So, I one of my many lofty goals for this year was to run a 50 mile ultra marathon. I have run a 50k and I have even run a double marathon (one on Saturday and one on Sunday), but I had never run 50 miles and surely had never run 50 miles on trails!
When a friend mentioned that he was running the Rocky Raccoon 50 Mile Trail Run in Huntsville, Texas, he suggested that I sign up too. So I did.
I printed out the race info and read it very carefully highlighting all the important information. Now, I am no stranger to ultra running. I have paced friends through their 100 milers, volunteered at ultra aid stations, etc., but now it was my turn and I suddenly got very nervous. I wanted to make sure I planned everything perfectly.
I found a flight to Dallas at a reasonable price and booked it right away. While sitting at a hotel bar after the Louisiana marathon, my friend and I started talking about the race. He informed me that he would not be doing the race, due to some other commitments, but was helpful in giving me advice to prepare. I told him what time I was flying into Dallas and he looked confused. The rest of the conversation went like this:
Friend- "Why are you flying into Dallas?"
Me- "That's where I am supposed to fly into."
Friend- "No, you fly into Houston! Houston is one hour away, Dallas is a lot further."
Me- "How much further?"
Friend- "Your one hour drive just became a three hour drive!"
Friend- (Shakes head and laughs)
I flew into Dallas Friday afternoon, picked up my rental car and headed straight to the packet pick up at the Huntsville State Park where the race was being held. I didn't get there in time for the trail brief, but was told I didn't miss much that I wasn't already aware of (don't litter, don't poop on the trial, cut off times, etc.)
#111 has to be the coolest number EVER! The awards were unusually cool!
My friend Matt, from Memphis had made the decision to run the race 2 days before and was staying at the La Quinta where I was staying, so he called me when I got in and we met up for dinner at the Olive Garden and then headed back to the hotel after to get things ready for the morning! Thanks for dinner Matt!
The race started at 6:00am. I wanted to get a parking spot close to the finish, so I woke up at 3:45am and was out the door by 4:30am. It was about a 8 mile drive to the start. When I got there, there were already quite a few cars there, but I still got a pretty good parking spot.
All ready to hit the trails. I wanted to carry something for luck and this $2 bill was given to me by my friend. I have never been able to bring myself to spend it and I got a PR the day it was given to me so I thought it was the perfect thing to carry.
I got out of my car and went to the start to look around and find out where the one and only drop bag location was. I found it quick and since it was about 5:00am, I went back to sit in my warm car and catch another few minutes of sleep.
I headed back to the start line at about 5:45am, dropped my bag at the designated spot (drop bags were organized by bib number) and just chatted with people and tried to stay warm and not get too nervous.
I thought I would be on my own this race, so it was great to see a few other Maniacs out there too! Matt Heidenreich, Jamila Williams, Ed Broadnax, Harold Toomey and David Holman just to name a few.
Harold and I at the start! He usually runs his ultra races with his little Pomeranian Roxy! I was so bummed she was not there as I am dying to meet her, being a pom person myself!
Fellow Maniac David Holman and I at the start!
I like to talk, so I was just chatting away when the gun went off and I realized that I had not even turned on my Garmin yet. I hurried and turned it on, but knew it would be off until the satellite came up.
It was dark. I carried a small flashlight in one hand and my headlamp in the other. I wanted to make sure I could see that trail before the sun came up. People had already started calling the race "Rooty Raccoon" for good reason. There were a lot of roots on that trail and most of them were in the first 3 miles (but there were a lot on the rest of the course too). The course consisted of three 16.7 mile loops, which a big part was out and back. I would have to run that super rooty section 6 times!
I had been given some great advice from so many friends and there were 5 things that I wanted to follow to the letter:
1) Go slower than you think you need to, especially on that first loop. 50 trail miles are a whole different animal from a road marathon. -I did well on this. I think I paced it just right.
2) Pick up your feet, the roots are brutal! -I didn't do to well on this as I fell flat on my face twice in the first loop (miles 2 and 4.5) and once on third loop (around mile 48). I had 4 really good toe jamming trips and 6 ankle rolls too!
3) Eat early and often. - I followed this to the letter. I had no problem NOT eating GU and stuffing my face with Oreo cookies, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, chips, salted potatoes, quesadillas, etc. Everything I don't get to eat at home I ate on the course. I was like a kid in a candy store and I never got behind on my fueling.
4) No more than 2 minutes at the aid station. Get in, get your food and get out!- This was the best advice ever! The only time I stayed more than 2 minutes was at the Dogwood aid station where I changed clothes or socks or at aid stations that I was attending to my feet (see #5 below).
5) Take care of your feet! - I stopped at the Nature Center aid station on the second loop and had the AMAZING volunteers slather my big toes in Vaseline when I felt them getting hot. I did the same thing (plus changed my socks) at the Dogwood aid station before heading out for my third loop and I have no blisters!
The scenery on this trail was beautiful! This was the first loop before the fog burned off.
This is probably one of my favorite pics! Thanks Jamila for capturing it!
Jamila and I were both running our first 50 miler!
I just love all the nice people you meet on the trail! I met a lot of new friends!
Me on the trail!
I ran with these guys a long time!
Me coming into the Nature Center Aid Station at mile 19.5 My Maniac pal Andy Bowden took this while he volunteered at the aid station! THANK YOU Andy!
