I must be crazy...
Rocky Raccoon 100 Mile Race 2016 was my 3rd attempt at the century run. At RR 100 last year, I ran 80 miles, but missed the cutoff time by a few minutes. I don’t think I would have made the first aid station in one hour anyway. I was beat down, blistered, and had rolled my ankle at mile 79.
Cactus Rose 2015 was my second try. I trained hard all summer with plantar fasciitis in my left foot and fell victim to a mental DNF. I let the rain, cold, mud, and puddles stop me at 65 miles. This was demoralizing. I trained super hard for this race and didn’t succeed.
But running life goes on…I ran two road marathons in the last few weeks of 2015 in hopes that maybe, just maybe, with these long runs, I could give Rocky another go. Fred, a new massage therapist, fixed my plantar fasciitis by driving the entire weight of his body onto his elbow and into my damaged foot. It worked!
After running Bandera 50K in January with my wife Kathy (her first ultra), I calculated that it was time to give running a break and try to heal my foot completely, then come back in Summer 2016. However…
The guys were all going to Rocky Raccoon to go run the 100…David Zuniga, Ben Martinez, Jesse Cruz, German Medrazo, and Joel Olivarez. I couldn’t resist joining the fun! I seriously thought to myself, maybe I will run better with that many of my friends running it, too? I began to ask a small group of people if they thought it was a sound idea for me to give it another go. Kyle Evans, my lifelong friend, tells me to go for it. David Zuniga says “check your mileage compared to last year’s training.” Ben and Joel also gave me a green light. To make my final decision, I had to go to the boss: German Medrazo, my running Godfather and mentor. He seals the deal by tugging at my heartstrings: “your friends are gonna be out there, you know you want to be out there, too. It’s in you already. You know you’d rather be out there than be working. It doesn’t matter if you finish or DNF, you will still gain knowledge about yourself!” German swung the votes. I decided to go for it.
I was gonna finish this time. I read my post-race notes from last year…what to do, what not to do. I was mentally ready for this even if my training wasn’t there. So I set out Saturday 6am, set my Garmin, and began the journey. I just made up my mind that I was going to be out there all day, all night, and watch the sunrise, so I needed to just stay moving no matter what kinds of pains or problems might come along later in the race. I knew it would take me nearly the full 30 hours (twenty eight hours and forty minutes to be exact). Oh, and I had no pacer either. I had to push through loops 4 and 5 on my own. But you know what…I got it done!
I don’t want to sound presumptuous. I know I’m just a first-timer at completing this 100 mile race thing, but I guess I do have some valuable insight to share with all of you guys and gals who are contemplating a “hunnerd” as Benergy Martinez calls it.
Here’s what worked for me at Rocky Raccoon 2016:
1. In the first two loops I drank lots of water and drank liquid calories. You have to keep hydrated in the sneaky humidity of the park and get calories flowing quickly into your bloodstream. Liquid calories work fastest, Gu gels are syrup, so they digest quickly, too. And...I had a great nutrition plan. I packaged and labeled everything in baggies and wrote calorie amounts on every bag. I put each loop's items in quart size bags at the start area, so that I wasted zero time. All I did was pick up the bag, grab my refills on water, walk out to the next loop and separate everything int my SPI belt and vest and short pockets.
2. I started eating solids in the second loop. Trail mix and gummies…oh and lots of water and tailwind. Every hour I was drinking 15 ounces of water and 15 ounces of tailwind except for that 7 mile loop of damnation…I couldn’t drink more than what I could carry in my bottles, so I drank less frequently so that the 2 bottles would last the loop. Oh and I didn’t stop very long at any aid station. My goal was to get out of them fast. I would grab a handful of pringles, some pretzels, 3 or 4 quesadillas, refill my bottles and take off!
3. Loop 3 started getting cold! So I would grab a cup of soup every station plus the quesadillas and chips…and I was still eating the gummies and trail mix, but less trail mix now. The cheeseburger (1/4 piece) at park road aid station was amazing. It got real cold towards the end of that loop and I had to put on my cactus rose hoodie on top of what I was wearing. By the way, I used my old iphone as an ipod and just used the speakers on it to listen to music. It worked great because I didn’t have to use headphones. I think a few runners out there liked my tunes, so I kept using it for loops 3 and 4. My playlist was 11 hours worth of tunes, lol.
