Run Rabbit Run runners persist through dark and pain
September 9, 2017
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Running to the top of the gondola was hard, and running what amounted to a full marathon at Emerald Mountain was hard, and running all alone on a high-altitude backcountry trail that felt so remote it may as well have been on the moon was hard.
That wasn't the end of the "hard," either.
The annual Run, Rabbit Run 100-mile race challenged runners from the first step to the last.
Courtney Dauwalter, for instance, started the race slowly, responsibly, but surged through the night, passing the other top women and rushing into first place on the dark, lonely trails on Buffalo Pass.
She blew through the late-night aid station at Dry Creek with confidence and charged into the next section. She was cruising powerfully until something happened in the final stretch of the race — the last 12-mile section that leads runners back to the top of Steamboat Ski Area, then down to the finish line at the base area. Her vision clouded over, and she had to stumble her way through the final miles, falling, on occasion, until she finally reached the finish, capping what was already an incredible run when she could see everything around her.
She ended up sixth, overall, and first among the women, nearly two hours ahead of her nearest competitor, and she did it all in 20 hours, 38 minutes and 9 seconds, within 22 minutes of the course record.
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It was evident early in the race and late: Even when logic may suggest one thing to mere mortals, many ultra runners simply won't quit.
Jim Rebenack won the men's race in 18:44:48 and had his own story of refusing to give into the race, albeit, one lacking quite the immediate drama of Dauwalter's.
The Littleton runner first attempted Run, Rabbit Run's 100-mile course in 2014, and it bested him that year. He found himself at the Summit Lake aid station atop Buffalo Pass, freezing and unable to make the trip down the trail to Dry Lake, where relief awaited.
He came back this year and wasn't to be denied.
He hung behind the leaders early in the race. Mark Hammond led through the middle part of the race, amassing a 15-minute advantage by the 74-mile mark.
Rebenack was stunned when his support crew told him he was in second, then committed to tracking down first. That, he did, slowly through the next 15 miles; then, he cruised down Mount Werner in first, confident, but unable to resist looking over his shoulder for a challenger.
"It's my first completed 100 miler," Rebenack said. "I've been training for this since the beginning of May. You put all this work in. I have a 2-1/2-year-old and a wife, and I was running early in the morning on a treadmill. You work so hard, and to have it pay off is awesome."
Hammond, from Millcreek, Utah, came through in second, and Tucson, Arizona's Charlie Ware was third.
Emma Roca was second for the women, and Becky Kirschen, less than three minutes behind, was third.
It was a strong year for local runners in the 100, and they, too, plowed on through exhaustion.
Devon Olson challenged for third throughout the race and ended up with a fourth-place finish. He crossed the line with his final bit of energy, wobbling into a hug from race staff, then resting on a nearby bench as he wisecracked about everything from blisters on his feet to the lonely length of the high-mountain trails.
Sabrina Stanely, meanwhile, laid down a strong performance in the women's division. She started the race coming off a third-place showing at the prestigious Western States ultra-marathon and hoped to parlay that into a win in what's now her hometown of Steamboat Springs.
That opportunity slipped away in the night with Dauwalter's big performance, but Stanely pushed on. She ran her second half of the race as fast as her first, and that allowed her to move up through the field, from as far back as 43rd, overall, to 18th, overall, fifth in the women's division.
Elsewhere, Chuck Radford won the tortoise division in 23:28:37. Adam Steidler was second and Christopher Harrington third.
Siobhan Prichard was tops among the women in 26:30:54. Kara Diamond-Husmann was second, and Steamboat's Jenny Fox was one of nearly a dozen local finishers, placing third.
Steamboat's Ryan Van Ness was fourth on the men's side. Michael Kelly, Michael Hlavacek, Molly Cuffe, Ryan Larson, Natalie Larson and Filip Boelen all also finished.
Heidi Sauerland, Darren Thomas and Matt Milde all finished the 100-mile race in the hare division.
Oliver Knauer won the 50-mile race in 8:37:03. Dillon Gotshall, another Steamboater, was second and Chris Kudron third. Katie Kissane won the women's race in 9:35:36. Shelby Johnson was second and Dana Kracaw third.