Saturday, February 18, 2012
Rocky Racoon Race Report 2012
The race report is long overdue, so my apologies to anyone who has been waiting with baited breath to read it...(are those crickets I hear??)
In true K style, my lead into Rocky was not without many bumps in the road. I have become accustomed to these now, which helped me to remain mostly calm while working through the issues. First, I had a nagging knee pain that I couldn't shake while running, so I took about 10 days off to rest it. The best distraction was the arrival of my perfect grandson, Jacob. I went to help my daughter for a few days and then when I returned home the infamous January respiratory infection showed up the two weeks prior to the race. Finally, the week before Rocky, things seemed to look and feel better and everything seemed like a go.
The last few days leading into the race, I kept my eye on the weather, which looked like it could make things interesting, but I was very glad to NOT see sub-freezing temps like we had last year.
I did almost nothing to prepare/pack for the race until Friday night. I don't know if I am getting more comfortable with pre-race prep or if I am just an idiot that procrastinates. I hate packing and I tend to obsess over details, so procrastination seems to be effective in this case.
Friday night, I still had no real race plan. I planned to run and PR, but how much of a PR was dependent upon a few things. First, the weather. By Friday night, it was 100% forecasted to rain and rain hard. I wondered if Joe would have to delay the start or even worse, cancel the race like he was forced to do at Rocky Hill Ranch, the year it was renamed Hells Hills.
If all went well, I would push hard but I knew that I could run this race fairly easy and still have a decent PR. Richard, who would be running his first 50 miler, and I planned to start together and then let the day unfold.
Race morning started with a bang, literally. The thunder and lightening coupled up with the heavy downpour of rain greeted us on the highway as we headed to Huntsville. We laughed and joked about what kind of day it was going to be and we tried to keep the mood as light as possible and prepare our minds for whatever lie ahead.
As we pulled into the park, I could see the 100 milers with their headlamps bobbing along the trail in the rain. I had goosebumps and the excitement was almost too much to contain. I can't put into words the pure joy I get seeing runners run, especially trail runners. It represents pure freedom to me. Pure joy!
After a few restroom stops, final preparations, and goodbyes to Mark, Richard and I headed to the start line, in the rain, happy as a couple of crazy kids.
In good old-fashioned Joe form, he yelled go and we went, hooting and hollering and embracing all that Mother Nature had to offer. Straight out of the shoot, we hit mud and rain in darkness. Our headlamps provided enough light to see the trail and staying with the pack kept the energy and spirits high.
The first loop went off without a hitch. Aid station to aid station, keeping our 8/2 plan in motion and making sure to eat, hydrate, and take our s caps on schedule. HTrex served breakfast tacos...complete with bacon!
We happened upon Erica Falcon on this loop and had the chance to talk with her. She shared that not only was this her first trail race, it was the first time she had run any trail! We gave her as much advice as we could in the few minutes we spent together and we wished her well. When we finished up our first loop, she came in shortly after us and we offered any help we could to help her on her journey. Erica is an amazing woman. She went on to finish almost 30 minutes before we did. Outstanding work!
One of the things I love about Rocky is how often runners see one another on the out and backs. Fast, slow, 50 milers, 100 milers, it doesn't matter, everyone sees everyone and it does so much for the soul to see each other.
Richard and I met a delightful man, Ron, and had quite a few laughs along the way for the entire race.
The highlight of this loop was seeing Ian Sharman, Hal Koerner, and Jakeb Stunz on the trail. I won't embarrass myself too much about what I did when I saw Hal...the people that were sharing the trail with me will never forget though...
Our first loop time was 3:26, right where I had hoped to be. We changed socks, left on the same shoes, and fueled up for another go around.
Second loop was pretty much the same meaning there were no major issues that came up. Richard hit a low point, but never let it get the best of him. He was cautious where he needed to be, especially as we made our way around the areas of significant mud, and there were plenty of those! He is training for the IMTX, so I kept this in mind as we navigated the trail. I did not want him to twist an ankle or worse on this race. That could potentially take him out of the IM.
We enjoyed going through the aid stations so much. You just can't say enough about the volunteers. They are the ones who deserve the medals and belt buckles!
The only real problem I had was that it seemed like I had to go to pee often. This is highly unusual for me. I usually have the opposite problem, meaning I don't pee and then I swell, and have different problems. I read later that many people had this same issue and it probably was the result of having constantly wet feet. An interesting thought. I did become very uncomfortable at one point when I NEEDED to find a port a potty... Finally I did and all was well.
The more puddles mud we tried to get around, the more difficult it was to not get too far off the trail. I kept thinking of the 100 milers and how they would manage to find their way to these newly worn paths to avoid the mud. There was no way. It would have been very risky to try to do that in the dark.
We started to make the choice to just plow through the mud puddles. It was fun and I believe it was faster. I wasn't too worried about falling or injury. I was more concerned with leaving my shoe behind!
