Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Rocky Raccoon 100 miler.. the full report
Nick and I were joking that the best race report goes something like this: I ran.. it was great.. it sucked.. it was great.. I finished. That pretty much sums things up, but since I tend toward the wordy, and it is my first 100 miler I can't stop there.
I left Kansas City Thursday afternoon in a van with my crew chief Christy , head pacer Debbie and official photographer James... (yes, I travel with an entourage). We were also caravaning down with Karen, who is Gary Henry's wife/crew/and support system. It was a pretty uneventful drive except for the screwy on/off ramps in Texas... they are like 2 ft long! I was only a mile into Texas and it was already trying to kill me.. it made me pretty nervous for the future. It's about an 11 hour drive which meant we rolled into Huntsville about 2 am.. I immediately fell into a pretty comfortable hotel bed with instructions that if anyone woke me up early I would kill them. About 9 am we all started stirring and I promptly started drinking water and eating. We headed over to Starbucks..... my crew was much happier once they were well caffeinated, I was just pleased that they had a nice selection of herbal teas to chose from.
After coffee infusions we headed to the park to check out the trails and the start/finish area. We met up with Nick and Laurie who had gotten into Huntsville about 5 am and we all ran a slow, easy, fun 4 miles.. the weather was gorgeous and I was feeling awesome and surprisingly very calm. After the run we hung out at the Kansas City contingent camp shelter that was conveniently located just yards from the start. I spent the afternoon eating and laying down until Nick and I headed back to the park for the packet pickup/briefing and dinner. It was pretty fun to hang out and watch everyone greet each other with such enthusiasm.. I hope that eventually I get to the point where I know lots of people at these races. We had a big Kansas City group, about 10 of us, so at least I wasn't hanging by myself. I was VERY appreciative that the dinner had plenty of veggie options..even the garlic bread was made with olive oil and not butter! After dinner Nick and I headed back to the hotel, & when I walked to my room, my crew had gotten into the margaritas and there were 4 "naked" people in the bed!! Cracked me right up and helped dispell any lingering nervousness.
I got all my stuff ready and organized and then headed to bed... I ended up with my very own hotel room for the night so I slept as well as could be expected. I woke up at 3:30 before the alarm even went off, got dressed (skirt, trail nerds shirt, dirty girl gaiters, rainbow stripe injinji socks, la sportiva shoes) , ate, packed up the car and we headed off to the park. We parked at KC central and hung around while Vicki (one of the other runner's wife) made breakfast for anyone that wanted it. It helped to be around a bunch of other nervous runners. As I headed off to the bathrooms, I realized that I had forgotten to check in and started to panic a bit, but crew chief extraordinare Christy checked me in while I was in the bathroom. I felt like such a rockstar! We were standing around talking and taking pictures when all of a sudden the mass of runners started to move.. the race had started! We never even heard the word GO!
It was a slow start, with 239 runners funneling into the single track, we were walking for a few minutes but that was a good thing.. I was determined not to go out fast. HA! It was really cool to see the huge long conga line of headlamps dancing through the trees. Kansas Citians Nick, Danny & I were running together, and decided we'd stay together for as long as possible. It was Nick and I's first 100 attempt and Danny had DNF'd a 100 before so we figured as much support we could gather from each other the better off we'd be.
The first lap went by really fast, the weather was still fairly cool and we were having a great time talking and laughing with other runners and enjoying the course. Danny was wearing his Garmin and would let us know when a mile had passed by singing "99 miles to go" to the tune of 100 bottle of beer on the wall. It was hilarious to us, but I imagined by say, mile 50 we'd be ready to kill. We reminded each other to eat and take salt caps, but at one point we realized that we were on pace to finish the first 20 mile loop in under 4 hours which for us, was stupidly fast. We slowed down quite a bit, but it was difficult to rein ourselves in when it was so nice out and we were enjoying the run so much.
At the end of the first lap I got a chance to run and talk with Shannon, the owner of Moeben sleeves, she was wearing arm sleeves, leg sleeves and the coolest camo skirt! She explained to me that she was testing out the leg sleeves and skirt before they were available for retail, I love the fact that she personally tests her stuff on the same courses that we all run on. You don't get that sort of attention to detail with big corporate companies, and she also donates a portion of every sale to charity. I see her ads in all the running magazines and my only complaint is that she should be in her own ads, she is adorable and was so very nice.
