Something more difficult than running Run Rabbit Run? Writing a race report about a race you would rather chalk up to one word: Frustration. I wish you were sitting down to read an epic race report of mine, which would leave you feeling inspired to go out on a beastly run of your own. Unfortunately for both of us, you may just read this and feel drained. Here is your warning, this write up isn’t filled with butterflies and rainbows, in fact none of it is, but it is packed with exhaustion, and multiple tales of me squatting in bushes. Enjoy.
I hate the story I’m about to tell. I don’t want to be the main character in it. Taking 5th in RRR isn’t me, it’s not what I’m about. I have more in me that I was unable to tap into. My potential for this race went unexplored. I don’t want to be the girl that finished in 5th place, so I am not going to be. This write up will be about her, not me.
Her training was immaculate. This gave her undaunting confidence. There was never a day were she had to mentally prep herself to get out the door for a run. Every run she went on she felt powerful and pushed her speed to the limit. She charged up mountains, then descending back down in triple time. Her biggest fear going into a race? Maybe her dedication, time, relentless hard work, or love for the sport would not show up in her results. For RRR this fear was extinct, she had too much faith in her training.
Ultra-runners have limits, bodies have limits. She knew this. There were countless articles, books, and race reports she had read all with the unfaltering advice: don’t over race. She’d watched other athletes commit this folly, talked about their unusually poor race performances amongst close company, judging their race schedules, slightly criticizing them for getting too caught up in racing, scrutinizing them for thinking that they were different. Nobody can execute jaw dropping race, followed by jaw dropping race. An athlete can race often, and might be capable of consistently posting impressive results, but if they are not taking proper recovery time, then they are A) not reaching their full potential and/or B) inviting injury into their racing career.
This girl, the Run Rabbit girl, needed to learn this lesson on her own. She was running RRR exactly ten weeks after Western States. Possible? Without a doubt, but not with the results she desired and knew she was capable of. Her goal time was 21 hours. On a good day she knew she could beat that by a solid 30 minutes or more. On a bad day she would cross the finish line around the 22 hour mark.
A few days before the race her legs started to feel weighted, exhausted. This perplexed her. She was only running a few miles a day, due to her tapering plan. Deciding to blow off this feeling, she convinced herself once the race started, it would only take a few miles for her legs to assume their natural springy state, and shake of the cinderblock sensation they’d come to call home. The race started at noon. A strange start time that she was slightly excited by. A noon start time meant she could run through the entire night. The solitude and peacefulness of checking off miles in the dark alone, seemed both calming and exciting.
The race started on schedule, she felt mentally sharp, eager to see what the day had in store. Physically, she was uncharacteristically struggling. It was early in the race so she decided not to stress over the fact that her body seemed to be over heating, and her legs still felt like anchors on a body that mentally wanted to trot up the mountain, as she had hundreds of times in training. At mile 10 her body was void of any energy, drained. Although her mind knew better, her legs were convinced they had ran a marathon earlier that morning. She was continuously trying to mentally over power the messages her body was sending her, “This feeling will pass. Do not give into this slight physical hiccup”. When she reached the bottom of Fish Creek Falls (mile 17) she was cooking, her body temp was too hot, she knew this, and was also aware that when her body temperature reaches a certain degree, her stomach can’t handle the stress. Ice baths were needed, she was kicking herself for not wearing arm sleeves to stuff ice cubes in. How could she feel this drained, this early in the race, after all the training she had put in?
Fearing a hard crash in the future due to her body temp, she wanted to get in and out of Olympian Hall Aid Station (mile 21.3) as fast as she could. Before she hit a wall, she was going to push forward with intent to bank some time, and hopefully hurdle any wall she encountered with the sheer will to just keep running forward. Grabbing a Snickers bar from her crew, she left the aid station with two fresh water bottles. In her hurry to get back on the course, she didn’t take the time to hydrate while at the aid. Immediately after leaving Olympian Hall there is a 300 foot climb, she sipped on her first water bottle while going up, and finished it off chasing down her Snickers bar. Leaving her with only one water bottle for the next 8 miles. Two miles later she had no water left. Stopping to pee, she looked down, it was the color of Pepsi. A few miles later there was a repeat occurrence, of her watering the local plant life with Pepsi. Her body needed fluid, but she was still a few miles from Cow Creek Aid (mile 29.9), she settled on fueling her body with a gel. Wrong choice. Instantly her stomach was cramping, this started the first of many excursions into the bushes lining the trail. For the next 85 miles she stopped in the bushes a minimum of every 5 miles, but more often every two, to ease her stomach cramps. Already feeling like she was moving at a snail’s pace, this inconvenience only frustrated her more. She kept moving forward trusting that her low would pass, and the opposite high would follow in its path. She chose to believe that in time she would be flying through the night on top of the world, or to be more accurate, on top of Steamboat.
