Rocky Raccoon Trail Run 2013 Results – Mike Morton and Nicole Studer Win 100 Mile Dash in South Texas
The 21st annual Rocky Raccoon Trail Run provided a trail running adventure for 650 trail runners from throughout the country…and world! Sunny skies, great trail conditions, and extremely mild temperatures that ranged between 50F and 71F, set the stage for a mighty pleasant weekend. Not the temps to support extra spicy times but conditions that had everyone smiling and ready for a dirt-lovin’ adventure.
The 100 mile course is five 20 mile loops within Huntsville State Park and includes sections of both one-way and two-way run traffic. The 50 mile course is three 17-ish mile loops of the same. A mix of pine needled single track and dirt park roads that include a few risers but lots and lots of runnable if you have the fitness. It really is a beautiful trail runners play ground.
Yes, nearly everyone will talk about the roots, oh the roots (myself included at some point through the years). If you clip one with your toe once or multiple times, it’s going to hurt. But the truth is, we are grasping at straws as we try and describe something nasty or dramatic about the course.
The trail is forgiving. The trail is beautiful. The trail wants you to succeed.
This is Rocky Raccoon.
The day before the race, current Badwater 135 course record holder (along with notepad full of other accomplishments) and race favorite, Mike Morton, was resting with elevated legs…Nope! Mike tapered into the race by running a loop of the course which is apparently not uncommon for this running machine.
“I typically run about 24 miles a day so I have been running 10 to 12 miles relaxed before most races. I ran 18 miles the day before I ran a 13:11 at Umstead 100 and I ran 18 miles before I ran a 13:18 at Long Haul 100. I feel very awkward after I take a day off! I take days off when I’m hurting or family stuff requires it but when I’m dialed in I don’t take any days off. I just have easy days.”
After becoming very sick towards the end of January which required a healthy dose of antibiotics and three days of sleep, Mike was ready to play, or at least give it a go.
It was pretty apparent after 20 miles of running that Mike was setting the pace at the front but it wasn’t coming easy as the effects of the crud were still hanging on.
After two laps of racing, one of the lead chasers, Joshua Finger dropped. But instead of heading to his car and leaving…he helped Mike!!
“My best memory will be Josh Finger making his priority helping me after he dropped. Our sport is full of amazing people! If we were the majority of society we would be better for it. Josh, Pete and Matt helped me finish a 100 miles on a day I was not hitting on eight cylinders. That says a lot about those guys, Josh didn’t have a good day and then they focused on helping me.”
Mike, not feeling all that great either, had to find a spark to keep going. That spark was Eric Clifton.
“I was feeling the effects of being sick the week before and wanted to drop at forty but I was in the lead. Eric Clifton told me years ago you can’t DNF in the lead. It was tough to start that third loop and know I would be committed at that point.”
Mike held it together running 2:58, 3:03, 3:09 loops for the final 60 miles to win the male race in 14:28:09!
Nathan Leehman of North Carolina put together some very consistent splits to finish second.
Top 5 male
- Mike Morton (FL) – 14:28:09
- Nathan Leehman (NC) – 16:02:27
- Steve Speirs (VA) – 16:16:55
- Seth Kelly (CO) – 16:48:32
- Lorenzo Sanchez (TX) – 17:18:22
So what’s the deal with the string cheese Mike handed Liza Howard before the start? A good luck charm? Mike’s leftover breakfast? A gift to the race directors?
Apparently Mike had a reason.
“I switched to a high fat diet about three months ago. I’m in a state of Ketosis; that is when the body turns fat into Ketones for fuel rather than using Glucose from carbohydrates. The tough part for me has been finding a good “comfort food” and cheese with its high fat content has filled that void. The switch has had many benefits but it is tough to give up carbs. The rewards are worth it to me so far. I don’t have the crazy cravings and my energy and mental clarity have been great. Rocky Raccoon 100 was the first race since switching. I had been eating a huge volume of food and if you eat a lot you poop a lot! By eating a high fat diet I eat less volume, have a flattened energy curve and don’t need to poop five or six times in a 100. More to follow on the diet as the year goes along!”
Watch for more string cheese sightings at a race near you!
Texan Nicole Studer, had quickly proved in 2012 that she can handle technical terrain, can handle extreme temps, and has quickly dialed in ultra distance pacing through the 50 mile distance. With Rocky being her 100 mile debut and being one of the favorites of the race, was she ready to experience her first 100 and have a inspirational target on her back?
There also was a tough and fast set of women leading the chase with both experience and rookie passion.
After 40 miles of racing, it was clear, Nicole was the girl to catch after being the only female to run sub-3 for each of the first two 20 mile loops.
