A.K.A Rocky Raccoon 100mi Race report.
First of all this was a DNF No matter how far I went the end result was not quite what I wanted….I really, really, really wanted to cross that finish line!
BUT two weeks post DNF at Rocky Raccoon 100 I am looking back and taking pride on what I DID accomplish out on those Texas trails. I surpassed my previous distance PR by 50k…I dropped at 72.2miles on the other side of the infamous Dam Nation aid station. My longest run/race to date prior to that was the finish at FreeState Trail 40miler. It was an amazing weekend despite the final race outcome and here’s how it all went…..
I wasn’t sure what I’d be feeling going into the biggest physical (and mental) challenge of my life, but what I certainly did not expect was this weird lack of total nervousness. Now don’t get me wrong..there were butterflies..but not the ‘Oh My God I’m going to puke any minute now’ butterflies. It was the ‘I’m ready to get going’ kind! I had slept very well the week before and on Thursday morning, two runners (Beck and myself) and three crew (Coleen, Deb and Dee) headed out around 9.30am and made a bee-line to Huntsville, Texas for Beck’s first 50miler and my first 100miler. The road trip was a fun one. Fun chatter and good conversation as well as quiet time where pretty sure Beck and I went into ‘let’s get ready to do this’ mode mentally. We stopped around Denton, Texas for a Chipotle dinner and met up with fellow runner Nikki and her crew. After dinner we pulled into our hotel at Huntsville roughly 12hrs after we left Kansas City. Bags unloaded and off to bed.
Beck and I slept in Friday morning. We got up and then headed to breakfast with crew and my pacer Deb J. Coleen and Dee had headed to the park to get a 10mi run in. we kind of chilled around the hotel rooms getting our drop bags ready and after a light lunch headed to the park for short jog to check out the trail and packet pick up!
Do not Ask me how…but as we got to the park and got out of the van…my (in more ways than one) lifesaver pacer Deb checked on my Dam Nation drop bag…Big Oops..totally brain fart on that one! Thanks Coleen for heading back and grabbing it as that had to be at the main lodge by 6pm. Packet pickup and race briefing done. ‘Yummy Yummy’ Mongolian buffet for dinner, quick stop at store and we’re at the hotel to get final food prep done and off to bed.
Race day came bright and early! 3.15am alarm so I could get showered. Beck and I were roomies so we slowly but surely got ourselves ready to go run the longest distance each of us have ever tackled! We got to the park bright and early to get a good spot and then took a nap before my 6am start time. I woke around a little past 5am…got my breakfast and an Ensure in and got ready to get this going!
Here We Go!
6am start time came quick! I had the good nerves going. By then I was just ready to get moving. Coach giving me a big hug before we got going. We were all a little teary-eyed…this the blurry picture..haha!
It was a very surreal feeling as I stepped over that timing mat for the chip to activate and officially ‘be on course’…holy crap I’m actually doing this! I had connected up with Steve Baker and Hannah MacBeth from Wichita and we ran together at the start. Steve very quickly moved ahead, but Hannah and I stuck together for that first full loop. It was still dark and we had headlamps on and were just enjoying the start of a journey. This was Hannah’s third 100miler so she’s well versed in what it takes to run this distance and it was great to have her with me through that first loop. We simply chatted along, caught up with each other on how things have been this past year and kept moving. The sun came up around 7am or so and we kept moving. We had lots of good conversation as we moved through the loop. Chatting at times with other runners as well and we got the Dam Nation aid station to start the 6mi loop which would bring us back to the same on. So 6miles is not a long way…but this loop definitely felt longer than 6miles to me. The course so far has been very gentle rollers and no significant inclines…just a lot of large..and I mean large roots. I swear the trees did not look like they could have roots this big..they were pretty much logs across the trail! The 6mile loop had more incline than the rest of what we encountered so far. The 50milers veered off to the right and the 100milers kept moving ahead. We moved through decently and then hit the levee section which is out in the open. I could tell it was warming up and this section would be nice and sunny the second loop! We headed back into the trails, met up with the 50milers again and then got the aid station again before headed back towards the Dogwood Start/Finish. From the Dam Nation to Park Road it was mostly jeep road which is not my favorite kind of surface to run on. Here is when I started to feel the tender spots that were already forming in the ball of my feet. I was glad that my crew was going to be at Park Road so I could get those looked at sooner than later. Headed up the jeep road I spotted Beck chugging along so I made sure we caught up to her so I’d get to run with her at least a little bit.
