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Top 100 Mile Times in 2009: Veronica Battaglia at Rocky Raccoon

TALON endurance athlete, Veronica Battaglia, completed her first 100 mile trail run at the Rocky Raccoon 100 in 2009. Battaglia rocked the course and finished in 21:34:51. This effort gave her the 40th fastest female 100 mile time for 2009.

Veronica was kind enough to share her 2009 adventure at Huntsville State Park…with you!

Sit back. Relax. Enjoy.

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Rocky-Raccoon-Veronica-B-1

Pre Race Jitters

Rocky Raccoon was to be my first attempt at running 100 miles.  I had been training for weeks when my Achilles tendon flared up on me during my last long training weekend.  This began my pre-race jitters as I became consumed with “what –if’s” about the race.  What if it rains? What if I get blisters?  What if my Achilles snaps?   A good friend and experienced ultra runner finally told me – what if “IT” does? What are you going to do?  Quit worrying!  And so I did.  I was an A+ rehab patient for my Achilles tendonitis and performed most of my taper on the spin bike and elliptical.  By race week I was feeling good and super stoked to race.

Pre Race Excitement

Christi (my crew) and I left on Thursday toward Hunstville, TX.  We stopped in Dallas and had a good night’s sleep then got up, ate a good Cracker Barrel breakfast and left for Huntsville State Park.  We arrived right before noon and decided we would scope out the park.  It was mostly empty except for some race volunteers setting up tents and a handful of racers.  I spoke to a couple of the racers and my pre-race excitement began to dwindle.  I wasn’t sure what it was or what I expected, but that “feeling” just wasn’t there.

We headed to subway for lunch and then to Wal-Mart to spend $100 on food that I “might” want during the race.  Then back to the park for the pre-race meeting.  The meeting was basically the same as the pre-race email with a few minor updates.

We went to eat at a local Italian place and decided to get it to go when I realized that I forgot my phone charger that Christi was going to send updates from.  We stopped at a Verizon store 15 minutes before closing and bought a new one.  We were back at the hotel and done eating by 7:30pm.

I had all my race gear lined up and was ready to hit the sack by 8:00pm!  I have never had this much time to sleep before a race – this was going to be great!  I set 3 alarms and had a wake-up call lined up, so no need to worry about oversleeping.  But, as always – I was super restless.  I woke up several times too hot or too cold or just too anxious.

Race Morning

At 4:00am, just as planned, alarms started going off.  I got up and started my pre-race duties –  taping my feet, Achilles, lube and breakfast.  I had oatmeal and ½ a cinnamon swirl bagel with peanut butter.

Our plan was to get to the race start at 5:30am.  We left the hotel a little after 5:00am and had plenty of time to relax and pee five times before the race started.  At 5:45am, we went to check in and get lined up.  The start was very informal – I even had to ask someone where the start line was because there were runners scattered everywhere.  Christi gave me the thumbs up and I was off running. The race started with 239 runners, of which 51 were females.

The First 20 Miles

My plan was to finish the first loop between 3hr 45min and 3hr 55min.  The first aid station was at 3.1 miles and I was already behind my plan due to the crowded start.  I was a little nervous about getting behind schedule, but just tried to relax and enjoy the run.

Before long, that “feeling” was back – I began chatting with runners and soon, everything that I had envisioned a 100-mile race to be like was coming to focus.  I was feeling good and confident and sticking with my scheduled consumption of 150 calories every 30 minutes.  I only stopped at aid stations long enough to refill my water bottle.

I completed the first loop in 3:41:38.  I was in 72nd place and the 11th female.  A little fast, but feeling good.

