Rocky Raccoon 100. Sorry on making everyone wait so long for this report.
I first planned on this race about 18 months ago. I am going to run the Bear 100 this year, and decided starting with an "easier" 100 would be wise. Paul and Cody volunteered to crew/pace me, so we made reservations last August. I did 2 50-milers in preparation and my training was going great… right up until I injured my hips just before Christmas. As a result, in the last 6 weeks before the race, I averaged around 10 miles running per week, but did a ton of cross training and hip exercises. Even one week before the race, I couldn't run more than a few miles due to hip pain, but was still going to race. Davy decided to join us last minute, and we enjoyed his company.
The course is 5, 20-mile loops around Lake Raven in the gorgeous, pine-forested Huntsville State Park in Texas, with 5 aid stations per loop. It is 100% dirt, mostly singletrack, and "relatively" flat, though small rolling hills are everywhere. It isn't rocky, but there are innumerable tree roots that present the main tripping hazard. There was lots of rain the week of the race which resulted in a few muddy spots, but nothing that really slowed me down. If anything, it added a little excitement and enjoyment. Race day weather was absolutely perfect, with a high of 60 deg and low of 40 deg. Sunny, minimal wind. Perfect, especially compared to Cache Valley winter.
My primary goal was simply to finish the race and to learn as much about 100 mile races as possible. Goal 2 was to break 20 hours. Prior to the injury, I had aspirations of 17-18 hours, but that seemed doubtful given my injury and lack of recent training. Being a nerd, I made split projections for each aid station, with a "fast" pace, a "medium" pace, and an "oh-crap-slow" pace. Above all, I knew I wanted to start slow-- there was no such thing as too slow of a start. I was hoping for a 3:00-3:15 first lap, then slowing down about 15 min each lap thereafter. I ended up very close to the “oh-crap-slow” pace for the first 3 laps. I surprisingly slept rather well the night before, and was more excited than nervous. At the start, I met a few famous ultrarunners, including Jamie Donaldson and the Coury brothers, then was ready to go.
We finally started, and I had to force myself a number of times to slow down, but still felt like I was going too fast. I had hoped to run the first lap with Davy, but he took off fast and I quickly lost him in the dark. My time at the first aid station was within one minute of the desired split, though, so that was good. Cody and Paul were waiting to exchange my water bottle- they did a good job of preparing before each station so that I could minimize stopped time. In fact, other than bathroom breaks, I only sat down 3 times (change shoes and put on pants) and often spent less than 1 minute at each station. I usually exchanged my empty water bottle and gel flask for full ones and was off. Paul and Cody were great and really helped, and my fueling system of only EFS gu, Gatorade/Heed, and S-caps worked fine.
**Warning- some of the following is PG rated—you have been warned, so proceed at your own risk**
The first few laps were really a blur. I enjoyed talking to so many wonderful, friendly people—I think I talked to people from at least 20 states (though not one from Texas, interestingly enough). I got to know some of them fairly well, and would play leap frog with a few of them literally dozens of times over the next 20 hours. The first loop went fast; the second loop was a bit slower as I battled a bit of an upset stomach, though I managed to never puke. It was on this loop that I fell for the only time, though had a nice landing in some soft sand. Unfortunately, I really struggled with intestinal issues from miles 15 till 65, stopping 25 times to go number 2. Not an exaggeration, 25 times. Absolutely ridiculous- I was frustrated after 10, then just accepted it. It is safe to say this added at least 60 minutes and up to 90+ minutes to my time, something I will definitely resolve in the future. Lap 1 was 3:11, lap 2 was 3:32. Other than quad pain the whole race, I felt relatively good. Davy ran great, too, such that he was ahead of me all the way through mile 30, and stayed close the whole race such that we kept seeing each other at various locations on the course.
