Monday, February 8, 2010

Rocky Raccoon Race Report Before the Race

With my friend Jamie before the race.

Jamie is such a great friend! She is so positive, upbeat and fun to see even just briefly (cause she is super fast!!!). She came in 2nd place for females running a faster pace then I can run even for just a mile (with an imaginary bear chasing me!)

I was so shocked to see that other than this jacket (which she took off before the start), she just had a long sleeve shirt and shorts on, SHORTS!!! I was bundled up with 2 pairs of pants and 6 long sleeve shirts with a jacket prior to the race and grudgingly took off one pair of pants and one upper layer right before the race started.

With my friends Nathan and Jenny. I have met both Nathan and Jenny numerous times. They both ran RR100 last year as well as Umstead and a bunch of other events.

Jenny and Nathan are so nice and both are super fast. Last year Jenny came in 2nd place female at RR100.

Jenny and Nathan ended up running about 12 hundred milers last year, which is super impressive. Additionally in many of these ultra's they both placed very well.

My friend Dane was running his first Rocky Raccoon 50 miler. I was able to give him some helpful hints since I had run this race previously.

My basic advice consists of "don't fall". Although this is alot easier said than done.

I have run a bunch of races with Dane over the past several years and will be running Umstead 100 in late March.

Dane ran 52 marathons in 52 weeks in 2006 and wrote a very inspirational and interesting book (in fact my father-in-law who I gave a signed copy right after the Richmond Marathon, says it is his favorite book).

My friend Mike from the Virginia Happy Trails Running Club was running the 50 miler.

There were at least 5 of us from this running club running the Rocky Raccoon 50 or 100 miler.

Mike finished the 50 miler really strong (after darkness which meant a bit of his final lap was smartly spent walking), but a finish is a finish.

I think Mike and I have run 10-20 events in the MD/DC area including several ultra's. I think when I first started running he was consistently beating me, but now I am starting to gain confidence and speed.

At the sign near the start of the race. This is just before the race start during a few moments when I took off my gloves.

I was ready for running a sub-10 hour 50 miler, I had my Garmin set, was in my lucky outfit and had my game face on.

I was very excited about running the race and was trying to have a positive attitude. I did have a few moments when I got depressed about missing my mom but I resolved to do well and honor her memory. I know that she would have been thrilled with what a great day I had.

In my opinion, ultramarathoning consists of the 4 F's: Fun, Friends, Fitness and Food. And Rocky Raccoon consisted of these items in spades!

Rocky Raccoon is a really nice and well run ultra. Last year I ran the 50 miler and ended up with a new 50 miler PR of 10:27. This year I set a new PR of 9:50. While the course is not easy (it's 50 miles of course). Relative to other 50 milers it is manageable. There are lots of roots on the course, but realistically the hills are pretty manageable, the roots while present are not present along 100% of the course and the 3 laps makes it easy logistically. You know every 16.67 miles you will see your "stuff". And of course the volunteers at the aid station, the spectators along the course and the cheering runners as you go along many miles on out and backs makes this a fairly fast 50 miler.

This year I almost missed running this race. My flight from Baltimore to Houston TX was the last non-stop flight before a 30 inch snowstorm hit the mid-atlantic. My flight did take off without any issues and on my flight were several other runners (100 mile shirts, Ironman Shirts and even 50 mile shirts tend to give away runners). My friend from MD (I forget his name but will look it up), was on the flight and running his second Rocky Raccoon. I also met a new friend, John from MD who was sitting right behind me. He was running the 100 mile for the first time.

After my uneventful flight, I ended up heading up to the race site but apparently did not read the race brochure indicating a new packet pick up location. But I did get to walk around Huntsville State Park a bit (successfully avoiding the "gators in the lake"). Once I figured out the proper place to pick up my packet, the Walker County Storm Shelter. I learned a TX storm shelter is not just a gazebo in a park but actually is a sturdily built building. I guess it makes sense but initially I missed the turn because I was looking for something different.

