The Nitty Gritty Details [#RRR100]

I pinky promise this is my last [really long] post about the Run, Rabbit, Run 100 miler…seriously, I promise! In my defense I’m in full blown sit-on-my-butt-and-eat-ice-cream recovery mode so there really isn’t anything more interesting going on in my life. I have already written the basic recap of the race, from the night before to the night after. You can read all of that over here. This post is all about the nitty gritty details – the stuff that doesn’t fit nicely into a chronological recap, random thoughts I had along the course and an update on my cranky tendons.

As always – if this post leaves you with questions, ask ‘em! If I don’t have a good answer I’ll make one up…or I’ll shoot you a link to the next best resource. And if this ultra chatter is boring you I promise my next both will be full of mountain photos completely unrelated to running!

The Logistics

Running is the easiest activity to get involved in, you don’t need any gear but shoes…they say. They are wrong. Holy buckets, or more appropriately, holy totes! In an effort to stave off any crazy pre-race nerves I went into full blown organize-all-the-things mode in the weeks leading up to my drive to Steamboat Springs. Since I wasn’t really running it was easy to pile everything into nicely labeled totes.

#RRR100 - Run Rabbit Run 100

Now, before you judge my crazy tote ways you should know these are small 5 gallon totes that I was already using to store my running gear and other random items. Don’t know this method until you’ve tried it – do you have any idea how simple it is to have a tote of random run-related food that you just toss in the car before heading to the mountains? If you always have the food ready to go you save so much time! Plus, you always have snacks on hand! And what, exactly, did I pack into each of these totes and did I use it? [bolded items = used]

Dress Me
rain jacket, Omniheat baselayer, cold weather hat, Omniheat gloves, one-sizer gloves, whole new running outfit (capris, shorts, sports bra, tank top, tshirt), short socks, Zensah compression socks, thick leggings, TurboDown puffy

Feed Me
Tailwind (pre-mixed and dry), Swedish Fish, Sour Patch Kids, Honey Stinger Chews + Waffles, jerky, peanut M&M’s, honey, reuseable bags to portion food to take on the trail

Gear Me
headlamp, trekking poles, UD Jenny vest, UD handheld, JammyPack, borrowed iPod, GoalZero battery chargers, Suunto Ambit 2 + charger, phone charger, BodyGlide, Saucony Xodus shoes, Saucony Peregrine shoes, extra batteries

Fix Me
Kinesio Tape, scissors, Nexcare tape, rubbing alcohol, paper towels, baby wipes, Tylenol + Iburpofen, Salt Sticks, gum, baseball, The Stick, extra food, bandaids, duct tape

Did I need all of that stuff?! Obviously not…but I packed it because I knew I had enough working against me going into this race undertrained. I did not want to deal with soaking wet clothes if it randomly rained and I had optimistically left them at home. I didn’t want to have to reason with an irrational brain if I thought I *needed* a certain kind of food. I didn’t want to be able to say “if only I had…” as an excuse to quit. Yes, I know ultra running is all about making it work with what you have…which is exactly what I did, I just had more than necessary!

Beyond just packing up all of the gear I may potentially need I had to figure out when people were getting into Steamboat Springs and how they were going to meet up with my crew and get access to the condo. I guess I didn’t have to figure this out but they were giving me their free time on a beautiful weekend, it’s the least I could do! I also needed to give them a rough idea of when to meet me at various aid stations. This all went down with the help of some colorful pens and then got transferred over to a spreadsheet that I sent out to my crew/pacers.

#RRR100 - Run Rabbit Run 100 #RRR100 - Run Rabbit Run 100 #RRR100 - Run Rabbit Run 100
My chaotic room the night before I left + a little #omniten love from Columbia + how I plan for things (paper + colorful ink!)

Since it was my first 100 miler on a very hill course I had no idea what my times would be. I knew I’d have one experienced ultra runner on my crew but the rest of them were new to all of this…which is awesome, I just wanted to make them as comfortable and prepared as possible. Hopefully I did…they’ve all offered to help out again so it was either my made spreadsheet skills or the cookies I baked them. You decide.

The Mental Games

I am actually really surprised with how well I faired mentally throughout the entire race. This is where I think a month of nursing an injury helped me…yup, actually helped me during the race. I’m not a hardcore runner (and I slack at training…) so I knew I really shouldn’t go into my first 100 miler with time goals, but you go right ahead and tell my brain that. On the surface I had zero goals aside from a finish but deep down inside I had numbers that I wanted to see (no, I’m not telling!). As the summer wore on and I started to struggle with “easy” runs and “no pressure” races I started to stress about “sucking” at Run, Rabbit, Run. I started to worry about what people would think of my time. Yes, yes, yes…it doesn’t matter, but yet it kind of does.

After two solid weeks of zero running (or hiking, or walking a dog, or…) I had to wrap my mind around the fact that the numbers truly did NOT matter. Going into Run, Rabbit, Run with my “peak weeks” of training spent on the couch with bowls of ice cream meant I literally could have no expectations. If I was going to have any chance of finishing the race I needed to go in wholeheartedly confident in my ability to cover 100 miles…but I could NOT care about the numbers, at all. Ultimately, I think this was a huge part of how I kept my head on straight throughout the race.

#RRR100 - Run Rabbit Run 100 - PreRace Meeting#RRR100 - Run Rabbit Run 100 - PreRace Meeting
Surrounded by crazy ultra runners + their #runablers…even with all this energy I had but one goal: to finish the race I started.

I only checked my time once – when I came into Olympian Hall the first time at 20.5 miles and I was only 15 minutes behind my “optimistic” calculations. My biggest concern at the moment…was I going too fast? Well…no, because I was moving comfortably without pushing the pace at all, so I kept at it. From then on I didn’t care what the numbers said as long as I wasn’t chasing cutoff times. I got a little nervous on my second trip through Dry Lake AS [mile 73.5] when the area was nearly cleared out but I was over an hour ahead of cutoff…so I kept repeating “it’s okay, it’s okay, it’s okay” as my very calm crew helped me get ready for 30 long, crew-less miles.

