Photo courtesy of Andrew King - D4 Productions

Monday, February 9, 2009

Rocky? Raccoon 100

photo courtesy of David Donaldson

Rocky?!?! I didn't see any Rocks. Maybe ROOTS but no rocks. In fact, roots all over the place - you know those kind that hide under leaves and laugh when you kick 'em. Next year I think they're changing the name to the ROOTY Raccoon 100. Rocks - HA! Hard ROCK has rocks! I ran Sunmart a few years back but for some reason forgot about the roots. Thank goodness I didn't take any diggers, just a few close calls where I stumbled and seized up every muscle trying to recover. Gonna probably lose my two big toenails pretty early this year...

Going into the race I had high hopes of breaking 15 hours - my training and fitness were solid. I really analyzed splits from the last 4 years of the top runners to pace me along and gage my effort after each loop. But for some reason I had not read they changed the course - I didn't realize it until AJW told me of the specific changes during the first loop. Apparently they had taken away 7 or so myles of road per loop and added single track, rooty trails. I didn't think anything of it because after all it's all within Huntsville State Park so the terrain is the same. But as it turns out by adding the winding trail, it really was hard to get in any sort of rhythm that could really add up over time.

Loop 1 - 3 of us quickly separated ourselves from the pack: AJW, myself, and another guy from California (sorry didn't catch the name). We ran easy, talked, and picked Andy's brain for vital course information. My plan was to do a 28/2 ratio of run/walk but just as I suspected I passed up on the first two breaks but finally started at 1.28. I could not stop thinking about letting Andy get away and even though I knew better than to expend the energy to catch back up - I still did it. 1.58 came and I took another break and again Andy got away and I caught back up. We came through loop 1 in 2.46 and I couldn't believe it - I was 6 minutes slower than I wanted to be.

Loop 2 - I only took 30 seconds at the turn around and took off for loop two all alone. My intention was to match my first split. In talking with Andy later, he thought I literally took off but in reality I just tried to maintain my pace. Pretty uneventful loop, taking all my scheduled walk breaks while hitting all my splits at the aid stations from the previous lap. Turns out I felt the best on this loop than any other and really had to put the governer on it. My eating and drinking were on track as I was downing 20 oz of water every 6 myles and nipping at my EFS flask every 15 minutes. Second split 2.47, just what I wanted. I had high hopes at this point

Loop 3 - Again only 30 seconds at the turn around and I was off. There's a small section where you can see where every one's at and this was my chance to see what Andy was doing. I passed him at 2 min 40 seconds out which meant just over 5 minutes and with the added time at the aid station I figured about 7 minutes. In reality I was a little disappointed because I knew I needed more time to hold on against a veteran, tough, steady hundred miler. I just kept telling myself "even splits" and you'll be fine. The other time gap I was looking at was with Jamie Donaldson - I know how well she finishes and with her resume I knew she had the potential to take the outright win. At this point I was about 30 minutes up on Jamie but knew that was not enough. My legs still felt really good, still on my 28/2 strategy, still hitting splits from the previous two loops up through 50 myles - a split of around 7 hours. Then at 53 myles I noticed I lost 5 minutes and didn't know how because I still felt decent. By the end of the loop I felt myself slowing down and at the turn around I was 3.07 for a 60 mile split of around 8.40ish.

Loop 4 - I took a little longer this time to get some food in and try to regain the energy before it could get outta control. I was real interested to see what the time gap was with Andy and it turned out to be 4 minutes. For the first 6 myles of this loop I was still on my 28/2 plan but noticed I was looking at the watch more frequently wondering how 28 minutes could seem like an hour - it was a bad sign. In past 100 mile races I usually bonk between 60-70 and this time was no different. I heard Andy talking and knew he was looming and he finally made the catch around 68 myles. Andy's like a shark - smells blood and goes for the kill! He saw me walking ahead with my hands on my hips and that's all it took. My only hope was to get rid of this bonk quickly! As he passed I said "that's all I got" - which I half believed. I basically took a page outta Grand Master Sand Bagger Kulak's book hoping to soften him up. So naturally I was surprised to find Andy still at the aid station at 73 myles - I thought I might be coming around and maybe my sand bagging tricks worked. I tried to keep him in sight but I may have startled him. This is the point where I could not do the 28/2 thing anymore - I was walking more of the small uphills and checking the watch more frequently. Now with the table turned I was interested to see how far ahead Andy was - turns out 8 minutes not including my stop at the turn around. Jamie was now about 20 minutes behind which made me run scared. I'm not sure of my loop time but I think it was just over 3.30.

Loop 5 - This is where things get interesting. I had 10 minutes to make up or completely fold. It's now dark and the roots become roots with teeth. A little lactic acid build up in my legs but a familiar feeling so no worries. My second split at the Dam Road aid station (6.2 myles) was going to write my story, if I could somehow get in the neighborhood of my splits earlier in the day I knew I had something left. Came through 10 minutes slower than earlier but slowdown happens so I knew there was something still there. The Dam Road aid station was great - they addressed me by first name coming through, they got my drop bag for me, they gave me a massage, and by the 5th loop they had Coke ready for me when I came in. I asked how long ago Andy left, they didn't know for sure but said it was less than 10 minutes. My goal was to cut that in half by the time I finished the next 6 mile section in which we come back to the same aid station. I came into the aid station and one of the guys said "holy shit you closed some serious ground!" He said the gap was only 4 or 5 minutes and would not let me sit down - he walked with me, handed me my Coke and said "Go get him!" As I rounded a couple turns, a lady that I had seen all day that kept addressing by my full name saying "good job Scott Jaime" and "Jaime" was pronounced like it supposed to be pronounced. This time she was more excited than ever and in chorus with her pacer said, "GO, GO, GO! Run Faster! 2 minutos!" Turns out this was Jorge Pacheco's wife. Earlier in the day Jorge had introduced himself to me saying "hi my name is Jorge Pacheco it's my pleasure to meet you" I had no idea he knew who I was. Obviously I know who he is because he's an icon in ultrarunning. He offered me encouragement on several different occasions which helped tremendously. (If anyone knows how to get ahold of Jorge Pacheco please let me know so I can thank him and his family) Finally I got to the last aid station with 4.4 myles to go and David Donaldson (Jamie's husband) was there as he had been all day helping me if I needed it - said Andy left 2 MINUTES and 30 SECONDS ago! I got my Coke and left with everything I had. We had a couple straight roads to where I would be able to see lights ahead and determine my distance but the problem was that we were going through lapped traffic so it made it virtually impossible to pick Andy's light out - I became demoralized. With about two myles to go I realized the catch wasn't going to happen and unfortunately did a little more walking. Andy wins in 15.58 with me in tow 16.09 and Jamie finished 3rd with 16.51.

Every race is a learning race for me - I never do all the things right but I learn a little each time. This time I learned and proved to myself that I CAN run late in a hundred miler. It's always been a confidence thing with me. I know I'll probably never be the most talented runner at the start line but I know what I'm capable of and with my growing confidence I will get closer to that capability - that's the hook for me. In the end, I'm extremely satisfied with the result and will take the PR any day. Not sure if I'm a fan of flat courses so give me a mountain already!

I'd like to thank Joe Prusaitis for putting on such a top notch event, Paul Dewitt for coaching me and adding structure to my training to get me ready for this race, David Donaldson for offering up his services all day, Jorge Pacheco and his family for their support, and the aid station volunteers for everything they do. It truly amazes me the level of camaraderie not only with event people but with the racers as well. AJW and Jamie are not only fierce competitors and talented runners but down right good people - I look forward to many more battles. WTC and PBR up next!

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