5,4,3,2,1....GO!!!! That's how the 2012Rocky Raccoon 100 Mile Endurance Run started. It was a thing of beauty. The elites took off in the dark with 400 headlamps following. The rain was coming down in a steady downpour and the lightning was putting on a show..... At least this is how I think it happened. I may or may not have been in the port-a-potty when this all went down.
We arrived at Huntsville State Park around 5:30 with the idea that, like last year, there would not be a problem entering or parking. WRONG. This year was a little different. The pay booth was open and collecting money. With over 700 runners and who knows how many spectators, crew and pacers coming in, it was a mess. We got in and parked about a ½ mile away from the start with only a few minutes to spare. As I approached the start with just a minute or two left, I had to make the tough choice.... I barely missed the start but it was “supposedly” a timing chip race so it was all good. For the first time ever I was the last one across the starting line and they let me know by yelling, “Wait! We have one more!”
I made up the ground pretty easily though and soon settled into a decent pace. The rain, lightning, mud puddles and wind were freakin' awesome and I was having a ball running in the dark. I passed when I could and relaxed when the trail narrowed. During one of these “narrow” times, I was joking and acting the fool with a few runners and when the trail opened up I took off. As I left them I heard one of them say, “That was the dude from the You Tube video. Did you see his shoe laces?” This made me laugh because up until this point, I was pretty sure the only one that had watched that video was me. This wasn't the last time I would hear about the 2011 video....
The rain came down for most of the first 20 mile loop. Luckily, I had my Relay for Life windbreaker. This kept me just as wet but looking good for 3 hours. I did have a couple of snafu's on this loop. First one started within just a few miles. I had decided to wear a pair of running shorts that didn't have a drawstring. Why? Because I am an Idiot. The end result was me running with my shorts falling off for 20 miles. Made me smile because if this happened to some one else.... whatever. The second happened around mile 8. I shut my headlamp off as the sun came up. For some reason, I thought it necessary to take the headlamp off and readjust my hat. My Oakley sunglasses hit the trail and I immediately stopped to find them but it was still kind of dark. No luck. I wasted a few minutes looking but decided to keep going.
The rain slowed down and finally stopped for a while during loop number two. I threw out a few WOOOO!!!'s and received several smiles in return. There were also a lot of comments about the You Tube video. Apparently, the remark about actually training for a 100 made some people laugh.... I was being serious. Whatever. I looked for my sunglasses again, as I would on every loop, to no avail. I continued through the mud and told myself that a walk break would happen at the 50k point.
Almost as soon as I crossed this mark there was a loud WOOOOOOOOOOOO!!! from behind. It was Jon Wilson, my friend and later crew-man, who was running his first 50 miler. The 50 milers had started an hour later and ran a shortened loop. He was around mile 23. To me, this was a chance of a lifetime as Jon and I had trained together and he crewed me last year during the 100. I turned around and ran a short distance back to him so we could run together.
Towards the end of the second loop I had to leave Jon. We were running two different races and despite the urge to hang with him, I needed to run my own race. I will say this- it was an honor to run those miles with him during his first 50 miler, his first ultra marathon as a matter of fact. Very cool after all the training miles we put in together. As I finished the loop by myself I had no idea that it wouldn't be the last time we would run together that day.
The third loop went smooth and I crossed the 50 mile mark around 8 hours 45 minutes. This was about where I wanted to be and certainly didn't want to be any faster. Again, I looked and did not find my stupid sunglasses. This was becoming my main objective on each loop, to find those sunglasses. Whatever works, right? Coming around to the mile 52 aid station, I was starting to feel the stress of the distance combined with the pace and muddy trail conditions. This is where I ran into Kai, a crazy ultra-dude from Michigan. I “knew” Kai from dailymile/facebook/twitter but had never met him in “real life”. I thought he was looping me but it turns out he had just hit a hard patch and slowed down. Understandable because he was only two weeks removed from his last 100 miler. Two weeks. Amazing. We decided to continue the final 8 miles of the loop together.