During my first loop, Christi sent her first text update of the day:

Greetings from rocky raccoon….disclaimer up front – spelling (need sp ck) and hopefully I can report enough info to your satisfaction. If not – please ask (really – I’ve got time). Weather is clear and 57 degrees ( little warm).  Veronica took off at 6:00am a little uneasy about the unknown but as soon as she gets her blood flowing and finds a friend to chat with; she will relax.  I have my spreadsheets, task list, check off list, flip charts, and a control log to keep everything in order….ha!  I could survive in the wild for a week with all the supplies we have in this jeep…..i know better safe than sorry.  More info to come. Go team veronica…..I”m out..(the support crew) Christi

The Next 20 Miles (Miles 21-40)

Text Update from Christi:

Hello all….weather -68 degrees …considering…. it is  hot.   Veronica came into 20mi station at 9:42am. (According to the spreadsheet – 11:06 min mile). She looks strong and Is in great spirits.  We are staying with the fuel plan.  I will continue to stay top of the fluid intake.  Christi

Heading out for my second loop, the temps really started to pick up.  I got to the Nature Center aid station (#1) and Christi swapped my water bottles and reloaded me with Clif Bloks and EFS Liquid Shot.

On my way to the Dam Road aid station (#2) my stomach was feeling very gassy.  I was hoping the gas would pass soon and I would get to feeling better.  Sure enough, by the time I got to Dam Road I was beginning to feel better.  I had decided that I had been eating too much.  – I decided to cut my intake down to 100 calories every 30 minutes.

I left the Dam Road aid station for a 6 mile loop and made a rookie mistake.  Instead of taking the time to grab my second water bottle from my drop bag at the aid station, I just refilled and kept on going.  By this time, the temps were in the mid 70’s – one bottle for 6 miles wasn’t enough.  I realized that I was half way done with my bottle before I was half way through the loop, so I began to ration the last half of my bottle. I met a few other runners that had made the same mistake – we are all very happy to pop out of the trail onto the dam – not much longer from there.

I was now headed for the Park Road aid station where I would see Christi again.  This, to me, was the easiest section of the race.  I’ m not sure if it was because it was ½ trail and ½ fire road, or if it was the mental side of knowing that the loop was over half way done.  I made it to Park Road and switched out my bottles with Christi.

My sister had made it in by then, so it was really nice to see her.  I wasn’t feeling good anymore, but I knew I only had 4.4 miles to finish loop 2.  My calorie intake was beginning to become detrimental.  I had quit taking my Clif Bloks and EFS almost completely – nothing sounded good at this point.  And my 1 per hour electrolyte plan was also proving to be insufficient.

I made it to the end of loop 2, but I was hurting.  My pacer, Michael, had arrived and he, Christi, and my sister knew they had to get me back on track.  I handed Christi my full bottle of EFS shot and asked her to call Greg E. and Steve K. to see if they had any recommendations and to let me know what they said when I got to the Nature Center aid station.

The Next, Next 20 Miles (Miles 41-60)

Text Update from Christi:

Veronica is stating her quads are tight.  Not wanting to eat real food but forced her to take turkey sub. Fluids are good but it is hot.  She is staying on plan with electros and salt rock. 40 mile she came in at 1:40pm ( 11:30 min mile). She is steady but spirit is down a touch but her sister and her pacer ( michael) was here.  It’s amazing how support does help the mind.  All is well….about to turn on the tough love…..go team v…..christi

By the time I got to the Nature Center aid station I was feeling terrible.  My quads were killing me, I was extremely sleepy, and it felt much better to walk than to run.  I was already starting a plan to make sure I crossed the finish line before the 30 hour cutoff – forget the 24 and 22 hour goals – I just had to finish this thing.

Christi had spoken to Greg and Steve – they said to up my electrolytes big time – it was HOT.  Michael was there to shove 4 electrolytes down me and they gave me a turkey sandwich and sent me on my way.   He yelled at me to walk for a bit and recover.  This was all I needed to hear – I was more than happy to walk!

I looked at my watch and decided I would start a walk/run regimen – 5 mins walking, 15 running.  After 5 minutes of walking, I started to run again.  I was starting to feel a little better.

I met up with some other runners and we all seemed to be in the same boat.  We pushed on and before I knew it, I was feeling really good again.  I got to the Dam Road aid station and made sure to grab my second water bottle this time.   They also had some Ramen Noodles ready and they hit the spot!

