Saturday, November 12, 2011

2011 Rocky Raccoon 50KM Race Report

Hello Dear Readers!

Wow what a fun race! The last running race of the year went fairly well for me. I trained hard and my times kept improving so I went into this race really feeling pretty darn good about it!  You can check out my Garmin Page at the website to see how my training has been going.  Unfortunately you will have to create a free Garmin Connect account to see my workouts.  But once your account is there just go to "Explore" and show the advanced search filter and search for "wchoppa".  It will then show all my activities.  I may change this soon so that I can more easily share my data.  Anyway, let's go through the pre-race stuff and then on to the actual race activities!

Day Before Race

I had been having a great taper week before the race.  Times have been great.  Wasn't sick.  Body in pretty good condition as far as the muscles and joints go.  I had order some new shoes for the race that did not come in until I was actually on my way to Huntsville!  I was not very happy with that but it was my fault for waiting till the last minute to get my shoes.  My trail shoes from Rocky Raccoon 100 miler were still in pretty good condition so I brought those.  Hadn't run a huge amount in those recently but they are still pretty serviceable. 

It took about 2 Hours to get up to Huntsville area and I was gabbing with friends on the phone the whole way trying to take it easy and stay hydrated.  I planned on going to the race site on my way to the hotel to pick up my race packet.  I typically go to the race site early on race day to pick up my packet but since I was getting up that way earlier than normal I decided to turn in from the south.  Of course, being the dumb ass I am, I turned in one exit too soon and went 10 miles before I realized I was not where I needed to be!  Of course the running buddy I was talking to kept laughing at my stupidity but I got my self turned around and headed back to the freeway to continue north and take the CORRECT exit to the State Park and the race site.

It was a really nice day and I love the entrance to the park.  Miles of trees and forest and you feel so isolated, which I love!  Not a lot of people were milling about so I got in to get my race packet very fast and headed on up to the hotel. Oh, one thing of note, the race number they gave me was, get ready for it.........


I saw that and my friend on the phone was like.  "Oh oh".  I'm surprised they gave that number out.

Got to the hotel that I always stay at.  Shout out to my friends at the Comfort Suites in Huntsville, Texas!  Great updated hotel that has reasonable rates.

Pre Race Dinner

And now we come to some people's favorite part of my race posts.  My pre-race dinner!  What will Bill eat this time? Will he eat too much?  Will he eat it all?  Well, let me tell you folks, that I was starving and decided to go to the IHOP in Huntsville to get me a big old meal!

Nice little waiter guy sat me down and I immediately started to roll off what I wanted.  Here is the breakdown:

Orange Juice
Clam Chowder for Appetizer (see picture below)

Blueberry Pancakes
Over Medium Eggs
Wheat Toast
Texas Toast Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato sandwich!

Here are some before and after pictures of the main meal:

Let's just say that I almost needed help getting through the door once I was able to move out from the booth.

After dinner I went to the grocery store and bought some Gatorade and ensure for the morning nutrition.  I then headed back to my hotel to get all my race gear organized for the morning.

Hotel Race Preparation

Got to my room and laid out all my race gear for the morning. This is always a good idea so that you if you did forget something, you might have time to run to a store and get it.  It is also good to bring a lot of things in preparation for all possibilities.  Bad weather, too hot, too cold, you get the idea.

Note my lucky number 13!  I planned on not wearing warm pants because while the race was going to start in the 40's it was definitely going to warm up.  So my fleece jacket would keep me warm at least through the first loop of the race. Which by the way starts at 6 AM!!!!!!!  Once I was satisfied that I had it all together, I grabbed my iPad and facebooked for a while and then attempted to drift off to sleep.  Of course, sleep did not come till after 1 AM.  And my 4 alarms were set for 4 AM.  All well, at least I am consistent with how I sleep regularly!

Race Morning

All my alarms jingled at 4 AM and I roused myself out of bed, drank a few ensure bottles and started hydrating again.  Took care of all my morning "business" and got dressed in my gear and headed out the door by 5:15 AM.  the race site is just 10 minutes down the road so I had plenty of time to get there and pick up my timing chip and get my Nathan Hydration Pack full of my Gatorade and other nutritional items.