As we approached the final mile or so of this loop we found Jon. He was about to die from choking on a gel and, naturally, we made fun of him. He was about to finish his FIRST 50 miler in under 10 hours. Pretty awesome. Kai and I were trying to push him hard through this last part. As he crossed the finish line we backed off to give him his moment. It was a proud moment for me to watch as he accomplished this goal. Jon worked hard for this and success paid him back. Very cool.
I decided to change my shoes here. 60 miles of Texas mud had taken it's toll. My socks had a hole in them and I cussed Injinji because the socks cost $16 a pair and I'd only had them a month or so. Whatever.(They did send me TWO new pair for free this week, along with a hat and some stickers. They don't suck.) I threw on some BRAND NEW shoes too. Might as well put the New Balance MT 101's to the test. Why? Because I wanted to see what would happen.
In a conversation with possibly the worlds best ultra runner Ian Sharman, who had dropped at mile 63 due to injury, I joked that I would technically beat him by running 4 more miles. The look on his face revealed that he didn't care much for me.... My bad. I grabbed my headlamp and asked Charley, who was switching from crew to pacer, if he was ready. He was but Kai had lost his Garmin and we waited a few minutes before he gave up and decided to join us. Off we went for miles 60-80.
This loop slowed down quite a bit and the course became insanely muddy. After so many people had tromped through and tore up the trail it was tough to negotiate in places. The sun went down and it got a little tougher in the dark on tired legs. Kai and Charley kept me laughing and we had fun playing “tempo run”. The rules are simple. If somebody has to stop along the trail to, uhh..., relieve themselves, the others speed up and make them run at tempo pace to catch up. Granted our fast pace at this point was pretty slow but it's always fun to leave your buddy behind in the dark.
Around mile 75 we passed a lone runner. It turned out to be another “social media” friend, Sarah. She was on her 3rd loop and having a tough time. The mud and rain had left her with horrible blisters and she was in a dark place. I tried to console her but in the end had nothing profound or inspiring to say. I was very impressed that she was pushing on and looking to finish. In the end she was pulled after missing the mile 80 check in by one minute. Heartbreaking but that's how these things go sometimes.
At the mile 76 aid station they had beer. Beer. I just couldn't resist a little shot. How many chances am I going to have to drink a little beer at mile 76? Not many. After the re-hydration and some Ramen noodles, we pressed on to mile 80 and the start of the final loop. Jon, who had jumped straight into the role of “crew” after his 50 miler, was waiting with jackets and gloves.
Miles 80-100 were much easier on me this year than last. I'm not sure why. My legs were tired and I would have accepted a belt buckle for 80 miles but it just wasn't too rough. We went slow, walking some and laughing a lot. Charley kept Kai and I on track, pushing the pace when necessary and pulling us along. He is everything a friend and pacer should be. More beer at mile 95 and we were home free. Knowing that another sub 24 was guaranteed we walked a little more often over these last miles.
The finish line came and we ran through at a slow pace. Kai and I finished in 20:43:36 for 32nd and 33rd place overall. I never did see any sort of chip time but this works for me. Officially there was only a 58% completion rate which is the lowest in the 20 year history of this race. Not bad.
Coming in to this event I had a LOT of self doubt and questions about my abilities. Maybe it was my lack of training considering my longest run was 26 miles. Or maybe it's because I knew how hard 100 miles was after last year. I don't really know but it's not unusual for me. There is always some question as I go into any of the big/dumb stunts but in the end, the VOICES are there to carry me along.
This event raise over $1,500 to fight cancer through the Relay for Life. I can't begin to express my gratitude for those that have supported this and all the other dumb ways that I dream up to beat cancer. You are the reason I succeed. You are the reason I can push when things get tough. You are the reason our children will one day live in world without cancer. Thank you. I promise not to bother you again until the next time I do. Of course, if you feel compelled to donate now you can do so here ----->BEAT CANCER<------. Donations will be gladly accepted until there is a cure.
Here's the video from this year. It is long but so was the race. Watch at your own risk......