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Rocky Raccoon 100 2013 Race Report – David Hanenburg

A good friend and 100 mile veteran offered some encouragement and well wishes race week of Rocky Raccoon and then he said this – “Don’t take it too seriously, it is just a run…then again it kind of means a lot, right?”

I stared glossy-eyed at the phrase “…then again it kind of means a lot, right?” I read and reflected on that over and over. Did it? Anxiety slowly bubbled throughout my being like one of those build-your-own volcano projects that Griffin and I had worked on during the summer. Again…did it? I had nothing.

Oh shit!


Rocky would be my second attempt at finishing a 100. I DNF’d at Rocky back in 2010 by coming into the race injured and having my leg petrify on me as it tried to protect itself in the later miles. Saying “Arrrr matey” to all those I came in contact with wasn’t doing it for me any longer. I was done at mile 75. Over the last three years I have been getting the body healthy and stable again and gradually getting back to the ultra distances.

Let’s try and get this 100 mile finish. So I signed up!

The funny thing is in 2010 I was fairly fit, hungry to finish, but injured going into it.

This year I was unfit, with really sporadic training since Cactus Rose 50 at the end of October. Two weeks before Rocky, I ran a 50 km where I was feeling like poo by mile 20. Poor 100 mile fitness – confirmed!

Waning appetite. I was having trouble creating importance to the race because my mental energies were other places – creating and organizing content on Endurance Buzz, dialing in the final details of our 2013 race calendar and new race for Endurance Buzz Adventures, and my family. “Means a lot” was getting the Rocky Raccoon race preview out, updating the TALON race calendar, and getting the Endurance Buzz newsletter out before leaving on Friday. After hitting “send” on the newsletter, I first started packing my run stuff. One hour later, the family and I were driving down to Huntsville.

Of a fairly significant importance, I was tweak-free! Woot!

So I was in this weird state in the lead-up and began to finally focus on the race during the 3.5 hour drive to Huntsville the day before the race.

On the drive,  my race strategy became crystal clear – walk every ant hill, try and easily run everything else. Dominate the little details – hydration, nutrition, body care, and attitude.

Earlier in the week, my good buddy, Tim Jagoda, asked how I was feeling and that he was open to pacing if I wanted it. What? Huh? The ‘p’ word. I was super stoked to have his company through the last 40 miles!  Now I just needed to get to mile 60 in one piece.

After a surprisingly decent night of Z’s in Huntsville, we drove into the State Park at about 5:00am with race start one hour away. Wendy was already getting in some early miles as Ainsley (17 months) wanted to “walk….walk….walk.” Griffin (5 yr old) was chillin’ in the car.

Temperatures were already pretty mild, about 50F, and expected to rise to low 70Fs for the day. I was actually pretty excited about this as my engine would not be running hot anyways, so these conditions sounded groovy to me. Plus it would be really nice for Wendy and the kids.

Wendy asked what my splits would be. Had no idea. Went with five hours. Sounded conservative, yet in the ballpark.

Here we go. Five 20 mile loops.

I positioned myself in the back…way back of the 100 mile start. Race director, Joe Prusaitis, was sitting on the top steps of a ladder near the start line. In passing, I looked up to him and shook his hand and said, “thanks for everything” to quickly build up a little good karma that I would likely be cashing in on later this day. Unfortunately, my headlamp beamed right into Joe’s eyes, he had no idea who I was, but thankfully I didn’t send him to the ground.

Only 99.999 more miles to go!

The first 10 minutes, I was simply walking steady, enjoying the star-lit sky when I dared to take my eyes off the trail. Plenty of ultra chatter and dancing headlamps. Always a memorable beginning to any pre-dawn trail adventure.

My nutritional and hydration plan was pretty simple. Eat on the 30 and 60 of every hour. Pop an Endurolyte on the 15 and 45 of every hour. Water every 15 minutes. Repeat hour after hour after hour until the body said otherwise.

The only catch to this whole master plan – the Polar watch I planned to use to display race time had a broken band…and of course, I didn’t get a new band before the race. So I placed the Polar pocket watch (PPW) in my front pocket of the run vest I was wearing. In ultra nut-house fashion, I would unzip the pocket, dig out the PPW when I estimated 15 minutes had passed, confirm if this was indeed true (was within three minutes most of the time), then drink, eat, or pop an Endurolyte. This is normal, right? 😉

Besides the people chatter, the rolling piney woods were extra quiet during the pre-dawn hours. As the sun began to light the surrounding terrain, the woods became alive with the chatter of birds, the scurrying of squirrels and a variety of other critters. Our little world at Huntsville State Park had come alive.

