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September 07, 2017

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FORTitude 10k Race Report by rabbitELITE Dan Nestor

rabbitELITE teammates Dan Nestor, Paul Yak and Jarrett LeBlanc teamed up to run the inaugural FORTitude Pro Chase 10k this past weekend. A unique handicapped race leveling the mixed gender playing field with an added team competition element! Check out this race report from Dan Nestor. It's important to remember that not every race is perfect, but every race is a perfect opportunity to learn and grow! 

Leading up to the race

About a month ago, I finished a 6 mile tempo averaging 5:05 pace. By far one of the best tempo runs I’ve had in my 10 year long running career.   

During the 3 easy cool-down miles, time typically spent decompressing and analyzing all those hards steps you just completed, I thought to myself, “Wow I think I could really do well in a 10k!”  And for those that know me that is a thought I have never had before.

These thoughts quickly turned into a reality when I heard about The Fortitude 10k, a local race being held by the prestigious BoulderBolder.  

I immediately contacted the race directors and a few days later I was all set to race the inaugural event.

This race had quite a different race structure than most races I’ve grown accustomed to running. They were staggering the start based off your recent performances and previous 10k times.  

Being traditionally more of a miler, I was very excited to hear this news. I thought, “I could pull this off, I’m in great shape, and the stagger will favor me greatly.”

As the field and start times were announced, my previous thoughts were immediately erased. My start time would put myself surrounded by guys who were true 10k runners. Although, I’d like to believe my current fitness indicates I can run with many of these talented athletes, I quickly started to dig myself a dangerous hole of self-doubt.  

These daunting thoughts haunted me the day before the race, “How on earth am I going to catch guys who are faster than me?”

I tried my best to calm-down and reassure myself I was starting where I belonged, that I could pull this off and make up a 30 second stagger on guys without being caught by those who were starting behind me.   

Although, once that hole of self-doubt has been dug, it’s much harder to climb out.

Race Day

Race day always rolls around quicker than expected. It’s funny how for so long a race seems so far away in the distance, but it always creeps up on you quicker than expected.

I go about my normal race routine, wake up, drink coffee, eat a light breakfast, drink more coffee, relax, then head to the race.  

My start-time was seven minutes and twenty five seconds after the first competitor was on course.  As I watched 38 people cross the start line before my call up I grew anxious and nervous.  

Alas, my start time came and just like that,  I was racing. I went through my first mile in about 4:50ish attempting to catch those who started ahead of me while trying to hold off the 13 athletes that started behind me.   

Now for my first 10k being at at altitude, hot temperatures, and a thick layer of smoke in the air coming from forest fires of neighboring states, I knew a conservative start was in my best interest.  

Based off my workouts, I thought anywhere from 4:50-5 minute pace should feel relatively easy, a pace I could maintain for the entirety of the race, but my confidence in that effort quickly faded as I crossed through the 3k mark. I barely made up any ground on the other competitors as I watched the majority of them extend their already established leads on me.

I was feeling demoralized, but I did my best to calm down and think positively, “They will eventually slow down, and I will catch them.” It wasn’t too much longer into the race where the athletes behind me had made up the stagger and ran by. My plan for when this happened was to latch on to a group and hopefully be carried along at a faster pace. This didn’t quite happen. When the runners caught and proceeded to pass me, my energy was depleted.  

I finally reached the 5k mark, completely demoralized, exhausted and hopeless. I couldn’t fathom running another 5k.  

I came to a halt, fixed my shoelaces that were bothering me, took a deep, calming breath and continued running.   

At this point, I took myself completely out of the race, out of the prize money, out of the chance to PR and to compete with great athletes.   

The next 3.1 miles felt like an eternity, but I wanted to finish no matter the outcome.  As I was able to catch some athletes and pass them, the 1k marks seemed to come by quicker and quicker. I passed through the 9k mark and Colorado State University’s brand new football stadium, the home of the finish line was finally in my sight. I could hear the roar of the crowd as they cheered on each and every runner who came through to the finish. I did my best to pick up my pace and finish strong.  

I feel like these next few moments following the finish are critical in displaying an athlete's true colors. Despite having one of the worst races I’ve had in awhile and being incredibly disappointed in myself, I tried my best to congratulate others and keep a smile on my face. It is true, no one likes a sore loser.

The Aftermath

I’m now about 24 hours removed from the race and have had quite some time to contemplate what went wrong and figure out how to move forward.

My ultimate conclusion is that I had a bad day. Bad days happen to everyone no matter how fit, how fast or how seasoned they may be.  Perhaps I could have been mentally tougher but when a bad day happens it’s hard to change it. Never let a bad day define who you are or what you are capable of doing.

There’s day where the sun shines and days where it doesn’t. The athletes that roll on through the not so sunny days seem to come out on top and I plan to be one of those athletes.

I look forward to my next race and am always grateful for the opportunity to compete in a professional field.  Hopefully I can race this amazing event next year and I hope I have a sunny day.

- Dan Nestor, rabbitELITE

August 29, 2017

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My First Ultra: The Tamalpa Headlands 50k


At the start of an ultramarathon a wide range of emotions can be found on the faces in the crowd; some seem nervous, others giddy with excitement, while a few have precision focus. I think I was feeling a mix of all three, surrounded by friends, my elementary school PE teacher, a woman my Mom was in Lamaze class with 30 years ago, family and other competitors. It felt a bit like home (the start was only a few miles from where I grew up in Mill Valley), albeit on a bit of a different playing field than usual for me.


A cyclist at heart, the sport of running is not necessarily new to me, but spending months focused on training for an event like the Headlands 50k is. For a long time, I considered the idea of running for more than a hour quite ludicrous, but as I slowly built my mileage over the last few months of dedicated ultramarathon training, 90 minutes, than 2 hours, than three and finally a nearly four hour run, I felt adequately prepared.

For all races, this past Saturday's included, I set lofty expectations. In my mind, nearly touching the A standard for the North Face 50 wasn't completely out of the question and the 4:30 B standard should have been no problem at all. In fact, I felt if everything went right I could push through those last unknown five miles while leaning on experience from other endurance exploits - namely a few 100 mile mountain bike races, 10+ hour road adventures and the only triathlon I've ever completed, the Gaviota OCR in which I kayaked for a few hours, ran 13 miles at high tide on the beach and another 13 up to the 3,997-foot peak hovering over Santa Barbara - I dreamed I could score a top 5 placing in my first ultra...

The race started fast right from the gun, Nike Trail runner Alex Varner, rabbitPRO Kris Brown, eventual winner Chikara Omine and a few others separated themselves in less than a mile. I looked down at my watch and saw I ran a 6:45 first mile, which was more than fast enough to start. A group of six went up the trail that I knew I didn't want to touch. I thought those were the guys who have run ultras before, as fit as I feel, they just have experience that I don't have yet. So, I sat back. 

A group of three of us formed behind the front six and we all ran the same pace up and down the steep coastal hills for the next three miles. I was breathing easy, thinking clearly and super comfortable. Already in what my cyclist mind calls a "selection", sitting in the top ten. Precisely where I wanted to be. 

But that was short lived.

Missing a vital right turn off Tennessee Valley Trail (a bombing SUPER foggy fire road descent) onto the Coastal Trail single track at around mile 4.4, sent me into panic.
Lesson number 1: study the course turn by turn and pay special attention in low visibility conditions like we faced along the coast in the first hour of racing. 



I had analyzed the elevation profile to death and figured I'd been on all these trails before so why study them further in depth? Well, I had never linked them all together in this loop, an oversight that would end up costing me.

Not long after missing the turn, I spotted a green rabbit through the fog on the back of Kris, running solo and not with his group of six that had disappeared into the fog on the Coastal Trail (fire road section!) just a few miles earlier. Weird. 

Then he stopped.

"I think we missed a turn," he said as my group got close to him.

"Crap (or some iteration thereof)," everyone shouted.

We quickly turned around with Kris, but for some reason more doubt creeped into me.

Lesson number two: don't ever doubt yourself.

Kris is a seasoned, trail and ultra running pro, with wins in his last five ultras and a 2nd place in last week's Trans Rockies stage race. I had no idea who those two other guys were or what their backgrounds were. But, in that moment, I thought I wasn't good enough to run with Kris and for some reason felt safer running with the two guys who I could tell were running my pace. I also doubted his trail instincts.

