Monday, February 8, 2010

Rocky Raccoon 50 mile Endurance Run: A Long Day in the Park

Today at 8:01am | Edit Note | Delete
The Rocky Raccoon Endurance run is a 100 mile and 50 mile trail run that winds through the Huntsville State Park. The trails are rooty, somewhat sandy in spots, and there are a few rolling hills that looked worse after the first couple of loops. The 50 mile race consisted of three 16 and 2/3 mile loops. I had been training for this race for the past 6 months. In preparation, I ran two very difficult 50k races: The Louisiana Trails 50k in Shreveport, and Bandera 50k race in the Hill Country. I felt like I was in good condition, but was a little unsure of the distance. Another concern was the rain. It had been raining for several days, and there was concern that the trails were going to be a muddy mess.

On race day, it was 39 degrees at the start and practically no wind. To me, it was a perfect day for a 50 mile run. The high would only get to around 53 according to the weather reports. I ran with a long sleeve technical shirt, trail shorts and a hat and I was comfortable.

I started off fairly conservatively, running easy behind David McCaghran who went with me to the race. I ran the first 16 2/3 mile loop in around 3 hours and 40 minutes and was feeling great. The trails were in pretty good shape considering how much rain they had. There were a few spots that were flooded and pretty sloppy...but otherwise, the trails were runnable. I ran the second loop and was still feeling fine. I came around and started the third loop, stopped and got my light, as the last section of the third loop would be in the dark.

Somewhere around mile 40, it dawned on me that I was weak, tired, and my legs and feet were killing me. My back was sore and getting worse. I had hot spots that I was sure were going to turn into full-blown blisters. I went into the Dam Road Aid Station feeling down. I ate some hot soup there, drank some water, took a few more electrolyte tablets and started off again. Mentally, my game was shot, and I still had 10 miles to go. To make it worse, it was getting cold again. I was shivering, running somewhat alone down the backstretch of Dam road was intense. I could see things moving in the woods. I'm pretty sure it was just a raccoon, but just the thought that alligators are in the park kept me alert. I don't think anybody has ever seen one on a trail race day...but the thought is somewhere deep inside you somewhere.

I forced myself to keep moving, and it was getting dark. I fixed my light, got it just right, stepped into a few mud puddles because I couldn't see to go around. I reached the last Aid Station feeling like I had been hit by a truck. But, I only had 4 and half miles left to go, and somewhere, I reached down and grabbed something from deep within myself and ran pretty well the last few miles. When I reached the wooden footbridges by the lake, I could hear frogs, crickets, and birds and it was like listening to a symphony of nature....and I knew I could not trip on the boards, so I just kept going, willing my legs to finish this race. I finished the race in 13 hours and some change, and crossing the finish line never felt so good.

Afterward, David and I were so tired, and it was getting late, so we ordered a pizza, had a couple of cold Sam Adams, and sacked out.

It was a long day in the park, and today, as I sit here writing this, the pain doesn't seem as bad. You have to possess a short memory to run events like this, because if you remembered the pain exactly as you experienced it during the run, you might not ever run another one. I'm putting this run into the memory banks as I remember it this monday morning....just a long day in the park!