Monday, February 11, 2013

Rocky Raccoon 100 Mile

I took a whole new approach in training for this race this year. Last year I did typical Ultra trail run training and I just got so slow. My weekly mileage was hard to hit running 5 days a week, and I didn't enjoy it. On top of that, I was very slow in all other races relative to my past performances. I decided I would go back to typical marathon training: 7 days a week with 2 speed days, and limit myself to 22 mile long runs. I would trust that I could use my nutrition and overall volume leg strength to pull me through 100 miles. I was concerned, but I had run Cactus really well and a 3:02 marathon in Houston in January, indicating that I was in good shape. Basically I was flipping a coin, and if this race went badly, I was just going to be a slow trail runner that was much better on the roads.  If this race went well, then maybe I had a breakthrough on trail training. As a side note, I am now seriously thinking of writing an Ultra Trail Training book – just based off of my trial/error and what’s worked for me. The best I’ve found out there is Relentless Forward Progress, but it is a little outdated.


While I was pleased with my general training leading up to race weekend, the actual week before the race ended up being pretty tough personally.  Sunny got really sick and was in bed and unable to take care of the kids, so my evenings were much busier than I would’ve otherwise planned.  I also realized Friday when I was packing that I had booked my hotel in Huntsville, AL instead of Texas…there was $200 down the drain. I quickly booked a room for Friday night and figured I would run all night Saturday so I didn't need a room Saturday – I would just roll out my sleeping bag. After driving to Huntsville, I got to bed at 8:30 after a good meal at the Olive Garden.


Loop 1 - 3:12 (9:37 pace)  I took off the first lap with Edgar and about 20 other friends. The first lap was so super easy. I was running as slow as possible and just talking with friends the whole way. I was taking a gel every 20 minutes (which I would continue to do all day and night). I dropped my light off with Suann at DamNation once the sun was up and kept going.  Around there I had caught up to Matt Crownover and I figured I was running too fast as I knew he was going sub 19. But I knew the day would heat up and I was going to start crying and walking after mile 60. I just can't run that far. I have never made it through a 100 running the whole way. The wheels always come off at around mile 80. By the end of this first loop, Shaheen and Edgar were just a minute behind me and I know they were thinking I had taken it out too fast. I knew they would come by me on the second loop, but I was so happy to feel so strong. Last year I was holding on to their pace on the first lap and it was 20 min slower.            


Loop 2 - 3:42 (11:07 pace)  I took my first Ensure (350cal) and that took a minute to settle. This year I switched from all Gatorade to all water. It was a positive change. The first loop was all gels (maybe 8 or 9). I would add more table food on the second lap. Many of the big dogs passed me the first 3-5 miles of this loop but my goal was 12 min miles for this loop in order to break 22 hours, so I was running that. By the time we got to DamNation it really started to heat up. My pace still held good. At mile 30 I was alone so I put on my music. I did run out of water with only one bottle on the 6 mile DamNation loop (I would bring a second bottle for loop 3). Ultra running is about adjustments… Mile 34 was 9:53 so I guess I was still rolling.  Maybe it was a mistake but these races are not won and lost on single miles or handfuls of minutes.  My motto today was no matter how bad it got, I would regroup and get it going again.       


Loop 3 - 4:04 (12:12 pace) Another Ensure and another quick barf/burp in the mouth and I was off again. I was about 40 minutes ahead of pace and I wanted to go as slow as I needed this loop to save something for the night. I knew after this loop the temps would start coming down. I decided to start an 8 minute run /2 minute walk pattern. That would allow me to eat every other walk break. Timing is so important in these races for me. I needed to keep the food coming. Last year I shut it down (eating) and it shut me down. Even with the walk breaks I was holding close to the12 minute pace. The goal this lap was a 13 minute pace. Great - sub 22 hours was still on the table! This lap felt a bit cooler than lap 2 as the sun was a little lower and I was getting some shade. I kept thinking this whole loop:  What if I get there too soon and my pacer isn't there yet. I was about to be 1 hour ahead of pace. I really started to kill time the last 5 miles…


