What a difference a year makes. Rocky Raccoon was my first 100 and will always be special. Joe Pruisaitis and company put on a really good race and event. I had no idea what to expect this year as the harsh Kansas winter made training for Rocky extremely difficult. Most of my training miles came on the treadmill. It was almost impossible to get in any real mileage outside with the cold and snow. In the 7-8 weeks leading up to Rocky I only had a couple runs of over 20 miles. I had a good base and a lot of runs in the 10-16 mile range just nothing real long. But I was dedicated and did as much as I could when I could. We would just half to see how it all shook out on race day.
We left on Thursday night and headed to Texas, me, my wife and my son Jarret. Darcie and Jarret were going to crew for me. We drove as far as we could that night and finished up the drive into Huntsville the next morning. We had reserved a shelter in the park and planned to stay there for the weekend. After packet pick-up we stoped at Wal-Mart to get a few things for dinner and breakfast race morning. When we came out our car would not start, we tyred and tyred to start it but it would do nothing never even attempting to turn over. Finally we got it started and just headed back to the park so at least we were there. When we got back I turned it off and never could get it to start again. I worked on it for an hour checking the battery cables and such. This was added stress I did not need the night before the race. At one point I was going to skip the race and get the car fixed so we could get home. But through a bunch of phone calls and conversations with other Trail Nerds there they talked me into running and we would worry about the car later. After some dinner, Brad Bishop showed up at the shelter he was going to crash there for the night also and we chatted for a bit and hit the bed at around 9:00.
I did not sleep well at all, worrying about the car and the race, not to mention it was a little chilly in the shelter. I think I got maybe 4 hrs sleep.
Race morning I was up at 4 am and decided after worrying about the car all night I was going to put it out of my mind and not worry about it again till the race was over. After getting ready and eating a little breakfast I went over last minute instructions with my crew and we headed over to the starting area. After checking in we all stood around and chatted with Kyle Amos and Tony Clark till we heard the yell 15 minutes. It was time to get this thing going and I was ready to run. I shed my sweats and gave the wife one last kiss and she wished me luck and I headed up towards the front. I wanted to start close to the front to avoid getting caught in a long conga line at the start with 344 runners all starting at the same time. As Joe counted us down we were off, I reminded myself to stay focused, keep my head down and run. I could rest when the race was over but during the race I was going to go for it and see what happened. The first 30-40 min were in the dark and I ran with a hand held flashlight to start the race. I started with a handheld water bottle and a small waist pack with gels to start the race. The pace was good to start and most of the first lap I played leapfrog with a couple other runners. There was not much chatting this lap as I just stayed focused and ran. I only stoped long enough at the aid stations to get my bottle filled and was back to running. I finished the first lap in 2:50 min a little faster than I would of liked but a great start. Darcie and Jarret refilled my waist pack with jells a few Pay-Day's and some salt tabs and I switched out my empty water bottle for a full one and I was off on the second lap, 20 miles into the race. Stay focused, keep your head down and run I told myself. I slowed the pace a bit just to make sure I didn't burn out to soon. This lap I played leap frog with 2 women the whole lap Jamie Donaldson and Connie Gardner they chatted some and I just settled in behind them for aways. I chatted a little with Jamie this lap, mainly about how our training sucked with the harsh winter. Jamie is a 2 time Badwater 135 female champion, and the 2009 Rocky Raccoon women's champion. I knew if I could stay with her it would be a good day. This lap went by really fast as I kept my head down and just ran. Stopping only at the aid stations long enough to get my bottle filled and grab a handful of food.
At the end of this lap I was starting to notice a couple of hot spots on my feet. This trail is full of thousands and thousands of tree roots and is hell on feet or at least mine anyway. I came back into the start/finish on lap 2 in 3:11. My crew went to work filling my waist pack and swapping out water/Gatorade bottles. Darcie walked up the trail with me while I ate some food and I gave her some instructions for the next lap. I wanted to change my shoes and put some moleskin on some hot spots. I would also want a long sleeve shirt and my headlamp for lap 4 as it would be dark before I finished it. Darcie gave me a kiss told me how good I was doing and sent me on my way now 40 miles down and 6 hrs into the race.
Lap 3 for me was the low point of the race. I was starting to feel really fatigued and had a pain in my hip that was bothering me. For some reason I just couldn't seem to run, and it was a struggle to keep moving. I found that I could run at a much slower pace that was comfortable. At this point I thought it was going to be a long night as it was a struggle to keep moving. I ran most of this lap with Richard from Virgina as Jamie and Connie had got in and out of the start/finish faster than I did. It was Richards first 100 and he was running really well for a first timer. We stuck together much of lap 3 and chatted some to end this lap on a better note. Back at the start/finish for lap 3 in 3:42 . Darcie helped me change my socks and put some moleskin on some hot spots. She made me eat a cliff bar as she walked me down the trail to start my 4th lap. Now 60 miles down and 9:42 into the race.
