|Photo: Jason Bryant|
At mile 20 I felt like running was the easiest thing ever and maybe the course record would go down. Five miles later I realized this wouldn’t happen since my legs were already sore, even though my heart rate and effort were low. And so it goes with 100 milers - big highs and crappy lows.
Rocky Raccoon is known for being a flat and fast trail 100 miler, but the normal course still has 5,500ft of vertical gain and lots of roots to trip up unwary or tired legs. This year there was construction work on the dam and that altered the course to include more jeep roads, more climbing (somewhere around 1,500ft per 20-mile loop or 7,500ft in total) and a little more distance (around 0.3 miles/loop or 1.5 miles in total). So there are definitely faster trail 100s out there, but none that have attracted the same level of talent as this Huntsville, Texas, race (Eric Clifton, Anton Krupicka, Hal Koerner, Karl Meltzer and Scott Jurek…just on the men’s side).
I’ve had good and bad years at RR100, which were predictable in hindsight. A DNF for my first ever 100 miler (right after an injury and almost zero running for two months), a course record (I was in great marathon shape), another DNF (too focused on going for the record even with really muddy, stormy conditions), then three more runs in the mid-to-high 13hr range with two of them as wins and a second place.
This one ranks on the predictably imperfect end of the scale. I entered it 12 days pre-race on a whim, after fully planning on focusing on a marathon instead. In the five months pre-race I had one long hike and a handful of long runs, all but one under three hours. However, I was in good shape and had some quality speed work in the past couple of months. So that resulted in 20 miles feeling very easy then the lack of endurance rearing its painful head soon after. After two loops I felt like I’d run four and was hanging on for dear life. Luckily I’ve leant a few things from previous 100s about how to manage things when the original plan is derailed, so I settled into grinding mode and acknowledged that every bad patch (of which there were many more than there should have been) would only last a few miles.
|Photo: Jason Bryant|
So lesson learnt, only enter short races at the last moment and respect the 100 mile distance. However, the upside of a tough run is it’s that much sweeter afterwards to know that there were many opportunities to quit and I didn’t take them. Some of the most satisfying races of my life have been the harder days where it didn’t go perfectly. In contrast, the course record year at RR100 in 2011 was anti-climactic since it felt ridiculously easy (hence why I don’t slow down). I’ll keep striving to have another perfect day like that but realize that so many factors have to come together that it’s more about managing inevitable problems mid-race than expecting none to occur.
In terms of results, I held on for the win in 13:45:03, followed by Paul Terranova who repeated his USATF 100 mile Championship title win after being first American at RR100 last year too. Even more impressively, Sabrina Little ran in third all day (or with Paul for 25 miles) and finished in 14:55, the second fastest time ever at RR100 on a day that the course added a little time to her run. Mind you, the weather was absolutely perfect for fast times, never hot or humid.
In addition, two legends of ultra running ground out great finishes - Gordy Ainsleigh qualified for Western States 100 at the last chance he had (he automatically has an entry due to being the founder, but still needs a qualifying race); plus 71-year old Gunhild Swanson of the famous 2015 ‘seconds to spare’ WS100 finish was strong for a 28:22 finish.
|Gunhild gets her buckle from RD Chris McWatters. Photo: Lynnor Matheney|
|Gordy after his successful finish. Photo: Lynnor Matheney|
Congrats to everyone who ran and the loops and out-and-back sections mean that I saw all of them many times through the day to mutually support each other. Full results are here.
Gear (all worked perfectly and will be used in exactly the same way in my next ultra):
Shoes - Altra Lone Peak 2.5
Nutrition - Clif Bar gels, Shot Bloks and Organic Energy Food pouches
Hydration/lights - UltrAspire Isometric pocket bottles and Lumen 600 waist light
Socks - Drymax Trail 1/4 Crew Socks