My First 100 Mile Ultra [#RRR100]

Full Disclosure: I went into this race rather under trained — my “peak weeks” of training were spent off my feet with a bowl of ice cream in hand and included many visits to the PT for work on my left Achilles/Soleus. Two weeks before the race I was cleared to run again but if I took it slow, didn’t go far and stopped every mile to give my body TLC. Then the week of the race the PT proclaimed I was no longer injured, just under trained! I went into the race with ONE goal — finish with a smile. Spoiler: mission accomplished!

It’s been a week since I took on the Run, Rabbit, Run 100 mile race in Steamboat Springs, CO…and I’m still alive to talk about it! Since everyone I see in real life is getting sick of hearing my stories about the race so I guess it’s time to write a legitimate recap. How does one recap 100 miles? I have no idea, but I’ll start out with some stats + spoilers for anyone with a short attention span, because this is going to be a doozy!

  • I started running on Friday at 8am, I stopped running on Saturday at 7:13pm…that’s 35 hours + 13 minutes of forward movement!
  • The official course distance was 102.5 miles with over 20,000 feet of gain/loss…lots of up/down/up/down!
  • I did not fall on my face, take any naps or projectile vomit on the trail…not even once which is a huge accomplishment in my book!
  • My crew + pacers rocked my world…it would have been so much harder without them, I owe them all big time!
  • I never wanted to quit the race…I wanted it to be over and I wanted to sleep but I did NOT want to give up, not once.
  • I am VERY happy with how everything went…I played it safe and addressed issues as they arose and it paid off, I ran into the finish!

Now, for the long version for those of you willing to grab a cup of coffee (or can of Mt Dew) and settle in for all of the nitty gritty details…

The day before the race (Thursday) I met Paula in Steamboat Springs where we checked into our condo for the weekend before heading down to packet pick up and the pre-race meeting before wandering off to find dinner. The packet pick up was easy – name, bib, tshirt, photo, done. The pre-race meeting started late but we eventually made our way to Carl’s for a very noisy dinner (silly football fans). Once back at the condo Paula and I laid out all of our gear and talking our crews’ ears off. We both had our own crews/pacers and had gone a little crazy in the organizational department to prep them for a day and a half of waiting on our sweaty selves hand and foot…and it made us both feel better to re-explain it all to them about three times so there was a lot of chaotic talking!

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Steele + Paula getting smart at the pre-race meeting and the #1 Stunners representing at RRR100!
Fun Fact: Of the 12 person #1 Stunner team I ran with 7 of them were at RRR100 racing, crewing or pacing!

Bedtime came and went but the lights were out before midnight, which I’ll call a win! Before 6am the alarms were going off…race day had officially arrived! Breakfast consisted of bacon + bagels grilled in bacon grease + rice krispie treats. If that isn’t the breakfast of champions I don’t know what is…seriously, if someone would make that for me every morning I’d feel blessed! Shortly after 7am we arrived at start/finish area where we checked in for the race and then nervously sat around waiting for the 8am start time. I kept my layers on until I heard the “one minute left” announcement then I traded my cozy down for booty shorts and a tank top…I was ready to take on Mt Werner! Or so I thought…

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Up, up, up we go…

The first 4 miles of the race went directly up a mountain side. We zigged and zagged a bit but before long we were power hiking up, up, up a [very steep] intermediate ski run. Half way up the mountain flattened out just long enough to toy with our emotions then it sent us right back up… I spent a lot of time thinking about how much easier it was to skin up this same mountain with Luke + Courtney last winter. It was a struggle on a splitboard but at least I got to have fun on the ride down!

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Hoofing it up a ski run…which is much more fun when it’s snow covered and you have a snowboard!

By the time I hit the Mt Werner AS [4.4 miles] my mind had wandered off into a weird state of bewildered curiosity. Just two hours into my first 100 miler I was full blown run drunk…this was going to make for a very interesting day! I knew I needed to eat, drink and move, which is exactly what I did with some help from very patient volunteers! The next 13 miles were spent running down and hiking up rolling single track then bouncing along the technical trail that looped us along Fish Creek with stunning views of Fish Creek Falls.

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The falls were pretty…and yes, that’s the same trail we climbed back up in the dark!

