Monday, February 6, 2017

Race Report: 2017 Rocky Raccoon 100

On February 4-5, I ran the Rocky Raccoon 100 Mile Trail Run.  I wanted to do this race for two reasons.  First, it’s a Western States qualifier, and I need to start getting tickets in the lottery if I’m every going to get another chance to do that race.  Second, I’m doing the Bighorn Mountain 100 later this year, and I wanted to do an “easy” 100 before attempting a mountain 100.

“Easy” is a relative term.  I say that only because this race is near sea level and doesn’t have any big climbs.  It still challenges you in other ways.  In particular, this course is notorious for all the roots.

Two years ago, I ran the Rocky 50, which uses the same trails.  I tripped on roots dozens of times, and I fell six times.  After my recent experience at the Four Corners Quad, I was nervous about tripping and having another bad fall.

The course is a 20 mile loop on trails in Huntsville State Park in Texas.  You run the same loop five times.  That makes the logistics fairly simple.  There are two locations where you can have drop bags.  I figured I could get by just fine with one drop bag in the start/finish area.  I could also park my car near the start and know it would be there when I finished.  That makes it easy to do this race without a crew.

Having done the Rocky 50, I had seen these trails before.  The loop used for the 100 is slightly different than the loop used for the 50, but after running it once, I would know exactly what to expect on the next four laps.  That familiarity is helpful when you get to the nighttime hours of the race.

The time limit was 30 hours, and I was prepared to use all of it.  My number one concern was avoiding tripping on the roots.  Realistically, the only way I could do that is to walk wherever there are roots.  That’s most of the course.  My plan was to run the sections with the fewest roots and walk the rest.  If I took 30 hours, so be it.  After DNFs in my last three 100 mile trail runs, I just wanted to make sure I finished.  I wasn’t setting any time goals; DFL would be just fine.

I stayed at a hotel in Huntsville, which is about nine miles from the park.  The closest major airport was in Houston.  When I priced flights to Houston for this weekend, I just about blew a gasket.  Did I mention the Super Bowl was this weekend?  Did I mention the Super Bowl was in Houston?  Usually, if you book a few months in advance, a direct flight from Minneapolis to Houston is $400-500.  Not for Super Bowl weekend.  The fares started at $1,163, and that was for the most inconvenient flight times.  I didn’t even want to know how expensive it would be to get a flight time that worked for me.

Fortunately, I had enough Delta SkyMiles for a free flight.  I had to use more miles than usual, but it was still a much better deal than paying for the flight.  I checked again more recently, and the airfares weren’t nearly as expensive as they were last fall, but I was still better off using my miles.

I flew to Houston Friday morning, arriving around noon.  Then I drove to Huntsville.  After checking into my hotel, I drove to Huntsville State Park for packet pickup and the pre-race briefing.  Then I had dinner and got some much needed sleep.  I wasn’t planning to sleep during the race, so I had to get sleep while I could.

The race started at 6:00 AM on Saturday.  I had until noon on Sunday to finish.  I arrived at the park early, so I could find a parking spot that wasn’t too far away.  I made my way to the start and put my drop bag in the start/finish area.

It was 46 degrees at the start, with a forecast high in the upper 50s.  That’s fine for non-stop running, but it’s downright chilly when you’re walking.  I dressed in layers.  For my base layer, I wore shorts and a T-shirt.  Then I added gloves, arm warmers, and wind pants, which I could remove if I got too warm.  I made a last-minute decision to also wear a Tyvek jacket, since I felt cold standing around in the start area.

They made pre-race check-in easy.  The race is chip timed, so you’re automatically checked in when you cross the chip mat at the start.  The chip is on an ankle strap.  I wore mine over my wind pants, because I was worried it might not pick up if it was covered up.

It was still dark, so I started the race carrying a flashlight.  I had a headlamp for the night, but I didn’t wear it on my first lap, because I knew it would only be dark for the first hour.  During that first hour, I held the flashlight low with my right hand and kept it focused right in front of me.  I was always watching out for roots.

