No Pacers, No Poles, No Problem: Run Rabbit Run 2015

  “You are capable of doing more than you think you can, but also, running this race will be harder than you think it will be” – Fred “Roger Rabbit” Abramowitz at the Pre-Race Meeting

“It’s cold, a lot cold” – Mark Logan

Race: Run Rabbit Run

Distance102 Miles

Date: September 18-19, 2015

The Story:  Because of the awesome coincidence of this race and my twin cousin’s birthday happening the same weekend my family managed to get a reunion pulled together with my race as one of the attractions.  I arrived Thursday night and got to hang out with my parents, uncle and aunt, my sister and her boyfriend.  The pre-race meeting was delayed by over an hour because the bibs arrived late so I spent a ton of time waiting in line behind Jason Schlarb, Josh Arthur and Jacob Puzey while lots of people come over and took photos with them.  After the meeting, in which colder than you would think temperatures were highlighted I headed back to the place our family was renting out.  I chowed down on some penne and pesto, popped a couple of Melatonin gummies and passed out.

All ElevationTatted up and showing the Original Gifford the way up Mt. Werner

The noon start for the Hares (those running without pacers or trekking poles and with a strict 30 hour cut-off time) was nice and I very leisurely went about organizing final bits of gear, eating oatmeal, rolling out my legs and visualizing a great day.  I found a spot near the middle of the pack as we were corralled behind the start line and while my father played Indian Jones and Star Wars music on the trumpet, we were off.  The first mellow hills went great but when we hit the first steep and muddy climb straight up the black diamond ski-run my heart rate starting climbing dangerously.  I was fully aware that I was going out too hard but I got caught up in the scene and pushed too hard all the way to the summit of Mt. Werner, topping out in 1:15.  The next eight miles were on beautiful singletrack, but the trail was soaked and muddy from the previous days rain.  I stayed with a group of runners in the top 20 finding (not surprisingly) that I would get dropped on the hills and then easily catch up on the downhills (a pattern that played out all day, and a guide for the next training cycle’s focus).  I ran just behind Nikki Kimball and some other top women for most of the descent down to Fish Creek Falls and rolled in to Olympian Hall for a quick vest swap with my fantastic family crew right on my sub-24 hour schedule.  On the climb out of Olympian Hall, my fears of blowing up from going too hard started to manifest and I knew I was going to have to run smart for the next 80 miles to change the story from a blow up to a controlled slow down.

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Course Profile from ElevationTat. Note water indicated at 25.5 and 38…but alas.

As indicated on the map and profile of the course I was expecting water at mile 25 and 38 but was surprised to find about 3 gallons of water left on an unmanned table only 1.5 miles out from the Olympian Hall aid station.  I kept a steady mellow pace through the rollers to Cow Creek, loaded up three water bottles and started the long grind back to Olympian Hall.  My uphill running was starting to become more and more intermittent, but as soon as the sunset, temperatures dropped and I started catching up with and exchanging encouraging words with some of the Tortoises I started getting out of my funk.  Thinking there might still be water at mile 38, and drinking to thirst in the hot evening I drained my water around mile 37 and dug myself  into a hole of dehydration as I found only empty jugs lying on the ground at mile 41.  Another runner caught up with me, chatted and gave me some water from her hydration pack which lifted me up and I cruised down the final hill to Olympian doing sub 9:00 min/miles by headlamp.

Hooray Gloves! Hooray Water! Hooray crew for brining extra clothes just in case!

Olympian Hall Round 2 – Jess had arrived and joined my family to crew and what was going to be a quick vest swap turned into a much longer rehydration pit stop.  Based on the forecast and how wet the trails were up high I decided to take a wool base layer, wind breaker, hat, gloves and my Pearl Izumi Ultra Thermal fleece top with mitts built in.  The Ultra Thermal was not my original plan, but I’m pretty sure I would have DNF’ed without it.  I also found out that I was still mid-pack for the Hare’s and that Nikki Kimball and Dave James had already dropped.  After the long, dark grind back up the road to Fish Creek falls I alternately was passed, joined and then dropped by a number of runners including Henry Schliff and Rebecca Hall – both of whom I would share many miles in the second half of the race.  As I climbed higher and finally topped out on the final stretch to Long Lake the temps had plummeted and I had everything zipped up, tucked in and battened down for the cold.  I was shivering when I came into the aid station so I made the excuse of eating a couple of bean burritos to stay by the heaters for about 10 minutes to warm up.  The road to Summit Lake was exposed and frigid, but I managed to run most of it off and on with Henry and trying to catch up with Tortoise’s along the way, often running with them for a moment or too to cut down on the feeling of isolation.

