Rocky Raccoon 100 - The Race I Did Not Expect

Rocky Raccoon 100 - 2016 Version

Rocky Raccoon 100 the 2016 version was not supposed to happen and what did happen was not supposed to happen. Thoroughly confused? Good, I will clear it up along the way from the start of the weekend through the final step across the finish line.

For those of you that may not know I registered for Coldwater Rumble 100 in Goodyear, Arizona without reading all of the words on their site. I wound up overlooking the fact that the race is not a Western States 100 qualifier and my long-term goal is to race the Western States 100. To do that I have to either win a qualifying 100 mile race OR keep racing qualifiers to gather lottery tickets along the way. After realizing that Coldwater was not a qualifier I had 3 choices:

  1. Race Bandera 100k two weeks prior to Coldwater and finish in under 16 hours. Bandera is one of only a few 100k races that are a Western States qualifier. Why?  Because it is freaking hard. Last year (2015 Race Report) I raced it and finished in under 13 hours so under 16 was feasible
  2. Pace Jeff at Rocky Raccoon 100 and give up this year's chance at a ticket and be the safety runner for Jeff if his lottery ticket were to be picked.
  3. Race Rocky Raccoon 100 two weeks after Coldwater and just finish.

When Bandera registration neared its close I realized I was in no mental shape to race that course or book a room, or drive to Bandera or anything to do with Bandera. Down to two choices and I presented them to Jeff allowing him to pick and hoping that he would choose option 2. Of course he chose option 3 without any hesitation and here I was pressing the register button on Rocky Raccoon 100 2016.

When I finished Coldwater my feel were blown up and I was so scared that I would DNF at Rocky Raccoon because the turn around time was so short and there would not be anytime to recover.

Pre Rocky Raccoon 100 2016

Here is the race report:

Loop 1 - Are We Going Too Fast?

Jeff, Greg and I lined up about 20 rows behind the starting line. I was very nervous about how my legs would hold up and beyond that how my mind would be able to sustain the concentration and positive mindset for another 100 miles. 100 mile races make me nervous despite this being my 4th attempt because there is so much uncertainty to them. Weather changes, body adjustments, blisters and everything else that can happen over the course of this long day.

We started out slow as the course is packed and is difficult to maneuver and in my mind I was thrilled with what was happening. When we hit the first aid station my confidence started to pick up but it really exploded when the next aid station was now only 2 miles away rather than 4-5 miles the way it previously was. Covering 5 miles and hitting two aid stations allowed me to break this race down into easier bits. The next aid station after was 7 miles and is typically the toughest 7 miles on the course but this year my mindset changed because I knew the aid stations were 3.5, 2, 7, 3.1 and 4.4 miles apart. Huge opportunity to break the race down.

In addition to that unfolding I realized that with the changes in the course it was much more runnable than it was the year prior. I found us doing a lot of running and would feel a twinge in my left ITB which had me worried about how it would hold up the entire race. At some points I could feel Jeff and Greg pulling away but a well timed hill forced them to walk and for me to catch up.

When we left the Park Road aid station I realized that we were only 4 miles away from completing loop 1 and this gave me a confidence boost plus knowing that there were at least 4 hills we had to walk and I could allow my barking ITB to quiet down. As we rounded the corner and headed down the path to the start/finish area I could see we were finishing in 3:34 and felt that was fast for what I had anticpated finishing that first loop and my mind turned to worry.

Finishing Loop 1 At Rocky Raccoon 100 2016

Loop 2 - Finishing On My Own

At the bag drop Karen helped me refill my hydration pack and asked me how I was doing. I told her my ITB was flaring up and was bothering me. I finished speaking to her, grabbed my FlapJacked Waffles and started walking. I told Greg and Jeff to catch me because I knew they were running strong and would have no problem getting up to me. Once they reached me we started running.

This time getting to the first aid station was more work as my left leg was acting up and tiring. I asked a volunteer for ibuprofen and when he poured out 4 then started to put two back in the bottle I stopped him and grabbed all 4. I took 2 and put the other 2 into my vest. Some hydration and we were off.

