Friday, February 12, 2010

Rocky Raccoon 50 miler Lap 3: A victory lap leading to a sub 10 hour finish

Rocky Raccoon in 2009 was the last time I interacted with my mom.

During the race I thought about this alot. I know she was present along the course cheering me on in spirit which definitely enabled me to run this race very fast.

A week after last year's Rocky Raccoon she had an unexplained car accident that put her in the hospital for 3 days (my sister and I only knew about this after receiving medicare bills after she passed away). Because she was a campground host at a park that did not have decent cell phone service I was not alarmed by the lack of communication because I had assumed the dog tag she wore as a necklace would ensure I was contacted if she was unable to communicate effectively. Sadly this did not occur.

After her car accident she did not recover and ultimately she passed away from a catastrophic stroke Memorial Day.

Here is my friend Jenny C. who was running the 100 miler this year.

Last year Jenny was the 2nd place female and this year she was 5th place overall. Jenny runs 100 milers every month or so. She is a running machine.

Jenny is super sweet, fun to run with and really encouraging.
I will look forward to running a bit of the 8 loops at the Umstead 100 miler coming up in late March.

Previously I have run a bunch of 50 and 100 milers with Jenny but most of my interactions with her have been before or after the race. She always shows up early for races and tends to stay around cheering on the back of the packers like myself which I greatly appreciate.

After falling down in lap 2, I for some reason did not clean off my hand for nearly 15 miles. Along the dam I decided I needed to document the dirt and grime from my fall.

Sadly this picture does not show the broken thumbnail on this hand. So far the reaction to this statement has elicited a bunch of your pathetics, scoff's and laughter. Very few people have given me any sympathy. I DEMAND Sympathy!!!

And the sympathy should be for both the dirt which horrified me as well as the broken nail. At the Dam Aid station, second pass, I finally wiped my hands down.
Closing in on the finish you can see the enthusiasm and excitement of my friend Devin.

Here we are just a few meters from the finish and by this time we both knew that we had broken 10 hours for the 2010 Rocky Raccoon 50 miler.

We will both be back at this race again in 2011. It is so well run and so much fun. We were really lucky with delightful weather, a decent course with only a few mud puddles and bright sunshine.

Finishing this race we both were surprised and excited to find out we had broken 10 hours because we sort of had no idea where we were on the course due to inconsistency between the course mileage and our garmins.
After finishing together, Devin and I got a picture to commemorate our finish.

Devin was so much fun to run with. He was funny, enthusiastic, energetic and great fun to run with.

His pace matched mine very well and it seemed during the last few miles we were only in a slump together once. Most of the rest of the time one or the other of us could muster some enthusiasm for moving quickly and efficiently to ensure we reached our goal of a sub-10 hour finish.

Ultimately we not only finished in under 10 hours, we finished with nearly 10 minutes to spare!

Starting Lap 3, I finished a cup of gatorade, nibbled on some snacks then headed back on the course. I was in a bad mood as I had fallen way earlier than last year (last year it was mile 49, this year ~mile 30). My hands were dirty, a nail was broken and I was not happy. Mostly I was not happy about the dirt. And the broken nail was just salt in my wound.

Heading out carefully, I knew I needed to pay attention. I wanted to keep my fall and stumble count down but the only way to do that was to be careful and watch out. I started out pretty slow but realized that I had just under 3 hours 30 minutes to run 16.67 miles and break 10 hours. So I needed to keep some pep in my step.

Once I cleared the area by the lake where I took my fall I did resume running with purpose. But I did not resume looking up to make eye contact with other runners. I would see runners in my peripheral vision and would say encouraging things but I really did not look up. I felt bad about this but figured the next time I fell I would not get up but would take a nap or wait for another runner to pick me up and carry me to the finish.

Pretty soon I was approaching the first aid station. So far so good. Less than a half marathon (13 miles) to go. I grabbed a cup of gatorade and some tasty treats and continued on. Along the single track I realized I needed a potty break. I found a tree that seemed suitable and hoped no runners would catch up to me and that no gator, rattlesnake or other creepy crawley insect would approach me. Luckily I had a few moments of privacy then it was time to continue running.