The race site was set up very well. It was pretty cold for me (about 45 degrees) and there were no clouds or moon in the sky so the stars were awesome!  I placed my cooler of goodies by a tree at the turnaround point (about 15.5 miles) and got in line at the start.  I brought my music player with me and planned on listening to tunes during the entire run.  I wasn't running with anyone I knew. Although some fellow BAM! members and friends of my wife's were racing the 25K, they did not start till 7 AM.  The race gun went off promptly at 6 AM and we were off!!!!


I love the Huntsville course.  It is so darn beautiful!  I started off at a pretty slow pace since it was dark and I was sleepy and was waiting for the caffeine pills to kick in!  I listened to Pink Floyd and just lived in the moment while trying to avoid tripping over roots and rocks that are all over.  This became apparent to me early in the race since there was a guy who fell twice within the first 2 miles of the race.  I felt bad for him since you aren't really supposed to start falling till towards the END of the race when you are really tired.  Not sure if he continued to fall or if he finished at all, but I hope he did!

The sun rose through the trees around 7 AM or so.  The forest was beautiful.  I still was feeling really good and was on pace to break 5 hours like my training was dictating.  Then somewhere near mile 10 I was running along one of the single path stretches (a single path is where the trail is so narrow you have to run in single file) when the guy behind me tripped over a root and fell into me.  We both really didn't go down since my body caught his fall and I naturally did the whole leaping, jumping and scrambling to not hit the dirt.  With the speed of the running and our combined weights, my hamstrings and glutes got nice and strained.  I don't think I tore anything (or at least nothing major), but I was definitely not 100% after that little incident.

My time started to suffer a little after that.  I got my first loop done in 2 hours and 36 minutes.  I knew I was a little behind the 8 ball here but I figured I could make up 6 minutes during the 2nd 15.5 mile loop.  At the turnaround I refilled my hydration pack and stripped off my gloves, hat and fleece jacket. The morning was warm at this point so I didn't need them anymore.  I was very proud that my hydration plan was working well since I actually peed three times during the entire race which is a record for me!

The 2nd loop was pretty hard.  I had a few good miles here and there, but my hamstrings started to really tighten up and the resulting slowdown made 5 hours impossible.  So I laid up and decided to just run and have fun and stop worrying about my time.  Sometimes that makes races fun, but my competitive nature always makes me want to do these things as fast as possible!

On the final stretch I saw the race photographer taking shots so I unclasped my hydration pack so that I could fly my BAM! colors:

My final time was 5 Hours 51 minutes and 18.1 seconds.  Not my best, but not the worst either! Below is a embed of my Garmin data.  If you would like to look at my splits:

Post Race

After the race I was pretty wiped, but I've been worse. I grabbed my cooler and jumped in the car and drove right home all stinky and all.  Legs started cramping up during the 2 hour drive and that was not pleasant.  I drank Gatorade and water all the way home so by the time I got there I was tired but not in as much pain.  I was given a post race finishers plaque that I thought was really nice.

My wife took a look at my shoes and gave me a look that said, "You are not stepping foot in the house till you take those off!"  Do you think she was right:

Well, another race under my belt and even though it was not exactly what I wanted, I still got the experience with my legs.  As I always say, any race good or bad is still a good training session for your next one!  That's all for now.

Tri your best!


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

El Scorcho 2011 Race Report

Hello Dear Readers,

Well another 50K race done and in the books of history.  This race was a first for me on many levels.

1. It started at midnight.
2. It was in a location I had never been to (Fort Worth Trinity Park).
3. It was the hottest race I have ever done.
4. First time I ran shirtless the whole time.

