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

Published in Race Reports

Lake Martin 100 was the endurance race I signed up for thanks to the urging of Jeff and Dave.  Running a 100 mile race was never even a consideration.  I admired Emily from afar but in reality I thought she was missing a screw.  When Jeff and Dave finally broke my will and I registered for the event it was all systems go.  The training, eating properly, recovering and especially the mindset was all going to be done 100% with no short-cuts. On Wednesday evening I drove to Jeff's house so that we can get up early (4am) and pickup Caroline (our pacer) and Dave and head for Alabama around 5am.  When we arrived at our house for the week we were in awe.  This house was awesome.  Spirits were extremely high.  We were going to run 100 miles and each one of us was prepared.  Except we were not prepared for what would happen Friday into Saturday.  Rain and lots of it came down on Friday (all day) and Saturday (into the late part of the morning.)  I never once thought about how much this rain would change the course. Saturday morning we got up at 4:30am and had breakfast.  I ate two banana and peanut butter sandwiches with coffee.  Driving to the race I was a bit nervous about what was going to unfold.  Luckily for me these guys are a barrel of laughs and that helped take away the edge quite a bit.  We unloaded the car and setup our drop bag section in The Stables.  This race was conducted on a horse farm and The Stables would become the sight for sore eyes over the course of the next 28 hours. We lined up at the starting line and promptly at 6:30am the race was under way.  The first part of the race is straight uphill and right then and there we should have known that the ass kicking we were going to get all day was about to unfold.  You just keep running straight up the driveway and make a left onto as steep of a downhill as the uphill.  Within 5 minutes your quads and your hamstrings have been worked more than one can imagine.  We hit the trail and MUD.  I do not mean a little bit of mud.   I am talking ankle-deep mud.  The kind of mud you are afraid that you will pick your foot up and your shoe will be still in the mud.  This race officially entered crazy world with that. After about a mile into the race we befriended Martin.  A nice Irishman from St. Louis who chatted with us about racing 100 milers.  After a few minutes with him we came across the first of what seemed like 12 stream crossings.  The problem is that the stream was now a river from all the rain.  There was no tip-toeing over the water or looking for rocks.  You had no choice but to go right through it and so we did.  The water came up to our calf and was freezing cold.  Now soaked, cold and facing the idea of 98 more miles of this turned this race into the mental fight of a lifetime. We eventually left Martin and came up on a handful of other racers.  We chatted with them and took GoPro video with them.  It was all so much fun but that may have been the last of the fun as the course continued its soul crushing.  You were either going up the steepest inclines you can imagine, going down the steepest inclines or crossing water.  Very rarely were you able to actually run.  This was not just a physical endurance test but mental.  Nothing about the Lake Martin 100 was going to be easy. Just when you think you have done enough climbing you come to an area labeled Heaven Hill.  It is appropriately named because every step takes you closer to heaven.  You think to yourself:  this has to end soon.  The problem is it doesn't.  It keeps going up.  Of course when you finish you come across the valley and it is gorgeous.  You are above the tree line and can see for miles on end.  This is where the first aid station is.  There is so much food that you could easily spend 30 minutes there just eating. You leave Heaven Hill and run a 5 mile loop.  I say run because there are actual opportunities to let your legs loose.  It is in this section where you are capable of averaging 13:00/mi paces.  You read that right.  If you manage 13:00/mi here you are doing awesome.  At the end of the 5 mile loop you come back to Heaven Hill to check in and grab more food.  The next 5 mile loop is another area where you can run and we made friends here again.  Spoke to people and had the opportunity to laugh about the fact that the first 8 miles almost made us quit. At the end of this 18 mile loop you come back to The Stables.  Here you have access to your drop bag where you can change, eat, sit, etc.  After a few moments here it is back out for the final 7 miles of the first of 4 25 mile loops that creates the Lake Martin 100.  The 7 mile loop is just as crushing as the first 8 miles.  We were told that the 7 mile loop would be fairly easy.  The problem is that this information came from a billy-goat or somebody who likes to take pleasure in other's suffering.  Out of The Stables you walk for nearly 0.5 miles UPHILL.  You get onto the trail and it is a whip.  Again, more up and down with more mud.  More suffering and less laughing.  This race was going to test you every step of the way. When we finished the entire 25 mile loop in 5:39 I was surprised.  I could not believe that we managed to finish the 25 miles let alone in a time that I considered respectable.  I had plans of racing the first 25 miles at a 12:00/mi pace and we finished in 13:36.  The 22 hour and 30 minute goal was out the window.  There was no chance that was happening.  Time to head out for Loop 2.

