It all started back in March of this year during a trip to Colorado to see fellow teammates Phil Germakian and Adam Mayer. We got a chance to see the film on Scott Jaime’s FKT of the Colorado Trail. The short movie was absolutely exhilarating and gave me encouragement to even begin thinking about signing up for the Run Rabbit Run 100. I was still wavering slightly because I hadn’t yet convinced myself this is something I could do or even wanted to do. However, after watching the movie and talking to my close friends, I decided it was time and at the Denver airport on the way back to NJ, I finally signed up and was one of the last people to enter the race.
Training started years ago and I had a good base. From March and the ensuing months led to a number of great races and long runs with friends, many of which are on the Mountain Peak FItness / Campmor Trail Running Team. I suppose my first 100 miler is good timing for my first race report….
The weeks leading up to the race I started to taper down, I kept my eating habits the same, spoke to all my friends who had run 100 milers in the past and just kept a good level headed attitude about the race and my emotions. I also had, what I thought and now know, my all star pacing team all set with flights, hotel and aid station plans.
Arriving in Denver on Wednesday (race start was Friday morning at 8 am), I enjoyed the relaxing flight and took my time making the 3 hour drive from Denver to Steamboat. I found a lunch place just outside Denver that served local foods and had a tasty Colorado beer. Can’t skip on having a beer or two! Wednesday would be my day to relax, no need to focus on the race. I would enjoy the beauty of Colorado, walk around the ski town of Steamboat and get some good sleep as this would be my last night of solid sleep for days.
Thursday was packet pickup along with finalizing my drop bags. I laid everything out on the condo floor, over analyzing and re-analyzing what I needed at each stop. How many gels? how many salt tablets? When would I need my cold weather gear? What should I give Adam to bring to mile 42 and planning for all worst case scenarios.
I planned well, made sure I had everything I needed from extra contacts and eye solution to putting a cliff bar in every drop bag. I can usually eat them any time of day but as you will find out later, there was a time I couldn’t even eat my favorite bar. Adam was also arriving in Steamboat today, making the trek from Boulder. Jen wouldn’t arrive until mile 74.
Excitement was growing as I picked up the race packet and I got a true look at the first 3,500 feet of climbing we would during the first 4 miles or so. The ski slope was straight up with occasional switchbacks. What did I get myself into?! Packet pickup was easy and quick and then came the pre race briefing. The race directors were animated, entertaining and gave away a lot of free swag. I didn’t win anything but enjoyed the unspoken bond with all the fellow runners as we sat there at the starting line all thinking about where our minds would be less than 24 hours from now in the mountains all alone. I put my mind at ease and imagined how I would start the race and continue an even keel.
Shortly after the briefing, Adam arrived. We finalized our drop bags, grabbed a delicious dinner in downtown and settled in for the night. It was time to get some z’s one last time. I slept fairly well but woke up continually thinking I had missed the start so I was up by 6 am prepping for the 8 am start.
Adam and I walked over to the start around 7:30 am and as soon as I stepped outside, bam, hit with the 40 degree Colorado ski morning weather. I was cold. Shit, would it be this cold all day? I had gloves, arm warmers and a short sleeve shirt on me. Adam convinced me not to worry and that i'll warm up. True enough, as most of us know, if you are warm at the race start then you are wearing too many layers.
I was starting to overthink things and this is not the time for that. I relaxed and got ready for the start. As the clock ticked down from 10 I thought to myself, this is going to be a hell of a good time and smiled as we started to climb the ski slope. Over 4 miles straight up with little switchbacks can make one think its going to be a long day or two...and it did make me think this but all the while I kept thinking, slow and steady, get to the top, enjoy the view and then get the legs moving on the way down.
I got to the top, hands still cold, not too out of breath and enjoying a view of the cloud covered town of Steamboat. One thing though, my fingers were already starting to swell. How could this be happening already? It has happened to me whether at sea level or altitude over the last year but only starts to hit around mile 30 or so but can get pretty bad. At this point I was becoming unhappy since the swelling was not going down and I had a long way to go.
The next sections from mile 5 to 22 were basically downhill, except for some minor little ups and downs. I kept on my gel routine and had solid food at all aid stations. By mile 14 at Long Lake we came upon a pristine blue lake that looked untouched in the last thousand years. How I wish I could have jumped in and gone for a swim, the hell with the race! But I continued and ran the downhill from 14 to 22 making good time and staying within myself. Lots of switchbacks and technical sections along this downhill which would prove hell on the way backup. The race was more of a clover than out and back but there was a little of both.
As I left mile 18 water only station, it was 4 miles of downhill road to town and mile 22 where I would have a loop section with two decent climbs. I told myself as I ran downhill not to go too fast so I didn't burn out my hamstrings and again to just enjoy the time. I ran down with ease and caught one runner while running about 75%. I was not at mile 22 and had another climb so I started to get in a good power walking rhythm. It was up and then a gradual downhill to mile 29 where I would see Adam for the first time. What a good surprise since I didn’t expect to see him until mile 42.