A long way yet to go…like 60 miles long.
The top chasers after 40 were Texan, Shaheen Sattar, and Serena Wilcox of Vermont, roughly 35 minutes back.
Nicole put together solid 3:11 and 3:21 splits over the next 40 miles with 20 to go.
Slowing some but keeping it steady, Nicole crossed the finish line in 16:55:02, winning the female scamper and claiming a sixth overall placing!
How that for a first 100?!?
Shaheen separated herself from the chase group and earned herself a second place finish.
Top 5 female
- Nicole Studer (TX – race report) – 16:55:02
- Shaheen Sattar (TX) – 18:23:05
- Starshine Blackford (OH) – 20:07:15
- Francesca Bissman (TX) – 20:10:11
- Serena Wilcox (VT) – 20:37:11
Of extra special note, Texan Nofal Musfy at age 70 finished the 100 miler in 25:13:18!
After a fifth place finish at Bandera 100 km three weeks ealier, Texan Sydney Pitt was ready to toe the line after some easy training between the two races.
“After Bandera I took four solid days off. It took me years of running to learn that fitness comes during recovery, NOT during the workouts. Bandera left me feeling pretty beaten up. I hadn’t done a run over 35 miles since The Bear 100 in September, so the 100 km was a pretty big run for me. I started a few easy runs at the end of the week after Bandera. The next week I did a hill workout and paced the Rogue 30 km. The week of Rocky Raccoon 50 I took it really easy with only a few seven mile runs. I’ve also added Yoga to my regular routine 4-5 days a week. I can be really inconsistent with stretching, so Yoga has been a valuable addition.”
After the word “Go!”, Sydney was enjoying this special day on the trails and within the early miles made a decision to dial up the effort and go.
“Heading up the sandy hill at mile seven, I made a decision to go for it. There was nothing to lose. If I bonked, I’d just finish later, and off I went.”
And she did!
After the first 16.67 mile loop, Sydney and Cheri Fine of Georgia shadowed each other near the front. On the second of three loops, Sydney pulled away and continued the push within the front group of the overall.
Sydney continued to smile and dial up the effort.
“The sun was out, but those great big trees provided the perfect amount of shade. My friends and I had the pleasure of seeing each other a handful of times during the race. It’s always nice to cheer one another on and see familiar faces. I’m not sure if it was the Chinese buffet, over dose of Coca-Cola, or the goofy playlist I had, but things just came together.”
Through the final loop, Sydney moved up through the overall to finish second and win the female race in 7:19:54!
Rachael Blair of Texas moved up during the final loop as well, to earn second place honors and a fifth overall placing.
Top 5 female
- Sydney Pitt (TX – Thunderbird Energetica) – 7:19:54
- Rachael Blair (TX) – 7:43:59
- Stephanie Bartley (IN) – 8:09:01
- Liz Lee (TX) – 8:09:37
- Cheri Fine (GA) – 8:22:47
In case you are wondering what someone thinks about for 50 miles…well, for Sydney…
“In this case I started to do some math. I was taking in about eight ounces of Coke per aid station, multiplied by 14 (skipped the first and last) and realized I drank somewhere around 112 ounces of Coke (a little over three liters!). Kind of gross when you think about it, but also hilarious.”
Now ya know.
Texan Wade Barrett, ran Rocky Raccoon 50 back in 2011 and finished in 7:06 so you know the guy can run. Wade also ran a 4:04 at Seashore Nature Trail 50 km prior to that race. This year Wade ran a 4:01 at that same 50 km. Any ideas what that means?
In the early miles of this year’s scamper, Wade took off like a rocket finishing the first loop in a light footed 2:02. Gordon Christie was only a few minutes back in chase.
Wade held a spicy 2:12 second loop and began to increase the gap from those in chase. Slowing a bit more on loop 3, Wade held onto the lead and crossed the finish in 6:57:42!
50 mile newbie, Jose Lopez, a 1:11 road half marathoner was here to work on his marathon endurance for his upcoming Boston marathon, and was moving up in the men’s field but that wasn’t without a bit of trepidation and his first digger.
“I felt a bit hesitant as this was a new experience for me and I didn’t really know what I was doing. The day went kind of weird I had my ups and then I had my downs. I started with the front guys but then was scared to go with them because it was a new race for me so I ended up running by myself the first couple of miles and falling at mile two.”
Jose then hooked up with experienced and inspiring tread.
