Rocky Raccoon 100 – 2015 Race Report

Rocky Raccoon 100 – 2015 Race Report

Rocky Raccoon 100 will be a race I will not forget for a very long time. It might be because everything is tired, or hurts, or is sore, or is chafed, or is achy. If it is none of those things then it is not a part of my body. I am beat up from head to toe but simultaneously I am elated. When I put together my training plan for Rocky Raccoon 100 I had an idea of what I wanted to do to prepare my body and my mind. As with any type of training plan you have to adjust along the way and I did that to my training plan as well as to my goals until the day came when I had to execute. This race report will give you an idea of the day I had while covering 100 miles and will be broken down into how the race plays out and this is with 5 loops. Each loop has an adjective to describe it and that is the layout we will use. 16 weeks prior to the event I looked at my training plan and put a goal of running sub-24 hours into my head. In order to accomplish this type of goal you have to believe it and from day 1 I was going to believe that I had the ability to break 24 hours at the 100 mile distance. Getting to this number was going to take hard work and hard work was going to be what I put into it. As weeks went by I began to believe that I could run faster than 24 hours, then it became faster than 23 hours, then 22 hours and I finally settled on 20.5 hours as my goal. After finishing Bandera 100k in fewer than 13 hours I thought I could run the 100 miles in 19:30 but told nobody except for my wife. This was the number I implanted into my head and even went into my Google Docs to calculate what those paces would be. After calculating the paces I un-did all the numbers and left the document to show 20:25. When Jeff and I lined up at 5:55am on January 31st we had no idea how the day would unfold but with each passing step we could tell that we were on our way to doing something extraordinary. I will tell you the story of Rocky Raccoon 100 2015 from my point of view but feel free to ask questions and I will be happy to answer them for you. Rocky Raccoon 100 – 2015 Race Strategy A race of 100 miles requires multiple strategies. There has to be a running strategy, an aid station strategy and a transition area strategy. In addition to those there has to be the ability to change on the fly because no race is executed flawlessly and changes are a must.

  • Running Strategy – Run all the flats while being in control. Walk the most difficult of inclines. Cascade the declines while being in control. Repeat.
  • Aid Station Strategy – 2 Oreos at each aid station. Starting on Loop 3 drink 2 dixie cups at a minimum with one being Coke.
  • Transition Area Strategy – Fill up hydration vest with one bottle of Accelerade nutrition and grab a FlapJacked pancake to eat while walking out of the transition

If I followed this strategy I would minimize the time wasted in the aid stations and transition area while staying in control of the running portion of the race. Having run the trails at Hunstville State Park numerous times I also had an advantage in that I knew where I could run, where I could not and how to conserve energy to make the last two loops as enjoyable as the first three

Rocky Raccoon 100 – 2015 Loop 1 - Execution With The Precision Of A Surgeon - 3:22:11 (10:06/mi)

When Jeff and I reached the starting line we knew, from experience at Rocky Raccoon 50, that we needed to place ourselves 10-12 rows behind the starting line. By doing this we would be forced to start slow as there are 500 athletes trying to get to a trail that can only accommodate 1-2 people side by side. By purposely starting slow we would maintain control over our pace and establish a mindset for the first loop that would carry us throughout the day. When the clock struck 6:00am and the masses started moving we were in a good position to walk the first mile and that is what we did. When we got the chance to run and pass other athletes we did but we did not press the issue. Any passing was going to be done methodically and after we passed the first mile marker we were in a good position to allow our legs to do what we had trained them to do, which was to run while maintaining a heart rate in the Z1-Z2 range and nothing more. I also set my watch to beep an alert when my HR went above 170bpm. I was going into this race with a strategy that I was going to execute with precision. The first aid station, Nature Center, is 3 miles into the race and is a terrific place to put a check mark when you start each loop. Once you reach this point you know you have 3 miles until the DamNation aid station, which you hit twice, and is among the most popular and crowded aid stations on the course. The longest, and loneliest, part of this race takes place between your visits to the DamNation aid station. This 10k section has a 3 mile section that is straight with no turns and is able to be run hard which can be a detriment if you do not realize that there are going to be repercussions for that running if you do not control yourself. Leave DamNation the second time and head toward the Park Road aid station and then the final stretch back to the start/finish is yours to be enjoyed. Throughout the first loop Jeff and I ran with varying groups of individuals until we felt we did not need them anymore and could run ahead without exerting too much effort. Along the way we ran with Mindy, whom we found out was a course record holder in Iowa for Females with a 23:10 finish and also a dietician. We had easy conversation with her until we nearly reached the Park Road aid station which was 4.6 miles from the start/finish line. We also ran with a group of guys who had different abilities and experiences and the conversation was flowing quite well. As we made our way from the Park Road aid station to the Start/Finish line we saw our wives driving and that was a nice pick me up.  Making the left turn on the stretch toward the masses I knew we were right on target if not slightly ahead.  Everything felt good and this was going to be a fast transition. When I got toward the timing mat I ripped off my vest and Karen and I went to work.  Water bottle top was taken off and poured into the hydration vest.  FlapJacked pancake was unwrapped and stuffed into my hand and I started walking toward the start again.  Jeff was there and we were ready for Loop Number 2.

