I was excited to return to Steamboat in September for the 2014 Run Rabbit Run 100 Mile Endurance Run. This is a great venue and a great part of Colorado. Steamboat Springs is a cool little town and the Steamboat Resort is a perfect staging area for a hundred miler. This year my wife and I decided to make a vacation out of it and come in a week early and hang out in Steamboat. We got a little studio condo and settled into the final taper week in the Rockies.
This being my third hundred of the season, I was fighting a little tight low back and left groin. It had been flaring up here and there since Hardrock 100 in July and I had attacked my hip and low back with bodywork, rolling and ART the past few weeks before we loaded up the car and began our road trip. Even the week of the race it was pretty tight and sore. But, I was stretching and rolling religiously and it was feeling better 2 days out from the race.
This is a very unique race, in that there are two divisions — Tortoises and Hares. The Tortoise division starts at 8am and the Hare division starts at Noon. Both on the same course, with a tighter cutoff for the Elite race. This race also has a rare thing in ultrarunning — a cash purse. The race directors have been very transparent about the race and the more entries, the bigger the purse. This year would be 7 deep for the Hare race (in the men’s race) and 5 deep in the women’s (and prize money in the Tortoise race also). If they get more female entries in the future, they will extend the purse to 7 deep for women as well. And, because I’m over 40, I was going after Master’s Premium too, an added $1,000 for first Masters. With the spectator and crew friendly course, this has the making of a huge event in the future.
After a nice mellow week with my family, we moved condos to share with my crew of Roch and Catherine. Roch crewed me to my Wasatch 100 win in ’12 and I was looking forward to hanging out, as were my kiddos, who love Roch and Catherine (after so many years of knowing them, they’re kinda like family). We crashed at their house on the road trip out when we cruised through Salt Lake. Roch gave my 9 year old daughter a ukelele and showed her a few chords and she practiced all week knowing that she was going to see Uncle Rocho again. They had quite a few jam sessions once they were together again in Steamboat.
The morning of the race dawned and Roch, my oldest son Benjamin and I got up to see off and cheer for the Tortoise division at 8am. Then, back for breakfast and final gear checks. The one thing about bringing my family to races, I don’t get caught up in over thinking the race, I don’t have time. I’m either cooking or cleaning or answering a question or getting someone a drink of water. You never have to get anxious because you don’t have a chance to think that deeply about the race.
Just before noon, I trotted up and checked in and made my way to the front of the group for the start. The day was sunny with a decent breeze and only in the 60s. Perfect bluebird mountain running weather.
The Start Through Mile 22
At 12 o’clock sharp, we were on our way up the ski slope and even in a deep field of 100 mile veterans, the top 25 guys (myself included) made the beginner mistake of not looking for flags and following the guy in front of him like a bunch of sheep. We missed a section and ended up having to backtrack — no more than a 7 minute mistake. Soon we were back on the route and trying to catch the rest of the runners. Most of us spent the next 1/2 hour getting back to our original positions in the pack and by the top and Mt. Werner aid station we had re-established the front pack.
The weather was cool and sunny at 10,000 feet as we made our way across to Long Lake. I had to slip on my merino wool gloves while up high — it was brisk and clear. My teammate, Paul Terranova and I were making our way to the Long Lake aid, then I realized they moved the aid station back from last year, tacking on another 11-12 minutes. After our early course detour and this little change, we were over 15 minutes slower than last year on this section.
After a quick water top off at Long Lake, I was off down the technical trail of the Fish Creek Falls drainage. After the fun decent to Fish Creek Falls, I crossed the footbridge and popped up into the trailhead parking area, swapped water bottles with Roch and was clipping off the 2 mile paved section that leads through town and over to Howellett Hill and Olympian Hall aid station.
Mile 22 to 52: Steady as It Goes
It was a fast in and out of the aid, quick hello to my family, grabbed some bottles and a gel flask and was gone. On the climb up and over the lollipop loop of Emerald Mountain we were in a tight pack — at least the top 8 or 10 guys. As we descended Cow Creek, I was with Josh Arthur and Paul through the aid station and up the dirt road. On the long 7 mile grinder climb out of Cow Creek. Josh, Paul and I were never more than a few strides apart. No chit-chat, just Josh leading, me in the middle and Paul right behind me — quietly knocking out the climb in tight formation.