At mile 29 I had just finished a 5 mile gradual downhill run where two runners had joined my pace and we ran speechless during this time, enjoying each others company and knowing what would lie ahead. Mile 29 came and went, I ate some more solid food (turkey and cream cheese wraps and grilled cheese, I thought man I could eat this stuff all day! I took some pictures with Adam and then was on my way.
From 29 until 42 there would be one water station which we were told was 1 mile further than previously thought. 9 miles or so with only two bottles I thought would suffice but this would be the biggest mistake of the race for me. I had put a third bottle in my drop bag but decided not to take it. The next 9 miles, although making good pace, I went through my water fairly quickly and actually had to ask fellow runners for some help.
The first guy told me he had none when I clearly saw he had a full bottle! While the second guy was more than happy to share. I reached the water only station after pushing myself some to get there faster since I was out of water. Not the greatest idea but I knew I would bounce back and was still making good time. I would arrive at mile 42 before 7 pm. Less than 11 hours overall and I set myself up for decent time in the light with Adam going up the next major climb.
Adam was ready to rock and roll at mile 42. He had everything I asked him to bring so we didn’t stop too long. We made sure we had all our cold gear and started to jog back into town and up the 4 mile road section I had come down previously. I knew it was going to get cold as it was in the upper 20’s or low 30’s and I thought I was prepared enough. We ran until we hit enough of a hill where it was time to walk. I knew that from mile 42 to mile 56 it would be a lot of hiking in the cold and dark so my mind was prepared. But being with Adam definitely gave me some extra good vibes and the hike was pretty effortless. Also at this time, I started wondering when the pros would pass us since they started at noon.
Soon after mile 44 or 45 came Rob Krar and a pack of skinny little dudes gliding up the road. While I thought it would be cool to run like that, I was more than happy with my build (6'3" 210) that power walking up the hill was just fine with me! Definitely cool to see these guys push through!
Adam and I kept the pace even when we hit the trails at mile 46. The hike up would be tough. Technical trails, wind, cold and even some lingering water from the days before. Every 30 minutes or so Adam was on it with giving the cue to take my gels, some regular and some of the Octane Gu’s. The Octane didn’t quite provide the extra power I thought it would but maybe it did and I didn’t even notice. Once again we were at Long Lake aid station but this time they had a fire going with lots of warm food. I was getting really cold by this point and a little concerned. I was slowing down and needed food and to warm up. We took a good amount of time at this aid station, warmed up by the fire and prepared ourselves for the next 4 miles uphill. We left after I put on some long pants over my running tights and took off.
The next 4 miles Adam pushed and pushed me but my body really wasn’t moving fast. It was hard to take gels and my water consumption needed to increase. The best part of this section was the very low and almost full moon, with an amazing amount of visible stars we could see. Isn’t this what it’s all about, to enjoy the beauty around us and the experience? I started to think about that but then was drawn back to reality when my legs just weren’t able to run. I really wanted to run but being it was uphill, I just said no.
We got to mile 56 or so at the next aid, tried to warm up more, had more gels, 5 hour energy and were on our way. The next section was supposed to be all done downhill and I think it actually was but the first mile or so felt like I was going uphill and it was somewhat technical. I still couldn’t run! But after another mile I started to pick it up and felt my body starting to move. I was getting warmer and feeling better. Adam could tell I was more with it and we had a good pace for this downhill section that would last a total of 7 miles.
Eating was still so-so but I was moving and happy about that. Jen would be waiting at the next aid station just to see us but wouldn’t join me until Adam and I did another out and back section of 4.5 miles each way. Adam and I got to mile 63 around 2:30 am. My body wasn’t feeling great but my mind was still upbeat and seeing Jen helped me. I had some more soup, bacon and some other solids. The next 4.5 miles would be all downhill to an aid station then straight back up the hill to start with Jen.
I was hoping we could get the next 9 miles done in three hours and with Adams push we were able to do that. Adam started ahead and made amazing time downhill knowing I wasn’t in great shape but I kept up and was glad I did. By the time we got downhill I just couldn’t eat anything anymore, all food tasted terrible.. I didn’t want chocolate cake or bacon or apple pie, not that they had all this but even if they did, I wouldn’t have cared. I was cold, couldn’t eat much and was starting to get unhappy. Obviously not the place I wanted my mind to be but I knew this is where it was going to get tough and I had to get through it. We started back up the way we came and hiked for the next two hours. We saw some fresh bear scat, Adam made many different sounds to keep the bears away or so we thought and made it to mile 74 without any animal encounters.