 

Rocky Raccoon 100 – 2015 Loop 2 - Let's Do This Again - 3:22:11 (10:39/mi)

rocky racoon 100 - race report - ultra trail race

End Of Loop 2 and Time To Get Rid Of The Extta Clothing[/caption] When you start Rocky Raccoon 100 it is dark out.  You know that there are changes in terrain but you cannot tell if you should truly be walking or not unless your glutes tell you to.  When you start Loop 2 it is light out and this is when Jeff and I started discussing our walking strategy in more detail. I told Jeff that I had exchanged emails with Nicole Studer, who set the course record on way to her third consecutive Rocky Raccoon 100 victory. and what her strategy for running the hills were.  She told me that she looks to walk every third hill and that is something that Jeff and I put into our plan for Loop 2.  The one issue with this is that each hill doesn't fall perfectly into the 'we should walk this one' scenario.  Sometimes the third hill was very short and two steps would get you to the top or maybe the 2nd hill was steeper than the rest and was the one we should walk.  Regardless of how this was going to unfold we managed our walking very well and ran where we were capable of running. During this loop I told Jeff that I was going to execute the Coke plan starting on Loop 3 since it worked so well for me at Bandera and I did not want to start consuming Coke too soon.  With that we also knew that we needed to keep hydrating because it was humid out and the sun was shining making the temperatures a tad warmer than what we had been experiencing this winter.  Staying on top of your liquids was going to be the key to a successful day. As we got closer to the start/finish line I could tell that I would need to change clothes.  I had started with a tank top, t-shirt, compression shirt and long-sleeve dri-fit shirt with two pairs of gloves.  This sounds ridiculous but I have a tendency to be very cold and running in heat is something I do well.  With the temperatures being what they were and the humidity high I knew I was going to head out for Loop #3 in a tank top, t-shirt and arm sleeves.  I would keep a pair of gloves in my hydration vest in case my fingers got cold as  the forecast had been calling for rain. As the miles ticked off and our ability to do math as coinciding we realized that we would be back at the start/finish line within 7 hours meaning that we were on pace for 3 hour and 30 minute loops on average.  We were ecstatic, but also questioning if we were going to hard.  As we kept discussing this we kept coming back to the fact that we did not feel as if we were exerting ourselves beyond our capabilities.  It was time to, sort of, ignore the clock and just keep running. As we were running down the chute toward the transition area we were ahead of the 7 hour time frame and it was time to make a fast transition.  The vest was coming off and being dropped by my gear so Karen could load up two bottles of Accelerade and unwrap the next pancake.  At the same time I was taking off clothes and putting on a fresh shirt and slid the arm sleeves into my vest with one pair of gloves.  Time to head out for Loop #3.

rocky racoon 100 - race report - ultra trail race

A Kiss and a To Start Loop 3 

Rocky Raccoon 100 – 2015 Loop 3 - Can We Do This Again - 3:46:05 (11:18/mi) The mindset that I had heading into the race was to just repeat all the same actions that were successful and Loop 3 was going to be the perfect example of that mindset.  One foot in front of the other, walk the steepest of hills, run the flats within control and descend as easily as possible. It was at the Nature Center aid station where the Coke began to flow.  I also realized that I did not pour enough Accelerade into my water bottles and had to call Karen.  One of the volunteers took my phone out of my pack and I called Karen to tell her that I needed all the empty water bottles refilled with Accelerade as I was going through liquids like a camel.  Her response when I called was 'I am on it already'.  That was such a huge relief. I was burning through liquids so fast that when we reached the DamNation aid station I asked one of the volunteers to pour water into my pack while I was wearing it.  Once he loaded me up I grabbed the two Oreos, a cup of coke, a cup of water and then saving grace of all......baby wipes.  I wiped my face down and removed all the salt that had accumulated on my face.  This was going to be added to my routine on each loop from here on out.