We finished the first lap in 4 hours and 36 seconds.. faster then I wanted but oh well! My wonderful crew filled up my water, forced some food down me, offered me tons of encouragement and got me back on my way quickly. It was starting to get pretty hot and we slowed down quite a bit. The predicted high was in the upper 70's and the humidity was darn high, so unfortunately my stomach started to go south about halfway though the 2nd loop, Nick was doing some dry heaves too. The talking and laughing was a bit less on this loop and we all commented that the 6 mile section of out and back seemed REALLY long this time. At the Dam Road aid station one of the workers commented " you know you're an ultra runner when you are jealous of other people's bodily functions" I laughed and laughed since I hadn't yet been able to take a crap and it was pissing me off. I hit the first wall right about 30 miles in, and did some walking but then we saw an armadillo cross the trail in front of us which got us all excited and revived us a bit. We were told that when scared, armadillos can jump straight in the air up to 4 ft, so we were kinda hoping for a demonstration, but alas he was just getting the hell out of the way of the crazy runners.
When we got back to the start, I took the time to tape up some hot spots that were starting on my feet. My stomach was still feeling bad so I was balking at eating, but Christy was adamant about me getting some calories. I wish I had been smart enough to say to her that I was feeling nauseous because I had plenty of ginger drinks and ginger chews that would have helped settle the guts, instead I was already so brain dead I just told her I didn't want to eat. We started on our 3rd loop still together but that didn't last long.. Nick was feeling good and he took off right away and Danny took off soon afterwards. My stomach was keeping me from being able to run quickly so I simply put on the headphones and zoned. I knew I couldn't take too long to do this lap since I had forgotten to pick up my headlamp and I wouldn't see my crew for another 16 miles. I had a very small light in my nathan pack, but I would have to move pretty slow to use it. I was dreading the 6 mile loop by myself but the music helped and in the last few miles of that section I ran into Gary Henry who was looking great and running well, unfortunately I was not able to keep up with him for long but it was nice to see a friendly face for a few minutes. When I hit the Dam road Aid Station the 2nd time on this loop I heard someone say they had veggie burgers and as the temps were dropping, food suddenly started sounding good. I grabbed half of one and took off, hoping the dark would hold off for another 3.2 miles. I choked about 1/4 of the veggie burger down and it worked like a charm, my pace picked up and I hit my crew with just a few minutes of light to spare. I ate some soba noodle soup that Christy had whipped up for me, grabbed my headlamp and told my pacer Debbie to get ready to run. I could pick up a pacer starting at 60 miles and we were 4 short miles away from that. The 4 mile section from the Park Road Aid Station to the Start/Finish was my favorite section of the course, for some reason I could run this section quickly and it always seemed a lot shorter then 4 miles.
At 60 miles I taped up some more blisters, changed my shoes and socks and ate a bunch of oatmeal that Christy had ready for me. I also took an Advil for the first time, I don't like to take medicine of any sort usually, but this was an exception, and I ended up taking about 5 total during the race.. they were lifesavers!! Debbie and I took off and I explained to her that I might be walking a bit until the Advil kicked in since my blisters were feeling pretty ouchy.. not 1/2 a mile down the road the first one exploded and caused me to limp and swear loudly for a bit. My stomach was feeling great since the sun had gone down and my mood was much improved too. Debbie and I talked and laughed and encouraged everyone we passed. Sometimes she was in front, sometimes behind me, sometimes I talked and sometimes I put my headphones on and ignored everything. Even when I was listening to music it was still comforting to know that she was there... I like running at night by myself, but running with someone this late in the game helped keep me steady. I probably would have walked more if she hadn't been there. (although I walk really, really fast so I don't lose that much time when I do) Once again the 6 mile stretch was the hardest, and I can't wait to do it again next year and kick that section's ass! At this point I think I was peeing every 5 minutes and all modesty had gone right out the window. At the beginning of the race I would step off the trail a few feet and turn my back, by the end I was lucky if I made it 1 step off the trail... I was just jealous I couldn't make the cool squiggly marks I kept seeing in the dust! Debbie was awesome and really helped get me through what I thought would be the hardest 20 mile loop, but she made it almost easy! We ran into Gabe and his pacer Rick on this loop and took a minute to snap some pictures.. Gabe was having some awful back problems and was just gutting it out with Rick's help. Those 2 are some of our fastest guys in our area and it was nice to get their encouragement.
