Sunday, February 5, 2012

Rocky Raccoon 50 Mile Race Report

My Rocky Raccoon 50 Mile race adventure got off to an expected start with a rain coming down over the several days before the race. We had heavy rains the night before and even started in a light rain for the first several miles of the day. Otherwise the weather was good, moderate temperatures that cooled only slightly during the day with sun coming out only late enough to provide extra twilight visibility before dark. The course is 3 loops of a 16.67 mile course run through Huntsville State Park in Huntsville, Texas. My general plan is to run an 8-2 run-walk plan with extra walking up hills and large inclines, short rest stops at all aid stations and a break to assess myself between loops. I ran the race with my friend Karen, who is an experienced ultra-distance runner. Karen ran the 100 mile distance at this race last year. Loop 1: There is a lot of water on the course and it is only a matter of time before feet are wet and mud is splattered up along my legs. Fortunately my trail shoes (Brooks Ghost GTX) proved to be good at keeping most of the water out my shoes and draining excess water away from my feet. Initially, we try to avoid as much water as possible by going through makeshift detours around water-filled areas, but this only goes so far and we are often forced to go right through the water. Overall, I felt like this lap went pretty well. I did suffer from a moderate amount of gastrointestinal distress for several miles in the middle of the loop, though a trip to the porta-potty helped to address that for a few hours. After that, I feel like I am back on pace and running well with some of the more difficult parts of the loop ahead. I'm shown in this photo approaching the last aid station in the first loop.
We complete the first loop in 3:27:58 and are feeling pretty good with where we are right now. T1: I don't really think the break between loops is known as a transition break, but I'm a triathlete so that's what I'm going with for now. I come into the break and grab my bag and take a seat. I try to methodically go through the steps I need to take. I remove my shoes and socks and shove newspaper up into the shoes to wick out the excess water. I did bring extra shoes for each lap, but the other shoes would not be nearly as effective at keeping water away from my feet.
I clean off and examine my feet. Since they looked good I applied a coat of Body Glide to prevent chaffing. Then I emptied my extra nutrition from my waist pouches and restocked. Karen had previously given me the outstanding idea to have a separate bag packed for each loop's nutrition needs so that I could dump out the old stuff and repack what I needed without having to worry about forgetting anything. Finally, I munched on some extra nutrition and put on fresh socks with my shoes and head out after a stop of 17:30 feeling refreshed. Here I am shown preparing to head back onto the course.
Loop 2: During the early part of this loop I feel like I am running fairly well, though the earlier gastrointestinal distress starts to return. As part of my response to this I stop taking in simple sugars as part of my aid station snacks, which does seem to benefit me in the long run. During this loop we start to notice that the water is receding in certain areas of the trail, however the muddy areas and getting mucky and the clay areas of trails offer less and less traction--especially up and down hills. This loop begins to get tough on me personally as the middle third is filled with a slightly worse case of the gastrointestinal distress I felt earlier. This takes a bit of a mental toll during the middle part of the race. I do feel much better after another porta-potty break and resume the lap. After reaching the final aid station for this loop we again enter one of the toughest parts of the course. This time my mental state starts to get down and I feel the last 4-5 miles drag on and on and on... I just dig down do what it takes to keep on moving, meanwhile Karen does her best to encourage me through this part of the trail. My spirits finally begin to pick up a bit as we get close to the end of this loop and we finish loop 2 in 3:57:52, though I would have believed it was much longer based on how I felt. T2: This time through is pretty much the same as the first time, except that I decide to change into a fresh shirt. I again restock my nutrition and get into fresh socks and decide to stay with my trail shoes again for this last loop based upon the trail conditions. This time I am out in 21:59. Loop 3: As I start loop 3 I can tell I really do feel much better than I did when I came back. The lower parts of the course have drained more and some are more stable. However, the muddy parts are even muckier than before and a number of clay areas are starting to feel unstable. For the most part we run straight through the center of the path through the wet areas to find the clay base of support in the center of the trails. In many ways I felt at my mental best for this loop, I tapped into my endurance mindset and I tapped into my endurance and found a pace I could maintain. One interesting thing we discover as we come down the back side of the dam, somewhere around mile 41, a large pine tree tree had fallen across the path since we had last been by. Given our general level of fatigue, we talk among ourselves and with other runners and try to remember whether the tree had been there or not earlier. We make it to the last aid station a bit before dark, placing us 4.4 miles from the end with a bit of twilight left. Unfortunately, this places us on some of the more technical parts of the trail (many twists, turns and roots to deal with) as we are reduced to running with our headlamps. This slows our paces just a bit and we try to take quick, short steps as we run out the course. Finally, we take that last turn and are in an open straightaway from the finish. As we pick up for a finishing sprint I feel the unmistakeable pain of a popping blister on my right foot about 50 yards from the finish. I ignore that and sprint on through for my first 50 mile race finish in approximately 12:06:47. In the end I had a great time running this with a great friend. For now I need to turn my primary attention towards Ironman Texas, which is just 104 days away.....


Amanda said...

Holy cow Richard - that's pretty amazing! Congratulations on getting through stomach issues, tough course conditions, and super distance!

Wasn't it tough stopping between laps rather than continuing? I would think if I sat down I wouldn't want to get going again.

Great job!!!!

goforarun said...

Great race report! 50 miles? I don't have much to say, except, WOW! Again WOW! Congratulations!

Rae! said...

Wow. So what's causing the distress? Sounds like fun. 50 in just 12 hours. Nice.
Yay!! Another IM. Are you finding it easier on the bike with the tri bike? I hope ur family tweets and FB like last year. Kept me on my toes last year!!!