We both pulled into the Park Road aid station together which surprised Coach quite a bit! I hit the potty, sat down and ate and had them refill and change out food while Coach Coleen tended to my feet. The sand going through my shoes had already caused some blisters and there were a couple on my toes that I didn’t even know I had until Coach pulled my socks off! Oh well…drained, patched, refilled and off we went. A little ways on this loop I realized I wasn’t getting enough water off my hydration pack. Hannah graciously let me sip from her extra one and once I got into the main Dogwood aid station I realized what happened. The bladder somehow folded over on itself and was not letting a good flow through. In the midst of all that in the 4. something miles from Park Road to Dogwood I worried about the water and fell behind on my salt which was causing me some issues. Once I go the main aid station, I pulled the bladder and straightened it out and tested it and it was all good. Grabbed some more food and kept moving. 4:45:00 and 20miles down!
The Warm Up!
It was now almost 11am and getting warm quick. I kept eating…alternating between Turkey wraps, Honey Stinger Gels and an occasional Pb and honey which was gooey in the heat…and drinking water and taking salt caps. Sweaty pictures ahead!
But the heat was getting to me even though I put ice in the pack and my bandanna. Hannah moved ahead as I was slowing down (more than I wanted to) but I kept moving and eating and drinking. I doubled up on my salt taking a S-Cap every 30mins and that seem to do the trick to help me get balanced out again. I ran the second loop chatting with a few other runners..including a guy who obviously was very secure in his manliness as he was running in a pink skirt…not a tutu…but a very lovely pink outfit! I saw a guy running in a kilt…hmmm…hope there are some shorts underneath cannot imagine the chafing issues that might ensue if not! Ran with a guy originally from Palestine who actually knew exactly where Sri Lanka was at. Ran some miles with Nathan from NOLA who I chatted with about barges. Its so crazy all the odd conversations you will have with total strangers out on the trails! Dirt and endless miles bonds like no other!!
My blisters were making my feet very tender, but I kept pushing forward to get that next aid station. The Dam Nation loop seemed much longer this time..likely because I was not moving as quickly in the heat I can see now why a lot of people dislike this section. All I wanted to do was get back to that aid station again and get this second loop done. I took my sweaty shirt off and put on a dry one and got lots of ice and food before headed back! I pretty much ate whatever looked good when I got there! I focused on getting to Park road where my crew was waiting. OH what an AWESOME sight! I dropped things off, let them know what I needed, hit the potty and got my feet tended to again. Blisters were nice and tender now! Off I go! The last section from Park Road to Dogwood (which earlier seemed to go on forever) seemed a little shorter now. Its getting close to where I’ve been on my feet for 12hrs now. Going over one the many wooden bridges by the lake closer to the start/finish I hear a commotion! What is everyone looking at? One guy trips over himself trying to get a look. Oh guess what there really ARE Alligators in the park!
There was one just sitting silently in the water! Now that was kinda cool…although I tried not to let thoughts of him sitting there when it gets dark creep into my head. Loop 2 DONE! I had thought I would get through that second loop quicker so here I was with no headlamp as one was at the Dam Nation drop bag and the other with my crew. I saw Wael who had just finished…and by that I mean crushed the 50mi…winning his age group and asked if I could borrow his headlamp which he promptly gave me! He gave me some much needed encouragement and let me go on my way! Local KC Runner Love!