Lake Martin 100 Loop 2 Highlights:

As we started running I noticed that Dave was not looking good.  We were chatting and he said to me that he was getting a bit light-headed.  This was not a good sign this early into the race.  I became worried and wanted to make sure that nothing happened to him along with keeping us moving forward. Near the same time I noticed that Jeff was going through the course very gingerly.  His legs just did not want to move it seemed. I kept my mouth shut because I did not want to add any stress to these guys considering how stressful this race already was. Probably 3 miles into the 2nd loop I left both Jeff and Dave.  My legs were feeling great and I was ready to keep moving.  I had told Dave that the last thing I wanted to do was spend all night out there.  The idea of racing and seeing the sun go down and then come back up was terrifying to me so I took off. When I reached the Heaven Hill aid station I ran into Gordon and it was a sight for sore eyes.  The moment I saw him my smile got huge and I gave him a big hug.  A familiar face was needed after getting my ass kicked for the previous 8 miles.  I hung with Gordon for about 10 minutes waiting for Jeff and Dave before taking off again.  It was at that moment that I knew they were not going to finish this race and I would be taking this on by myself.  As I came into The Stables I saw Caroline and we chatted.  She told me that the guys had texted her and were concerned about making the cut-off.  I left and set-out for the next 7 mile loop knowing I would see them when I got back.  I took my phone out and texted my wife to tell her that I loved her and that she was a main inspiration for me.  It was tough knowing that the guys were not going to be coming out with me.  My mind had to turn to steel and not allow me to give up. As I came into The Stables to end the 50 miles I looked at the time and I had been on the course for 12 hours.  For some comparison, Jeff and I did Rocky Raccoon 50 in under 9 hours.  This race was that hard.  To have a difference of 3 hours tells you how difficult the course was.  The crazy thing is I am in better shape today than in early February and could barely manage a 14:30/mi pace.  When I saw the guys in The Stables we chatted and they told me they were not going back out.  I felt defeated but knew that I had to finish this race for them.  I grabbed my headlamp and maglite because I knew it would turn dark while out on the course.

Lake Martin 100 Loop 3 Highlights:

About an hour into Loop 3 it got dark.  I stopped running and got my headlamp out along with the light.  I still felt really good and was able to run.  The biggest issue was the mental aspect of now being in the dark.  This got to me quite a bit.  I had to start thinking of things that would allow me to keep moving forward.

  • Susan Lacke and her MTFU mantra.
  • Emily and her SIUB mantra.
  • Knowing that at the end of the 68 miles I would pick up Caroline and have a partner to run with for 25 miles.

My body felt decent considering the lack of sleep and the physical toll I was taking.  It was during this section that I ran into Anastasia and Crystal.  They were awesome to chat with in the middle of the woods in the middle of the night.  They asked me if it were my first 100 and how I felt.  I told them I felt great and that I was going to finish this race.  They gave me the most positive encouragement and I held onto that for the rest of the race. During the night you have next to no visibility and the climbs that you knew you were coming upon during the light were no longer that obvious.  You were able to run when out of the woods but while inside the trees you could not really figure it out and had to walk when you felt your Achilles and hamstring get tight.  That was the clue to the idea that you were going uphill. As I took another step I kept telling myself that I just needed to finish the 18 miles to get to Caroline.  Just keep focusing on the goal for this loop was my mantra.  As I managed my way around the course hoping to not get hurt and just finishing.  At this point time to finish became irrelevant.  Finishing became the only goal. Upon entering The Stables I saw Caroline and then moved to the bag drop section where Jeff and Dave were.  These guys were so supportive.  They gave me so much encouragement and made me feel that I could easily do this.  Caroline and I left for the next 7 miles of the third loop.  Because of how hard this section is there was not a lot of running but having company was awesome. When we finished Loop 3 I took the time to change socks and put the Hoka One One Mafate back on my feet.  I used all three pair of Hoka I brought with me.  I started with the Mafate then switched to the Stinson and then the Bondi for the first three loops.  Every one of them was covered in mud and weighed far more than they should have because of all the water that they absorbed.

Lake Martin 100 Loop 4 Highlights:

The final loop of the Lake Martin 100 was not going to be a pretty sight.  I was exhausted beyond belief.  My body was sore and my mind was questioning my own sanity.  I had not gone into delirium but I was not all there.  This final loop became nothing but survival. Caroline kept pushing me and encouraging me to keep moving.  We came across Anastasia and Crystal throughout much of this loop.  We were moving between places 3 and 6 as there was another runner out there with us.  I kept thinking that finishing in the Top 3 in my first 100 mile would be a hell of an accomplishment. We reached a section that is road and as I was walking I could feel my eyes closing.  I would take 3-4 steps while sleeping on my feet.  Once I opened my eyes to catch where I was I would close them again.  The sleep walking was helping me as I moved through the easier part of the course. When Caroline and I reached The Stables it was fully light out.  Since the last 7 miles was going to be nothing but walking there was not a need for Caroline to join me.  I went out without a Garmin and just planned on walking.  My legs were stiff and sore.  My feet were a shredded mess and every step hurt.  This was not going to be pretty. I had a short conversation with Karen in my head about getting through this and focusing on getting in before the 28 hour mark.  As each step went by and I got closer to the finish line I was overcome with joy.  This 100 mile run was not as much physical as it was mental.  The first 8 and the last 7 miles were the toughest miles I have ever covered.  When you add up the distance that is 60 miles of soul crushing activity.  Regardless of sport or time in a race these 60 miles were bordering on the impossible. As I came down the final hill and saw the The Stables in the distance I pumped my fist and started to cry a bit at the enormity of the accomplishment.  I had goals before the gun went off.  Throughout the race the goals were a moving target.  I managed to hit each of those targets and after nearly 28 hours I can say: Lake Martin 100  ….. I Finished! [flagallery gid=27]

** If you want the R rated version just contact me.

Published in Race Reports