Sunday, February 5, 2012

Rocky Raccoon 50M

An impulse race I decided to do about a week ago although the idea was planted just before the Houston Marathon. Although the race was full, Victor Aguirre at the Saturday dinner before Houston mentioned that full might not actually mean full and a week or so after Houston I contacted Victor about how to possibly get in. He put me in contact with the RD - Joe - who put me on the waitlist initially saying my chances were "thin" - but then after ~100 people pulled from the race I moved up to 16th place on the wait list with a week to go - then the forecast turned a bit sour so the DNS rate went up - and I found out about 30 minutes before the race started that there was space and got in :cool:.

My reasoning for doing this race was I needed a WS100 qualifier sometime before the November deadline. IM Florida is my goal race for the year in November so I didn't want to do the race anytime near that as it would screw up a couple weeks of training. I wasn't quite feeling jazzed yet to jump into training hard for Boston Marathon in April rather enjoying my kinda lazy recovering since Houston - so I figured I'd go ahead and knock out my qualifier - a pedestrian sub11 hours (13+ mpm) is all that's required - and then I'd get to spend another lazy week or so after that recovering. So my main goals for Rocky Raccoon developed into 1) get WS100 qualifier and 2) NOT get sick

This was the radar picture I woke up to with that front moving downward. I drove up from Houston before the race and that red stuff was some impressive downpour and lightning show driving through it. The storming as I approached Huntsville driving up there was intense - the close striking lightning burned into my retina and I could re-see it for miles with every blink.

Fortunately the red part moved through the race area and by the 7am start we were in the green stuff just on the other side of it. The 100 milers started an hour earlier and had some worse stuff to start out in. Lots and lots of mud all over the course. The rain was refreshingly welcome to cool off the 60+ humid start to the race and after it passed it brought the cold front that dropped the humidity down and made it pretty comfortable.

I made lots of mistakes on my first 50 miler and got lots of great advise in reply and I reviewed all that advice the day before the race to put my running strategy together (several tips from Dennis Hoagland) It was too late to do anything better in training so I focused just on race day execution improvements. A few key things:

- TWO hand hold bottles instead of one - last time I used one and kept refilling it with high density calories to fuel the run. Eventually I ended up with too rich a calorie concentration in my stomach and I had no way to dilute it down so everything I took in just collected in my stomach until I threw it up. Without passing the fluids I ended up dehydrated and the only electrolytes I had were mixed into the fuel so I wasn't getting that either. With a 2nd bottle with water - at the slightest hit of any belly unease I'd take some water to dilute things a bit.

- Starting 1/2 way add ginger to some - melt in your mouth fuel to help settle the stomach.

- S-Cap at every aid station that worked out to ~2/hr.

- Take it slow - I was concerned I sweat so much more than I could consume water and dehydration was inevitable if I went too fast. So I was determined to go slow enough that I could keep hydrated. Byron Lane cautioned me not to run TOO slow as I was not adapted well for slow running with my training for a marathon so I tried to keep the HR in the 140-145 recovery kinda running range where I'd done some running.

For dealing with the mud/rain - my first time of any significant distance I asked for input from several and cobled together a plan of sorts - this is how that particular aspect played out (copy pasted from somewhere else so I don't have to re-write:

First lap was a steady rain - I lathered my feet with Hydropel and wore thin Injinji (toe) socks with ankle length socks over them - didn't change socks or shoes and ended up with no blisters. ...The mud was so deep in spots (6+inches) I started getting concerned it would grab hold of my shoes and I'd accidently pull out of them to be left with only socks - and that actually almost happen a couple times so I learned to curl my toes as I stomped through the mud to be sure to not loose my shoes. I did change my shirt after the first lap as the rain seemed to have stopped - a dry shirt was refreshing. The only "raw" spot developed under the HRM - this premium garmin HRM ends up drilling little holes near probes after 50 miles - white shirt showed just a little blood spot but at least it wasn't the nips ;) - and I barely noticed it until done. I decided to risk no glasses the first lap and that was a bit touch and go as it started close to dark and I struggled to see the roots on the trail - had to keep good space to the next guy and focus hard on the blurry ground to avoid ankle twists - but I think that was still better than water covered glasses - 2nd lap I got my glasses which worked well until about 10 miles to go on the 3rd lap when the rain started again - I could see better without the glasses especially since it was light so I took them off again until the rain stopped an hour or so later. I started with a hat thinking that might help with the rain but I ditched it the first aid station preferring the cooling rain on my head. Rinsing off in the cool water lake and cleaning the socks/shoes/legs was a must before getting in my car :).

A few photo's stolen (shamelessly) from others - some memorable stretches of the course:

And the lake where where I went swimming after the race:

The race:

My standard pre-racing fueling with 2x16 oz ultrafuel 3 hrs pre-race

Loop 1 - Start with 24 oz Perpetuem (cafe late flavor) and 24 oz water in hand bottles + 2 Gu (Mocha) and some kinda power blocks. First hour I consumed the Perpetuem and the next 1.5 hrs to finish the loop I consumed the 24 oz water + 1/2 bottle refill and both gu and 1/2 the 160 calorie bag of blocks.

I ended up running much of this first loop with a guy who's wife was out running the 100 miler as is apparently pretty awesome. We ran together for a while and chatted then happened to catch his wife who started an hour earlier but also had an extra 3.5 miles per loop - I looked hr up later and although she was way behind the leaders at that point by mile 80 she had 2nd place pretty well locked up - then something must have happen the last loop - as of now she's not showing in yet with 30+ women already in - hope she's OK. Found out later she got lost at mile 99 (after climbing from ~10th to 2nd place F) - ran 4-5 miles the wrong way and ended up dropping - I feel sick.