I started near the back.  In the first lap, the early miles were congested.  That initially forced me to walk. That was fine, because I was planning to mostly walk the first hour anyway.

After a while, things loosened up enough for the people in front of me to start running slowly.  There weren’t any roots right in front of me, so I ran too.  In general, I found I could trust the runners ahead of me in the first few miles.  Where there were lots of roots, they slowed to a walk.  Where there were only a few small roots, they ran.  At the slow pace we were going, I had no trouble avoiding the occasional root, so I decided to go with the flow.

My nutrition plan was fairly simple.  I was supposed to fill my bottle with Tailwind at each aid station and drink whenever I felt thirsty.  At aid stations, I was supposed to eat PBJs.  I know they don’t upset my stomach, and they provide a nice mix of sugar, starch, protein and fat.

After a few miles, we reached the Nature Center aid station.  I had taken a couple drinks, but my bottle was still more than half full.  Rather than top it off, I skipped the aid station.  I forgot I was supposed to stop and eat a PBJ.

As we got back on the trails, we started to spread out.  Now I made my own decisions about where to run and where to walk.  There were a couple of level sections with no roots.  I went ahead and ran these.  Everywhere else, I walked.

After about an hour, there was enough light to see without my headlamp.  About this time, we came out onto a dirt road called Dam Road.  This was a nice place to stop and put my flashlight into my fanny pack.  I also took off my Tyvek jacket and tied it around my waist.  I was too warm with the jacket.  It seemed colder when we were in the start area, but that’s near the lake, where we were more exposed to wind.  Most of the course was sheltered from wind by the trees.

We followed Dam Road for about a mile to get to the “Damnation” aid station.  The road was the most runnable part of the course, so I ran all the way to the aid station.

At Damnation, I remembered to eat a PBJ.  I also topped off my bottle. After that, I always filled my bottle whether I needed to or not.

After Damnation, we began a seven mile trail loop.  The first mile was an out-and-back section, and I started to see runners coming back who had already completed the loop.  The first few runners were blazing fast.  After a few minutes, we started to see a few more fast runners, including the lead woman.  There were fewer than ten fast runners.  Then it was a long time before we saw anyone else coming back.

This race was the USATF 100 Mile Trail Championship.  That’s why there seemed to be such a huge gulf between the fastest runners and everyone else.

Now that it was daylight, I ran sections where I was reasonably confident I could avoid the roots.  Where I was unsure, I walked.  When I ran, I had a relaxed gait.  I ran cautiously, because there was always a chance I might catch my foot on a root.

The flattest sections of trail tended to have the fewest roots, but you still had to watch out for smaller roots that might be hidden by leaves or pine needles.

Where the trail sloped up or down, there were exposed roots.  The steeper the slope, the more roots were exposed.  That’s because there was more erosion there from runoff.

I found myself running on level sections, as well as those with a slight downward slope.  I walked anything that was uphill, as well as the steeper downhills.  On those, I had to be careful stepping down.

After the seven mile loop, we came back to the Damnation aid station.  This was the only aid station we visited twice per lap.  Everywhere else, I could easily get by with one bottle, but I wasn’t sure about this loop.  I started the race carrying one bottle, but I had another in my drop bag.  I never needed the second bottle.  As it turns out, I never reached any aid station with an empty bottle.

Coming back from Damnation, we had a longer section along Dam Road.  The road was hilly, and I had to take walking breaks on the long uphill segments.  At one point, I almost tripped on a rock.  I was talking to two other runners, and I let myself drift into the center of the road where there were some loose rocks.  Luckily, I regained my balance.  It would have been embarrassing to have a fall on the easiest part of the course.

After a short trail segment, we got to the Park Road aid station.  This was where I was most apt to deviate from the “always eat PBJs” plan.  Here, I tended to make impulsive decisions to eat comfort food instead.  Sometimes I had grilled cheese.  Other times, I had bacon.

The trail segment after the Park Road aid station eventually merged with the trails we ran at the beginning of each lap.  We had a long section near the lake with two-way traffic.

