February 2, 2013
Who would have thought that I would have been back in Texas for a second time this year? It used to be that I would go out West to ski in the winter. Now I’m traveling to the warmer climates to go run. Just three weeks ago I was in Bandera running 100K in the Texas Hill Country. Now I was returning to Huntsville, located about an hour north of Houston to run the Rocky Raccoon 100 Mile Endurance Trail Run. It seemed so long ago when I signed up for this with any knowledge of what I was getting into. Back in May a number of us from the Thursday night running group in Vermont decided a road trip was in order so we signed up for Rocky. Later I found out this was a loop course, not one or two but five loops around a park on mostly flat terrain which attracts many of the speed runners. Not my favorite as I prefer mountains and steeps. Flat terrain is a huge mental challenge for me. I need variety and change. In 2010 I ran the Burning River 100 Mile in Ohio which had a lot of Tow Path running. That drove me crazy with flat, straight stretches for long periods that after a while I would run backwards and sideways and skip along to keep motivated. And it finally broke me a number of times where I had to walk on totally flat terrain. So the thought of Rocky scared me but I looked at it as a fun time away to run with friends. We had the crew of Bob Ayers Jr, Kristin Lundy, Jen Sorrell, John Lacroix, Serena Wilcox, Shari Bashaw and myself running the hundred and Sherry Ricker running the 50 mile.
The flight down was uneventful which was great based on my flying nightmares of 2012. I flew down solo on United while a larger group flew together on Jet Blue. Leaving Vermont it was 50 degrees and rain after a week of subzero temps. Arriving in Texas it was 70’s and dry. Another fear of mine was the heat. Three weeks earlier at Bandera the heat hurt me and I cramped bad on the second half of the course as happens all too frequent. Even the bikram yoga training twice a week in 105 degrees didn't acclimate me enough. I was hoping that my body was better prepared this time. And my training leading up to Rocky seemed sufficient but the race frame of mind just wasn't there. But I was on vacation with friends so it was all a good thing no matter how the race turned out. We all arrived in Huntsville later in the day. After we all checked in, Kristin and I got in an easy 3 miler pre-dinner to stretch out the legs a bit. Then we all met for dinner at Margarita’s Mexican Restaurant. If you ever go there, order the large frozen margarita! Just make sure you have someone to drive you home.
|The VT Crew (missing is Sherry Ricker)|
Friday we decided to all play tourists for the morning and went to visit with local hero Sam Houston, a huge 77 foot statue. I felt inclined to do some climbing to get a better view.
|Jack with Sam|
|BEWARE OF LARGE CRITTERS!|
Race Day: We arrived at the Huntsville State Park around 4:30 am trying to avoid any long line up of cars getting into the park. We dropped off the last of the drop bags for the start/finish area and rested up until the 6:00 am start. It was still dark so headlamps would be necessary for the first hour or so and then again for later on in the race after sunset so some planning was necessary to time having the headlamps when needed. I figured on dropping my starting headlamp off at the Damnation Aid Station which was at mile 6 and then 12, or later in the race at mile 66 and 72 but also had one at the start/finish which would be mile 80. Not having run this race before I didn't want to get caught in the dark, been there before like 3 weeks ago at Bandera. The temps were in the 50’s and were supposed to be in the 70’s later so all I had on was a singlet for the top layer, anticipating that it would be off fairly soon as the temps rose. We all made to the start line on time and were ready to go.
|Jen, Jack, Bob, Serena, John, Shari, Kristin|
On the front line were Mike Morton, Josh Finger and some other local Texans. I grabbed Bob Ayers to run with me just behind the front line. And we were off. Right from the get go, Josh took off along with another runner and Mike Morton just behind. Bob and I were running along in the next pack behind a couple of other runners. We seemed to be running at a comfortable pace, getting the body and lungs to warm up. The terrain was mostly flat but there were some annoying roots, especially in the dark that seemed to jump up now and then. The front pack seemed to be long gone which was fine with me as we had 100 miles to go and I didn't see a need to be sprinting out at this point. My strong point is usually the endurance at the end and after mile 80 when the temps cool off I tend to pick it up a bit. It wasn't long before the runner in front of us tripped and went down and again. By the third time or so, he was down and out for a bit and Bob and I took the lead for the second pack. I took my share of falls as well. Not long into the run, I went down hard and bashed my knee into a root. It hurt and I could smell a cut along with a bruise but refused to look down at it. What I don’t see can’t hurt as much, right? After a while the pain went away but down I went again, tuck and roll and back up. And about the midway point I went down again this time hitting my face on the dirt. Bob gave me grief for my skillful footing. At the Damnation aid station I dropped off my headlamp to have for later on if needed. Bob and I enjoyed the rest of the first 20 mile loop mostly to ourselves, occasionally grabbing some food at an aid station. At the 20 mile mark or end of the first loop we did some quick refueling and any necessary changes and off we went again, out onto loop 2. Our running time was about 2:39. On loop 2 it wasn't long before Bob went down. He did a nice downhill sliding crash embedding some Texas soil into his forearm. I seemed to be running fine now with full daylight to see the ground below. And then Bob went down again. Now it was time for me to give Bob grief and then he hit again for a third time. We were now 3 for 3, tied for crashes but I wouldn't let that stop me as on the rest of lap 2, I fell 3 more times, luckily nothing serious. About half way through lap 2 it was starting to heat up as the sun was up and the temps were rising. You just knew mid day was not going to be fun. But Bob and I were having a great time running along, chatting about everything and lap 2 was turning out to be faster than lap 1.
