October 23, 2017

First “Ultra”: Run Rabbit Run 50

Over the weekend I travelled to Steamboat Springs, CO to participate in the Run Rabbit Run 50 Ultra Marathon (RRR is part of the Montrail Ultra Cup).  After a winter devoted to Ironman training (St. George, May 1), I transitioned into my ultra training program and spent the spring and summer preparing for this event.  I followed a modified Hal Higdon 24-week Ultra Training Program (supplemented with healthy doses of functional strength training, cycling, and swimming).  Inspired by Sonja Wieck’s race report last year, the Run Rabbit Run seemed like the perfect event for me to “test the water” of the ultra pool.  The result … great fun and a great race.  As I shared with my wife when she inquired about moving on to a 100-mile event, the world of ultras comes down to a simple question: “How much punishment do you want?”  Now that the RRR is behind me and I am no worse for wear (albeit except for the banged up big toe on my right foot … not from the running, but from kicking solid rocks too many times along the route).

Looking back, the training was manageable (even with a newborn and one-year-old) … thanks again to my supportive wife.  Most mornings I slipped out very early so as to get the majority of my miles in before the house came alive.  I focused on building consistent mileage and managed my diet meticulously so as to come into the RRR very lean—I toed the line at svelte 158 lbs.  I endured the training well and minor issues were consistently handled by regular massages and my chiropractor, Dr. John Jungers (also the team chiropractor for the Denver Broncos)—I simply can’t say enough good things about Dr. Jungers and his approach to working with athletes!

As for the actual race report, it was a LONG day … I spent nearly 14 hours on the course (13:43:56 to be precise).  After my standard oatmeal breakfast, I headed to the base of the ski area.  After a couple of announcements in the Bear River Bar & Grill, and a little fanfare (emphasis on little), myself, my friend Paul, and some nearly 200 other runners set out to ascend Mt. Werner, cross the Continental Divide, and ascend Rabbit Ears Mountain—only to turn around and do it all again!  (See a complete course description here.)  The race started before the sun came up and the challenge quickly came to me … the first 6.4 miles gained approximately 3,450 feet of elevation.  I paced myself, let Paul go on and fell nearly to the back of the pack.  No matter … I had a plan.  After the majority of the elevation gain was behind me, I started to renew my “race pace” and started making tracks.  I had the pleasure of meeting up with a veteran ultra runner named Oakley … Oakley informed me that the Run Rabbit Run was her 5th ultra of the 2010 race year … wow!  She also turned me on to another ultra that will sure to make it onto one of my upcoming race calendars: Nueces Endurance Trail Run.  Oakley and covered countless miles together and, although I usually prefer to run solo, I really enjoyed the company (I also had elected to abandoned my iPod for the “out” portion and save a glorious techno mix for the “back” portion).  Although the aid stations were copiously stocked with all kinds of goodies, I was completely self-supported (my backpack weighed nearly 10 lbs. with a 3L bladder—in hindsight, I carried WAY too much stuff).  I passed on most of the goodies and only stopped for H2O.  Instead, I fueled on my brown rice tortillas supplemented with soy protein, almond butter, and honey.  I kept my heart rate low and was able to maintain a steady supply of solid food until deep in the course.  A couple of miles prior to the halfway point (and the ascent of Rabbit Ears Mountain) I caught up with Paul.  Paul, well, he was not doing so well—as I found out much later, despite my encouragement, Paul posted a DNF (he still regrets it and, so do I).  After a couple of photos at the top of Rabbit Ears I plugged my iPod in and headed for home.

Banged up toes after a 50-miler

A word about my toes.  I relied on tried and tested Mizzuno Wave Ascent 7 trail shoes for this race, no blisters, but I managed to really bang my toes up!  I do not blame this on my shoes, rather, on the fatigue and gait changes that take place when running such long distances.  At one point, after banging my toe particularly hard on a root or rock—I don’t recall which—I remember yelling “if I do that one more time I am going to cut my foot off and put on a wheel” … I wish I had a video of that … I was just kidding of course.  It seemed that the more I concentrated on NOT banging my toes, the more frequently I did!

The time and miles on the way back passed quickly.  I managed to run with Oakley again for a bit before she disappeared up the trail (she went on to finish nearly an hour ahead of me, congrats Oakley).  After about ten hours I abandoned solid food and instead relied on Hammer gels and an occasional Béquet™ Gourmet Caramel (the Celtic Sea Salt is my favorite variety).  These specialty caramels are readily available at Whole Foods—give them a try as they provide a great balance of sweet and salty, change of taste, and a boost to the spirit.  Once I reached the top of Mt. Werner I was looking forward to the type of speedy descent that Sonja had enjoyed in last year’s race; however, disappointment set in as I took my first few steps “down.”  My quadriceps were shot … I made slow work of the descent and watched as countless competitors that I had put behind me out on the course left me behind: lesson learned!  By the time I reached the base of the mountain darkness had set in.  I finished with my headlight ablaze and was greeted to an enormous crowd of spectators—just kidding!  Instead I was greeted by a race volunteer with a clipboard, an official “race hugger,” and most importantly my wife, our daughter and our good friend Paul and Terra (yes, Paul … wait a second, he hadn’t passed me … that’s when I learned of his unfortunate DNF).

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