I made it through the first lap without tripping and falling.  My time for the first lap was 4:22.  That was faster than I expected, but largely because I wasn’t originally expecting to do any running in the dark.

The aid station at the start/finish was called “Dogwood.”  After my first lap, I spent five minutes at Dogwood.  I put my flashlight back in my drop bag and picked up my camera.  The next lap was a daytime lap, so this was the best time to take pictures.  I also discarded my wind pants, arm warmers and jacket.  It took a while to take off the wind pants, because I didn’t want to remove my shoes.  I also had to move my timing chip from the pants to my ankle.

My second lap was the only one that was entirely during the day.  This was my designated “take pictures” lap, so all of my pictures of the course were actually taken during lap two.  Here are some examples of the roots.

Early in this lap, I tripped on a root and fell.  It’s possible I wasn’t paying close enough attention to my footing, because I was thinking about which pictures to take.  I did a tuck and roll, landing on my back.  I landed in soft dirt and pine needles, so I didn’t hurt myself.  I brushed the dirt off my gloves and continued running.

Within a mile, I tripped on another root.  This time I fought to regain my balance.  I didn’t fall, but I had an awkward landing that put a lot of strain on my left leg.  I felt it all through my left hamstring.  Often, tripping and not falling can be worse than tripping and falling.

I walked for a minute to see if my hamstring would start to feel better.  Then I started running very slowly.  It didn’t feel good.  There are a few benches on this section of the course.  The next time I passed a bench, I used it to stretch my hamstring.  I think that helped a little, but my running felt slightly impaired for a while.

In some trail races, you need to pay close attention to the trail markers, or you’ll get lost.  Thankfully, that’s not the case here.  It’s easy to see where the trail is.  Where trails intersect, they make it easy to see which way to go.  This course is marked like crazy.  That made it easier to pay attention to the roots.  I rarely had to look up.

Early and late in each lap, we had some good views of the lake.

Near the lake and in a few other areas, they had sections of boardwalk.  In wet years, these parts of the trail probably get washed out.  That wasn’t an issue this year.  The trails were dry.  In some areas, it felt like running in loose sand.

You never trip on big roots like these ones.  The ones that get you are the smaller roots you don’t notice.

When I got to the Nature Center aid station for the second time, they had sausage and cheese quesadillas.  It might not be as safe a choice as a PBJ, but I couldn’t resist.

The trails on the other side of the lake gave us some different views.  It was more of a wilderness area.  I wouldn’t want to get lost on this side of the park.

I always looked forward to getting back to the Damnation aid station.  That’s partly because the loop on the middle of each lap was so long, but also because it was so difficult.  You could see the aid station from a distance away.  The approach was uphill, but runnable.

The other aid stations weren’t visible from as far away, but you could always tell when you were getting close.  You would either hear the commotion or start seeing signs.

The section of trails after the Park Road aid station had an area that was washed out.  Here there weren’t many roots, but you had to pick which side to run on.

As I got back by the lake, I realized that the end of each lap is deceptively long.  When you cross the last boardwalk, you’re still about a mile and a half from Dogwood.  As the crow flies, you’re almost close enough to see it, but the course makes several turns before you get there.  In subsequent laps, I had to remind myself that I wasn’t as close as I thought.

I got through the first two laps in 9:13.  After my second lap, I returned my camera to my drop bag and picked up the flashlight again.  For now, it was still light out, but I knew it would get dark before I finished my third lap.

Early in my third lap, I felt something get into the back of my right shoe.  For the first time, I regretted not wearing gaiters.  I couldn’t tell if it was a small rock, a wood chip, or a pine needle, but the back of my heel hurt.  Within a minute or two it worked its way under my foot and then to the side.  Now the side of my foot hurt.  I kept running until I reached one of the benches.  Then I sat down to take off my shoe.  It was a pine needle.  Tying my shoe again wasn’t easy.  The laces were permeated with dust, making them stiff.

For the first half of that lap, I was trying to push the pace and run as much as I could.  My goal was to get as far as possible before it got dark.  During the night, it would be a completely different race.

