Sunday, February 13, 2011

Rocky Raccoon 100 mile race

8 months of training, a snow storm, and freezing weather dominated on this particular race. for the previous 8 months, I had been running twice a day, with a long 20-26 mile runs on saturdays, running hills, lifting weights, cross training, core training, riding bicycles, stairmaster training, and otherwise spending a record amount of training for the Rocky Raccoon 100 mile race. The week of the race, we were hit with a major snow and ice storm, which made traveling next to impossible. At first, I was just depressed, thinking that all of that training was going to go by the wayside, as I sat and stared out the window at a foot of snow. Traveling was nothing less than harrowing, but there remained a small window of opportunity, as David McCgharen, Gary Garson and I worked out the logistics for trying to get to Huntsville, Texas to the race.

By Friday morning, it was still snowing, but only lightly. We put our heads together, and decided that the Interstate was all but closed, and totally too dangerous to attempt. So, we decided to go south, hitting Highway 36, hoping that the snow and ice would lessen as we moved toward the race site. It took us 2 hours to travel to Cross Plains, which is a little over 30 miles from Abilene. Depressing. However, as we kept going, the roads eventually cleared, and it was clear sailing into Huntsville.

Once we got to Huntsville, we drove to Sam Houston State University, where we picked up our packets and saw some of the best 100 mile runners in the country. Anthony Krupicka was there, Hal Koerner, Scott Jurek, and several other world class 100 milers. We were in awe just seeing them in person. We went to dinner with Deborah Sexton and several other North Texas Trail Runner Club members, of which David and I are members. Then it was off to bed, and I barely slept, unable to contain my enthusiasm for the race the next morning.

It was a 6:00 a.m. start for the 100 mile, 20 degrees, with very little wind, and I made it to the starting line just as they were counting down....and everyone let out a cheer as we took off in the darkness. Along the way, spectators were yelling at us that were "crazy, and insane, and stupid." Maybe we were.

The 100 mile race consisted of five 20 mile loops through the Hunstsville State park. I had completed a 50 mile race on the same course the year before, and I was familiar with the course, although, I would make a major mistake later in this race, that would not reflect my knowledge of the course.

I felt good the first twenty miles, but had to be careful, as the bridges on the course were covered in a layer of ice, and I saw a lady fall on the first bridge, breaking her leg. I took it easy, and came into the start/finish after the first 20 miles, and changed from my cold weather running clothes into shorts...I took off my stocking cap, sweat bottoms, and changed my socks, trying desperately to ward off blister problems that had cut my 24 hour run short in October. I started out on the 40 mile loop, feeling refreshed and ready to go. I kept up a fairly steady pace, eating little, but drinking adequately. I finished the 40 mile loop in virtually the same amount of time: approximately five hours each. We had multiple opportunities to see the world class runners along the route, and it was exciting to see them battling it out.

I took off on my 60 mile loop, feeling frightfully strong and confident. I had to change back into cold weather clothes (sweats, stocking cap, gloves, etc...) because it was getting very cold and dark. I was running strong, walking some of the roughest rooty spots, taking care not to fall, although unsuccesfully. I fell a couple of times, but was not hurt. Suddenly, I saw a runner coming toward me in an unsteady manner, and he fell. I stopped to check on him, and he collapsed unconscious on the ground, and was not moving. I tore off to the next aid station to get help for him, and when I entered the aid station, instead of going around it and continuing on, I made a horrible mistake, and turned around and ventured the same way I had come. I guess I was still thinking about the downed runner. I did not realize my mistake until I was almost almost to the next aid station. I was crushed mentally, although, physically, I was fine. Oh, don't get me wrong, I was hurting, as anyone would be by the 56 mile mark, but mentally, I was not ready to go back in the darkness and try to retrace my steps. I ran the last four miles and called it quits. So, I ended up with 60 good miles...feeling a little embarrassed for making such a silly mistake, and coming away with the knowledge that in a 100 mile race, almost anything can bring you down, despite all the hard training, and mental preparation.

On a lighter note, Gary and David both finished well in their 50 mile race. It was a good time overall, and having good friends there was incredible.

I can't wait to try it again, though. Call me insane, or stupid, or even foolish for taking the wrong turn, but I would do it again, and will.