I was getting very excited about the fact that each section I passed through was either my final time or the second to last time of seeing it. This made me happy. Gingerly picking my way around the massive puddle I chose wisely and picked the left side. This added a few extra minutes and perhaps 50 meters, but my feet continued to stay dry and relatively clean.

Getting back on to the single track I was excited to see my friend Sherry who I knew from last year. She was doing the 100 miler and was powering along steadily. After a very brief conversation we headed in our own direction.

As I ran along I heard a familiar voice behind me. It was my friend Jenny who was running the 100 miler. She was running really strong and was in good spirits. We chatted about our race season which would include the Umstead 100 mile in late March. Jenny is so positive, encouraging and great fun to run with. We ended up spending a bit of time together chatting which surprised me, but alas I was moving faster than usual in my quest for a PR.

Getting on to the Jeep road Jenny and I separated. I could see the Dam Aid station and I was excited. Everyone was so cheerful and encouraging at the aid station. I drank a few cups of gatorade followed by some coke and then ate some treats. I continued my meal of banana's, M&M's and Chex mix. I figured with about 12 miles to the finish this was going to be my final meal. Leaving the aid station with the volunteers enthusiastically cheering me on, I felt really happy and at peace.

Heading out on the Jeep Road, I met up with Jenny. We continued chatting. The miles were going so quickly. As we ran along I talked about my mom who Jenny had met last year. Jenny remembered my mom having her cat on a leash at the post race breakfast. I mentioned that I was running the race in her memory and was hoping to break 10 hours. Jenny felt confident I would do this and agreed that my mom was along the course in spirit. This segment was very poignant.

Heading into the mud puddle in the loop I followed Jenny onto the right side. Sadly this was the wrong side to stay dry and mud-free. I ended up turning around and heading back while Jenny continued forward. I need to rethink my dirt/water/mud free strategy because by the time I cleared the mud pit Jenny was several hundred meters ahead of me. After a brief wave as she headed into the 100 miler loop and I headed into the shorter 50 mile loop.

I was really excited at this point. I had 10-12 miles to go and about 3 hours to complete it. I just needed to keep moving forward with purpose. As I headed onto the dam I was moving along appreciating the view. I considered jumping into the lake and swimming to the finish, but the gators in the lake and the cold water stopped me from doing this. It was a beautiful sunny day and the view was lovely. What a great day for a race!

As I finished crossing the dam I could hear another runner coming up from behind approaching quickly. He was very polite but yet was moving super fasted. I offered to step aside to be passed since I knew he had more energy and speed than I. I even suggested that as he passed I kind of expected to hear "In your face Chump!" since I was moving considerably slower. But alas he passed me but not as quickly as I expected. I fell into a rhythm behind him and started chatting.

It was Devin from Texas, a fellow Rocky Raccoon 50 miler from 2009. He had finished in about 11 hours in his first 50 miler last year and was hoping to go faster this year. He was definitely on target to beat his time by at least an hour.

Devin was really good company and kept a constant conversation flowing. He was positive, upbeat and quite funny. The miles just flew by even though it was the last few miles of a 50 miler. Devin seemed to know many of the runners on the course. I believe this was partially from running this race last year as well as the fact he was a local (or at least more local than I). He was super encouraging to the runners we would face during the out and backs along the course and was just a pleasure to run with.

Pretty soon we were arriving at the Dam Aid Station. I was really excited and decided to document my last visit at the aid station in 2010 (I'll be 2011). As I snapped a picture I did not realize I was taking a picture of the aid station Caption Lynn changing out of his jumpsuit. He realized my error and shrieked in dismay about my XXX picture:-). Since I was moving along, I suggested that I would not be deleting this picture and asked how much it was worth. I see running a potentially profitable sport and am not adverse to being bought off. After a few moments I realized time is more valuable then money and asked if the picture was worth some time off my finish time. Our negotiated time reduction was 2 hours which I was to talk to Joe P, the race director. So far I do not see a sub-8 hour finish time for me....