There was one other moment where I had to consciously redirect my thoughts. When I came into Cow Creek [mile 29.1] and my crew wasn’t there I was annoyed and feeling selfish. They were here for my race and I needed them! I didn’t care about the runner they were helping, that wasn’t supposed to be their priority, I was supposed to be their priority! Don’t judge…I said I was feeling selfish. In reality, I was just fine without them [plus, Paula’s crew was there to help me out] and it didn’t hurt me to think about my own needs rather than depend on someone else to make my decisions for me. I left that aid station with a handful of grapes. I gave myself until the very last grape to be annoyed, then it was time to move on and focus on the miles ahead of me, not the aid station behind me. I knew my crew wasn’t trying to sabotage me, and even if they were…I wasn’t going to let them. I saved that last grape for 12.2 miles, then told them to pretend it was a huge boulder as I threw it at them in the Olympian Hall AS [mile 41.3].

#RRR100 - Run Rabbit Run 100 - Headed to Summit Lake
The happy face I showed the world really was the happy face I was feeling! My body hurt but my brain was happy! [taken ~80 miles in]

It seems like such a little thing but I know from previous DNF’s that if I let that “ugh, they hate me…I don’t have my own headlamp or layers…no one told me what to eat…now I’m going to fail miserably!” fester for any longer it truly could have ruined my race. A positive mindset really is that important…and I did my part to keep my head on straight! Once again, I’m insanely proud of my brain for pulling the 180 as directed!

Also, no point did I want to quit the race. I wanted to sleep [there was no sleeping, at all!] and I wanted it to stop hurting and I wanted it to be over…but dropping out never crossed my mind. I also never thought I wouldn’t make it – things never got bad enough for me to entertain the thoughts of “holy crap, I’m an idiot and can’t do this!”. I don’t know how I managed to keep my brain focused for 35 hours, but I am extremely proud of my little head for keeping itself on straight that long!

What did I do with my brain for the long hours on the trails of Steamboat? A little bit of everything…

  • I talked to the people around me (whether they liked it or not)
  • I cursed the up hills (and down hills, they both suck equally after a while)
  • I literally had full blown conversations with myself, out loud (no, I don’t remember what I talked about)
  • I played “airplane mode” (and reasoned out how my black arm sleeves were solar panels with reflective panels so it’s not “cheating”)
  • I talked the ear off my pacers (especially Heather and Meaghan, sorry ladies!)
  • I created life stories for the chipmunks (their lives are far more interesting than mine!)
  • I sang songs (namely “The Bumble Bee Song” after nearly stepping on a bee)
  • I pondered why there were cars parked throughout the forest (they were trees, my mind was just messing with me…!)

I never had headphones and aside from about two hours with the Jammypack it was just me and the mountains hanging out together. For whatever reason I love this part of running – I have no idea what I thought about as I ran/hiked along the mountain trails but I do know I was never bored.

My Body’s Battle

I approached the start line knowing it was going to hurt, a lot…and if I was going to survive the pain I needed to embrace it and power through it. Not only was it 100 miles but I was insanely undertrained! Forget believing in your [non-existent] training, I’d moved on to believe in my mental tenacity and ability to “just deal” with pain. I had a pretty good idea of how badly it could hurt after wanting to chop my legs off during the North Fork 50M and I knew at some point the pain would stop getting worse…eventually. It had to, that was my only hope!

As soon as the pain started I addressed it. After my climb up Mt Werner my hips/glutes were rebelling – probably because they lost all their climbing skills after a few weeks on the couch. Rather than just fight through it to save time I stopped at the side of the trail, stripped off my pack, flopped on the ground and stretched them out the best I knew how…then I spent an extra 5 minutes in the Olympian Hall aid station letting my crew abuse me. Wasted time?! Heck no!

#RRR100 - Run Rabbit Run 100 - Elevation Profile
The course profile – for a little perspective that first climb was nearly 4,000 feet of “upness”…as were the last two big climbs…

The same goes for all of the agony my left Achilles/soleus put me through – when I felt the pain start I stretched along side the trail and as soon as I hit an aid station I plopped myself down on a baseball for some rolling that had me gnawing on my tongue to avoid squeaking in pain. I even let my crew smirk at my crumbled facial expressions as they worked on my tense muscles. Eventually my calf/shin muscle stopped responding to the abuse and I resolved to just embrace the hurt and carry on. By this time the pain stopped getting worse so it really was just pain management, one step at a time.

And the aftermath of sucking it up and dealing with the pain to get to that coveted finish line?! Well, I’m not broken! Actually, my muscles faired surprisingly well. Aside from some rather low key DOMS in the days after the race my muscles are happy campers. They’re ready to go play on trails and frolic in the fall colors.

#RRR100 - Run Rabbit Run 100 - Swollen Achilles
This photo doesn’t do the cankles justice – but you can see the complete lack of ankle bone definition, so swollen!

My tendons, on the other hand, are angry! So angry. Namely my left Achilles, left Digitorum tendons across the top of my foot and the right Digitorum tendons leading into my shin (Google told me the Digitorum name, I’m no doctor…). These were the major pain points during the race and they are still giving me some grief. However, as tendons they are fixable with some rest, ice cream and strategically applied Kineseo Tape. I know shin pain can lead to terrible things so, just as a precaution, I went into PT a week after the race…the phrase “stress facture” was mentioned, but only because we 100% ruled it out. At one point my PT did tell me I had the crunchiest Achilles she’s ever worked on…I’m going to go ahead and take that as a compliment. I left with some Kineseo Tape artwork, instructions on how to recreate the design on my own and stern guidance to take it easy for another week. I can handle that! Bring on the ice cream!

The days immediately following the race had me staring down at comically fat feet. My poor toes looked like little cocktail weiners being awkwardly smushed by insanely swollen feet + ankles! Seriously, my cankles were massive…and a day of sitting at work only made them worse! Apparently this is fairly normal but I think my cranky tendons made it worse than “normal”.

