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Rocky Raccoon 100 Trail Run 2010 Race Report

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Over the weekend, I attempted my first 100 mile trail run at the Rocky Raccoon 100 directed by Joe Prusaitis down in Huntsville State park located in southeast Texas. Rocky is one of the easier 100 mile events in the country and also located fairly close to home  – perfect!

The course is five 20 mile loops that takes you around Lake Raven along pine needle covered trail and a couple dirt park roads that had no vehicle traffic on them. There are no big or even moderate climbs but a nice variety of little ups, little downs, and some flats. The biggest thing talked about the trail are the roots scattered along it. They have been known to take more than a few people to the ground. After the rock-fest at Bandera, how bad could it really be?

The 20 mile loop - Click image to enlarge.

The 20 mile loop - Click image to enlarge.

To add to the excitement, over 600 athletes were going to play in the dirt for either the 100 or 50 mile distance.

My strategy for preparing for this challenge was to train for the Bandera 100 km trail run in early January and then taper into Rocky four weeks later. I treated Bandera like a Rocky simulation and used the same pacing strategy (8 min run / 2 minute walk) wherever possible and never pushed any type of serious effort. Bandera was a great day and experience. It also helped nail down my nutrition plan for Rocky. Could I recovery in four weeks was the unknown question.

My training following Bandera consisted of a weekly mileage of 0, 20, 20, 3 (race week). I also was dealing with a left knee tweak that I acquired from Bandera. So I basically did very little training in the final four weeks of my biggest running challenge to date, which was a bit uncomfortable but I accepted it.

To Huntsville

rocky-raccoon-100-samHThe entire family cruised down to Huntsville Friday afternoon where we checked into our hotel, checked out the park, and went to the packet pick-up which included a race briefing and pasta feed. There had been some significant rain earlier in the week so I was curious how sloppy things could get. Fortunately we were told in the briefing that conditions were actually really good besides 2-3 puddles with only one of significant size but organizers even created a little side trail for that.

The weather for the race could be considered ideal – mid 30s for night-time lows and 50s and sunny during the day. I couldn’t have asked for much better for my first 100 mile attempt.

After a typical so-so night of sleep, it was time to get this adventure started. A fellow trail runner (Thanks Jennifer) was kind to allow me to bum a ride with her so Wendy and Griffin could get a bit more shut-eye. Jennifer picked me up from my hotel at 5 am with the stars shining and quarter moon blazing and we easily cruised into Huntsville State park along with 340+ other 100 mile runners to check-in and get ready for the 6 am start.

The 100 Mile Journey Begins

I positioned myself at the back of the pack since I planned to start the day with a nice walk to warm up the body. Looking around I noticed Derek from the blogging world and introduced myself. As race director Joe P. sent us on our way, I turned the headlamp ON and Derek and I ended up chatting for the first 10 minutes before we finally decided it was time to start running.

I began implementing my 8 minute run / 2 minute walk cycle that I tested at Bandera using my Garmin 305.  I ran at a relaxed and easy pace while ready to soak up this 100 mile adventure.

Loop 1 (mile 0 – 20)

  • What a great trail to run on. The trail just has a real relaxing vibe to it. Running within the large majestic pines and catching glimpses and great views of Lake Raven. As the sun rose, watching rays of light pass through the trees – magical.
  • I never felt great or even good. I would give it an OK+. I can’t really explain this feeling because I kept things completely relaxed but it was more of an internal sense.
  • Seeing 2-3 coyotes (I think that’s what they were.) in the pines around mile eight. Did a double take.
  • Stomach/mental/energy – Good. I used my Nathan Elite 2V carrier with both bottles containing 100 cals of Melon HEED that I would try and go through every 90-120 minutes with three pulls every 15 minutes. I also ate part of an Organic Food Bar (Protein – 300 cals) every hour on the :45. I would try and complete the bar every four hours. Finally, I would pop in one Hammer Endurolyte every hour on the :15.
  • Finished the first loop in 3:55. Wendy and Griffin were now at the park so I enjoyed a little chat with them before I started loop two. Wendy could sense something wasn’t right.
  • Roots – Not a problem.

