Thursday, March 11, 2010

Rocky Raccoon 50 mile and road trip...

Last month I completed my 2nd 50 mile trail run at Rocky Raccoon in Huntsville TX. As if getting the finish wasn't cool enough, did you catch that the race was in TX? That's right, running in shorts and a t-shirt in TX in Feb - hard to beat that when you're from MN.

Three of us took a road trip to TX and except for cruddy weather/roads on the way back and a few wrong turns ["no I wasn't kidding, when I said stay right I really meant stay right" :)] we didn't have any problems. We drove straight through both ways so there was some sleeping along with plenty of caffeine, sugar, and laughs.

There were a few things that surprised me about the trip: seems I can't eat anything in a car without spilling some of it on myself, I do ok with the "see how long you can suck on your candy without chewing it" contests, it turns out at least one (only one?) person in the world uses the term "cow field" instead of "pasture", and when deciding where to eat you should note that yelling IHOP IHOP IHOP from the back seat may not be enough - it turns out that doesn't mean anything until the driver says "well, there's International House of Pancakes, we could go there"... um, ok!

We got to Huntsville early Fri morning so had time to check out the park and some of the race course.

And before packet pickup and supper we had time to play tourist - checking out this place seemed appropriate after all the convict costume fun at Surf the Murph.

The race - the 50 mile course was 3 loops of 16.67miles and my stretch goal was 4 hours each for a total of 12 hours. This was also the pipe-dream at Surf the Murph where it took me 13:40 so "nice round numbers" and "the math is easy" are probably to blame. I was hoping to finish and do better than last time and my standard strategy is still: don't necessarily run faster, but run more (walk less).

So for loop 1 I ran faster - 3:26... I figured too fast but nice to bank some time - how much would it cost me? Figured 4 hours for loop 2 would give me 4.5 hours for the last loop. Well I started fading on loop 2 - started feeling like pushing it was going to end soon (and started asking "what in the world am I doing pushing it on a 50 miler anyway??"). Did a last surge and managed to finish the loop in about 4 hours for a total time of ~7:30. I knew I was done pushing so the plan from then on was to just take it easy and enjoy the last loop - not worry about trying to push it and forget about 12 hours.

I took quite a long break between loop 2 and 3 [~18 minutes! decided to check the blisters on my heels, put bodyglide on them, changed shoes, changed the battery in my phone for the GPS (more on that later), got some food, and whatever else - who knows where the time goes, gotta watch that!]... so I started loop 3 feeling pretty good and ran better than I expected to the first aid station. In middle of the loop I was thinking maybe 12 hours was still within reach... but then the big fade started. A number of 16+ minute miles and I knew my prediction of over 12 was going to be true. Decided it was a good attempt and I'd be happy with my time anyway. And I was, finishing in 12:26:58.

A few things about the last loop - Mike and I walked the last section of Surf the Murph so I tried to 'do better' -- does shuffle-jogging for 50 yards every so often count? I also chuckled as it got dark and I ran across a couple wood bridges figuring I wouldn't trip there and it would count as a run. I also found myself saving up the little running I had for when I'd see other people... like the last aid station where there was lots of loud cheering, and the last stretch into the finish line.

I saw Vicky on the course a couple times... and her friends Tim and Karla. I saw Karen once? I was thinking she had a pretty slow first lap... turns out she had a fast first lap and we were at the start/finish at the same time, just didn't see each other. Everyone seemed to be happy and enjoying themselves... Tim looked pretty ragged the last time I saw him, but he was heading in for a sub-9 hour finish!

Other info: I ran alone pretty much the whole time. I listened to tunes on the 3rd loop and enjoyed that. I used S-caps and they seemed to work well (if you know what I mean). I got some pretty decent blisters on the insides of my heels from my newer model Vasque Blurs, and after changing shoes for loop 3 I got some pretty decent blisters on the rest of my heels too.

GPS - I have Google Latitude set up so I carried my phone with the gps on the last part of the race and believe it or not... there were 3 people that at least intermittently "tuned in" to see where I was on the course, and to see if I was indeed still moving -- sounds like it wasn't too excruciating. Yeah, gotta get the nerd stuff in when you can. :)

Vicky and I *only* did the 50 mile while Karen did the 100. Once I was done I waited around for Karen to finish her 3rd loop. Then waited for Vicky to finish her 50. Vicky and I bailed; I went back to see Karen finish her 4th loop; and Vicky and I tried to see Karen finish but just missed her - we're still trying to resolve who's fault that was but it didn't help that Karen finished quite a bit sooner than she had earlier predicted.

After the awards ceremony and breakfast it was time for the trip home. Besides the bad weather, the thing that really stands out in my memory is how much I loved my medal every time I looked down and saw it hanging around my neck. Yeah, wearing my race medal is not a normal thing for me... unless the other 50 miler in the car doesn't get one and has to wait to get hers in the mail!! :) Congrats to Karen on her 100 finish and Vicky on her 50 finish. The road trip was great and I'd highly recommend going on one if you ever have the chance...