We let Kris head back in the right direction (he ended up adding 7 minutes to his overall race time which likely cost him the win), while I turned around and ran the wrong direction down Tennessee Valley until our group of three questioned ourselves again.

I asked a hiker, "Do you know what trail we're on?" She fumbled or mumbled a response as we kept moving on, but with increasingly more doubt creeping in. One of the guys admitted he'd done the race before, but still didn't know which way. Great.

We stopped, yes, again. As we turned around dumfounded, two more guys were running at us. 

We can't be wrong, right?

Wrong. After more time spent briefly debating and looking at trail signs I stopped thinking and I just ran fast, backwards. Swallowing my pride and trying to breath. I knew I was pumped up and I knew we were less than 30 minutes into the race.

There goes my conservative start out the window. After finding the correct trail, I proceeded to run my fastest mile of the day, 6:01, followed by a 6:33 as I started to slowly pick off the twenty or so people who passed me during my near eleven minute wrong turn debacle.


The one thing I did right was start to eat and drink. I knew I was working hard partly because I was a bit mad at myself for making such a rookie mistake so early, when things were going so well. 

But I was also working hard because I'm a competitor at heart. I never quit, never give up. I knew it was a long race and that I could work back slowly into the field. I just worked back too hard, too quickly.

The next seven miles were a blur of relative speed probably from the adrenaline rush of feeling the need to chase down runners. I felt strong on the climb from the Rodeo Beach aid station passing ones and twos for nearly an hour.

At mile 13 I would run my last six minute mile after finally catching up to Caroline Boller, the female winner and 11th place finisher (For comparison's sake, Kris ran six minute miles all the way to very end of the race.). 

I went on to cruise past former Santa Barbara resident Daniel Scarberry bombing down the Miwok Trail, followed shortly thereafter by Mill Valley resident and ultra running personality Chris Mocko wearing full tights, sweatshirt and headband (there's your real A standard) and giving me a encouraging high-five all while apologizing for the heat.


After the Highway 1 water only aid station I would move into 12th, to the shout of a passerby runner girl (editor's note: turns out it was RADrabbit Krissi Polentz!), "Go rabbit go!" about two hours and ten minutes into the race; that's where I would ultimately finish. I had burned the majority of my matches and the race wasn't even half-way done. I knew at this point I was going to suffer and have to dig really deep just to finish.

Climbing Deer Park, Hogsback as it's known in the Dipsea, in the brutal heat and trying to ration my third bottle of Skratch Labs hyper put me in a big hole. I had to stop for a couple minutes at the Cardiac aid station to make it down the hill to Stinson.

Caroline and I traded places at Cardiac because she ran right through; I would not see her again until the celebratory finish line pizza and beers.

The next 45 minutes were filled with painful step after step. Everything hurt and nothing was comfortable. I was absolutely dragging, running slower than my slowest days on what should be fun, fast terrain. I dreaded every corner. My power was depleted. It was the low point of my race.

In hindsight, I'm lucky I didn't slip, fall and hurt myself. Matt Davis trail was full of more hikers than we saw all day, endless switchbacks, roots, rocks and obstacles to avoid. It was complete misery, but in the back of my mind I knew I just had to get to Stinson to see my crew, David and my Dad. They would have my last hyper bottle and words of encouragement to push me up the last climb.


Believe it or not, the descent down Matt Davis trail was slower than my climb up to Cardiac just minutes before. That's how much pain I was in. It was the lowest of lows and so difficult to fight, but beyond worth it in the end.


Following a long stint at the Stinson Beach aid station, I found a second wind climbing the familiar Dipsea trail (in a different direction). I knew my good friend Kate was right behind me because I saw her Santa Barbara Mountain Racing yellow top from around a bend. That lit a fire beneath me that would eventually help me pass one more runner while climbing up Steep Ravine, just before the ladder and actually made the sixth and final, seemingly daunting climb of the day not so bad as that nightmarish descent down to Stinson on the adjacent ridge. 


All day, I utilized my untested power hiking skills with great success. Saving energy and moving at a good clip. My hiking skills and knowing when to use them may have been the most impressive skill I exhibited all day (boding well for future, longer ultras perhaps?).

A brief banana grab and hit of cola at the final aid station of Cardiac saw me catching Kate before she made a wrong turn and getting the chance to run with her for the first time all day. We chatted briefly, but ultimately agreed we were in too much pain. So we just ran.

I knew the finish was in sight. My legs felt decent, but ready to be done. Much better than an hour or so before on the daunting Davis downhill. 

I thought about what could have been, what I learned, the people I encountered on the trails over the course of five hours; racing, running, hiking, crewing, volunteering and everything in between. I was involved with hundreds of words of encouragement exchanged over the course of the day between so many different people. Dozens of random, passerby trail high-fives. People I knew and others I didn't. Some that I was looking forward to seeing and many that surprised me just at the right moment to keep me going forward. It was so moving, the flood of emotions was so raw at one point four hours in, by myself in a forest of giant redwoods, that it brought me to tears. And by releasing that energy from deep within, I actually began to run faster and feel better. Almost as if a weight had been lifted from my shoulders and I was seeing everything for exactly how it was.

Needless to say, this wasn't just a race, or my first ultramarathon. This was something different, an experience that although a thousand words may be trying to describe right here, truly isn't explainable. 

When I take a step back, breathe deeply and look at the moments in life where I feel most fulfilled, I tend to look no further than experiences with the common thread of movement. Progression, towards an idea or goal - something I want to attain in life. However you want to define it, it's your prerogative, but during these moments of movement I'm always going somewhere, forward. Stagnation of any kind eats away at my happiness no matter what it is I choose to pursue.

Embracing the low points for what they show me about my determination to reach a goal is vital to that eventual success.

I can always control the positive vibrations, and wow, were there many this past Saturday, and with enough practice the negative splits will come too.

See you next year Headlands 50k, we've got some unfinished business.


Stats:
66 ounces Skratch Labs Hyper Hydration
30 ounces of Coca-Cola
18 ounces Skratch Labs Raspberry/Lemon-Lime
10 ounces water
4 UnTapped Maple packets
3 bananas
2 PB&J halves (one in my daisy dukes pocket)
1 Peanut Butter Chocolate Lärabar
1 orange slice
1/2 slice melon

Moving time: 4:57:52
Elapsed time: 5:04:52
Total distance: 33.0 miles
Total elevation gain: 6,640 feet
Place: 12th

 

Photos by David Silverander
August 24, 2017

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Alex Bellavance: Race Walking into Tokyo 2020

Race walking is a sport few people know too much about, but it's actually contested at all levels of track and field, from youth athletics to the Olympic games. Although technically a foot race like it's running event counterparts, it differs in that a competitor must have at least one foot on the ground at all times.

Our rabbitELITE team is happy to have first year member Alex Bellavance on the squad. We recently asked him to tell us a little more about his history with the sport of race walking and how he got to where he is today - we think even runners can get a little motivation from Alex's story!

We all have dreams, big and small; however, sometimes our lives are destined for more than we could ever hope, or imagine.

My athletic career started in the beginning of high school as a cross-country runner whose ultimate desire was to stay fit and make friends. Upon joining cross-country, I was unaware that the team raced at meets throughout the season. In my eyes, I thought that the team only met for a few hours each day and that was the end of it. After a short time period, the aspect of competition was introduced to me as the only way I could remain on the team was to compete. In an effort to continue my desire of running for the social aspects, I respected the decisions of my high school coaches to compete. Every race was treated as just another easy training session, jogging in the back.

A new desire was implanted in my heart my second year, after watching my teammates receive medals the previous year. Who doesn't want a shiny piece of medal around their neck? With a change in motivation, I transitioned from an average junior varsity finisher, to a competitive varsity runner on one of the best teams in my high school's history. By senior year, I was one of the top runners on my team, in the conference and city. Let’s just say, receiving a medal was no longer a problem. 

Unlike running cross- country, running track was a dreadful sport for me. Coaches pointed me out to be a 3200-meter runner and the thought of doing 8 laps on the track sounded as boring as can be. There was no spark of motivation until my junior year of high school when I was told I couldn’t even make it past our conference preliminaries. As a 4:53 1600 meter runner at the time, it is easy to see why others lacked the confidence in me. However, it was that lack of confidence that flipped the switch in my brain - it was time to put in an all out effort. In two weeks time, I broke my personal best by 22 seconds (4:31) and had made it three meets further than what I originally expected of myself.

