Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Rocky Raccoon 100 or Hills Do Not Make The Race

After spending weeks worrying about what I decided was a tibial stress fracture, it  turned out to be nothing more than a bruise as I  at first thought.  My leg is fine and caused absolutely no trouble for the Rocky Raccoon 100.  The race was not without problems though.  Some I brought on myself, some, the result of weather and one slight issue, I can thank "mother nature" for.

I will start with weather since that was a rather serious issue even before the start.  Mid week, last week, the forecast for Saturday in Huntsville, TX, location of the Rocky Raccoon 100 on was for sunny skies and warm temperatures.  Then on Friday morning  the forecast was changed to a chance of thunderstorms early and showers later.  By Friday afternoon there was an 80% chance of thunderstorms early and rain most of the day and turning colder overnight.  By Saturday morning at 4:15 a.m. as I sat in the hotel room getting ready for the race I checked the weather channel.   Heading directly for Huntsville, Texas was a very long line of severe thunderstorms with a cold front behind.  I decided it was time to change a few plans.

I intended to start the race in my new Brooks PureGrit trail shoes but decided to start wearing my old Mountain Masochists instead.  The start/finish is located at the Dog Wood Pavilion and we would cross through there every 20 miles so that is the drop bag I put the Brooks into, along with clean, dry socks.
My new PureGrit shoes.  They are great.

As I sat in the car about 5:00 a.m. waiting for the start I was watching almost continuous lightning moving closer very rapidly from the west.  About 5:30 it hit.  It stormed so hard that I could not even hear the radio.  By 5:50a.m. about 10 minutes to the start of the RR, the severe line of storms was past but it was still raining very hard.  Four hundred runners tried to huddle under the tents that made up the core of the Dog Wood aid station, but there was just not enough room.  As the race started it was still raining hard but thankfully the lightning had moved away.  The rain continued to fall for much of the morning but I have no idea when it actually ended.  I dropped my heavy, hooded rain jacket at Dam Nation aid station at mile 6 on the first lap so it must have eased up quite a bit by then.  It did continue to rain lightly for a while after that.

The start.  Believe me, it was that bad.
Thanks to whoever took these pictures.  I think the one of the start was posted by Steve Holehan, but it was posted on the RR100 Face Book page by several people.  I had never encountered bad weather in any of my previous four 100 mile races.  This made up for lost ground.  The sections like the picture below were impossible to get around without getting you feet wet.  Runners trying to avoid the mess were creating trails out into the woods to avoid the mud but soon the bypass were just as bad.  

At least sections like below were not muddy and eventually the stream flowing down the middle of the trail drained and the surface was good.

The rain may have quit but the damage was done and the trails never recovered.  By the final lap, some of the muddy areas were beginning to improve but most were still ankle deep mud and water.

I made matters more difficult for myself by doing exactly what I planned not to do.  I starting out too fast.  Way too fast!  I ran the first 20 mile loop in 4 hours, 21 minutes, a pace of 13:04.  I ran the next 12.2 miles (of the second lap) at a 12:10 pace and finished the second lap at13:49.  I reached mile 52.2, the Dam Nation aid station in 11 hours, 50 minutes.  That means my 50 mile time  was about 11 hours, 20 minutes.  (That would be a 22 hour, 40 minute time for the 100 miles.)   I had intended to run a 15 minute pace which would have put me at mile 52 in 13 hours, 5 minutes and the 100 miles in 25 hours.  Of course I slowed way down on the final two laps and walked at least 15 of the last 20 miles.  Instead of finishing close to 25 hours I ended up running 27 hours, 27 minutes.

And then there was the issue of "Mother Nature."  At the end of the second lap I changed shoes and socks and removed my compression socks.  I noticed later in the day that the outside of my calf was sore.  The muscle felt like the fascia was constricting a muscle.  The discomfort continued the entire rest of the race but never got any worse and was only bad enough to be an irritation.

When I got back to my brother and sister-in-law's house in Houston and took a shower I noticed  the lower 2/3 of my right calf was red and very swollen.  I had no ankle, just a "stove pipe."  Apparently sometime after removing my compression socks, on one of my off-trail excursions around puddles, I made a spider (or some poisonous creature) really mad.  There appear to be two fang marks above my ankle.  What ever it was it never hurt except the soreness in my calf which may have nothing to do with the bite.  Both calves are sore but especially the right.  Anyway, it is better today.  My ankle is about half way back to it normal size and I intend to run about 6 miles this afternoon.  I think it will be a very slow run.  Hopefully a little faster than my last lap at RR.  I will post my pictures later.

By the way, there are actually hills in the RR.  There are mostly long gentle climbs, the type that are not steep enough to walk and too steep to run in a 100 miler.  The race does gain about 5,300 feet over the 100 miles.

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