Morning of the Race

All things about this race were different for me.  Since the race started at midnight, I saw no reason for me to get there the day before since the site was a 5 hour drive from Houston.  So I placed the dogs in the kennel for the weekend and headed on up to Fort Worth.  The drive was pretty uneventful, lots of sitting.  Drank 80 ounces of Gatorade since I knew it was going to be one heck of a hot time up there.  Once I got into town and before I checked into the hotel I stopped at the Running Store to get my bib and race packet. I just glanced at my bib and saw that the number matched appropriately to the paperwork and headed out to the hotel.  The fact that I didn't pay super close attention to that bib is part of this story later on!

Arrival in Fort Worth (Otherwise Known as "The Oven")

The first thing I noticed when I pulled into the hotel was that it was HOOOOOOTTTTTT!  Not just Houston hot, but burn the skin off your body and bleach your bones the sun is so intense hot! My car agreed:

Not sure what the heat index was but the ambient at 106 degrees made me really hope it dips a lot before the race start!

Once I arrived I got a free hotel room at the Residence Inn (literally next to the race sight) using my points.  After I got all checked in a situated I went to IHOP and had my usual pre-race calorie fest:

Once I finished my gluttonous endeavor, I went back to the hotel room and slept from 5 PM till 9 PM.  I was planning on sleeping longer, but I was too excited!

Race Evening

I got some of my gear laid out and decided to take a walk over to the race site to see if it is close enough for me to not drive.  The park where the race course is was literally just over a hill right next to the hotel.  As I searched for the race start area, I found cones and markings for the run course and noticed that Trinity Park was pitch black dark most of the time!  They weren't kidding when they said the course was only partially lit and you would need to bring a head lamp.  After about 10 minutes of walking I saw the race site in the distance and decided that while it technically WAS within walking distance, anything over 10 minutes is NOT something I will be wanting to do after running 50K.  So I turned around and walked back to the hotel to get dressed and hydrated some more and then waited till 11 PM or so till I left and drove to the race site.  This is when U noticed that there was something wrong with my bib.  It said I was only in the 25K!  I was like, OH CRAP!  So I got on the horn with the race directory (Who is one of the coolest guys I know) and he said to just check in with him when I get there and he will get me all fixed up.  PHEW!!!

Oh and you may recall me mentioning the hope that the temperature drops significantly?  Well..............

Arrival at Race Site

I pulled into the parking lot and got a gander at all the other runners competing in the race.  This is why I love ultras.  Such a awesome mix of people.  Some were dressed with costumes while almost all the guys were shirtless.  I was thinking about going shirtless myself and that sealed the deal for me.  I parked, got out my cooler of Gatorade and hydration pack and headed over to the race start to find the Ryan (Race Director).  I couldn't find him (as he was busy directing, DUH!) and was directed to the timing chip people.  They said to race with the same number, but they changed the entry in the computer to show my chip as a 50K racer instead of a 25K.  So at least that problem was solved.

As I walked around to find a tree to dump my cooler I saw people had brought chairs and tents and canopies.  Families with their kids were there.  Music was playing and there was a guy walking around with a microphone announcing stuff and generally having a good time.  The guy with the microphone walked up to me and asked me some questions about my race history and any tips I could give the new runners, etc.  I gave him a few answers that I thought were appropriate.  I am normally a chatty Kathy but not tonight!

I did finally run into Ryan and Jason (the two race directors).  They were gracious as always and wished me great luck during the race.  I first met these two at Bandera 100K and the Sunmart 50 miler a few years back and we raced together.  That's the thing about these races.  You meet people and you make new friends! 

Race Start

The Race

This race is comprised of a 5K loop.  So we run this loop 10 times.  There were water stations every mile or so and the volunteers were great!  The moon was nearly full and it had risen just after the race start.  This was really cool because it was so bright I didn't need my headlamp after the first loop.  Here is a aerial shot of the course with my GPS data:

First 3 or so laps were pretty uneventful.  It was really really hot so I was sucking on my hydration pack like it was going out of style.  My GPS was telling me I was on a sub 5 hour pace which was my goal for this race.  Felt good, legs were fresh and I was having a heck of a good time! At the end of lap 3 Ryan and Jason came along side and asked how I was feeling, I was like "I'm doing great!" and they said "Let's see how you are feeling at lap 8".

