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!