When I got to the Damnation aid station, the volunteers were asking me if I had a light.  You could have a drop bag at Damnation, and many of the runners were picking up their flashlights or headlamps there.  I already had my flashlight in my fanny pack, but they couldn’t see that.  The volunteers wanted to make sure nobody started the long loop without a light.  It was going to be dark before we could complete the loop, and you don’t want to be on those trails without a light.  At night, it’s completely dark.

I made good time on the first half of the loop.  I made the turn at the far end and started back.  Coming back, there are more roots.  I ran where I could, but had to walk more frequently.  Then finally, it got dark.  After that, I was limited to only walking for the next two miles.  Even with a flashlight, running would be too risky.  There were just too many roots on this part of the course.

From time to time, I started to notice some light drizzle.  I could barely feel it under the canopy of trees.  The forecast including a passing shower, but I wasn’t expecting it until about 3 AM.  Fortunately, the drizzle never amounted to much, and it didn’t last long.

After it got dark, a harsh reality set in.  I’ve run through the night several times, but usually in summer races, when it’s only dark for eight or nine hours.  Here, the night was longer than the day.

In theory, I had more than enough time to walk for the rest of the race.  That’s assuming I could do a standard three miles per hour walking pace.  In practice, the roots force you to step over them carefully.  That takes you out of your rhythm and slows you down.  I didn’t know what pace I was actually walking, but I worried it was much slower than 20 minutes per mile.  Would I get as slow as 25 or 30 minutes per mile?  I just didn’t know.  To make sure my average pace was fast enough, I still tried to run where I could.  There just weren’t many places where I could run safely in the dark.

After I got back onto the out-and-back section of the loop, it was easier to recognize where I was.  As I began a treacherous downhill section, I knew I was getting close to a pair of bridges.  From there, it wasn’t far to Damnation.  After crossing the bridges, I quickly saw the glow of the lights at the aid station.  I remembered this section was runnable.  It was uphill, but I ran most of it.

When I got onto the road, I had more opportunities to run.  Where it was uphill, I was forced to take walking breaks, but I ran as much as I could.

When I got back onto trails again, I had to be more cautious.  I established a “safe running” protocol.  Whenever I could see roots, I walked.  I shined my flashlight just in front of me.  When I no longer saw roots, I would shine it further up the trail.  If I couldn’t see any roots for at least 30 feet, it was safe to run.  I couldn’t run very often, but I ran where I could.

One place I could always run was on the boardwalks.  Most of them were short, but there were about five sections of boardwalk near the lake.  There were also several boardwalks and bridges on other parts of the course.  For the rest of the night I made a point of running every bridge or boardwalk.

With about two miles to go in my third lap, my flashlight started to act flaky.  First it got too dim.  Then it sometimes blinked out completely.  I didn’t know if I had a loose contact or if my batteries were getting too weak.  I could get by with a dim light, but I would be limited to only walking.  If it went out completely, I was screwed.  The trail had lots of turns and bends.  Without a light, it would be difficult to even stay on the trail.  Avoiding roots would be impossible.

The dial to turn on the flashlight was close to the place where it unscrews to replace the bulb.  It’s possible I accidentally loosened it.  After fiddling with it a few times, I was able to get the light to stay on.  I still didn’t trust it though.  I started pushing the envelope on my “safe running” rules.  I wanted to finish this loop as quickly as possible, in case my batteries were going dead.  If I didn’t have light, nothing was safe.

I must have pushed the envelope a little too far.  I tripped on a root and fell.  I rolled onto my back as I fell.  I didn’t hit anything hard.  It just shook me up.  Another runner helped me up.  As I resumed running, I went back to my “safe running” rules.

My time after three laps was 14:53.  I stopped to put on my headlamp.  I no longer trusted my flashlight, but I kept it in my fanny pack as a backup.  I also got the plastic rain poncho from my drop bag and put it in my fanny pack in case it started to rain.  I also took the time to put my wind pants on again.  During my third lap, my legs started to get cold.  I could feel my hamstrings getting tight in both legs.  I risked being too warm with wind pants, but they helped keep my legs warm.

