Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Running in 2019, and Run Rabbit Run

After a somewhat lackluster effort at Never Summer 100k in 2018, I wanted to do a mountain 100 miler with focus.  The race that captured my attention was High Lonesome 100.  I want to experience that lonesomeness.  But I totally botched the registration and ended up 59th on the waiting list.  I didn't want wait until late into the summer before finding out if I get in or not, so was on the lookout for an alternative race.  I had paced Dionne at Run Rabbit Run in 2018 and knew approximately 60 miles of the course, so why not give the whole thing a go?   Registration was still wide open, so I signed up for the Bunny Race and dropped from the High Lonesome waiting list.

With a near record snow winter in 2018-2019 season, most mountain trails near us were unrunnable.  After a few deep postholing experiences, I had to suppress my dislike of the Incline and spent quite a few days doing laps there.  A few more long runs lead to the first big training run of the season at the Grand Canyon.  The Rim to Rim to Rim end up taking just under 15 hours, and approximately 45 miles and 11K of climbing.  Dionne ran the first 15 miles with me.  Great training run with amazing scenery, but I had a fairly bad week of recovery due to driving straight back home right after the run and letting the legs and hips getting super stiff.


Dionne and I freezing on the South Kaibab Trail

Sunrise on South Kaibab

Last view of the Canyon on Bright Angel Trail

With snow melting in the Front Range, I started tackling runs in the mountains that requires multiple up's and down's.  I figured runs such as Barr Trail and other single climb routes do not prepare the legs for the exquisite feeling of a second and third multi-thousand feet climb.  One route I mapped out with the required multiple climbs is Rosa-Almagre combo.  Pretty any routes that links multiple summits satisfies this requirement.

It was around this time I started reading Scott Johnson's new book Training for the Uphill Athlete.  It really reinforced the idea of the importance of building the aerobic base.  I did the Maffetone methods back in 2010 and 2011 with some nice results but haven't focused on it since then.  So around the spring I began running pretty much all of the runs in zone 1 and zone 2, with the exception of a few interval sessions.

Second big training run of the season was San Juan Solstice 50 mile race.  However the race got cancelled at early June due to excessive snow pack.  So some deep online reading lead me to an alternative, a 42 mile loop in the Lost Creek Wilderness.  With my awesome navigation, I managed to make it into a 45 mile loop, but it was great training since it had multiple climbs and also very runnable.  It took just under 14 hours to complete the run, with some interesting weathers and a near lighting strike in the afternoon.

Lost Creek Wilderness

Lost Creek Wilderness

Lost Creek Wilderness

Lost Creek Wilderness

July was packed with a lot family activities, and I also paced Jade at Pikes Peak 50K along with a Pikes Peak summit round trip via Barr Trail, and the Comanche-Veneable loop in the Sangres.  All are good stuff, and my training volume is increasing nicely, and recovery time after long runs are getting shorter, I think due to the low intensity pacing that I have been practicing from the book.

Jade at the start of Pikes Peak 50K

Pikes Peak 50K

Pikes Peak 50K

Pikes Peak 50K, on summit of Rosa

Pikes Peak 50K finish!
August is the last month of training, and the family schedule worked out nicely with two camping trips at Twin Lake and one work related backpacking trip in Lost Creek.  I convinced Alex to join me for a shorter loop at Lost Creek the day before backpacking, so I end up with ~50 miles and ~11k climbing over three days that first weekend of August between running and backpacking.  While camping at Twin Lakes with family and friends in mid August, I managed to sneak in a morning quickie to Hope Pass, another morning quickie to La Plata, and then the last day of the trip after everyone has left, I drove over the pass to Aspen and ran the Four Pass Loop.  Over the course of those 6 days and three runs, I ran 16 hours, and climbed 16k ft, and was just a little bit sore afterwards.

First camp in Lost Creek

Maroon Bells with full moon setting

Top of Buckskin Pass

Cornice on Buckskin Pass

Snowmass Lake

Top of Trail Rider Pass

Hasley Basin

Creek crossing

Waterfall in Fravert Basin

Frigid Air Pass

Frigid Air Pass

West Maroon Pass

Labor Day weekend we were back at Twin Lakes camping with more friends.  One more morning quickie at Massive and hiking our 6 year old twins to Huron Peak gave me another 8K of climbing for the final training weekend.  I think I had about 60 hours of training in a 30 days period during this stretch.
Found a buddy on Massive

Summit of Massive

Alex on Huron Peak

Amelia and I on Huron

Final climb on Huron

Amelia "Roar" on Pride Rock on Huron Peak
September 11, Wednesday. Jade and I drove to Steamboat Springs with our camper and setup in the KOA campground.  It rained non-stop that day.  We enjoyed some quality time relaxing in the camper with our dog Canyon, and out of the rain.

