I was really looking forward to heading to Steamboat this year for Run Rabbit Run. It’s one of my favorite races in my favorite mountain town. As we made our way up and over Rabbit Ears Pass on our drive into town, we weren’t disappointed by the views of golden meadows surrounded by quaking aspens and towering evergreens. I got excited at the thought of running through that picturesque scene and becoming a part of it myself.
I like to volunteer at Run Rabbit Run and help out as much as I can, so I worked the check-in for both the 100-mile and 50-mile runners. I always enjoy getting to meet the brave souls who come to toe the line. From the folks who’ll be at the front like Karl Meltzer, Timmy Olson and Nikki Kimball, to the back-of-the-packers who’ve been dreaming all summer about finishing their first mountain ultra.
The 100-mile race started Friday at 8am for the Tortoise Division (not eligible for prize money, but allowed pacers) and at high noon for the Hares, who compete for a generous prize purse and are not allowed pacers. I was so inspired as I watched both start groups wind their way up the steep slope knowing they would be out there all day and night as I relaxed in my cozy condo. I was hoping the best for my friend and teammate Cassie Scallon and all the other amazing athletes out there. Running 100 miles is an amazing feat no matter how many times you witness or experience it. We went over to Olympian Hall later that night to do some serious cheering and so I could run a bit with Cassie as she crossed the town to Fish Creek Falls. Running with her was so inspiring!
Saturday morning came quickly and I woke at 4:30, gulped down some coffee and a banana, threw on my duds and walked down to the 6am start at the base of the mountain. My husband rode his bike up ahead of the runners a few miles to collect headlamps as daylight emerged. (When I got to the start line Jason Schlarb had just finished first in the 100-mile in an amazing 17:15!)
The first part of the course had changed a bit due to logging in the area, so I had run it the day before. To my surprise I was out front all the way up the detour until we popped out on the road at 2.5 miles. Then a pack of guys surged ahead. I guess I looked like I knew where I was going. The rest of the climb was a grind, but I made it to the Mt. Werner aid station and started the rolling descent to Long Lake. Between the start and Long Lake we got to see the top 100-mile finishers on their final approach: Karl Meltzer, Jeff Browning, Josh Arthur, Timmy Olson, Jesse Haynes. And one of my favorite parts of the race was cheering for the lead women I saw charging home: Michelle Yates, Nikki Kimball, Rhonda Claridge, Becky Wheeler, Pam Smith and Melanie Fryar. I was so inspired by them and it made me feel like my 50-miler was a walk in the park!
The weather was perfectly overcast most of the day and I made my way across the mountain to the top of Rabbit Ears in just over 4 hours. The course was very well marked, the volunteers were top-notch and the aid stations were well organized and stocked with goodies. I even got a 5-minute hip adjustment and hamstring massage from a professional PT at Base Camp promptly after I complained of a tight and sore hammy. Thanks!
As I made my way back to the finish line, time went by pretty quickly. The trail passes in and out of beautiful forests and meadows and across several small streams and along a few small mountain lakes. Throughout the race my mind was busy taking in the amazing scenery and cheering on the other runners I passed on the out-and-back course.
I crested the saddle to the Mt. Werner 2 aid station at about 7 hrs 40 minutes and began my descent to the finish. With a tight hamstring I really had to shorten my stride but I was able to keep a steady pace all the way to the detour. Then it was a bit of a sideways hop down the steep grassy hill and a smile made its way across my face as I ran the final 2 miles to the finish line. With cowbells clanging and people cheering it was the perfect atmosphere to come back to after a day on the trails. The finish line crew was wonderful and spent the entire day hugging sweaty finishers and making them feel special.
Cassie was there after finishing an awesome 100-miles. It was great to see her with a smile on her face! A finisher’s mug filled with beer was promptly in my hand and I was one happy girl.
We stayed at the finish line until late that night to cheer for every single finisher, including my brother-in-law Cade and my sister Molly who finished her first 50- miler!
Run Rabbit Run is a very special race in a beautiful place. The race directors Fred and Paul and the entire volunteer crew, led by Brady Worster, did a phenomenal job. If you haven’t yet run the race, you should put it at the top of your list for 2014. The 100-mile is sure to grow and continue to attract top athletes and back-of-the-packers alike.
50 Mile Women:
1. Kerrie Bruxvoort, Broomfield, CO- 8:18
2. Mary Mahoney, Crested Butte, CO- 9:18
3. Rebecca Hall, Evergreen, CO- 9:20
50 Mile Men:
1. Dane Mitchell, Boulder, CO- 7:32
2. Morgan Williams, Carbondale, CO- 8:03
3. Steve Leichty, Victor, MT- 8:05