I wasn’t expecting to see my crew until the Olympian Hall AS [20.5 miles] and was completely unprepared to hear familiar voices at the Fish Creek AS. Apparently this is exactly the jolt back to reality my run drunk brain needed…I spent the next 4 miles planning out exactly what I’d need from them when I arrived at Olympian Hall – someone to work my glutes, a baseball to roll out my feet, more Tailwind and a refill on food. It was an efficient pit stop where I found out Paula was about 5 minutes ahead of me and doing well, which was awesome to hear since she dropped me before we even got to the top of Mt Werner. That girl can climb!

With a handful of food I headed out to tackle more miles that had us climbing up Emerald Mountain then dropping down into the Cow Creek AS [29.1 miles]. The climb wasn’t easy but it was along smooth jeep road and whatever my crew did to my glutes was magical, they were no longer painfully numb! The descent was fun and I knew this AS from the crewing last year so I was excited to get there and eat!

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My crew threw me for another loop at Cow Creek AS…by not being there. I wasn’t ditched completely as Paula’s crew had my stuff but there were a lot of confused blank stares on my part. This may sound whiney, but after miles of planning out what you’ll say to someone it’s dumbfounding to realize they aren’t there to listen to you. I got everything I needed – food, Tailwind, caffeine, headlamp – before I left but I still spent a few minutes plotting against my crew…I knew it wasn’t an intentional sabotage on their part and I was fine but it felt good to say mean things about them in my head!

The climb out of Cow Creek seemed to go on forever. The front running Hares (who started 4 hours after us Tortoises) caught me by 5pm at mile 30ish and were cruising. This is also about the time I started hiking uphill with Carissa, a local taking on her first 100. We settled into a conversational pace and took on the climb. Eventually we hit rolling hills and I decided to run what I could while Carissa stuck with hiking to made nice with her knee. She did catch up with me on the last climb up Emerald Mountain around 7pm surrounded by a beautiful sunset and we started down the Lane of Pain together. The steep climbs we took on earlier that day were now fast descents that I was excited to go play on.

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Carissa wouldn’t get access to her headlamp until she got back to Olympian Hall and her knee wasn’t allowing her to bomb the brutal downhills so I handed over the headlamp I had and took off, letting gravity pull me down the mountain as the sun sunk below the horizon. Luckily the trail was smooth and I knew where I was going because the sun definitely beat me in this race! With just under 2 miles left I ran into Matt, who was heading out to sweep the course, and was reminded of a turn off…that I didn’t miss thanks to a Hare announcing it as his headlamp hit the reflective markers. As I rolled into the Olympian Hall AS at 41 miles I think I freaked out my crew a bit – I was running blind in the dark and was still in just shorts/tank top even though the temps were dropping into the low 40’s. It was kind of funny to see them worried about me, I felt special albeit a little selfish!

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Olympian Hall [41.3 miles] — Yup, there may have been a little sass going on…but at least I was smiling!
photo credit: Sarah

This stop at Olympian Hall AS [41.3 miles] was probably my longest aid station stop of the entire race – I wanted real food (hot broth, grilled cheese), needed to get my calves/shins/glutes worked on, added warmer layers and stopped by a real bathroom for a legit pee test and real water to wash my hands! When I headed out I had Heather with me for the 4 mile stretch through town and up to the Fish Creek Falls AS. I was Chatty Cathy and talked her ear off for about an hour of hiking on pavement (I think they added hills as it did NOT feel like we were descending that much on the way into town!). She read through Facebook and Twitter comments from friends and strangers…it became clear there was no way I was quitting this race without broken bones, way too many people were rooting for me!

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Fish Creek Falls [45.3 miles] — Stretching + rolling on a baseball, my shins/calves were already mad at me.
photo credit: Heather + Sarah

On my second trip through the Fish Creek AS [45.3 miles] I swapped out pacers and picked up Jeremy for a 19 mile stretch through the night. I left the aid station in good spirits and felt ready to take on the technical climb up the Fish Creek Falls Trail…about a half mile later all of that bubbly chatter died away. I thought I’d be happy to have Jeremy’s energy + JammyPack but instead it pissed me off and I got sassy. It was about 11pm and I was tired. I had been moving for 15 hours and my body was telling me to go to sleep. I got whiney, but not about anything specifically…sure, my feet hurt but that didn’t matter, I wanted to sleep. I honestly don’t remember what I said or did but I know I was moving slowly and I sat down on rocks WAY too many times. Jeremy did what he could to reason with me and he eventually got me to accept his Double Espresso Shot concoction (I’d been refusing it because I was so tired of listening to my stomach gurgle when I drank)…it worked wonders.

