Twenty miles into the inaugural Run Rabbit Run 110 mile race and I was cashed. Around mile 24, as i was hiking pretty trivial grade, I couldn’t believe how dead my body was. The surrounding Emerald Mountains were breathtaking, the single track was very cruise-able and I floundered around gasping for air wondering what in the hell was going on. I’m not sure how my body and mind were destroyed so early on, but I pushed on. I’m not satisfied with how my race played out, but content that i moved forward when the going was rough and I accomplished my main goal of finishing the race.
The struggle that took place at Run Rabbit will be seared into my mind for years to come. This race did exactly what I came there for, to be humbled, to be shaken, to be tested. I only wish I could have had a little more fire. I came into this race physically and mentally drained. All my effort as of late has been plugged into our little one. I race because I love to run and play in the woods. Family will always come first but sometimes it’s a little hard to let the ego take a hit and remain focused on what I want to accomplish in life, to be a good father.
We took a road trip to Steamboat Springs a few weeks before the event. With our 2-½ week old baby boy, we packed every last inch with running attire, diapers, wipes and butt paste. We were set. We had some accommodations set up thanks to Fred (Thank you so much!) and were going to spend the next few weeks of our lives getting to know our newborn son and play out in the mountains as much as we could. I climbed up Mt. Werner daily or nightly, whichever one worked into our lives. We went on hikes to waterfalls and soaked in hot springs. It was a great holiday! Then night would come and as I like to get a little rowdy at night, so does my son. He likes to wiggle and move and it seems to really click for him around 1 or 2 am. He’s honestly been an amazing kid and I think I get way more sleep than most new parents, but I like my sleep and these past few weeks sleep is done in wee chunks. And so it goes. So grateful to share this time with my family and literally watch my boy grow.
Photo: Kellei Martin
The race started at 1p and took us straight up the gondola from 7,000 to 10,000 ft. This was a beautiful way to start the day and I only wish there were more climbs like that throughout the race. We all hiked our way to the top and hopped onto the beautiful Mountain View single-track ,over to Long Lake (mile 12). This all felt effortless and I was excited what the day would bring. If the first 12 miles were this easy, I thought it could only mean good things for the rest of the 100. Wrong.
Start. Photo: Irunfar
Mike Wolfe and I shared these miles and were able to catch up and enjoy the mountains together. We scrambled down Fish Creek Falls trail, which was a nice and technical descent back into town. This was one of my favorite parts of the course and it was just as much fun going back up hours later. There were beautiful waterfalls; you could hear the creek flowing peacefully and the whole arena was outlined with beautiful Aspen fall colors.
Early on. Photo: Matt Trappe
Then we hit the 3.5-mile pavement section back to the high school (mile 22), where the rest of the gang caught up. Dave James took the lead as we buzzed into town pretty fast. I was glad to get to the aid station, as I was silly and only rolled with one water bottle and was out for over 4 miles. Once I met my crew I drank a ton of water, but foolishly kept going with only one bottle. This was a pretty hot section of the day and this dehydration really cost me later in the race.
Nice view. Photo: Matt Trappe
We rolled the mile over to Olympian Hall and started another hands on knees hike up to a dirt road and through the Emerald Mountains. Again, the hike up was fun, but once the grade turned to run-able, my body shut down. Dave, Jason, Dylan and Wolfe were all in front and I couldn’t stay with them; hell I couldn’t even run. So I did what I could, I would run for a second and then hike and repeat for the next 4-5 miles. No one else was catching me, but I figured it wouldn’t be long. 25 miles into a race, yet it felt like 80, this was not my ideal scenario.
Emerald Mountains. Photo: Matt Trappe
I finally got up top and started cruising on the beautiful Ridge trail. I was hoping the downward momentum would inspire a little kick in the pants, but it was actually more of a kick to the groin. I still had nothing and once again I was out of water. I was doing everything I could to stay positive, but thus far it was just one of those days where you turn around with your tail between your legs and you head back home. Unfortunately this was a race and fortunately I’m stubborn, I continued on.
Reaching Cow Creek aid (mile 29) I pounded water, grabbed TWO handhelds and tried to gain my composure. It sure was good to see my crew and joke about how bad I felt. Apparently Wolfe was having a rough go at it too as he was hanging out at the aid station too. This is when what everyone was hoping to happen took place. All the talk on irunfar about the battle between Wolfe and I happened on the next few miles of flat dirt road. We busted out of the aid station where Wolfe built a little bit of a gap. We were easily flying 11-12 minute miles on this section with only a few miniscule walk breaks. We chatted, gasped for air, choked down some honey stingers and fiercely elbowed for top position to the single track. This is when Wolfe made his move. Those 11 minute miles were killing me so I backed off and succumbed to some powerless hiking and weaving and let him and his shinny headlamp get away.