The running started to bother Greg's knees and we were walking a bit more than I expected. I shifted to a higher cadence as that seemed to help me get past the ITB issues. The next two miles went by fast and my spirits picked up (or was it the ibuprofen?) and I was feeling the ability to run again. The 7 mile stretch was tough but not impossible and before I knew it we were heading down a straight jeep road to the Park Road aid station.

When we got there I saw my wife, Karen, and my mile 80-100 pacer, Greg, and it was awesome. Jeff and Greg were stopping and I told them I was going to go on ahead and they would catch me. As it turns out I was able to run quite a bit here but not as much as I had thought I would be able to. I was being conservative with my leg and also knew that I was going to be finishing in under 4 hours. Having two loops done in under 4 hours coming off Coldwater two weeks earlier was a tremendous boost for me.

End Of Loop 2 - Rocky Raccoon 100

Loop 3- I Can Run

While I was finishing Loop 2 I realized that I had run out of liquid and was not smart enough to have filled up my pack at the last aid station. This meant that the transition time between loop 2 and 3 was going to be longer than normal as I wanted to put my two hydration bottles in my pack and then would need to top off with Tailwind from the aid station.

Once I was done getting all my liquids squared away along with eating Oreos and Pringles, I was headed back out for Loop 3 and I saw Jeff and Greg coming in.  I was shocked to see them this soon as I had expected them to catch me but when they did not expected to have a bigger lead on them. As we passed I said I would see them on the course. Having just run 60 miles by myself in Arizona I was mentally ready to tackle 20 on my own and off I went.

My legs started to feel much better and I found myself running all of the flats, descending aggressively and power walking up the hills. I took the other two ibuprofen just after I left the DamNation aid station the first time (you hit it twice per loop.) From there you are able to run a majority of the 3 miles before the timing mat. I was in shock how much I was able to run and not feel the tightness in my ITB. I did a mental body check and nothing was bothering me at this point.

It was just past the timing mat that I saw Jeff and Greg on the descending portion and expected to see them running next to me in a few minutes but that never materialized. I felt like a man on a mission and was running aggressively. Hit the DamNation aid station the second time around and picked up it on the way to Park Road. After Park Road I knew I had just 4 miles to get there and all of the sudden the 4 walking hills became three as I became possessed with finishing this loop and picking up Greg (Ninja) for my safety runner on Miles 60-80.

It's Ninja Time At Rocky Raccoon 100 2016

Loop 4- Let's Go Ninja

I asked Ninja to pace me AGAIN for miles 60-80 (he paced me last year) because I think that a 100 mile race on a 5 loop course is broken down as follows:

  • Loop 1 - Run hard but not so hard that you damage the rest of your race. Bank as much time as possible to provide ample time on loop 5.
  • Loop 2 - Stay aggressive but smart. Be cognizant of hydration and nutrition.
  • Loop 3 - Make Or Break against other racers. Others will kill themselves but by being passively aggressive you will pass them on Loop 4/5.
  • Loop 4 - Make Or Break for 24 Hours. If you have run the first three loop wisely, this loop can be another feather in your cap to sub-24.
  • Loop 5 - Relax. The end is near and sub-24 is on the horizon BUT be smart to not lose focus on finishing pace

When Ninja and I started he asked me what my goal was and I told him sub-24. I thought that having two sub-24 hour races two weeks apart was the accomplishment of a lifetime. He asked if there was a secret agenda and there was not. Let's just run and see what unfolds. Ninja is a great pacer because he knows the trails of Huntsville very well, is a Texas State Champion Trail Runner and knows how to direct. When we need to run he tells me, when we need to walk he tells me. He will run ahead of me and grab the liquids and foods I need.

