Run Rabbit Run 100: Relentless Forward Progress

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Run Rabbit Run 100: Relentless Forward Progress

I had a hard time coming up with a way to write out my experience at the Run Rabbit this year. Initially I had a novel of a race report with every detail about the race, from the week before to every moment throughout my 26 hours on the course. I had a hell of a day but there’s no point in describing every detail about each step and why I think it happened that way. So I erased all of it and started over.

Run Rabbit was a big failure from a performance perspective, but failure is not a negative thing in my opinion. Failure teaches you a lot if you look at it from a positive light, and it’s unfortunate that people associate it with such negative feelings. Of course I had high hopes for this race, but there were several variables that contributed to it being a bad day. The primary issue was that I felt like I was on my death bed the week before and yet I still wanted to be able to be competitive. My optimism is a good thing in most cases, but sometimes I need to be more realistic. I had gotten sick from having some very “stressful” weeks leading up to the race. It was all very positive stress, but it was still stress. I started August out by committing to being a full-time coach and athlete, winning the TransRockies Run with my speedy partner, Keely, pacing and crewing my girl, Clare Gallagher, at the Leadville 100 and then going to Chamonix to crew my friend and teammate, Zach Miller. All of those experiences were well worth it and I wouldn’t change any of them. But the matter of fact is that it was too much in a small amount of time if I’m expecting to win a hard 100 miler 2 weeks later.

About 30 minutes into Run Rabbit I realized it was going to be a long day. My legs were heavy, I was abnormally fatigued and my heart rate just wouldn’t go down. It didn’t take long for it to become a “just finish” kind of day. I came to terms with it fairly quickly, especially once my friend, Zac Marion, and I decided to finish it together. We had been leap frogging for most of the early stages of the race. We came to an aid station together realizing we were both feeling terrible and that’s when we decided to help each other through it.

Zac and I “ran” 80+ miles of the course together and although it was a long day it was one of the best I’ve had on the trails. With the exception of a few low moments, I actually enjoyed being out there. My mind was completely off of winning, placing or getting any sort of prize money. It reminded me of when I first started running and had no clue what I was doing. I was always relaxed because I didn’t have any sort of expectations. I’m naturally a competitive person so I really enjoy that aspect, but sometimes that becomes too much of the focus and the joy is lost.

The joy is why any of us start running in the first place and we can’t let that become secondary. My high school coach told me to never let running feel like a job. He’s made a big impact in my life and I respect his advice, so I really strive to always find the joy in it. So yes, I failed to achieve the goals I had for this race, but I enjoyed it and came out of it a better, stronger runner. It's okay to fail. Just make sure to learn from your failures and move on. 

“Struggling and suffering are the essence of a life worth living. If you’re not pushing yourself beyond the comfort-zone, if you’re not demanding more from yourself - expanding and learning as you go - you’re choosing a numb existence. You’re denying yourself an extraordinary trip.”       – Dean Karnazes

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My First DNF - Run Rabbit Run 100

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My First DNF - Run Rabbit Run 100

I wanted to let my emotions get back to normal before writing this so I could think rationally. My first attempt at 100 miles was nowhere near what I expected. I didn’t have many expectations, but I did expect to finish. RRR is known for being one hell of a 100 miler and it was exactly that.

Before I left for Colorado I was really excited about the race. Most people know I’m obsessed with Colorado so any reason to go back gets me pumped up. I’m also obsessed with running (obviously) so putting the two together seemed like a win-win.  

For the couple of days leading up to the race the weather was back and forth. It went from sun to torrential downpour in a matter of minutes. The forecast called for clear skies and sun Friday afternoon so we kept our fingers crossed. We didn’t do a ton before the race besides the pre-race meeting on Thursday evening.

The race started at noon on Friday and luckily all of the rain got out of the way before the hares started. I showed up about 11am ready to go. My stomach didn’t feel great but I figured it was just nerves. It was finally time to line up at the start and begin a life changing trek through the mountains.

The first 4.5 miles went up a black diamond ski route up Mt. Werner. It was quite the calf burner, but knowing it was the steepest climb throughout the entire race helped me power up. Dave and I made it up about the same time and ran the next few miles together. The altitude was already bothering me and I had to use my inhaler at the top. We caught up to the amazing Nikki Kimball and Kerri Bruxvoort, where we had a train going up until Fish Creek Falls. Right about the time I started running with them was when Dave dropped back and wasn’t looking very good.

The next few miles had a lot of back and forth – running alone, passing Kerrie & Nikki, Kerrie passing me and so forth. I also didn’t feel like anything I ate was really helping my stomach, but it hadn’t gotten worse by this point. I ran by myself for a while when the sun was setting and it was by far the best time during the entire race. I was up in the beautiful mountains surround by birch trees and the fall colors. I wish I could have captured that moment on camera but I still have a good image of it in my head. 

