Daughter Andrea with Mike on fourth lap
Rocky Racoon 100 Mile Trail Run
February 2, 2002
To start off, it has been close to 20 months since my last 100 miler at Western States in 2000. Since then, I have been in the recovery mode stemming from my stomach to hips, and believe me it is no fun being on injured reserve. As I planned a slow recovery and came back to the Marine Corp Marathon, and then the JFK 50, I felt that I was ready for an easy 100 mile (so I thought). Of course right after the application went out and plane reservations made, my knee went south. Trying to pick up the mileage, after all my first three 100's, I was recording between 125 to 155 miles per week. This year however, my annual mileage was cut in half from the previous years of 4,400-4,500 miles down to around 2,000, and I was lucky to get in 70 miles per week. Enough of that, lets get to the race.
My oldest daughter Andrea, a sophomore at George Mason University, accompanied me as we flew to Texas. Since my son Michael Jr., and his wife Abby live in Houston, I had prime support for the race. Michael picked us up from Houston International (George Bush) airport, and we stopped by his house for a couple of hours and to visit his three Great Danes before we left for Huntsville. We drove there the day before so I could weigh in and make the mandatory meeting. I was limiting my intake of food and drink until I got off the scales, since I tend to loose pound very rapidly (I can drop over four lbs by running my 12 miles at lunch).
Traffic was a bear and the meeting was already started when we got there by race director (Mickey Rollins). He pointed out the highs and lows of the race and wished us all the luck and assurances on tomorrow's race. This was followed by a pasta/salad/desert feed (entertained by the singing of Mickey on guitar); and I believe nobody went away hungry. Of course I weighed in prior to putting down the spaghetti and was around 144 lbs (didn't take my shoes off). After dinner we went to find a hotel and get some rest.
That night we stayed at the Best Western in Huntsville that was only about 5 miles away, nice and pretty quite. I fell asleep around 8pm, woke at 11:59pm, tossed and turned until 4am. I took a couple of Aleve which would last me 8 or so hours, a banana, and a hand full of mixed nuts. (Michael wanted me to get a lot of protein).
We arrived at the Race Headquarters lodge and checked in around 5:15am. I filled up my bottle of PowerAde, finished that and had to refill before the race even started. A lot of the friends that I have made from running past ultra's and VHTRC (Virginia Happy Trails Running Club) were there and very well supported, more on that later.
Temperature at 5am was around 35 degrees, thus I needed to apply a lot of heat (Flexall 454), not only to help my knee, but also to keep my legs half warm for the first couple of miles. I wore a turtle neck with a long-sleeve coolmax t-shirt, a light wind-breaker, short tights and a knee brace (I was trying to save my knee early so when we got to the 60 mile mark I would still have some support in it), and a ball cap to keep the heat in and gloves.
We all started at exactly 6 am, of course it was quite dark at this time of the year, so I ran with a flashlight until the first aid station (3.73 mile). I didn't have too many problems early in the race except avoiding tree roots and stumps. I followed close behind my friend and club member (Frank Probst), and I figured at least the first lap, I'll hang in there to get familiar with the course layout and turns…etc. As we came up to the aid station and called out my number, I grabbed a cup of water, caught back up to Frank and we chatted a bit and as we were meeting other Ultra's coming up the trail. I noticed a few of them were already walking, this was a mild incline and almost unnoticeable, I thought it was going to be a long day if you're walking before mile four?
The trail road was easy running, haven't seen a rock yet, couple of turns and we are coming up to the second aid station (mile 7.19) which also doubled as aid station #3. I topped my bottle off with PowerAde, popped a couple pieces of banana, two cups of coke, a handful of salty nuts, and a handful of M&M's, then I was good to go. This is when it became a little tougher as we ran over rolling hills (5.3 miles) out and back, mostly on pine needles, great cushion to a turn-a-round a little way's past Lake Raven. Just a sign "turn-a-round here" staked in the ground, Frank told me that they sometimes have this turnaround manned but not always. We got back to the aid station #3 pretty fast and Frank said this will be the fastest time we get through this loop all day, and of course he was right.
I filled back up with coke, ate a cookie, a fig bar, M&M's, Snickers and away we go. Couple of bends in the road and turns, up to the Bridge 16 you cross the North end of the lake on a single track, a lot of roots here. Did I mention the several wooden bridges we crossed we iced over and very slippery, of course there is not any handrails, so you definitely don't want to slide off this into the lake! I proceeded to follow the edge of the lake to aid station #174 (mile 17.8) and from there you could see the last aid station, but you had to run a loop to get there. I filled up my bottle and belly with potatoes, bananas, coke and M&M's. (Was really looking for the scale but couldn't find it there).
Easy 2.4 miles to aid station #5 where I weighed in at 145 lbs. Andrea and Michael met me and I sat in a chair, changed my socks, kept the same shoes (Montrail Jura), and rubbed some Icy Hot stick over my legs and hamstrings. Dropped the gloves, jacket, turtleneck and just left on a short sleeve coolmax shirt since it warming up and I was sweating a lot. Another banana, some protein bar Michael was force-feeding me, and a coke, then was up, put my radio on and back on the trail. The time of the first lap was 2 hours and 45 minutes, a bit fast but we'll see?