We saw Jon Walk on his 100 miler attempt on this loop. He was at DamNation and looking good. He mentioned that he was having some back pain, but all in all looked good and we wished him well.
We finished up loop two in about 4:20. Much of that time difference was spent at the start/finish at the end of the first loop and in my opinion, it was a wise decision to take the time for foot care to prevent other problems. Again we changed socks, fueled up, and headed out.
The third loop went much like the first two. We were hoping to finish most of the loop before dark hit, and thankfully, we were able to get through the last aid station before I had to turn my light on. I felt light on my feet and ready to go, but ultimately decided it was best to run with a great friend and make sure that he made it in injury free. One of our words for the day was "Conserve". Whenever we would hit a point that I felt we should take it easy, I would start the "conserve, conserve, conserve" mantra. It was as much for me as it was for Richard. By the end of the 3rd loop we both had plenty of energy left to finish strong. He was a bit hesitant to take the trail faster with the lack of daylight and I could certainly appreciate that. I remembered very well how I felt the first time I ran in the dark. Now, it's not such a big deal, I feel like I just kind of feel the trail. But that comes with practice.
The weirdest happening on this loop was coming upon the fallen tree as we crossed over the dam. Richard and I were at the head of a small pack of runners and every single one of us stopped and had to have a real think about whether or not we had forgotten about climbing over this tree the first 2 loops or not. It was quite funny thinking about it now. It's amazing how the mind can play tricks on a runner in the woods. Turns out it was not there the first two loops and a runner actually saw it fall. Thank goodness no one was hurt.
As we finished up the race, we both had lots of energy left over! I felt like I could have gone out for another loop or two, though I was glad I didn't have to. The sun had set and the temps were quickly dropping. My heart was heavy for the 100 milers as I knew it would be a very long night for many of them.
Our last loop was about the same time as the 2nd, with a finish time of 12:07. This was a nice PR from my 13:20 in Arkansas and my 13:55 at my first Rocky 50. To have a PR and finish with a great friend and athlete as he completed his first 50...who could ask for anything more?
OK...since you asked, how about finishing my 50 miler just a few minutes before Hal Koerner finished his 100 so that I could see it?!!! That was pretty awesome. Or how about seeing Ron finish just after us and hearing what his inspiration to finish was. His daughter who had passed away from cancer. That's a true hero.
Or how about seeing that Erica Falcon finished her first ever 50 miler, her first ever trail run in 11:35?!!! Yep. She kicked my butt! Great job Erica!
Nothing new in this area. I had hoped to run in my Brooks PureGrits, but I didn't want to chance the new shoes on such muddy terrain. Hopefully I will get a chance to try my new favorite shoes out in a race soon. stuck with my trusty Cascadias. Decided not to change the shoes, only the socks between each loop. The new Injinjis were perfect.
I wore my Lulu gear for most of the race. This stuff is so expensive, but it is worth every penny. It dries quickly and is so light and does not restrict movement. I would love more of it, so if Lululemon would like to send me some test gear, I will be happy to try it out for you!
I opted to do my Nathan hand-held the entire race. I never thought I'd get to a point where I would run this length without a hydration vest, but I have and I am glad I'm there.
I carried my food in my spibelt and swapped out for a new food stash each loop. I believe I carried too much food, but I'd rather have too much than too little.
I don't rely on aid station for my main source of calories as I have so many allergies. This day I did indulge in several helpings of Pringles and gummy bears. For some reason, the Pringles tasted like Heaven!
My head lamp is fairly new and worked great.
Mark was my "crew" for the race. He did a great job getting us in and out of the aid station. He is learning how to handle me during the races and I think by the next 100, he could crew me all on his own. Now, if only I could get him to pace me...
Nicholas and Erica Gault came out to pace and watch the race. It was very uplifting to see both of them! Great people!
The week before the race I was feeling well enough to run a little bit every day. This is not something I have ever done before, but I had been well-rested from having over 2.5 weeks off and I was inspired to try to go for my first running streak.
After the race, I felt great. Really great. I have felt strong, ready to run, and any soreness I had seemed to leave if I ran, even if it was for only a mile. So the week after the race, I ran at least 1 mile every day. I didn't do much else in the way of workouts to try to give my immune system a chance to rebuild as that is typically where I fall apart after a big race.
After 14 days of the streak, I had to let it go. My grandbabies have been ill and I went to help. Family first. Always.
I may get back on the streak in March, but I won't post any "streak" info until I actually have something streak worthy to mention, like maybe 30 days or 60 days.
I am gearing up for The Woodlands Marathon which is in 2 weeks. I am keeping things easy as far as training to prevent any injury before the race.
I am pleased at how healthy I feel after Rocky. I can't remember ever feeling this good post race. Maybe it is because I did conserve through the race, maybe I am just stronger this time around, or maybe I just got lucky this time.
I have to admit, I do have the itch for the 100 now. Kind of in a bad, bad way. But I promised no 100s in 2012. I wonder if that means I can't begin training for one in 2012...