I was pleased to get through the first 60 miles in 15 hours.  That gave me 15 more hours for the last 40 miles.  I knew it wouldn’t be easy, but at this point I was all but assured of finishing.  I just had to keep moving.

As I headed back out, I realized my timing chip was still on my ankle.  I heard a chirp as I crossed the timing mat, so it must have been able to pick up my chip through the wind pants.  After that, I always lifted my pant leg as I crossed the mat, just to make sure.

My headlamp was nice and bright.  It lit up a wider area than my flashlight, making it easy to see the roots right in front of me.  It was also nice to have my hands free.  That made it easier to drink.  The disadvantage was not being able to see farther up the trail.  Now I couldn’t run as much.  I still made a point of running all the boardwalks, but other than that, there weren’t many places where I felt safe running on the trails.

I was about two miles into that lap, when I was passed by a group of women who were power walking.  My own walking pace had been pathetically slow, so I challenged myself to keep up with them.  It wasn’t too hard where there weren’t any roots, but I sometimes fell behind when I had to step carefully over some of the larger roots.  Then I had to run briefly to catch up.  My running pace was just barely faster than their walking pace.

I stayed with the power walkers for the next few miles.  Then they decided to do some running.  We were on a flat section with no roots, so I ran too.  As we got to some small roots, I had to switch back to a fast walk.  Then we reached some bigger roots, and I had to switch back to a slow walk as I carefully stepped over the roots.  That caused me to fall way behind them.  Then I was on my own again.

On Dam Road, I was able to do some running again, but only where it was downhill.  Uphill, I had to settle for a brisk walk.  When I reached the Damnation aid station, I checked my watch.  So far, I was averaging 17 minutes per mile on this lap.  If I kept that up, I could do a six hour lap.

As I returned to the trails to begin the long loop, I challenged myself to walk as quickly as I could.  Where I used to run, I now walked as briskly as I could.  When I had to slow down to step over roots, I forced myself to get back into my pace as quickly as I could.  I ran the occasional bridge or boardwalk, just so I could tell myself I was still doing run/walk.

Throughout the loop, I sometimes felt a light drizzle.  Sometimes it seemed like just a mist.  As long as it didn’t turn into a steady rain, it was no big deal.

Late in the loop, I recognized the downhill that comes before the bridges.  Although I wasn’t running, I was walking at a hurried pace.  I was excited about getting back down to the bridges, knowing I was almost back to the aid station.  In my haste, I tripped on one of the roots.  I stumbled forward for several awkward strides before finally regaining my balance.  I tweaked my left hamstring again.  This was a case where not falling was bad, but falling might have been worse.  When you stumble forward going downhill, you pick up speed.  Here there were so many big roots, that I’m sure I would have had a hard landing.

I checked my watch again when I got back to the aid station.  On the long loop, I averaged 18 minutes per mile.

During the loop, I had noticed some puffiness in my fingers.  That’s usually a symptom of hyponatremia.  I had electrolyte pills in my drop bag, but I never remembered to transfer them to my fanny pack, so I wasn’t taking them.  I didn’t think it would be a big deal, because I wasn’t drinking as much as I usually do during a race.  To get some salt, I drank a cup of soup broth at Damnation.  Then one of the volunteers asked me if I wanted something to eat.  I didn’t know if I had room for a PBJ, but I saw some small plastic cups filled with pickles.  I ate the pickles to get more salt.

On Dam Road, I mostly walked.  I was willing to run anything downhill, but the road rarely felt like it was downhill, and without more light I couldn’t actually see the hills.

As I got near the Park Road aid station, the volunteers could see my light and got excited that a runner was coming.  They were making noise to encourage me.  In my best drill sergeant voice, I yelled, “I can’t HEAR you.”

My fingers were still puffy.  I didn’t feel like drinking more broth yet, but this was my comfort food station, so I had both grilled cheese and bacon.

