Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Run Rabbit Run 2015

A few days after finishing the Run Rabbit Run 100 miler here in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, my roommate Avery asked me, "So, are you going to write a race report for RRR?  I mean, you did finish."  "Hmmmm, I haven't really thought about that too much.  I guess I could.  I didn't have a splendid race, but I did finish.  Yeah....I freaking finished that bitch.  YEAH!  No DNF (did not finish) this year! BAM!"

Moments like these remind me that it'd be ridiculous to be disappointed in running my slowest ever 100 miler in a time of 26:36:28.  I finished 38th out of 153 finishers, with 145 DNF's.  It's really crazy, and unrealistic to expect everything in life to go perfectly.  And with running ~105 miles in the Rockies through the solitude of the night without a pacer, I'd be an ungrateful sap that deserves a swift kick to the groin if I was truly dissatisfied with how things turned out.  I will also say with certainty that RRR 2015 was easily my hardest 100 thus far (4 completions), and inflicted more discomfort than any race to date.  But, somehow I kept going.

To get started, I'd like to say that I'm pretty much ending my racing season.  I've been recovering better than ever, and have been able to get back at it pretty quickly, but that burning desire to compete has naturally dissipated until next year.  My goal is to maximize fun, because if you're not having fun, you yourself may not be that much fun.  At this point, fun is not toeing a line for me.  This is the greatest part of running to me; freedom.  Constantly reflecting on my punk rock, do it yourself, slightly rebellious childhood, I'll never forget and will always take away that I can do whatever the Fuck I want, with a capital F.  And more importantly, not to give a damn about conventional ways of approaching your muse.  After all, your happiness, or lack of it is yours and no one else's, so we gotta own that shit!  

My recovery from Western States at the end of June went extremely well, and I was able to get in an excellent training block before doing a little taper for RRR.  With Justin Ricks coaching/consulting  for the couple months before, and answering any questions about training I had, I was in excellent shape going into race day.  I don't think I'd change anything about the way I trained, or tapered.  It's just, you know, 100 miles, a step into the unknown to say the least.

As race day approached with a summer of some of the best memories I'll ever have, surrounded by brilliant people of all backgrounds, my heart was in this for Steamboat Springs.  This race meant, and still means the world to me.  It sounds like a lot of pressure, but I felt none.  Just plain stoked.  Determined.  Ready to represent.  I've met so many genuine people since I've moved here, and the local running scene is not huge, but is so tight, and friendly.  We also have thousands of miles of trails that weave through some of the most beautiful country I could ask for.

The race started at noon.  I hate getting up early, so I was not mad about this at all.  Both of my roommates, my neighbor friend Cara, our friend Eva, my friend Jesse (who'd also be running), and myself walked over to the start about an hour before the start.

Starting up the mountain at the very start (~3700' climb) wasn't too bad.  Since the course took us straight up the ski runs for well over half of the climb, it was only like 5 or 6 miles to the top.  I think that for us locals, it is pretty uneventful how the course utilizes "the mountain", or Mt. Werner; via ski runs and service road.  I guess it's a good way for spectators to watch from the gondola, and I'm not sure what permitting entails, but to me, the fun way up is on mostly single track, and takes nearly 10 miles.  I chose not to wear my watch, because I'd be too lazy to look at it anyways, and it'd likely die around half ways in.  Plus, 100 miles is such a journey that it feels unimportant to me.  I can get all the data and splits online, but no technology can convince me to work harder, and be better.

After reaching the top of Mt. Werner (Storm Peak), I began the gradually descending rolling section to Long Lake AS (aid station), known as Mountain View trail.  At this point everyone is still rolling into the stations in packs, still in close proximity.  This would be the case for a little less than the first half of the race.
My roommates and I-Fish Creek Falls Parking lot
The goal for me was to concentrate my efforts in not letting the exertion level get too generous.  I wanted to remain consistent.  With that being said, I ran very closely with 2014's 2nd place Josh Arthur, and Western States' record holder Timmy Olson for much of the first 40 miles, and kept wondering what in God's name I was doing this far up front so soon.  But, to be perfectly blunt, I never felt uncomfortable with my pace, and felt relaxed, but focused.  That is....until I stopped eating...and drinking.