From relaxed and rolling singletrack to groomed dirt fire roads, the effort was easy. A few brief power hikes but plenty of easy running. A brief “Hey” to Wendy and kids at Nature Center aid station (mile 3.1) before gliding along to the more remote section of the course and also busiest aid station – DamNation. You hit this oasis twice during the early-middle miles of each loop. This also was a drop bag location where I off-loaded my headlamp and grabbed another water bottle as this section contained the longest stretch between aid stations at 6.19 miles.

On the way to DamNation

After some quick bottle fills by Suann of the NTTR tribe, I was off to run the 6.19 mile Jekyll and Hyde section of the course. A good third of it contains a stretch of washed out dirt road rollers. This section seems to go on and on and on. Power hike up. Run for a while. Power hike up. Once you reach the end of the rollers, do a u-turn and move back into some single and double wide trail. A few short little power hike sections before a significant amount of flat to slightly downhill grade goodness. Lots of smooth running here before you hop out to the section of trail along Lake Raven that leads to the dam. This section always is a special little spot with the beautiful views of the calm lake with the sun rays dancing off its glass-like surface highlighting the surrounding nature environment. As a bit of a funny, you can also look across the lake and see where the start/finish is located. The dam also signals one is near the end of this 6+ mile section!

Working back towards the dam.

Looking across Lake Raven and the start/finish area.

To the dam.

Back to DamNation. Fill bottle. Drop off my extra bottle and fill up my vest pocket with enough calories to get back to the start/finish area where my second drop bag of stash awaited.

Cruised through Park Road aid station (mile 15.61), ahead of schedule but staying true to my pacing effort plan. This section contained a few short grunt hills before connecting onto the beautiful two-way traffic section along the lake back to the start/finish. This is an uplifting section and always requires a bit of self control. So much bubbling energy is swirling and bouncing off runners as they pass one another, it becomes hard not to run just a bit more…just a little faster. This was also the first time I began to see so many familiar faces of the tribe and share encouragement to one another as they were heading out on loop two as I was working to complete my first.

Finished the first loop in 4:31. Grabbed some more calories to last another couple hours, rolled out my calves and thighs with the Tiger Tail (felt so good!), and headed out for another loop.

Wendy and my little raccoons were still playing catch-up so missed them on the way out.

Still pulling out my PPW every 15 minutes. Body and mind feeling good.

This loop was much more of the same steady effort. Walk the ant mounds, easy run the rest.

Wendy and the raccoons caught up with me at Nature Center (mile 23.10). It was great to sync up and hear how they were doing.

We saw each other once again at Park Road aid station (mile 35.61). In an apparent excited or shocked state to see me, and being in the process of providing an update to Tim on the phone, Wendy yelled, “Tim’s on the phone!” I chuckled and told her to tell him to “get his ass in the car, we are going to do this.” A quick update to Wendy, brief chat with G-man and Ainsley and I was on my way to finish off another loop.

Ainsley showing momma her cool rock.

Finished the second loop with a 4:42 split. Felt like a similar effort as loop 1.

More calories. More Tiger Tail. More Body Glide and a bathroom break.

To loop 3.

The back half of loop two and the first half of loop three was the warmest section of the day for me and it felt like the uncharacteristically warm temps slowed the turnover a bit but kept up with my walk/run strategy, the run pace was likely just slower.

Still looking at my PPW every 15 minutes…eating and drinking. 🙂

Towards the end of the third loop, I was beginning to feel the miles and then my mind began to wonder a bit…40 more miles to go…40 more miles to go. I quickly had to re-vector my thoughts back to my aid station-to-aid station approach…and I was about to be joined by my buddy Tim!

Loop 3 done in 5:23.

Time to regroup a little bit. Clean feet. Lube hot spot on right heel. Put on new socks.

Fresh socks!! Ahhhhh. Tim ready to roll.

Tim looked to be bouncing off the walls in excitement. I felt like I just ran 60 miles and knowing I still had 40 to go.

I had been moving for the last 14.5+ hours…another 13+ hours awaited.

Walking out of the start/finish area I told Tim my strategy for nutrition/hydration and my run/walk plan.