On the last section of trails, I started to feel isolated.  The trails near the lake are constantly turning.  I could see right in front of me, but I couldn’t see around me enough to have any context.  I just didn’t have a good feel for where I was.  More and more, I started to feel like I had tunnel vision.  Then I realized my headlamp wasn’t illuminating a wide area like it was at the beginning of the lap.  My batteries were getting weak.

My headlamp has both a bulb and LEDs.  I had been using the LEDs because they’re brighter, but they also use more power.  After only six hours, they had consumed my batteries.  I had enough light to see the roots, but I had to slow down.

I packed spare batteries, but I forgot to transfer them to my drop bag.  They were back at the hotel room, where they weren’t doing me much good.

My time after four laps was 21:09.  I refilled my bottle and had a PBJ.  The volunteer behind the food table asked me if I needed anything else.  I asked if they had any batteries.  They did.  I replaced the batteries in my headlamp, and I was good to go for the last lap.

As I head out again, I checked the clock.  I still had 8:45 to run 20 miles.  The first 3:45 would be in the dark.  Then I would have daylight for the rest of the race.

In my fifth lap, I felt more and more like I was overdressed.  It didn’t cool off much during the night.  I didn’t regret wearing wind pants, because they helped my hamstrings, but I was also wearing a warm headband under my headlamp.  Between them, they made me much too warm.

I didn’t push my walking pace as much in this lap, because I didn’t want to overheat.  I was drinking more often now.  For the first time in the race, I was constantly feeling thirsty.

By the time I got to Damnation, it was drizzly again.  A volunteer there asked me if I had a jacket.  I told him I had a rain poncho in my fanny pack.  For now, the drizzle felt good, but he wanted to make sure I would be OK if it turned into a cold rain.  The volunteers at this race were all good, but at Damnation, they went out of their way to make sure nobody started that long difficult loop without being prepared.

As a hedge against getting cold, I put on my gloves.  I really struggled to get them on.  I felt like O.J. Simpson.  That’s when I realized it wasn’t just my fingers that were puffy.  My hands were swollen all the way to my wrists.

As I left the aid station, I checked my watch.  It was still about an hour and 45 minutes before it would get light enough to see without my headlamp.

The first half of the loop has several sections that I considered runnable in daylight, but I found myself not even walking them very fast.  Then I realized why.  It was my blisters.  I had numerous blisters around both feet.  Each time I slowed down to step carefully over a root, I had to make an effort to accelerate back to be previous pace.  That made my blisters hurt.  I was subconsciously avoiding those painful accelerations.

After another mile, I reached the most difficult part of the loop.  There were long uphill sections where you had to constantly step up over roots.  Besides taking me out of my rhythm, it was also tiring.  I no longer had the energy to pick up my pace again.  I had roughly 5:20 to run the last 10 miles, but I was crashing and burning.  The constant hills and roots were wearing me down.

The drizzle turned into a steady rain.  I didn’t want to use my rain poncho unless I absolutely had to.  For now, I was OK, but I crossed my fingers that it wouldn’t rain for the rest of the race.

The next two miles seemed to take forever.  Eventually, there was enough light to see, but I could no longer run these trails.  I was relieved when I finally reached the out and back part of the loop, but that section also had quite a few roots.  Nothing was easy now.

When I eventually reached the two short bridges near the end of the loop, I tried to run across.  Suddenly, running made my upper back hurt.  I had a painful knot between my neck and my right shoulder.  I didn’t hurt walking, but it was excruciating when I tried to run.  At first, I wondered if it was from using my right hand to hold a flashlight earlier in the race.  Then it occurred to me that I had been looking down constantly for 25 hours.

The approach to the aid station is runnable, but I had to walk it.  By the time I got there, the rain was stopping.  I never needed the rain poncho.  I stayed at the aid station long enough to have another cup of soup broth.  I also had more pickles.

On Dam Road, I forced myself to run the downhill sections.  It hurt like hell.  Besides my upper back, I also felt my blisters with every step.  I forced myself to do it anyway.  On the uphill sections, I tried to walk fast, but I kept getting passed by other runners who could go faster.

There were quite a few other runners who just wanted to finish and didn’t care if they took the full 30 hours.  During the night, they walked, but now that it was daylight, they were picking up the pace.  Several of them passed me on the road.