My laziness, and/or forgetfulness started around half ways in, which also happens to be when it gets cold, dark, and you climb back up to 10,000'.  I was much better prepared for the cold this year, but damn it was frigid up there.  I'll probably repeat this a few more times.

Eventually I made it to the Summit Lake AS on Buffalo Pass after a miserable 6 or so mile section of dirt road, before taking Buff Pass Road down to Dry Lake.  It was kinda funny when I finally got to Summit Lake AS.  I refused to go in the warm, cozy tent, because I'd never get out (this is where I got trapped last year).  A volunteer filled my bottle, laughed at me, then I began the uneventful ~8 mile descent to Dry Lake where I'd see my crew for the first time in 20 miles.

I'm not sure what time it was when I got to Dry Lake (mile 65), but it was late.  By this point my neglect had begun running a very expensive tab.  I'd be shocked if I was even getting 100 calories an hour.  Looking back, I'm like "Devon, you're such an idiot.  What the hell, man."  But then again, I didn't ever consider quitting, and had ample opportunity to do so.

Somehow I ran surprisingly fast down Spring Creek trail to mile 70 before turning around back up to Dry Lake (mile 75ish).  The journey back up was what I'd describe as shit.  I returned to my crew totally exhausted, cold, hungry, but not really able to eat.  I sat in a chair for a good 40 minutes wrapped in a blanket refusing to eat much.  My crew did manage to get me some ginger ale, and a couple bites of the PBJ/banana/nutella sandwich I invented (no big deal).

Thankfully for my crew, I did eventually leave for the 8 mile climb back into the wilderness.  This would be the last time I'd see them until the end.  According to my watch on a previous training run, there were about 30 miles left.  Totally drained, malnourished, but determined to finish, I basically crawled back up to Summit Lake AS.  On a few occasions I almost fell asleep while walking.

By the time I finally reached Summit Lake (82) the sun was coming up, and I needed to sit down.  I had only taken a couple sips of water in the last couple hours.  "Dammit Devon.  Let's see how deep we can dig this hole you've dug for yourself."  I was very happy to see that AS.  I took a nap in a chair, then drank a cup or two of instant coffee that totally hit the spot.  Suddenly, Ryan Case comes in with the girl he was pacing, Elizabeth.  Ryan and I raced together at Behind the Rocks 50 back in March, and it was energizing to see him.  I thought, "this is my chance to get out of here", so I left with Elizabeth and Ryan.

It was pretty awesome up at 10,000' at the crack of dawn.  Steamboat is just gorgeous.  The beginning to a beautiful day made the struggle more tolerable.  Also, though it was a bit chilly, the rising sun made for ideal running conditions, even though I wasn't running much.

Long Lake AS came and they were partying it up, drinking beers, and having a good old time.  I wish I could've stayed!  There were a few locals that recognized me, which made a Tecate, or PBR quite tempting.  "Just 7 miles up Mountain View trail, then down Werner, and I'm done", I kept reminding myself.  Starting up Mountain View started off great, then shifted to me saying, "man, I'm so fucked right now" several times, and forcing a few laughs about my deteriorated self.

After sitting on a few rocks, and enjoying the alpine views provided on Mountain View, the final AS came after what seemed like forever.  I'd come nearly 100 miles, and all that was left was a 7ish mile descent to the finish.  It'd been a long day, night, and morning, and the sun illuminated the golden colors of the mountain glow.  I decided to take a seat at the Storm Peak AS, enjoy the view, chat with a few volunteers, and crack a few bad jokes before being on my way.  It took a couple miles for my legs to get used to the downhill, but eventually I could only envision the end.  I'd run this service road 100 times, and I knew the mountain like the back of my hand, so I ran pretty quickly from the gondola to the finish.