Going into my senior year of high school, my goals for track had changed tremendously. Two of my biggest goals were to achieve a school record and to run at the California state meet. Being that the majority of my athletic goals had been fulfilled so far, I was unable to envision failure in these goals. Just when I thought I had it all figured out, these goals started to shift.

Due to a number of conflicts, the last semester of my senior year in high school was to be spent in Tennessee, over 2,000 miles away from San Diego, California where I grew up. I was devastated that my dreams of becoming an El Capitan school record holder were crushed. Trying to stay as optimistic as possible, my family urged me to run a last season with a team in Tennessee. My new high school had only a small track team and did not have a distance coach, or many runners at my level. On top of that, we had to take a 30-minute bus ride from school to the nearest track to train each day. With the small bit of motivation I had left, I coached myself and another individual on my team.

Week after week, I would come out on top in races, often lapping a majority of the field. To put it into comparison, in San Diego, I was ranked 20th in the city; In Tennessee I was ranked 3rd in the state. However, I no longer had the same happiness that I had as a California runner. This season awakened my love for track and field, with an urge to find that drive and happiness again.

After declining multiple athletic scholarships, I decided to pursue my education and athletic career as a walk-on runner at Cuyamaca College, a 2-year institution in San Diego. It took myself an entire season until I got back into the shape I was in before I left San Diego, and by that time, it felt too late.

On a chilly November evening, Coach Tim Seaman (2-Time Olympic race walker), invited the cross-country team to the track. We were given the instructions to give our best impression of what we thought good race walking technique looks like. We all messed around jokingly while we tried it out, but Coach Tim’s race walker athletes found my form to be peculiarly good. After warming up a bit, we were informed that we would be partaking in a 400-meter time trial. 

Those were the most brutal 400-meters of my life. My shins, hamstrings, and glutes were on fire. However, impressed with my performance, Coach Tim and the rest of his race walking team approached me afterward. The words that came out of his mouth next would change my life.

“How would you like the chance of trying to make an Olympic team one day?”

From that moment, I transferred all of my athletic endeavors from running to race walking.

In my first year as a race walker, the event carried endless new challenges including, but not limited to, injuries, financial struggles, and learning new rules. But with every mountain, there is a view.

That year I made two USA teams. The first trip was to Rome, Italy, where I competed at the IAAF World Race Walking Team Championships. The second trip was to Edmonton, Canada, in a dual-match against Canada’s national team. 

On top of that, I was able to compete at the USATF Junior Outdoor Championships where I placed 3rd in the 10km Race Walk.

In 2017, I moved up in my age group from juniors to open. As a result, I knew it would be difficult to match my first year success, especially since open division athletes race 20km at the elite level, twice as far as the juniors.

Despite the major changes, I was able to compete at the USATF Indoor Championships in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and the USATF Outdoor Championships in Sacramento, California, where I was able to finish 5th on both occasions.

On the road ahead, some of my many goals include making Team USA twice in 2018, having a podium finish at the 2020 Olympic Trials, and ultimately becoming an Olympian.  

They say that if you shoot for the moon, you’re bound to land on a star. After examining my athletic career this far, I urge you to shoot for the stars, but don’t be afraid when your arrow continues through the star and straight to the moon.

- Alex Bellavance, rabbitELITE

August 16, 2017

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Angeles Crest 100 Race Report - The Way Out is Through

rabbitELITE Branden Bollweg tackled the brutal Angeles Crest 100 mile endurance race just over a week ago, flying through the course in hot and unseasonably humid conditions to beat nearly everyone in the field, coming in 2nd place overall and first place solo. Below is his recount of the memorable day high above Los Angeles! 

August 7th 2016 - On an early Sunday morning, I had finally come to Loma Alta Park in Altadena to finish the 2016 Angeles Crest 100 mile endurance race. I was thankful I had gotten the finish, but that finish was bittersweet as it was my worst performance thus far in my ultrarunning career. I could go on and on about what went wrong and what I could have done better that race, but suffice to say that shortly after I crossed the finish line I wanted revenge.

This year would be different. At the start of this year I essentially started getting back to the basics again. Track work, hill work, incorporating more body weight exercises and whatnot. I did some prep races in increasing intervals and by the time the real meat and potatoes AC 100 training came, I felt good. This has been an excellent year and I have been extremely lucky. A month before 2017 AC100 I got married to my soulmate in a wedding that I could only dream of, job prospects were changing and race results were my best yet! I had carefully planned my training for AC the best I could (I will write a blog on the training later) and had even incorporated my wedding as a rest week! Things were feeling really good.

As my close friends could tell you, I had really high goals for AC this year...one may say unrealistic. I had gotten 23rd last year, I hadn’t run sub 24 in a year, and I was running it solo again. For those of you unfamiliar what running “solo” is for AC here you go: You don’t get a crew or a pacer for the entirety of the race. Why would anyone do this? To me, I personally like the challenge of being self sufficient and responsible. With crews and pacers there are just too many moving parts….I just wanna run! I also like the mental challenge, being alone with your thoughts. To me ultrarunning is a very personal and sacred experience for me, so most the times I like to run alone because let’s be honest ...in a 100 milers...it’s all up to you for the most part.

The training before the race went amazing and was very structured. My friends and I ran at some very crazy hours. This year I had become an ambassador to rabbit running apparel and that really helped my confidence. I re-ignited the flame in me. I was excited to represent a company that I believed in going into the race, and to be honest I didn’t want to let them down on my first race wearing their gear!

Onto the race! Last year I stayed at an airbnb two days before with my friends and we dropped my car off at the finish and drove back on the HWY 2. I got pretty car sick and felt like crap all the way up until the race started. So this year I figured I will just drive up to the start line in Wrightwood the morning of the race. My wife and mother-in-law piled into my car and we left at 3 am. Once again I had a ton of friends running the race and wished them all good luck and before we knew it the race started. To note, the ultra community lost a giant, Hal Winton (Co-RD of the AC100) earlier this year and we all miss him immensely. Gary Hilliard (another ultra giant!) took over Hal’s helm with such respect, class, and humility that it makes me a little teary eyed just thinking of the whole thing.

Back to the race! I knew from last year that the climb up Acorn trail is steep and narrow, sometimes it can get really crowded and hard to pass people. I decided to get out into the front early to avoid this. I’m unsure what place I was at, but I knew I was good to climb Acorn without slowing down too much. The climb went beautifully and by the time we got to the PCT I just let gravity do the work all the way to Baden Powell. At Inspiration point I filled up on some water and kept the calories coming in. I was planning on using GU Roctane for the whole race, but when I had a cup of the Carbopro, I was so shocked how it just tasted like cold water! I decided I would cut some weight and just use Carbopro the rest of the race. Some of you may remember my bad experience with Carbopro at Chimera 2015 but they totally redeemed themselves in my eyes after this race.

The weather was super nice and next up was the dreaded Baden Powell climb to the highest point on the course. As everyone might know this climb is steep and has an ungodly amount of switchbacks. I caught up with my friend and eventual winner Jerry Garcia and noticed he was going particularly slow. Not the usual Jerry Garcia way, I thought either he may not be feeling good or I am going out way too fast. I felt great climbing Baden Powell, ran most of it and then the fun part started. From there it was a beautiful descent to the Islip saddle aid station where I caught up to Jorge Pacheco. Jorge is an ultrarunning legend (4x AC champ) and has one of the most impressive records in the game. I have a tremendous respect for him. He kept ahead of me as we went into the Islip aid station. Some others caught up to me, but since I was solo I had to really make sure I piled on the calories and felt good at aid stations. I donned my second Buff and filled it up with ice around my neck. Then I made off onto the HWY 2.

I like to break the AC100 course up into three sections. The first part is survive and feel good at altitude. The second is learn to cope with the heat and beat it. The third is just to try to run the dreaded last 25 or so miles. I was entering the second section at this moment and I knew it was time to get into how my friend Peter Brennan describes it “full desert mode”. I tired to stay as cool as possible. Heat for me really kills my stomach. Last year I had run this next section a little too fast….just forcing myself to run. This year I ran all of it with barely any hiking. I was feeling great. I kept thinking to myself when is it gonna start getting hard? Everyone knows that the dark places always await in a 100 miler. My knee was giving me a little issue but other than that I just kept running, not really thinking of much. Just one foot in front of the other Branden...at all costs. Pretty soon I caught up to Jorge and 2X AC champ Dominic Grossman (another legend) at Cloudburst aid station. I had no idea that I was that high up in the race. I was worried a little bit as these guys are experts at this course and I thought I may have been going well beyond what my engine could give me and later I might blow up. I had to trust in my training and just believe in myself.