On the second lap we all interminged with the 50 milers who started 30 minutes after us. They also had to complete 5 laps, but of only 12 miles instead of 20.15 that we had to do. So we are passing and meeting all types of runners now, all identified by their bib numbers (0-145 were 100 milers) and (500 + were 50 milers). We refueled at #1, dipped a potato in salt (freshly cooked) great. After a mile or so, I could feel the sweat coming out of my forehead which must have been all the salt I ate, so I downed a Succeed tablet to help out. Michael and Andrea were at a bench by the crossroads. I was cool and didn't stop but about a hundred yards down the trail, I remembered that the batteries on my radio went out in the first mile, so I yelled to Andrea and tossed it off on the ground, because there was no since in carrying dead weight around.
Before we got to #2 station Frank started to pull away, because he was still on his 8 minute per mile pace (must be the size 12 shoes). Michelle Burr (winner of last years race) also a VHTRC member, was taking it easy, running about a half to ¾ mile behind me. Getting to Aid #2 looped around and back to Aid#3 it amazing how each Aid Station seem to have much more selection from the time before, or was it I'm not in such a hurry to get in and out and took time to look?? This next stretch took a long time the first lap and now that I'm running alone, at my own pace, it was not as pleasant. Following the signs and plates with appropriate arrows drawn on them helped out a lot and I'm much happier when you feel your on the right track. (and believe me, my first 100 I ran about 106 miles). Up along the bridge and water falls, across the wooden rail-less bridge on Lake Raven, and back to Aid#174, random food selection, full bottle and went for the easy 2.5 mile loop back down to Aid#1.
Think it's around 12:15 pm, about ½ an hour slower than the first lap, Andrea and Michael to my rescue after my weight was checked in at 143 lbs. Changed out my socks and shoes (Montrail Leona Divide), was able to chew on the Power Bar (the first lap it still was frozen pretty solid). I was all fueled up with new shoes for another round and off I go on my third lap with 40 miles down, 60 more to go.
Now comes the first high light of the day, before I got to the Aid#1, I passed up a lady (middle aged like me "52") and asked her how it was going, she stated that this was her 2nd lap, but this was her first 100 and was taking it easy. I respected and blessed her since I was already at least 20 miles ahead of her (going be a long day). I was dreaming maybe if I didn't stop running, I could possibly catch her again, before the day was done (like I said just dreaming). Michelle past me up around here and it seemed to be picking up by now. I meet Frank coming back from the loop-back; believe he did the first 50 miles around 7 hours and 30 minutes, wow!! I came to the turn-a-round, which was the 50-mile mark, right at 8 hours. My knee was holding out pretty well, maybe I could try a lap without the knee brace?? This went fine until I caught up on the roots section between Aid#3 and Aid#174, feeling a twinge or two I decided to keep it on as I was finishing up with the 3rd lap. My sweating situation was going pretty well, weight back to 145 lbs, coolmax t-shirt was surprisingly dry. Time was around 4:pm around 3 and ¾ hours for that lap, an hour slower that the one before.
Since this was starting the 4th lap, I took my flashlight in the back-pack, it's too early in the year for much sunlight to hold out much past 5pm. You are allowed a support pacer starting on the 4th lap, so Andrea went with me (she was a cross-country runner in High School) so didn't have a problem holding a steady pace, and I needed the support as we chatted, well she did the most chatting and I'm a good listener. Seems the Aid#1 came up much faster and as we came down about a mile and ½ Michael was at the bench by the cross-roads waiting about 5 ½ miles from the start, a good workout for Andrea. I put my radio back on, and off I lumbered. I felt pretty confident about this course by now, before I made it to Aid#2 remembering the turns and sign's "This way for 50 milers" & "This way for 100 milers". Making sure to top off my bottle, next is the loop back 5 ½ miles, getting longer and longer (think I heard that before).
Well, this is where the race actually begins, or where the tough get going (as they say), it got pretty dark before I got back to Aid#3, minimal roots, but the next section I definitely found them, how is it that they hide in day light, but come out at dark? My toes took a toll, having to slow down about ½ pace from the last lap, my eyes weren't working well, having Lasik done about three years ago, working with mono-vision. It seems that my reading eye (left) wanted to focus out farther than an arms length that it supposed to, and became blurry, right eye was clear enough to be able to make out the hanging yellow flags and glow-sticks every so often. Suppose more of an annoyance and then I'd hit another root stump, ouch. As I ran across the wooden bridges, a noise was rustlings to my right, flashed the light to discover a possum looking for a bug or something that they eat. Hanging tough on and off jogging to Aid #174. Pleasantly surprised to here my name yelled by all (seems like about 10 to 15 helpers), then I see Sheila Brock. I emailed her earlier this week to find out if she would be volunteering (as she does each race they have at the park) and runs the 50k's here. Sheila also works for the NASA OIG but is located at Johnson Space Center in Houston as a Criminal Investigator. We chatted a bit, got a coke and cup of soup from here, which went down great, sorry to inform that I still had one more lap to go, but in a minute or so was off on the 2 ½ mile loop to our last Aid Station.
