Last year Tiffanie and I had flown down to Huntsville so I could pace Rick Mayo the last 40 miles of the Rocky Raccoon 100. I decided this race was not a good option for me since it is a 5 loop course which meant passing by a very inviting start finish area to drop 4 times. Fast forward about 8 months, John King decided he wants to give Rocky Raccoon a shot for his first 100 after pacing me through a dreadful Arkansas Traveller 100 race and I figure what the heck, I may as well give it a shot too.
Friday morning Kyle and Stacy Amos, John and Stacy King, Tiffanie and myself flew to Dallas where we rented a car and drove from there to Huntsville. Once we arrived there we met up with fellow Kansas City Trail Nerds and Rocky 100 entrants Ben Holmes and his son Matt, Gary Henry, and Tony Clark from Wichita at the local Starbucks. They were all staying at the park in the official trail nerds shelter, while we had luxurious rooms at the Super 8.
After loading up with Caffiene we headed to to Walmart to pick up some last minute things and checked into the hotel. We got to Huntsville State Park and met up with the guys again at packet pickup and hung around the shelter for a while wondering what tomorrow's race was going to bring. I ran into Chris Corbin, a strong runner from Oklahoma who I have ran in a few races with. It was his first crack at 100 miles and we figured we would see each other out on the trail since he usually isn't too far ahead of me. I was many familiar faces including Brad Holzworth and his pacer Carey Smith.
Once the pre race meeting was over we weht to dinner and headed back to the hotel to get some rest. I slept very soundly all night and awoke a few minutes before my scheduled wakeup call to head over to the race site.
We parked at the nerd shelter and got ready for the start. I was a bit nervous before the race. I had changed up a lot of things since running my last 100 4 months earlier. My mileage had stayed lower, around 70/week. My diet had gotten more strict and I was 13 lbs lighter than Arkansas. I had added a very intense leg workout day in the weightroom and cut the upper body weights down to 1 light day/week. I also did a majority of my running on the treadmill and was only able to get on the trail 1 day a week for a long run. I wanted to get 22 hours and beat my Heartland PR of 22:11. All of this stuff was going through my head and I wondered what John must feel like. He was going into an uncharted distance for him, he had gotten lighter and faster the past few months, I knew he was going to do well plus he trains with the best;)
3-2-1 and we were off, I was looking around for Chris Corbin to hopefully run with him for a while but couldn't find him. I didn't want to start off with John, he needed to do his own thing and run his pace, especially at the beginning. Once we got to Highway Aid station a the 4.4 out mark you were able to see everyone else since it was a out and back turnaround. Kyle and Tony were about 15 minutes in front already, which I expected. John was about 6 minutes behind me followed by Chris Corbin, Ben and Gary. I yelled at Chris that I would be looking for him and to hurry up and catch up with me. I planned to run the first loop in 3:30-3:40, somehow I managed a 3:18. Kyle and Tony passed me heading out for the second loop as I was finishing the first and I could tell Kyle was suprised to see me so soon. I had to stop at the bathrooms and take care of some stuff so there were a few minutes wasted, I was out for the second loop at 3:21.
I was hoping to only fall off about 30 minutes from an expected 3:30 first loop so I had some extra time since I was ahead of pace. I started struggling a bit around 30 miles or so and started to get those bad thoughts going through my head. I had really been focusing on just setting a time goal for each aid station and only thinking about that. The whole 100 mile distance is just too overwhelming. Luckily at this point Chris caught up with me and pulled in front for a while. I decided to borrow his legs for a bit and let him pull me around the last 10 or so miles of the loop. He was feeling good and was going to run while he could. We pulled into the aid station with a 3:41 second loop. Carey was there with our Tiff and the others, they said to take it easy this loop since it was getting warm. We took about 3 minutes and were off again for the 3rd round.
We pretty much stayed together this loop. He was leading for the first half and I took the front most of the second half. It was starting to warm up to a very humid 72 and Tiff gave me an ice bandana to keep me cooled off for this stretch. She had been heading out to 2 aid stations from the lodge and start finish area to make sure I had what I needed. I was doing ok, so she was going to hang out at the lodge with the other Crew/Wives which was fine by me. I really started to realize how good of a run I was having at this point. I was over 50 miles in and felt like I had just started. I always hear people say that but it was weird to really feel it.