Actually speaking of compromising pictures, I do have several from a bunch of races. Because I take a bunch of pictures along the course particularly in lap courses or courses with out and backs I sometimes after looking at my pictures after the race notice runners doing all sorts of crazy stuff off in the distance or along the side of the course. If you think I have a picture of you you can send a check and make it payable to cash:-)

It is fun to joke with aid station volunteers and the Dam Aid Station North Texas Trail Runners a just a hoot! They always are so enthusiastic and encouraging and make the race so much fun. I was bummed to be leaving but knew I had less than 7 miles to the finish so was very excited. With a final "See you next year", Devin and I were off.

The jeep road leaving the Dam aid station follows some undulating small hills. Devin and I were both struggling a bit but plugging along. We were near a handful of other runners who also seemed to be hitting the same wall. Our strategy was to jog the flats and the downhills and walk the uphills. Our definition of uphill varied a bit with a few tiny inclines being deemed hills. But we both knew we needed to keep focussed and minimize our walk breaks to ensure our sub-10 hour finish.

We kept an easy conversation flowing and the course just seemed to fly by. Having 3 identical laps with some out and back sections makes it easy to become familiar with the course. I find this very comforting because you can recognize landmarks that indicate you are getting closer and closer to the finish.

As we jogged, Devin called his wife to give a status update. Unfortunately during this conversation at a turn point I fell asleep at the wheel and we kept jogging straight. We missed a turn. Oops! Luckily we did not go far before realizing our error. I have gone off track alot further and our 10-20 feet was not too bad.

Getting back onto the single track we were getting that much closer to the finish. Last year when it was warmer there were many armadillo's burrowing along the course which I found a little frightening. Unfortunately, it is hard to tell the difference between the noises made by an armadillo, rattlesnake, alligator, puma, other man eating animals or serial killers. But this year with the cold and my friend Devin to protect me I was good to go!

As we jogged along we cheered on runners heading towards us. Then soon enough we were splitting off and closing in on the Mardi Gras Aid station. Devin's wife was there with his lucky shirt. And the Mardi Gras volunteers offered up some more beads. I was hoping for some pink beads but only scored some pearl, silver and gold beads. But I was happy. I would look sparkely and festive. The volunteers were so enthusiastic and so much fun.

After a brief visit with Devin's wife while drinking some gatorade it was time to finish this race! We had just about 3 miles to go and between 45-50 minutes. We were pretty optimistic about our ability to break 10 hours but knew there always the potential for unexpected disasters until you cross the finish line. During this aid station we also realized both our Garmin 410XT were not seeming to have identical mileage to the race documents. This was pretty confusing and we could not figure out what pace we needed nor why there was a nearly 0.5 mile discrepancy between our Garmins and the race. We thought we were at mile 46, while the race printouts suggested 46.5, for sure we would happily accept the race distance and hoped they were not taunting us. Figuring out where we were became a huge debate that kept us going the next several miles.

At some point I had the realization I kind of wanted a potty break. But we had less than 3 miles to go. I was in a quandry. Finally Devin made a decision he also needed a potty. I slowed down and started looking for a satisfactory "LaTree". Sadly the "girls" potty location had a field on the left and some tree's behind a razor wire..AACK!! I slowed down and waited for Devin and explained my dilemma. Devin suggested he would be up for walking until I found a good spot for my potty break. So finally I found a tree that worked for me. Checking for rattlesnakes, alligators, javelina's, puma's and other frightening creatures I decided it was safe to use. I then caught up to Devin. Oddly enough he was not as thrilled to see me as it meant it was time to run again. I actually got a little confused at this point and thought we were about to walk a REALLY long time because we were heading straight into a huge mountain. Alas we were making our final right turn towards the lake.