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Loop 2 (mile 20 – 40)

  • A beautiful part of the day as the temps moved into the 50s with sunny skies. Running along the trail near the dam, the water completely sparkling like diamonds scattered on top of the water. A small sailboat was out enjoying the amazing day.
  • Adjusted my pacing to a 7 min run / 3 min walk as the left knee began to complain a bit more. Periodically I would stop and stretch my major leg muscle groups to try and keep things loose.
  • Stomach/mental/energy – Great! No issues and finding a tree to chat with every couple hours.
  • Met Wendy and G at mile 35.6 aid-station. She could tell I was still in this odd state. Griffin was having a good time with his dump truck, digger, dirt, rocks, and sticks.
  • I was given some advice by Olga as we passed each other during the loop, “Focus on getting through loop three because it is all downhill from there.” I thought of this often during loop three.
  • Finished loop two in 4:07. Sat for a few minutes and restocked up on my nutrition.
  • Roots – Caught one that sent me to the ground. It was a fairly controlled fall so after knocking off a bit of dirt, I was back on my way.

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Loop 3 (mile 40 – 60)

  • The first 10 miles of this loop I was able to stay mostly on my 7/3 pacing strategy with a few added walk breaks for the knee.
  • On the back half of the loop, the knee was beginning to talk a lot more. My blood sugar levels must have still been pretty good, because I got creative and started trying out different pacing strategies that would not cause significant knee pain. After a bit of trial and error, I was able to get into a good groove with my 7/3 run-walk effort in which the 7 min run portion consisted of 10 step walk / 20 step run. I felt like I was making decent forward progress with this approach but would rather have been running. I had to accept this.
  • I had to walk most downhill sections of trail due to the knee discomfort.
  • Stomach/mental/energy – Feeling good.
  • Hearing the coyote choir howling at dusk – cool!
  • Turned on my headlamp and tossed on my jacket during the final miles of the loop as the sun had now set for the day. The stars began to glow.
  • Roots – Ouch! Banged my left big toe a couple times.
  • Finished the loop in 4:47 (6:49 pm).
  • I put on my Petzl MYO XP, heavy undershirt, beanie, and warm gloves as the temps continued to drop. I thought temps would eventually drop into the upper 30s (not completely sure).
  • Talked to Wendy for the last time until I called her when I was done. Griffin said, “Are you coming back to the hotel with us daddy?.” My heart smiled. I gave Wendy and Griffin a quick kiss and knew I had to get moving as the knee was beginning to petrify.

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Loop 4 (mile 60 – 75.6)

  • Started the loop walking the first 200 meters to try and warm up the knee after the brief pause.
  • Eventually I was able to keep moving with a 8 min /2 min cycle where the 8 minutes consisted of 10 step walk – 10 step jog – repeat. The two minute cycle would be 100% walking. I could do this on most of the trail but not the downhill grade because of the knee.
  • I had one runner shadow me through this stretch. I tried to talk to her a couple times but she was jammin’ to her iPod.
  • I was able to continue this forward motion routine for the next six miles and then the knee immediately stopped welcoming running for the remainder of the journey. From mile 66 onward any grade, root, or rock became a problem for my knee. The petrification continued. I wondered if the night-time cold was assisting in this process.
  • Roots – Ahhhhh! Dammit. Ahhhhhh!
  • Stars – Bright, Bright, Bright!
  • Stomach/mental/energy – All doing well.  I still really felt mentally alert. My left knee was another story.
  • Moving on the dirt road was manageable but the trail was not. I had no desire of risking a knee injury for the rest of the year and after much contemplation I decided to drop at the Park Road aid-station (mile 75.6 at about midnight) as the rest of the course to the start/finish area was all trail.
  • “Number 180 has dropped.”
  • At the Park Road aid-station a couple runners came in saying they were falling asleep on the trail. I was a bit surprised to hear this but this isn’t your local 5 km so anything is almost possible after 18 hours of movement.

