Sep 18, 2013

Quick Report: Run Rabbit Run 100: Timed out at 65

Run Rabbit Run: This race is a lot harder than it looks, and it looks really damned hard.
Top of the first climb, where Alex and Joey were volunteering at the mile-4 aid station.
(Notice in the background how high above the valley we've climbed.)
RRR100 doesn't waste time telling you what you're in for. The first 2 miles gain 2000', and it took me an hour to complete those two miles. My only other high-altitude mountain ultra - The Grand Teton 50 - gets runners up to 10,000' twice and then immediately descends. This race gets you up that high three times, and then keeps you that high on rolling hills for 6-12 miles before descending. I didn't think this was a big deal before the race, but realized in miles 4-10, where I assumed I'd be cruising some gently rolling single-track, that the altitude made comfortable running all but impossible.

Ascending at mile 2. Pictured is Craig Wilson, who I spent many miles with.
In the interest of brevity, let's skip forward to mile 42, where I found myself lying flat on my back in the Winter Olympics training center with an EMT pressing my fingernails figuring out what is wrong. I had never felt so bad in any race in my life.

* My electrolytes were off; having peed only once in the race so far, in minuscule quantities and bright yellow. This is despite emptying a 100-oz camelbak reservoir four times.
* I hadn't eaten enough, causing blood sugar to crash and intensifying my already grumpy mood (that is what the EMT suggested after asking a bunch of questions - and he was right. Stupid rookie mistake.)
* I was facing a 1000-meter rocky technical climb, alone, with exposed sections, on wet surfaces, at night, with severe thunderstorms in the area.
* After that 1000-meter climb, I'd be looking at another 6 miles of rolling terrain at high altitude, similar to that which sucked the life out of me in miles 4-10.

Upper Fish Creek Falls (~mile 14 going down hill, and mile 46 going up)
They took good care of me at that aid station. Fed me until I was ready to burst and kicked me out the door. I was in dead last place, and the sweeper, Amy, was waiting for me before she could go - which made her my de facto pacer, so I didn't have to do it alone. And the storm that I had seen from across the valley, which I found out later caused several people to drop, was gone by the time we got there.

Long story short, after an hour in that aid station and almost 5 hours of slow relentless forward motion I made it to the top - but now I was behind the cutoff with no hope of making it to the mile 65 aid station in time for the hard cutoff there. I could have waited there at mile 50 for a ride down but instead I opted to continue with Amy another 15 miles - staggering in fatigue for the last hour before dawn, and then unable to maintain a 20-minute-per-mile pace downhill. But we did finally arrive there at 10am, two hours late, and I was removed from the race. There is no doubt I would have continued had they let me, but honestly I was facing a 15-hour death-march. I would have preferred the opportunity to death march, but I have to admit - being pulled felt a bit like a mercy shooting.

My progress as an ultrarunner is apparent even through my failure at this race. I worked harder for those 65 miles than I had for 100 miles at Umstead, or 150 miles at Across the Years. I had opportunities to quit at mile 42, 50, and 56, and yet I continued. I was willing to continue past 65 as well. In the past I had quit ultras for less - a lot less - but I opted to keep going until race officials told me to stop. My only regret, in fact, was making a couple of rookie mistakes. I should have known better.

If my situation allows, I'd like to go back next year to take care of some unfinished business.

This award has my name on it.
Finally - Many thanks to those of you who helped make this happen. (You know who you are.) I am very grateful for your support.