Thursday, September 20, 2012

Ben's First 100 Miler Report

My friend Ben who finished the Run Rabbit Run 100+ this past weekend in Steamboat just wrote up his entire race report and mailed it.  He doesn't have a blog so I am wanting to post it here with his permission of course in hopes that others can enjoy it.

As for me the highlights of the weekend were getting to Steamboat and home quickly on the drive, 3:55 and 3:45 respectively.  Seeing the trees in color on the more beautiful parts of the course and of course getting to pace someone their last 30 miles of their first 100 was pretty cool in and of itself.  Ben was awesome to run with and I can honestly say that everything which was runnable those last 30+ miles he made sure to take advantage of.

So without anymore of my needless rambling here is Ben Lawellin's account of his race.

Ben coming into Steamboat to finish, about mile 96.

Run Rabbit Run     

Wow, I’m still blown away.  It was so long, so committing and I’m just talking about what it took to get to the start line!  The run itself was all those things as well, but infinitely more intense.   The official statistics were 101.9 miles, around 20,000 feet of elevation gain.  Unofficially many runners say it was a couple miles longer, with their GPS’s saying ~107-113 miles.  It took me 32 hours 10 minutes and 34 seconds to complete.  It was a great feeling to pass over the finish line, but the emotions had been pouring out of me for some time in the last 6 or so miles.  The last mile is when they became a flood, tears welled up in my eyes as Andy and I came down the last bit of trail; running in a loose relaxed fashion for the first time in many hours and many miles. Coming across the line I was thankful to be done.  They say ultra-running is like hitting yourself with a hammer, it feels really good when you stop.  It leaves a mark too. 

My sister asked me if I had fun and I told her yes, in a way.  It is hard to explain why running long distances is fun. Most people cannot believe that such a thing could be fun, but I and countless others feel that it is.   You could say that the kind of fun that is 100 miles is a kind of fun that is not cheap and easy, it must be earned.  It is also not for everyone.  It could have to do with the concept of rationality.  In our society we try to rationalize our behavior, and ultra-running certainly does not fit into a nice neat box of rationality.  However I would question if what people generally think of as fun fits into rationality.  If wasting one’s life away in front of a television is fun then ultra-running is Kant.   


 We started at 0800 Friday morning at the base of Steamboat Springs Ski Area and proceeded to head straight up the ski runs to the tip top of the mountain.  Several people got lost when the course markings pointed to the wrong way and many racers ended up going a few extra miles.  I luckily went the right way.  From the top of the ski area we followed the Mountain View Trail to the Long Lake Aid Station, passing the Fish Creek Falls trail in the process which we would have to back track to after checking in at Long Lake.  During this section I ran with two guys, Richard and Doug(?).[1]  Good conversation was had going down, but we split up at the High School.  Going down Fish Creek Falls is a pretty spectacular bit of running.  It is very steep, very rocky and has some pretty good exposure in some places; a misstep would have had fairly high consequences.  I was pretty happy to get this over with early in the race as later on my legs would probably not have been up to the challenge and I would have walked a lot of it.  My left knee and right hip flexor were hurting quite a bit coming down this and it was making me worry about my chances of finishing later.  Eventually the pain went away and did not bother me again until I finished. 

From the bottom of Fish Creek Falls the course followed some paved roads into town and I met Dad at Olympian Hall for the first time.  Running through town sucked and I was a bit confused on where to go.  Apparently many other runners had the same problems.  I was not too happy about the pavement and sidewalks either.  Dad filled up my bottles and I swabbed the boys with Body Glide, ate some more, and took off onto the Emerald Mountain part of the course.  From here the course went straight up Howelsen Hill Ski Area’s steepest, grassiest run and then grinded up the rest of the mountain on the well named “Lane of Pain”.  A long singletrack downhill deposited me on Cow Creek Road where it was very hot.  I filled up my bottles with ice at the aid station and speed walked/ate up the road.  Eventually I met up with Abby, who I would run with most of the way back to Olympian Hall. 