#RRR100 - Run Rabbit Run 100 - Kineseo Tape Post Race#RRR100 - Run Rabbit Run 100 - Kineseo Tape Post Race
My Kineseo artwork a week after the race — paired with an ultrasound I swear this stuff works!

After the swelling went down (almost a week post-race!) I noticed bruising on my right foot. You know where your toes jointed into your foot? I had a line of bright purple bruising right along these joints. Oddly enough these toes didn’t hurt at all, even when the bruising was visible. I’m guessing I bruised something deep in my foot on the long descent down Mt Werner – that was the only time I recall my toes literally screaming at me. And speaking of feet – two toes on my left foot are still mostly numb. I am also blaming the brutal run down Mt Werner for this. I’m told there is no need to worry about this until 2-3 weeks post-race, so we’ll see…

I will say, that after multiple PT visits before the race and having PTs work on me during the race I am definitely walking away from RRR as a smarter runner. I understand so much more about my body and how it all works together. It’s not just about fueling properly and stretching before/after a run…it’s about knowing what the pain is coming from, not just where it hurts. I’m no expert but I’m definitely learning more as I go and while I’m not asking for new pain I am thankful for the aches I’ve lived through because now I know how to address them trail side!

A Happy Tummy

I’m probably going to regret writing this but…I’ve never puked on the trail. I’ve actually never had to puke for any reason related to running. My stomach has never rebelled that bad. Maybe I’m not pushing myself hard enough, but whatever, I hate puking. I’m so bad at it – I hysterically cry, it’s embarrassing! Going into RRR there were many jokes about how my pacers would have to deal with the worst possible version of Heidi – the crying, puking Heidi. That never happened. Throughout the race I never had any issues with my stomach, which is a miracle on it’s own! I’m not sure how I lucked out so well, but I am so thankful my stomach kept itself together!

#RRR100 - Run Rabbit Run 100 - Headed to Summit Lake AS
“This looks up hill to you, right?!” – definitely runnable up hill but I was hiking, because hiking meant I’d still be able to move in 20 miles!

The only annoying thing I dealt with tummy-wise was gurgling. I regularly get “ocean belly” when I run and I’m fairly certain it is because I never sip water, instead I take a few big gulps and call it good. In the process of gulping water I’m also gulping air…which makes everything in my stomach slosh around until I burp. Do you have any idea how annoying it is to have your stomach gurgle and slosh around while you wait to build up a deep enough burp to get rid of all the air?! It drove me crazy! I probably burped hundreds of times throughout the race!

So, what did I eat to keep my tummy happy with me?! Whatever I happened to be in the mood for…

Some things I ate whenever I saw them at the AS or because they were easy to pack along, I grazed on…

  • Peanut M&Ms
  • Tortilla rolls with deli turkey + cream cheese
  • Grapes
  • PBJ tortilla wraps
  • Nutella tortilla wraps
  • Bacon + bacon bits
  • Grilled cheese
  • Potato soup
  • Mashed potatoes + opened Salt Sticks (so tasty!)
  • Ramen noodles
  • Chicken broth
  • Broccoli cheese soup
  • Rice krispie treats
  • Sour Patch Kids
  • Swedish Fish
  • Potato chips
  • Chocolate covered espresso beans

And other things I actually paid attention to how much I consumed, either because it was easy to measure or for safety reasons…

  • Tailwind (~60oz total?)
  • Mt Dew (one can)
  • Espresso concoction (3 Double Espresso gels/10oz of water, 300mg caffeine/bottle, I had 3-4 bottles)
  • B12 + Calcium + Magnesium + Potassium (one of each, not sure on mg as my pacer just handed them to me)
  • Honey Stinger Chews (2 pks)
  • Honey Stinger Waffle (1/2 of one)
  • Ibuprofen (~2000mg total with 600 to 800mg every 4 hours, pending a pee test)
  • Salt Sticks (~6 total, including two mixed in mashed potatoes)

As I rolled into an AS I’d stare at the food for a few seconds and eat whatever looked good to me at the moment. Sometimes I’d spend the miles leading up to the AS thinking about what I’d eat but usually I was happy to just grab what appeared to be appetizing. Before I left the AS I made note of how long it’d take me to get to the next AS then made sure I had about twice as much food as necessary with me, just in case. There was a watch in my pack and every 30 minutes it’d beep, meaning I needed to “shove something in my pie hole” so I always made sure I had a variety of snacks with me to mix it up.

#RRR100 - Run Rabbit Run 100 - Running toward Long Lake AS
Running along somewhere between Summit Lake AS [81.1 miles] and Long Lake [89.7 miles]

I’m surprised I was able to take in that much caffeine without any adverse affects on my stomach – I guess drinking way too much caffeine on a daily basis has it’s benefits? Although I do think the fact I ate 90% “real food” not “race food” helped my stomach a lot. It knew how to digest stuff like that so it didn’t freak out. Of course, my slow pace also gave my stomach time to actually do it’s job…I’m sure I’ll get the chance to live my own version of vomit hell should I ever decide to push the pace for 100 miles!

Three Things

I’m stealing this idea from Emily [who ran the Pine to Palm 100 as her first the same weekend as RRR, read her recap here, she rocked!]. She recently posted about the three things she did well and the three things she needs to work on for her next 100 miler. Since I’ve already talked your ear off with nearly ever imaginable detail I’m doing this a bit differently – what I’m proud of, what surprised me and what I’ll do differently next time.

#RRR100 - Run Rabbit Run 100 - Headed down Mt Werner
Why run trails?! Because hiking is acceptable and hiking means you get to spend more time taking in views like this!

What I’m Proud Of – I am really proud of myself for keeping my head on straight the entire time. I didn’t have to pull myself out of a deep dark hole, instead I was able to reroute my thoughts and refocus on what I was in control of, not what I couldn’t change. While I do think running Quad Rock 50 and North Fork 50 helped with this it was the DNFs I had at Dirty Thirty and Mount Evans Ascent that taught me an important lesson – you need to want it and believe you can have it or there is no way you’ll make it. I wanted to finish and I truly believed I could make it…and there was no way my brain was going to get in the way!

