To start, I signed up for this race January 1st and started a training plan the first week of April, racking up mileage all summer, I went in pretty prepared. This would be my first 50-mile Ultra after a handful of Mountain Marathons and 50ks. I would have my Dad and my friend Luke there for crew and support, which was awesome. We got a condo for the weekend a short walk from the start and the whole weekend was an incredible experience. I had a stellar summer of running leading up to this weekend and everything just came together for an unforgettable day.
Everyone wants to know why the hell I would want to run 50 miles. It’s Tuesday now and I’ve had about three days to let things sink in. While I was out on those trails and running for almost 11 hours the feelings of gratitude and accomplishment were unexplainable. I have always felt like running can make anything else in life seem possible or not that significant. It feels damn good to be able to run 50 miles and feel almost normal after! Not to be cliché but another reason is connecting with nature and appreciating how beautiful the Colorado Landscape is. When your hurting and out there running by yourself, or with other people, you can really become a part of the land and experience things in a whole new way. I got to watch the sun come up over Steamboat then move into a heaven(seriously, I said to someone “this is heaven”) of backcountry single track and lakes for the day, heading to Rabbit Ears pass to soak in the views then head back the same way, and going back the same way even seemed different after so many hours. Another reason for running these races is to meet all the amazing and inspiring people, pro runners I look up to like Jason Sclarb, Rob Krar, Chris Vargo, Duncan Callahan, then all the slower paced peeps like me still giving it their all and having a blast in the 50 and the 100. All the volunteers and spectators were awesome too!
Here are some of the things I thought about while running for 10 hours and 40 minutes. I thought about all the great training runs that got me to this point. Runs with my dad back east, runs with my friends on and around 14ers, and early mornings putting in work by myself. Running can seem like a selfish endeavor but I have to say I felt like I earned this, the right to have an amazing long run in steamboat with beautiful weather and the support of family and friends. While running I work on staying positive and keeping my head in a good place. I like to talk aloud sometimes and name the people I am grateful for in my life. My amazingly hard working sister, who has Lupus, has a beautiful healthy 1-year-old boy who I think about often, I was calling out to them and talking to them. I think of my grandmother who has had MS since I can remember and is still the most positive uplifting person in the world, if she can still walk and do the things she does, running 50 miles is a walk in the park. I think about my 80 year old grandfather who stopped drinking 25+ years ago to take his life back and started running 5k running races every weekend, he proves anything is possible if you put one foot in front of the other and keep focused. I would be lying if I didn’t say I think about how running has helped me overcome my own problems with alcohol, putting things into perspective, giving me a healthy outlet, and making me a better person. I also think about my grandmother or Nan who passed years ago who had a passion for Nature like no other, she is always with me when I am running in these beautiful mountains, soaking in the views, watching the animals and flowers pass by. I think about my Mom who has and always will be there for me, I know she’s one proud Mom and always thinking of me, wish she could have came out for the race but she would be the first person I call after. I also think about my beautiful girlfriend Madison who was home in Vail watching our furry baby Rooster. She isn’t a runner but has always been there for me while I obsess about long runs and weird diets. Rooster my running buddy(dog) was out there with me in spirit, I would actually picture him running ahead of me looking back at me with that big goofy smile and tongue hanging out. Those are just a few of the people who love and support me that I think about while running. Thinking about people like this not only makes the time pass but it gives me strength and reminds me why I run. I also think about how I am feeling and what I need to do to continue feeling well through 50 miles. I was trying to eat something every half hour and finish my water bottle before getting to every aid station. I also stay positive for the other runners out there, telling everyone I pass, “good job, keep it up” or “your crushing it, go get em!” and almost everyone does the same right back. It’s an amazing sport where even though you’re competing against other people it’s more about doing your best and everyone is in this Epic struggle together. Ultra running races are a lot like a lifetime in a day.
I drove up late Thursday night after meeting my dad in Silverthorne. It was so good to have him there for the weekend. He’s always been my biggest inspiration, motivator, and fan. I think of him as my Coach as he’s been running a lot longer and always has helped me out with gear and information. He was almost more excited than me to be there and take in the scene of an Ultra Marathon for the first time. Friday morning we went out for a great breakfast at the Creekside Café, grabbed some last minute calf sleeves and shorts from Ski Haus then hurried back to watch the start of the 100-mile race. Before the race we got to meet Jason Sclarb and Rob Krar, two amazing runners who are so down to earth, also the Run Rabbit Run 100 record holder and soon to be champion. It was so cool to watch these guys and girls all come to the line and set off for what would be 100 miles! After they disappeared up the hill we jumped in the gondola to watch them go past at the top. We got to share the Gondola with recent UROC 100k champ and Nike Athlete Chris Vargo who was very friendly and cool to chat with. After watching the 100 milers hike past a steep section at the top my dad and I went for a short shake out run around the top of steamboat, it was some smooth gravel nature trail but, I could tell things were feeling good and I had that “I’m ready to run” feeling.
After watching the 100 go off we headed back to the condo to prepare drop bags and get things ready. I was still trying to figure out what shoes to wear and ended up going with the Altra Olympus, which proved to do me good!