4. I didn’t have a pacer. As I left for loop 4 I started getting really, really drowsy. I could not for the life of me keep my eyes open. I caught myself drifting off to sleep for a few seconds at a time while I was jogging. I had to start walking because I was afraid of tripping and falling those first 3 miles of the loop. When I got to nature center, I downed a full cup of black coffee (I never drink coffee while racing) because I was desperate to wake up. I even went to the restroom and washed my face with cold water. It worked for a while but after damnation I got drowsy again. I had tried coffee, caffeinated tailwind, caffeinated salt pills…nothing worked. But then I had my banana chips with me, so I began eating them and guess what? They woke me up. I don’t know what it was, the crunching, the taste, or the smell of them, but they kept me awake! I kept a close eye on my time. I had to be sure to get done before 6am. I was a little fuzzy already, so I couldn’t really calculate my finish time. I pushed hard the last part of the loop and made it to the start line at 4:30 or so.
5. I knew at this point, all I had to do was keep walking briskly and jog here and there and I could finish! I didn’t stop but 2-3 minutes and got back out for the last loop. I ate gummies, drank Gu rocktane grape drink, and took a couple of Gu rocktane gels. I didn’t eat solids other than banana chips, gummies, and a pancake at damnation (yum!). I wanted to hurry and not fall behind on time. I thought about banking time so that if I wanted, I could walk the last 4 miles. So that’s what I did. I pretty much walked the last 4 miles knowing I had plenty of time to get in before 30 hours!
By the way, I never sat down. Not once. Call it superstition or whatever, but it was my plan. I focused on staying on my feet and moving forward. Oh and the stuff I packed for damnation? I didn’t even use any of it. I only used that drop bag to put my headlamp, hat, and gloves for the return trip on the way back to the finish line. Unfortunately, none of my friends were at the finish line at 10:40ish am and I didn’t have my phone to take pictures at the finish, so that bummed me out a little bit. I didn’t get to talk to Chris McWatters either…he was busy. But Thomas Orf gave me my buckle, so that was cool.
Thank you thank you thank you to ALL of the amazing volunteers at the aid stations. Y'all helped me get to that finish line!!!
Hoka challenger shoes
Balega blister resist crew length socks
Ultimate direction hardrock vest
Spi belt to hold gummies
New Balance running compression tights
Asics running shorts with big pockets to hold food and stuff
Garmin 310 XT, Garmin Forerunner 230, and my trusty Casio G-shock watch.
Honey stinger chews
Cranberry trail mix
Gu gels…regular and rocktane
Cranberry trail mix
Soups at aid stations
Quesadillas at aid stations
Water water water! 30 oz per hour first 5 hours then down to 15 oz and other bottle with tailwind or gu rocktane
GU rocktane grape drink
2-3 shots of coke at aid stations
a couple of cups of coffee at aid stations during the zombie stages of loops 4-5.
People to thank:
My wife Kathy who fills the depth of my soul with love and encouragement, my kids Hannah, Daniel, and powerhouse Zara, and Grandma (my mom). German Medrazo (the godfather) who designed the best plan for me and got me here, Lucia Amevia (the godmother) who takes care of us at Valley Running Company, Kyle Evans who always tells me "you're crazy!", David "the beast" Zuniga (the fastest runner in the South), Jesse (don't give him a microphone) Cruz, Joel Olivarez (why do you always doubt yourself, Orlie?), Benergy Martinez (the toughest runner I have ever seen), Dallas Nieto (the strong runner), Gabe (I wear racing flats at Bandera) Garza, Donna, Normita, Louisa, Cris, Mario Rodriguez and ALL the gang at RGV Trailrunners…Bill Ewton, Dale Cougot the Texas Yeti, Liz Galaviz my massage therapist, Sami Cho, Andy Ramos (laid back...I got my mind on my money and my money on my mind) and avid Whataburger enthusiast, Fred for fixing my plantar fasciitis, my students who believed in me and encouraged me to go for it, and most of all, my father God in heaven who watches over me as I do these races.