Success at Run Rabbit Run (RRR) was a culmination of practicing my “2 rules” and the reality of frozen and exhausted rabbits. Before I get into that, more about RRR…
There are a lot of reasons RRR 100 is particularly special to me and that I have made a point of attending the race, in some capacity, all four years it has been in existence. RRR was my first attempt at a 100 mile back in 2012. Around the halfway point in the 2012 race I took a wrong turn for over 6 miles and eventually dropped. For the entire next year I was focused on a return to RRR. In returning in 2013, I ended up having the best race of my life to date and subsequently won and set the course record with a 17:15.
Competition has been phenomenal at RRR in its three year history with Timmy Olson, Karl Metzler, Dylan Bowman, Mike Wolf, Jeff Browning, Rob Krar, Josh Arthur… just to name a few of the men who have toed the line in addition to a slew of world class women as well. I enjoy running locally here in Colorado and it is particularly nice to race in a great town like Steamboat Springs. The RRR course is diverse, entertaining and challenging. The RRR course has 21,000ft of climbing at altitude (7,000-10,500ft) over its 107 miles providing plenty of challenge. RRR happens to be one of the few Hard Rock qualifiers in the US. The course crosses through town and the ski area twice, showcasing the best trails Steamboat has to offer all at the best time of year to run in the area… just as the plentiful Aspens are changing colors and the temperatures are nice and cool.
The community of Steamboat is amazing, with a real orientation for outdoor recreation (my sponsors SmartWool and Big Agnes are in Steamboat too) and supportive of the race. Fred, the RD, is a cool guy, has an unbelievable racing resume and is truly a gold standard example of someone putting everything into making a race phenomenal while taking almost nothing for himself. RRR is not for profit with proceeds going to charity. RRR is already on a short list of top 100 mile trail races in its short existence and I can only see the event growing in popularity.
This year’s race promised to be another showdown of amazing talent… Josh Arthur, Timmy Olson, Jared Hazen, Duncan Callahan, Ryan Burch, Bob Shebest, Andrew Skurka, Manuel Schmid, Mark Austin, Dave James, Jim Sweeny, Nick Clark and Jacob Puzey. You add $50k to the mix coupled with its mid-September date and there isn’t much to hold back for.
1)Run comfortably (aka highly aerobic) through the first 65 miles
After a full summer of heart rate specific training, a focused diet and nutrition plan coupled with four years of racing experience (ultra trail specific), I can run and race on mountain trails at a fairly fast pace while staying primarily in the aerobic range. If I follow my first rule and avoid getting caught up in what is going on around me, I have a great chance for performing well… as long as I can execute rule number 2.
It was 2013 at Run Rabbit Run that I learned a monumental lesson; if I truly stay positive, I will run faster and more successfully, especially at the 100 mile distance. Staying positive for 100 miles is not easy at all. With that said, I’ve been fortunate enough to hone my skills with the help of my wife Maggie Schlarb. Maggie is a professional (life coach, energy work, access consciousness guru) at setting the mind, body, energy and even surroundings, on a course specific to what an individual wants and chooses to create. One of many tools I decided to use specifically for this race was a sort of mantra or “clearing” statement for my general use on race day: “What energy, space and consciousness can me and my body be to (fill in the blank), anything that gets in the way of that, destroy and un-create it POD/POC (you have to ask Maggie about that part).
“Fill in the blank” was most often “not care or worry about anyone else in the race”. Worrying about who is behind, in front of, or next to me slowly eats at me and causes me stress and is a big distraction for focusing on positive thoughts. This clearing statement kept me from worry as much about everyone else. I was relaxed, running my race and happy not thinking about others. In addition to this, I also stay positive by smiling, laughing out loud and thinking about those who love me and wonderful times I’ve had with them. There is more, but that is a glimpse into “rule 2”.
Following my two rules has resulted in less dynamic and roller coast rides style races. I can break down my race into four distinct segments at RRR:
The RRR start is unique to the rest of the race in that it climbs on and off trail 3,300ft in 4.4 miles, which is much steeper than the rest of the course. A majority of this section is power hiking, which I not only love, but I do fairly well at after a full summer of power hiking (I’ll get back to this later). Dave James was about 30 seconds in the lead, then it was me and a long snake of guys (and a few gals) trailing close behind as we reached the half point in the climb. The second half was about the same except a German guy moved into 2nd between Dave and I and the snake dissipated.
On the descent to Fish Creek Falls I eventually passed the German and the snake dwindled to just Jared Hazen.
