Friday, February 13, 2009

Rocky Raccoon 100-Miler

Race morning, 5:45AM, 15 minutes to race start people.

A crewing and pacing report.

01. Initial Quick Recap
02. Videos
02. Pictures
03. Tony's Race Report
04. Official Results
05. Event Website

From the lead pack. Write ups of the race from the top three. It's crazy how these days, because of blogs, you can get a personal report straight from the top runners. Not all runners blog of course but many do. As in a race, I get my blog inspiration from all types of runners, from the front to the back of the pack.
1st Andy Jones Wilkins
2nd Scott Jaime
3rd Jamie Donaldson (First woman). Her Photos.

So there we were at race central Saturday morning at Huntsville State Park, Texas, 30 minutes before race start. I was with Tony, Wayne and Kira. We were all sharing a hotel room and I was crewing and pacing for Tony. To keep busy I kept an eye out for Wayne and Kira too. Tony was a little stressed since he couldn't find the Dreamchaser tent. All three are coached by Lisa Smith-Batchen and part of the Dreamchasers. Also met up with fellow San Francisco ultra-runner Jonathan Gunderson who looked like he was about to take a trip somewhere with his suitcase and backpack in tow. Since his pacer wasn't due in until 3:30PM I placed his stuff with ours.

I know all my race start videos all look the same but I love them. I like how the guys in the front take off and the back of the pack takes their time. Usually there's someone saying or doing something funny too.

On a run in January, Gunderson tells me about his experience last year at Rocky where he came in on the first loop at 2nd place with a 2:43 split. He was going too fast and he didn't realize it until he saw eventually winner, Jorge Pacheco, heading back out for his second loop. Well guess who comes in at 2:45, right behind leader Scott Jaime? He was in no mood to slow down. Next up was Tony and Wayne who were also moving faster than they planned. The course is not flat but it's not too hilly either. The cool morning temps also made it easy. Kira is the last of the group to come in, already suffering from stomach issues which was unfortunate because she was looking to beat her 21+ time from last year. Eventually it got warm and the runners slowed down. The three guys were affected by the heat, especially Tony and Wayne coming from the cool temps of New York but Kira was fine. She had bigger pains to deal with I think. I spent the time in between loops buying extra supplies and eating. I went back to Walmart for a second cooler, ice, some bandanas for the ice bandanas I planned to make, some over the counter stuff and wipes. Later in the evening I went out for a couple of pizzas, getting them early enough to give them a chance to cool. I got a chance to catch up with Larry, Olga's guy. He would end up pacing Andy Jones Wilkins who would win the race. Got to see Mark finish the 50-mile race at 9:50, a huge PR for him.

Or how I wanted to leave Tony out on the trail after our first 26-miles together. Tony finishes the third lap looking very good, alert and in good shape for finishing under 24 hours. He lays out his plan of running 5 hour laps for the next two and possibly finishing under 23 hours. Great, I said. I was encouraged, he was motivated and doing well on time. That only lasted 6 miles or so, just about the amount of time it took my flashlight to die out. He went into a deep funk and it was like pulling teeth to get him to hustle. He became stubborn and unresponsive, working against me rather than with me. About mile 70 he nails a root that causes him to tweak his knee. According to his doctor which he saw this week, a bad strain on his MCL. We didn't know it at the time though, he just knew something was not right. So naturally this doesn't help matters further. Every time he hit a root we had to stop and walk on top of the walking we were already doing. Somehow we still got loop 4 done in 5:10, only 10 minutes off and are left with a little over 6 hours to complete the last loop for a sub-24 finish. This time we take two of his flashlights with us, same make and model as my own. 3 miles into it those lights die out too #@&%#!!! and Tony isn't doing any better physically. Eventually I asked him if the pain in his knee was severe enough for him to want to pull out of the race. It seemed pretty serious, like there was some major damage. He say's no. So then I ask him if he still wants sub-24 and he says yes. Well ok then, yet when I tried to get him to get going he had reasons not to. That was it. I gave up trying to help him get under 24 at that point. I told him "Tony this is your race, your goal, only you can make it happen", with that I promptly pulled ahead keeping him 30 yards behind me.

Around mile 26 he realized things were not right and we have our talk. I laid it all down and told him he wasn't making it happen and I was tired of him fighting me at every step. He apologized and turned it around right then and there. He snapped out of his funk. With his mind back in the game he ran when I said run and he walked when I said walk and when we walked we walked fast. Because of our poor lights there was a 6-mile section where we walked carefully. I was worried he would nail a root and go down for good. Even I, fresh and adept at running technical trails was nailing the darn things left and right. Once he did nail one nicely. A nice solid hit. I thought our bid for sub-24 was done right there, we were either walking home the rest of way or he had to drop because of the knee. Tony kept right on moving though. When I asked him if he was okay, his answer was thick and choked. "Are you sobbing back there?", I yelled back. He answers, "no but that one almost put tears in my eyes." Painful. I then told him how much I appreciated he didn't cry out in pain like a baby. I know, I know, mighty sensitive of me. The pain wasn't enough to keep him awake though. He started to get sleepy which in turn made him drag his feet which of course made him nail a few more roots, nothing as bad as that big one though. He went back and forth between the fog in his head and the pain in his knee. Thankfully that didn't last too long and we were able to get some Coke which woke him up. The last 7 miles or so was a breeze compared to the last 33-miles that I had been pacing him. At this point I didn't have to push as hard, he was flying on his own. Fly Tony Fly.

