rabbitPRO Taylor Nowlin on her way to victory at the Santa Barbara Nine Trails 35 Mile Endurance Run on Saturday. Photo credit: Paul Nelson (@trailjunkiephotos)
Perhaps it was a case of home field advantage, or maybe it was the months of meticulous preparation and hard work, but there is no doubt about the fact that athletes representing the California-based running apparel company rabbit turned in two days packed to the brim with stellar performances in the company’s home state.
Kicking off the weekend was the Santa Barbara Nine Trails 35 Mile Endurance Run, a previously low-key event that this year (with a little nudge from hometown race sponsors rabbit and HOKA ONE ONE) exploded into one of the most competitive races in recent memory.
Indeed, the 2019 edition of Nine Trails was the first race field ever to include all five members of the Coconino Cowboys, the Flagstaff-based running posse that includes rabbitPRO Eric Senseman and HOKA athlete Jim Walmsley, who has dominated the sport in recent years, racking up 3 consecutive Ultra Runner of the Year awards along the way.
The women’s field at the race, which is known for its brutally steep climbs that add up to 11,000 feet of elevation gain, was headlined by rabbitPROs Sandi Nypaver and Taylor Nowlin. Fans of the sport may recall that both women put in stellar efforts in the Grand Canyon last year in pursuit of the fastest known time on the fabled Rim to Rim to Rim route, with Nowlin ultimately edging our both Nypaver and Swedish star Ida Nilsson to take the record.
Nypaver took the early lead on Saturday and was the first to reach the midpoint turnaround at the Romero Canyon trailhead, but Nowlin was hot on her heels and eventually passed her teammate to take the lead and, ultimately, the win. Nypaver was not far behind in second place and rounding out the podium was another rabbit athlete, Jade de la Rosa, who is a member of the rabbitELITEtrail team and finished in third place.
In the men’s race, the outcome was thrilling but not surprising, with Jim Walmsley romping to the win in a course record time of 5 hours and 12 minutes. Not far behind was Walmsley’s HOKA teammate and training partner Jared Hazen, who also broke the previous course record with his time of 5:23.
Leading the contingent of fiercely motivated and proud locals, and racing on his 30th birthday, rabbitPRO Kris Brown finished in 5:29, good for third place and also an improvement over the previous course record. It was Brown’s performance at this race in 2017 that initially attracted the attention of his sponsor, rabbit, and his results since prove the point that a strong performance on this challenging course is a sign of good things to come for those looking to run fast in the mountains.
On Sunday, Brown’s rabbitPRO teammate Tyler McCandless was interested in a very different kind of fast running when he lined up with the elite field at the Los Angeles Marathon. Running in near-ideal conditions, the lead pack went out at a conservative pace that did not play to McCandless’ strengths. “Right when I was strategizing when to increase the pace, the guys threw down a 4:38 mile 19, and I simply couldn’t quite match the move.” Nonetheless, McCandless finished in 11th place and as the first American. He also ran his second best marathon time ever, on a challenging course, concluding that, “it was a great learning experience for the Olympic Trials next year.”