Laps 4 through 7 were your age old laps.  As the distance piled up it got harder.  The night did cool as it went on and that was a relief.  I met a lot of interesting people.  The race really thinned out once the 25K racers finished and it was only us 50K racers left.  I actually raced with music and listened to Pink Floyd (Dark Side of the Moon and the Wall) for some of the time.  With the moon looking over me that music seemed appropriate.

When lap 8 came about I understood what Ryan was saying.  It definitely got tough.  But I've been there before with some longer distances and was able to run through that low point.  By the time I got to the last lap the sun was getting ready to rise.  The night got brighter and the world came alive again.  My last lap was actually pretty fast compared to the earlier ones and my final mile was sub 10 minute (which by that time was pretty good for me)!

I cam running through the finish line at 5:45 AM and got all my swag, which included a cool (and large) finishers medal and a 50K finishers pin (see below):

Post Race

I hung around a bit after the race and chatted with the race director's and let them know that I will definitely be doing this one again!  I high tailed it out of there since I had to check out of my hotel at 1 PM and wanted to get a few hours of shuteye before my 5 hour drive home.  It's been a week or so since the race and I'm already pretty recovered and have started adding the miles again. I am probably going to do the Rocky Raccoon 50K race in the fall before doing the 100 miler in February.  So keep checking my training page to see the GPS data I send and of course friend me on Facebook if you like ( or just search for William Choppa)!

Until next time...

Tri your best!


Thursday, May 26, 2011

Memorial Hermann Ironman Texas 2011 Race Report

Hello dear readers!

Wow, that was a tough one!  Competing in the inaugural Memorial Hermann Ironman Texas was a challenging experience to say the least.  I finished in 13 hours and 15 minutes.   I did have some issues (more on that later) though. Not what I was hoping for, but overall I was pretty happy with the race. 

Day Before the Race

I stayed up at a hotel the night before the race so that I would not have to get up at 2 in the morning to be at the race site on time.  I had a little bit of race drama on Thursday.  Turns out, I was supposed to be checked in by Thursday at 4 PM, but I got back from work travel late Wednesday night and just "assumed" I could register on Friday.  So going through the race packet, I saw that registration was closed after Thursday and I almost had a heart attack thinking I was totally screwed!  I started looking at the Ironman website for a contact number and got a hold of a race official who let me know that it was fine for me to check in on Friday.  She said that sometimes people's travel gets screwed up so they make a few exceptions to let those people check in on Friday.  THANK GOODNESS!

After successfully registering I bought a few items at the Ironman Expo and got my bike checked into the transition area and dropped off my bike and run gear bags.   

 I ran into a few buddies I train with as well as a few fellow members of the BAM! triathlon club.  Of course my Ultra Running buddies Roland and Daniel were there and yes they both became Ironmen!  Here is a pic of the transition area with all the bikes checked in for the most part.  Such a sight to see!

 I had my usual pre-race dinner at Denny's:

You may notice that this is not the usual calorie fest I normally eat.  I decided to be a little conservative this time around and not have 10 pounds of food in my gut on race morning.  I then went back to the hotel room, relaxed a bit and got everything laid out for race morning.  I actually got to sleep before midnight and had 3 alarms set for 3:30 AM the next morning.
Race Morning

All 3 alarms went off at 3:30 AM just as planned.  It wakes you up when you have to run around a room turning off alarms.  It's a nice warm up!  I proceeded to get my morning breakfast in.  This consisted of:
  • Muscle Milk
  • Nutri Grain Bar
  • 2 Bananas
  • Coffee
  • Gatorade
  • Water
With my reserves topped off, I packed up my run and bike special needs bags and headed out the door to get to the race site.

Parking was a huge pain in the butt this time around.  I had to park in a mall parking lot like a mile from the transition area.  So I kept walking and walking and was looking around me at all the faces.  You can always tell the first timers.  They have a deer in the headlights look and are so nervous they can hardly talk.  I walked with one young man and gave him some pointers to calm him down a bit.  The typical stuff such as "Just look at it as a long training day, not a race." etc. etc.