Into the Darkness!!!
Every step I took from that point on was a step further than I had EVER run before! I was in unknown territory as I had NEVER run past 40miles before that moment! I won’t lie I was pretty nervous about how things would go for the next 20miles until I got to my pacer Deb. Leaving the Dogwood aid station I told myself I can do this!! Yes I was hurting like I’ve never hurt before…yes my feet were insanely tender..but I was keeping food and water down and mentally I was there! I had not yet put my iPod on and was simply enjoying the ability to do this and taking in all of it. Each step however difficult was a step forward and I remembered Sherrie telling me to just take it all in…and I was just concentrating on taking it all in! I don’t remember much of the time between leaving the wooden bridges between start and Nature Center aid station. It was kinda of a blur going past the Nature Center towards Dam Nation. I won’t lie it was rough..slow going and painful on my feet. But I did my best to just focus on other things. I thought about my hubby..wondered what he was doing then. I thought of my Stella..bet she’s wondering where I disappeared to. Boy, she would LOVE these trails! Wish she was running beside me. I thought of all the incredible support I have from all my friends! and then I was at Dam Nation AGAIN!! I was getting cold at this point, so I changed into a dry tanktop and put on a light jacket over it, grabbed my flashlight and headed to get the 6mi Dam Nation loop done. Barely into the loop nature called and I turned off my headlamp and moved a few yards into the trail to do what I needed to do. I was just hoping there was no critters over there! That 6mi loop in the dark alone with just my thoughts was one of the toughest things I’ve ever done! I concentrated on the trail and picking my feet up to avoid those crazy ass roots that I swear grew bigger at night. I could hear Coyotes in the distance. Little green beady spider eyes were all over the trail as my flashlight bounced off them. I focused on the almost rhythmic hoots of an owl and that owl kept me company for most of that loop. The levee seemed so far away and when I saw the twinkling lights off the water I knew I was getting closer to the aid station again and have never been so relieved to be done with 6miles! Although I knew I had to do this two more times…at least I’d have Deb for company! Once I got to Dam Nation I ate some soup, had some mountain few, popped my iPod on and got back out there. I kept muttering ‘get to Deb, get to Deb’ under my breath when I wasn’t trying to keep tune with some song. I apologize to any runners who heard me…that was me and not the Coyotes At some point I smelled skunk and I recall someone asking me if I got sprayed…I said no…secretly praying I was right! Damn..that would suck. Thankfully the smell passed! I’d hear bits of conversation between runners and pacers, occasional sound of music ringing out loud off someone’s iPod where they had it loud enough to keep themselves from falling asleep. I was tired and exhausted…but I was awake and moving! There were lots of dark shadows with headlamps or flashlights always telling me to ‘keep moving’, ‘looking strong’ or ‘good job’ which I returned back even if I couldn’t really see what state they were in. A little over 17hrs in I finished loop 3…60miles…almost at the 100k mark…holy crap my feet were tired!!
I pulled into the start/finish and looked around for Coleen. It was dark and so it was confusing, but we spotted each other. I crossed the mat and headed into the crew spot. My feet needed more care. I love Coleen for cleaning and taking care of my nasty feet which had to smell like who knows what else at that point. I stripped my top layers off and put on fresh sport bra, shirt and warmer jacket. They held up blankets to shield me..but honestly at this point all I cared about were warm clothes. Hindsight…I absolutely should have stripped my bottoms off and changed into dry clothes..this would come back to bite me a little later. My pack was refilled and I downed an Ensure and ate a little while Coleen took care of my feet (again). This is going above and beyond her coach duties! I took some Advil to ease the pain on my feet. Its funny going into this my right hammy/hip were my biggest concerns and after about the first 2miles I don’t remember thinking about it too much. Coleen mentioned that things that hurt before would stop and things that never hurt may start hurting…I tried to remember that through it all. Feet were definitely where the pain was at! Deb was ready and I changed out socks, dropped my iPod and we headed out. Of course had to do a potty stop as soon as I was out of sight of the aid station! Once darkness came in I realized pretty quickly that as long as I was off the trail…I wasn’t too worried about ‘going in the trail’ There was plenty of that going on around us! Deb and I chatted as we kept moving along. I let her lead and she’s just let me know when to try to run and power hike.