Jared passed me on the road and Dave increased his lead, leaving me in 3rd with no one close behind. On the climb after Olympian hall I crept up to Dave then Jared and passed them taking the lead down to Cow Creek with a small lead. Climbing out of Cow Creek, Jared joined me and we ran silently together for nearly 8 miles where I created a gap after a water station. Back at Olympian Hall, Jared took the lead by about 10 seconds as we headed back to Fish Creek Falls. Once more, I caught Jared and we ran together for about 5 miles.
Right around the fifty mile mark before climbing to Long Lake, I gapped Jared and pressed forward into the sub-freezing night. I worked comfortably and alone, where I always prefer to race, upward to Summit Lake at mile 58. The next section after Summit Lake is a long gradual descent to Spring Creek via Dry Lake.
At Dry Lake it was time for my one strategic move of the race. Spring Creek is an out and back and provides a status check on the rest of the competition. Spring Creek it also around the 2/3 mark and in my mind, warrants some out of comfort zone running. I didn’t have to make the move big, as I had a feeling no one was real close behind, but I wanted to cover my bases. I pushed a bit harder to Spring Creek, took a split and then pushed a bit harder still until I saw my competition. I optimistically counted the minutes, willing more and more time to pass until finally after 20 minutes Nick Clark and Bob Shebest came running by. I had approximately 35 minutes on the two runners by my rough estimation. 35 minutes is a good lead, but certainly not insurmountable for a strong 100 mile runner, which both Bob and Nick are. At 75 miles I had been on, or faster than my course record pace for a 17:15 finish time.
Back to my summer’s training, I spent the spring and most of the summer preparing for Transvulcania 80k with 15,000ft climbing, Eiger101 Ultra Trail with 22,000ft climbing and Telluride Mountain Run 38m with 15,000ft climbing. My summer’s training was very heavy on power hiking and I spent less time actually running up hill. With the exception of the first 4.4 miles, I ran most of the up hills at RRR. While I feel I was in better overall form this year than in 2013, my legs were not used to all the uphill running. The last 25 miles were very challenging and I had to really focus on rule 2. It is my assumption that at this point in the race, a majority of the top guys were paying for going too hard too early and the dark and unusually cold temperatures was not helping anyone out.
As is usually the case, I have no idea how far back my competition is. While I did my best to follow rule 2, a pair of near miss second places at Eiger and Telluride Mountain in addition to the money and pride of getting passed late, caused for a fairly miserable stretch of running to the top of Mount Warner.
Just before Mount Warner, I took a Voke Tab (natural caffeine) to kick start the finish push. The last 6 mile, 3,400ft descent was at 7 min mile or better pace and I stopped worrying about anyone passing me. The legs felt surprisingly OK and I was ready to see Maggie and the finish.
Kendrick Callaway was my chief crew captain extraordinaire. Kendrick doesn’t mess around with crewing and everything went perfect and as planned. Marcus Hille, who does the best body work in Boulder, Colorado and the Universe, crewed and ran the 4 mile road stretch to Olympian Hall and then back again to Fish Creek Falls with me. Maggie was on hand the whole race as well, which was wonderful. I actually got some tears in my eyes thinking about my loyal crew as I ran down to Cow Creek. Thanks guys.
Fred, Brady and Paul… wow, you guys put on a world class event with wonderful aid stations and volunteers. Also, you are the gold standard in giving so much with no real gain for yourself (monetarily speaking). To give your proceeds to charity and then $50,000 back to athletes is truly unique and classy. My hat is off to you guys.
Thank you Hadley for taking in Felix for the night so Maggie could be out there for me. Fred… your run this year on the course was inspirational and has been on my mind since. You didn’t make it to the finish (96!), but you left it all out there.
Altra Paradigm. This shoe does it all and and does it the best. The Paradigm is light (9.8oz,) has max leg saving cushion and despite significant mud and a little bit of snow on the higher elevation trails, the cut out traction and exposed EVA flew across the trails with zero falls on the day… and night!
Vitargo Race (2016). Once again, I had zero stomach issues and used Vitargo all day and night (appx 2,300 cal). The new Watermelon and Pink Lemonade is the best tasting fuel I’ve ever used. Fastest Muscle Fuel in the world!
Smartwool Apparel. PhD Run Light Elite Mini Crew Socks, PhD Run Shorts, PhD Ultralight Short Sleeve Shirt, PhD Arm Sleeves, Run Gloves. I was comfortable and warm all day and night. Nothing better than Smartwool!
Julbo Glasses. Trek Photochromic Glasses
Ultimate Direction TO (2016) Vest, UD Bottle and Soft Flask