I’m also really proud of myself for not throwing a pity party when things started to hurt. Looking back it would have been SO easy to just throw in the towel and whine relentlessly. Yea, I whined, but not pointlessly and only for short bits of time with a touch of sarcasm. Letting the pain and exhaustion win was never an option…ever.

What Surprised Me – Considering it was my first 100 you’d think this list would be wrong but it was the little things that took me by surprise. Like how badly my mouth hurt after the race. Note to self, while Sour Patch Kids are tasty they are a bad decision if you’re going to spend 35 hours eating non-stop!

I was also surprised by the weird level of consciousness I spent a lot of time in – I had very vivid, rational thoughts even as I processed the truth about the Ford Explorer and Acura MDX I swore I say ahead of me in the trees (they were all just fallen trees that looked like cars, in my head – I even saw people in them texting and talking). I also remember feeling very “in the moment” at certain points on the trail but have no recollection of what I was thinking as I look back. Oh, and fun fact, sleeping hiking is a legit thing – find a smooth jeep road headed up hill then just close your eyes as you hike. It gives your brain time to just shut off while your body still moves.

#RRR100 - Run Rabbit Run 100 - Headed up Mt Werner#RRR100 - Run Rabbit Run 100 - Headed up Mt Werner
Nearing the top of Mt Werner – I have no idea how Paula loved this climb, she must be part mountain goat!

What I’ll Do Differently Next Time – Aside from actually train?! Ha. Bad joke. But really, I’d like to go into my next 100+ mile race at least more trained than I went into RRR. I’m not sure that there is any such things as “perfectly trained” but I’d like to at least have a few decide peak weeks of training! Oh, and hill work is a real thing – I should do it, both up and down mountains! I need to get myself to run uphill more!

I’ve also learned that having a variety of shoes is important. I already have way too many shoes but I don’t have multiple brands that I like to run trails in – I need to diversify before my next big race. Why? Well, my shoes weren’t causing my Achilles pain but their fit against my heel was amplifying it. I’ll be headed to Boulder Running Company in the very near future to try on every single pair of shoes that may work for me…then commit to a few pair to play in.

Lastly, the super fun topic of “what’s next”. Honestly, I don’t have a good answer for that right now. Throughout the entire race I knew that there would be another 100, and not for redemption but because I was actually having fun out there, even when it hurt. I’m not sure when I’ll take on my second 100 miler but I know it’ll be sooner rather than later (but not until I’m full recovered and capable of a legit training!). That said, a straight up 100 mile race may not be my next big undertaking…there are all sorts of multiday races that take you beyond 100 miles that look like a lot of fun, just saying… [sorry Mom, but you knew this was coming!]

So, there you have it…another epic post all about running a 100 mile race. I guess it’s only fitting for it to take 3,000+ words to talk about a race that took 35 hours + months to prep for, right?! I think I’ve covered every detail imaginable…but if I missed anything, let me know! Up next is a “back to normal” post about the Colorado mountains with a touch of fall color, probably.

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!

Ready As I’ll Ever Be… [#RRR100]

So, it’s here. Race week has arrived. The Run Rabbit Run 100 starts in less than 24 hours! And I’m as ready as I’ll ever be. You’d think that with the lack of actual training on the trails I’d have every other part of the race day prep mastered. Not true. Not even a little bit true. I spent a good portion of last night sitting on my bed staring at 4 mini totes nicely labeled but not even sort of packed…a pile of clean clothes was tossed on my pillows, a stack of half finished lists were scattered across the bed, two cats are crawling all over me and a half packed duffle bag was hiding behind me.

Rather than check the weather repeatedly I’ve decided to pack everything I own. That’s a valid compromise, right? It’s a good thing I drive an SUV…the list of things I need keeps growing! Yea, yea, I know ultras are all about making due with what’s available, which I can appreciate, but what if I need it before or after the race?! All this insane list making keeps me sane…or at least speaks to the tiny part of sanity I have left.

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My crew sure is lucky they aren’t dealing with a crazy person! …oh, wait.
…at least I baked them lots of treats!

I’m going into this race with one goal – crossing the finish line. My secondary goal is as many smiley miles as possible. Beyond that nothing matters. I don’t care about the numbers, I don’t care about how many people are in front of or behind me, I don’t care how many times I puke or cry or trip. Whatever happens out there is going to happen. Right now all I can do is hope for the best, prepare for the worst and hug all of the strangers!

The car is loaded up and I’m headed west. In a few hours I’ll be pulling into Steamboat Springs, meeting up with Paula and making things even more official by stopping by the Run Rabbit Run 100 packet pick up and race meeting. I’ve never run a race that has a race meeting…what have I gotten myself into?!

If you want to stalk my run, here’s how you do it…

If you’re looking to get regular updates on the race head over to ultralive.net, I am bib 282. You are also welcome to stalk Paula, bib 293, as it is her fault I’m suffering this weekend! You can also track first person updates about the race by following #RRR100 (about the entire race) or #runabler (mostly about me). Psst – Mom, click those links, it’ll take you over to Twitter so you can see all the details and watch me be awesome at hating my life!

Lastly, a million thanks to Paula plus my crew and pacers…you’re going to be incredible this weekend and I apologize in advance for any mean things I say to you. Blame it on my run drunk stupor! Also, thanks to Zensah, Columbia and Boulder Running Company in Littleton for all of the training and race day support you’ve given me!

It’s Okay if it’s Scary…

Disclaimer: While this post does end with some chatter about communities and companies it is not a sponsored post. I’m sharing about Bold Betties because I think it’s a great community and about the Trail Running Camps + Conference because it’s a great opportunity to talk trails and get to know locals + athletes!

Sometimes life is terrifying. That moment when you are required to step outside of your cozy, cuddly comfort zone and into the reality of your decisions…it’s scary. But it doesn’t have to be. Well, maybe it does have to be a little scary, that’s where all the adrenaline and anticipation builds from. But it doesn’t have to be paralyzing.