Loop 2 - Start with 24 oz Perpetuem (cafe late flavor) and 24 oz water in hand bottles + the rest of the bag of blocks plus an ziplock bag of more blocks with ginger mixed in. First hour I consumed the Perpetuem then did 45 minutes at 5 minutes each block with the ginger on it - finished off the other bag of blocks plus 1/2 bottle Gatorade from the aid station and a little more water too.

Since the rain stopped I grabbed my ipod shuffle and glasses for this loop and it was nice to be able to look around and see the scenery as well as have some music to help pass the time. I'd also downloaded some podcasts from and listen to a couple hours of that. One of the podcasts happen to be from a few weeks ago with Ian Sherman who set the course record here last year and was here to do it again so that was really neat to listen to him talk about Rocky Raccoon while I was racing Rocky Raccoon. The ipod made me pretty in my own world and I didn't chat with anyone this time around - which was a kinda fine solitude. At one point I kinda needed a portajohn and an empty lonely one in the middle of no where kinda just appeared - what good fortune. Also it turned out that last minute thought to put some TP in the Ziploc with my cellphone turned out to be good fortune as well ;). Rest of the loop finishes without much incident.

Loop 3 - Start with 24 oz Perpetuem (cafe late flavor) and 24 oz water in hand bottles + 2 Gu's - Mocha and Double Espresso flavor plus a Ziploc bag of more blocks with ginger mixed in. First hour I consumed the Perpetuem then did the GU's looking forward to the Caffeine boost then did a few of the block with the ginger on it - finished off water and refilled and sipped some of that down before the finish.

I'm still feeling remarkable good - I just keep plowing along - the mind is getting too tired to focus on podcasts so I switch to brainless music occasionally turning it up to drown out some body aches. It starts raining again about 1/2 hr in and I'm wondering if my ipod will survive - I keep it clipped to my watch band with the ports pointed down and I decide I'll risk it rather than stop and put it in my Ziploc with the phone - it rained about an hour and the ipod still works so I guess I lucked out there. I'm starting to watch the miles go a bit impatiently one by one but I'm still relatively OK. The last 10k seemed to take some extra effort to keep moving - I'd gone the whole way without walking and under 10 mpm for each split (except the one with the pitstop) and I didn't want to give up either of those streaks so when the pace started to climb over 10 mpm I dug a little deeper to push it back into the 9:xx. Finally I get to the finish.

Finish - I cross the finish mat and stop - give myself a cheer with prompted a few others to give me a cheer too. Joe - the RD congratulates me - a few ladies call me over to a table but initially I don't feel like moving - finally I get the motivation to hobble over there and get my finishing medal and one of the ladies also gives me a 5th Male award - I'm nearly shocked that there could have only been 4 people in front of me - I couldn't stop smiling for quite a while - what a great feeling - there is nothing so awesome as an unexpected award :).

Splits between Aid Stations (almost - I hit the button late a few times):

Loop . . . .. . . . .Split. . . . .pace. . . . . .AHR. . . . .
1 (2:34). 1 . . . . .3.05. . . . .9:00.7. . . . .148. . . . .
. . . . . 2 . . . . .2.92. . . . .9:03.1. . . . .145. . . . .
. . . . . 3 . . . . .2.85. . . . .9:17.1. . . . .137. . . . .
. . . . . 4 . . . . .3.39. . . . .9:00.3. . . . .141. . . . .
. . . . . 5 . . . . .4.29. . . . .9:59.8. . . . .143. . . . .w/5 minute stop change shirt, reload bottles

End of 1st loop I'm in 21st place in the 50M

2 (2:34). 1 . . . . .3.42. . . . .8:36.6. . . . .147. . . . .
. . . . . 2 . . . . .2.57. . . . .8:48.3. . . . .146. . . . .
. . . . . 3 . . . . .2.8 . . . . .9:14.3. . . . .144. . . . .
. . . . . 4 . . . . .3.47. . . . 10:12.1. . . . .144. . . . .w/3 minute stop, pitstop
. . . . . 5 . . . . .4.23. . . . .9:34.6. . . . .145. . . . .w/2 minute stop, reload bottles
End of 2nd loop I'm in 15th place with (-1) Drop after loop1, (-6) Passed, (+1) Passed me.

3 (2:38). 1 . . . . .3.01. . . . .9:38.6. . . . .146. . . . .
. . . . . 2 . . . . .2.86. . . . .9:45.7. . . . .146. . . . .
. . . . . 3 . . . . .2.76. . . . .9:55.0. . . . .143. . . . .
. . . . . 4 . . . . .3.36. . . . .9:41.9. . . . .144. . . . .
. . . . . 5 . . . . .4.29. . . . .9:55.7. . . . .141. . . . .

Total . . . . . . . 49.27. . . . .9:29.0. . . . .143

End of 3rd loop I'm in 5th place with (-3) Drop after loop2, (-7) Passed.

366 Starters, 259 Finishers.

Not so bad a race for doing it on a whim - 7:46 was the final time - my only other Ultra - also a 50 miler happened to be 9:46 so I get to say I got a 2 hour PR which I've certainly never said before - although I'd kinda like to say that again in November (IMFL).