As we got into mile 74 I knew I needed some rest and by rest I mean sleep. Adam was a champ, he got me a cot and a sleeping bag and told me to lay down. He and Jen would wake me up in a little while and then we would be on our way. I woke up 20 mins later and told them to leave me alone, I couldn’t go anymore. This was the first time ever in any race that I seriously considered giving up. While I hadn’t run a 100 before I had run many races long enough to quit and thought this was it, i’m done. Adam and Jen told me to eat but I just couldn’t. Jen suggested I try throwing up and little did I know, that worked. I got what was probably all the gels out of my system, had some more soup, bacon and the worst mashed potatoes of my life. I decided it was time to break out the hiking poles and Jen and I were off.
I said goodbye to Adam who was the man for 32 miles. Jen, who flew in from San Diego, got to the aid station at midnight after working a full day and making the three hour drive to Steamboat from Denver. Then she was waiting in the dark and cold for 6 hours without sleep before I was finally ready to rock. This is the life of a pacer, which I knew all too well, but couldn’t be happier to have her with me from now until the end, if I made it. Jen assured me we just had to make it to the next aid station and then we could see how I felt from there. I agreed and then we started to climb.
We climbed from 7,500 feet up to 10,500 feet in 7 miles. The sun was coming up but would soon be beating down on us and my food consumption was slowly growing but very slowly. We made it to mile 81 in 3 hours. What a tough climb and was hopeful this was the last tough one of the day based on the elevation chart I had studied.
I was only slightly reluctant to continue running from 81 to 90 thinking it would be so much nicer to be in bed, have some fresh eggs and coffee and go to sleep but I also thought it would probably just be faster to finish this damn race then to get to that point so we continued.
Jen and I got out of the aid station and made our way along the top of the mountain for the next 9 miles. Jen made sure we did less than 20 min. mile pace during this section and I was glad she pushed. We bettered that time but we also were able to talk about different adventures, life, and just enjoy each others company. This was the most beautiful part of the race. The trees were tall and gorgeous, the grass was blowing in the wind and the small lakes were absolutely breathtaking. I felt like we could see for miles in some directions before interruptions of tree patches but we were all alone and it was awesome. Jen and I running single track in untouched Colorado wilderness at 10,500 feet, if only we had someone filming this I thought! While it was a cool feeling, I knew I still had to push myself to get to the finish line.
We got to Long Lake for the third time, making good pace and getting ready for the last section above 10,000 feet before the last 6 miles downhill. I was ready and off we were for the next 6 miles or so. It was getting hotter out, hotter than Friday and I was starting to take off layers but then we would hit an open field and the wind would blow and I would be cold so I had to put layers back on. It was a vicious cycle and on top of that, I started to become sleepy and my mind was wandering.
Jen and I were talking but I don’t remember the conversation. I was walking and couldn’t remember how long since I last looked at my watch. Then I realized it was only 30 seconds ago, definitely a bad idea to keep looking at my watch but for some reason I couldn’t help it. I just wanted this section to be over. While I had run down this section from mile 5 to 12, I didn’t remember as much as I thought I did so when Jen and I reached certain sections I thought to myself, only x distance more but in reality it was much further. I was miserable but Jen kept me in good spirits and we kept moving. She assured me we were getting close, was never negative and made sure I ate and drank.
After many switchbacks where I thought this was the final aid station and thinking to myself this was some really bad joke (I actually thought this) we came to the aid station at mile 96. It was windy at 10,500 exposed so we didn’t stay long and were excited to finally be going downhill. Jen actually hit a little low at this point (I didn’t know at the time since she didn’t show it) as she had been awake for well over a day and had been hiking with me for 9 hours!
We were excited to have a downhill and to hopefully run some of this, yes we actually thought we would be running at mile 96. Well the first two miles were so steep that I just couldn’t run. My quads were so tight I just couldn’t muster the strength. Jen wanted to run bad, I could tell. I was sorry I couldn’t but knew not to kill my legs. After two miles though, the slope became more gradual and Jen and I ran, walked, ran, walked and then just kept running.
Holy crap I just hit 100 miles and im still running! I got a high and kept the high for the rest of the race. I started passing people from both the 100 and the 50 mile races. I have no idea what my pace was but damn it felt like 8 minute miles. The sun was hot so part of it was honestly the fact I just wanted to be out of the sun. Jen, i’m sure, was glad we started and continued to run.
This was actually happening, I was about to finish! I wanted Jen to finish with me as we crossed the finish line but she refused and ran ahead so she could get some pictures. I wanted to run so fast that I had to wait back to let her get ahead and then came barreling down the final half mile of the ski slope. I ran faster and faster and felt like I was blazing through the small crowds. Smiling and legs in rhythm I finished (across a lame finish line) after 33 hours and 15 minutes! I had just finished my first 100 miler. I was so excited and happy to experience it with Jen and Adam! Honestly, if I had to pick any two people to be there with, it would be them! We took some group pictures and that was it! Time to go shower, eat, drink and go to bed!