At the end of this loop Christy took over the pacing duties from Debbie, and once I started the last 20 miles I knew that short of total disaster there was no way I wouldn't finish. I was not going to hit my 24 hour goal, but I wasn't going to be too terribly off. I explained to Christy that I might be walking an awful lot this last lap but she was good at making me run when all I wanted to do was walk. The 6 mile section ended up being not as bad as I anticipated, knowing that it was the last time I had to do it helped and we also hooked up with a guy named Wayne and his pacer. They were good company and we stuck together for about 4 miles sharing stories and laughing. When we lost them it was just a few super long miles back to the Dam Road aid station and I kept telling myself to be sure to ask for Advil when we got there and to pick up some more veggie burger. Just before we got to the aid station we ran into Nick and his pacer Laurie, Nick had had an allergic reaction to something that made his eyes swell almost totally shut and he had to spend some time at Medical. Benadryl helped with some of the swelling but made him sleepy so they were moving pretty slow when we saw them.
When we hit Dam Road for the last time (!) , I totally forgot to ask for Advil and then both Christy's and my packs accidentally got filled with Gatorade instead of water. Of course we didn't realize it until a good 1/2 mile or more down the road, I tried to drink a bit of it, but my stomach sloshed warningly so I stopped. The 3.2 miles to the next aid station was the longest, hardest of the race. I had nothing to drink, which meant that I had nothing to wash down any food so I couldn't eat, my blisters were killing me.. it was a VERY low point. Luckily Christy kept me moving, one foot in front of the other... but when we finally hit the Park Road Aid Station and my crew I sat down in a chair and cried. Christy dumped out the nasty gatorade and got me clean cool water, I took 2 Advil and ate a couple vegan oatmeal chocolate chip cookies which combined with coffee worked like rocket fuel for me.
We walked out of the aid station while I drank a cup of coffee and waited for everything to kick in... Christy kept me running at this point until I found my head again and the sun came up, which happened pretty much at once. At that point I pressed play on the iPod and started running and when I say running, I mean like 8 minute miles. I wasn't sure how much further I had to go, but I wanted to hit 25 hours. The next 2 miles or so was kind of a blur, but I know that Christy was running behind me yelling "on your left" as we were passing runners, I had absolutely no slow twitch muscles left, but my fast twitch ones were getting quite a workout. I started to slow near the end and then looked down at my watch and realized I had 1 minute to 25 hours so I gritted my teeth and flew. I passed the finish line at 25 hours and 27 seconds and I was yelling "Shit" the whole way.
Race Director Joe shook my hand and handed me the 2nd coolest hunk of metal I've ever gotten in my life (first being my wedding ring). With wobbly legs I walked over to our staging area and received hugs and love from all my friends.. I was doing pretty good until Christy hugged me, she was sobbing which set me right off. I walked away and took a minute to absorb what I had just done. I grabbed someones cell phone and called my husband and then called my dad. Before the race I made my dad pick a time that he thought I would finish in and not tell me... he picked 26 and 1/2 hours.. I was thrilled to have beaten it by a bunch since he pegged my 50 mile time. Sitting down was heaven and I had a front row seat to watch the other runners finish. We spent awhile trading stories and cheering other runners on, but then all too soon it was time to think about the 11 hour drive home.
I was pretty stiff and sore all day Sunday.. sitting in the car made it worse I think, but by Monday afternoon I was feeling great. My only lingering problem is swollen feet and blisters.. oh and the need to eat every 20 minutes.
I have a lot of things to work on for the next 100, things I will change and tweak, but for the most part I'm VERY pleased with how things went for my first. I can't wait to come back and do this one again next year. I had the world's best crew and I also received much help from other Kansas City area runners, pacers and crew.. I truly could not have done it without them. The race volunteers were also exceptional.. Dam Road Aid Station in particular holds a very special spot in my heart since it was my hardest place on the course. Those people were beyond helpful and comforting. My husband also gets a very special thank you for putting up with my craziness, he even listens to me talk incessantly about training and running and doesn't either a- fall asleep or b- throw something at my head. I'm a lucky girl!