At Summit Lake I took another bean burrito/warm up and saw lots of runners progressing into early stages of hypothermia.  I ran most of the 12 mile descent out of Summit Lake, but my quads started fading with about 1.5 miles before Dry lake so I adopted a speed-walk pseudo-run shuffle to stay warm.  I knew that as long as I made it to Dry Lake without letting my temperature dip out of control I would make it.  Jess would be there with a -10 degree sleeping bag, tights, puffy jackets and clean shoes/socks.

When I arrived Jess popped up out of her bag on the side of the road, I hopped in and she ran off to get Ramen and hot coco.   I stoked my tank, changed into all the warm/dry things I could and then headed out feeling like a new (yet-very sore) man.  I made great time down to Spring Creek running 12 min/miles and then cranked the 5 mile ascent back up in an hour and a half.  All day long I was struggling to find a really good reason to be out there pushing it.  I always love the struggle and the brutally honest confrontation with nature and myself, but I wasn’t going to hit my A goal or B goal pace, wasn’t in contention for any money and the thought of qualifying for Hardrock and Western States didn’t sound very appealing during the event (though I am stoked to enter the lottery now).  Around mile 68 I found myself thinking about Jess’s Uncle John who has been battling cancer, sepsis and a host of medical challenges.  We have been sending him videos of us running, biking and exploring to keep his stoke up and I knew he was watching and rooting for me.  I have been amazed at his perseverance and positive attitude after everything that has been thrown at him and I found my reason to persevere – so I could tell Uncle John that I did it, that I persevered and made it through no matter what was thrown at me.

Screen Shot 2015-09-20 at 4.59.18 PM
Holding the splits steady despite going out too hard the first 13. “Sometimes you have to mess up to learn” – Pat Kelley

Alas, all good things come to an end and even after another finding my reason to keep running and another round of sleeping bag time, Ramen and coco I was reduced to power-hiking the next 8 mile climb back to Summit Lake.  The sun was up by the time I headed out so I swapped my headlamp for sunglasses and regrettably forgot to re-appply sunscreen.  When I arrived at Summit Lake I saw my buddy Jeff Friedman pacing a buddy, grabbed some Coke and cookies and hit the Wyoming trail for the final 22 miles.  I was zeroed in on just getting to the next aid station and while I could still run the downhills, I had to powerhike all the uphills like everyone was my last to keep my pace up.  The amazing starry night was replaced with a great sunrise, the Rabbit Ears from the namesake pass visible in the distance, and the summit of Mt. Werner obscured by rolling and forested hills.  By the time I was at Long Lake a few hares had caught and passed me, while I passed a few, and my Mt. Werner I had not seen any other runners except some of the fastest 50 Milers for over an hour.  The three hills before topping out on Mt. Werner were deceptively hard this late into the race, but topping out was supremely satisfying.  I arrived at Mt. Werner aid at 2:06 pm and set of goal of getting down by 3 pm for a sub 27 hour finish.  I had strategically taken 3 Ibuprofin pills an hour before arriving at the top of the 5 mile descent, slammed some coke and ran the last five miles ~10 min/mile pace.  I came in to the finish 27 hours and a few spare seconds to the trumpet tune of Star Wars, hugged the Designated Hugger, accepted my new favorite belt buckle and embraced my crew (31st OA with 84 starters, 16th AG with the Pros).

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Sub 30 Golden Buckle Bliss.

While I am proud of accomplishing this without pacers or trekking poles, there is no doubt in my mind that I would have dropped without the amazing support of my crew.  Their support before, during and after (with delicious recovery quesadillas and sushi) was a huge source of motivation during the event and their clear thinking was essential during the wee hours of the night.

Best Crew Ever!! (Jess and Christy missing from photo)

Gear: Pearl Izumi Ultra Short Tights/Ultra Tights, Pearl Izumi Pro Singlet, Wool 1 Baselayer, Pearl Izumi Ultra Jacket, Ultra Thermal Jacket, North Face Primaloft Jacket, Pearl Izumi Thermal Light Gloves, Smartwool PhD hat, Injinji socks, iRunFar Headsweats Hat, Smith Parallel D Max sunglasses, Black Diamond Icon, Storm and Sprinter headlamps, Pearl Izumi Trail N2 V2 and M2 shoes, Ultimate Direction AK and SJ Vests with Hydrapak Soft Bottles, Salomon Skin 12 Vest, Nathan SpeedDraw handheld, iPod shuffle and Yurbuds, ElevationTat Profile and a steady diet of GU Roctane, Tailwind Nutrition and bean burritos/ramen/hot coco and Coke.

Results and Strava: 

iRunFar “Week In Running” Results

Ultra Signup Results

Strava (until the Ambit died)

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