As we neared the DamNation aid station the first time I told him to get me ibuprofen as a preventative measure. As he took off it lit a fire in my a$$ and I started running to. He got to the aid station and I was on his tail to the point that he had to wait to get the ibuprofen while I was eating. He opened the pack and there were 8 pills. I took 4 of them and he held the other 4. It was time to run but at this poitn the temperatures were dropping.

When you near the timing mat you are right on the lake and it is a very cold section. Greg happened to have a jacket wrapped around his waist that I put on and when my core temp heated up we were off and running. We ran so hard and so fast that we negative split Miles 70-80 in comparison to Miles 60-70. It was liberating to be running this hard and finishing the loop as strong as we did. The finish time of this loop was 4:14 while Loop 3 was 4:04. Yes, we were running.

Ninja Is Ready, But Am I?

Loop 5 - Do We Take It Easy?

As we entered the aid station Greg ran into the tent to grab me grilled cheese and quesadillas while I went to have Karen fill up my hydration pack and put the jacket on and have the hydration pack on the outside. I did some quick math and realized that I could finish in 22 hours with a decent Loop 5. My goal during Loop 4 switched from under 24 to beating CWR and now it was to be at 22.

Greg Brink, my Mile 80 - 100 safety runner, was ready to go and off we power walked the first hill and started running. I told him that I wanted to be smart and convservative here because I knew that sub-24 was in the bag even with a horrible Loop 5. We were chatting and laughing and having a good time. At the Nature Center aid station I asked him to remind me to take the other 4 ibuprofen pills that Ninja stuck in the pocket of his jacket at DamNation. We grabbed some TailWind and some Oreos/Pringles and took off. Running when we could and walking when we had to.

We hit the DamNation aid station and I went into the 'Med Tent' to switch out batteries in my headlamp and saw what could have been an episode of The Walking Dead. The temps had dropped to the mid-low 30s and people were freezing plus the fact that it was a 100 mile race. I had to get out of the tent as quickly as possible so as not to get caught up in the pain. I saw Greg and off we went for the last 7 mile stretch. After about 1 mile he reminded me about the ibuprofen and I told him that would happen at the aid station the next time and it was time to keep running.

We passed one of Greg's friends and then we passed another friend of mine and my confidence started soaring. I was having a damn great race and I told Greg we were going to just keep running and at certain points we were holding sub-10 minute paces. We were working and getting this race done. When we hit the DamNation aid station for the last time I took the last 4 ibuprofen and washed them down with a 1/4 cup of coffee because when you leave these tents the temperature feels like it drops 30 degrees.

After the coffee we were off and running. We were passing athletes left and right. I have never yelled on your left more in a race than I did in the last half of this race. I was pushing the pace and without a watch to rely on was just running on guts and feel and it felt GREAT.

The last aid station was an awesome sight. I grabbed some Tailwind and 1/2 a grilled cheese and we were gone. Again, the 4 hills that I walked on loops 1 and 2 and 3 became 3 as we were flying around the course. When we hit the bridge section I knew we only had one mile to go and that the last hill would be walked and then we were gone. I told Greg to text Karen that we were .75 mi out and by the time he finished sending that text we were 0.25 miles out and I started hauling ass. We make the left turn toward the finish line and Greg says to me: I have never finished a 5k this hard let alone running with a guy on Mile 199 of 200 in two week.

That finish line was glorious and I jumped over it and into the arms of my wife. I hugged her so hard that I nearly squeezed all the air out of her. I looked over to the finish time and saw 20:23. HOLY SH*T. I not only finished a second 100 mile race but did it in 3 hours less PLUS was only off my 2015 Rocky Raccoon time by 1 hour.

Greg Brink And I At The Finish Of Rocky Raccoon 100

It has taken about a week for this to set in and I still have a hard time understanding how I managed to pull this off. Of course, the blisters on my feet are reminding me but of all the athletic accomplishments I have achieved this ranks up there as one of the best. My ticket to the Western States 100 Lottery has been earned.

UNTIL NEXT YEAR ROCKY RACCOON 100 (UNLESS I GET INTO WS100)

Rocky Raccoon 100 - DONE

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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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