I loaded up the ice again, made my way to three points aid station feeling pretty good. Jerry came up as I was leaving the aid station. I thought for sure he was gonna pass me but it never came. As I made my way to Mt. Hillyer took a really good fall. I flew face first and twisted on my side after catching a rock. I was all dirty and cuts and bruises everywhere. Much to my wife's chagrin my butt was pretty badly scraped up. I just got up, stayed positive and kept going. My neck buff was doing an excellent job at distributing cold water around my body and am not just plugging them because I represent them, but my rabbit apparel was doing an amazing job of staying cold and wet with absolutely no chafing issues. I got up to Mt. Hillyer and got some medical spray on my hip/butt area and Jerry was catching up. I thought he would pass, but still it never came. As we started the descent down to Chilao aid station I saw my friend and 2016 AC champ Guilluame Calmettes. He was super positive and had some really encouraging words! To note, Guilluame was actually a huge inspiration for me. If you watch his hilarious video of his 2016 win he stayed super positive during the entire race. I made that a priority for this race, so thank you Guilluame! Anyone who knows me knows I can get too into my own head and snowball a little.

We got to Chilao and my friend and fellow mountain man Vincent Juarez was there and all he had to say was “Branden what are you doing man?!”, I replied “ No clue!”. Vince was crewing for his runner Sergio Medina (who also finished the race, congrats!!!). I loaded up on watermelon and carbopro. Jerry had picked up his pacer and passed me. Next up was the really hot part.

The trail to shortcut saddle is technical and very hot. If it wasn’t 50 miles into the race I would love the trail...but it’s not. I felt a blister forming and my feet started to hurt just a bit, but I remembered to stay positive. Soon enough I got to shortcut and sat down for a little. Last year this was the place I had gotten the closest to a DNF. I’m not gonna lie, I was nervous going into this race as it had completely destroyed me in a way that no course had and now I was at that point where I had hit my lowest last year. I knew I had to take my time at this aid station. On top of this, the course itself had changed from last year and we were heading into a section in which I had never ran before. I had no idea what was in store. (Supposedly it was harder than last year as it had anywhere from 20-21k of gain) I saw Jorge and Jerry take off, but I still took some time. After getting some sunscreen and feeling a tad better I made off into the unknown.

The descent to the bottom of the canyon was amazing. I was starting to gain ground on Jerry and Jorge but I needed to take a pee break. Believe it or not but pee breaks are an extremely important health indicator for ultras. I took my time...all clear! I was feeling better and caught Jorge going down. I was super respectful and positive. We got to the bottom of the canyon and I’m glad I got lost on a Tenaja canyon run a few months before because it was almost the exact same terrain! I caught Jerry and his pacer and they let me go right ahead. Once again, uncharacteristic of Jerry. I knew Jerry was working with the legendary Tom Nielsen before the race, could this be a strategy? I wasn’t sure, but I had to run my own race and I was feeling pretty good. The climb is where I hit the pain cave….that dreaded damn point in a race in which there seems to be no out. Also it was about 9.1 miles between shortcut aid station to red box. After running a 200 miler last year I really have learned how to run with minimal supplies between long distances (some aid stations in those races are 25 miles apart), so that wasn’t the problem. The problem was my lower back was really starting to hurt. Soon enough I was really getting scared of Rhabdomyolysis, an ultrarunners biggest fear. I started thinking about my wife and what she would do if I died (you really go to dark places in ultras). I knew if I had coffee colored pee it would be the end of my race (hey it happened to AJW during this race). I kept looking down at my wedding band and kept thinking of my wife. It was like she was with me. Soon enough I slogged my way to the red box aid station where I could barely speak. Once again Vince was there and was stoked to see me. Since they had a gong being rung whenever a runner would come in and I had lost my voice, Vince started telling the aid station workers what I needed. He told me I was in first.I spoke to Vince that I was worried about Rhabdo and he just said well if it happens it happens and it’s probably your vest hurting your back, not your kidneys. Turns out he was right! I asked what happened to Dom? And he pointed to Dom laying down on a blanket. Pretty soon Jerry came into the aid station and first,second and third were just all pretty wrecked. Vince looked at me and said hey you might as well go and too be honest I did not want to. I was hoping Dom or Jerry would go. I was feeling it and I knew the Newcomb climb was coming.

Well...then I found myself in a position that in a million years I never thought I would be in. I was first place at the Angeles Crest 100. It was kind of surreal. I kept running the downhill and was amazed no one passed me. Last year the climb up to Newcomb was a sufferfest, so I knew it was going to be slow going for me. What I did not know was that we would be climbing the shorter way up to Newcomb saddle. I kept wondering why the landscape looked differently and I actually started slowing down to see if any runners were coming up on me. I thought I may have gotten lost (I’ve done it in the past), but the yellow ribbons kept coming. Pretty soon Dom caught me on the climb and I asked are we on the right trail. He said we were and he proceeded to run up at a great pace while blasting some Lionel Richie! It was kinda funny. I was expecting to get passed on this uphill and the flies were dreadful on this climb, but pretty soon I saw the aid station. What the hell? It came sooner then last year! I told the aid station workers I was super stoked because I thought we were going to have to climb up the last years route. They all laughed and I gained a second wind. Dom took off and I sat there for just a tad to enjoy the view and get my legs back. The next section was my favorite section of the race and I would get to do it in the daytime!

If anyone has not ran the Chantry to Newcomb route I would highly recommend it. It is some of the most beautiful running that I have ever ran on. I started the descent feeling good as someone was just coming in. As I descended I actually got a bug or leaf in my nose. I couldn’t get it out and could feel it vibrating in my sinus cavity. I kinda got worried, but then it just went away. Pretty soon I caught Dom and his pacer. Dom and I really got after it on the downhill. I knew from Chantry on it would tough so I just let Dom do his thing. Pretty soon we caught up to the Chantry tarmac and we walked it together. Dom and I had raced a few events together and never had never gotten a chance to talk and we finally got that chance. I’m honored to have shared that moment with him. For a small while we were just friends talking and pretty soon we got to the Chantry aid station.

For you that have not run the race, Chantry represents the brutal last 25 ish miles of the race. From Chantry on it would be a 2700 ft climb up Mt. Wilson trail with a cameo by the grim reaper (Larry Gassan) and his bench, a descent into the poison oak riddled Idlehour, a 1800 ft climb up to Sam Merrill aid station, and the last 10 miles of highly technical descent to the finish.

I knew Jorge, Dom, Jerry, and whoever else was coming could climb this section pretty fast. Last year this section destroyed my friend Matt Kafka and I. We were puking and just doing a death march all the way up...it was terrible. I will admit that climbing is not my strong suit, but if I could just get as much time and distance on these guys on the climbs I could really hammer the downhills. Knowing that the next few sections would suck anyways I spent barely anytime at the aid stations. Also Gary Hilliard gave me great advice the previous year and really got me out of Chantry really fast. I refilled on carbopro and told Dom I would see him on the trail. I proceeded to hike/run the entirety of the Mt. Wilson trail and much to my surprise I did really well and felt really good! Once again I was in first, it was crazy.

Looked out through the darkness of the woods and as I got higher I could see Los Angeles. It was beautiful. Pretty soon I saw lights...then the feet….I knew it was the Grim Reaper and his bench. For those of you that don’t know Larry Gassan (another ultra icon) has his photo gig set up every year at something called Dead Man’s Bench (and I put that in caps out of respect for that bench) where he photographs people at the moment they lose their soul to the bench. I would highly recommend looking at the photos as they are hilarious and harrowing at the same time! “Welcome....take a load off” he said tempting me. The previous year I had given my soul to that damn bench. This year...no way! I proceeded to give the double bird to the bench as Larry took a picture. He then said “ this is your gimme section, you’re going to have to book it!” I didn’t know what he had meant at the time.  Pretty soon Mt. Wilson trail ended and still no one had passed me. This was better than I had expected. I booked it down to Idlehour aid station, got my carbopro and went. By the way, I did not need a jack or anything as once again my Rabbit gear had dried perfectly with once again no chafing. I proceeded to bushwack through the poison oak and started the climb up to Sam Merrill. As I climbed I saw some lights wading through the Idlehour bottom. I booked it up Sam Merrill at a respectable clip and got to the aid station without being caught by anyone. They gave me carbopro and had some awesome words of encouragement. I proceeded to book it down some of my favorite downhill.

