Thursday, February 14, 2008

Rocky Racoon 100 mile: Race Report

We (Tanya, Jeannette and I ) arrived in Houston early Friday morning at 2 am. At the Avis car rental desk, during casual conversation the attendant asked where we were going. We said Huntsville, he replied "for what? You know that's where the Big house is, don't you"? I said in a low tone "the Big House"? He replied Ya! Man! The State Penn! more people have been put to death there than in any other place in the US! We said hugh, well we are going there to run a 100 mile endurance run. He looked puzzled, paused, then with a slight smile said "you folks crazy or something"! I don't think we responded to that, we just got our keys and said "later". But in the back of my mind I was wondering how close was this "Big House" to the trail. What if there was a prison break. What if fugatives where loose on the trail. Things that make you go "hmmm".

We made it to motel 6 in Huntsville without incident and just crashed. We slept late and headed to Starbucks, we had the pleasure of meeting Ralph Hirt a fellow ultrarunners. He shared some running stories and a bit of wisdom. He was in his 70's and was also running the 100. I thought that was inspirational. So many people in today's society are so lazy, he has the right to take it easy, but no way, he is out there challenging himself.

Later that evening we went to the lodge picked up our bibs, attended the prerace briefing and broke bread at the dinner with other runners. During this time a bit of anxiety was begining to build within me. This would be my second time at RR100 and the last time ended up in a DNF. Which happened at the Dam road Aid station on the 4th loop. I did not want that to happen again, but I couldn't stop thinking about getting to that point in the race and would I be able to push through.

After a satisfying dinner we went back to our hotel to get some rest, I continued to hydrate; though I knew that would mean bathroom trips through the night. But I wanted my body saturated and well hydrated for Saturday.

Tanya and I finished packing our drop bags, set our running clothes out and were in bed by 8pm. I put in ear plugs to cut unwanted sounds and slept like a baby, but 4 am sure did come fast. After showering, and eating breakfast which consisted of a banana and a bagel with peanut butter and jelly we drove to the start. The buzz was begining, and I began to feel a little stressed. I just wanted to finish this race, and the anticipation of getting started and being able to push through those tough times was bugging me. I knew there was going to be tough times, mostly mentally, but they hurt just as bad as physical pain. I gave Tanya a kiss and at 6am we were off.

Loop 1: 4:01:53 My plan was to run as easy and as effortless as possible. My intention was to feel my body out on loop 1 and purposely keep my pace down. I have a tendency at times to go out faster than I want to; then pay for it later in the race. I wanted to start out slow which in the past has allowed me to finish races strong. The race started in darkness so we needed flashlights, and the first 1/2 mile was a slight incline so I walked. A few runners commented "walking already?", but I had a plan. The sun rose quickly, and by the first aid station I put my light away. I was feeling great. The morning was crispy and cool, perfect running weather. My words of the day were "focused fun", which meant to me running with a focus. I wanted to be aware of my body at all times, not falling behind on hydration or calories, etc..; but at the same time having fun. I wanted to talk and smile and enjoy the day doing what I have come to love "running". I usually run with a garmin and monitor my pace, but I decided to wear a timex and just record my splits per lap. This I figured would allow me to just flow and not be to over conscious of how fast my pace was, and later in the race how SLOW it would be. My goal was to run loop 1 in about 5 hours. I ended running faster than I wanted to; but didn't feel it hurt me to much. I still wanted to run loop 2 slower and closer to 5 hours so I slowed down.

Loop 2: 4:28:58 Tanya and I usually run races together, though she is faster than I we enjoy each others company. Today we decided to run our own races, and enjoy seeing each other periodically on the course. I thought about loop 1 and going faster than I had wanted, but we usually run as selfcontained as possible. We carry most of our food and wear a hydration pack, which allowed me to spend minimal time in the aid stations. That allowed me to save time on the loops. I finished loop 2 still a little faster than I wanted to, but felt good about it. My body was feeling good, no aches, just good vibrations. But, the sun was shinining bright and the temperature was rising, and loop 3 would be run in the heat of the day.

Loop 3: 5:31:53 After loop 2 approximately 40 miles I decided to redress my feet and change socks. It was a good idea. I also took off my Moeben sleeves which are incredible. I tend to run hot, and these sleeves really help me control my body temp. If I get cool, slide them up. If I get hot, slide them down, simple as that. I also decided to put ice in a bandana and wear it around my neck, man did it help. Did I mention the race is called Rocky, but the truth is it should be called Rooty (is that a word LOL). Roots cover the course, big ones, small ones and hidden ones. It was on this loop that I got up and personal with one. I was in a nice rythem heading to the Far side aid station, and bam before I could react I was on my back like a turtle looking up at the pine trees. I'm fortunate it happened so quickly I didn't try to stop myself from falling. A few runners stopped to help me to my feet, I wiped the dirt off. Then like a ultra soldier I was back to the task of finishing loop 3 . To those that helped me to my feet thanks, also all day runners were saying hi Marc, and I often didn't know there names. I'm sorry for that; but I do appreciate the LOVE!