I finished the Dam Road 6 mile loop, had another cup of Ramen Noodles and was headed back to Park Road – my favorite section of the course.  I felt great!  I also did a body check as I had done a few times during the race.  Achilles?  Good.  Knees?  Good.  Toes?  Mostly good – I had one toe on my left foot that I seemed to keep hitting on the 9 gazillion roots.  Nothing I could do to make it better – just quit tripping on the roots!

I made it to Park Road and Christi’s cousin, Leigh, and her husband, Terry, had made it in to support me.  It was really nice to have such a large support crew.  They were all very happy to see that I was feeling better.  Now just that terrible 4.6 mile section to finish off loop 3 and pick up Michael!

The Next, Next, Next 20 Miles (Miles 61-80)

Text Update from Christi:

60 miles completed. She came in at 6:14pm.  Michael started with her which boosted her. She ate some hot soup and didn’t want to change clothes or stop.  She ready to tackle the night….she is a little edgy which is good….she is starting the mental war

I had come in to the start/finish area and was ready to pick up Michael and head back into the night.  I wasn’t feeling too great at this point, but knew what I needed to do to get back on track.  I also felt confident that Michael could help me finish the last two loops in 5hrs 30min each to make sub-24hr finish.

My crew tried to get me to change clothes at this point, but I had made the decision that I would not change anything unless it wasn’t working for me – and everything seemed to be working great.

Christi shoved a light jacket and an extra headlamp in my pack.  I had a SUPER bright headlight that I had planned to wear.  It is a Light & Motion Arc HID bike light and it is bright.  But…..the battery weighs 486g which is super light for a battery of that size, but sounded really heavy after running 60 miles!

Michael and Christi had already planned what I had been thinking in my head for the last 4.6 miles – Michael would wear the Arc and I would wear my AAA Princeton Tech EOS LED light.  It worked great – I was able to run beside Michael for quite a bit of the loop and could see well with my EOS when I was behind him.  We got several comments about the bright light – most folks were envious – especially with the extremely rooty trail.

It took a little longer than I would have liked to get to the Nature Center aid station – I had to power walk a bit until I started feeling better.  Once we got through that station, I was feeling good again and we were off.

It was great having Michael to pace.  We hadn’t seen each other in a while so we had a lot to catch up on – and he has some great adventures to talk about.

Before I knew it, we were at the Dam Road aid station.  I grabbed some hydropel from my drop bag and Michael refilled our water bottles.  I also got a cup of chicken noodle soup – that seemed to be the only thing that sounded good to me.  Michael was loving the quesadillas – I was jealous that I couldn’t eat any of the good food they had at the Dam Road aid station.

We finished the Dam Road loop within the time we allotted ourselves.  I began to think that we could finish this loop in under 5 hours and there might still be a chance I could run a sub 22 hour race. I was just about out of electrolytes at this point, so I made sure to get some salty soup before heading on to the Park Road aid station.

We started to pass quite a few folks during this section – I think the heat from the day was starting to take a toll on the field.  As we neared Park Road, Michael yelled out to let Christi know we were coming in – although with the super bright ARC light and the rattling of the Advil in Michael’s pack (Advil that Christi tossed in his pack), I think she could probably tell it was us.  We refilled our bottles, ate MORE soup, and I gave Christi my empty electrolyte container so she could refill it and give it back at the start/finish aid station.  We were off again for the last 4.6 miles of this loop.

I knew that if we could sustain this pace that I would just need a sub 5 hour loop 5 to make the sub 22-hour finish.

Text Update from Christi:

Mile 76 …very strong at 7:55pm.  Eating hot soup and letting me know what she will need at the next station at mile 80.  Best she has looked since first 20 miles.  Go team vee!

The Last 20 Miles (Miles 81-100!)

Text Update from Christi:

Last 20 miles…still strong. Working through the leg pain but spirit is up beat.  She can see the finish line…will try to motivate to get out everythiing she has….she is kickin ass…very impressive from where I’m sittin

Michael decided that he would put a long sleeve shirt on when we got in to the turnaround aid station and also grab a charged battery for the ARC.  I, on the other hand, made a fast turnaround.  I grabbed more soup, my spare headlamp with fresh batteries and more electrolytes.