September 12, Thursday.  We ate a hearty breakfast and drove to Olympian and Dry Lake aid stations to scout them out, then worked on our touristy gig by walking through downtown and eventually settled on a pizza buffet for lunch.  Then it's back to the camper to prepare the drop bags and dinner.  After dinner we drove to the race brief.  Even though the race director offered everyone who's not wholeheartedly into finishing the race a full refund, not one of us took him up on the offer.

Pre-race dinner
September 13, Friday.  Morning was pretty cold so we got all bundled up at the start.  Walking up to the start we met a runner named Bryant from Golden, running his first 100, with his sister crewing him.

Staying warm at the start

We are all lined up behind the banner
I intentionally started in the back of the pack.  Knowing the first climb is 3,500 ft in 5 miles, I really did not want to blow up this early in the race.  We stayed in the single track trail for a bit, then spread out wider on the ski slope under the gondola going straight up.  At this point I think there were only 10 runners behind me.  I was climbing near a girl all bundled up, and I learned later she's from Mississippi and will eventually finish the race!

After the gondola section, the course moved to the fire road switchbacks to the top.  Here I was still walking easily, and started passing people including the southern girl.  I think the altitude was starting to get to some people.  I was very glad for all those high elevation outings, which made this elevation easy.

By Mt. Warner Aid Station at mile 5, I had passed perhaps 15 runners and arrived at 1:50 on the clock.  A quick two minutes stop to fill the bottles with water and tailwind, and some bite of food, and off I went.  The next 7 miles are beautiful runnable trails trending down to Long Lake.  I continued to pass people while running easily,

Trail just beyond Mt. Warner Aid Station.
I arrived at Long Lake Aid Station at 3:30 on the clock, about 12 minutes ahead of the planned split which was based on a 33 hours finish extrapolated from last year's winner's splits (he ran a very even effort race).  Another quick 2 minutes stop and I was off running down toward Fish Creek.  I have heard things about this section.  However the first three miles were lovely smooth trails gradually dropping down.  Here I ran into a couple guys from Bend, Oregon and the three of us stuck together for the next 3.5 miles chatting and laughing through some super gnarly rock gardens that's the heart of Fish Creek drainage.

Fish Creek trail
Arrived at Fish Creek Aid Station around mile 19 at 5:07, still 12 minutes ahead of the plan.  I leaned my hiking poles against the food table so I can use both hands to eat, and within a minute, my poles disappeared.  I asked the volunteers if they had seen it, and one of them said she saw a tall skinny runner took it and went back up the trail already.  Great, tall and skinny described about 87.5% of the runners here.  She also said he had a green shirt and yellow hydration pack and she handed me another set of poles thinking these may be his.  After stuffing myself with more food, I took off down the trail (up the trail actually) hoping I would catch the guy.  Catch him I did, about two miles later.  He apologized and it was totally unintentional and he was feeling a bit out of it.  We stayed together for the next mile chatting then he fell back leaving me alone again.  I climbed back up Fish Creek still feeling fresh and energized, at an easy effort.  The last two miles before Long Lake Aid Station, I started seeing the Hares coming down, including Jonathan and Tim and I said hi to them.

Second time back at Fish Creek Aid Station at mile 25.4 and 7:19 on the clock, 24 minutes ahead of the plan.  I guess I actually picked up the pace somewhat.  The stop here took longer, about 7 minutes.  I made sure I ate plenty of food, and I also drank about a liter of water in the aid station since I was somewhat thirsty from the heat down low in Fish Creek.  The next section to Summit Lake will be 8.2 miles and I wanted to be ready for it.

Fortunately, those 8.2 miles are fairly gentle, nice rolling trails.  I eventually caught up to a group of runners and stayed near them without talking, and finally passed them shortly before the aid station.  This section was super enjoyable, with nice open meadows, and views of the Never Summer Range to the east.  Arrived at Summit Lake Aid Station at mile 33.75 and 9:31 on the clock, 47 minutes ahead of the plan, but haven't worked hard at all so I wasn't too concerned.