High School. Photo: Irunfar
This single-track section on the Beall trail was spectacular, but I was in the depths of defeat, having Karl fly by me and watching the immaculate sunset fade into the distance while witnessing the trail turn to dark. Oops, I forgot a light, so I spent the next 5 miles wondering around the trails hopefully in the right direction. This section eventually turned really fun. I basically gave up on finishing in the top 5 and was wondering if I really wanted to push on. I did get to see a few porcupines over the next few miles and almost stepped on one because I couldn’t see very well at all. Porcupines are very cool, bushy creatures and I did contemplate petting one with my leg so I could have a good reason to end my deflated race. However through all my whining I tried to remain positive, always telling myself that it could turn around. I eventually ran up on some others that were in the race and bummed their flashlight beam before deciding to keep plugging along. I was actually really enjoying the dark. It was peaceful, still and it felt more like a run instead of a race.
I finally hit the steep down flop section through tall grass and brush. I tripped a few times, but really flew down the hill to Olympian Hall and my crew (mile 40). I was in much better spirits and finally excited to be running again. Goo’s were not really working the best for me so I filled one bottle with water and the other with Sierra Mist. I put on my Spry Vest from UltrAspire that had everything I needed for the long night ahead of me and was off.
Night running. Photo: Matt Trappe
I was stoked to be feeling better and the huge crowds that were at the ballpark partying and playing kickball were getting really rowdy and fun! There was a bunch of them cheering and they really started to yell when I did a couple fist pumps. Then one guy handed me a PBR. I was having a blast and really didn’t want to explain to the whole crowd that I’m gluten free and I don’t drink beer…so I took a chug and went on my way. They loved it and I have to say it was a refreshing drink of PBR.
I meandered my way back to the high school and to the start of another big climb (4000ft) up Fish Creek Falls gnarly trail and into the wild where the only light was headlamps and stars. This section I finally got somewhat into a groove. I was having fun, not worrying about the other runners and enjoying some “me” time out on the trail. I started passing a lot of the early starters and really enjoyed some night running. I’ve never run through a whole night and I was very interested in running the whole night and seeing the sunrise in the morning.
I made it up to Long Lake AS (mile 50ish) still in good spirits, but really cold. The temperature at 10,000ft was quite cool. So I put on some arm sleeves and proceeded forward. The people at Long Lake aid were really jolly, so I hung out for a minute and received word that I was getting closer to the top runners.
Hanging at the aid. Photo: Irunfar
The next section over to Summit Lake aid station (mile 57) was long with only a slight ascent the whole way. Along this route we hit the high point of 10,700ft, I kept moving on this trail, but definitely walked too much, feeling the effects of running at altitude. My stomach was just off all day. Nothing terrible, but every time I took a gel I would feel pretty nauseous for a while. So my calories turned to Sierra Mist which worked basically till the finish. On this stretch I passed James and had reports that Karl was really close. I couldn’t believe with the day I was having that I moved into 3rd, but it’s amazing what putting one foot in front of the other can accomplish.
The next section was just a steady descent down a rugged dirt road. Miles ticked slowly by, everything seemed in slow motion, but every step meant I was closer to my destination. In the mist of my struggles, the stars kept reminding me of the miracle and freedom of simply running. Even when things seem difficult I’m constantly reminded that each moment I’m in nature, breathing in fresh air and being free, is pure bliss.
I made it to Dry Creek aid (mile 64…I think…I’m really not sure any more) station, and weaved the next 5-miles through a beautiful trail and over many bridged creek crossings. I ran this section before the race and knew it well, but in the dark every mile feels new and unique. I passed Karl then Dylan on my way to the turn around at the high school. They were between 10-14 minutes ahead respectively, I was pretty impressed Karl had taken up the lead and he didn’t look like he was going to give it away. I saw some raccoons, they were cute, but they wouldn’t move. Boogers.
I was a little out of it these last two times I would see my crew. I made poor choices in what I predicted to be my needs for the rest of the trip. Making my way back to Dry Creek with around 30 miles to go, I knew it was going to be a hard section, but I still underestimated it and didn’t really take into account that I was going to be running this section between 3-9 in the am. I was sick of goo’s and not fueling properly. I was getting really tired, but weary of what caffeine would do to my stomach. In most races I try to avoid caffeine and in this particular situation ,I should have tested it out more prior to race day. I kept drinking coke at the aid stations, but whatever little amount of caffeine that gave me, I’m sure I could have used much more. I was so tired and with little desire to fight for this win.