Last summer I messed around with being Vegan and turned towards Paleo about a year ago and can tell it really had benefitted my running and overall health. I love eating meat and the energy it gives me along with lots of other fruits, veggies, super foods, and healthy fats! I may not be the strictest paleo at all times and have some pizza and ice cream when the mood strikes but, I sure felt like a fat burning machine this weekend. The weeks leading up I focused on lots of healthy salads, clean eating with rice and sweet potatoes. Race day, my stomach was full of nerves but I put down some hard-boiled egg, sweet potato, bacon, and a bulletproof coffee.
Getting ready one of the best things I did was coat my feet in Vaseline then put my Drymax socks on, my feet were fine the entire 50 miles. I had some sweet new CWX compression shorts and calf sleeves my dad got for me, I may have felt a little Euro with calf sleeves and compression shorts but, they sure did help hold my hips together and my calf’s felt better than any other race I have done. I would use a small fanny pack waist band thing to hold food and salt pills, then my hand held for hydration, This seemed to work out better than having a pack on my shoulders all day.
My race nutrition consisted EFS liquid shots, Huma Gels, Epic Bars, salt pills, and Tailwind. At the aid stations I was snacking on Trail Mix, Watermelon, Bacon, Potato chips and lots of water.
There were four aid stations and I got to stop at each twice as it was an out and back course. The turn around point of mile 25 was atop Rabbit Ears Pass. The first aid station was on top of Mt Werner, still on the ski resort, then Long Lake Aid Station which was also a stop for the 100 miler had Bacon! Base Camp was where I could leave a drop bag, which was cool, and then Dumont was at the bottom of rabbit ears pass where my crew was hanging out. A big tip I have for anyone trying to run Ultras is to break it up into aid stations, instead of thinking I have 30 miles left, it was I have 5 miles till the next aid station, it makes things seem reasonable and not so overwhelming when things start to hurt.
The race started at 6am and we got to watch Rob Krar finish his 100 mile right before we took off, talk about inspiration. It was cold and dark as we started but things would warm up quick. When the gun went off the entire field went strait and immediately missed the first turn, it was kind of chaos for a minute as everyone rerouted and jumped across this small stream to back on course. I almost broke my ankle/put my entire foot in ice cold water less than a minute into the race. After that I jogged it out for a minute then started walking what would be a 6-mile climb up the ski resort to the first aid station. With the sun coming up and clouds over the town of steamboat it was just beautiful out there, I walked fast and chatted with some guys around me. When I hit that first aid station I stopped for a second and took in the scene, some Macklemore playing in the back ground, after letting out my breathe I dropped off the back of Steamboat ski resort into one of the most beautiful scenes of my life on the way to Long Lake, cruising amazing trails like this with people who love it just as much is what its all about. I would just take my time and enjoy these trails until the next aid station. I watched a guy behind me fall hard at mile 10, I helped him up and told him no more falling, he was from Brazil, the girl in front of me from Mexico, its crazy how races like these attract people form all over the world.
Getting to the second aid station at long lake, I was happy and feeling good, I had been to this lake before during the Mt. Werner 50k last summer, but the rest of the course would be new to me. I had some bacon at long lake and it hit the spot, from here I would head out into more single track in and out of the woods past amazing back country lakes. I was running steady and trying not to look back and run my own race, I was surprised at how no one was coming from behind me so I just kept moving. These sections were a little swampy and sometimes you had to watch your footing and do some rock hopping over streams.
At the 3rd Aid Station, Base Camp, I had a drop bag with more Huma gels, epic bars, socks and blister repair kit. I just dropped off my gloves and some garbage, took some new gels and kept moving, as everything else was good! I was siked to get to Dumont and see my dad and friend Luke. When I was almost to Dumont I started to see the leaders coming towards me, it’s amazing how fast some people can run these races. It was starting to get warm around 11am and I was heading into another big climb up Rabbit Ears Pass. Seeing my Dad and the crowds at Dumont gave me energy and I surged up Rabbit Ears pass then cruised back down to grab some sunglasses and finish this damn thing. Going down the pass I got to see how many people were behind me, I was feeling good and it was time to put the hammer down and not see these people again until the finish line. I started to do some math and figured out I could end up with a sub 11 hour race which would be awesome! On the way back I took it section by section drinking lots of water and stopping to cool off in some of the steams. My hamstrings had been a little sore and cramping earlier in the race but around mile 40, everything came together and I was feeling great, I would see flashes of people ahead of me then hunt them down, If I saw someone behind me I would start running again and put some space on them, I love this primal instinct part of running when you become the hunter or the hunted.
Even though I was feeling good about my race, getting to the last aid station seemed like forever, I knew I ran this same trail way earlier in the day but it was hard to remember where I was and how much I had left. Once I could hear cowbells and people yelling I knew I was home free. In a long race there is nothing like that feeling of knowing your going to finish and all your hard work paid off. With about 4 miles to go I found my buddy Luke who would run the last couple miles with me, just like we were out on a training run around Vail. We passed my Dad who was waiting along the service road. I was feeling great and flying down the home stretch. I finished in 10 hours and 40 minutes and was so happy with that for my first 50 miler. I was 8/22 in my age group and 34/140overall.
After I took my shoes off right away and was having a beer in the ice-cold steam within minutes. This blog was written over the week, its Friday now and I feel totally recovered. I ate a ton all week and slept for 14 hours a couple nights in a row. I have been doing long walks with my dog and riding my Bike around town. Tonight Ill go out for a short run and shoot some Aspens on Vail Mountain with my dog, life is good.