I handed off my special needs bags to the volunteers and headed out to the swim start area with some fellow BAM! members.  The race officials were supposed to close the transition area at 6:15 AM but instead moved it up to 6 AM.  I feel bad for anyone who got there last minute and had to frantically get over to the swim start.  Oh, and the swim start was yet ANOTHER mile away!  So the race hadn't even started yet and I was already 2 miles in!


Once I got to the swim start I changed into my speed skin.  I ran into Chris Hamblin (who is now a IRONMAN!) and we chatted it up a while as we got ready for the swim start.  I found some convenient bushes to avoid the hundreds of people waiting in the porta potty line.  Thank you evolution for allowing me to relieve myself standing up!

As the pros moved into the water, we started lining up at the swim entrance for the age group start.  I was just standing there and one of the event camera people told me to look at her and she took my picture.

It's a mass start so over 2000 competitors need to get into the water at the same time.  They divided the line up as two groups: Wetsuit and Non-Wetsuit.  The reason for this is that the temperature was over 76 degrees.  USAT rules state that if the temperature is over 76 degrees you may wear a wetsuit but you will not be eligible for prizes or Kona slots etc.  This is where I had my first issue of the day.

What do you mean I am not legal?

So I get into the non-wetsuit line and the race official who was checking us said I wasn’t legal. I looked at him and said, “This specific manufacturer and speed suit model is listed as USAT legal on the Ironman website.”  He would have none of it and said either take it off or get in the wetsuit line.  It pissed me off since I just dropped a good amount of change on this suit for this specific race.  If I had known that their own website was wrong, I would have warn my wetsuit!  So I obligingly got into the wetsuit line and headed out into the water, grumbling to myself how I was going to write a “Strongly worded letter” to the WTC people complaining about this.  Who knows, maybe they can comp me the cost of the suit?

Once we were all in the water and the start time was approaching the song that all of us love started playing.  That song of course was Black Sabbath’s “Ironman”.  It gets your blood pumping every time!  Of course then the gun goes off and the pummeling of 2500 athletes was under way!

 I’ve talked about this before, but I have to mention it again.  A mass start Ironman swim is rough.  It is even rougher when the swim course is as narrow as this one was.  You get punched, kicked, grabbed, pushed and I’m not sure, but I might have been close to getting violated at one point!  OK, just kidding about the last part.  But suffice to say it was really hard for me to get into a smooth rhythm.  I’d get going and I would then run into someone which would stop me and then the person behind would run into me.  So it was a set of constant starts and stops for the first half mile or so before I could get into any open water.
After what seemed like a lifetime, I finally climbed the ladder out of the canal and headed into Transition 1.  My time at that point was about 1 hour and 28 minutes.  Not as fast as I normally would do this distance, but I felt really good and was excited to get out on the bike course.

Transition 1

The first transition took about a little under 10 minutes.  I got my gear bag which contained all my bike stuff such as helmet, shoes, body glide, sunscreen, glasses, etc.  Ran into the men’s changing tent and threw my swim gear into the bike bag and put all my bike gear on.  I then ran over to the sunscreen girls and they did a great job of coating me with thick sun screen.  Then it was off to grab my bike off the rack and onto the road!

The Bike

Riding 112 miles is hard any time of the year, but it is especially difficult in hot conditions.  Fortunately, the sun was behind the clouds so while the temperature and humidity was high, it could have been a lot worse.  We had a good amount of wind out there, but again, I’ve ridden in worse. 
I knew from the first few miles of the bike I was going to have a good day.  I was roaring down the road passing people left and right.  My heart rate was good and I was really stoked.  And then the second issue I had with how the race went happened.

At an intersection of 1488 (maybe 10 miles in), the police stopped all bike traffic.  You might think that this is a minor issue, but to me it was.  The whole point of paying the police to direct traffic is so that the bikers are the ones who have the right of way and the cars are the ones who stop.  Plus the fact that all that effort to get ahead of other riders was erased since the police made us stay there for at least 5 minutes.  I figure there were about 500 cyclists all jammed up at that intersection.  Also it is a safety hazard in my opinion because there was a 90 degree turn right after that intersection and there were some close calls for crashes since we were just a few inches from each other.  I could see a domino effect happening easily.  Fortunately it didn’t.