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By the time we were nearing the Long Lake AS [51.4 miles] my mood had done another 180 and I was feeling pretty darn good. I was looking forward to real food at the AS – potato soup mixed with mashed potatoes and grilled cheese. I was in and out pretty quick and left Jeremy behind to enjoy his PBR to take advantage of some alone time on the trails…which was oddly refreshing. When he caught back up I convinced him to turn off his headlamp and rely on the moon’s light to hike uphill. It wasn’t a full moon but it was a clear night and we were on open jeep road. We probably spent a solid hour or more hiking without headlamps, leap frogging with another group of runners. As we hiked and ran he offered up random food from his stash that included a bag of chips + grilled cheese he kidnapped from the aid station, who knew cold grilled cheese could be so tasty? When paired with chicken broth from a handheld it was nearly a gourmet meal in my exhausted, delirious mind.

_DSC5014-LThe smile of a run drunk girl talking smack to the photographer!

When we arrived at the Summit Lake AS [56.9 miles] we say familiar faces – Paula and her pacer, Ian. This was good and bad. It meant I caught up with Paula…but it also meant Paula was slowing down. Her feet were feeling the miles and struggling in the cold dark of the night. Jeremy spent some time talking to her while I did my part to be a self sufficient runner in a well stocked aid station. Less than 10 minutes later I was back on the trail with high hopes for Paula joining me soon. The long descent into the Dry Lake AS [64.5 miles] wasn’t as much fun as I’d hoped. I ran a fair bit of it (I think?) but it just drug on forever. At one point we came across Steele and his pacer, Laci, promised us the AS was less than 2 miles out…two very long miles!

The lights of the AS finally came into view and we found my crew + Paula’s crew in just seconds. My left Achilles/soleus was very angry with me so I drug a sleeping pad into the warming tent and let Greg (a PT on Paula’s crew) go to town on my legs. It hurt, but it hurt so good! I had spent weeks addressing exactly the same pain in my right calf so I knew what I was up against – it was going to hurt but it wasn’t going to break me. After a cup of mashed potatoes + ramen noodles and reassurance that I would not permanently damage my body by running on cranky tendons I was back on the trail, this time with Meaghan.

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Running along the trail to Spring Creek – it was so pretty in the morning light!
photo credit: Meaghan

Prior to this run I’d spent very little time with Meaghan and I’m pretty sure I gave her a brutal crash course on my crazy! Over the previous few hours I literally talked myself horse. Caffeine has an interesting affect on me – not only does it keep me awake it makes me talk, a lot. During the night hours I consumed close to 600mg of caffeine (yea, that’s a LOT) and apparently I talked non stop…and that didn’t change on my trek down to Spring Creek with Meaghan. I found out after I finished that she said she could visibly + audibly tell when my caffeine was wearing off…I slowed down and stopped talking, took a swig of the potent Clif Shot concoction then started to ramp up my leg speed + words per minute. I can’t say that I’m surprised by this…

I left Dry Lake around 6:30am, just as Paula was arriving. A few shouts of encouragement were exchanged and I knew I’d see her on the out/back trail to Spring Creek…if she kept moving. On my way back up to the Dry Lake AS I saw her! I was so excited and used my dying voice to squeak at her like an adolescent boy! She told me she was dropping at Spring Creek, which wasn’t what she had hoped for but she talked herself out of the Summit Lake AS and away from a warm truck at the Dry Lake AS to pull of a major PDR of 69 miles…I am beyond proud of her!

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So excited to see her smiling face!
photo credit: Meaghan

When I got back up to the Dry Lake AS [73.5 miles] it was nearly cleared out even though I was arriving 15 minutes sooner than I expected to. There were only a handful of crews waiting for their runners and the AS was stripped down to a single table of food. I was more than an hour ahead of cutoff but I felt panicked and rushed. Luckily my crew was calm and confident so I didn’t completely freak out but I was really worried I was too far behind to make it to the finish before cutoff and I wasn’t sure I had it in me to speed up!