Summit Lake is a major aid station and I had most of my gear stashed in the drop bag here.  The race requires everyone to leave here with headlamp (I called it the Dionne rule).  Sunset was about 2 hours away, and the next drop bag for the un-crewed runners was 22 miles distant at Olympian.  Fortunately for me, Jade planned to meet me at Dry Lake which was 14 miles away.  I changed from t-shirt to a long sleeve shirt, stuffed the down vest in my pack and wrapped the jacket around my waist, added headlamp and waistlight, and stuffed a lot food down my stomach, soup, mashed potatoes, bacon, watermelon, chips, quesadilla.  I ate enough that I had to walk down hill for a few minutes after leaving the aid station, digesting the food before started running.

An easy four miles of rolling trails and double track roads got me to Billy's Rabbit Hole Aid Station at 10:44 on the clock, 6:44 pm.  Now 50 minutes ahead of the plan.  Billy sent us down Flash of Gold and promised we would enjoy the beautiful sunset, and enjoy the sunset we did.  It was gorgeous, and our timing was perfect.

Flash of Gold

Sunset over the Steamboat Springs valley, viewed from Flash of Gold

A couple running ahead of me on Flash of Gold, bathed by the sunset
When it got dark, I turned on my two lights and ran pretty much at the same pace.  These two lights together produced 780 lumens and gave me great depth perception, making running at night not much slower than running during the day.  Soon I came across a darkened runner trying to change battery in his headlamp.  I used my headlamp to assist him then we ran together the next 5 miles down Flash of Gold, him following my "High Beam".  I learned his name is Evan of Medford Oregon and running his fifth 100 miler.  We chatted non stop for the next hour, passing quite a few runners that were forced to walk due to dim headlamps.  Shortly before Dry Lake, Evan backed off the pace and I ran alone the next 3/4 miles to Dry Lake Aid Station, 48.5 miles in, and 13:13 on the race clock, 9:13 pm and a whopping 77 minutes ahead of the planned split.

Dry Lake Aid Station was a shock to the senses after the sensory deprivation of night running.  Lights and people were everywhere.  Fortunately Jade found me just before the timing table and helped me with food and checking in.  I was feeling great, not cold and very comfortable so I didn't stop long.  After a few minutes, she sent me off down Spring Creek trail with plan to meet me at Olympian in 6.5 miles.

Dry Lake Aid Station with Jade

Leaving Dry Lake Aid Station
The first three miles down Spring Creek were all smooth down hills and I rolled through them pretty swiftly, still not feeling like working remotely hard.  Passed a few runners in this section.  Then the trail comes out to a flat dirt road, and for the first time in the race, I suddenly felt the lack of desire for locomotion.  Nothing that urgently concerned me but the pace was quickly slowing down despite the easy running surface.  By the time I crossed downtown into Olympian Aid Station, I was definitely not as happy as earlier.  Arrived at Olympian Aid Station, mile 55.5, at 14:56 on the race clock, 10:56 pm and 90 minutes ahead of the plan.

Jade took me inside the aid station building where it's warm with tons of food and chairs.  I didn't find food appetizing but forced myself to eat some.  She also convinced me to put on my running pants since the next section will be 14 miles with temperature dropping.  Changing socks along with pants, we discovered the outside heels of both feet had a small blister.  Draining and taping them took some time and I finally was ready to leave the aid station a bit stiff and not feeling the best.  This pit stop took 34 minutes!

I started shivering immediately so I put on the jacket and buff and started the climb up Emerald Mountain toward the Lane of Pain Aid Station.  Right away I knew something was wrong.  Every step became labor and soon I was gasping for air, despite the thick air of low elevation and gentle grade of the dirt road.  I struggled all the way to Lane of Pain Aid Station at mile 58.9 , at 16:39 on the race clock.  These 3.4 miles and 1500 ft of climbing took me almost 70 minutes and it was god awful.  A few people passed me in this section, and I was surprised more didn't.

I couldn't stomach much food at Lane of Pain, so just filled my bottles with water and tailwind.  The next section was a 4 mile loop that loops back to Lane of Pain.  Over the next 2 miles, it felt like someone was passing me every minute.  It simply took all the energy I had to just walk slowly.

Walking slowly gave me time to look into my self.  Jeez, this really sucks.  I wondered what happened to my body.  The lack of appetite gave me an idea.  Maybe I needed to shed some weight down there.  But it wasn't easy to find a spot in the dense bushes and finally I was able to find a tiny opening with a small tree that I could hang onto while squatted.  The spot wasn't far from the trail so every time another light came through I had to be super quiet.  The few minutes of squatting set my legs and feet on fire for sure.