In the past year I have done some pretty insane things, things I didn’t think were possible. I ran my first ultra marathon and loved it. I started a brand new job based around an adventurous lifestyle. I impulse registered for a 24 hour race and got a PDR in the first 7 hours. I survived my first 50 mile race, and my second. I hated my life for the last 8 miles of the Four Pass Loop. I DNF’ed my first [two] races. I made my first ever PT appointment and ended up experiencing dry needling on my first visit. And in a few days I’m taking on my first 100 mile race with an undertrained body but the confidence to cover the distance, no matter my pace.

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None of that would have happened if I hadn’t tentatively stepped my comfort zone and onto the single track of the Front Range trails. Nor would have I survived any of teary lows without an incredible group of friends that were also there to share the giddy highs. I discovered trail running before I knew there was such a thing as “trail therapy” and now I kind of live for it, or because of it.

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I guess what I’m trying to say, in that complete mess of sentimental weirdness, is that time spent on the trails is pretty incredible. And if you give yourself the chance to take a risk and try something scarily new you’ll learn things about yourself that surprise even you. You’ll be able to push your body past the limits YOU set for IT. And along the way you just might learn who you are and figure out who you really want to be.

The people who run trails and ultras tend to be pretty awesome [I mean, have you met me? Okay, bad joke, but really…myself aside, they are pretty great!] and more often than not they are quick to support each other. Advice is given freely, salt tabs and gels are shared, mishaps are only mocked for a few miles and no discussion about bodily functions is off limits, ever. We’re all out there for the same reason – to get in some quality trail time so we can do it all over again tomorrow – and we’re all willing to help each other out along the way. We’re stupid, we’re crazy and we’re insanely enabling!

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If you’re one of those trail running crazier and happen to be in the Colorado area with a little free time October 10-11 you should consider heading over to Estes Park for the Trail Running Conference. It’s a great opportunity to get together with local runners, chat with professional athletes [they’re approachable and full of knowledge, I promise!] and check out the new gear coming out for trail running. Plus, it’s only $45 for two days of trail talk…you can’t go wrong with that, right?!

[And if you want more than just a few days of casual trail talk check out the Active at Altitude Trail Camps – there is still one 2014 camp left!]

Of course, just because it was the trails for me doesn’t mean it’ll be the trails for you but why not give them a try? Get outside, play, explore, run, hike, bike, trip, fall, crash, pick yourself back up… Find what you love. And if you can, do it all with friends.

If you’re in the Denver/Boulder area and are looking for someone to go exploring with you need to check out Bold Betties. It’s a community of women in the area that get together and explore. They try new things [ziplining, hiking, river rafting, etc] and they do it together…because it’s easier to take that step into the unknown when you’re not alone.

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And it’s not just about going out with a group. If you’re already headed out solo or with friends but not sure what to pack Bold Betties can help! They have crazy detailed packing lists that make my color coordinated lists look like children’s drawings! You can also rent gear so you’re prepared for whatever trip your crazy family and friends plan for you! Basically, if you’re a woman who wants to get outside more but aren’t sure where to start Bold Betties is there for you!

Recent Ramblings [+ FlipBelt Review]

Disclaimer: At the bottom of this post there is a review of the FlipBelt. I received the FlipBelt through a Sweat Pink campaign; however, all opinions are my own.

It’s been a crazy busy week! Well, last week was crazy busy so this week is going to be spent playing catch up. And it’s the not-so-fun kind of catch up that involves lots of laundry, an empty fridge and the incessant need to sleep all day long. Of course, as I write that I’m laying in bed with a bag of chips. That urge to sleep is going to win but at least the dryer is doing it’s thing to produce some fresh smelling clothes! Last week was big for two reasons – work and running. On the work front it was a big week – we had the Grand Opening if our first Colorado retail store with Sierra Trading Post. This is a huge deal for us so we had all sorts of fun stuff planned. On Wednesday night we hosted a preview party for local bloggers with burritos and camping games. I don’t know about all of the bloggers but I had fun! Rebecca and Amy recapped the event if you’re interested!

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We already talked about how “omg, I can run again” but since then more thing have been falling into place for the Run, Rabbit, Run 100. After a week of playing chasing my tail (and every runner I know, including strangers) to replace my main crew/pacer that bailed on my last week it looks like things are working out. My chances of survival are increasing! And since I’m back on the trails and running around again I finally had a chance to give the FlipBelt a try. The belt showed up two weeks ago and I’ve been playing around with it since. When I ran roads I’d often wear my SPIBelt and since I’ve moved to trails I usually have my Ultimate Direction Jenny pack with me but I’ve always heard great things about how much the FlipBelt can hold so I wanted to give it a try.

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It went on a few adventures with me – to the Fort Collins Peach Festival, on a hike with Paige at Hall Ranch and a morning run with Paula at Washington Park. It’s pretty handy. If you haven’t seen a FlipBelt before it resembles a wide, double layered waistband that has slits on one side so you can fill it with necessities then fold the slits inward so they all stay put. You can fit quite a bit in it (keys, credit cards, ID, cell phone, granola bar wrappers, etc) and it fits snuggly around your waist even when chuck full of goodies.

Overall? It’s not a bad belt but I’m not in love with it. The color is obviously awesome, but beyond that there are two main reasons it won’t become my new favorite. It’s not easy to put on (try pulling it up over a running skirt) and it’s a lot of material to have around your waist (I already fold most of my waistbands). I may be biased as I’ve never had problems using my sports bra as a pocket for my phone/keys and I may be spoiled by my UD Jenny vest. That said, if you’re looking for something to hold a few things while you’re running and have had issues with other waist packs bouncing check out the FlipBelt, it does not wiggle! You can grab one today for an extra 10% off, just use sweat33. The code works until September 7th so get shopping!

On The Trails Again…

Saturday marked exactly two weeks since my last [attempted] run. That two weeks was spent off my feet and on the couch. Rather than losing myself on single track I got lost in the long list of “recommended for you” movies offered up by Netflix. I ate ice cream everyday, I spent more time with friends, I took very painful “naps” on the tables of both a massage therapist and a physical therapist multiple times a week, I cleaned and I organized…and I didn’t miss running, not once. If that isn’t screaming proof that my body needed a break I don’t know what is!