Two miles from the finish he recognizes a friend who is just suffering. We hear him first before we see him. He's just groaning and moaning every other step. Guy was hurting all over and had an issue with his achilles. Tony who was feeling pretty darn good at this point slows us down so Rich could follow. I was thinking that there was no way this guy was going to be able to keep up at his current condition but I was proven wrong. Having us there and with Tony's encouragement put a little life back in him. We lost minutes doing that but by then it was a moot point, barring any major catastrophe Tony was going to finish well under 24 hours. On the last stretch both of them would run strong to the finish, finishing seconds from each other with RD Joe Prusaitis himself handing them their medals. When I got to the tent the two were talking animatedly and Joe just had a big smile on his face. Must be a great feeling, as a race director, to see your runners push and finish.

By the time we finished Gunderson was already gone, Wayne was still on the course and so was Kira. We waited for Wayne who came in a couple of hours later then headed for the hotel. Waiting for Wayne gave us a chance to catch up with some of the runners. Andy Jones-Wilkins was at the tent despite having finished hours earlier. He had cleaned up, probably got some good sleep and had come back out to check on the progress of the race. A class act that guy. We also got to talk to the 4th place guy who like Andy was hanging out at the finish tent. He was a runner from Mexico who clocked a 16:55. The heater took me out shortly after that though, nap time.

Not much rest for the weary. This is what happens when you schedule your flight on the same day you finish your 100-mile race. I was fine but these guys were exhausted. They were also screaming in the bathroom when they cleaned up, oh you know from the chaffing and blisters (shuddered a little bit while I typed that). After we got cleaned up, we got breakfast, went back to race central to check on friends, pick up drop bags and took off for the airport. Kira had come in to the hotel 30 minutes before she had to leave to take her flight. Quick clean up and then she was gone. So crazy but she didn't count on being out on the course for 27+ hours.

We capped off our time together with some crappy food at an expensive airport restaurant. Tony and I spent most of our time laughing at Wayne who could barely walk. Hey that's what friends are for right. All the runners I knew finished but only one got the time they wanted - Tony. That buckle is sweet too I have buckle envy.

This isn't a race that I would do. It felt monotonous to me. The same types of trail through the same scenery. There is no view of anything really, just trees and parts of the lake. It helped that it was a full moon. Seeing the moon through the trees for most of the night was a sight. At one section I even turned off my crappy light and ran by moonlight. It was well run though and the volunteers were great. They had 239 runners which is good for a hundred. On my first hundred I think there was only 70 of us. You never feel alone out there, always people around. The one thing that really surprised and angered me though was the amount of trash on the course in the form of styrofoam cups that they used to serve the soup. I would see them way past the aid stations carelessly tossed to the side of the trail. I saw a couple that were a couple of miles from the nearest aid station. If you don't want to carry it don't leave with it. If you leave with it then carry that shit to the next aid station. Angers me just thinking about it now and this is a hundred mile race, participated in by people who have put a lot of time on the trails. I've never seen that much trash on a course, the last time was at the Northface 50-miler. Incredible.

Well I don't want to leave on a negative note. It was a successful outing and I'm glad I took part in the experience. Tony and Wayne will do it again in April for the Umstead 100-miler, this time they will be joined by Mr. Bob Gentile. I'm sorry I'll miss that outing. Always something funny when Bob's around and no one gets bigger, uglier blisters than Bob.


  1. The three guys were affected by the heat, especially Tony and Wayne.

    The heat - I was surprised that it didn't bother me that much at all. I took an ice bandana once, but it hurt my neck from being too cold and within a mile I ditched the ice. Given a possible Badwater in the future, I was happy the heat had little to no effect on my (except maybe causing a bit of a headache).

    I had forgotten about the trash. What a shame. I remember you and I running the last loop and all the trash all over the course.

  2. Always something funny when Bob's around and no one gets bigger, uglier blisters than Bob.

    ok be back later to review ...have to go sell some SOLAR and pass on the gift of FREE energy to some lucky bastard :-)

  3. It was fun to talk to you throughout the day. Hope you had a good time. I think that the Cactus Rose 100 may be in your's your kind of race.

  4. Great recap, great pics, and great videos, Rick! I'm with you about the trash! Several times I stopped and picked shit up off the trail and stuck it in my pocket til the next aid station. You would think that ultrarunners would be greener than that! Can't wait to see you again down the road sometime! Peace!

  5. PS I am stealing the pic of me for my own blog as well! ha Thanks!

  6. Duuudee! Great race report, pics, and vid. I don't know . . .if I were homie (in the last vid/second post) I would've taken them up on the wheelchair offer. OMG OOOUUUCCCHH!

  7. Tony: Huh I thought the heat got to you. Yeah that trash was something else. I hope they do something about it next year like banning runners from leaving with the cups or telling them to pack it to the next aid station. Really no excuse for that.

    Bob: You know I'm thinking specifically of Javelina after you finished. When half of us ran out of medical while other folks like Tony stayed around to watch and video tape your feet. That was funniest chit. I still haven't seen the video and I don't think I will.

    Dave: I think the Cactus Rose might be especially now that I know some folks in Texas.

    Mark: You're welcome with the pic. So this was going on in the 50-miler as well, the thrash throwing. I thought it was just a night because that's when they started serving soup.

    Marcy: Haha it's great watching other people after a long race. That is how I look after my big races. Tony was fine though.

  8. I'm calling you to be my pacer in my 1st 100. I haven't the faintest idea when that will be (perhaps when the tendonitis dies down?) but you're first on the list...

  9. Rick, a fantastic report as always. The pictures and the videos are fun! Congratulations to all of your friends who finished, and way to help bring them home. That is some very inspiring stuff!

    Very disturbing about all the trash. I had always thought most trail runners cared about nature a little bit more than that. Hopefully the race directors can clamp down because there is simply no excuse.

    Enjoyed your report! Nicely done.

  10. Great report! I am also surprised about the trash on the course! :<(