We kept moving forward. After the Nature Center aid station I could tell was slowing down more than I wanted to. I had gloves on so my hands were warm, but I was getting very cold. Deb, a very experienced Ultra Runner, was a fantastic pacer! She kept me talking and walking and my version of running at that point which was shuffling. We just chatted about life and what I was planning on post Rocky and tried to keep moving. We got the the Dam Nation aid station to begin that long 6mile loop..which I swear JUST kept getting longer and longer each time I hit it! We stopped to grab some warm soup hoping that would start warming me up. Grabbed the cup and drank it along the way. I have no idea how long that 6miles took..but I can tell you for sure it was the slowest and longest 6miles of my life so far!! As we got closer to the lake I could feel myself getting colder and colder! I knew this was not just a chill..but I was getting extremely cold for the what the temps were at that time. Note…I though we were around the 50s…but the temps had dropped to the mid 40s and I was very definitely not dressed enough for dealing with that when the body was this exhausted. I let Deb know that at some point we’d hear the aid station at the start/finish but then we’ve move away from it headed back into the trails off the levee. We finally got to the levee and I sensed things were going downhill quick. Deb started to try to figure out the mileage markers on the loop just to keep me focused and engaged..crazy things counted down..and then oddly counted back up again. She did whatever she could to get me to that aid station which would be a little over 12miles into the 20mile loop. We very slowly trudged into the aid station and worked on getting another layer on me. My body was tired and very, very cold. As much as I didn’t want to sit down as I knew the clock was ticking away, trying to get me to warm up was key right now. I sat by the heater (oh that dreaded heater) and tried to hold onto a cup of hot broth. My body got so cold at that point that I started shivering and couldn’t even hang on to the cup. The contents were spilling all over as I started to shake. They wrapped me up in a space blanket in an effort to get me warmed up. After a few minutes I tried move along, only to start to shake with cold again. At this point I knew I wasn’t going to make it as I would miss the cut-off even if I made it to back to Dogwood. I’m not sure how long we sat there trying to warm me up, but slowly and painfully I realized that this was the end of my race . Officially my DNF is registered at 60miles since that was last time check…but I made it 72.2miles before my body decided it was done….not matter how much my heart and mind wanted to go on!
Boat Ride of Shame
Of course I had to drop at the one aid station that crew could not get to! So my options were slog it to Park Road or wait until they needed to head back to the start. If I could slog back I would have and would not be dropping here! There was another runner who had dropped at the same point and when someone said they could have the boat take the us back and then come back for the pacers..we were both on board. It was hard to hang out at the aid station while runners came through on their last or penultimate loops. It was a little too hard to sit and watch when my race was over. So as cold as we were we bundled up, got our life vests on and got taken across the lake to the marina where we were promptly hurried to the med tent for a check. They got me more soup and bundled me up to get my core temp back up and took off my ankle chip which meant I was ‘off the course’ now. Coleen and Dee came over to check on me. I knew at some point that weekend I would break down and cry…I was just really hoping it was after I crossed that finish line and not a DNF. Talking to my Coach..everything just poured out! The heartbreaking and horribly familiar feeling from Hawk returned..except it was so much worse right now. Deb came over after they dropped her off and I was so Thankful that she was with me for those last 12miles.
This part may seem like a pity-party…but that is not what its meant to be. This is how I felt at that point and so I’m been honest. Sitting there huddled in that med tent my heart was heavy with what I could not accomplish! What it eventually boils down to is that I felt like a total failure! I felt like I failed myself in not being able to finish what I set out to do. I felt like I failed everyone that made the trip to crew/pace me. Felt like I failed my hubby. Suddenly the early mornings and long training days just boiled down to DNF. I was disappointed and ashamed that I failed. Those that know me well know that I do not like to leave things unfinished and this was HUGE unfinished business!