Lap 3 was a definite highpoint. A fair portion of the race often has two way traffic, which was a bit annoying at times, particularly at night when some runners would blind you with their lights. However, there is a 6 mile leg in the middle of the loop that is one way and was my absolute favorite part of the course. It was very isolated and just plain fun, with great singletrack and some decent hills. It was on this loop that I passed the 50 mile mark, officially making this the longest run of my life—and I was only half way! I felt great during this portion of the course and flew along the trails. I had no doubt by this point that, barring any disasters, I would finish the race. I could tell my shoe cushion was less responsive and resulting in some Achilles and arch pain, so I switched shoes at mile 55 (to an identical pair). The two pair of Pearl Izumi Pace shoes I wore the whole time worked perfect, combined with only one pair of Drymax Maximum Protection socks. No blisters or hot spots at all, other than one on top of a middle toe that I didn't even know was there until afterwards. I will never run an ultra in anything but Drymax again- and no, I'm not getting paid to say that. Lap 3 was 3:54.
I had really been counting down to mile 60, since that is where pacers can start. Paul paced me for lap 4 and did a great job. I enjoyed his company and his presence helped motivate me, and I assigned him the duty of saying “Good job” to other runners, saving me a bit of energy. By this point the field was well spread out, but I found extra motivation in the few nearby runners as we leapfrogged each other. It was fun to experience nightfall with Paul, though having to run under headlamps distinctly slowed the pace. My quad pain had increased such that I could no longer run any down hills after mile 75, though flats and up hills were still ok. If anything, I was surprised my quads had lasted so far given my lack of running/pounding in recent weeks to keep my legs strong. Paul handed me off to Cody after a 4:18 loop.
After throwing on some more warm clothes, Cody and I started the final loop. The going was slow and tenuous, but he did his best to be a good sport and humor all my whining and just keep me moving along. I was still enjoying the run, though, and was excited to finish soon. At one point, a distant group of coyotes serenaded us with some strange songs, and the frogs in the lake were also noisy at times. The pace continued to slow through mile 97, at which point my legs could no longer run. It was just physically impossible. We death slogged the rest of the way, though our fuzzy math told us that sub-20 seemed likely. We finally reached the final 100 yard finishing stretch, and I eagerly started my sprint to the finish (actually more of an awkward shuffle). That lasted about 20 yards before my legs informed me that I had started my kick too soon, and they couldn't keep up. We walked again, then I was finally able to shuffle the final 30 yards across the finish line with a 4:49 lap.
My final time was 19:37:54, placing me 28th out of 344 starters. It felt so good to finish, and Joe Prusaitis, the RD, soon arrived to give me my sub-24 hour finisher buckle. I was herded into the warm finishers’ tent where I enjoyed the company of a few other guys while Cody and Paul got me clothes and food. I wanted to stay till Davy finished, but my body began shutting down and I got incredibly cold and kept shivering. I decided to head back to the hotel for a nice shower, and was excited to see Davy arrive shortly thereafter. He ran an amazing race! Paul and Cody were nice enough to get us Wendy's burgers at 4 am, and we finally turned off the light at 4:45 am, exactly 24 hours (to the minute) from when my alarm went off the day before. Then a short, restless sleep and a plane ride home to the family.
Words really can't explain what it feels like to finish the 100- great feeling. And words also can't describe my appreciation for all the people who helped along the way- the RD, all the amazing aid station volunteers, the many participants who provided so much advice and encouragement, Davy for his advice, and especially Cody and Paul for all their help. And a special thanks goes to my wife for allowing me to leave her for a weekend to run some crazy race. Thanks, everyone. Thank you.
Overall, I am very happy with the race. I finished, which is what I set out to do. It would always be nice to run faster, but that is for future races. Between my hip injury, reduced training, and especially my intestinal issues, I should be able to improve my time by several hours next time. Other than general muscle soreness, I don't think I'll have any long term problems from this race, and I'm very excited that my hips held up [better than my quads]. All my gear worked perfectly. I was able to meet so many nice people and spend a day in a beautiful location with great weather doing one of the things I love best. What more could a guy want?
There are a few photos on my family blog.
Next up: More trail races, including the Bear 100 in September. Possibly run either Bighorn 100 in June or Grand Mesa 100 in July, as well. Lots of trail running this summer.
Lessons learned for the future:
There is no such thing as too much toilet paper (nuff said!)
Gu and gatorade/HEED fueling works fine for me (with a few bananas and coke thrown in)
Having a prepared crew really minimizes downtime at aid stations- simple bottle/flask exchanges are best
Drymax socks also rock