My second loop felt the hardest. My knees and shoulders started hurting pretty bad. Not so much like they were injured, but just super sore. Without something I knew my last loop would be really slow.
When I got done with loop two and was changing my socks, I asked for some BioFreeze and I rubbed it on my shoulders and knees. Trail running uses so many more muscles than I usually use. On the road, I can zone out, but on the trail you have to be on all the time. Looking at the ground the whole time made my neck and shoulders really sore and the uneven terrain played havoc with my knees and ankles. I finally took a couple of ibuprofen with a lot of water and 20 minutes later I was cooking.
My friend and fellow Maniac Matt! This guy is fast on his worst day!
I caught Ed at about mile 46, but he didn't seem to mind. He ran a 50 mile PR after attempting the 100 the week before!
I thought I was the only person from Salt Lake City, Utah running until Scott McMurtrey came in! He was the 2nd place male with a time of 6:57:55 and he knew me! Crazy!! I got this pic of us just before heading out for my 3rd and last loop!
Reaching the Aid Station at 36.4 miles! Photo by Andy Bowden
I cannot say enough good things about the volunteers at the aid stations! They were AMAZING!! I had to have a picture with the Dam Nation crew! On the first loop I had to use the bathroom BAD. I was so happy to see them. When I asked where the port-a-potty was, one volunteer handed me a roll of toilet paper, pointed at a bunch of trees and said "Dig a hole and take your pick of port-a-potties"! Ha Ha! I did! Note to self: Hoka heels dig good holes.
The signs at Dam Nation had me rolling. I guess things are just funnier when you are exhausted. Y'all know how much I LOVE "Step Brothers"! Ha Ha!
My last loop felt the fastest. I was cooking (or I felt like I was). I was pretty much alone for most of my last loop only running with people in passing or for just a few minutes. With about 6 miles to go I ran up on Kevin. Kevin and I had run together for a little bit on one of the previous loops. He was from Denver and we both talked about the lack of snow both our Ski based communities were getting.
He was super nice and we decided to run together. I was so glad as the last miles in any race seem to go by the slowest, but when you have someone to talk to or someone to push you along, those last miles can fly by. We just kind of synced up. When he wanted to walk up a hill, it was just the exact time I wanted to walk. It was great.
With two miles to go I tripped and went down pretty hard. I had a banged up knee and hand. He picked me up and walked with me until I could run again. I could not have asked for a nicer guy to run those last miles with.
We knew we were close to the finish when we saw the Lt. Dan sign. I told Kevin "I will probably cry when I see that finish line!" He replied, "I might too!"
When we saw the flags of the finish chute we ran strong, gave each other a high-five and crossed the mat. I did cry. My #1 goal was to finish before the 15 hour cut off. My #2 goal was to finish in 12 hours. I was so happy to finish in 10:24:45!!!!
My new friend Kevin and I finishing our first 50 miler! Thanks to Matt Heidenreich for getting this great shot! (He didn't even ask for $79.95 for it! Ha Ha!)
THANK YOU KEVIN for pulling me through and literally picking me up those last few miles! You are a rock star!!
My Battle wounds!
After the race, I went back to the hotel and took the longest, hottest shower ever! It felt AMAZING! I had just got out of the shower when Matt called and asked if I wanted to go eat some barbeque. Heck yes! We were in Texas! We had dinner and I was back in my room sleeping by 8:30pm.
Around 12:30am EVERYTHING hurt and I was awake. I grabbed my phone and there was a text from Matt that he sent earlier telling me about the paper thin walls and the strange sounds coming from the room next to his (I had 4 guys outside my room comsuming mass quantities of beer and singing "Hotel California" in broken English at the top of their lungs!). When I replied, he asked why I was still up. When I told him, after about 3 texts back in forth, we found ourselves in Wal Mart at 1:00am buying ice and garbage bags (trying to think of what else we could buy to make the cashier really wonder what was going on!) Ha Ha!
The impromtu icing of the legs got underway at about 1:30am and lasted until my legs were to numb to feel any pain at all! What an adventure!
We don't need an ice bath when there is a Wal Mart next to the hotel!! Ha Ha!
I was up the next moring at 8:30am, packed my stuff and was back on the road to Dallas by 9:30am. I was told my many that I HAD to stop at Buc-ee's, so I did! Funny place. I bought a mug.
Working my Rocky 50 shirt outside of Buc-ee's!!
I am more proud of this medal than any I have. This race was more than just running to me.
On a serious note: The last three weeks have been very hard on me emotionally. I felt broken, ashamed, unwanted and not good enough. I wanted to leave all my insecurities, jealousy, anger, sadness, and hurt feelings out on that trail to be trampled in the dirt and find my confidence, self-esteem, and happiness again. I wanted to be my fun and radient self again. I wanted to confirm that I am worthy and that I can do hard things! I did that.
This weekend I had total strangers treat me with such kindness, I had friends that cared about my well being, and I had more well wishes than I could count. Thank you all. I can't tell you what it meant to me. I needed to be reminded that I am blessed.
I have been toying with the idea of doing a 100 miler for my 100th marathon. People were asking after the 50 miler if I still wanted to do it. Yesterday, I would say no, but today, HELL YES! Now I need to pick one!
I want to say a HUGE THANK YOU to the Race Directors and volunteers for putting on such a wonderful event! I had a blast!
Texas is in the books!