At the end of the road, there were port-o-potties.  I had to make a stop.  When I started walking again, I was stiff and slow.

When I got to the Park Road aid station, I asked how far it was to the finish.  They said “Four and a half miles.”  I checked my watch.  I had roughly three hours and ten minutes.  That should be more than enough time, even if I walked slowly.

Leaving the aid station, there was a nice flat section with no roots.  I ran for about a minute.  Then I had to take a walking break.  Then I reached some big roots.  I eventually reached another runnable section, but I asked myself, “Why?”  I had enough time to finish without running.  It’s not just that running was painful.  I was worried about overexerting myself.  Throughout the lap, I increasingly got the impression I was overheating.  I hated to walk the whole way, but I also didn’t want to push myself too hard.

I was walking really slowly now.  We had to go about a mile and a half before joining with the section of trail that we ran at the beginning of each lap.  This section was mostly straight, and it seemed to go on and on.  No matter how far I ran, I could see other runners way off in the distance.

Eventually, I got to the section that winds by the lake.  Even when I was faster, this section seemed deceptively long.  I was moving so slowly now that each mile seemed to take an eternity.  I had plenty of time, but I just wanted to be done.  So did other runners.  Quite a few passed me in the last few miles.

When I could see the lake, I noticed the water was smooth as glass.  There was a layer of fog over the lake.  I wondered if high humidity contributed to my overheating.

I hated how long I was taking, but I didn’t try to rush.  More runners passed me.  I recognized several of them.  It was nice to know that friends I made along the trail were going to finish.  I would join them eventually.  With a little over half a mile to go, the trail gets close to the road.  I had a better feel for how close I was, but it was still slow going.

There’s a hard left turn just before you reach the long finish chute.  I wanted so badly to run to the finish, but I couldn’t.  I was beaten.  As the people in the finish area saw someone was finishing, they cheered.  I still couldn’t run.  I couldn’t even walk fast.

I crossed the line in 28:29:59.  That’s the longest I’ve ever taken to finish 100 miles, but I got it done.  I finally broke that string of DNFs.

This was the 25th Rocky Raccoon 100, and they did something new.  Anyone who had finished the race five times could trade in their belt buckles for a large 500 mile buckle.  That gave them a supply of older buckles.  Runners finishing this year had a choice of a shiny new buckle or one of the vintage styles.  I chose this vintage buckle.

Although I finished this race, it’s obvious that the roots weren’t my only problem.  I crashed and burned like never before.  Overheating may have contributed, but mostly that’s a sign that I’m really not in shape for a 100 mile race.  It’s only recently that I got my mileage up to where it should have been six months ago.  I didn’t have enough of a training base for a race like this.  I have four and a half months to get ready for the Bighorn Mountain 100.  In many ways, that’s a much tougher race.  I’m not sure how I’m going to be ready.

Usually after a race, I’ll stay long enough to eat some post-race food.  This time, I collected my things, and made my way straight to the car.  I felt like I was at death’s door, and I just wanted to get back to the hotel.

After a hot bath and some stretching, my legs felt better.  Walking was still painful, but mostly because of the blisters.  I’m now cautiously optimistic that my left hamstring is OK.

I also usually skip lunch after a race, in favor of having an early dinner.  Within an hour after getting back to the hotel I was starving.  Then it occurred to me that I hadn’t had a meal since Friday.

Race Statistics
Distance:  100 miles
Time:  28:29:59
Average Pace:  17:06
Lifetime Marathons/Ultras:  328
Lifetime 100s:  11


  1. Great seeing you out there, Dave. I'm glad you toughed it out for the finish.

    1. The last 10 miles got pretty ugly. Fortunately, I had plenty of time. It was great to see you.

  2. Great read. Congrats, David! Amazing what you accomplished. I ran the 50 last year, and tripped so many times, but hit the ground hard just once. It's definitely the small roots that grab your foot.
    Oh and the OJ reference had me bust out in laughter. Didn't see that coming. Ha. Great job, man!