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Dry Lake AS [73.5 miles] – Giving my Achilles a little TLC but refusing to remove my sock for fear of what my toes looked like!
Also – note that big fancy camera in Will’s hands…he recorded everything and is putting it all together in a video! Can. Not. Wait!
photo credit: Sarah

I stripped off my layers, lathered on the sunscreen and BodyGlide then headed out onto the trail. Meaghan’s pacing duties were over and I was back in the hands of Jeremy. So far my brain was functioning, I was capable of thinking about food and water and moving, but I was tired and really thankful to have someone else there to think for me. Rather than think about what I’d eat next I just waited for the Garmin to beep at 30 minute intervals and then accepted whatever food Jeremy handed me then took a swig from my water bottle when he asked me to. I may have been whiney but I’d like to think I was being a fairly obedient runner!

The long road back up to the Summit Lake AS [81.1 miles] felt even longer in the daylight. The uphill was brutal on my Achilles and I was counting down the minutes to my next dose of ibuprofen (yup, ibuprofen, not Tylenol…I needed to reduce swelling and was peeing just fine so I took a calculated risk). As we climbed we started picking people off and before long I came upon Craig, a runner I met on the long climb up Towers Road at the Quad Rock 50. I spent the first few hours of RRR with him so it was nice to see him again, although I only caught him because he was slowing down due to knee issues which was less than ideal for him!

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On my second stop at the Summit Lake AS I spent a little time working on my calf and changing up the way I had my shoes tied hoping it would relieve some of the pain in my tendons. Less than 50 feet onto the trail I knew the time was wasted…my feet were jacked. I reverted to my loosely tied shoes and continued on with resolve to just deal with the pain.

The next stretch of rolling hills that took us into the Long Lake AS for the third time were not fun. My left Achilles/soleus was extremely upset with me and the tendons across the top of my left foot were rebelling. The rolling trail was both a blessing and a curse. I focused on running the down hills and purposefully hiking the up hills – this kept me moving at a fairly quick pace and the changing terrain meant I’d get a relief from the different types of pain as I switched from running to hiking. However, as soon as I mentally wrapped my mind around the pain my Achilles felt as I hiked up hill I’d crest a hill and have to flip a switch in my brain to handle the pain in the top of my foot + thighs as I ran downhill. On top of the very distinct pain in my tendons I was also dealing with the general pain of fatigue in my quads and hamstrings. Then, just to keep things fun my left knee would throw in a few stabs of pain every once in a while. The rest of the race was all about balancing my need to move quickly with my mental ability to handle the constant pain.

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I’m running, I swear! And I wanted to splash through that puddle SO badly…but wasn’t willing to risk blisters at this point.

I don’t really remember what I was saying as I headed into the Long Lake AS [89.7 miles] but I’m fairly certain I was rocking the RBF (Running Bitchy Face) and I have to say Jeremy did a fantastic job of dealing with me. I don’t recall complaining about anything specifically but I know my responses to his questions were very short and I was not a bundle of joy by any means. As soon as we got into the AS I kicked off my shoes and rolled my feet on a baseball while I shoveled grapes into my face. The pads of my feet were throbbing but I was afraid to take off my socks and look at my feet – in my mind if I couldn’t see blistered they didn’t exist! Eventually Jeremy convinced me to strip off my socks for a look…all was well! No big blisters (just the usually ones that always show up on my “pointer toes”) but we globbed on the BodyGlide before taking on the next 13 miles just to be safe.

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Oooh…this is going to be fun. Not!

The final half marathon of the race was nearly identical to the first half marathon…but since I spent the first few hours of the race run drunk I didn’t really remember the course at all. I fell into my routine of hike up, run down and just focused on moving forward. Jeremy would remind me to drink water and he’d calmly offer up caffeine and food as I requested it. As the miles ticked by I realized I was running more of this section with 90 miles on my legs than I did with 5 miles on my legs…and it wasn’t a net downhill in this direction either. Instead I kept running because it was easier. It took much mental work to rework my brain around the change in pain that I’d run small up hills rather than slow down to hike them. I just tucked my cap down lower, stared at the two feet of trail ahead of me and ran. It was actually a huge confidence boost to know my body was still capable of running if I put my mind to it. I’m sure I wasn’t moving very quickly but it could have been so much slower!

