Photo by Eric Schranz
Three Santa Barbara based rabbit racers and a slew of other rabbit wearing ultrarunners toed the line at the 29th Annual Way Too Cool 50k just outside Auburn, California in the Sierra Foothills under cloudy skies, sloppy trials and chilly temperatures this past Saturday. rabbit co-founder Monica Devreese running in her 11th career ultra, PR'd the 50k distance in her 4th try by over 11 minutes while RADrabbit Lisa Dosch, running in her first ultra, was 15th female and nearly broke 5 hours in very challenging trail conditions! Community manager Jeffrey Stern finished in 15th as well and rabbitELITE athlete Adam Kimble (detailed race report below) was 10th overall, both guys scoring 50k PRs as well...what a day on some pretty special (WS100) trails for all the rabbits and nearly 800 other racers participating in the country's largest 50k!
As I sat in my hotel room last Friday night, I couldn’t stop repeating this phrase in my head: “I’m probably not going to race tomorrow morning.” It was an unusual circumstance, because I’m typically approaching maximum stoke level the night before a race and I can’t wait for the morning to come. In this case, I found myself in uncertain, uncharted territory. Earlier in the week I had developed a stomach bug and wasn’t feeling good, but given the fact that I had made arrangements months prior to run the Way Too Cool 50k, my wife and I proceeded to drive to Auburn and hope for the best. Waking up on Saturday morning, I ate breakfast and went through my normal pre-race routine. I had an uncomfortable stomach ache, which prompted me to continue asking the “will I run?” question both internally and out loud to my wife. I continued to get ready as if I was going to run, because if I was, I needed to be dressed! It wasn’t until I read a comment from my friend on Facebook that I officially made my decision to run. It turns out that race day was the one-year anniversary of the airing of the final episode of The Wheel, a survival reality show on the Discovery Channel featuring me as one of the contestants. My friend shared a post from 2017 and captioned it by saying that the experience I endured was “way too cool.” He didn’t know I was running the race, nor would he have known it by name. I saw that as a clear sign that I should run the race and got as mentally ready as I could with such little time before the start.
Normally, I would have been at the start line at least 45 minutes prior to the start. This time, I had spent all my “casual pre-race time” in the hotel room, so my wife dropped me off at 7:40am for an 8:00am start. I hopped out of the car, proceeded to get in a quick warm-up run, and then headed to the start line! As I approached the corral, a quick series of events affirmed that I had made the right decision to toe the line. First, my friends at Clif Bar gave me a shout-out and wished me good luck over the microphone; then, I ran into my friends from rabbit, whom I had communicated with since joining the rabbitELITE squad but had yet to meet in person; and finally, I saw some other close friends I hadn’t seen in awhile and was feeling nothing but good vibrations as the seconds ticked away before the start. To top it off, I was getting a chance to race against an incredibly talented field of elite ultrarunners, which always gets me fired up and excited!
As the final countdown to the race start took place, I was feeling relaxed and focused. The song “You Get What You Give” by the New Radicals was rocking the speakers at the start line, and let’s be honest, 90’s music is always a great motivator (or maybe that’s just me?)! The front of the pack took off running and I followed closely behind. I had been told the first mile “always goes out fast!” so I was prepared to start a little hot. However, it didn’t take long for that hot start to literally cool down with a knee-deep creek crossing just a mile in! I think it’s fair to say that on this day the Way Too Cool 50k was Way Too Cold…at least during the dozen or so water crossings! The trails were also very muddy because of the heavy rain throughout the week leading up to the race. Personally, I like the trails to either be really wet or really dry, so I can just commit to the conditions. When you have a creek crossing every few miles, you stop concerning yourself with avoiding the mud and water and just embrace the fact that your feet won’t be dry until you cross that finish line!
Photo by Scott Fischbein
I hung within sight of the race leaders for the first five miles, and then settled into the middle of the top-10 pack. By the time I reached the 8-mile mark and completed the loop that brought us back to the start line, I was in 10th place. From that moment on, I didn’t pass a single runner and no other runners passed me! As I would come in and out of aid stations, I could hear the volunteers cheering for the
runners that were a minute or two ahead of me, and shortly thereafter I would hear the same cheers for the runners behind me. My mind had been so preoccupied with the racing and taking in the beautiful scenery that I realized several miles in I hadn’t even thought about my stomach pain! I had settled in nicely and thankfully I felt strong throughout the race. After the biggest, most strenuous climb of the day at Goat Hill (mile 26), I knew it was mostly downhill until one final climb to the finish. I pushed on those climbs and with a mile to go, saw the 9th place runner ahead of me. There wasn’t quite enough time to catch him, but I ran hard to the finish, stomped one last mud puddle for good measure, and came across the finish line in 10th place overall with a new 50k PR!
What this race taught me more than anything is that race preparation can be super unpredictable at times. There are so many uncontrolled factors leading into a race that the best thing to do is give it your all, whatever “all” means on that specific day. Sometimes you can prepare perfectly and do everything right, only to struggle on race day and run below your capability. Other times, you can be sick heading into the race and you surprise yourself with a solid performance. That’s just part of the beauty of our incredible sport! Tomorrow is another day, and redemption is always just around the corner.