At this point the rails kind of came off a little. My feet were really starting to hurt from the technical downhill and I was starting to catch my feet on the rocks. I didn’t want to have to go to the hospital this late in the race. It was really hard to gauge the terrain depth. It was dusty and a little bit slippery. My body was starting to really ache and hurt. I kept hearing voices but I thought it may have been hallucinations. Pretty soon a saw a headlamp. I hate racing this late, I thought it must be Dom and Dom knows this race really well. I kept booking it, but pretty soon my knee and feet were pretty wrecked. I caught my foot and fell again covering me in some dirt, luckily not as bad as my fall at mile 30-ish. Pretty soon I heard the sound of footsteps. To my surprise it was Jerry and his pacer and friend of mine Jon Clark! They were moving at a blistering pace! Turns out Jerry was holding back most the race! They both told me how far Dom was and had some great words of encouragement.

A lot of people have been commenting how bummed I must’ve been at that moment. I can honestly say I was 100% without a doubt not bummed out in the least bit! In fact, I was inspired by Jerry to not get third! Also I was extremely happy for Jerry and I couldn’t imagine a better person to pass me this late. Jerry and I have raced a few races together and have done a few training runs a few years back together with Vince. I am honored to call him a friend and couldn't be more happy for him. I cannot help but think back to Western States when Anton Krupicka got passed by Geoff Roes so late in the race. Even I thought “How could someone let that happen?”. Now I know. I had hiked only about 20% of this race and mile 95 ish and solo…my body was ready for this race to end.

After seeing Jerry and Jon going at the pace they were I would give it my best, but I knew I couldn't go at the pace they were. I booked it the best I could and before I knew it I was at JPL-NASA, as sign that you’re pretty much done. Usually I get teary eyed around this moment in races, but I literally had given it my all. I got to the finish line and hugged my wife like I never hugged her before! My official result was a new 100 mile PR for me at 20:13:49 for 2nd place overall first place solo! I congratulated Dom and Jerry once we were all finished. I am honored to have shared such a fun and amazing race together. I gave Gary Hilliard a big hug thanking him for the advice he gave me last year at Chantry. He was wearing Hal’s shirt so every finisher got to hug Hal again! What a class act Gary Hilliard is! After that I went home for some sleep and then came back for the awards ceremony! I feel had gotten my revenge on the course!

There are way too many thanks and I apologize in advance if I forgot to include someone. First and foremost I would like to thank my wife Andrea Bollweg. It really killed her not to be crewing me and I really missed her presence.I am so lucky and honored that you have decided to pick me as your husband! I look forward to all the crazy adventures we have to look forward to for the rest of our lives. I love you!

I would like to thank rabbit running apparel for giving me the opportunity to represent them. rabbit gear is honestly the best gear I have ran an ultra in. I have ran in tons of gear and usually have some sort of chafing issues, or breathability issues. I highly recommend them and I look forward to representing you guys even more! I would like to thank our families. They always have my back and am so happy that I have a bigger family now! I would like to my friend and training partner Aaron Ophaug, congrats on your first 100 miler and impressive 14th place at the race!

Another training partner Kris Jensen for helping me with advice for this race and all the hard training run we did. Kyle Fulmer for being a solid training partner, congrats on an unbelievable 9th place sub 24 hour finish! My fellow ultra besties Joe, Matt, Mike, and Mark, for all you inspiration and advice! The OC Trailies for giving great support and words of encouragement. Lastly I would like to give a special thanks to Ken Hamada, Jakob Hermann, and Gary Hilliard for putting on such an amazing event. Congratulations to everyone who earned their 100 mile finish!

August 11, 2017

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fueled friday: the Buddha Bowl of Goodness

One of our RADrabbits, Taylor Maltz of Washington D.C. gives us his favorite meal when he's gearing up for a big week of training. The best part about "Buddha" Bowl is the ability to swap different ingredients in and out to mix up the flavor profiles and keep you hungry for more goodness; enjoy Taylor's recipe below!

Farro, Sweet Potato, and Chickpea Buddha Bowl w/Avocado Basil Sauce

I’m heading into a couple big weeks of ultra training, and I can’t think of a better meal to start my week than a delicious, nutrient-rich “Buddha Bowl.” These colorful gain bowls have many variations, and are loved by vegetarians and meat-eaters alike. The below vegetarian recipe is my go-to, but there are many variations you can make - it’s hard to go wrong!

One thing to keep in mind, especially for all you rule followers out there! There are many variations of this dish, which is part of the reason it’s one of my main staples. If you have a specific way of cooking any of the below – go for it! You can substitute cans of beans for bags, replace oil with water, and even add a meat – you’ve got the freedom!

Recipe - Makes about three big bowls

Ingredients

The Bowl

  • 2 Cups Farro (I recommend Trader Joe’s 10-Minute Farro)
  • 2 Cans Chickpeas
  • 2 Sweet Potatoes (peeled and chopped into 1- or ½ inch cubes - your preference!)
  • 1 Can Black Beans
  • 1 Medium Onion (diced)
  • 3 Cloves Garlic (minced) (Less if you don’t love garlic)
  • 2 Cups Kale (add more if you want, or sub another dark leafy green!)
  • 2 Tablespoons Cumin
  • 2 Tablespoons Paprika
  • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • Salt & Pepper to Taste

The Avocado & Basil Sauce

  • 1 Ripe Avocado
  • 2 Tablespoons of olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons of water
  • ½ Lemon
  • ¼ Cup Fresh Basil
  • 1 Teaspoon Salt
  • 1 Teaspoon Pepper
  • 2 cloves Garlic

    Instructions - Cooking

    Farro

    1. Cook two cups per instructions on the bag.

    Chickpeas

    1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
    2. Empty the chickpea cans into a strainer and rinse. Transfer to a bowl, and add a 2 tablespoons of Olive Oil (you can sub water), 2 tablespoons of cumin, a tablespoon of paprika, and a touch of salt. Mix until the chickpeas are coated - you might want to add more cumin if you like the flavor.

     
    3. Transfer to a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil, and spread evenly. Place in the oven for 25 minutes. Once the timer is up, check to see if they are crispy enough for you! If not, place in for five more minutes. Personally, I like mine super crispy.

     

      Sweet Potatoes

       

       

      1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
      2. Toss ½ inch sweet potato cubes with 2 tablespoon of olive oil, 1 tablespoon of cumin, 2 teaspoons of salt, and ½ teaspoon of pepper.
      3. Add to a cooking sheet covered in foil
      4. Heat in the oven for 25 minutes.
      5. Note: You can cook these with the chickpeas, but it might take longer.
       Onion, Garlic, Kale, and black beans
      1. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
      2. Add the onion and cook for about 5-7 minutes. Add the kale and cook until soft (stir frequently), or about 4 minutes. Finally, add the garlic and black beans, then cook for an additional two minutes.

      Avocado and Basil Sauce

      1. Combine all ingredients in a food processor, and blend until smooth. Add more water if the sauce is too thick.

        Instructions - Assembly

        1. Add farro, vegetables, chickpeas, and sweet potatoes to bowl.
        2. Top with sauce.
        3. EAT!
        4. RUN FAST!
            August 04, 2017

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            fueled friday: riced broccoli & sun-dried tomato post workout frittata

            F U E L E D F R I D A Y: ok, we get it, we've all been hangry after a long run and it's not fun. So, avoid the drama and plan ahead! It's easy to either plan out a quick and easy recipe to make post-run or to even pre-make a meal and just pre-heat it when the time comes.  This riced broccoli & sun-dried tomato post-workout frittata is the perfect easy recipe to whip up after a workout or long run and avoid that hangry self that no one likes!

            Our recipe this week is brought to you from our friend Annmarie, the FitFoodieMama. You have to check our her awesome blog filled with amazing recipes perfect for runners!