rocky racoon 100 - race report - ultra trail race

Let's Get Loop 3 Started

Jeff and I kept a consistent pace and would run with others when we could until we saw an athlete with a USATF 40-44 bib on his pack.  I told myself not to compete with this athlete as there were far too many miles to go but that did not stop that athlete from competing with us.  He passed us, we passed him, then he passed us strong and he was gone.  I said to Jeff in a very confident manner that 'I will catch him later. No doubt' and then we just kept on going. As we were reaching the Park Road aid station I knew I was going to swap out the Hoka One One Rapa Nui trail shoe for the Stinson trail shoe.  The Rapa Nui Trail shoe is perfect for the Rocky Raccoon course but the platform is very stiff and it was starting to cause me issues on the bottoms of my feet.  In addition to that, changing shoes would be welcome because it would provide me with a fresh feel since I would have been running in these shoes for nearly 12 hours at this point. Jeff and I came around the corner and there was Greg (Ninja) standing there and I was elated and yelled at him: Time to get those legs warmed up.  He seemed surprised to see us but we were moving with purpose and it was time for me to take advantage of his experience on this course. One of the keys to success on this day was the planning and talking ahead of time at what we were going to do at each aid station or transition.  This allowed us to reduce the amount of time fooling around as these stops can add up to hours during a 100 mile trail race.  As I entered the transition area I gave Karen my pack and swapped out shoes, put on a long sleeve shirt and felt great getting ready for Loop 4. As I was leaving the transition area I saw Jeff sitting down on a cooler and asked if he was ready.  He told me to go and this fit into our discussion that we may be separated after Loop 3 when we picked up our own pacers.

rocky racoon 100 - race report - ultra trail race

Time To Refill the Pack Before Heading Out With Ninja

 Rocky Raccoon 100 – 2015 Loop 4 - Running Without Thinking - 3:53:26 (11:40/mi)

 rocky racoon 100 - race report - ultra trail race

Ninja and Sherriff Prepping To Pace

I purposely put Ninja into the first pacer slot because of his familiarity with the course.  I knew that as we were running it would get dark and having somebody out there who knew their way around Hunstville State Park would be an advantage as I could run without thinking and that is exactly what happened. Ninja was getting me moving and telling me to run when we could run and then walk or power hike when we needed to do that.  I was on auto-pilot and he was driving this train.  There was nothing for me to do but listen to him.  We chatted along the way and it helped ease my thought process about the race and what was unfolding. I knew I was having a good day but then Ninja put it into perspective when we reached DamNation the first time.  His words were:

Reaching DamNation In The Daylight on Loop 4 - Man you are crushing this course.

If you are a personal connection on Facebook with me then you know that I had written on my timeline that I was going to make that course my bitch.  It was rhetoric and used to get me fired up but when Ninja said that it made it seem as if I was able to predict the future.  Was I really having as good a race as I thought?

We kept running and I mentioned to Greg that I had told Jeff that if I had finished Loop 4 in less than 4 hours then I was going to run myself into the ground for Loop 5 to try to have all 5 loops have a finish time of less than 4 hours.  I am not sure if Greg took this to heart but he pushed me, and while my body did not want to run it was the way Greg was directing my mind that made it possible.

We passed other athletes on the course and they would ask if I was on Loop 4 or Loop 5 and when we would say Loop 4 they would respond with looking strong or go get it.  Greg would immediately chime in with:  'hear that man?  you look so good they think you are finishing and among the elites.'  That was a serious confidence boost and allowed me to keep on running.

At one point just after the Park Road aid station he said to me, 'I love this.  You are racing a 100 miler and not just running it. Let's get after it'.  These words will always ring in my heart and be able to be pulled out when I need a pick me up.  Unfortunately, it was not long after that when I hit the deck and hit the deck hard.  A root had created an arch and my foot went right into it and I went down.  My right foot was now in pain but I pushed Greg to keep running when he started asking me if I was alright.  I had no intention of pushing him but the adrenaline was coursing through my system and I was only 1 mile away from the end of Loop 4.

