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A Day to Remember in the Desert for rabbitELITEtrail Runner Rod Farvard

Rod Farvard: focused for 5th at the loaded Golden Ticket race, the Black Canyon 100k

PC: Jessica Brazeau

After crushing the course records at the Cuyamaca 100k and Santa Barbara's Red Rock 40 miler in October and December of last year respectively, rabbitELITEtrail runner Rod Farvard put in Walmsley-esque training block after training block in preparation for the most talented ultra field he's ever lined up against...and he didn't back down. Gunning it from the start and running with the elite front of the pack for most of the race, Farvard dropped Dakota Jones in the final 30k to hang on for 5th place, finishing in a lighting fast 8:25:01 on the slightly short and race morning altered course. Impressive, considering this 23 year old recent UCSB graduate was racing bikes and triathlons just last year.

Saturday, February 16, 2019, 4:01 AM. My alarm rings. Why 4:01 and not 4:00? Because I now had 1 extra minute of sleep over a large percentage of the field. That should make up for the countless late nights out I should have been in bed recovering through this training cycle.

I walked out to the kitchen at 4:21. Phil just returned from his usual 3am 9miler, Kevin frantically paced back and forth after discovering he left the backup to his backup spare heart rate monitor battery in Santa Barbara, Tyler prepared his 6th glass of pre-workout beverage, and Gabe would just not stop talking. We were all in our own worlds, but united by a common truth: it was time to race.

Tyler drove Kevin and me to the shuttles. Somewhere in between death metal guitar solos Kevin checked his email and saw that as of 3:45am the course had been changed to the “High Water Route”. I pretended to be upset because that seemed like the cool thing to do, but really this meant nothing to me. I do not study courses. Ever. I argue it is so I don’t hold back and can race fearlessly, but in honesty I’m just lazy when it comes to that sort of thing. There, I said it.

The original finish line Rod, 3rd place finisher rabbitPRO Eric Senseman, and hundreds of other racers would never see - PC: Aravaipa

We board the shuttles. It is a game of telephone. Starting at the front of the yellow school bus someone yelled, “They changed to the high water route!” By the time word got to us, the person in front of me, confused but afraid, screamed, “A deranged otter is on the loose!?” Strangely, we knew exactly what they meant. 

The bus was in an uproar. It seemed as if this course change completely derailed the legitimacy of the race to many runners. We were still running 100 kilometers. And we were still there to race. I put my hood up, headphones in, closed my eyes, and spent the next half hour drive to the start line daydreaming.

“Congratulations you have been selected to participate in the 2019 Black Canyon Ultras - 100k!” I threw my phone in the air after reading these words in an email I received from UltraSignup 3 months ago. I cracked my phone. I was far down on the waitlist to get into this race and was skeptical I would be offered entry. Coming off the high from a solid 100k debut a month prior (editor's note: #understatement), I could not contain the ridiculous expanse of my imagination. And then I could not stop watching inspirational Billy Yang YouTube films, which are now the leading cause of ultrarunners to sign up for races they are underprepared for and subsequently DNF. My dramatic, impatient mind was possessed with the idea of toeing the line in Squaw Valley this summer at Western States. I knew I had a Golden Ticket performance in me, and I thought Black Canyon would be the place for me to prove it.

Smile or grimace? Probably a bit of both: Farvard set the CR by nearly 30 minutes at the Cuyamaca 100k on October 6th, 2018

I ran more miles, did more deadlifts, ate more beets, cordycep mushrooms, and deer antler velvet (for accelerated recovery) in my life to prepare for this race. I knew who would be here and on paper, I did not stand a chance. Max King, Jared Hazen, Dakota Jones, Eric Senseman, Matt Daniels, and Chris Mocko. None of that really sank in until the gun went off on race morning. You could guess how a race like this would start. The fun part is how it will finish. Part of me envisions a nerdy group of runners at the local pizza shop post-long run, buzzed off of three-quarters of their IPAs, live streaming updates and taking over-unders on who in the front pack would blow up first and when. I’m sorry if I lost anyone any money.

The gun went off. The Coconino Cowboys in the race sprinted to the front and established the front pack. It wasn’t long before Max King, Dakota Jones, and Matt Daniels joined Senseman and Hazen up there. I found myself in the second pack, debating whether I should bridge. I recognized a few of the guys I was running with and decided I was in good company.

