Thursday, February 23, 2012

Rocky Raccoon 50 and Pacing

Rocky Raccoon 50 miler in Huntsville, TX.  I have run the 100 there twice and as it was my first 100 is ran well, has awesome volunteers, and will always be special for that.  This year, I was also going to pace my friend Sherrie Klover for the last 40 miles in her first 100.  So I would still get in a good 90 miles and feel like I ran the 100.  I was just going to take it easy in the 50, go out and have some fun on the trails.  Stop at all the aid stations and thank all the volunteers.  Normally, I blow right thru the aid stations when I'm racing and don't take time to stop and smell the roses so to speak.  So it was going to be nice to just go out have some fun with out the pressure of racing.  This is something I don't do very often but, enjoy when I do.  The 50 mile course is 3 16.67 mile loops.  For the first time in a long time, I never obsessed about my pace, splits, or anything.  I didn't even write one thing down or even have a plan.  Odd for me and my OCD.  The night before I decided to run the first loop at the pace I thought I could run if I went in to race.  There was also a storm that came in before the race and during the first couple hours that left the trail in less than ideal conditions.  There was a light rain at the start, and I started up front, but was determined to hold back and not get in race mode.  I had bigger fish to fry and that was to get Sherrie to the finish of her first 100.  The trail was a mess in spots but nothing that was going to slow anyone down to much.  I kept the pace manageable and think I ran in 3rd place the first loop.  I didn't waste any time this loop just to kind of get a gauge of what I tought I could run a 50 there.  I ran the first loop in 2:10.  Based on that, and adding some time for getting a little slower each loop, I think on a good day I could run a sub 7 on the course.  The next two loops, I just took it easy and ran aid station to aid station.  The cool thing was in 50 miles I did not use one GU, not one.  Since I had time to stop at the aid stations, I just fueled solely on aid station fair, being sure to thank all the volunteers.  Without them, these race would not be possible and they do an awesome job.  This was the first time, I tried fueling with real food, and I must say it worked good for me.  It worked so good I even used it while pacing Sherrie, 90 miles and not on GU.  I had a little of everything over the course of the day. Here is the list as I can remember: Cookies, PB&J, chips, corn chips, M&M's, Coke, Mtn. Dew, bananas, ramen, chili, cheese quesadillas (my main source), hamburgers, sausage tortillas, Payday's, powered donut's, chocolate donut's, and even a hot dog.  Yes, I ran buffet line, to buffet line. Any way the next 2 loops came and went with little fan fair and I finished in 7:50 and 7th place. Now on to my pacing report as this is where the real fun began.