Coming down into the transition area I saw 14:3X on the clock and tried to do math but knew I just needed to swap out watches and have Karen fill up my pack and get my pancake ready.  Jeff Bennett was ready, willing and able.  What I did not know was that it was photo-op time.  My third pacer, Sheriff, took pics of me smashing Peanut M&Ms into my face hole so that he could send the pics to our buddy Goat back at home.  Goat believes that Peanut M&Ms are a terrific source of nutrition for endurance sports and I was not going to ignore his thought process since he sent the bag to the race with Sheriff just for me.

rocky racoon 100 - race report - ultra trail race

The Nutrition Advice From Goat Was Spot On As Loop 5 Was Starting

Rocky Raccoon 100 – 2015 Loop 5 - Can I Break 19:30?  - 4:47:51 (14:24/mi)

rocky racoon 100 - race report - ultra trail race

It's Loop 5 Time. Save The Data

I left the transition area with Jeff and the clock said 14:34.  I knew that with a 5 hour loop I would be close to 19:30 which was my secret goal but I also knew that I would break the original goal of sub-24.  I had to push that thought out of my head because I could have just walked the entire 5th loop and been under 24 hours but I wanted to race and see what my body and mind could do.

As we were running I could feel that the toes on my right foot were smashed, that the chafing that started on my hip and in my groin on Loop 3 were now beyond pain and were going to leave scabs.  I told Jeff that I would run as much as possible as long as we maintained a 15:00/mi pace.  The first two miles were right on but the third mile rang in at 19:23 and we were at the Nature Center aid station and inside I was downright disappointed in my performance to start  this loop.  Jeff and I joked and that got my spirits up.  I knew I had three miles to DamNation and we were going to run as much as possible.

From that point on I did just that.  I would run as fast I could but was getting worried because my heart rate seemed pinned at 110bpm.  This is essentially the walking dead.  I was concerned and kept taking in calories to try to boost that performance and get around this course, in the dark, as fast as I could.  Before I knew it we were ticking off paces in the 13:00-14:00/mi pace.  Knowing that this is what we were doing gave me confidence that hitting 19:30 was a real possibility.

After having run 15 miles with me it was time for Jeff to hand me off to Sherriff, John Studebaker.  What John does not know, but will now find out, is that he was a huge part of my training.  John and I are on Strava and constantly commenting on each others posts and having a good time with it UNTIL one day he made a comment that pissed me off.  Another friend of ours was training for the Dallas Marathon and I had posted that we need to run together one day since her course was right near mine.  John's comment after that was 'Baha, check her pace, LOL.'  Right then and there I started incorporating more speed work into my training and now it was time for that work to pay off.

After being handed off John asked me what paces I wanted to keep and I told him between 12:00 and 15:00/mi.  I am not sure he heard me because we were off and running.  He would ask if I wanted to walk and when we would start he would say....let's run and we would run.  It was only on the uphills that I forced him to walk because I did not have the mental ability to run hillls anymore.

One thing that I did keep replaying in my mind on the 5 miles from Park Road to the finish was John saying it was 12:30am when he and I started.  While that was playing over and over again I had a hard time calculating what we would finish in.  I had a hard time knowing if I had told John if my goal was 19:30.  Basically I was having a hard time doing anything mentally and having him as a pacer was huge.  He just kept pushing me......that is when he was not falling down.  I fell down a total of 4x throughout the 100 mile journey and I believe John did that and more in the 5 miles but what he did do when he went down was to keep the trail lit up so I could keep running and he would catch up.

Before I knew it we were at the finisher's chute and what may be the best sight of all time was standing there.  My wife.  I could not contain my excitement nor could I contain my legs.  They took off and now John was handing Karen a headlamp while I was holding her hand into the finish.  We crossed the finish line and the numbers were in bright red and said:

19:22

I lost it.  I was like a baby when I grabbed my wife and kept on crying.  It is hard, even right now, to type those words and not get choked up.  I set that goal but was not confident that I could go sub-20 and then sub-19:30 but now here it was.  The 16 weeks of training.  The 3:51am alarm. The 5, 8, 10, 15, back to back 20s and more all culminated right there.  After holding my wife I hugged my pacers Ninja, Bennett and Sheriff because without them this does not come close to happening.

19 Hours And 22 F'N Minutes

Are You Shitting Me?

I am still having a hard time processing this accomplishment as it seems surreal.  I have been trying to put a comparison to it, such at the 11:00 Ironman Chattanooga finish but I cannot.  Words fail me despite how long this race report is.  I have many to thank and will do so in another post but to all of you that sent messages to Karen, the crew and myself Thank You.

rocky racoon 100 - race report - ultra trail race

Finishing In 19:22 Leaves You A Tad Goofy

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Jason Bahamundi

About the Author:

I grew up in New York and lived there for 34 years until I got divorced and moved 1600 miles to my new home in Texas.  I love New York and miss it but that does not mean that Texas hasn’t been great to me because it has.  It was here that I discovered endurance sports and specifically the sport of triathlon.  Triathlon has given me new life through all the challenges it presents.  I no longer look at life the same way and I can say that is in part due to my endeavor into this sport.

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