Yes, I know; a strange name for a dinner, but, when I explain, it will all make sense!
Yesterday was all about a race my brother Sean competed in, called Run Rabbit Run. This was no ordinary race either. This was a 50 mile (no, the zero is not a misprint!) running race starting at the Steamboat Springs, Colorado, ski area, which sits 6,900 feet above sea level. The course would take him up the mountain and through the continental Divide to the peak of Rabbit Ears Mountain, a lofty 10,500 feet, and then snake back down. As if that wasn’t daunting enough in itself, the elevation gain from start to finish was 9,000 feet – WOW!
Who are these crazy people??? I don’t know what the profile is exactly, but it certainly involves seeing how far one can push one’s body without falling apart. We all have our limits but we rarely test them to the max.
My brother has taken on this challenge in the form of Ultra-Running. The whole family grew up very athletic and all of us have managed to continue to take part in sports in one form or another. Sean has taken it to an extreme however. I though I was great to be out there running an average of 25 miles a week, until a few years ago, when he started to take this running thing quite seriously. I think it just sort of crept up and found him. He lives in a place, which doesn’t make sense to be unless you are active, Steamboat Springs, Colorado, which has great skiing in the winter, and hiking and trail running the rest of the year.
He took up running with a running group and before he knew it, he was hooked. He is severely competitive by nature and so wasn’t content to merely run for the fun of it. He wanted to excel, and so started to run longer and longer distances; basically run until he felt like my kitchen (crappy!).
On and on he went like this, running races, and adding distance, until yesterday at 6am it all culminated at the base of a mountain, where he found himself standing amidst 190 runners, ready for the whistle to blow for his first 50 mile race!
Now, I have to say something about 50 miles. There is running 50 miles, and, there is running 50 miles! There is a very slight possibility I could do this on a straight road at a very slight jog, but there is absolutely no way I could do what these runners did yesterday.
Not alone were they starting their first 6 miles by running straight up more than 3,000 feet, and then continuing on down steep trails, and up other steep trails, looping on narrow single tracks, to wider tracks, but also, yesterday, the weather conditions were brutal with a capital B. With cold winds, rain and even snow at times lots of runners conceded to mother nature, and mud drenched trails, and were unfortunately forced to call it a day. That must have been very disappointing.
Sean had trained very hard, and had meticulously made a race plan, enlisting the sound advice of his friends Mike and Matt who were seasoned veterans of ultra-running. After you have trained your body, he knew that his biggest obstacle would be his head. They say that running is 99% mental, and nothing could convince me otherwise. His metal race would make or break him, and he knew it.
We have had great chats over the past few years about training and strategy, and none more intense than the talks we had in the weeks preceding the race. I wished I could have been there to run a bit of the course with him when the going got tough. How could I get into his head and urge him to the finish?
A week ago ( I was out running!) I though that while he was running his race, I could go on a long run and keep him company from a distance! We figured out when he might feel the most vulnerable and at that time I would start running here. I would think about him and send him good vibes, and hopefully, he would feel them, and be spurred on!
So, yesterday at 2.15pm I set out on an 11 mile loop. I took my time, and when I felt like a wimp taking on a hill, I would just think about him, and what he was going through, and I’d sail to the top ( more like row actually!).
I also thought about a good friend of his, Jenna, who won this race in 2009, who had a big influence on his running. She is tragically no longer with us, but I think of her every single time I go for a run. I never had the pleasure of meeting her, but from what my brother has told me she was a powerhouse of energy, and one of the nicest people he has ever known. She has kept me company on many runs, but yesterday was especially meaningful.
I had not run that far in a long time but felt surprisingly good at the end. My legs were sore, but I did it; yeah!
In the early evening I was so distracted thinking about the race that I just couldn’t get dinner started. I was in contact with his girlfriend (Hunny-Bunny! a very apropos name for the day, come to think of it!), and she had seen him at mile 24 and 28 but had no clue where he was after that. I found a semi-live feed of the race’s progress with times posted at aid-stations, and we were able to estimate from looking at his time, and his buddy Mike’s time, when he would arrive at the finish. It was nerve-wracking!
I was holding off on the celebrations until I knew he was safely home, but I did have a good bottle of wine waiting in the wings! Finally, the word came and I got to talk to him. He completed the race, performing above and beyond his expectations. Despite the cruel weather and harsh conditions he conquered the Run Rabbit Run Ultra Marathon in a time of 10.46 – pretty darn amazing (for an oul’ fella!)
I haven’t had a chance to speak to him again before posting this, so have yet to get the nitty, and sure to be, the gritty details, but this is a celebration of the achievement. I am so in awe, and our little rabbit last night paid homage to the race, the runners, my brother Sean, Mike, Matt and the beloved Jenna.
For the Rabbit Dish; You will need: 1 rabbit, jointed into 6 to 8 pieces, 4 tbs extra-virgin olive oil, 1/4 lb bacon, sliced into small pieces, 2 small red onions, diced OR 1 medium/large sweet onion, diced, 1/2 lb white mushrooms, diced, leaves from 1 fresh rosemary sprig, 1 cup white wine, 1 cup chicken broth, 1/3 cup heavy whipping cream, sea-salt & freshly ground pepper for seasoning.
For the Peas & Bacon side-Dish; You will need: 5 pieces of Bacon, sliced thinly, 1 1/2 cups baby peas (I used frozen), 1 tsp chopped rosemary leaves, freshly ground black pepper.
Preheat oven 375*
1 – Wash and dry rabbit. Season with sea-salt and freshly ground black pepper. Put pan on high heat and when it warms, add 2 tbs of oil. When it is hot, add the rabbit pieces in an even layer (do this in batches so as not to crown the pan and prevent browning) and brown on both sides. You will need to add more oil as you go.Transfer to a heavy-lidded casserole, (this will be going into the oven).
2 – Turn heat down to medium and add the chopped bacon to the pan. Cook alone for about 7 minutes before adding the mushrooms, onions and rosemary. Continue to cook for another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3 – Turn heat up to high again and add the wine. Let it bubble until it reduces by half. Add the broth and the cream, and when it comes to a bubble, turn off heat.
4 – Pour mushroom mixture into the waiting casserole on top of the rabbit pieces. Cover with lid and place in the oven for 50 minutes to 1 hour, or until the rabbit meat is very tender.
5 – When rabbit has about 10 minutes left to cook, make the vegetable side-dish. Put the chopped bacon into a pan and cook until crispy. Add the broth and rosemary, and, when it comes to a simmer, add the peas. Cover and simmer for about 3 or 4 minutes
Divide rabbit between 4 warm plates and top with loads of mushrooms. Give everyone a portion of peas. I also served this with rice, but mashed potatoes would be excellent with this also!