Western States terminated with one of my worst results ever, but perhaps because of that my desire to go back was very strong. But I didn’t plan to dedicate my entire racing season trying to get back in. Run Rabbit Run fit well with my schedule and it is an early qualifier, so if I got a spot, I wouldn’t have to worry about qualifying for the rest of the year.
The only problem: by July, the 50 mile race was already full. The 100 was still open and offered WS spots, but with the large prize purse, I expected it to be very competitive, and therefore less likely to get the coveted WS ticket. So I e-mailed Fred, The RD, to ask if there were any special considerations for entry for competitive athletes. He responded, “Well, send me your resume and we’ll see.” The next morning I got another e-mail from him, “Are you the Pam Smith on the 100k team? If so, you’re in!”
While many other race directors have been nice to me, this is only the second time that I have asked to get in to a full or otherwise closed race, the other time being Miwok 2011. I am thinking I am going to have to do this more, as I won both of those races. I guess I feel like I have something to prove for being granted the opportunity.
So yes, while I did win, it was NOT an easy race! Joelle Vaught had the course record at an astounding 8:08 and no other woman had broken 9 hours (2nd all time F= 9:04). Based on the course and my fitness, I thought I could do 8:20. I finished 6th overall in 8:40, 39 minutes slower than any other 50 miler I have done. But I didn’t actually miss my goal time by as bad as it looks at face value. This year to accommodate the 100 mile runners, the 50 mile course was lengthened by 1+ miles with 600’ of gain and loss over very rocky and technical terrain, which added at least ten minutes and probably more like 12(+). Speaking to Fred after the race, I heard people disliked this so much that he is already thinking he will change it back next year!
I started the race at the back of the lead pack in third for the women, telling myself not to pass 2nd place F Silke Koester the whole way up Mt. Werner to make sure I stayed in control at the start. I continued to tail her for several miles over the back side. For a few minutes I contemplated playing a strategic game to guarantee the WS spot. I knew I was faster, so I wondered about tailing her for a long time and then just passing her in the end to get second and the WS spot. But around mile 11, a guy named Ken jumps out of the bushes behind us, says we are looking good and that Kerrie (Bruxvoort) is less than 5 minutes ahead. Oh, and by the way, could he please pass?
Well, I just found a new train to ride! Yes, I wanted the Western States spot, but I also wanted to race! So I passed with Ken and told him to take me up to Kerrie. “You’re going to have to do that yourself, I’ve got post-Leadville legs.” But I stayed with him and got to chat for a few miles about Leadville and his training with Anita Ortiz. When we hit a flat gravel road, I didn’t think I picked up the pace, but soon I was dropping him. Same thing through the next 8 miles of rolling grassy trails and roads. I tried to find people to run behind but whenever things leveled out, I’d end up in front. I ended up passing about 6 guys through here and when I rolled into Dumont AS for the first time (22.3 miles), I practically ran into Kerrie as I was on my way in and she was on her way out.
About a half mile down the road, I caught Kerrie and said hi. She gave a lackluster response. I kept moving as the terrain to the Rabbit Ears rock formation and turnaround got steeper and steeper. I counted 8 guys coming down by the time I got to the top. The two volunteers at the top cheered for me and said, “As the first female, I think you are required to kiss the volunteers!” I told him if it means I get to go downhill, then you got it. So with a quick peck on the cheek for both volunteers (how’s that for showing my thanks!), I rounded the cairn and finally got to head back down the 2.7 mile hot road back to Dumont AS.
Kerrie hadn’t looked very good when I passed her, so I was
surprised to see she was only a couple minutes back at the turnaround. But I
made good time back through the rollers. A couple of times, I looked
back across the plains and couldn’t see anyone, so I knew I had at least a half
mile on Kerrie.
|Rabbit Ears- Mile 25 turnaround was right at the base.|
Everything seemed to be going well until getting to Long Lake at mile 37. From there it is uphill back to the top of Mt. Werner. It is not very steep, only 1,200 feet of gain in 6.8 miles, but it was as if my body were screaming, “Whoa, wait a minute! I put up with all this running for 37 miles but if you aren’t going to give me any oxygen, I quit!”
I was huffing and puffing, but it wasn’t asthma at all this time, just fatigue and the cumulative lack of oxygen. Every little ascent felt monumental and I walked WAY too much. I told myself if I got to the top in the lead, NO WAY was I going to lose. One thing I still had confidence in was my leg speed and I knew I’d be good on the gravel road downhill.
I did get to the top in the lead, but OMG! There was Kerrie on the way up not more than a minute after I left the AS! Holy Crap – time to fly! After the rocky section at the top, I averaged right around 7 minute pace for the final 6 miles. Pretty slow, given that it was all downhill, but after 45 miles, I certainly felt like I was flying! The best part was zooming by all the quad-weary 100 milers, who were all very positive when I passed.
I looked back on a couple of long switchbacks and no one was there. I just needed to pass the time and get to the finish. And that’s when "99 Bottles of Beer" popped into my head. Are you kidding me?? But pass the time it did, and by the end of the song, 26 minutes had gone by. Ok, hold it together, just two miles to the finish. The ground flattened a bit, running took more effort, but I didn’t let up and managed to put a few more minutes on Kerrie before finishing. My 8:40 was the second fastest women’s time on the course, Kerrie’s 8:47 ranked 3rd over all and Silke stayed very steady for a 9:09 and 5th fastest course time – all with the harder course and a hot day. The men’s winner, Cameron Clayton, wasn’t hampered by the heat or course changes either, throwing down a blistering 7:09, to break Geoff Roes course record!
|My prize for winning the 50 mile. The winner of the 100 mile got $10,000. Yeah, that seems equitable!|
I was proud to race hard and take the win, but it was definitely one of those races where you are completely spent at the end. I had a little sunburn, plenty of chaffing (from my pack and putting ice in my bra), enough dehydration to warrant 82 ounces of fluid in the 90 minutes following the race (including 36 oz of chocolate milk….mmm), some post race GI “distress” and even a little blood in my urine (don’t worry, it cleared fast). And my mom thinks ultra-running probably isn’t good for you – ha! All that just to double my pain and suffering at Western States!
A big shout out goes to all the 100 milers- this is a super tough venue and many are speculating that the course was closer to 110 miles. This course decimated the field, with only 15 of 52 elite finishers! So kudos to all those who attempted the run and bigger kudos to those who finished. As always, thanks to the volunteers. And huge thanks to Fred Abramowitz. This was a massive undertaking, essentially staging three separate ultras over the course of the same weekend. While there were glitches with runners getting off course, this guy truly has his heart in the right place and the runner's interests as his top priority. By the time the award ceremony came around he was already working on a list of improvements. I think RRR has the potential to become THE big fall ultra. I wouldn't let this year's mishaps dissuade you if you are considering running. Just beware, you need to be one tough bunny to tackle this one!