            RECIPE 

            Ingredients: 

            • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil 
            • 1/3 cup chopped onion 
            • 1/2 cup sliced mushrooms 
            • 1/2 cup oil packed, sun-dried tomatoes
            • 1 bag riced broccoli (or cauliflower) [which most good grocery stores carry] 
            • 4 large eggs
            • salt and pepper to taste

            Directions: 

            • Heat oil in medium pan then add onions and cook for approximately 2 minutes then add in the mushrooms and cook for an additional 3 minutes.  
            • Add in the riced broccoli and sun-dried tomatoes and sauté for 2-3 minutes mixing in the onions and mushrooms. 
            • Whisk eggs, salt and pepper together in a bowl. 
            • Remove pan from the heat and add eggs into the veggies.  Mix in then pour back into the greased pan. 
            • Cover with a lid and cook over medium heat for approximately 5 minutes. Top of the eggs may still be a bit runny, if you wish to brown the top then put it under the broiler for a few minutes. 
            • Serve along with bread (gluten free if you like) and DIG IN.

            Original recipe can be found here.

            July 27, 2017

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            rabbitELITE Tara Warren on Overcoming a Serious Injury

            If you are a runner, you will get injured at some point. That is pretty much a scientific guarantee. Most of us have already been there at some point in our running career. And we know just how hard that can be. Being injured breaks your heart, your spirit, and your daily routine! The good news is that it doesn't last forever. Our incredibly talented and wonderful rabbitELITE team member Tara Warren shares with us her journey on overcoming a serious injury while still planning for the next big race. Tara, you rock.

             

            "Six weeks?" My mind quickly scanned through the dates on the calendar and landed at the beginning of August. Visions of early morning sunrises and dusty brown post-run ankle tans interrupted anything else the doctor was telling me. I thought of the upcoming Ouray race that I would have to drop out of along with big question marks about racing the Bear in September. Wait, what else was he saying to me...

            "Basically, it's just a clean fracture at the end of the lateral condyle of your femur. If you completely stay off it for six weeks, it will heal up just fine. There isn't any residual tendon or muscular damage. Just something that must have happened pretty abruptly, maybe a fall, and you hit it just right.”

            The doctor looked up at me sideways and pointed to the outside of my right knee. His glance seemed like he was trying to see through my crazy ultra-running eyes with a “how-can-you-not-remember-crashing-and-breaking-your-leg” sort of stare. 

            We talked over a few scenarios (because sometimes trail running results in memory loss and a repressing of various large or small injuries) and narrowed it down to a simple eight mile run back in the middle of May. I recalled how I tripped on a rock and launched forward with my hands and bent knee into the ground. It knocked the wind out of me. It was impactful enough that I sat in the dirt cloud and took a few minutes to gather myself as my knee bled. That had to be it. Looking back at my Strava history, I can remember having to slow down each run considerably after that crash with strange knee or IT pain. But, all of this happened right around the time tapering began for the Bighorn 100. It’s strangely natural that near the end of a training cycle you have sore spots and your body is a little angry. I guess I just chalked it up to each of those things. 

            “Did you have any other questions before we are done here today?” Asked my kind and curious doctor.

            “So, I have this race at the end of September. It’s a hundred miler up in the Logan area called the Bear.  What do you think of my chances are for running it?” I asked with complete sincerity and maybe even batted my eyes a little for a sympathetic positive response from the gatekeeper’s mouth. Instead, I saw his mouth turn a little scowly and he let out a mild chuckle. Ugh, a chuckle.

            Racing at the Bear 100 has been a goal of mine for three years. I've completed the race two times, but not really on my terms, or better said, racing how I had trained. In 2015, debilitating foot blisters at mile 4 put my racing into crawl mode. I literally lost large pieces of my feet and only survived because of my amazing pacers. If you didn't hear about the conditions at the Bear in the most recent edition, than I only have one word for it, apocalyptic. Snow, ice, rain and trails that were ice-water slip-n-slide mud disasters. I have unfinished business up in Logan Canyon and will be surprised if i’m physically able to make that happen this year. 

            He continued, “It’s more than likely that you’ll be fully recovered in the six week time frame. Again, granted you stay off that leg. As for racing, and as for racing in a hundred mile race, you should probably consider making other plans for that weekend.” At least he said it pleasantly. The problem is, I only heard the phrase “fully recovered” AND the hotel is already booked.

            Fast forward to today. It has been four plus weeks since the MRI. My leg is healing and overall, I’m doing okay. Most of the pain is gone and I can walk (when necessary) without limping. I've been given the green light to start swimming and biking. Both of these options have been a tremendous boost to my spirit.

            Although I know that I’m getting better, the little voice in my head keeps asking these questions on repeat lately: So NOW what are you going to do? What’s next? Could I really pull this off? But really, how in the world am I going to prep to run a hundo in seven weeks? Where is my fitness level after I've had about ten weeks off? How long will I need to keep on the training wheels before I can fly? What if I hurt it again? Am I strong enough to race or would I be stronger not to race? What if I don’t like running anymore? Seems like there are so many unanswerable questions that will just hover there until I can get my HOKAs on and start testing things out.

            This has been a true test of my patience and optimism. Aside from time off from pregnancies, I have not rested or taken time away from running in years. It’s been fantastic to create new routines that do not involve running. My kiddos are happy that I’m a bit more well-rested and energized. My heat training, or sunbathing, is on point. And, my laundry has definitely decreased.

            I’m not sure what the next weeks will bring. The anticipation is growing and I am getting antsy. One can only hope for the best and work through what might come up.  I’m hoping this broken femur experience is a once in a lifetime injury and moving on will be the next big story.  

            I’m sending all of you who are currently sidelined for whatever reason, all my best. Hang in there. Time will pass, wounds will heal. Our bodies and minds are more resilient than you think they are. 

            And most importantly, try not to trip on a rock while running on a flat trail!

            - Tara Warren, rabbitELITE

            June 29, 2017

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            USAs: the good, the bad, and the incredibly hot

            So, it’s already been a week since USAs (ummm where did the time go?!). The weekend action up in Sacramento was smoking, both the performances and the heat, and we wanted to recap this special event.

            As most of you know, we are talking about the USATF Outdoor National Championships that took place last Thursday through Sunday in Sacramento. This ain’t your average track meet. This is only for the best of the best, the cream of the crop, as the athletes competed to punch their ticket to London for the World Championships later this year.  Not everyone gets to participate in USAs, but rather each athlete had to qualify for his or her respective event based upon a rigorous time standard, and then wait to get accepted into the meet.  In other words, no Average Joes allowed.

            We were unbelievably and indescribably proud to send five rabbitPROs, one rabbitELITE, and two other rabbit friends to USAs this year. Who dat you ask? From our rabbitPRO squad, we had:

            Plus, we had rabbitELITE Alex Bellavance in the Men’s 20k race walk, SRA (the club is sponsored by rabbit) athlete Erika Barr in the steeplechase, and rabbit friend Allie Kieffer in the 10k.

            It was such an honor to see rabbit represented in this top-notch event with rabbit athletes competing against the very best in the country. Anyone who followed along either on TV or online already knows how well these athletes performed and how incredible their races were.  But, you may not really grasp the full extent of what they did. 

            So, you probably already heard… it was hot in Sacramento. How hot? It was fire-breathing dragon, I can’t move, the outside world feels like an oven, I’ve never sweat this much in my life, fry a 10lb steak on the sidewalk, hot. Between Thursday and Sunday, the daily high ranged from 90 degrees to 110 degrees. Yes, that’s right. On Thursday, when the steeplechase prelims and the 10k finals were run, Sacramento hit a high of 110 degrees. So, we can just say that the conditions were less than ideal. 

            USATF did a good job of moving race start times to avoid the hottest part of the day, and athletes were kept in an air-conditioned warm-up area, but, it was still just brutal. So, huge kudos to all the athletes, including all the junior athletes, who competed last weekend.  Given those circumstances, the results were inevitably, a little strange. Some athletes suffered more than others, some seem unaffected, but everyone ended the weekend with a sunburn and dehydration.

            But, despite the brutal heat, our athletes still crushed!! Of course, the athletes probably wished they had run a little faster or placed a little higher because people, it’s running and we all, always, wish we had run a little faster!  That’s why we compete in the first place.  Still, we are so impressed with how it all shook out and how amazing our athletes performed. So, let’s talk about them!

            Sarah Pease took 7th overall in the final of the 3,000m steeplechase in a time of 9:47:41. The prelim was run on Thursday evening (the hottest day of the weekend), but the final was run at 2:30pm on Saturday in the blazing hot glare of the afternoon sun. I’m sure those water pits felt nicer than usual! Sarah had a great race, finishing smooth and strong amongst the greatest in the nation. Sarah, you are a stud!!