As we made our way toward the final AS Jeremy turned the JammyPack back on and this time I wasn’t a completely Debbie Downer about it. I didn’t have any voice left to sing along but I moved my lips to the old school country music he humored me with. The 50 milers that caught up with us seemed to enjoy the music as well and their “you got it girl” comments kept me running.

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Rather than stop at the Mt Werner AS [96.1 miles] I just gave them my bib number and kept on moving. Jeremy stopped to grab grapes + tortilla rolls as I started my way down the most painful stretch of the course…the service road down Mt Werner. I know I complained about the climb up this stupid mountain but the descent was so much worse! I cannot remember exactly what hurt (funny how my mind has already erased that pain) but it hurt. A lot. More than once I told Jeremy I was fairly certain I’d have the pain tolerance to give birth to quadruples without medication if I made it to the bottom of this &#@!* mountain. I’m not sure how dealing with leg/foot pain would help with birth but in my never-been-pregnant mind it was comparable.

As I struggled to force my body to run downhill we saw more and more 50 milers – they offered up a lot of encouragement and it was refreshing to see them suffer on the unforgiving descent. I guess misery loves company! As we neared the turn off to single track the marked the final mile of the race we came upon a few 100 milers that I’d leap frogged with throughout the race. It was painfully obvious their bodies were hating the descent even more than mine but the finish was in sight for them, they would be finishing the Run, Rabbit, Run 100!

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Taking life one brutal switch back at a time…it’s hard to believe these roads aren’t steep enough to keep speed on with a snowboard!

For the last 20 miles the stretches of narrow single track were kicking my butt – if I stepped flat on my left foot the pain was manageable but if I had to side step or let my ankle roll a bit on technical terrain the shooting pain caught me off guard – but on this last stretch of trail I stopped caring. I had less than 10 minutes left…my pain tolerance could man up for 10 more minutes, right?! I ran the single track, I repeatedly fisted my hands in sync with audible whimpers and curses as I ran for the finish line. I was going to finish my first 100 miler running with a smile on my face, damnit! My body could suck it up for a little bit long…because that’s what my brain decided for it!

The narrower trail dumped us out onto Right-O-Way, and easy green ski run, and led us around to the official base of the mountain and the designated hugger that marked the finish of the race. I continued to run…my body wanted to badly to stop but I was too close, I wasn’t going to give up. Besides, I asked Jeremy for permission to walk a bit and he said he’d keep running with out me, I had no choice…I was running to the finish!

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Running the last stretch into the finish…my legs still worked!
photo credit: Heather + Julia

I saw Cole cheering from the sidelines when I had a quarter mile left, then I saw Heather acting as a scout on a knoll near the creek. Before I crossed the creek I heard Sarah yelling then I turned to take on the final stretch to the finish – it was lined with the cheering smiles on the faces of friends from Denver, runners I’d seen on the course and happy strangers. I had done it – I ran 100 freaking miles! Not only did I cover the distance I was still running and there was a goofy grin on my face! I bound up the stairs leading to the designated hugger two at a time and nearly fell into her arms.

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Hugging Heather when it was all over…with a glass of chocolate milk in hand!

She bubbled with positivity as she handed me a finisher’s mug + buckle then offered me a cup of chocolate milk as I kicked off my shoes. My race was over and not because things went awry, but because I fought for a finish that went down on my terms. After a round of happy hugs I ditched my crew for a much needed stop at a legitimate bathroom where I verified I wasn’t going to die of kidney failure (yay lemonade pee!) and washed my hands three times. I may have visited a public restroom without shoes on but my hands were cootie free for the first time in nearly 24 hours, I’ll call that a win!

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I finished…now let’s take a look at these toes…
photo credit: Heather

I wandered over to my crew’s base camp and piled on the down layers as I prepared for the post-run chills to set in. With a little coaxing I mustered up the courage to peel off my Zensah compression socks (I’d convinced myself to just shower in them for the next week…) and was pleasantly surprised to see my feet were nearly blister free! They were very dirty and swollen but in the blister category I seriously lucked out! As they started the awards for the overall winners we made our way to the cars…which required three very long flights of stairs that my body took surprisingly well!