My stomach was hurting pretty good coming into Olympian Hall and a bathroom break was a high priority coming into the aid station.  It was really good to see Dad, Meagan, Joe, and Carrie there too.  It was definitely a good morale booster to see them.  Filling up on water, food and fresh clothes I journeyed off into the twilight for the return trip up Fish Creek Falls.  As darkness descended I would get into my hardest part of the race.  It was hard because it was 1.  Dark 2.  I ran completely by myself for the next 20 miles 3.  Cold.  When I left Olympian Hall I forgot to grab gloves and as I was using handheld water bottles my hands were freezing in what turned out to be below freezing temperatures.   When I got into Long Lake at mile 48, I struggled to put on some more clothes that I had in my drop bag.  Unfortunately no gloves in the bag though.  I got some hot soup in me and stood by the fire for a bit.  I shuffled out of the AS and the first Hare flew past me like I was standing still.  Most of society thinks people who run 100 miles for fun are freaks, so the elite athletes who do this regularly and quite quickly must be super-freaks, Rick James style. 

Pushing up the road to from Long Lake to Summit Lake was a pretty dark time, both in spirits, body and in reality as it was the middle of the night.  I was cold, tired and alone.  I could see headlamps way in front of me and nothing behind me.  It was very hard to keep running and really to keep going.  After the Summit Lake aid station, I had 8 downhill miles to Dry Lake and my first pacer.  Generally I could run this in an hour or so, but in this condition it took right about 2 hours.  Running down hill was particularly rough on the quads and combined with it being cold, after midnight and painful; this was the lowest point of the race for me.  I was having all sorts of negative thoughts, thinking of dropping, being pissed at myself, thinking this was stupid and telling myself that I was not strong enough to carry on. 

I got into the aid station in a haze.  I walked right past Carrie without even recognizing her or the awesome sign that everyone had created with glow sticks.  I walked to the food table and started eating while my crew took care of all my little details.  Their kind words helped my spirits recover, or at least distracted me from my negative attitude.  Meagan and I took off down the Spring Creek trail, where she counted all the bridges we crossed (15?).  She told me stories and made me run everything I could, that more than anything helped my spirits improve.  When we got to the High School at the bottom of Spring Creek, my stomach rebelled and I had to hang out in the john for a bit.  We took off out the aid station back up Spring Creek, where we counted down the bridges to the top.  As we crested the hill, the sun was coming up and it was pretty cool. 

Holy Crap!  I only have 30 miles to go!  I changed my shoes one last time, and ate some real food.  I can’t remember why or how it came up but I told Joe that I have no skills at eating Ramen noodles.  Andy and I shuffled out of the aid station and began the long slog up Buffalo Pass to Summit Lake.  After seeing Buffalo Pass both ways, I can honestly say I hate Buffalo Pass.  It was the crappiest part of the route.  I mean of all the places in Steamboat, why did the RD choose this!  It sucked, but I eventually made it to the top.  At Summit Lake I shed clothes and began the long shuffle back to Long Lake on the Wyoming Trail. 

Andy really made sure I ran everything I could.  Every flat or down hill I “ran” and hiked the ups.  I was not too happy with the winding nature of the Wyoming Trail.  It looked exactly the same for almost the entire way and did all sorts of pointless ups and downs, winded around and was definitely not a direct route.  When I ran this during training I thought it was fast and fun, but after 80 miles of running I had a different opinion.  It is amazing how perspective can change things.  A couple times earlier I thought I had seen a fox and a few other things.  During this section I wanted to see the trail junction leading to Long Lake so badly my mind kept creating the trail sign.  Every time I came around a corner I thought I saw the sign.  Sometimes it was big sign; other times a small little one.  Without fail it was not there though no matter how many times my mind thought it was.  I would not call it a whole blown hallucination, but it was pretty close.  Later on I thought I saw a beautifully made park bench that would have been so nice to take a break on.  When Andy moved out of the way, though it turned out be a log. 

When we finally made it to the top of Mt Werner, there was a final insult where we had to climb a completely unnecessary hill to the tip top of the ski area to the final aid station.  It was just one last obstacle, one last hurdle to put up with.  It was all downhill to the finish from there.   


I finished the race in pretty good form.  Andy even commented that I was running with pretty good form at one point, but that is not what I mean.  I only had 3 small, minor blisters, a very tight right hip flexor and some pain in my left knee, but nothing major.  I’m pretty sore right now, very tired and my feet are still swollen and painful, but that should be expected.  I’ve always heard horror stories of people loosing toe nails and vast quantities of skin; I thankfully did not experience such things.   The pain was quite intense pretty much from mid-race to the finish.  My quads in particular were screaming at me on any downhill and would force me to walk in places.  That is one of the clearest memories I have is the pain, it was the most intense and unrelenting pain I have ever experienced, but I pushed through it.  Not always successfully, but I never let it stop me.

