Karl Meltzer speaks at the awards ceremony after the Run Rabbit Run ultramarathon. He won the 100-mile race, his 33rd such title.

Photo by Joel Reichenberger

Karl Meltzer speaks at the awards ceremony after the Run Rabbit Run ultramarathon. He won the 100-mile race, his 33rd such title.

100-mile race full of sweat, stories and surprises

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2012 Run Rabbit Run results

For race results, click here.

— A crowd still roared Saturday as yet another night — the second of the Run Rabbit Run ultramarathon in Steamboat Springs — approached, with runner after runner maintaining pace up to and across the finish line at the base of the ski area in front of persistent onlookers and underneath dying light.

Finishers were marked by the limp in their gait, and the Bear River Bar & Grill played host to finish-line festivities as runners, support crews, friends, family, organizers and volunteers laughed as the beer flowed.

There, the stories bounced off the walls, a different story for every finisher, all combining to tell a tale far longer than the 50- or 100-mile distances the racers completed.

Take the weekend’s champion, men’s top 100-mile finisher Karl Meltzer.

He spent nearly an entire day battling the trail, finally descending down Mount Werner to finish in 19 hours, 16 minutes and 2 seconds. He crossed ahead of all the runners prognosticators — 100-mile runs are a big enough deal that there are, in fact, prognosticators — had picked to beat him.

Meltzer himself hadn’t predicted this, listing himself seventh in a prerace blog and promising race directors before he set off that he had no chance.

But in a race that proved so brutal it destroyed the careful plans of even the elite, everything went exactly as Meltzer had planned.

“It just all clicked,” he said. “I didn’t get lucky. It just all clicked for me.”

A veteran of more than 50 100-mile races and a champion of 33, he’s well aware of what that “click” feels like.

This time, it all worked for him because the fastest runners he expected to win came back to the pack. Meltzer said he didn’t feel great early but grew more comfortable as the race went on. Slowly, he began to pass the event’s other big names, keeping a pace and refusing to get swept away by gamesmanship.

“I was racing the clock, not the other runners,” he said.

He slipped into sixth, then into fourth and finally was in second, running up Spring Creek Trail when he tracked down then-race leader Dylan Bowman.

“I caught up to him, and he started walking,” Meltzer said. “I said, ‘Come on! There’s a long way to go!’ but he just said, ‘I’m alright. It’s cool.’”

Meltzer kept going, pressing his advantage and adding minutes on the field until it was over. He ended up the champ by 40 minutes. Bowman finished second in 19:56:45, and Timothy Olson was third at 20:28:58.

Upon finishing, Bowman said, "That's the hardest thing I've ever done," then went to Meltzer and said "You're the greatest that's ever lived, old man."

Meltzer earned $11,000 for his victory — $10,000 for the victory and another $1,000 for being the top men’s master runner — an unprecedented haul for ultra racing.

Women’s champ Lizzy Hawker had a just as compelling, and perhaps an even more wince-inducing, story.

The 100-mile race was so mind-numbingly difficult only 15 of the 52 runners who started in the Hare division finished.

Hawker said she was only six miles into her 100 the first time she seriously thought she might have to withdraw. She slipped and banged her knee hard on a rock. The pain was too much.

“I went down and when it first happened, it took me four or five minutes to be able to put weight on it again,” she said.

She did keep going to the next aid station, then the station after that. The pain eventually dulled just enough, and she bested her competition, finishing in 22:07:07.

“I was very glad to make the finish,” she said.

Rhonda Claridge was second in 24:05:32, and Leila Degrave was third at 24:41:50.

Stories rang on and on Saturday night, even as more racers finished.

Cameron Clayton won the men’s 50-mile race with a course-record time of 7:09:04. Zeke Tiernan was second at 7:48:40, and Nick Pedatella was third, finishing with as good a story as anyone.

He withdrew after about 25 miles of the 100-mile division because he inadvertently cut a section of trail. To make up for it, he opted to run Saturday’s 50-mile race.

“I may come back next year,” he said. “It’d be nice to actually see the whole course.”

Pam Smith, meanwhile, won the women’s 50, finishing in 8:40:50. Kerrie Bruxvoort was second at 8:47:53, and Silke Koester was third in 9:09:28.

It wasn’t a perfect day. Some runners complained about the course not being well-marked, and that helped derail the Tarahumara runners Miguel Lara and Arnolfo Quimare, neither of whom finished.

Bears even dragged some of the racers’ drop bags into the woods at one aid station.

“We know there were some glitches,” race director Fred Abramowitz said. “I know we’ll be better next year.”

From the great performances to the small mistakes, it all amounted to a room full of great stories.

Michael Schrantz contributed to this story.

To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253 or email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com

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