“Then I met a girl named Rachael who was the second female and started running with her. She mentioned that she had run a couple of endurance races so I figured she knew what she was doing and I didn’t. I ran with her all the way up to mile 38 and then I got really tired and started walking for a little bit until I saw Nicole (1st female in 100)who ran past and told me to go with her. So I went with her and got a second wind all the way up to mile 45 and then got really tired again, but at that point I just wanted to finish so I just kept on going until the end. I’m really grateful I got a chance to run with Rebecca and Nicole. They are both great runners.”
This Boston training run took Jose all the way up to a second place finish!
What did this trail rookie (no longer) think of his first race in the dirt?
“The best memories was seeing so many people out doing their best. It was awesome and very inspirational. This was also my first time visiting Huntsville State Park and it was very beautiful. I really enjoyed running on the trail. The race was very well-managed and I really loved all the volunteers that gave their time and all the people that helped out with this event. It was great I definitely plan on coming back!!!!”
Top 5 male
- Wade Barrett (TX) – 6:57:42
- Jose T Lopez (TX) – 7:35:11
- Gordon Christie (TX) – 7:41:39
- Ken Washburn (TX) – 7:57:42
- Daniel Ford (TX) – 8:06:55
Jean-Jacques d’Aquin of Colorado and Norman Yarger finished the 50 at age 73!
Nova Demoney finished the 50 at age 79!
Reflections from our 100 Mile Final Hour Finishers
The start/finish canopies were all down. The sun was once again shining brightly in the sky, sharing her warmth with all those she touched. The race clock reached 29 hours at the Rocky Raccoon 100 with one hour to go before the final 30 hour cut-off.
While most folks had left, a small but vocal group welcomed in our final finishers for this year’s adventure. 33 members of our tribe would cross the finish in this last hour.
I stood there, observing, cheering, and shedding a tear our two. You could see it in their faces, you could see it in their body language – pain, focus, relief, and joy. Some were in such a trance-like state they had to be told to stop after crossing the timing mat. Legs gave out for others. Hugs were shared all around.
The power of the mind and the human spirit…
Here are a few of our final finishers and their strongest memories from the adventure.
Rosie Munive – 29:24:54
The volunteers were awesome! They were very helpful!
After the fist 10 miles my hip flexor started getting tight and because of that it made my knees swell and my IT band tight too. After that my other knee started messing up too. Beside the 90 miles little problem.. It was so much fun cheering for the other runners & I made great friends!
The trails had sooo many roots, that’s all I remember seeing.
I have so much fun with my pacers. The first one was drunk and he made me laugh a lot. My second pacer was a girl and she was super positive and sang for me all the way to the end and pushed me to finish.
My friend Alida took care of me like a child. All I remember is pain and awesome people.
Grady Harrison – 29:11:42
I am a 52 year old back of the packer on his third attempt at the distance. Having failed last year with trashed feet on a wet and muddy course, I was determined to finish this year.
The strongest memories came with the first rays of light piercing through the forest with 10 miles to go. With the new day, I clawed my way out of that black hole of physical and emotional distress I had experienced before. In those moments, we are no longer runners competing against each other, we become a group of friends carried by the enthusiastic cheers of every volunteer on this final stretch. When passing or being passed, we check on each other and genuinely care. I had never imagined so many could care whether I finished or not. It moved me more than I can express.
Katrina Mumaw – 29:17:41
As my first one, it was definitely an adventure!
I have so many memories from the race, but here is a very special one:
One of my most meaningful memories was in the last few miles of the race. I had major blisters that had slowed me down incredibly, and there were tons of people passing me. I would have thought I would have been frustrated in that situation being passed so close to the finish, but I wasn’t. I was so elated to know that every single person who passed me would finish the race under the cutoff since I was just ahead of it myself. In the moment, I knew it didn’t matter that they would get a quicker time than me; it only mattered that we were all finishing what we set out to do. I also realized the race was never really against the other runners–it was against ourselves.
More final finisher Pics
The Tough-as-Nails Award
The final finishers of an ultra distance event are some of the toughest athletes that are willing to stick with it to the best of their current ability and cross that darn finish line.
The Tough-as-Nails award recipient:
- Annabel Dixon of Texas completed the 100 mile adventure in 29:55:28!
Special thanks to Mike Morton, Sydney Pitt, Jose Lopez, Rosie Munive, Grady Harrison, and Katrina Mumaw, and Wendy (my wonderful wife for helping take some pics as she was waiting for me while watching our two little raccoons) for their gracious support with this article.
Check out more great pics by our friends at Enduro Photo.
Check out the TALON Race Guide
There are 150+ regional trail/ultra races in the TALON Race Guide. Be sure to check it out if you are looking for the most complete list of events in Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and New Mexico. New events are always being added.
Be active – Feel the buzz!
David – EnduranceBuzz.com