Hall Ranch Trails - Lyons, CO

I was afraid I’d go a little stir crazy without the option to head out onto the trails and while the whole “no running allowed” mentality was kind of annoying it was the social aspect I missed, not the sweaty miles on my feet. Turns out I meet friends at the trailhead far more often than at a bar or restaurant or…anywhere else! I had to turn down a few runs and a few more hikes which kind of sucked, but as for the actual act of running? I didn’t miss that at all.

Hall Ranch Trails - Lyons, CO

But that doesn’t mean I’m ready to be a couch potato-y homebody, not yet. The sunny skies were calling my name, loudly, on Sunday. Running was still 100% off the table until my PT visit on Monday morning so I opted for the next best thing – an easy hike with Paige on a new-to-us trail in Lyons. I was going to test out my legs just to see if they still knew how to hike.

Turns out they do! We spent about two hours wandering the rolling trails of Hall Ranch Open Space. Aside from some dicey moments with hordes of grasshoppers it was gorgeous. The trails were relatively smooth and there were no steep climbs or hard descents which made it the perfect spot for a trial hike…and the perfect spot to come back to for a trail run!

Hall Ranch Trails - Lyons, CO

I went into my Monday morning PT appointment with all sorts of hope – and walked out with even more. I was cleared to run – and not just across the Target parking lot when it’s pouring rain…actually run! This weeks the runs will be short and the miles will be slow, but I get to use my running shoes for their intended purpose – running! As of right this second the Run, Rabbit, Run 100 is happening. A lot can changes in the next 17 days but if all goes well I’m starting that race with the intent to finish!

Lyons Dairy Bar - Lyons, COLyons Dairy Bar - Lyons, CO
…the ideal way to finish off a hike – with ice cream!

Is taking on the RRR100 after a summer of lackluster training ideal? Of course not. I know that and I know that anything, literally anything, can happen during this race. I have never gone past 50 miles – I have no idea how my body is going to respond to food or the distance or the lack of sleep or…whatever Steamboat throws at me. But even if I didn’t take two weeks off from running I wouldn’t have answers to those questions – this is my first 100 mile race, there is going to be a HUGE learning curve.

Conditions may not be perfect but is it wrong to go out there and give it my all? I’m not hurting anyone else by doing this – it’s my money that was spent on the registration, my body that I am going to be listening to, my PT that is giving me the go ahead, my brain that has to fight through the long miles and my pride that takes a hit if I DNF. I’ve always been told running is selfish, especially ultras…I guess this proof of that. And I refuse to apologize for that or feel bad for wanting to give this a shot, to give it everything I have and walk way knowing more about myself and my body, regardless of what happens!

Witnessing the Reality of 100 Miles [Leadville 100]

I know very little about running a 100 mile race. I might have one on the schedule in a month but I’ll be the first person to tell you I have no idea what I’m doing. I’ve soaked up as much information as possible and have high hopes for my abilities to complete the distance but there is a lot I still need to learn. And there is no better place to get a crash course on the reality of a 100 mile race than at the Leadville 100.

My weekend was spent doing just that – roaming around the mountains near Leadville chasing my runner, waiting for a pacer, encouraging strangers and sucking down caffeine. At the end of the day my runner did not make it across the finish line, but he fought hard on the trail and walked away knowing he gave the mountain trails his all. Even though my runner wasn’t able to head home with a finisher’s belt buckle I left Leadville with a wealth of knowledge and a new take on the reality that may go down at Run, Rabbit, Run!

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Runners starting their trek across an open field that took them into the Half Pipe AS

Over the course of the 30 hour race I watched runners chase cut offs into 4 aid stations and the finish line…to say it was an emotional day would be an understatement. There is something about pushing yourself to the brink and back that brings out raw, unbridled emotion.

It was hard to see runners coming in strong, hoping to make the cutoff when I knew they were 10 minutes late.
It was inspiring to see runners struggling only to pick it up when a spectator told them they had 5 minutes and they could make it.
It was heartbreaking to see crew and family react to runners barely missing cutoff – a mix of pride and disappointment for their runner.
It was motivating to watch a runner convince their worried family that they were fine to continue, even though they just puked 3 times.

At the Twin Lakes AS [mile 40] I anxiously waited for my runner, Alex, watching the minutes tick by as I made up reasons for his delayed arrival. I was telling his wife all the reasons he could be behind, explaining how runners can turn things around with the right food and a few strong words of encouragement. I was telling her, but I think I was saying it all aloud for myself to hear…I needed to believe that he could turn things around, I needed to see it was possible to puke on the trail and still survive. I needed a reason to believe I would not die during Run, Rabbit, Run in a month! The cutoff ticked by and my runner wasn’t there. He didn’t make it, but not because he was puking but because the course was rough and the cutoffs were no joke. There were raw emotions and tears – this was his third attempt and it was not going to be his day.

Leadville Trail 100 - LT100 - 2014 100 Mile RaceLeadville Trail 100 - LT100 - 2014 100 Mile Race
Jamie + Alex coming into the Outward Bound/Fish Hatchery AS at roughly 23 miles

I watched another runner, Justin, come into the Winfield AS [mile 50] barely walking because he right quad was completely shot. He was 20+ minutes ahead of cutoff but his legs were done, literally. Listening to him ask a volunteer how to drop made my heart hurt – I’ve been there, I’ve done that and it sucked when I had much less riding on a finish! He had clearly battled his way up and over Hope Pass, only to be asking for a car ride back to Leadville rather than a refilled water bottle before heading back out. I became his car ride back…where he rode along side another runner, Randy, who was experiencing the same issues with his legs. I asked them both if they were looking for an easy way out — both said yes, but only because their bodies would not make it over the pass. I felt a little guilty being the one to give them that easy way out but the 3/4 mile walk to my car was more than enough proof that their bodies were done, they had to quit. It was a long, slow, painful walk for them and I was parked as close as physically possible!

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The Winfield AS about 15 minutes before a hard cutoff – the runners were being pushed out by very encouraging volunteers.