I began power walking and running until Michael could catch up.  I made it pretty far before Michael caught up – I was beginning to worry that he might think I was still back at the aid station!  Then I finally heard the familiar sound of the rattling Advil J.  Michael told me that Greg E. wanted to talk to me at the next aid station.  I also decided that I wanted my gloves, just in case.

When we got to the Nature Center, Michael ran ahead a little to tell Christi to get my gloves.  When I got there, she shoved the gloves in my pack then dialed up Greg.  We kept walking as I talked.  Greg wanted to give me some motivation and let me know that if I pushed it I might have a chance at the Arkansas women’s record for Rocky Raccoon.  Unfortunately, I think Greg thought I was moving a little faster than I actually was!  I would need to run the last 16.9 miles in 2 hours and 10 minutes – a 7:42 min/mile pace.  Not quite in the cards for me at this point.  But it did motivate me to keep pushing hard.

On the way to the Dam Road aid station, Michael found a glove.  We both figured that he would just drop it off at the aid station and hopefully the runner that lost it would eventually get it back.  About 10 minutes later we caught up with a runner and his pacer.  Michael asked if either of them owned that style of glove and sure enough, the runner only had one is his pack.  What luck!

We kept on pushing to the aid station.  I grabbed some soup and trail mix hoping to get some calories in me.  We finished the Dam Road loop a little slower than our previous loop and I was getting a little worried that we wouldn’t make our 5 hour goal for loop 5.  At the aid station, I wanted a cup of Coke, but they were all out by this point.  So I grabbed more soup and more trail mix and we were off.  We pushed this section and passed more runners along the way.  Some were on their final loop and many were finishing up their 4th loop.  I think we motivated a couple of solo runners to pick up their pace.

Although I had no idea what place I was in, Michael did a great job of looking back to make sure that no one would pass us.  We made the final turn towards the Park Road aid station and Michael yelled out to Christi to let her know we were coming in.  It was really exciting coming in to this aid station for the last time – I knew that I would definitely finish 100 miles!

I asked Christi to take my jacket and gloves out of my pack and Michael finally handed her back the rattling Advil J . I grabbed a piece of banana nut bread, a cup of Coke, and my final cup of soup.  We were off to tackle that last 4.6 miles!

The last 2.5-3 miles of this section are also the first 2.5-3 miles of the trail to Nature Center.  We saw several folks heading out on their final lap.  I was very happy to know that I didn’t have to go out again, and also very happy to see folks staying strong for their final loop of the race.

Michael wasn’t running beside me anymore – he was ahead of me and pushing me to run faster.  He gave me his spare headlamp for me to use as a handheld in conjunction with my headlamp to minimize my tripping on the roots.  We finally came across our first road crossing – less than ¼ of a mile left!  I was way excited.

When we crossed the last road we could see the finish line.  Michael hollered for Christi and she was already there.  I “sprinted” (not really – it was more like I picked up the pace to maybe 8min/mile J ). I crossed the chip timing mat and gave hugs all the way around.  I did it! 100 miles!  As Steve K. says, I am now part of the club!

Rocky-Raccoon-100-Battaglia

Big smile at the finish, with Pacer Michael T.

Text Update from Christi:

Team veronica finished 21:34 at 3:30 in the morning. She rocked.  Thanks to you all for the support. Veronica really appreciates your friendships.

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As you may have noticed, even the runners near the front have mental or/and physical challenges that must be overcome to first, get to the start line, and then the finish line. There is immunity for no one which I think unites us all together in some way.

The ability to evaluate and adapt to a particular situation is one of the bigger between-the-ears skills we can develop for ultra training and racing. Veronica’s pre-race Achilles management and race day calorie/electrolyte adaptation are two such examples.

I think from this report, we also get a sense of the power of a positive and knowledgeable support network. Good stuff!

Thanks again to Veronica for sharing her detailed report.

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.

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