I could write a script that Hollywood would not believe based solely on the run that was Rocky Raccoon 50 the 2014 version. I recapped the race here, but wanted to write a separate post for those that were at the race that helped make this event the most memorable endurance event I ever participated in.
Jeff Irvin – As you know I blame (credit) Jeff for encouraging me to hit the register button on the Rocky Raccoon 50 as well as the Lake Martin 100 and I could not be happier that he did this. My friendship with Jeff got stronger over the weekend and I am looking forward to continuing to make life long memories as we traverse through the woods of Alabama for more than 20 hours using nothing but our own legs.
Mark – Jeff and I met Mark during the first loop and the laughter started immediately. Mark jumped on our line and was the perfect addition to help pass the miles. We laughed and joked about CrossFit, Paleo, pooping, farting and all sorts of other stuff. We somehow created a new sport that combined both CrossFit and Paleo called Hog Hunting. I wish I could remember the details but every time Mark joined us (he truly followed his run/walk strategy) it was with a yell of something along the lines of “I am chasing pigs” or “Hey GoPro” After we informed Mark that we were filming the race to potentially be a part of a documentary he told us he would get everybody he knew to like the video which meant getting us from the 3 likes we had in our group to 5. Awesome stuff.
Fabrizio – Fabrizio is from Bolivia, attended Texas A&M and currently resides in Houston. He raced Ironman Texas with me last year, although we never met, and told us he was tired of the IM scene and wanted a new challenge. After a while he dropped off from our line but every time we saw him on the course he gave us a huge hello and an even bigger YOU GUYS LOOK GREAT. Seriously, I do not know what it would take to wipe the smile from his face. Here was this guy enduring hours and hours on his feet running a 50 mile race and he could not stop smiling. Amazing.
Gayle – The steady rock in our conga line. Gayle pulled Mark, Jeff and I for a while at the beginning to middle of loop #1 and was as steady as the day is long. Her never broke, her pace never wavered and when I say she was the Mayor of Hunstville I am not kidding. It seemed like every time we passed runners in the other direction they would yell: Gayle you look great. She would respond in kind and then turn her attention back to the work that needed to be done to either scale up the hill or cascade down it. We engaged Gayle in gluten-free food talk, vegetarian/vegan conversation and meat-eating. It was at this point on Loop #2 when we were talking about plant-based eating that a spectator in a cow outfit appeared out of nowhere. It lightened to mood as we managed to climb our way to the top of a hill. Tremendous fun, tremendous heart and a stead-fast bead on conquering the course.
Cat In The Hat Guy and Wounded Knee Lady – Jeff and I were 3.8 miles from the finish when we happened on two people walking down the line and one of them was wearing a huge hat that was green and looked as big as the one that the cat wears in the Dr Seuss book Cat In The Hat. We asked if everything was alright and CITH dude said: Yes, I am just walking with her so she doesn’t quit. Mind you this guy was a volunteer all day long (close to 9 hours at this point) and was making the statement that he would walk with this lady whom he did not know for the rest of the race. Are you kidding me? How awesome is that? The lady, for her part of the story, was sporting dried blood that started at her knees and ended at her socks. She obviously fell and was not in the best spirits to keep this race going. The CITH dude was giving her long-term support and Jeff and I offered her the following: You are a badass. You are continuing this race when nearly everybody else would have quit. Keep going.
Bonk 8 Times Get Up 9 Dude – This guy was a machine and I haven’t the foggiest clue as to how he did it. Through the first two loops he looked strong and was up front with the leaders. Steady pace, good balance and an example of strength. On loop 3 we caught up to him but only because he was sitting down on the ground. We passed him then a few moments later he passed us and this went on for a bit. It was amazing to see this guy pick himself up off the deck. If this were a boxing match he would have been given a 3 knockdown TKO loss and the Huntsville State Park would have won. Unfortunately for the course, he had something else each time. The last time he got up he latched onto us and ran hard and when we chose to walk up one hill he powered up it. Jeff and I thought for sure that he would pay for that but the next time we saw him was in a chair at the finisher’s tent. Purely Amazing.
The ‘Older’ Couple – This ‘older’ couple was along the same line on the course. They did not seem to have anybody in particular that they were rooting for but were just out there to support the athletes. Every time we came upon them they were so encouraging and seemed to be inspired by us as we passed. Little could they have known that I would look forward to seeing them when we left the aid station that was prior to their point on the course.
Aid Station Volunteers – Every athlete at every race can thank the volunteers until they were blue in the face but the aid station volunteers at Rocky Raccoon are hands down the best. They remembered who you were when you showed up. They joked with you. They made you laugh when all you wanted to do was cry. There was Pittsburg Pirate Hat guy, there was the wool hat ladies at the boiled potato and bacon aid station. Let us include the Heed peddlers at the start/finish line aid tents as well as the folks that sat in chairs in the middle of the road to stop traffic so we could pass. These folks may be nameless to me right now, but their faces and their actions will forever be seared into my brain.
Liza / Henry – The dynamic duo. At the athlete briefing the day before the race Henry gave us the most detailed description of the signs on the course that there was no way you could go off course (at least I do not think so) and then Liza was the stand-up act to Henry’s follow the signs instructions. In my race recap I mentioned Liza’s quote of Do Not Poop In The Middle Of The Trail statement but it was her comment to me after hugging me at the finish line that had me laughing for hours. I told her I had not seen any poop in the middle of the trail and in a deadpan serious voice she said to me: It is still early. I was in tears from laughter at that.
John / Lee / Wade / Nikki / Marcus – these are some of the names of the folks I knew going into the race. Each time I would see John I would see nothing but a steady run. No grimacing in pain, but a rather light-hearted smile that assured me that it was all going to be alright. Lee was fast and quick to offer inspiration despite having tripped many times on the course. Wade gave us the little pat on the back as he passed us during Loop #3 to let us know that all was going to be ok. Nikki and Marcus crafted a strategy and stuck to it and each time we saw them there were smiles. I mean who continues to smile during an event that is going to take longer than a work day without the coffee breaks and Facebook time?
Our Wives – Despite the idiocy that goes into the decision to race 50 miles in one day our wives were there to support us through the training. They were there at the end taking pictures and video and providing us with a huge pick me up despite the fact that our legs were hurting. Throughout the weekend they gave us the encouragement and provided the light-hearted laughter that is required to get through such an event. It all starts and ends with them because without them none of this ever happens.
I will speak on behalf of Jeff and say Thank You. Thank you to each and every one of you that made our first 50 mile race one to remember and build on. I know that without a shadow of a doubt that I will be back out on a 50 mile course next year because this one was so special. You will always remember your first and I am glad that Rocky Raccoon 50 in 2014 was my first because it was that special.