Miracle!  Feel much better and started moving with some authority again.  The next mile and half back to Lane of Pain, I didn't get passed, woohoo!  I got back to Lane of Pain, mile 62.6, at 18:03 on the race clock, 2:03 am.

My plan called for changing the waist light battery at this time.  After a few minutes of fumbling with the new battery and couldn't get it to work, I gave up.  The next section was called Morning Glory, basically 6 miles of endless switchbacks to Olympian.  Even though my GI felt better, I somehow couldn't run faster than 15 min/m pace on gentle smooth downhill trails, my hips were getting sore and tight and prevented me from opening up the stride.

I came into Olympian Aid Station for the second time, at mile 68.5 and 19:50 on the race clock, 3:50 am.  I told Jade I wasn't feeling good but need to eat and get moving.  Inside the aid station I found Jonathan sitting on a chair, dropping from the race.  I was sad for him, he's such a good runner having just ran Leadville in under 24 hours.  I had a flash of thought that dropping would be nice right now but I quickly shoved it away.  G/I was acting up again so I visited a nice warm restroom in the building and took my sweet time there.  This stop costed 30 minutes but it was good to build myself back up again.  Jade also figured out how to change the battery in both of my lights so once again I was going to be the "High Beam".

I attempted to power hike up Spring Creek trail and it worked initially, hips were a bit looser and I was able to pass 5 or 6 runners in the flat section.  After entering into single track trail, I didn't seen another soul and my hips got tighter and tighter and I got colder and colder, despite cinching the hoodie of the jacket around the hat and buff.  Finally topping out on the climb, and with a dawn approaching, I turned off the lights and shuffled into Dry Lake Aid Station for my final time with Jade.  Mile 75.8, time 22:40 (6:40 am).

Dawn approaching Dry Lake Aid Station

Me bundled up, approaching Dry Lake, so happy to see Jade
Jade setup up next to the food table and one of the super awesome volunteers brought me warm soup which made me cry.  I guess at least once during a 100, I needed to get emotional.  Jade also helped me take off the running pants and change into a fresh pair of socks.  The tape on the blisters were a mess but the blisters weren't getting any worse so I decided to do away with the tapes.  Mentally I was fairly bad here, mixing mumbling and perhaps a bit of sobbing.  After 18 minutes of Jade tending me, ready or not, I headed out of Dry Lake aid station in a grandma shuffle.

Leaving Dry Lake Aid Station
The section from Dry Lake to Billy's Rabbit Hole was called Grouse Mountain and super gnarly, climbing 2000 ft in 3 miles over mostly rocks.  But the first 2 miles were flat.  I discovered my hips were worse than ever.  The best shuffling effort on flat smooth trail lead to about 17:45 min/m pace and I couldn't sustain that for more than a few minutes before slowing down.  The pain from each step was excruciating.  To add to the insult, my feet and ankles joined the pain cave, perhaps from sitting too long at Dry Lake.  I watched with envy as group after group of runners passed me with their happy pacers.

I also lost my sunglasses somewhere along this section, which furthered the misery.  Not exactly sure the pace I managed at Grouse Mountain section but it couldn't be much faster than 40 min/m.  It took almost two and half hours to cover the 5.8 miles to Billy's Rabbit Hole and I arrived there at 25:25 on the race clock, 9:25 am, mile 81.9, shuffling slower than a grandma.

I wanted to cry, and to dig a hole to crawl in.  I sat with my face in my hands for a bit to recollect myself, then got to the business of doing what I could to continue to move on.  I forced myself to eat, and asked if any of the volunteers had a spare sunglasses.  No one had a pair.  Then Billy went to his truck and came back with this pair of gorgeous (and I assumed super expensive) shade.  He told me to use them and gave them to Fred (one of the race directors) at the finish line.  Later one I found out these were his wife's!  Billy is an awesome dude!

My stop was fairly quick, about 7 minutes.  I learned to not stop for long enough to let my feet and ankles to get stiff.  Both feet and ankles were happier now but the hips were angrier than ever.  By the time I made to the last mile of flat dirt road before Summit Lake Aid Station, I couldn't maintain even a 20 min/m pace anymore while gasping for breath with each step.

Pulled into Summit Lake Aid Station for the second time, 86.1 miles, 27 hours flat, 11 am.  9 hours left in the race.

I changed the shirt from my drop bag, and one of the volunteers filled my water bottles.  Then I heard another runner call his name, and realized the volunteer was the famous Speedgoat!  Despite my misery, I had to get a picture with him, the man with more 100 miles wins than anyone, and one time the FKT holder of the Appalachian Trail.