Along the lake I was super careful and by mutual agreement we slowed down a bit. I did not want to fall and was struggling to look for roots, nubs or other things ready to trip runners. There were runners heading out including some 50 milers and a bunch of 100 milers. All the runners looked really good. Obviously everyone heading out was not going to finish the lap before sunset; however, everyone was in good spirits.

The one segment we would pick up the pace was along the bridges. This was a flat surface with no tripping hazards. But soon enough we were exiting the lake area and were climbing the hill that would get us closer to the road. Once we were along the road, we had less than 1 mile to go. At this point Devin and I had the most surreal discussion in my opinion. I had an idea of where we were on the course and felt we had two road crossings as well as a maintenance/house paved path. I could not remember the exact order but felt it was road, maintenance road then final road by the straight away. I think Devin wanted to course to be shorter and while I would appreciate a shorter course, without violating laws of physics we needed this pattern (2 roads, 1 driveway). So I said, "I hope we do not have just one more turn". I think he thought I had totally flipped my lid but I just wanted to make sure I was not missing vital pieces of my life. Sometimes during 100 milers I have bits of my life I cannot remember. Hopefully I did not commit crimes during these missing life pieces. I don't think I have started a life of crime but realistically I cannot remember a bunch of miles and brief time periods of my life.

As we continue running, I mention that I know we are on track to break 10 hours but we might be able to squeak by with a sub-9:57 finish. I suggest we should aim for this time because then I could say I have broken my 50 mile PR time by half an hour and Devin can say he broke his 50 mile PR by an hour. This may be challenging, particularly since we actually have no idea how much course we have left. But we decide to keep moving with purpose.

As we continue running, we pass by the bench overlooking the lake. This is where my mom and I sat for about an hour after last years Rocky Raccoon. I said a small prayer and thought about what a great mom, cheerleader and wonderful friend she was. This gave me so much energy. Less than 600 meters to go.

Devin and I were thoroughly enjoying the race and having a great time. The left turn arrow is up ahead. Less than 400 meters to go. We pick up the pace and start running in strong. Not a sprint, just moving forward quickly and efficiently. I am so excited to be finishing the race with such a great friend. Running together with Devin has made the final 10 miles of the race such fun! The memories and the challenges make this race one I will never forget.

I finally see the clock. It says 9:50 and a few seconds! We are going to break 10 hours. Crossing the finish line we exchange a huge hug. Then Devin's wife and father come up and give hugs freely. This race exceeded my expectations wildly and finishing with Devin is icing on the cake. I know we will both be back next year!

You can see Devin's report of our time together on his blog at this link:


DevinBrown said...

It was a pleasure to run with you. That finish line photo is hilarious and I had no idea you were taking the picture.

Also, I can't believe the Goofy Challenge never came up in our conversation! I was there too. It was very cold.

JojaJogger said...

Thanks for the great race report. Maybe I'll see you at Umstead? (I'm doing the 50 mile option there)

Carolina John said...

that's an awful lot of talk about the umstead 100. can't wait to see you out there.

Runner Tammy said...


Thanks! We should do RR50 again next year. Although perhaps we need the 100 miler to catch up about all our different races.

I am signed up for Goofy in 2011...what about you?


I will look forward to seeing you at Umstead. It is such a small race (250 runners) that you see nearly everybody. I will be doing the 100 so might be a bit slower to pace myself but there are plenty of out and back stretches by the start/finish line.

Have fun training!


I am really looking forward to Umstead. Hopefully we get good weather (I think I am owed a 75 degree and sunny day because since the Death Valley Marathon all of my subsequent events have been cold, wet, or cold&wet! I deserve some nice weather and I am tired of having pasty white legs, arms, face etc.

Get ready for some 12 minute miles during our lap:-)

DevinBrown said...

Goofy was fun, but 2011 is not in my plans at this time. I'm hitting the Disneyland half in September to get my Coast to Coast award though.

As for Rocky Raccoon next year, I still have my eye on that sub-24 buckle. Think we could hold 14:24 miles all day and all night?