Pacing Sherrie in the 100.
I meet Sherrie a couple years ago on Daily Mile and meet her in person at the Patriot's run in 2010.  We quickly became friends and she began quizzing me on ultra running.  We talked a lot over the last year about training for and running 100 miles.  So when she said she was ready to attempt her first 100 at Rocky Raccoon, I was happy to volunteer to be her pacer.  Sherrie is an accomplished marathon runner and had run a couple ultras, but all these were on the road.  This would be 100 miles on a trail way different than running on a road.  So we got her some training on the trails and converted this road runner into a true trail runner.  She took to the trails fast and the transition was smooth. After finishing the 50 Sherrie was at about mile 45 or so and meet up with Henry and Zach her husband and son.  I got a full report on how she was doing and so far she was doing great and had been extremely steady to this point.  We got some dinner and waited for Sherrie to come into Park Road aid station at 55.6 miles.  When she arrived she looked good and was ahead of schedule for a sub 24 finish.  But, there was still a long way to go.  She left park road and had 4.6 miles back to the start/finish where I would pick her up for the last 40 miles.  When she arrived she was still running great way ahead of schedule and looking and feeling good.  She changed clothes for night and got some new shoes and socks and some food and we headed out together.  She was still running so well I did not want to disrupt what she had been doing as it had been working really well for her to this point.  I just let her take the lead and keep doing what she had been doing.  We chatted and ran the first couple miles to the Nature Center mile 63, we figured we still had 11hrs to go 40 miles and get that sub 24 buckle.  Barring any catastrophe, that seemed really doable at this point.  Sherrie was on a mission I could tell by the look in her eye. As long as the wheels didn't come off, she was going to have a great run in her first 100.  She ran and I followed, only slowing down at the mud pit's. On the way to Dam road, Sherrie had to visit the bushes a couple times but, being 67 or so miles in she was doing great.  From there we made the 6 mile loop from Dam road back to Dam road.  This is a lonely section of trail and the longest between aid stations.  But with me there to keep her company we kept on truckin.  Night had set in good by now and we began picking people off left and right.  It seemed like we were the only ones running on the trail.  Every now and then we would leap frog back and forth with another runner but eventually put them behind us.  She was running that well, we just picked off one after another.  Being 72 Miles in and about 20 miles farther than she had ever run.  you would of thought she was a veteran 100 miler the was she was moving.  Still maintaining about a 12 min pace.  We were now approaching Park Road mile 75.6 and would see the crew Henry and Zach there.  The day and the miles all the sudden caught up with her and for the first time I took the lead, to try and drag her.  I ran ahead right before the aid station to get everything she needed ready when she got there.  We didn't waste much time here in and out 4.4 miles and we would be at 80 miles and one loop to go.  From here on out I would lead and she would follow.  Keeping and eye on my heels and following my line on the trails.  To this point I must say it was the easiest pace job I had done.  I had not yet had to do much, she just kept running and we kept picking runners off.  We came into the start/finish around 11:30 pm and had 6 1/2hrs to do 20 miles to get that sub 24 which even walking the entire loop was doable.  I must say I kept waiting for her wheels to come off, I mean it was her first "trail" ultra and first 100 miler and she was now over 80 miles in and been running for 17+hrs.   I just kept leading and she kept following, the pace did slow somewhat, but the later it gets in a 100 the slower it get's and by now not many people out there were running a whole lot.  As we were still picking people off left and right.  Before we knew it we were at Damnation again, one more loop of the Dam Road back to Dam Road.  This was the last time we would half to do this section.  And Sherrie was glad to get it done, it was a long haul around the 6 mile loop.  But she stayed steady and just kept on trucking like she had done this a 100 times before.  When we hit 10 to go, I think Sherrie had a big sigh of relief as now there was no question of finishing, it was just a matter of time now.  Back at Damnation, Sherrie had some soup, and we didn't waist any time in and out we were now less than 9 miles to the finish.  I led and she followed and never once complained she ran and ran.  We hit Park Road for the last time and seen Henry for the last time.  I don't think we were here for more than a minute, she was on a mission to get this thing done.  4.4 to go, that's all we had left.  I just kept telling her she was awesome, and how proud I was of her.   She was doing great and killing it for her first 100.  It was a lot of fun for me seeing her run so well and accomplishing this lofty goal in such great fashion.  I was beaming from ear to ear.  I was counting the miles down and the closer we got the better she began running again.  I just kept telling her what a bad ass she was and what an incredible race she had run.  Damn was I proud of my protege.  With only a mile to go we just concentrated on running, I was giving her play by play what we had left.  As soon as we passed the house by the road we only had a few hundred yards to the finish.  I think I was more excited for her than I was when I finished my first 100.  And she finished 2 hours faster than I did.  When we came around the bend and could see the finish, I was so excited to see her accomplish this goal.  We crossed the finish line in 22:24 an incredible run for a first timer, and 4th place woman.  I gave her a huge hug and just kept telling he how proud I was, and what an incredible race she had just run. 

I must say, this was one of the funnest things I have done.  Pacing her was a privilege and I'm just glad I got to be a part of it.  I really didn't half to do anything, she did everything she needed to do and made my job way to easy.  I can't wait to see what this sport has in store for her.  But, if she ever needs me again I'll be there.