After the 1488 fiasco the rest of the bike portion was pretty good as far as my speed and endurance went.  I pushed but not too crazy.  At one point I went 36 miles per hour on one of the down hills.  

 That was fun.  But of course, now comes the third issue I had during the race.  The damned Ironman Perform drink.

In years past, Ironman races offered Gatorade Endurance Formula during races.  It tastes great and is tolerated well by my system.  Then last year Ironman announced that they no longer would be serving Gatorade but their own product they developed with Power Bar called Ironman Perform.  This is not a product you can buy at the grocery store, but order online or get from a specialty store like a bike shop.  So what is my issue?  Well to put it mildly, it tastes like doo doo!  Too sweet and when I drink a lot of it, I get sick.  Talking with some fellow triathletes, they know this is a common issue.  I did train with the product here and there, but I used the powder version and the ready to drink formula they used at the race was much more concentrated and sweeter.  Anyway, my first 50 miles or so was on the Gatorade I carried with me on the bike and then I switched to the Perform drink.  I started having trouble with my gut around mile 80 and I had not really peed again so I knew I was in trouble.  I tried to drink more water and so forth but my gut was just not cooperating.  This is a rookie mistake.  I should have stopped, and started chugging until my stomach emptied but I was too focused on keeping my time good on the bike and I figured I could recover on the run.  In the meantime, I had to focus on getting the bike course completed.

The last 20 miles or so were a hassle for me because the traffic got pretty bad with cars.  Some of the roads were so narrow, I actually had to wait behind cars!  You have no idea how pissed off I was that I was doing such great time and had to stop or slow waaaaaaay down several times to wait for cars to get out of the way.  I was not a happy camper!

I pressed on and finished the bike in 5 hours and 41 minutes.  That was an average of 19.6 MPH!  If it hadn’t been for all the car traffic issues, I am sure it would have been closer or over to 20 MPH!  Fastest bike split at this distance I have ever done!

Transition 2

I got off the bike and grabbed my run gear bag and headed into the changing tent.  

It was SOOOOOO HOT in there!  So here I am, dehydrated and sickly and I’m inside a 100+ degree tent.  I did my best to get changed as quickly as I could and got out of there.  Total time in transition 2 was 9:21.

The Marathon

Now here comes the fun part (NOT!).  In a few words, I was basically sick to my stomach the whole run.  I know it was due to my poor hydration and nutrition plan going out the window.  I couldn’t really keep anything down and I was really overheated.  I ran with Daniel for a few miles, but he was in better a better situation than myself so I told him to go for a great time and I would plod along myself.  Here's a pic of us together....

I knew I could finish, but I was not sure how fast.  I arrived out of transition in about 7 hours and 30 minutes for the run, a personal record!  I had all the time in the world to do the marathon so I could walk it in if I had to and still get done in under the 17 hour time limit.

So how did I survive?  Well the first thing you have to take care of is the overheating.  It was in the 90s at this point so at every water stop I took several ice sponges and put some down my back and in the front and then took a cup of ice and placed it under my cap.

After 10 miles or so I started feeling a bit better and could drink some cola and eat some chips but that was about it.  At this point I was doing a walk/shuffle strategy.  Walk for a while, and then shuffle for a while and I basically did this over and over again throughout the 26.2 mile run.

The crowds were awesome.  People were everywhere and there are a few miles before you got downtown during the three loops of the run that you ran by restaurants that were serving alcohol. So I had all these drunk folks cheering me on and it was all great fun!  I was offered so much alcohol during the run but had to pass.  There was one group of young women in bikinis giving away free hugs! I also remember one guy with a speedo and a grass skirt chasing us around telling us to go faster. By the time I got to the finisher shoot I was really cooking and feeling pretty good!