At one point we passed John on and out and back , he was only 36 minutes behind me, holy crap!!! I had better keep it going or he was going to toast my butt. I knew he was trying to keep up and I was trying to keep ahead. It was actually benefitting both of us. Chris and I pulled into the start/finish for the 3rd time with a 3:40 second loop, 1 minute faster than the 2nd loop. We were at 60 mile which meant we could pick up our pacers here. Mark Stovall had flown down to pace me with Rick, who was pacing John. It was his first time pacing and I knew he was a bit nervous. I didn't see him around though. Him and Rick had went to the previous aid station to see me there but I was already through there, so he was sprinting back to try to get to me before I left.
This was the scheduled long aid station stop. I had to change into dry clothes and get ready for the night run. I realized now that I seriously had a great shot and going under 20 hrs, which I never would have expected. Mark got there as I was getting ready to head out. I told him I hope he had on some good running shoes, he was going to need them. We headed out on the 4th loop with Chris also, his last minute pacer had not shown up yet so I told him he was welcomed to stay with us for as long as he could. I told Mark we needed a 4:20 and 4:40 loop to finish under 20hrs. He said that my sheet I gave him had a 4:50 estimate for this loop, well, that has all changed now.
About 2 miles in, Chris started to fall back a bit. I hated to leave him but I was determined to get this done. I also knew that Rick would be joining John soon and there is nothing more Rick likes to do than get a rabbit to run down, which was me. We put our noses down and hit it pretty hard. I would guess we passed about 15people on that 20 mile loop. Rick and John didn't fall off our pace too much, I guess they were about 40 minutes back. The biggest problem I was having was my toes. I was wearing road shoes and the roots were catching my toes a lot. They were getting very painful and swollen but other than that the feet were fine. I did a faceplant a few times on this loop and was starting to have some problems with my right knee. The up and downs were really painful so I had to sort of do a side step on those portions of the trail. We rolled in with a 4:01 4th loop.
Sarting out the last loop we decided to take it easier and just not to do anything silly to ruin this. Less than 2 miles in I stopped running and looked around. The trail seemed a lot softer than I remembered, we were lost. I wasn't even paying attention to where we were going, I was just following Marks feet, so I should have paid more attention to where we were at since I had already been on this trail 4 loops. We turned around and headed back to where we took a wrong turn. Luckily we only wasted about 10 minutes but now I had to work a little harder. We stayed pretty strong for the entire loop. The only time we saw John and Rick they were about 1 hour back and looking very strong. I saw Kyle and Tony on an out and back section again. Every time I would see them Kyle would say holy crap, you are doing awesome. I was only about 6 miles behind them, which suprised no one more than me.
We got to the last aid station and Mark called Tiff to let her know we were 3 miles out. I jogged up until the last mile or so. There was someone in front of me trying to run and not let me pass them with only 1 mile left. I took off and told Mark we need to get that thought out of his head really quick, which we did. I got to the road crossing just before the finish and got a huge adrenaline rush. I was screaming pretty loud that last stretch. It was an absolutely amazing feeling to finish so much faster than I thought possible. It was great having so many people at the finish line to cheer me in. I finished in 19:33 and some change.
Once we crossed the line I was able to sit down and try to take in the whole atmosphere. Matt grabbed me a beer and I changed into some warm, dry clothes. We sat around for a while and told our war stories until John rolled into the finish at 20:48 for an amazing first 100 finish time.
I had a blast at Rocky Raccoon this year and set a PR by 2 hours and 37 minutes. It was such a great experience to be able to run so well for so long and see friends on the course all day long. My wife, as usual did a stellar job crewing me and was even helping other people aid stations with their feet and blisters. This is a very tough sport to be involved in with a family and kids. It would not be possible without her support. Congrats to all the nerds who went to Rocky this year and thanks to my friend Mark Stovall who flew down to run 40 miles in the dark with me. I think he has gotten bit by the 100 mile bug now too.
Until the next one,.,.,.,.,,.