That lasted for about an hour. I would guess around 10:00pm, in between Nature Center and DamNation aid station, everything suddenly changed.

I could no longer run. This is kind of hard to explain…but I felt like my being was disconnected from my physical self. The signals to fire my muscles were muted, turned off, something. I felt a bit like I was floating…like walking on the moon. I couldn’t lengthen out my stride. I couldn’t speed up. Each attempt to start jogging was quickly shut down. I was in slow motion and couldn’t do anything about it. This is the time I really started to sink deep inside myself, to this dark and quiet place. Tim would start chatting, I wanted nothing of it. The resources to think and respond were not available.

Heading out to the 6-ish mile loop out of DamNation was the area of the course I dreaded most and slid deeper into darkness. I turned on some tunes and told Tim that I was just going to tune-out for a while. The outgoing stretch of the loop contained these pockets of damp and cold air. Felt a bit like the dead were pulling at your soul, wanting to take you with them.

Keep moving forward.

Another interesting observation was how quiet the wooded surroundings were. All the birds and little critters sleeping soundly. Just us goofballs with headlamps wandering around.

Around five miles to the end of loop 4, I told Tim about dropping. He completely ignored me.

We finished the loop in 7:03 and spent another 19 minutes putting on warm clothes, taking in a couple cups of coffee, ramen noodles, quesadillas, and staring at the canopy walls.

We stand up and Tim mentions that we really need to focus on running the flats and downhills.

I respond, “So no f’n around.”

“right.”

Out we go with 22:00 on the race clock. It is now 4:00am. Eight hours to finish within the 30 hour time limit.

The PPW was officially retired at this time.

Would my body respond?

The initial 1/4 mile is a slight uphill grade, so we power walked up it.

The terrain flattens.

OK, it’s time to make this happen.

I begin running…and running in a manner very similar to loop 1-3. I was no longer walking on the moon!

Most every ant mound I power walked but every flat or downhill grade, I was running, and running comfortably. Light footed. Muscles firing. In control.

A pit stop at Nature Center aid station (mile 83.10) before we cruised into DamNation (mile 86.19). The was the crux of the loop to me. Get through this dang six mile loop!

Steady power hikes up the rolling hills. Ran the flats. Hit the u-turn and looked forward to the gentle downhill section that leads to the dam that I moon-walked the previous loop. The woods were becoming alive once again as the sun began to light our way.

We were flowing like a river along the twisty double-wide trail. Once at the dam, I walked briefly to regroup after the long run stretch before dialing up the go-jo once again.

In and out of DamNation with a steady push to Park Road aid station. Had to hit the porta-loo at Park Road. Grabbed a bite to eat and received a great quick leg rubdown by a volunteer at the aid station. Thank you!!

We continued the steady run, walk where needed, effort through to the finish chute where Griffin was waiting (thanks Matt!) to run down the final 100 meters of the finish chute with me. He was telling me, “this is a long ways” and holding his side as we crossed the timing mat together in 27:23:47.

Griffin and I finishing it off together.

A handshake and big thanks to Joe before receiving my buckle. I handed Griffin the buckle and he held it like a prized possession.

Tim and I ran that final loop in 5:23:47. Stoked is an understatement.

Tim, G-man, and I.

We stayed, cheered, took pics, and watched the final finishers come in. I was pretty emotional at this point and was welling up in tears with nearly every finish. It was good.

While I didn’t give this adventure the energy it deserved, I am extremely grateful for my first 100 mile finish and the amazing experience it shared with me. This I will not forget.

The Hanenburg tribe.

A big thanks to Joe, Joyce, Henry, Liza and all the volunteers that allow such an amazing event to occur! Thanks to my family for all their support of my wacky adventures! This type of stuff wouldn’t happen without it. Thanks to my good buddy Tim (and his family), for reaching out and offering his pacing interest that included both patience and inspiration. Thank you brother! To our entire tribe that started the day, the warm and friendly faces, the community experience – thank you.

Here’s to more adventures and training consistency in 2013!

PS – Wendy mentioned it wasn’t possible to sleep in the passenger seat of our Subaru Outback. I don’t think we were far out of Huntsville and I found a way. 🙂

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.

