finish this race even if I had to walk most of it.
On the winding paved road up to the Fish Creek trail-head, I had to avoid a few distracted drives as they were busy with their important Friday evening calls. This was the most dangerous part of the race. I even had one lady try to take a right turn into me at an intersection. Being alert, I knew she did not see me and after her teenage daughter told her to stop she rolled down her window to apologize (this is why runners need to always be on the lookout even if we have the right away - cars will always win). Near the trail-head for the first time I was passed by the lead hare runners. It was like doing the race with my legs tied together as they raced past me. 
The ten mile section between town and Long Lake is a 2,900 ft climb (4.5 miles pavement and 5.5 miles technical single-track). The dark single-track after the Fish Creek trailhead was my favorite part of the event.  As I began the steep climb, my knee was feeling better and I had a good pace going up.  Personally, I love the solitude of the night section and until the last mile, the only contact I had was with some deer standing next to the trail.  

I reached Long Lake (mile 52) the second time around 10:00pm.  I refilled my bladder with my own EFS drink mix, ate some noodles, and changed into a warmer shirt.  The next 5.5 miles took nearly two hours yet it seemed to go by in a flash to the Summit Lake aid-station.  It had about a 500ft climb to the race high point over 10,000ft.  It was on a rolling dirt road where I managed to push myself into doing a slow run on the flats and the descents.  My knee still bothered me yet I pushed through it.   

After Summit Lake, I had a 7.6 mile 2,000ft descent to Dry Lake.  Again, I was able to pull out a slow run on a mostly smooth dirt road.  I had to put on my rain gear once for a quick thunderstorm yet by the time I got to Dry Lake I had already put it away.

From Dry Lake, I had another 4.5 mile 1,500ft descent to the Spring Creek aid-station.  It was great to see a few runners who I knew passing me on their way up including Amy who was still leading the women's race.  The section was mainly single-track that zig-zagged across the creek with a lot of muddy potholes that I slipped in a few times.

At 3:00am, I made it to the Spring Creek aid-station which was ran by Nick Clark and volunteering was my teammate Abby McQueeney Penamonte (both were the top runners in the Grand Slam).  It was nice to sit for a few moments to catch up with Abby and hear about her great summer.

Next up was the ten mile climb back to Summit Lake.  This too was a great section for me since it was a long easy climb and I got to enjoy a bright sunrise.  I made it to the aid-station about 8:00am with a quick transition in and out.

The next 8.2 miles was on a new section called the Wyoming Trail (the next 7 pictures).  As shown in the first picture, it is mainly used by ATV riders and there were many muddy bog spots along the way.  It seemed mostly flat unfortunately I could no longer run.  My endurance and muscles were fine but my knee was really bothering me (by this point the other leg was tired from taking on the extra load).  For the last 20 miles, my plan was to hike and enjoy the conversation with the occasional runner. 

Finally after 3 hours of hiking I made it back to Long Lake for the last time.  At the aid-station, I took some additional time to eat some pancakes and even change into some fresh socks.
Leaving, I was able to establish a good marching pace on the seven mile stretch back to Mt Werner.  There was quick rain shower at the beginning and then it was clear for the remainder of the race.  After a few miles two things happened. First, I hit a wall and slowed down to crawl. Second, I started seeing things like the log that I thought was a moose and the rock that I thought was a satellite dish.  So clearly, I needed to refuel which I did with some Honey Stinger chews.  I still wanted to avoid the caffeine in the Roctane so I could potentially get some sleep when I finished.
I eventually got my pace going again yet I was getting tired of the continuous climbs to Mt Werner.  Coming down the day before it went by so quickly, I forgot about how challenging it would be on the way back.  By the time I hit Mt Werner, I had to get a seat and drink some Coke to boost my alertness.  A medic working the aid-station came over to check on me and I was really appreciative of the ibuprofen he offered me which was a life saver on the way down.  After a few minutes, I was getting too comfortable so I popped up to begin the long 5 mile descent back down the mountain.
Going down for the most part was not bad.  I was very slow at first but managed to speedup to a fast walk.  I had a few top 50 milers pass me in the beginning and then I was on my own for some time.  I really enjoyed getting below the top of the gondola (see the pic below).  As I continued down, I kept looking for a left turn on to a ski run that was described in the race briefing but for miles it never showed up.  

Finally, a 100 miler who dropped early was walking up to cheer on a friend and he was able to give me the direction as to where to turn - still it was another mile down.  When I finally found it, the trail traversed across the top of some expert runs and then it went straight down.  Despite the steepness, I leverage my poles to make it manageable and even passed another 100 miler.  
After the steep section, a volunteer let me know there was just one more mile and as I got closer I knew I had to figure out a way to run (can't finish a race walking - that's wrong).  About a half mile from the finish, I leaned forward and began pathetic run like a drunk person from a night of binge drinking.  As I got closer, I was able to run a little smother and with a lot of pain I pushed it in.

In the end, I managed to finish in 33rd place with a time of 31:14:15 which was actually close to my goal time.  I had great time hanging out with some old friends and members of the Runners Roost Race team while I waited for Kelly to finish her 50 miler.  

Fred Abramowitz and his team put on a great well supported race.  It has all the great Colorado climbs and is easy for family and spectators to watch.  My hope is that a "Colorado Triple" with Hardrock, Leadville, and now Run Rabbit Run will be created.

Following the race we had a relaxing evening in the condo near the start. The next day heading back to Denver we were able to stop and enjoy some of the Octoberfest activities in Breckenridge.  

As for my knee, I am writing this six days post race and it is still tender yet the swelling has finally come down with lots of tender loving care.  I have doctor visit scheduled in few days so I am keeping my fingers crossed - I still have two more 2013 ultras (Palo Duro 50K and NF San Fran. 50M).

Below is a combo video through the race, a Steamboat Rainbow, a pic of my grapefruit size knee, and Octoberfest!!!