On my second trip back to the Twin Lakes AS [mile 60] I wasn’t waiting for my runner, I was waiting for my pacer, Derek, and a stranger. The 9:45pm cutoff came and went as I watched multiple runners come running in from the dark trail. Some would make cutoff and continue on to the Half Pipe AS, others would have their race end as their chips were pulled. I began to worry about my pacer and his runner as the minutes ticked by – I knew nothing about either’s ability to survive a rough patch on the trail. Just before 10:30pm [45 minutes past cutoff] they came trotting in off the trail. Their late arrival had me expecting a painful hobble but instead I saw springy steps and happy smiles. The runner, Tony, missed cutoff by a large margin but he was in the best mood – when the cutoff ticked past and running was no longer necessary he slowed to a hike and made the most of his time on the trail. It was hard to see someone so good spirited get pulled from the course but he was just glad to be there, which was so refreshing!

While waiting for my pacer and his runner to come in I watched a girl, Christine, walk into the aid station with a sense of confused determination – she hadn’t been eating for the last 5+ hours but refused to give up. When offered a chair she said she couldn’t sit because she’d never get back up. Her crew kept her upright as they helped her change clothes and shoes while her pacer kept handing her warm food. She left the aid station with a new sense of determination, marching out to miles of dark trails. It was her first 100 miler and she wanted to keep pressing on. She didn’t make it to the finish but she did make it to the next aid station, her furthest distance ever.

Leadville Trail 100 - LT100 - 2014 100 Mile RaceThe mountains the runners get to stare down as they descend Hope Pass into the Winfield AS

I also watched a runner come into Twin Lakes AS about 30 minutes past cutoff leaning on his pacer for support. He stopped to talk to his family, explaining how he would continue on and make it to the finish. Moments after saying this he crumbled to the ground. With my sleeping bag as a blanket he lay motionless for a few minutes as the EMTs were called. Before the EMTs arrived he asked us to help him stand back up so he could keep going…his family obliged and he continued toward the aid station with EMTs close behind. He wanted to keep moving, to keep going. He had missed cutoff so the race was over for him but he wasn’t ready to give up, not yet. He hadn’t made it to the AS yet, he still had his timing chip, he was still in this race!

After picking up my pacer at Twin Lakes I headed back to the house we had in Leadville to find some food and crash for a few hours. I had a restless three hours of sleep. I was emotionally drained and physically exhausted but sleep wasn’t coming easy so I eventually pulled my layers back on and headed out to the finish line to watch the last few hours of the race. As I walked up the course I cheered as runners came up the road. Some ran steadily, others were leaning heavily on their trekking poles. When they rounded the bend to the last stretch many perked up and added a little spring to their step – they were almost done, they were so close!

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My view as I waited for #LT100 finishers to come up the road as they headed for the finish!

In the final minutes before the official race cutoff I stopped to chat with a crew that I recognized. They were decked out in neon yellow t-shirts and I remembered taking their photo at the start line then seeing them multiple times at various aid stations. Their matching t-shirts were awesome – each person had a task, such as “Worrier” and “Boss” and “Motivator”. They were still waiting for their runner to finish, not knowing where he was but hoping for the best. The 30 hour mark ticked by and the cutoff cannon boomed. He wouldn’t make the official cutoff. Later, as I was headed back to my car, I saw him with his family – he crossed the finish line! And from my conversation with his family he will be back next year – hopefully with his wife running as well!

It was a long weekend that ran high with emotions – pride, amazement, disappointment, relief, pain, misery, appreciation, angry, joy. Some runners impressed even themselves with their ability to perform while other’s bodies rebelled against them forcing them to stop. I watched people get creative with pain management and quick recovery methods. I overheard crew members offer up words of encouragement that bordered on verbal abuse. I offered a runner grapes and water after he puked in the grass by my feet. I listened to two runners who dropped at Mile 50 compare their injuries in the backseat of my car.

I realized just how hard Run, Rabbit, Run is going to be for me. It is going to suck, it is going to be incredibly difficult and it is going to hurt…a lot. But I am going to start the race. I am going to arrive in Steamboat with a body that is well rested and legs that have been coddled. I am going to run conservatively, hike with purpose, drink my water and eat real food, even if none of that sounds like any fun at the moment…because that is what I need to do to finish. And I want to finish. I need to finish.

As I drove away from Leadville, headed home with a car full of stinky clothes, leaky bottles of electrolytes and a box of PopTarts, I realized that I have absolutely no desire to ever run the Leadville 100. It just doesn’t appeal to me. I’ll come back to crew and pace but nothing about the course or race set up makes me want to throw down some cash to suffer. To me, this is a good thing. I recall having the exact opposite feeling when I left Steamboat after last year’s Run, Rabbit, Run. On that drive home I was toying with the idea of running an ultra, wetting my toes with the Bear Chase 50K and a year later I’m actually excited to head back to Steamboat to be the runner, not the crew.

My Kinda RICE!

If you have an injury (or even if you only have a niggle that might become an injury) one of the first things people will tell you to do is RICE. And if you don’t know what RICE means a quick LMGTFY search will give you this…

RICE - Rest, Ice, Compress, Elevate - Best Method for Recovery
(yay for smart Wisconsin colleges…where I paid lots of money for a piece of paper I rarely use!)

…which is a pretty straight forward explanation of what you should be doing to recover from most running related injuries. Now, maybe I’m a little wrapped up in semantics but I am currently pretending that I am not injured…I just have a little niggle that is unexplained and will not go away, no matter how many bad words I call it!

And how do you treat an unwelcome niggle in your leg? With a slightly modified variation of RICE, of course!

First, you need to rest. No running. No hiking. No unnecessary walking. Become the person that obnoxiously waits for a parking spot close to the Target entrance. Make co-workers stop by your desk to work on a project. Take the entire bag of potato chips to the couch rather than make multiple trips to the kitchen. Be nice to your legs…make them do very little!

Get creative with your icing! When it’s just a niggle plain ol’ ice packs won’t do the trick. You’ll need to replace a bag of ice cubes with a cup of ice cream. Every day. Yes, you need to eat ice cream every single day, preferably a different flavor from a variety of ice cream shops.