Loop 4 - 4:41 (14:05 pace)  I got my pacer Michael Bordelon, my old-person-Ensure (Buuuuuuuurp) and off we went.  I grabbed my handheld flashlight but I didn't need it yet. We could make it to DamNation (mile 66) before I would need it. I would grab my headlamp there as well. I had asked Mike to push me harder this year and he was the best pacer. I would fight to back off the gas, but he kept us running.  We basically took no walk breaks longer than 2 min except at an aid station to drink soup - but even that was quick. We covered all my emotional BS and insecurities that night. What was my role in my local running community? We would talk about how I was a slave to the watch and looking at it during walk breaks was making me think I was giving all the time I had made during the day back. We would move from a 6-2 run walk pattern down to a 4-2 pattern by the end of the loop. We still nailed the goal of 14 min pace for this loop and held the 1 hour lead on our goal. We knew we had 6 hours to get thru the last loop. I was sure that I would stop running at any minute...


Loop 5 – 4:57 (14:51 pace) One more long sleeve, no Ensure as I was sick of throwing up in my mouth, but took a 5 hr. Energy instead. Suann, Scott and Amy helped me keep my head on at the turn around. I switched out my watch even though my 910 would have made the last loop. My XT310 never found a satellite so it was just a time-of-the-night watch. Mike would do my run/walk splits even though I was sure he was forgetting to watch the time and letting me run long. Funny how 4 minutes of running takes FOREVER after 80 or 90 miles (especially when Mike wouldn’t call it for five or six minutes…) The whole loop I was complaining about sore legs and being tired, but Mike just kept saying how my running pace was still 11-12 min pace so we were still clicking off sub 15 min miles. I was just so sure that everything was going to shut down. I kept eating and I kept hitting new mileage milestones - I had never run past 80 miles before. Then 85, then 90, and even 95 (when I died last year).  I was so mean to Mike. I would bark if he ran alongside me. I would tell him to get behind me. He would trip on a rock and then stumble past me. I just knew he was going to trip me as he fell down. We would pass girls and he would try to get me to flirt with them. I didn't want to talk about girls. After we would pass them I would say something grumpy like they probably weren't very good looking. He also kept saying we could break 21 hours and I told him it was too much pressure. There was no way I could hold this pace. I was just sure the wheels would come off. We finally had 1:20 to run the last 4.4 miles and I knew we had a good shot. It got funny the last 4 miles. A guy past us and I knew that I was still in the game because I decided I would hunt this guy for one mile and then I was going to fly by him and his pacer and destroy his spirit. I would lay down the 97 mile hammer and never let him catch me. We passed him back on a downhill at mile 3 right before the trails merged and we kept going. I started to play with Mike here. There was 3 miles and 1 hour to go. I told Mike it was going to be tough. Then it was 2 miles and 46 minutes to go, this is going to be real tight. The last mile felt amazing. I felt like I could keep going another 20 miles. We started to run faster and faster and when he stopped me for my last walk break, I said give me one minute. He said there is the finish, let's go. So we took off. Turns out he pointed out some other building – not the finish - but we were really close, so we flew down the finish chute.  


Total   20:38        27th/229 finished - 340 started


Post wrap up: I had the race of my life. It gives me hope that maybe I can run 100 miles. At one point, back when I first started running, I thought 13 miles seemed like a ridiculously long distance. Everything in life is relative, I guess. Like when I use to think raising one kid was so hard - then I had three. I am so thankful for all my friends that were out here supporting me. To my wife and kids, who get my whole Ultra obsession.  To Neil for always being there to support me. He let me crash at his hotel and get a shower. To Michael Bordelon that has paced me here 2 years in a row. For someone that has run very few Ultras, he really gets how to pace, and he understands me. It takes a strong friendship to survive the stuff that is said from mile 80 -100. Hell, I am not even sure what I said from 95-100 these last two years but I am sure it is not nice or well thought out...



  1. nice work! loved the report, but ewww, the ensure sounds repulsive. bleck!

  2. Another Great Post and Amazing Run. I love the 100 for the psychology of the last 40. You were cracking me up the whole last loop. You just could not believe that you were going to run the whole thing and were so sure you would blow up. HA!!!!! I think the idea of you writing an Ultra guide is brilliant. You bring an important perspective to the sport. You show runners with kids, real jobs and real world demands how to set audacious running goals and achieve them. It has been fun this season experimenting along with you with unconventional training like not tapering for a PR marathon and using plant based foods to speed recoveries and fuel. I cannot wait for Leadville!