We slowly moved over to the van and once Nikki finished and crushed her first 100miler…sub 24 Rockstar…we headed over to get me and Deb a warm shower grabbed some breakfast and got back on the road headed home.
Post Rocky Thoughts
It’s been two weeks post Rocky and what I was hoping I would be writing now is how I love showing off my new buckle….BUT that is not how the day unfolded! I’ve had time to think about how the race went, talk to my coach and hubby about things and while it still stings that I DNF’d….the feelings of failure are much, much lesser now.
Going into Rocky Raccoon 100 I knew my training was ok…not bad, not great, but ok. The big unknown, since I had not run past 40miles prior to that day, was what my body would do as I pushed it further and further! How would food hold up since that has been an issue with longer runs past the 50k mark? How would my mind and resolve hold up as it got harder and harder and the same miles just got longer and tougher! Well Mind and tummy held up great…the cold was what knocked me down in the end. I’ve had time to think and there were some critical lessons learned. I was so focused about food, feet and stomach that I totally underestimated and did not adequately manage my body’s reaction to the cold when it was tired from 60+ miles of moving. A tough lesson learned for the future.
In the last two weeks I’ve had so much support and love and encouragement and perspective on what I did accomplish! The sting of the DNF is a lot less now and I’m proud of having toughed it out for 72.2miles. I was focused and my mind was willing and I tried my hardest!
There WILL be a 100mi finish in my future! At some point I may have doubted it a little, but I know my mind is strong and I just need to get stronger and faster and that 100mi finish will happen!!
Its not always about the destination, but the lessons are in the journey and it has been an amazing journey of self discovery to get to that 100mi start line. People ask me why I would even try this…and I respond ‘to see if I can’. Just like life…you never know unless you try right?! No matter the outcome of this first attempt I have learned so much about the strength and determination I have within me and that is a great thing not only for future races…but life in general!
It would a very long list if I tried to list everyone who supported, encouraged and motivated me in all this. You all know who you are…THANK YOU!! A few special ones cannot go unsaid though.
Thank you to Sherrie K. who gave me a ton of great advice and support through it all. I though of you a lot while running out there.
Thank you to Dee who took a weekend and more off her life to come crew for us! Hope I can return the favor soon….hint hint!
A special thank you to my running partners especially Lisa D. and Beck. There have been a lot of great miles logged with them and that got me here.
A HUGE Thank you to Deb! I could not have made it those last 12miles without you…I owe you some miles!! Oh and you are on the hook for next time too
And what can I say about Coleen, coach and friend extraordinaire! Your training, guidance and support allowed me to get to this point. It has been an incredible journey and you’ve been there every step of the way and I cannot thank you enough for it all! I owe you a 100mi finish line
And of course most importantly a HUGE THANK YOU to my hubby! I know he doesn’t always understand my need to do this and most time thinks this is all insane, but he supports me nevertheless and that is love! Having him be proud of me means more than he will ever know.
So What Now??
I won’t lie the urge to just go out there, find another 100miler and get that finish asap is pretty strong! But I’ve been training for almost two years straight to get here and physically and mentally I am in need of a break. I am focusing on some other aspects of my life and while I will still be running I’m sticking to shorter distances for this year! Plan is to stay in 50k shape and then see where life take me and then take 2014 as it comes! Training for a 100miler has also shown me that no matter what life brings me, I am always stronger than I think I am and I just need to push and stay strong! Training for a 100miler is a huge commitment and it’s time to recharge. 2013 is the year to build strength and speed in mind and body so when I do decide on taking on that next 100miler or anything else…Nothing will stop be from getting to that Finish Line no matter what it looks like!!!!