Ice Cream -- the new ice in RICEIce Cream -- the new ice in RICEIce Cream -- the new ice in RICE
You can follow my crazy ice cream obsession on the run.around.aroo Facebook page! Then come eat ice cream with me!

You desperately need this ice cream when it comes to the compression step. Eating copious amounts of ice cream will lead to all of your clothing becoming slightly tighter, more compression-like, if you will. A standard pair of jeans will now double as compression leggings…and when you pair them with compression socks you’re doubling your recovery speed!

Lastly, live at elevation! If you’re not lucky enough to live somewhere high then make special trips to higher elevation areas – such as Leadville during the Leadville 100 mile race where you can get your elevation, mountain and running fix all in the same trip! You may also want to consider sitting around with your feet up while watching other people run for hours and call yourself a “stellar crew member” when your suffering runner crosses the finish line!

And how am I doing with this variation of RICE’ing? I am excelling at it! I haven’t ran a single step since last Saturday and barely ran in the two weeks prior. I am diligently eating ice cream every single day in an effort to ice my innards and get the most compression from all of my jeans! As for the elevation – well, I figure my body is used to living at elevation so I’m heading up to Leadville this weekend to crew a runner at the Leadville 100. Boom…recovery win!

View near Leadville, CO
The mountains around Leadville – where I’ll be playing this weekend!

Oh, it’s probably also a good idea to hang out with a deep tissue massage therapist and schedule an appointment with a physical therapist that understands the ultra runner mentality! I’ve also done both of those! I actually went through my first bout of dry needling on Thursday and am flaunting a leg decorated in bright colored kinesiology tape! There have been a lot of “firsts” leading up to my first 100…hello learning curve!

As of right this second the Run, Rabbit, Run 100 mile race is still on the table and I have all my fingers and toes crossed that my body will be able to pull it off. As I said before, I will not start the race unless I am going in uninjured and niggle-free – I need to be confident in my ability to finish before I even start running! I am also fully prepared for a very daunting race, but I’m okay with that – that just means my second 100 miler will be that much better!

Plans are Overrated, Apparently.

Exactly 0% of my weekend went as planned. Well, I guess I did make the drive to Steamboat and my car was momentarily parked in the Dry Lake Trailhead parking lot, so maybe 4% as planned? Everything else…was not at all what I had planned. Some of it was kind of expected, some of it was very unwelcome and none of this insanity is made up, trust me!

Before I even made it to Steamboat I managed to lose my headlamp in the bag I had packed to take with me and forget my wallet + credit cards + ID in the bag I usually bring but chose to leave behind this weekend. Of course I didn’t realize my wallet was chilling back home on my bed until I pulled up to a gas pump 70 miles from home with an empty tank. Oops. Lucky for me this happens more often than I care to admit and I had a backup plan in place – a rarely used credit card I had stashed in the Forester!

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Eventually I made it to Steamboat and met up with Paula. After spending half a paycheck on food for the trail we headed out to the Dry Lake trailhead to start our night off with a 10 mile run along an out/back on the RRR100 course. We set out fully confident in our abilities. Or at least in our goals for the night – I needed to keep my whiney leg in check, Paula needed to keep her night time trail imagination under control. Before we even got one mile from the car we were both failing miserably. My leg was pissed and Paula was busy convincing both of us we’d die on the trail. We turned around…

Yup, we definitely turned in about six “badass ultra runner” cards that night…although we like to think we played it smart! There was no way I was letting Paula run on dark trails alone and my leg wasn’t being receptive to any coaxing I was giving it so we headed back to town with a tentative plan to run from a trailhead that started right in town.

As we drove back to town I talked myself out of even starting the 100 mile race – how was I going to run 100 miles in just 5 weeks when I couldn’t even pull of a full mile on the course tonight? Why start a race you know your body can’t finish? Why not just bail on the race and rock at life as a crew member for someone else!? All of this reasoning meant I had no reason to run…but Paula didn’t have the same excuse so she had to get some miles in.

Once again we improvised, this time we gave up on trails and opted for mindless loops around an outdoor track. Well, Paula ran mindless loops while I kept tally marks from the comfort of a sleeping bag! I also made her do lunges every mile since the track was just too flat. We passed the miles with bits and pieces of conversation about our race weekend plans…by this time I had been talked out of officially DNS’ing until a later date. Instead I would spend two weeks avoiding running, eating lots of recovery ice cream and sleeping as many hours as possible.

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Proof I’m the world’s best runner friend – I nap while you run!

I eventually got bored of tally marks and fell asleep as Paula continued her laps. She called it a night at 13 miles after the pavement had done a number on her trail loving joints. Too lazy to actually set up a tent or pack ourselves back into the Forester we both crashed on the track under a full moon. It was actually a very peaceful night…until about 3:50am when I woke up to the sound of a fearless fox sniffing around my head. I thought he was after the beef jerky I had tucked in my sleeping bag but it turns out he was far more interested in my sweet potato chips, which he had already devoured.

He was probably harmless but since he had absolutely no fear of humans and was far more curious than either of us were comfortable with Paula and I gave up on a night of sleeping under the stars and relocated to the back of the Forester! Technically we could have started the drive home since we had already ruined all of our running plans for the weekend but Creekside didn’t open until 6am and we both thought we’d earned some thick, local bacon!

So, rather than a weekend full of mountain trail running I ran a grand total of 1.5 miles, slept on a football field in the middle of a track, got to meet a friendly fox [who had nothing to say, fwiw] and was back home more than 24 hours before I planned. And what did I do with all this extra time back in the city? I slept. I ate ice cream. I slept some more. I did laundry. I ate some more ice cream. I slept again. Oh, and I made some appointments to get my body abused by professionals in hopes that it’ll help get me to the finish line of the Run, Rabbit, Run 100 miler. Yup…I’m not giving up on the race, not quite yet. It won’t be a stellar performance by any means but if I can approach the start line without lingering pain I’m going to give it my best effort!