After sprinting against a little guy from Mexico at the finish line (you will see that we basically are there at the same time), I finally did finish the marathon in 5 hours and 46 minutes for my total time of 13 hours and 15 minutes.

I got pulled aside and given some water and a guy guided me towards the back of the area for getting my finisher picture and timing chip retrieval.  I was pretty dazed and the guy kept asking if I needed to go to the medical tent.  I said I was fine and he plopped me in front of the photographer who said "Pose!".  So I gave him a little flex and of course the flash happened when my eyes were closed.  I actually think this is really funny!

It always seems to me that the marathon portion of an Ironman is a time of reflection.  This is especially true when the race isn’t going as planned and you are going really slow and all you have is time with your own thoughts.  I thought about my training so far this year and the things I did right and wrong.  I thought about my family and all the time I spent away training for long hours on the bike and runs.  I am really thankful I have such a beautiful and understanding network of family and friends who support this obsession!

I know this post was long, but I thought you would all find this enjoyable.  That's the last triathlon I will be doing this year.  I am now switching to ultra running mode and will do some long running races and yes I think I will compete in the Rocky Raccoon 100 mile race again next year.  I HAVE TO GET THAT BUCKLE!

That's all for now. 

Tri your best!


Friday, May 20, 2011

Ironman Texas Here We Go!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Hello Dear Readers!

I am so excited to be racing tomorrow.  For those who need a catch up, I am competing in the Memorial Herman Ironman Texas race.  That's 2.4 miles of swimming, 112 miles of biking and 26.2 miles of running.  I feel really good about this race.  I  have rode on the harder parts of the bike course several times.  I have swum without a wetsuit to the proper distances.  I have a much better base of running as well.  Could this be the fastest one I have ever done?  I am hopeful.  But this race will be really hot and very windy.  These conditions are not conducive for me to have a fast set of splits.  But I am going to really focus on keeping my core cool and taking it easy so that I have lots of energy left for the run.

I'd like to do a shout out to my buddies Roland and Danny.  I trained with them a bit for this race and I think those young whipper snappers will do really well for their first Ironman distance race!  Good luck guys and I will see you at the start tomorrow!

As always, I want to thank my coach, Kevin Landry, for giving me great advice and training plans to prepare for this race.

And of course, what post would be complete without thanking my beautiful wife, Denise, for all her support.  There is a reason why they call women married to Ironman athletes "Ironman Widows".  Long hours away on the bike or running, bad moods and the crazy stress of race week.  Thanks honey for hanging in there with me and I promise we will go on a vacation together sometime soon!

Well, I got the alarm set for 3:30 AM and I need to start trying to wind down for bed.  I'll post a race report later.  Until then.....

Tri your best!


Sunday, February 13, 2011

I Fought the Raccoon and the Raccoon Won!

Hello my Friends!

It's been one heck of a start for 2011! This upcoming racing season will be a mixture of races and training and starting this year, intermediate level advising for the BAM! triathletes.  But first, we need to talk about my experience at the Rocky Raccoon 100 Mile Endurance race.

About Rocky Raccoon 100

Rocky is a wonderful event.  It's comprised of five 20 mile loops through the heavily wooded forest of Sam Houston State Park, in Huntsville.  It is extremely well run and the aid stations are some of the best I have seen.  The Terrain is comprised of a single track and rolling hills. Much better conditions than Bandera for example.

You have 30 Hours to complete the 100 miles.  The ultra running community is all about helping each other finish so this was a great event for me to attempt my first 100 mile running race.

Sickness and Injury

I had a bit of bad luck in the weeks leading up to this race.  If you look at my training data at my website, you will see that I was doing my 30 mile training runs really well and things were humming along wonderfully.  Then I injured my calf.  We think it was just a simple overuse injury and in the days leading up to the race, I dialed back on my training significantly.  Then to top it all off, the Saturday before the race, I moved my stepson into his new apartment and caught a nasty cold!  He had been sick and of course, I touched everything he touched.  Both my wife and I were pretty down in the sickly dumps for at least 4 days.  I went to the doctor and got on some antibiotics and hoped for the best that I would be recovered by race day.  More on this later in the report.