Somewhere in the mist of a long season of running, witnessing my son being born and trying to train sleep-deprived, I lost my hunger to win. I thought maybe the idea of running after the $10,000 carrot would inspire some juice to push me forward, but I felt week, I felt uninspired. My only desire was to get back down the mountain and snuggle with my son. The only problem was that I had 20 some odd miles left with knees that felt like Tonya Harding was out on the course working on her swing. I had a picture in my vest of my son. I took it out to look at, ask him for help and see if he could awake the dead. It put a tear in my eye, I wanted to win this for him, but I just couldn’t move any faster. I walked. I groaned. Trying desperately to move forward which felt pathetic and disappointing. I thought of the hours I spent training when I could have been staring at my son. I thought of the parent I want to be – there for him, but also allowing him the freedom to be himself. Yes, I’m his father but confident independence is something I hope to instill. It’s ok to be alone in your own space, in your own mind; your mind and imagination are pathways to freedom. Anywhere you are, you can be free, you can be spacious and still, running or sitting, it’s all the same. I digress.
Last stop with crew for the night. Photo: Irunfar
Moving past Summit Lake with only 2 aids left and within grasp of 2nd place I carried on. This next section, time stood still, I felt like every turn should be the path to Long Lake, but it never came. I watched the sunrise from the East. I’ve heard of people getting a second wind once the dawn blossoms. I felt like crawling in a hole. I sang a few songs, but my throat was hoarse. This made me laugh. I started to find myself humorous, a regular Jerry Seinfeld. I think I made up some good one-liners, or maybe my mind was just slipping, neurotic, sleep-deprived, hysteria…I’ve reached the edge. All is well.
I luckily have a short-term memory problem. I forget how much these races can hurt. You would think I’ve figured that out by now, but for many good reasons I sign up for another one. I want to see where that journey will lead me. I’m never disappointed, trail runs lead me to the place I want to be all the time. Once I have that awakened glimpse, I want to bring that presence into my day-to-day endeavors. I normally don’t feel normal in this crazy world, running helps. It’s peaceful, it allows me to breath, immerse back into society and be positive, maybe inspire some, remembering patience is key. Running has made me a better person and even if some days a run feels a little uncomfortable, the rewards I reap within are astounding.
On my way to the last aid station at the top of Mt Werner I started to pass all the 50-mile participants. They looked so fresh and so clean. I did not, I felt like a zombie, I tried to say hi to everyone, but am not completely sure words came out. They were zooming by; damn people look fast when you just ran 105+ miles. It was fun to see them, wish them the best and make my way down to the finish. I swirled around the dirt roads wishing I could just take the straight shot down the way we started a long time ago. I eventually made my way down, hugged and kissed my wife and son and this journey was done.
Finish. Photo: Matt Trappe
How blessed I am, to have love, to be alive, to run free. These were my thoughts as I pushed those last miles. Those last 15 miles were some of the hardest I’ve ever done, 110 miles is a very long ways. I’m glad they’re done and I’m glad to be back home now. I’m not impressed with my run that day, but God willing I hope to have plenty more chances, maybe with a little more fire in the caboose.
I thought the race was done especially well in a beautiful arena with many a fine folks. Fred and Paul put on one hell of a race and I’m happy to have made it out there for the inaugural event. Thank you to them and all the countless others who helped put on the race, work through the day and night at aid stations with continuous smiles on their faces. It was a pleasure to run in Steamboat and I hope to take another crack at it in the years to come. Also a big thank you for Jameson Coffee for sponsoring irunfar to come and do their great coverage.
Thank you to my amazing crew: My beautiful wife and son, who allow me to run these crazy things and support me the whole way. To my parent-in-laws and sister who came to cheer me on, crew for me and help take care of Tristan. It’s so much fun to have a big crew who loves and helps so much.
Also a huge thanks to Pearl iZUMi for some kick ass shoes (Trail N1’s) that kept my feet happy all day and Natura Health Products for providing me with therapeutic herbal extracts to support my body through intense training and racing which help my body to recover and stay healthy and strong. Thanks to UltrAspire for their Spry Race Vest that effortlessly carried all my supplies through the night and to Highgear for their handy watches that tell me just how high I’m up in the mountains and that it’s about time to head back home.