At the start of the 4th lap I was really stiff after setting for a few minutes to change socks and take care of my feet. This lap started slow, but I soon caught my second wind and began running at a comfortable pace again. I think I may have been a little calorie deprived and once I got some food in me began to run good again. I kept telling myself to run as much as I could before it got dark. My goal was to get as far as I could in the light and hang on and do what I could when the sun went down. The sun soon began to set and I still had 5 miles to get back to the start/finish to complete lap 4. With only my headlamp the last 5 miles were brutal with all to roots and stumps in the trail. With 75 miles under my belt I wasn't picking up my feet really well and I swore I kicked ever root in those last 5 miles, I must have face planted at least 4 times in those last few miles. Thank goodness there was always someone around me to help me back up. It was extremely hard to get back up after running that many miles. I was really wishing I had took my handheld flashlight with me also the headlamp just wasn't working well enough to see all the roots. Back to the start to complete my 4th lap, Jarret was there waiting on me. Darcie was back at the camp with someone looking at our car. Jarret helped me get stocked back up with supplies and I put on a jacket for the last lap. Jarret ran a ways up the trail with me to send me off for my 5th and final lap. I told him to be back in 4 hours to be safe and see me finish, but not to expect me for 5 hours or so. I finished the 4th lap in 4:20 min and was now 14:03 into the race.
Stay focused, keep your head down and run, I kept telling myself. Run now and rest when you are done. With my handheld flashlight now in tow I was seeing the trail much clearer now and wasn't tripping as much. At this point in the race I told myself to run as much as I could between aid stations and rest while I ate in the aid stations. Rick Mayo had told me at Heartland he liked to headhunt at night so if we seen lights in front of us we were going to catch them. So a headhunting I would go, this seemed to keep me moving really well that last lap, I would see lights and track them down and pass them. It was kind of like a game and surprisingly I was feeling really good. In the last mile before the last aid station at Park Road I caught a guy I was racing for position Scott from Texas he had ran this coarse a lot being a local, we came into Park Road together and I just grabbed a few things and headed back out. There was no way I was going to let Scott beat me to the finish. Me and Scott had one hell of a battle those last 4+ miles. He would pass me then I would catch him and we would run in tandem till one of us had to stop and walk for a few. We did this for a few miles till I had to stop to take a leak. Scott put a little distance on me and I thought there was no way I would catch him. With less than 3 miles to go my pace was getting faster and the adrenaline was starting to kick in. Still feeling good I was going to run non stop to the finish. The closer I got the easier running got and I soon caught Scott with less than a mile to go. As I flew by him he yelled at me to finish strong he had nothing left to challenge me. I thanked him for pushing me those last few miles as I went by. I was really close now and I could smell the finish I turned the last corner and could see the lights at the finish and as I came in I yelled number 124 comin to the house. Jarret told me to yell out my number when I got close so they didn't miss me. As I crossed the finish line there the was Darcie and Jarret were right there to greet me. Ben and Sophia were there to and hugs were given all around. 18:34 Sophia told me. I was really happy with that and with another round of hugs, I felt really good. I even joked about going out for another lap and at that point think I could of done another one. Joe came over and gave me my sub 24hr belt buckle and said it came with an asterisk noting 18:34 was way better than sub 24. We took some pictures at the finish and hit the tent where I would sit down for the first time in 18+ hours. Everyone waited on me hand and foot while we talked about the race. I felt really good at the finish of this one and felt like I could of given more earlier in the race. I ran the last lap in 4:31 and my official time was 18:34.59 and 18th place overall out of 344 starters.
I half to thank my wife and son for crewing for me all day. You did an awesome job Thank You!
Ben and Sophia thanks for working on my car while I was running and for being there at the end to celebrate with me it was really fun.
My Mizuno Caberkans and DryMax socks.
My 2 bottle wait pack I bought for night to keep my hands free.
I wasted a lot of time in the aid stations at night.
Remember to lube the butt cheeks next time.
Carry a handheld flashlight at night to see the trail better.
The GU chomps were great later in the race when I was sick of gell's.
Eat some solid food a couple times during the race to keep the calories up.
Thanks again to my wife for all your support and encouragement in this crazy sport, with out it this would not be possible.