Free hugs for all finishers!
Crossing the finish line in 100 miles never comes without great struggle, and humbles to the depths of your soul.  I wanted this finish for me, for my family, for my friends, for my town.  And through persistence, and being willing to change my focus from racing to not giving up, the end did eventually come.  And that is life, man.  There are so many instances that just getting up in the morning is a struggle, let alone building, and maintaining a life for yourself.  It's the reassurance that permanence isn't real that keeps me moving forward in more ways than one.  You're going to get beat down, let down, and shot down.  Others are going to try and pull you down.  You're going to break some hearts.  And get your heart broken.  And sometimes it's so overwhelming that it feels like there is no end.  But, there definitely is.  And being cognizant that life is so damn short, and we are so incredibly insignificant in the grand scheme of things should make us want to take every moment as if it's the last.  I think that's a large part of why I ever considered running 100 miles in the first place.

Most of my crew was waiting for me at the finish, drinking beer and carrying along.  I finished with a laugh as Avery, who was volunteering, was chose to announce at the finish.  His words were something like, "And here's Devon Olson!  He moved to Steamboat a year ago, and is getting older so needs to settle down  with a house, and kids.  Devon's also going to quit 100 milers to focus on his 5k PR."  The only thing I could think was "Who in the hell gave Avery a microphone?  Are you even kidding me?"
In all seriousness, it was awesome to see everyone at the finish.  Everyone was really happy for me, and I think they were stoked for my finish.  After chatting with loads of people, drinking a couple beers, and catching up with fellow Pennsylvanian (now Colorado Springs), and world class runner Jared Hazen, I started hobbling for the 0.7 mile walk home.  Luckily, my friends Eric and Luke picked me up shortly, and dropped me at my door.  It was good to finish a race, and go home to bed in the same day.

I'd like to say that I am very thankful for such a successful season.  I'm not going to post all of my results.  That's what ultrasignup.com is for.  I am however very stoked about every single one of them, and will mark running a 19:11 at Western States as my best/most emotional finish yet.  I accomplished my goal of the season-to finish two 100s in the summer of 2015.  No 100 mile DNF.  Aside from a very amazing season of running, and racing in the high country, I've had so much fun this summer that I still haven't realized it yet.  I've also met some really incredible people that are absolutely infectious, but in that unique sort of way.

A finish at RRR 100 2015 was a great way to end the season.  As for next year, I'm hoping to do another big 100 (Western States, Hardrock, Leadville), but obviously contingent on lotteries.  Until all that stuff gets figured out, it's nice to just get out and enjoy for enjoyment's sake.  Because it's the slow season here in Steamboat, it'll be nice to go see friends and family in the east come November.  It'll also be great to get out on the Laurel Highlands trail!

Thanks to such an awesome/committed crew that sat in the bone chilling cold waiting for me-Avery Collins, Cara Weiner, Watkins Fulk-Gray, Eva Vaikus, and Hans Ulmer.  I really appreciate how much you guys were pulling for me out there.  It's friends like you that kept me moving.  Avery and I have logged some miles together, so he knows me pretty well.  They did a great job.

Thanks to my good friend Jesse (who will probably never read this), who though didn't have the day he wanted at his first stab at 100, is a total badass.  About 70% of my training for this race ended up being with Jesse, with lots of very productive miles.  Jesse is a really solid friend, and I'm stoked we got to train so much together for RRR.

Thanks to Justin Ricks for believing in me enough to offer his coaching services.  Though training for RRR was mostly on me, he did give me a few good workouts, and plenty of valuable advice.  I'm really excited to work with Justin in 2016, and continue to improve.

Thanks to all the Steamboaters.  I'm really fortunate to live in such a caring community of people.  There were so many locals, both runners and non-runners rooting for me.  That's so amazing to me.  It makes me want to be better, but not in that selfish kind of way.  It makes me want to become great to represent the brilliant hills and people I'm surrounded by.

Lastly, thanks to my family.  Three years ago, I don't think they had any idea what I was doing with the running thing.  Amazingly, they've really come around, and are my biggest fans.  I think they understand, and see how much effort, and emotion I put into running in the mountains.  It's hard being on the other side of the country, but these hills have my heart.  As the years slip into the past, I'm learning to cherish time with family much more than when I was 18.

Cheers everyone!  I don't have lots of good pictures this time so here's a song I've been digging the last couple months.