18 Responses to “Rocky Raccoon 100 2013 Race Report – David Hanenburg”

  1. on 13 Feb 2013 at 9:28 am olga

    What a great report, man. Sometimes, often times, the race becomes more meaningful than initially was supposed to be. We go into it with family and/or work issues, mind out, not prepared, and may be this is what gives us a way to relax and trust our bodies and let it do its thing. Congrats. Pictures of your family are completely precious. Way to go! And what a good pacer you had:) You weren’t really thinking of dropping, right?

  2. on 13 Feb 2013 at 9:33 am Warren R.

    Great report and congratulations on the finish!

  3. on 13 Feb 2013 at 10:29 am David Hanenburg

    Olga – Thanks so much!! All good stuff. Another thing the busy life left very little time to worry about things that were now out of my control. My fitness is what it is, how could I support that to the best of my ability, to set up the opportunity to finish…that is what I tried to do. The rest of it unfolds as you go.

    It was great to have a pleasant day for the fam to hang out and see their smiling faces…and cool rocks. 🙂

    Tim rocked it. Yes, indeed!

    Thinking of moon walking another complete loop was a hard pill to swallow and felt bad to put Tim through this…and maybe, this was one of the sparks that helped fire the flame again.

    Warren – Thanks man, I really appreciate it!

  4. on 13 Feb 2013 at 11:53 am Julie

    Wonderful race recap, thanks so much for sharing it. You persevered! So proud of you! That picture of Griffin running the finish chute with you is priceless. 🙂 Congratulations, Dave!

  5. on 13 Feb 2013 at 3:10 pm David Hanenburg

    Thanks Julie! It was great to see you on the trails and watch you showcase your own perseverance and mental toughness!

    The finish chute run was fun!!

    See you on the trails soon.

  6. on 13 Feb 2013 at 3:14 pm PPB

    Great race report as always Dave! The attempt to shock you back into running by jumping out from behind the tree at 2am didn’t work (though it did make you yell some colorful words). I had to turn to drastic measures on loop 5, a magic potion that would either turn you into a pumpkin or a 100M finisher…..you’re a 100M finisher my friend.

  7. on 13 Feb 2013 at 3:48 pm David Hanenburg

    PPB – Forgot about the tree monster. You’re lucky I didn’t moon walk all over your butt when you did that. Of course, if you couldn’t out run me at that point, we both were in big trouble. 🙂

  8. on 13 Feb 2013 at 7:50 pm lori enlow

    YAAAAYYYYYYY!!! What an incredible 27 hours!! Full of the highs and lows and learning and growing endurance running offers! So happy for you and can soooo relate to all those emotions. Can’t wait to see you at Possum Kingdom for sure and sooner if the fates allow. Best wishes!!!

  9. on 14 Feb 2013 at 10:07 am Chris R.

    Thanks for sharing David and what a way to finish!! No death march for you!

  10. on 14 Feb 2013 at 10:13 am David Hanenburg

    Thanks Lori! 🙂 A buffet table of experience, for sure. I look forward to seeing the dynamic duo at PK!! Happy Training!

  11. on 14 Feb 2013 at 10:15 am David Hanenburg

    Chris – Thanks brother! Missed seeing you at RR! Hope to see you on the trails soon.

  12. on 14 Feb 2013 at 5:54 pm Francisco Garza

    Nice report David. Perseverance is the key. Feels awesome to overcome the obstacles to achieve your first 100 finish; I experienced that last year; this year though, last minute injury lead to a DNF after months of hard training. Gotta go back next year to finish this thing. Congrats!

  13. on 14 Feb 2013 at 10:45 pm Nicole Studer

    Congratulations David on your strong race! Your love of the sport is contagious. I loved the pictures of your family- so adorable!

  14. on 15 Feb 2013 at 10:56 am David Hanenburg

    Francisco – Thanks for the kind word! Perseverance is one of the keys, for sure. Sorry to hear about your injury. No fun to try and get through a 100 injured. All the best in returning to a tweak-free state and getting after your next adventure.

    Hey Nicole – Thanks so much! Our sport has a great tribe! Thanks for being a part of it.

  15. on 18 Feb 2013 at 6:41 pm Steve

    Wow! Great job Dave!

  16. on 19 Feb 2013 at 11:21 am David Hanenburg

    Thanks Steve! 🙂

  17. on 20 Feb 2013 at 3:01 pm Bill Geist

    Congrats Dave. Way to go back and get the job done!

  18. on 21 Feb 2013 at 8:06 am David Hanenburg

    Thanks Bill!! It’s been fun following all your adventures. Hope the HR and UTMB training is going well!