After the top, we all were back in a loose pack of the top 8 or so again. We came through Olympian Hall aid and everyone was quick through. I was at the stop light (if you don’t have a walk signal, you have to wait — which was the case). As I stretched a little, Nick Clark caught up to me, as well as Brendan Trimboli. Once we got the green light, we were in a tight pack climbing up the pavement to Fish Creek Falls Traihead at the failing light of dusk. We got into the parking area (a crew spot) and Roch and Catherine help me get my light set up on as we hiked through.
I flipped my lights on as I crossed the footbridge and began the technical Fish Creek Falls Trail climb to Long Lake. Just below the upper basin, Josh and Rob Krar passed me. At this point, I was little confused. I was expecting Nick or Paul, as I thought I was in 5th or 6th, but actually (I’d find out at Long Lake) was in 3rd. I pride myself on being efficient through aid stations, but didn’t realize I’d left the falls trailhead in the lead.
Mile 52 to the Finish: Through the Night
From this point forward, I was in 3rd the entire 2nd half of the race. At the turn around at Spring Creek Ponds, I was 9 minutes behind Josh and Nick was 15 minutes back. However, after the long 13 mile climb back up to Summit Lake at mile 80, I was a solid 25 minutes behind Josh in 2nd place. I wanted a podium spot and also wanted the Master’s prem and knew Nick (at 15 minutes back) was a tough competitor, so maintaining 3rd place became the focus the last 20 miles. It got down into upper teens above 10,000 feet on the cold Wyoming Trail across the ridgeline and back to Long Lake. The sky started to lighten on the traverse back to Mt. Werner and the final aid staiton and several times I glanced back to make sure 4th wasn’t closing on me.
By the time I started dropping down the final descent to the finish on the gravel service road at the resort, I started meeting the 50 mile starters. That really helped keep me moving well. It’s always a mental boost to have encouragement and after being alone in the dark with your thoughts all night — it’s nice to see humans as the day dawns.
As I entered the trail section that leads to the finish line, right before the trail comes out of the small drainage and you get a visual on the finish line, I saw my two older kids waiting and watching. I gave out a whistle and they started dancing and jumping around. As I ran up to them, I said in my worst british accent, “What a fine morning, young miss and fine sir.” They jumped up and down and we commenced to run it in together. As we hit pavers of the village’s mall area and the final 100 meters to the finish, my 3 year old son rushed out to meet us and we all jogged in together and a big hug and kiss to my wife. Rob and Josh were both there to greet me and we exchanged “good jobs.” Awesome to have Rocho and Catherine at the finish. What a solid event. I finished 3rd overall in 19 hours, 6 minutes and grabbed the Master’s premium.
Thanks to my wife and kiddos for their love, prayers and support. To Roch and Catherine for their crew help — the best. And the big man upstairs for keeping me safe on my feet through my 19th hundred. One more to go. Giddyup.
Patagonia Cap 1 Sleeveless Jersey (day) and Cap 1 Long Sleeve (night)
Patagonia Strider Pro Shorts (lots-o-pockets)
Patagonia Duck Bill Cap (Buff headband at night over the hat)
Patagonia Merino Gloves (2 pairs)
Patagonia R1 Gloves
Patagonia Houdini Jacket
Rudy Project Zyon Glasses
Black Diamond Storm (as waist lamp)
Black Diamond Icon (as headlamp)
Pre-race: Barlean’s CoQ10, Omega 3-6-9, Organic Greens, and Olive Oil Complex
During the Race: Tons of gel — Gu Vanilla Bean, Salted Carmel, Roctane Cherry Lime, Roctane Island Nectars; organic sushi rice and avacado rolls w/ sea salt and fresh lemon juice; a little broth
Post-race: Gu Recovery drink and tons of food