The guys up front were pulling away together, and I had no response. I finally realized who I was racing and I think I had a mini panic-attack. My breathing was off all day and it is not until now that I understand why. I was afraid. I had a goal, and that was to place 1st or 2nd and qualify for Western States. I told people my goal, and all of a sudden it felt more like an expectation. Goals are supposed to be far-fetched, unreachable, take a miracle and every ounce of your will to obtain. It is okay if you do not achieve them. Expectations are…expected. I felt like I was letting my friends, family, coworkers, and teammates down. In my head the race was lost, but I just kept running.

Moving well late into the race near Black Canyon City - PC: Aravaipa

Approaching aid station #2 was a long, twisting single-track descent and I decided to have some fun. If you know me well, you know there is nothing more than I love than freaking bombing downhills. If you know me really well, then you know this is probably also how I will die some day. At this point, I had been running alone for some time now and believed the 7 dudes in front of me were way out of sight. I let it rip and even yodel’d at the top of my lungs, “SEEEEND IT” a few times. And then I saw Jared Hazen. I was both shocked I had caught him, and embarrassed he for sure heard me yodel. I ran into the aid station #2, which also served as the half marathon point, just a few breathes behind the Jared. 1:25. The next 2 miles were spent nodding my head, chuckling, and mumbling “You’re in for it now buddy”. It was almost exciting. There was this impending sense of doom in my immediate future and I had no fathomable idea of what it would feel like. I knew this would be the most painful experience of my life, but had no conceptualization of how. So we continued, into the unknown.

The race starts when you’re stripped down and think you have no more to give. I made it to the mile 24 aid station and crumbled down, hands on my knees. I closed my eyes. I was dizzy, cold, fatigued, booty-locked. I wanted to vomit. The aid station asked what I needed. I held it together, “Nothing, I’m good!” The reality was I wanted to tell them I needed to drop out. The idea of running another 38 miles was a sick joke. I felt like an idiot to go out hard with the hitters. I hated myself. I resumed running, because that was the quickest way to get out of this hell. I tripped. I laid there. “This is nice I’m just going to close my eyes”. 10 more seconds and I would’ve fallen asleep. But I got up. There are a million things that go through your head when you feel that discouraged with 5 more hours to endure. “Why am I doing this?” is the most recurring one. But the second most is “Everyone else is also suffering." So I embraced it as a twisted feeling of solidarity with my competitors. Slowly my legs came back. The the splits began to drop. The boys in front who I thought ran away from me came into sight. The race just started.

The thousand yard stare, 5th at the Black Canyon 100k - PC: Vanessa Hansen

There were many position changes in the next 20 miles, but I was too out of it and stuck in my own head to reenact anything specifics. I had no idea what place I was in, where I was, or where I was going. We were onto the last out and back and I remember walking up one of the longest climbs of the day. I looked up and thought I saw Jesus gliding up the hill past me. Even better, it was Cody Reed serving pacing duties. I hopped on and discovered a new energy that carried me through the last 12 miles of the race, in the process passing legendary runners I only knew from long nights of Instagram stalking. That final (relative) surge of life landed me a 5th place finish behind Matt Daniels, Chris Mocko, Eric Senseman, and rabbitELITEtrail teammate Anthony Kunkel. To even be associated with those names is an honor.

Ultrarunning is so much more than a sport to me. Every time I race I learn so much more about myself and take down an arbitrary mental barrier that should have never been there. The day was full of negative self-talk for me and attempting to convince myself to stop. Once you realize you can say no to that, you realize you have at least one more mile to go. You are your only barrier.

Thank you to the boys up front for pushing me further than I ever thought possible, to my parents for driving and supporting me through this crazy thing even though my post-race state usually scares the pants off of you, rabbit for the best gear and cheering a guy could ask for, the whole Santa Barbara crew who helped me get in the zone with a pre-race viewing of my favorite inspirational film The Wolf of Wall Street, and Aravaipa Running for putting on such a master class event and smoothly adjusting for the elements on such short notice.

Catch Farvard at the Nine Trails Endurance Run on March 23rd, against another stacked field and don't be surprised if he goes out fast at the front again on his hometown trails, regardless of the competition. 

Well earned belt buckle in the Sonoran Desert



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