Nikki caught back up with me once it started getting dark. We were just about to the Olympian Hall aid station where we would need to change into warm clothing and get ready for the night. I spent a solid 20 minutes at that aid station changing, eating, drinking and talking to my fabulous crew members, Amber and Luke. I told them my stomach didn’t feel great but I didn’t think it would be an issue. Then I was off.

I was able to cruise back up to Fish Creek Falls, but that’s when things went downhill. It was really the only technical part of the course so I knew I would walk it when it was dark. However, I didn’t think I would have to walk the next 20 miles. My stomach ache turned into a horrible side pain that I could no longer run through. I would attempt to run for a minute, walk a few minutes and repeat. It was the most frustrated I’ve ever felt during a race.

I finally made it to Dry Lake at mile 64.7 where I saw my crew again. I told them I had been walking and was very cold, but my bag with my additional warm clothes wasn’t there. Luke asked if he should go back, get my bag and meet me at the next aid station. I told him it would be too much trouble for him to get to the next aid station so I could just wait until I did the out and back to Spring Creek. What I didn’t realize is that the temperature would drop significantly while making the trek down there. I was freezing and the 5 miles down to Spring Creek felt like 20. I was getting so cold that my left quad felt strained and I had a slight limp going the last 2 or so miles. This was when shit really hit the fan and I kept repeating, “I’m not dropping, I’m not dropping…”. Once I got to Spring Creek it was all over. I knew it as soon as I arrived and sat down.  I didn’t want to keep going.

So that’s when I dropped and hitched a ride to the start/finish from a guy waiting for his wife. I felt really weird as we walked away from that aid station, but I also felt a sense of relief.  At that point I didn’t care that I wasn’t finishing because I really didn’t want to keep going. I know myself well enough that when I don’t want to be out there then something is wrong. Most people will say that’s normal but it’s a feeling that’s hard to explain. It’s different from just being tired.

Once my crew got back then we wall waited for Dave to finish. He was still on track and I knew he wouldn’t drop at that point. The sun was back up, it was warm and he was determined to get that belt buckle. Fast forward to that afternoon and here comes Dave running down the home stretch, with a smile on his face.  

It really was incredible to watch those who finished. I was so excited for each and every one of them, especially Dave, but it really started to mess with me mentally. Should I have kept going? What should I have done differently? I couldn’t stop questioning it until just a couple of days ago.

I can finally say I’ve come to terms with it. I don’t want to throw out excuses or justify the situation. All I can really say is that it just wasn’t my day. That race taught me lot and it’s only fueled the fire.  I don’t know when my next 100 mile attempt will be, but there will definitely be another.

 

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Squamish 50

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Squamish 50

It seemed like I had just raced when I was preparing to leave for Squamish. It took me a long time to recover from Speedgoat due to several factors other than just running a kick in the ass race. Basically everything was the worst it could be before, during and after that race. Despite all that, I felt pretty good last week and I was excited to race.

The drive to Squamish was long but well worth it. That town is beautiful and full of the kind of people I prefer to surround myself with. Everywhere you go there is someone biking, running, kite boarding, wind surfing, hiking and basically any other outdoor activity you can imagine. We camped at Wonderland Valley Resort just outside of town and it was awesome. The weather was perfect so it as nice to sleep outside.

We chilled out on Friday until my interview with USL TV. They were covering the race and wanted to do a group athlete interview with Cassie Scallon, Mike Foote and I. It was short and sweet and then we headed back to prepare our gear.

I felt great lining up for the start on Saturday morning. Legs were great, confidence was high and I felt ready to race. I went out like a bat out of hell but felt like my pacing strategy would work for my fitness level. The first 10k was very flat as we made our way to the trails. I was up front and feeling awesome so I went through the aid stations quick. I planned on fueling on GU Roctance and water for a few hours and then eating something more substantial. However, I didn’t really think about how my pace with the difficulty of the course was going to affect my nutrition, which was a huge mistake. I passed an aid station and shortly after got to the halfway mark, which was right at the second climb. It was like a light switch and I instantly felt nauseous. I needed to eat but the only thing on me was GU and the there was no way I was going to get another one of those down.  I chugged my water in attempt to feel better but that was my second mistake. I ran out of water and couldn’t eat anything for another 6-7 miles. Legs were cramping, my nausea wasn’t going away and I lost a lot of time. Both Catrin and Cassie had passed me and I was feeling so terrible that I convinced myself I was going to drop. I finally got to the aid station and there were so many people cheering I just couldn’t do it. I actually said a few inappropriate words to myself because I knew I wasn’t going to let myself drop in front of everyone. My pride wouldn’t let me do it, so I took a few minutes to grab food, refill my water and chug some Hammer Heed. I was off again with about 17 miles to go.