|Bob and Jack in total sync cruising along the RR 100 trails.|
Lap 3 was really starting to heat up and I knew this was my weakness. Three weeks ago at Bandera I cramped so bad mid race that I had to walk a good part of the last lap to survive. So far on this day, I was well hydrated and keeping down my electrolytes so no cramping yet. The big test would be getting by mile 50 where it seems I tend to get the pukes as has been the case in the past 3-4 races. I was trying to eat but the heat was making it difficult. I was ingesting GU’s ok for a while but was getting tired of those too. My drink had extra calories so I wasn't eating much solid food but knew I had to make an effort to eat or it would catch up to me later on. So I tried to nibble at the aid stations on mostly pretzels and some kind of trail mix. I made it through mile 50 without the pukes but was feeling somewhat nauseous, probably from the heat but I didn't puke which was big :) The rest of lap 3 was slow but steady pouring water on my head whenever I could to cool the core. I finally finished lap 3, refueled and out I went in a time of 3:34 which I was totally fine with. I knew I had to back off mid day. Lap 4 was downright hot, I was nauseous but holding it together and trying to drink and eat. Still no cramping which was huge. I had pre-mixed a number of my drink bottles with electrolyte pills so I wouldn't have to attempt to swallow them which usually results in the gag reflex and puking. So far so good. Then somewhere along the Damnation 6 mile loop I starting to feel some odd pains in my left knee. What the heck? When I would back off it was fine but when I ran it was starting to be like a knife jabbing the outside of my knee. Bad memories suddenly came to mind. The IT band! I had issues with the IT many years ago and never ran because I thought I had bad knees. But then I discovered a PT that had me strengthening instead of just stretching and that fixed the old IT. And back in 2010 I had a mild re-occurrence of the IT band but that was a result of tweaking an ankle from skydiving and changing my gait to accommodate it. So why an issue now at mile 70? I knew why. My decision to wear a flexible neutral shoe when I hadn't allowed the body enough time to adapt to that kind of running caught up to me. I’m often a running experiment and guinea pig but I should know better than to experiment during a 100 mile race. The rest of lap 4 was painful doing the run/walk. Somewhere near the second half of lap 4 Bob came cruising by. We chatted a bit and off he went looking strong. Go Bob!!
|Kristin with pacer John|
In the end, Bob had a great final lap and placed 5th overall!! He won the overall top 5 alligator award. He was running scared thinking I was coming, glad I could motivate him :) Serena ended up 5th overall for the women after some questionable training tactics in Vermont and won the top 5 alligator award. John finished the 100 miler setting a new PR for himself.
|Pacer Terry with John at the finish line.|
|Kristin and Jen at the Finish Line|
Kristin set a new 100 mile PR for herself and for Jen it was her second fastest 100 miler.
|Jen with pacer relaxing at the finish tent.|
Shari finished as top master woman bringing home the alligator award after some time off from 100 milers. And Sherry finished her first ever 50 mile trail race. As for me, I ended up as the top men’s master winning the alligator award. So our Vermont contingency had a 100% finish rate for the 100 miler yet only 67% of the overall field of 100 milers even finished the 100 miles. Go VT!!
Full Results can be found HERE.
|The Gator Award|
The Gear: The Pearl Izumi Kissaki 2.0, even though it caught up to me at mile 70 is really an amazing shoe. My foot was in total comfort. But next time I think I'll train on it before taking it for such a long trail run. Also the Drymax socks again, no blisters at all. Headsweats ultra race cap kept the sun off my head and the sweat out of my eyes. I used the GU Brew Roctane for extra calories and electrolytes along with GU gels throughout.
|Kristin with the 100 Mile Buckle|
Thanks to Joe and Joyce Prusaitis and Tejas Trails for putting on a fabulous event and to all the volunteers who spent countless hours helping out. And thanks Liza for helping at Dogwoods each time I came through. We'll be back!
Don't measure a man's success by how high he climbs
but how high he bounces when he hits bottom.