 I had pushed through all the moments of self-doubt; thinking of the possibility of failure, but never accepting it.  I maintained a fairly positive attitude, with the exception of a few low points in the middle of the night.  What does this say about me?  I can say that running 100 miles is damn tough; one has to have a certain toughness, both physically and mentally to even toe the line or sign up.  To complete it is even more so.   I think what it says is that I am a survivor.  I might not be the fastest or best at what I do, but I can tough through adversity and get things done one way or another.  This was a quality I developed in the Air Force and have carried it with me.  During grad school I certainly improved my bull doo doo coping skills.  (I still have no Ramen eating skills though).   

Lessons Learned

One of the key things to these kinds of events and in my opinion is learning.  If the experience is about learning, then it becomes much more interesting, much more meaningful, and enjoyable and it sets up a positive mindset for the experience.  It also makes one love the experience no matter what adversity one experiences.  I took this to heart after reading a book called the Way of the Rock Warrior, which is about mental training for rock climbers.  I took this idea and ran with it. 

What I learned from running 100 miles.  Patience, perseverance, discipline; it takes those to just get to the start line.  It also takes love. One really has to love running, the outdoors, and life itself.  During the race I learned that my friends and family are invaluable to me.  The help of those both at the race and outside of it were so great.  Without the support from those I care about and that care about me, I don’t think this race, or even getting to the start line would have been possible.  I learned that when one and others believe in oneself, when you do not doubt yourself, when you put your mind to something you can accomplish the impossible.  I think this is something that I have struggled with my entire life, I think everyone deals with it in some way; running 100 miles certainly has not cured this, but it has lessened it in some way. 

I think training went pretty well.  There were a few downs, I had some Achilles problems for a while and suspected I was developing plantar fasciitis.  I worked through it with some consistent rehab, stretching and compression.  I suspect I caused this with speed work and in the future I will be more conservative with this.  I’ve never been great about peaking for races and I probably could have done the taper differently.  I think I should have tapered later on and in a less dramatic fashion.  After my last long run of 60 miles I should have kept with some consistent training, done a 60-70 mile week instead of a 40. I think I tapered too much and lost too much fitness.  I also needed to find a better way to keep weight on, as I got too skinny.  I probably need to mix in some upper body stuff more too.

During the race, I think I did stuff right.  I wanted to run my own race and did not try to run the pace of other folks.  I would only run with them if it fit what I wanted.  I think I might have pushed the pace a bit coming up the Beale trail on Emerald Mountain, but that is the only place.  Maybe I went to fast at the start, but I don’t know, maybe.  I’m pretty pleased with how I ran.

Is there going to be a future 100?

Not sure right now.  It is said that endurance athletes have crappy memories so maybe.  It took so much effort to train for the race, and the event itself was pretty draining mentally, emotionally and physically; that I can only do this on now and then.  I’ve had an on again, off again relationship with ultra-marathons, so expect that to continue. 

Thanks to everyone that was at the race and those that supported me from afar!  My crew and pacers were all awesome and you rock!

Stuff used

From 0-40 mile I ran in just shorts and a t-shirt.  Carried two handheld bottles and carried gels and bars in my pockets.  Wore New Balance Mt-1010 shoes.  Dry Max socks

40-72 La Sportiva Vertical K shoes

72-finish La Sportiva Fire Blades

Smartwool compression socks from 40 to the finish

Ice breaker ¾ tights in the night

North Face Better than Naked wind jacket at night

Salomon Slab 5 pack after mile 40 to the finish.

Best things to eat:  Stinger Energy Chews, ramen soup, mashed potatoes, PB&J sandwiches. Plain water and SCaps!.

[1] I could not remember most people’s names so everyone became a Doug by default.

Ben getting it done about mile 80+ early in the morning.  He is cruising right a long.


  1. Good stuff! Congrats, Ben.

    Thanks, Andy, for posting.

  2. Judge Litha PrethidingOctober 4, 2012 at 10:32 PM

    Heh, that's awesome! I will make sure to swab my boys next time....perhaps I'll finish ;-)