From then on it was very up and down with how I felt. I would feel ok for a few miles after an aid station and then shit would hit the fan. It was like that all the way until the last aid station. They had pickle juice and I chugged an entire cup of it. I had never tried that but I really wish I had from the beginning. I still didn’t feel anywhere close to my best but I did feel a hell of a lot better.  I was expecting the last 10k to be nice and flat based on the course map but that wasn’t the case. All I could think about was how good a flat paved road would feel. I don’t suggest dreaming of that when you’re on rolling single track. It will not make it easier.

I finally got to the finish where Gary was waiting for a high five and a hug (which he gave to EVERY runner that crossed the finish line – seriously, this guy is incredible). I walked over to congratulate Cassie and Catrin and then grabbed all of the food I could find.  I was feeling much better, got a massage and waited for my buddy, Dave.

Looking back on it I’m not disappointed at all. I pushed myself out of my comfort zone and I could have handled it if I had my nutrition down. That’s good to know because it’s somewhat of an easy fix. I also realized that running Hood to Coast one week after this race is probably not a smart idea, so I decided to drop. I’m actually more confident for Run Rabbit Run now. My race day nutrition has been one of my biggest struggles and I now have an idea of what I need and don’t need.  There’s just over 3 weeks left until Run Rabbit Run and I’m no longer scared to do it. I don’t really know how to run a 100 miler, but I’m excited to find out. 

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Back on my home turf.

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Back on my home turf.

My first week back in Portland has been bittersweet. Of course I love seeing all of my friends, running with the Nike Elite campers and exploring the Oregon trails, but I miss the ability to summit a 14er any day of the week.

Wednesday I got up a little higher when running at Trillium Lake. I had done a tempo run the day before so I was hoping to go pretty easy and enjoy the views. I should have known that running with the top 10 high school boys and girls in the country was not going to be a slow jaunt. Those girls held their own and we knocked out a 12 miler at a pretty good pace.

Then Dave and I headed to the gorge on Saturday for a long run on some new trails. We started at Rainy Lake Trailhead, headed up Mt. Defiance, down Starvation Ridge, back up Mt. Defiance, fueled up at the car and finished the last 8 out Rainy Lake/Whatum Trail. It was gorgeous, but quite the ass kicker. We finished around 5.5 hours, 27 miles and 7000+ feet of elevation gain. We were toast.

With Squamish less than 2 weeks away, it’s taper time….again. I think I’ll be more confident about that race once I’ve rested a bit more. The past 3 weeks have been a lot of stress, lack of sleep and poor nutrition. It’s definitely taken a toll on my body and I can feel the delay in my recovery time. We’ll see how these next two weeks go.

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Torture at it's finest.

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Torture at it's finest.

The Speedgoat 50k was by far the hardest race I've ever done. I knew it was going to be hard, but that doesn't even explain the torture I went through. First of all, I had the worst race prep you could possibly imagine, but it was somewhat out of my control. It carried on and affected how I felt on race day, physically and mentally. I tried to fight it and work through the tiredness and anger, but the accumulation of no sleep and high stress levels defeated my ability to fight through it. 

When I woke up on race day I felt weird. I felt bitter and didn't want to race. I didn't want to talk to or be around anyone. If you know me at all then you know I'm not like that. I love racing and I always love being around people. I knew something was wrong and that it was going to be a tough day. To top it all off I had my old worn out Wildhorse 3's on, which I later discovered would have me skiing down every descent.

As Karl counted down the seconds I just looked ahead and thought - I really need to focus on being competitive since that's not naturally happening right now. So, I took off with the front group right from the start. There were quite a few girls pushing the pace early on, especially Hillary Allen. I figured it would hurt either way so I might as well push the pace too. I tried to keep up with Hillary and managed to stay there until the halfway point, but shortly after I started trailing off. I couldn't hold it anymore and my sour attitude wasn't helping. My quads hurt, hips stiff, back ached and I was hungry. I was so over it and I even said it out loud to my self while kicking a few rocks. I just wanted to be done and go home. 

Then one girl passed me to put me in third. Then another to put me in 4th. I didn't even try to keep up with them or close the gap. That's when I started running with Eric and Kyle - two runners I met during the race. That was probably the most fun I had the entire time. We all talked, ran a few miles together and even did leap frog (thanks to Kyle) on the trail. It was Kyle's energy that actually made my mood slightly better. I still didn't finish very fast, but partially because I had to be so careful on the descents, which is usually my strong suit. I definitely learned my lesson with my shoes. Stop being cheap and just buy a damn pair if it comes down to it. 

So...I finished 4th with a bitter attitude. I'm ok with my place even though my original goal was top 3, but I'm not ok with the attitude I had. No one's perfect, but I should have the positive attitude that I always tell people to have. You don't have to know what was going on in my life leading up to it to understand that my attitude should not be excused. I should have brushed everything off that was out of my control, but it's much easier to say then to actually do. I know for my next race I won't let anything distract from my sleep, nutrition and mental state. My normal race prep will definitely be taking place before the Squamish 50 and I'll make sure of it. Either way, it can't hurt as bad as this one did.

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