Run Rabbit Run 100

Photo credit: Paul Nelson Photograhy

2021

Hare; 28:26; 12th place female

Run Rabbit Run 107.5 was beautiful and brutal. It was a miracle I made it to the start after a serious tear to my posterior tibialis that I had been rehabbing for over a year, but I worked hard and came back, and I logged some of my favorite training in the mountains leading up to race day.

I took Wednesday-Monday off work and drove to Steamboat from Sacramento. I still can’t decide whether that was the way to go. The drive was not stressful, but it was long. A few days before the race, I caught a cold. During my drive, I desperately tried to will it away, using my thermos of hot tea to steam myself even, but alas, on race day I was still congested. After the race briefing, Lisa and I scouted one of the aid stations, cooked dinner with my backpacking stove in the parking lot of the hotel, and went to bed. I focused on staying positive the morning before the race. I had signed up as a hare, so we started four hours after the tortoises, had tighter cutoff times, couldn’t use trekking poles, and couldn’t have a pacer. I stayed off my feet as much as possible that morning. I did an easy stretching session and then Lisa and I made our way to the start.

When the race commenced, we started the nearly 4000 ft climb up Mt. Werner, reaching the 9000-10,500 ft range where most of the race hovers. I took it easier than I should have from the beginning, feeling my cold and the elevation affecting my breathing and energy level. I had watermelon and a warm coke. It didn’t settle well. I cruised to Long Lake, but it already felt like the small group of hares had broken away, leaving me trailing near the rear. Heading down to Fish Creek, the fall colors in the aspen were beautiful and it was warm. I had trouble getting a rhythm passing the cross traffic of tortoises coming back up the climb and navigating the rocks, but it was fun passing the front running hares as I neared the bottom. Many of the runners trailing the frontrunners were red in the face and suffering from the heat. Having trained in Sacramento all summer, I felt comfortable. Even though I wasn’t the slowest person in the race, being one of the slower hares meant I was at the back of the pack at this point, and I have never experienced that before. It really messed with my head.

I got back up to Long Lake and grabbed my headlamp, hat, gloves, hydration pack, and arm sleeves. The sun was going down, and this was one of my favorite sections. It was mostly rolling 4×4 roads at the top of the world, with the brilliant orange sun lighting up the sky behind the tall pine trees. I passed a few female hares, finally feeling stronger. When I got up to Summit Lake, I changed into a long sleeve Smartwool shirt and picked up my waist lamp. I shoved a puffy jacket into my pack that I never used.

The next section I made a wrong turn, but I realized it within a few hundred yards. I started focusing on my congestion which was worsening and slowed going down to Dry Lake, which was a shame because it was super runnable downhill. I felt nauseous and my throat hurt. My cough sounded terrible. The sugary gels seemed to make everything worse. I kept thinking about how sick I was going to be after beating my body up all night.

When I got to Dry Lake, there were lots of people. It was overwhelming but then I heard, “Maria!” and there was my old friend Jeff whom I hadn’t seen in nine years. We caught up for a few minutes. He told me I didn’t look as terrible as half the other people who came through. I drank some broth and it made me feel better.

Shortly after I left to head down to Olympian Hall, the fastest hares blasted past me. That meant they were already over 20 miles ahead of me. I should have run faster on this section too. It was a runnable downhill. When I made it to Olympian Hall, I was feeling so down on myself. I wasn’t motivated to move any faster. I stalled for too long even though Lisa kept me outside in the cold, and resting didn’t make me feel any better. Lisa gave me some tough love and told me to, “Get it together. Have some confidence!” Only broth went down well and Redbull helped pep me up. I left and picked up the pace on the climb, but then I realized I had taken a wrong turn again and had to backtrack nearly half a mile this time.

When I got back to Olympian Hall, I stalled again but eventually left stuffing my shorts in my pack as I realized I didn’t have any at Summit Lake and grabbing hand warmers. Both were a good call. The intensities of fire and ice were unforgiving. I forgot new batteries for my headlamp though. By the time I was at the edge of town about to get onto the trail, my headlamp and my waist lamp died at the same time. I had to use my phone flashlight, but I only had 25% battery left, so I couldn’t use it to listen to music for the rest of the race. This shouldn’t have been a huge deal, but without a pacer it felt devastating. I was slower than I should have been on this runnable section as well (are you noticing a pattern yet?). When I was a mile from Dry Creek, the first hints of dawn were softening the shadows of the trees and I came upon one of the hares whom I remembered from bib pickup the day before, sitting in the middle of the trail. “Are you okay?” I asked.

“I’m s-so cold,” she stammered.

“You’ve got to get up and keep moving. It won’t be good to stay sitting here. I have an extra jacket if you need it.”

“No. I c-can’t t-t-take that or I’ll be disqualif-fied.”

“You’d better keep moving then. It’s only a mile to the aid station.” She got up and started following me in somber silence.

When I got up to my crew, it was getting light out. It felt good to see the sun and my crew again. The climb to Flash of Gold was rocky and a little scrambly. I used my hands to assist on a few of the climbs. I didn’t stop at the aid station long. When I got to Summit Lake, I was happy to change into my shorts and t-shirt. There were five or six male hares sitting and talking about how terrible they felt, which was sadistically comforting.

I couldn’t run anymore. I could walk fast, and my A goals were out the window, so I just kept putting one foot in front of the other. I kept recalculating how much time I had left and what pace I would have to maintain, until my watch died, then eventually my phone died as well, and then I was oblivious to how much time was passing. I had never felt like I needed to chase cutoffs before. The sun was hot, and I hadn’t left a hat or sunscreen in my Summit Lake drop bag. I baked and walked over the mostly exposed section crossing the Continental Divide. The color-changing aspen were spectacular. If I’d had the legs, that would have been runnable as well.

I made it back to Long Lake and grabbed my hat and sunglasses. I still had 14 long miles. I kept walking, but I was passing a lot of tortoises and a few hares. I passed one solo runner who turned and looked at me with a bright red eyeball that had completely ruptured blood vessels. We really were zombies, I thought. Soon after, I passed a blind runner. “Rock on your left… step up,” his pacer directed every other second. I recalled the rock scrambling that we had done earlier and was in awe.

When I got to Mt. Werner, I was over 100 miles into the race and the last six miles loomed ahead. I broke down into a phlegmy coughing fit that went on for several minutes and leaned strongly into self-pity. A woman working the aid station looked alarmed but didn’t say anything. I had completely lost my voice in the last twenty miles so I whispered, “Thank you,” and left.

The last 6 miles down the dirt road were brutally steep and long. I tried to run but it hurt, and I wasn’t motivated to dig deeper. Everything hurt. When I was halfway down, I started to get emotional. I was going to be so happy to cross that finish line. But then the downhill gravel road stretched on. Gusts of wind blew dust into my eyes. I tried to maintain my composure as I passed hikers, hoping neither insane laughter nor sobbing would flood out. Finally, the course turned down a single track, but that also seemed never-ending. I could hear the cheering and I popped out into an open grassy area. Someone directed me to cross a dry creek and I ran across the grass to the finish where my friends were waiting for me.

My performance wasn’t what I wanted, but the race was beautiful, and I stuck it out. I will return for redemption and the views.

Take-aways:

  1. I am blessed with some amazing friends & family and especially my wonderful friend/crew chief Lisa Coronada.
  2. I really like being in the front. This race was thoroughly humbling.
  3. Elevation is a butt kicker, especially when you haven’t acclimated, regardless of training.
  4. I wasted two hours at aid stations. Yikes!
  5. Running 107.5 miles with a cold is not advisable.
  6. The extra 7.5 miles make a big difference.