Post Race Thoughts

  • An amazing event and with top-notch support! A great place to attempt your first 100.
  • I still feel dropping was the right thing for me to do based on my current state at the time.
  • My right Achilles was crazy inflamed the next morning. I don’t think I have ever had an Achilles issue. It may have been due to over-compensating for my petrified left leg.
  • I may lose my first big toenail on my left foot. It took a beating on my final lap as the knee didn’t want to bend.
  • My fueling and hydration went great the whole day.
  • A few things I do wonder about:
    • Could a different pacing strategy early on such as 5/5 delayed the knee breakdown?
    • Could a neoprene sleeve have kept the knee warm and supported when things started to go bad? (My buddy TJ mentioned this.)
  • Running Bandera 100 km four weeks earlier was not a good choice for me. It created significant risk. It seems so clear after the fact. My heart got in the way of my head. Dang it!
    • In the last few years, I have not been able to prove that I have the durability to be physically healthy when running ultras one month apart. I always go into the next event nursing a tweak and Rocky was no different.
    • Bandera was my longest ultra and I don’t think I fully recovered from it.
    • All this being said, not running Bandera does not Guarantee a Rocky finish either. You still have to make it through 100 miles and anything or the same thing could have happened.
  • The Rocky course is designed for you to succeed.
  • Talking to the 60+ year old gentleman that entered the hotel as I was packing the car Sunday morning. He finished! Awesome.
  • I will be back.

Swag

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The buckle will be saved for another year.

Thanks to Joe P. and all the volunteers that made this event first class. It was a day that created some great memories and a few lessons I hope not to forget.

A special thanks to Wendy and Griffin for supporting me on my crazy adventures. I love you both.

Be active – Feel the buzz!

David – EnduranceBuzz.com

About the author

David Hanenburg David Hanenburg is the passionate dirt-lovin' creator of Endurance Buzz and has been playing in the endurance sports world since 2000 after knockin' the dust off of his Trek 950 hardtail thanks to a friend asking to go ride some local dirt. In 2007 he ran his first ultra on the trails and fell in love with the sport and its people. For more information on David's endurance sports journey, check out the About page.

8 Responses to “Rocky Raccoon 100 Trail Run 2010 Race Report”

  1. on 10 Feb 2010 at 7:44 pm Porta-pot bob

    Nice report Dave. There’s no question you’ll be back on the trails soon, healed up, and on your way to some great races. Your best days are still ahead of you!

  2. on 10 Feb 2010 at 8:22 pm Mike Krejci

    Sorry about the knee, Dave. There is no doubt that you made the right call. Heal up and you’ll be back training soon. There is another 100 with your name on it.

  3. on 11 Feb 2010 at 9:53 am Chris Russell

    Nice report Dave! It was great to see you at Park Rd A/S and I also met and visited with your wife some at Park Road. You looked really good when I saw you so I was wondering what happened (plus I was hoping you would beat Olga for me since I can never finish ahead of her.:-)).

    Knee issues are tough. I know I dropped at mile 85 at CR because of my knee (which had zero issues in training and hasn’t bother me since). But I was overcompensating and it caused problems elsewhere.

    Plus some of us are slow recoverers. I could never do the Texas Trilogy without wrecking my body but other people can do an ultra/month. Good thing is you are learning your body and can place your race schedule appropriately (maybe do Bandera 50K next year as a long supported training run for RR).

    Good luck!

  4. on 11 Feb 2010 at 10:49 am Rick Sanford

    Fantastic report. What incredible detail! Sorry about the knee. It was a fantastic day to run, for sure. Saw you at Dam Road, I think on your third loop. Take care and heal that knee. Get your buckle next year.

  5. on 11 Feb 2010 at 11:45 am Jay Hall

    I had wondered if one could recover after doing a 100k so soon before a 100 mile attempt. I enjoyed the report – just sorry about the outcome.

  6. on 11 Feb 2010 at 12:54 pm David Hanenburg

    Thanks PpB!

    Mike – I already am looking forward to the next 100 mile experience. I have a year to get ready and hopefully prepare a bit smarter.

    Chris – It was nice seeing ya again. Sorry I couldn’t come through for you. Olga kicked my butt.

    Hey Rick – I think you helped with my drop bag. Thanks for that and nice meeting you. Currently in full healing mode.

    Jay – I would say yes, certain people can…but no, I cannot. 🙂 There are so many darn amazing events around, it is hard to hold myself back. That will have to change.

  7. on 16 Feb 2010 at 6:58 am Mark

    Howdy there! Great report! I see you know Mike and Chris, two great guys! Fantastic effort in trying to get it done even with the knee tweak! Good knee or bad, either way you look at it, 100 miles is a long effing way to run! Good luck with your next adventure!

  8. on 16 Feb 2010 at 9:31 am David Hanenburg

    Hey Mark – Thanks man. It was a tough day but a great experience. I hope to know what 100 miles feels like…some day…getting closer. 🙂