            Rachel Schilkowsky, while not advancing to the finals in the steeple, had a very impressive race in the prelims. Rachel did not know that she got accepted into race until the last minute, and after battling through a few injuries and setbacks over the last few weeks, was stoked to make the starting line and have a successful race. You can read more of Rachel’s recap in her own blog post. We are so proud and happy for Rachel and excited to see her continue finish out her steeple season over the next few weeks.

            Now, let’s talk about the 10k. So, the 10k was held on Thursday night and it was probably just about 90 degrees when the gun went off. Annnnd, the field was stacked. So, it was not going to be an easy day at the oval office for these ladies. 

            Nonetheless, Kaitlin Goodman battled strong and showed the grit of a true competitor and finished in an impressive 15th overall in the 10k.

            Amy Schnittger also battled strong and did the best she could.  Amy got super late notice that she got into the race and was actually enjoying a break when she found out (and was surfing in SoCal a few days prior to the race). But, she couldn’t miss the opportunity to race and she did her very best. Ultimately, the heat got to her and she had to pull out, but this lady is truly talented and she will be back on the big stage next year!

            Alycia Cridebring also got relatively late notice that she made it into the women’s 5k, but luckily for her, she is a Sacramento resident and didn’t have to travel far! Alycia finished 15th overall with a very strong time of 15:47.40 given the intense heat. Just like the 10k, the 5k field was stacked, and Alycia raced smart, smooth and graceful (like always). She is just a beautiful runner to watch.  Congrats Alycia!! We are so proud of you.

            Our rabbitELITE team member, Alex Bellavance competed in the men’s 20k race walk, which was held early in the morning on Sunday. And Alex had a great race, set a huge PR, and finished 5th overall in the time of 1:32:39:35.  Dude, Alex, you are a stud!!

            Also, as mentioned above, Erika Barr of the SRA had a solid race in the steeplechase. Although not advancing to the finals, she raced strong and proud on her home turf. A rabbit friend, Allie Kiefer also raced the 10k, and had a very strong and impressive race.  Allie finished 11th overall in the 10k, and she looked soooo smooth for the last mile or so, and was picking people off left and right.  This lady is a freaking stud, who just ran the World Standard a few weeks ago at the Portland Track Festival. Allie is going to continue to do amazing things and we were honored to have her on the track repping rabbit.  Congrats Allie!

            USAs never disappoints, and it truly didn’t this year. We had such a blast cheering for our PROs on the track, and hanging out with them in the Sacramento heat.  It’s such an honor for us to be a part of their journeys, through every up and down, during the ebbs and the flows.  We are so proud of each of our athletes and simply cannot wait until next year! Go Team USA!!

            PC: Rob Schanz and Michael Scott

            June 22, 2017

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            prepping for western states 100 with rabbitELITE team member bree lambert

            rabbitELITE team member Bree Lambert will be tackling the brutal Western States 100 Mile Endurance Race this weekend, so naturally we wanted to learn how her training and preparation for this big weekend has been going...

            ______________________________________________________________________________

            Recently, I was speaking to a group of student athletes at Cal High in San Ramon about the sport of ultra running and my experience with running the 100 mile distance. Most students knew nothing of the sport nor heard of anyone running 100 miles in less than a day. One student asked if I sit down and rest or sleep throughout the race? Others wanted to know what I eat and another asked me, "where do you go if you need to use the bathroom?”

            All good questions!

            For me, the 100-mile journey is one which starts many months before the day of the event. It begins at the start of the year and depending on when it will occur, there are typically 3 ultra marathon events (of shorter distance) raced as part of the buildup for the BIG event.

            This year I am running Western States 100. Some call it “The Big Dance” because it’s the oldest 100-mile trail race in the US. It begins in Squaw Valley and finishes on the Placer High school track in Auburn, California. Ultra marathon runners come from all over the world to run this iconic event which officially started in 1977. This will be my second time running this race. In 2013, I ran and placed 15th Female/ 3rd Female Masters in less than 24 hours. I earned a silver buckle and was quite satisfied given it was considered the second hottest year in race history. I managed to keep myself hydrated through the Canyons between Robinson Flat and Michigan Bluff and when I got to Foresthill, I was feeling excited to meet my crew and pacer Rob Evans. With 62 miles down and just over 38 to go I was prepared to reset and refresh for the balance of the journey.

            If you talk to anyone who has run 100-miles you are likely to get different stories about race preparation and fueling strategy. For me, running shorter distance ultra-events works best. This year I kicked off my training with Sean O’Brien 50k in February, then went on to run Lake Sonoma 50 mile in April. In May I ran the Quicksilver 50k and continued to train right through with minimal recovery time after. In addition to running these races, I have maintained a consistent base hovering around 65-70 miles per week. I know this doesn’t sound like much considering most elites run closer to 100 miles on average.

             BUT…and that’s a BIG…B-U-T. This is what works for ME.

            I have managed to run close to 80 trail races of mostly ultra marathon distance for 12 straight seasons without ANY significant injuries or setbacks. It’s a feat I am hugely proud of. I have never taken a year off to recover from a pulled this or torn that. I have figured out what my body can handle and what it cannot.

            My formula for longevity in this sport is one that I live EVERY day regardless of my race schedule. It’s a lifestyle for me and it is what helps me remain injury free.

            • Proper Nutrition - mostly plant based diet
            • Proper Hydration - lots of electrolytes before, during and after all workouts and on a daily basis
            • Sleep - I average eight hours per night
            • Meditation/Prayer - this helps me manage stress, worry and clear my head
            • Rolling/Stretching - keeps muscles, ligaments and tendons loose and flexible preventing injury
            • Cross Training/Resistance Work - helps keep core and body balanced/muscles strong

            Now with the race just a few weeks away I realize that the hard work is done. I have put in the consistent training, taken care of the details of fueling each workout, maintained a regimen of rolling, stretching, moderate core/strength work and kept positive thoughts flowing through my head.

            My official taper will begin on June 17th. During this time I will meditate and visualize the course. I will refresh myself of the last time I ran the race, where I struggled and where I felt strong. I will plan out all the details of gear and fueling with my crew. Then I will show up on race day with a clear head ready to embrace the outcome of the day.

            I often think of my very first 100-mile experiences in July of 2009 at the Tahoe Rim Trail. I had no expectations of the outcome. All I knew is that I wanted to run my best effort and finish. I won that race and from then on realized that as long as I keep doing what works for me; despite what others might think or what ultra trends might dictate, I will be running for years to come.

            Running 100-miles really is a journey. It takes a long time to prepare. To be mentally and physically well enough to get from start to finish is a feat that very few will accomplish in their lifetime. I am really excited to line up at the start of Western States this year. I know it may be a long time before I am there again. So for that day, I will enjoy every minute and be grateful for the experience which will far outlast the event itself.

            It was so fun to speak to those students at Cal High. I opened their minds up to what they thought was impossible. They laughed when I told them I often do what the bears do in the woods then they go to the bathroom. Grab a tree! 

            - Bree Lambert, rabbitELITE

            With her experience, knowledge about herself and will-power, we know Bree is going to crush it this weekend!

            June 12, 2017

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            100 Miles in (Under) 17 Hours

            It's always nice to get a new job off on the right foot. Our newest rabbitPRO, Kris Brown, did just that this weekend, snagging the win at the San Diego 100, his first 100 miler. The race didn't get off to a perfect start, but patience and strength won the day. Kris shares the story of how it all went down. 

            The race started, like all ultras, with an eerie quiet covering suppressed tension. On the track or roads the starting gun has a cathartic effect because as soon as it goes off racers are immediately able to begin the release of the nervous energy they've built up. But in a 100-miler the start just signifies commitment, irreversible momentum toward the pain for which they've prepared but which they won't actually confront for another several hours. Runners hear "GO!" but it actually means "WAIT!"