After arriving at packet pick up I ran into a bunch of friends. Although I did not recognize as many people at the packet pick up as I expected. This race has doubled in size since last year, so I believe there were many new ultra runners participating. During the race I was fortunate to see lots of friends and of course make new friends!

My packet was given to me by my friend Sue Norwood. She is so sweet and what a wonderful person. She was volunteering at so many places during the race. We caught up briefly then I headed in for the pre race briefing. Luckily the course had not changed and as a lap course you just need the first lap to remember where it goes. Sadly even with this in lap 3 I actually tried to get lost when I was chatting with my friend Devin. And both of us have done this 50 mile race before! Although it is not an ultra until you fall and go off course, so I guess by the strictest definition this race was an ultra. Luckily our little attempt at getting lost only added 10-15 feet to our race!

After listening to the pre-race briefing, I decided to head to my hotel after picking up dinner from Schlotzsky deli. Although I had a dinner ticket the 300+ runners in the auditorium intidimidated me since I wanted to head to bed early since I had been up since a little after 4 a.m.

Most of my running stuff was set up prior to flying to Houston, but I still had to set out my clothing and accessories. I also needed to set up my drop bag for the main aid station. I had a change of shoes including a spare pair of sneakers, gaiters, socks, glide and feet cleaning items. I also knew I wanted to have some layers available as well as lighting in case my sub-10 hour finish did not occur. I also needed to put in some "sunny" stuff including my hat and sunglasses. Realistically other than dropping off my jacket after 1 lap and picking up my sunglasses at that same time, I did not use anything from my drop bag.

Once my drop bag was set up and my outfit was placed on the bed, it was time to go to bed. Since I had a bunch of friends running the 100 miler, I wanted to get to the start at Hunstville State Park by about 5 a.m. so I could see the 100 start.

Waking up at 4 a.m. I got dressed pretty quickly and checked out of my hotel. Then it was time to drive to the park. I knew I needed a really early start because the speed limit is ~20 mph and it is several miles from the entrance to the race start parking lot. Additionally, with up to 700 runners in the 50 and 100 milers, I was worried about parking. I got a pretty decent spot not too far from the showers. Sadly I did not realize the showers were not operational until after the race when my good parking spot became a mediocre spot at best!

Once I arrived, I headed to the starting tent. I checked in and started milling about. I knew my friend Frank from VHTRC was running the 100, as well as my friends Jenny & Nathan from Umstead and other races, my friend Paige and Geoff from the VT100 were running as well as my friend Jamie who I hoped to see. As I loitered I ran into Jenny and Nathan. We talked about running and how we wished the race would just start. Then suddenly my friend Jamie came up from behind me and gave me a huge hug! We chatted briefly but she had a bit more to do before the race start. I saw my friend Mike Broderick from MD who was pacing/coaching a runner doing her first 100 and we chatted briefly. Pretty soon it was 5 minutes to start. I headed out on the course to the first turn at the street crossing. This is a good place to see and cheer on runners. Once the race started I was lucky enough to see my friend Jamie, Paige, Geoff and several others. Then it was time for me to get ready for my race.

Once all the runners passed, I headed back to the start line. At the starting line I saw my friend Dane. We caught up and chatted about running. Dane will be running Umstead 100 in 2 months as well as a 207 mile race in ~3 months. Dane was just getting over a bout with the flu earlier in the week and was hopeful about his recovery enabling him to be competitive in the race. After a bit I realized I needed a potty break. After my break I came back and ran into more friends. I ran into my friend Mike from the VHTRC who was running the 50 so we chatted for a bit. Pretty soon the 5 minute warning came. It was time for a final visit to my drop bag. I could finally get rid of my headlamp and took off one layer which worried me a bit. It worked out okay and I never was chilly during the race. I did end up keeping my gloves which I wore a vast majority of the day.

With one minute to go, I moved into the back of the pack of runners and did a final mental check. Everything was operational and I was hopeful about my ability to break 10 hours for the 50 miler.

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