Once back at the condo I flopped down onto the floor and pretended to stretch out my body while talking to Paula about her race – when her recap is up I’ll link to it so she can tell her own story but I will say I am seriously impressed with her! [She wrote her recap - it's live here] Prior to RRR100 she had run 28 miles as her longest run and that was almost a year ago! Her training topped out with 20ish mile runs + lots of cross training…for her to make it 70 miles is incredible and I really am so proud of her, especially after hearing how badly she wanted to quit when I saw her at mile 56!

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All done! With my incredible pacers (minus Meaghan!)…thanks guys!

Up next was a hot shower and some quality time with my pillow…or so I thought. The hot water was amazing but as soon as I got out of the shower my head started spinning and I was fighting back the urge to projectile vomit all over myself. Um, no. This was not going to happen AFTER the race! What the heck was going on?! Oh, right…I stopped eating as soon as I crossed the finish line because the hot pizza hurt my mouth and that was three hours ago!

I eventually got dressed without puking or passing out and coaxed myself up the stairs and asked someone to get me food as huge crocodile tears rolled down my face…somehow I had managed to keep my head on straight for 102 miles but bring me back to civilization and all bets are off. After I scooped all the mashed potatoes (the only thing that didn’t hurt my mouth) off some leftover pot roast I wandered back downstairs and crawled under the comforter for a restless night of sleep. I woke up at 1am but fell back asleep with a little help from trashy late night TV, only to wake before anyone else at 6am…at which point I got productive and started doing laundry. Well, I was pretending to be productive but was really hoping I was making enough noise to wake up the rest of the house…I’m nice like that!

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My crew (plus Paula + Graham, minus Jeremy + Meaghan)…so many thank you’s to these guys!

So, there you have it, the extra long version of my first 100 miler! Hopefully you get a little taste of what I felt out there – physically, mentally and emotionally – and if you’re looking for a more detailed recap about the technical side of the race don’t fret, it’s in the works! I’m definitely not an expert but I’m happy to share what did/didn’t work for me along and of course I’ll have to talk a bit about what I have my eye on for future races! Yup, that pain has already faded that much…

Looking for more detailed information about my experience at Run Rabbit Run? Like the planning it took + the food I ate + the random thoughts I had + how I dealt with my undertrained body?! I finally pulled together a post with all that info and if you have the patience you can read it all here: The Nitty Gritty Details

Also, if you’re looking to find out what it was like to crew for me take a look at Heather’s post about the 5 things she learned crewing #RRR100!

I survived! With a smile! [#RRR100]

On Friday morning I started the longest run of my life – the Run, Rabbit, Run 100 in Steamboat Springs.
On Saturday evening I finished the race still running with a big ol’ goofy grin on my face.

Mission accomplished.

I walked away from the race a smarter runner. I played it safe from the start. I was hyperaware of my body and addressed niggles as the popped up, not hours later. I ate consistently and consciously, without puking. I kept moving forward with purpose. I ran across the finish line.

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At the start and less than a mile into a 4,000 foot climb = smiles of denial!

I am incredibly happy with how the race went, from start to finish. I finished happy and I can take on a flight of stairs without whimpering. My body is going to need some legitimate recovery time but that’s to be expected and it’s a great excuse to go right back to my version of RICE’ing.

None of this would have been possible without my crew. And I don’t say that as someone trying to ego stroke friends – I very seriously mean my race would have been much, much more challenging without the incredibly supportive crew/pacers I had rooting for me at each aid station. Having someone else there to think for you is a blessing, a time saver and a motivator. If you ever run an ultra that allows crews/pacers, talk friends into helping or accept the generosity of complete strangers. And if you’re racing in Colorado and need help I know a girl…talk to me.

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Running into the finish…about 3 miles + 3,000 feet left to descent. My toes hated me.

A wordy recap will be up soon, I promise! As usual I’ll dump all the random thoughts I’ve had about the race along with some boring stats then show off some mountain photos. But what else do you want to know about the race? What details matter to you? I write detailed recaps for two reasons – so I can remember the misery/joy of a race when I get trigger happy on UltraSignUp and to get other runners doing the same/similar race can show up a little more prepared on race day. If you were going to take on Run, Rabbit, Run or any other ultra as your first race what details would you care about? Tell me your questions and I’ll give you the best answers I have!