Thrilled to see her crew at Cow Creek, she tossed her running pack at them, and scurried into the ladies room. Coming back out she, knew she needed to keep moving, stomach issues or not. Flirting on the edge of being nauseas all day, she had no desire to eat anything but knew she needed the calories to be able to keep running. Her stomach was doing its best to convince her otherwise. Forcing down as much water as she could at the aid, she grabbed a third water bottle from her crew and headed out on the next section. On Cow Creek Road she was forced into the bushes three separate times before making it to the Beall Trailhead two miles up the road. On her way back up to the top of Emerald Mountain darkness set in, which brought life to her in the form of cool air. Back at Olympian Hall (mile 42.1), this time she took time to eat and drink, before taking off. She couldn’t help thinking to herself, “What mile is this 40?!? Why haven’t my legs shaken out yet?”
The next section she had a few miles of road where she was allowed a pacer for 3.7 miles for safety, since the course crosses through downtown Steamboat, with her best friend at her side, it was the only time all day that she wished the next aid was farther away.
After dropping her pacer off, she headed back up Fish Creek in the dark with her headlamp as her only companion. Doing her best to continue with the attitude: fake it until you make it. Still no sign of a runner’s high, still moving forward with legs of concrete. Long Lake Aid Station, Summit Lake Aid station, down Buff Pass, nausea, stomach cramps, the run that wouldn’t end. At mile 64 for the first time it dawned on her that maybe her legs weren’t going to shake out, maybe the runners high she had been counting on all day wasn’t coming. Unfortunately the reality of the situation hit her a mile before she encountered her crew at Dry Lake. A sour mood swept through her, all she wanted was to get this run over with. If only her legs would let her fly through the course!
Her crew recognized her poor attitude. With the calmness of saints, they forced calories into her and smothered her in a patient positive attitude. Their every action was more than she deserved. Down Spring Creek she ran, jumping into the bushes a handful of times. Eventually she made it to the Spring Creek Aid Station (mile 69.3), turned around almost immediately, and headed back up Spring Creek. Once back at Dry Lake (mile 73.8) she sat down for the first time. Getting some warm calories in the form of broth into her system. It was 5:33 AM when she left Dry Lake. Mentally she put a wall up, ignoring every emotion, doing her best to focus and slowly chip away at the climb back up Buff Pass. Summit Lake Aid Station, check. A quick tour of the bushes in the area, then back on the trail. She kept pushing forward. Even though her legs weren’t turning over like they should, and she was going into the bushes way more than she would like, she was still passing by handfuls of runners. All of them informed her the next female was at least two hours ahead of her.
Two hours up on her, with less than a half marathon left to run, the odds of her catching the next woman were slim. Then she turned a corner and walking in a meadow with the morning sun shining down on her was a female runner. She had to wait for mile 89 but finally she felt slightly like the running demon she started the race wanting to be. Before passing her only victim of the race, she stopped to go to the bathroom one last time. Then it was on. She grabbed a few pancakes at Long Lake Aid station, swallowing them almost whole, and forcing them down with water. A bunch of quick calories, she needed to keep what little energy she had up, and knock out the last few miles as strong as she could.
By default her head kept going to the mindset: don’t let the last girl you passed catch you. Constantly she forced herself to switch over to the mindset: who cares about the last girl, where can you find the next one to pass? Letting her will drive her she continued on. Reaching the last aid station with 6 miles left, she was informed, “We haven’t seen a female in 60, maybe 90 minutes.” That was a lot of time to make up in 6 miles. Later she would find out that at the last aid she was only 12 minutes behind the next female. Continuing on down the mountain she finished RRR in 24:16, 5th woman.
I am proud I finished. I am proud I was able to mentally force my body to run 100 miles when I was physically struggling the entire race. I am not proud of my placement or my time. I walk away from this race with disappointment and frustration. The work I put into this race, my potential on this course, was not showcased as I had expected, but there is always next year, and I will be back.
I can’t leave this write up without giving a huge thank you to my crew: Dean Eastham, Tristan Eastham, Reece Stanley, Tucker Stanley, and Avery Collins. They handled each and every stressed out moment I had at aid stations with patients and positivity that I did not deserve. Continuously they encouraged me, and gave me the drive to continue on, when I was less than excited about the miles I had looming ahead. I only wish that I could have given them the gift of a more impressive performance. I promise nothing less in the future.
Vertical Runner of Breckenridge, Cranked Naturals, Michael David Winery, OS1st, and Altra all played a part in getting me to the starting line and finish line. I truly appreciate and am dumbfounded by the amount of support I have received from the above mentioned companies.