Came in more walking than jogging, weight still at 145 lbs, changed my socks, but put the same shoes back on. I let Michael and Andrea know this lap would take some time, because cause I would not be doing much more than walking, can't quite remember what I ate, but sure that Michael got a protein bar, coke and maybe banana down me while I rubbed my IcyHot over my legs, hamstrings and knees. Since I was still comfortable, not sweating excessively the temp's were around 40 to 45, I opted not to take a jacket or long sleeve shirt and keep my short-sleeve Coolmax shirt on. The time is around 8:30pm or so, this lap was around 4 hours and 30 minutes.
Preceded on my 5th and final lap, it's all over except the shouting, well not quite. Now is a good time to let you know we will burn approximately 10,000 calories today (at Western States they figure 16,000) but we will be conservative here. This breaks down to 2,000 a lap, which also is a little over 2 meals plus drinks. If your intake was just PowerBar's, that would be at least 1 ½ per Aid Station, 7 ½ per lap, and 37 ½ for the whole race. Then comes the liquid which comes between 4 and 5 gallons (those PB's need lots of water), it's a wonder why I didn't loose much weight. You were allowed to loose 3% of your starting weight and anything greater may require a sit down until you downed some fluids and re-weighted back within the limits, a 7% of weight loss will stop you at that point and your race would be over.
I made it to the first and second Aid Stations, which were welcoming with warm bon-fires burning. It was getting chilly, all the way to the turn-a-round and back to Aid #3, I asked it they had an extra pair of gloves or I would even settle for some socks to put over my hands. Digging through a box came up with a Nike pair, the volunteer felt my hands, which were frozen, and we opened up a plastic bag that contained a heat strip not much bigger than a bandage (remember my brother in Wisconsin uses these during Deer season) Slipped one in each glove and let me know they will warm up and last a long time, I couldn't say enough thank you's and downed a cup of soup & some pretzels before starting down the road. Somewhere along the path there was a water puddle, and as before it was not a big obstacle maneuvering around it, but this one had my name on it and as I got a little more than half way my balance seemed to waver and could not recover in time to send me through the water to the opposite side and then back. Now I'm mad, because my feet are wet and there's not much you can do at this point. At least I didn't fall, which would be a complete disaster, and one heck of a time getting up again.
Well it was me and my radio, from here on out one foot in front of the other, and some how I got to Aid #174, where Michael and Andrea waiting for who knows how long. Well this is my final refuel stop of soup, potatoes and coke also put on a much needed jacket over my short sleeve t-shirt. Andrea went with me for this last 2-½ mile loop to the finish, managed to "hot dog" the last couple of hundred yards, and it's over. Time was 20 hours and 38 minutes 38 seconds and actually the second fastest 100-mile runs, but this was 101 miles (make a note of that). Last lap was around 5 ½ hours, so it was around 2:30am, Sunday morning.
I can't say enough about the setup of the course, Aid Stations (chocolate haven, with two or three different choices at each one), volunteers and weather was great for that long of a run.
Mickey the race director gave me my pewter belt buckle (prize for under 24 hr completion), couple more cups of potato soup and we left for Michael's house in Houston. Getting out of the trooper was no easy feat and was helped up the stairs (my lower ribs were really sore), after a shower and climbed into bed about 5am. Got up around 1:30 and ate pizza with Abby, Michael and Andrea, caught up on some family and Washington DC news, took some pictures with the dogs (3 Great Danes), before we had to go to the airport.
Interesting note while Andrea and me were waiting for the plane, at the gate I was watching the first quarter of the Super Bowl, and who strolls up and sits two chairs from me also to watch the game?? Rev Jessie Jackson and we all flew back to Washington DC together.
I finished in 28th place out of approximately140 starters, I believe I ran the first 75 miles or so, and then only got slowed down due to darkness and inability to detect the tree roots before they detected me. After stumbling along for another 5 miles, I was pretty convinced I'd walk the rest of the way, which caused cramping to set in and then I was toast. Wearing the knee brace the entire 101 miles did not do justice to the back of my knee and tendons, it rubbed them pretty raw. Half a dozen blisters and that achy feeling (like I just did a century run), so looks like a free week from running, only to get a fresh start the next.
Rocky Raccoon is a perfect first century run, with a limited rolling hills, and is very run-able the entire route. Excellent Aid Stations, course markings and support even if you are running unassisted. I want to thank my wonderful children, Michael and Andrea for all the support, caring and persistence for a very long day, my wife (Aleka) and Patti who accompanied me for all those long Sunday runs and encouragement to press on.
So until next time, see you on the trails…………….thks Mike