The Night Before

We had some really bad weather in Houston in the days coming up to the race and the morning I was to drive up there we had a ice storm that closed a lot of the freeway.  I was worried for a while that I wouldn't be able to make the 90 minute drive to the hotel I was staying at but it turned out the weather turned nicer and all was fine.  I made some stops on the way there to pick up some last supplies and got to the hotel late in the afternoon.  I checked in and went to the local University to pick up my race packet.  Getting there was a bit of an adventure because the university is pretty huge and it was not obvious where the building was to pick up my stuff.  I did get there eventually and I was assigned number 85.

After organizing my gear some in the hotel room I went to the local Denny's and got me my usual pre-race huge breakfast.  I didn't eat as much as I normally would, and that probably was the first sign that things might not go as planned.  Anyway, I got to bed at a reasonable time and set my cellphone alarm, watch alarm, hotel room alarm and registered a wake up call with the hotel lobby.

Race Morning

I received all my "alarms" at 4 AM that morning.  The race started at 6 so I wanted to make sure I checked in at 5 AM or so.  I drank a few Muscle Milks and some coffee.  Those of you who have ready my previous exploits know that one of the most important things to do before a race is to "get all your morning functions" completed as much as possible!  Coffee helps!

I got to the race site at 5 AM as planned and checked in.  It was a very cold morning (for the south Texas area that is).  I think it was around 20 degrees.  But the sky was clear and the moon was beautiful.

Race Start

There were quite a lot of competitors in this race.  It is international and there were pro's here like Scott Jurek.  Scott, by the way is a legend in Ultra running circles.  He even gave Roland and I encouragement a few times during the race!  I think it was over 300 competitors.  The race start was really cool because the trail is narrow and single track we had a train of runners that kept us basically walking the first few miles.  I was cold starting out but once I got moving thing were just fine.  I felt pretty good at this point and was looking forward to a long and beautiful racing day!

Loop One

The first 20 miles of loop one were really great!  I started out nice and slow and kept myself at around a 12 minute per mile pace.  This is super slow for road running, but for a trail race that is going to last 30 hours or so, it is actually a fast pace for an amateur like me. 

A New Friend

One of the things I love about this sport is the people I meet.  One guy I met and ran with the whole time I was in this race was a fellow named Roland Gomez.  He's a really great guy. Over the course of the day we talked a ton about lots of different things.  I am a bit older (NOT GOING TO SAY HOW MUCH BECAUSE I AM NOT OLD DAMMIT!), so I gave him whatever advice I could to make sure he had a pleasant and successful race.  He was really gracious and thanked me a lot for my advice.  The sun came up and the day became as beautiful as I thought it would be.  We finished the first 20 miles in about 4 hours and change and we both felt really good!

Loop Two

Ironman Memorial Texas coming up in July, I was worried that if I overstressed too much, I would not be prepared for that race.

As we got within a few miles of the end of the 2nd loop, I told Roland he was going to have to finish alone.  He was disappointed, as was I, that we would not be finishing together, but something inside me knew that he was going to complete this distance no problem and with time to spare!  We entered the turnaround area and Roland and I exchanged info and I told the race officials that I was pulling out.  They tried to change my mind, but I just was so mentally checked out at that point it was no use. 

I grabbed my things, headed to the car and drove back to my hotel to sleep for a few hours before heading home.


 I absolutely, positively HATE DNFing a event.  But sometimes you have to make the smart call.  I was in the doldrums for a while after this race.  But I have learned quite a bit in hindsight.  Should I have attempted this race at all?  Maybe not, but those of you who know me, know that I HAD TO AT LEAST TRY!  It was a great experience even though it ended badly.  And I made a new friend.  By the way, Roland is also competing in the same Ironman race in July as me.  I hope he and I can get to training together here and there and maybe even race together!

OH, and what happened to Roland?  He finished the 100 miles in 27 hours and change.  He truly is a ultimate endurance athlete and I am proud to say that I ran with him.

That's all for now....

Tri your best!