Loop 4: 6:07:14 Tanya and I joined forces somewhere between the end of loop 3 and the begining of loop 4. We stayed together through the night. It was getting close to the point in the race where I called it an early night in 2007. I was feeling great, I had been hydrating well all day and eating consistently; my overall attitude was good. I had only one concern, that was finishing loop 4. I knew in my heart if I get loop 4 done; there was nothing that was going to stop me from finishing this 100 miler. Tanya was also feeling great, so she took the lead and kept us moving forward. This loop was run completely in the dark, and when I say the night was pitch black I mean it. We placed our hands over our headlamps to just see how dark it was and we literally disappeared from sight. We stopped a few times when we would hear rustling in the brush alongside the trail, then shine our flashlight towards the sound. To our suprise we spottd armadillos, kinda funny loooking animals, but cute also. Towards the end of loop 4, I started to feel the fatigue set in, the night was not as cool as we expected, and I had to actually take off my long sleeve shirt. My feet began to ache , I planned on changing socks and shoes at the begining of loop 5.

Loop 5: 6:37:29 It is around 3 am and we were about to start our 5th and Final Loop" Praise the Lord"! I rested at the Lodge, and redressed my feet, put on new socks and shoes. A new man! But as we pushed out in to the night, that good feeling did not last long, and my feet went from sore to extreme pain very quickly. By the time we made it to the Dam road aid station my feet were srceaming and my pace was slowing. Though I did not like this section out to the Far side aid station (those 2.9 miles felt like forever), I knew when we made it back to the Dam road it was only 7 miles to the finish, and I was dammed if my feet were going to stop me. After a short break we headed toward the Far side, and my feet felt like they were on fire. Every step felt like needles being jammed into the ball of my feet. I talked to my feet, not tonight, I'm not having it, and some how I was able to block the pain and we knocked that 6 mile section out in 2 hours 3 mins. The aid station volunteer commented that 2:03 was probably the fastest time anyone had covered that section at this point in the race. Those words pepped us up a little. Only 7 more miles to go! Tanya was ready and raring to finish strong, and I was a walking/running zombie. I wasn't tired. I wasn't energized. I was just there moving forward, kinda floating. I just felt like that for the next 3 miles, then we started passing people, that always has a way of picking up my spirits. It didn't last long, we passed the last aid station, and I was exhausted. Tanya had kept us moving most of the night, and she wanted to rock and roll to the finish. But I was in a real low period and began to bitch about her going to fast. I knew she would stay with me if I wanted her too. I didn't want to hold her back, so I told her to go ahead. I started feeling sorry for myself, only 3 miles to go, but I couldn't get my feet or my mind moving. I was just dragging, I had lost my "focused fun" then an important person in history came to my mind, it was Harriet Tubman. Harriet Tubman was an escaped slave herself, who led hundreds of slaves to the free north by way of the underground railroad. I regained my focus, and said to myself, I choose to be out here tonight testing my limits because "I'm free to". Many african americans in the not so long ago past had to travel by night thousands of miles not because they wanted to, but because they had to. They had an innate desire to be free and were willing to risk all, even their own life to achieve it "Freedom". All of a sudden my feet didn't hurt so bad and the last 3 miles didn't seem so challenging. I took a deep breath, sucked it up, and jogged to the finish. I recieved my buckle, and though I was hurting, I never felt so good. Finish time: 26:47:28 100 mile PR by 2 hours 3 minutes

Tanya finished in 26:32 so she was there at the finish waiting for me. She grabbed me a chair and I sunk into it. Then she gave me a big kiss and gave me a recovery drink. I had gotten the "Monkey off my back". I had improved my ratio of 100 mile finishes. The 3 previous had ended in DNF's; but not today. Jeannette congratulated me, but her run had come to an end at mile 80, she hadn't made the 6am cutoff. Disappointing, she'll be back, she's a trooper.

I want to thank the RD and the volunteers, they sure know how to put on a race. The aid stations had the happiest and nicest people. Nothing but words of encouragement, all day and night long. It was evident they took pride, the stations where always organized and clean, the food was fresh, and the home made dishes (soup, spaghetti, beans and rice, etc...) where great. Anyone reading this report, who has contemplated running a 100 miler, come on down to Huntsville, Texas and run the Rocky Raccoon 100 you'll be glad you did. Oh yea, they have a very generous time limit on a 50 mile race too.



Maurice said...

I have been anxiously awaiting your RR 100 race report. I knew you both had finished in grand style, but of course wanted to hear the details. Great job and I look forward to meeting you two tomorrow in Apache Junction.

GandaMan said...

Great run, Marc. I enjoyed see you during the first part of your run (and all of my 50 mile run). Next year, I'm going for 100. Hopefully, I will see you in Huntsville again, amigo.

kelly said...

Congrats to both of you at RR100!! I really enjoyed your race report. Keep up the good work!

saucony running shoes said...

This is a good race report. the detailed is clear and interesting.