Run Rabbit Run starts at the base of the Steamboat ski resort and has 9,000 ft of elevation gain. It is a out and back course with 2.5 significant climbs and a general rolling nature. This was my "A" race for the year (if one could consider running 50 miles a race). I came into the race exactly where I wanted to be in terms of fitness and overall health.
Miles 1-6- 3,500 feet elevation gained. The headlamps at the beginning of these races never get old, I love looking up at the leaders (in this case Geoff Roes, the current king of ultra) and back at the stretch of lights bobbing in the dark. My goal was to run for the first 15 minutes, mostly because I wanted to warm up quickly, it was 30 degrees out. I also wanted to get ahead of the middle of the pack. After 15 minutes I mixed running/hiking, the closer I got to the top, the more I hike. Met a really nice guy who was also from Colorado and time passed quickly while recounting our summer stories. Before long we could hear a cowbell at the summit of the ski resort, I looked back at the floor of the valley where we started and it seemed sooooo far away, I shuddered at the thought of how far away it would look in the afternoon.
Mile 6-13 It was a great confidence boost knowing that the hardest climb of the day was done (ignorance is bliss). I had 2 miles of 75-100 foot rollers and then a 3 mile, 900 foot drop before the next aid station. I mostly focused on keeping a steady effort here and hiking hills that the trail demanded. I could feel the elevation and it was making me tired, which was a minor, but annoying, inconvenience. During the 3 weeks before the race I had not been above 8,000 feet, today I'd spend most of my time at 9,500, oops. I had a hard time finding my footing and a rhythm, something about a big climb and then rollers... Once we hit the big drop my legs got used to running again. I caught a glimpse of Long Lake, which almost made me double over laughing…why you ask? Well, I lived in Steamboat for 3 months a few summers back, and anytime we tried to get to Long Lake something crazy happened. I had never actually seen it! I hurried through the aid station and began to tackle the next section.
Mile 13-22 This is actually two aid station sections of the race, but my in my mind I had to work through this as one. The section of trail meandered through a wide open meadow, I can’t even describe the beauty of this area. The course took us through aspen stands, across small creeks and up and down two 600 foot hills. I wished that I had the trail to myself, my guess is the 30 people in front of me scared away any potential wildlife I may have seen. Perhaps my mind wandered too much, because once I focused back on running I realized I had been going awfully slow. I looked at my pace card and realized I had fallen well behind. The good news was that I felt great, so like an idiot I just took off.
Mile 22-25 So this is where I pay for running 2.5 miles in 18 minutes, even though it was downhill… This section climbs up to the iconic Rabbit Ears outside of Steamboat. It was steep, hot, exposed and sucked the life out of me. I had trained specifically for this section by hoofing up similar terrain in the heat of the day in the summer. ---side note: one day I had to go the hospital for heat exhaustion because I did the simulation hill 4 times in 95 degrees, I was ready to rock the hill on race day--- and so that’s what I did. I was miserable but I sucked it up and hiked. Because of my practice efforts I knew exactly how much I could eat going up and down. In this section the leaders, including ultra-king Geoff Roes, began to pass me. Some looked great, and some looked terrible. That’s what separates them from us, they can look terrible and still run fast. I made it to the turn around at 4:40, not bad for a 25 mile run with some major climbing. Now I had to turn around and run back. I allowed myself a minute at the top to think about the next 25 miles as a whole. I stopped long enough to look at the Gore Range, Flattops and Zirkles. I was right where I wanted to be. Now I just had to finish. The first 25 miles are supposed to be easy!
Mile 25-28 I don’t remember much from this, I passed the people who were going up and they were all very nice, but I felt horrible. The nature of this descent made finding a rhythm almost impossible, I was really struggling to move from a shuffle to a run. Finally, the grade mellowed out and I made it back to the aid station feeling awesome. Crazy sport. My brother was supposed to meet me the first time I made it to this aid (it served as aid at mile 22 and 28), but he was not there. I am not mad at him for this, I had everything I needed. I am very mad, however, that he was waiting for me to come from the other direction. He must think I am slooooooooow, We exchanged high fives and a laughs, I drank some coke and filled my water, and on I went. I was cruising, listening the String Cheese Incident and totally playing air guitar…
Mile 28-35 My back was a little sore from the last section’s steep climb and drop, I could feel it cramping so I attacked with salt. This seemed to fix the problem, I was thinking ahead to the 6 mile drop I had in 14 miles and knew that I needed more than “just ok”. Turns out it wouldn’t matter…. About 4 miles from the Long Lake aid station I made a mistake. I caught my foot on a rock and instead of falling violently moved my left leg under my torso and jerked up with my back. Then my back was done. Then my “race” was done. I was a total wreck, I tried running, but that didn’t work, so I walked. I tried running again, my back seized up. So I walked and walked. I kept trying to run, my back kept saying no.
Sometimes you are on cruise control and you don’t even see obstacles, and sometimes the ones you don’t see come up and kick your butt. It’s what you do afterwards that matters. I limped and eventually powerhiked my way for 15 miles. Somewhere in that last 15 miles my thoughts turned very negative, as if I wasted all of this training. Run Rabbit Run’s two time defending female champion, who was also the volunteer-coordinator and all around Steamboat-saint, was killed tragically in a car accident driving home from a race earlier this year. Her legacy was all over this race, all the way down to the race t-shirts. On a beautiful day, sunny like the one I was currently outside in, she ran a race, got in a car, and died before making it home. I thought of her and I broke down. Here I was, in the middle of the most beautiful wilderness in the country, feeling like somehow I had wasted the day. I vowed to keep a smile on my face for Jenna, for almost 4 hours, until I finished. I am no less proud of this result than the one I envisioned at mile 34, because I handled the adversity the trail threw at me.
I’ll end the race report with this- taken from the course website “The Run Rabbit Run course is very much like life, in that there are many, many little and not so little ups and downs in between the obvious highs and lows. Be prepared.”