Karl the Speedgoat, at Summit Lake
The other runner that was talking to Karl was having trouble with his legs.  Karl's first suggestion was to walk, since there were 9 hours left and we were 21 miles from the finish, enough time to even limp in.  I was in the same shoes and I said I planned to limp in regardless how I felt.  Then Karl suggested to that runner some ibuprofen may help.


Ibuprofen had saved my first 100 miles race at Umstead.  I took way too much Vitamin I there but I also started the race injured so didn't have a choice.  I had some ibuprofen in my pack.  Why didn't I think to try it?  Other than acute kidney injury which was unlikely since I was hydrating very well and really not exerting myself that much, what could I lose from trying some ibuprofen?  Perhaps they should take away my pharmacist's license for not consider it.

I took two 200 mg tablets as I left the aid station.  A young female runner and her pacer left with me, both were super happy and excited, with the racer running very well.  Soon after the initial climb to the high point of the race, they left me behind to limp alone.

Twenty minutes later I glanced at my watch and saw it showed 17:40 min/m pace.  I haven't seen a sub 20 pace in over 5 hours!  Was the ibuprofen working?  Twenty more minutes go by and I started to jogging slowly, then a bit faster, then power hiking at 16 min pace, followed by more jogging.  Hips were loosening up and breathing was normalizing again.  Hallelujah!!!

By 4 miles into this stretch, I had passed a few runners and felt good and happy to be running again.  The day was sunny warm and my spirit was rising every minute.  By the time I hit the four way junction about one mile before Long Lake, I was running strong and without much effort again.

It was here that I had my first hallucination episode while running, ever.

I saw a bob cat in the bushes, playing hide and seek with me.  The bob cat's head was a strange mix of cat and owl which I thought was strange.  As I got closer, the kitty disappeared.  A few minute later I saw a girl, perhaps 10 years old, praying in the woods.  This was pretty weird, we were miles and miles from the nearest road.  Then quite a few tree stumps became dogs that barked at me.  Then, just like that, no more hallucinations.

Arrived at Long Lake for the third and final time, 94.6 miles, 29:37 on the race clock, 1:37 pm.

A bunch runners were congregated at Long Lake, most were pretty jovial.  The climbs were mostly behind us.  Ahead we had 7 miles to Mt. Warner which included about 800 ft down and 1200 ft up, chump changes compared to what we had done, then the soul/bone/muscle crushing descent down the ski resort to the finish.

Here I saw Tim again.  He started as a hare four hours after us tortoises, and after nearly 26 hours of running, he had caught up to me.

The initial miles after Long Lake were nice, and I still felt strong.  But by the time I was near the end of the climb to Mt. Warner I could feel myself slowing down a bit.  I had also took two more ibuprofen in preparation for the big downhill finish.  As soon as I saw the valley below us, I turned my phone off airplane mode and texted Jade, then quickly received a reply that she just passed Mt. Warner Aid Station and is going to pace me in!!!  She had climbed 3500 ft in 6 miles in order to do this!!

While climbing Mt. Warner, Jade had her own celebrity run in.  Jim Walmsley passed her going up the fire road, running about 9 min/m pace at a 10% grade, holy moly!

Jim Walmsley running up Warner
Jade saw me about half mile out from Warner Aid Station.  I was super happy and excited to see her and put on my best effort to run, which must have looked pretty funny to her.

Jade's first glimpse of me since Dry Lake, 25 miles ago

So happy!!!

I try to run into Mt. Warner aid station, my running looked like slow walking

Resupply at Mt. Warner aid station
Jade was originally worried that she may slow me down on this section.  I assured her that there was absolutely no way I could remotely keep up with her.  My word is stronger than oak!

Starting the 3,500 feet descent into Steamboat Springs and finish line

Fire road descent
I counted the elevation descended, and elevation to go, while alternating between running slowly and walking trying not to induce more pain in my quads and knees.  The last section of single track was fortunately not too long or too steep and finally I was on the last long straight dirt road into the finish.  Jade ran ahead of me and took a video of me running in, and I managed to not to fall head first into the creek to the finish line and gave the mandatory hug to the Bunny!

Finish time: 33:47:04.  Mileage: who knows.  Watch said 108.2.  It's probably reading long.

Jade had her second celebrity moment with Courtney Dauwalter

Hanging out at the finish line

Me, Bryant and his sister/crew.  Bryant dropped at mile 75 at Dry Lake.  I was surprisingly awake despite two beers.

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