            This time, though, things got weird pretty quickly. About 500 meters in the course split into a Y: the right fork was the way out; the left fork would eventually lead us back. It was well-marked, I was leading, and I took the correct path. But as the leaders snaked along the single track we heard shouts from a photographer who had camped out on the other side of the fork -- the return path -- telling us that we had gone the wrong way. The field was one giant conga line at this point, and the whole thing stopped in place. We turned back, took the other fork, ran a few dozen meters, and stopped again because some more knowledgable runners behind us had taken the first fork. The correct fork. The nervous silence was replaced by nervous chatter: "what in the fuck was going on?" The race director's most repetitive advice had been to pay attention to course markings and not to follow the person in front of us, but the scenario in our heads for when that might occur looked different from this. Maybe at night, alone, delirious after 14 hours of running. Then we might miss a flag. Not now. We must have looked from above like an oddly-clad Yale marching band. The photographer never retracted his advice, but we retracted our faith in him and left with him the knowledge of our unambiguous opinion of his general worth before turning back once again to the correct path. Because of this occurrence and a bit of stumbling at aid stations I'm pretty confident my GPS data will read 101 miles for the race.

            Some of the former and future (but not present) leaders with whom I was running opted to tromp through the high grass to cut off the 100 or so runners who had managed to overtake us during the confusion. Wary as I was of early effort I decided to play the long game and wait it out. I ran-walked probably three miles in the middle of the pack and lost nearly five minutes on the leaders before we finally made it to a fire road where passing became possible. "Perfect," I thought, unironically. Now that I was out of the lead group I had no temptation to worry about anyone's pace but my own, which had been my goal going into the race. Down five, sure, but not racing yet. Not for a long while. Right about this time we passed a rotting deer carcass that really felt like an omen. 
            Still, though, by the first aid station I was in the top five, and the lead runners had separated from the rest. I ran with two guys in the 3-4-5 spots and we yo-yoed for nearly 40 miles before the first major obstacle—Noble Canyon—broke the race apart. We had been warned about this section, and that warning turned out to be fair. While this year was the mildest on record for the SD100, Noble Canyon was still hot, and the climb out was technical and grueling. It was still very early in the race so I forced myself to stay relaxed, keeping what felt like an overly conservative pace on the ascent. I'm not used to walking hills that early in a race, but I forced myself to do so for maybe a fifth of the climb. At this point my legs were starting to ache a bit and my energy was not great. I was beginning to confront the distance, I thought, and if I was feeling even remotely bad at this point then I had reason to fear the later stages of the race. After all, I had felt good through about 50 miles of a 95-miler last summer before the wheels fell off and I endured what in hindsight was a total DNF situation for the remaining 45 miles. 

            But as soon as I crested the climb and started running on rolling terrain again, my energy changed and my legs felt better. This happens all the time in ultras: you can feel absolutely terrible and assume that it's all for internal factors, only to reach a summit, begin to descend, and feel a radical transformation in mood. This still surprises me in every race I run. In this case my energy turned upward around mile 45 and it never really went back down.

            The once-leader of the race had not fared well in the canyon and I passed him while he walked the flat sections on his way to a DNF. I had dropped another runner at the bottom of the climb. I was now in second and the leader was not far ahead. Still, though, we were only 45 miles in, so I wasn't racing yet. Kind of. But as I kept ticking off miles that my body wasn't seeming to acknowledge, I started to feel really confident. By 55 I felt ready to start pushing, but I held off a little longer. From 55 to 64 the course descended before climbing back up along the same route. I figured if I could stay relaxed on that climb and feel fresh at mile 71 then I could finish comfortably, which was my major goal. The guy I was running with was looking strong-ish but had stopped running on the uphills, which I took to mean that I felt better than him. I picked up a pacer, rabbit enthusiast Kevin Cody (who also provided these photos), at the bottom of the hill as I had just pulled into the lead and we gently pushed back up. By the top we had a minor gap which then grew a little over the next couple aid stations, but it wasn't as big as I had expected considering how much I had expected to gain on the climbs, so I started to feel the urge to push around 75 miles. 

            The sun started to set and with it's departure came some of the strongest winds I've ever experienced. Dangerous-feeling winds. Push-you-off-a-cliff winds. The sort of winds that would have lead me to cut a run short had it not been a race. A beautiful and serene day turned into a chaotic and violent night, but by then I was engaged. Aid station volunteers (wonderful as they are) kept giving me conflicting and often worrisome information on how far back my competitor was, so I pushed a little, trying to stay relaxed but efficient, trying not to listen to my legs, which, believe it or not, felt ready to start sprinting. The end felt near but I had to remind myself that 20+ miles was more than enough time to ruin my race. 

            I had planned on meeting my second pacer at 84 miles. Kevin would stop, Julian would continue, and I would put on a warm layer over my singlet. Coming into the station I found myself wishing that I had packed a warm layer the last time I saw my crew. It was already dark and I was beginning to feel cold, so I had picked up the pace a little to try to stay warm for a couple extra miles. When we arrived at the aid station my crew wasn't there. No second pacer, no warm gear. Kevin was worn out so I had to push on alone. He gave me his gloves—the only warm gear either of us had—and I took off out of the station alone, shouting obscenities into the night. Kevin followed at a slower pace behind me. Sixteen more miles, feeling as good as I did now, was probably not long enough to get serious hypothermia, I figured, but I did still expect that the next section was going to suck. It turns out that my crew—my mom and second pacer—was actually at the station I had just left, but they were sitting in the car looking down the wrong trail at the suggestion of another aid station volunteer who was apparently confused about from which direction we would be coming. 

            For the record, I love and appreciate all of the volunteers at these events, but fuck...

            The last two sections were seven and nine miles long. I was on the second to last one, absolutely flying. The terrain was especially technical so my pace wasn't noticeably different from the rest of the race, but I ran miles 80-91 at close to the same speed that I would have run an 11-mile training run over the same section. I was hauling ass. Part of me knew that second place wasn't coming back, but my racing instincts are conservative in this regard so I wasn't willing to let up. Someone had told me at 84 miles that he was eight minutes back so if he could run 30 seconds per miles faster than me—possible if he felt great, which I wasn't willing to rule out—then he could theoretically catch me. I did this sort of mental math for hours.

            When I got to mile 91 my mom was there, a mile down the trail toward me, worried about something that I assumed was the fact that I was cold. I had certainly been fixated on it, and she understands the stakes in these sorts of races, so I figured she was kicking herself for missing the last aid station. It turns out that it was a little more complicated than that. When she and Julian realized that they had missed me at the last station, Julian tried to take off after me while my mom high-tailed it in the car for the next aid station. It didn't take Julian long to realize that he wasn't going to catch me, so he went back to the aid station that he had just left and hitched a ride to the next one. Meanwhile my mom had the realization that if Julian DID catch me, then I would have two pacers with me, which would be a rules violation and would disqualify me. When I arrived at the next station Julian was there and we took off down the last nine mile section together. He had arrived right after my mom and she didn't know it, so at this point she thought that I might be DQed, and/or that either or both Kevin and Julian were lost in the wilderness at night. I was hurdling through the darkness totally unaware of this.

            (An aside: I was aware of the rules regarding two pacers, and I was prepared to leave the final aid station without Julian, since Kevin was still on the course. But I talked to the aid station captain who said that he approved of me going forward with an un-bibbed pacer [Kevin was supposed to hand off his bib to Julian but he was well behind me] and that he would vouch for me if the race director had an issue with it.)

            Over the last nine miles I eased off the gas a little bit. I allowed myself to realize that there was no way second place was going to catch me if I stayed reasonably efficient considering my pace over the previous two sections. So I started counting down every mile and tried to stay comfortable. But as often happens in long races, as soon as I accepted that the race was almost over my body started to announce its once-suppressed aches. The last three miles were a little wobbly, and I even took my only fall—a full somersault—with about a quarter mile to go. I saw the finish line clock way too late to have been able to do anything about it, but luckily even with the easy running over the previous few miles I saw that I was going to come in just under 17 hours.

            When I crossed the line I clarified with the race director what had happened with the pacers, he verbally OK-ed the situation, and he handed my my first 100-mile belt buckle. Still walking and talking reasonably well, I primarily felt thankful not to have experienced the same level of pain as I had in my 95-mile attempt. And now that I have one well-executed 100-miler in the bag, I'm excited to get started on a bunch more.

            Course: The San Diego 100 course is regarded as "sneaky hard." The terrain is mildly technical, the climbs are gradual but sometimes long, the altitude is just enough to become a factor, and the heat and wind wouldn't be so bad if it weren't for the almost total exposure. While not major obstacles on their own, all of these factors add up to make a hard course.

            The trails are not totally dissimilar from Santa Barbara, but the grades here are steeper and usually more technical, so the SD100 trails feel familiar but easier.