Thursday, November 10, 2011

My trail running debut: The Rocky Raccoon 25k

Rocky Raccoon 25k (November 5, 2011)

Finishing time was 2:35:27.5, which is a 10:02 per mile pace.
Finished 80 out of 240 finishers overall in the 25K Run Race.
Finished 67 out of 132 finishers in the Male Overall Age Group.

Elevation Gain: 2673.9 ft
Elevation Loss: 2680.4 ft

Wow! What can I say? Today was truly epic. We’ll begin with last night. Rachel and I arrived at the hotel around 9PM and I tried several taping strategies for my feet. I rolled my left ankle the Monday prior and have been resting ever sense. I’ve also had a neuroma in my right foot, so the race was up in the air. We settled on the taping (support for both ankles, footpad pain, and plantar fascia on my right foot) and went to bed. I was asleep by 11pm.
Everything is Ready to Go
I got up at 4am and had breakfast but was too excited to go back to sleep. I got ready and arrived at the park with Rachel at 6:15am, got checked in and loosened up a bit.

I eat some GU and the race started promptly at 7am; we set out as a pack into the silent darkness. I had my headlamp, which was a big hit with those around me (I have Petzl with 60 lumens). I was overwhelmed with how beautiful everything was. Just under 300 folks setting out on the trails together. The air was a crisp 45F but it was still. Perfect conditions. The first two miles or so were very rooty, so rooty in fact that I nearly rolled both ankles. (YIKES)

As we started out, I went with the pack, which was heading out at ~10 min/mi. The pace was faster than I had aimed for (12 min/mi was my goal pace), but it felt good so I decided to keep it up as long as I felt that it was manageable. My first 3 miles, I averaged 10:32 and enjoyed the company of some new friends in the dark.

After the first 3 miles, my legs were feeling very strong and so I decided to simply run by feel and see where things headed. I could always reel things in, right? I came into the first aid station pumped to try some Heed (from Hammer). I ran in, grabbed two cups. Downed the first and carried the second about 20 feet as I padded back down the road. Shortly after that it was time for my first GU (Roctane) during the race. As I finished eating I realized how good I felt and a big grin covered my face. As I ran, I began to consider picking things up a bit and tried to chase down this ironman finisher in his late 50s (probably) (a Houston area pastor, named Greg) who was about .25 miles down the road.

I caught him about 2 miles later and pattered by, feeling pretty good about myself (let’s forget that he could be my father!). My average for miles 4-6 was 9:17 min/mi. Greg caught back up and I (along with a guy about my age, Jonathan) trotted down the jeep road, chatting for the next 6 miles or so. I hit the 7 mile aid station the same way I hit the first: I only stopped to grab two cups, downed them, moved on. Ate another GU about 10 minutes later. During the next 3 miles (miles 7-9) we slowed down a bit (averaging 9:45 min/mi) and I considered breaking from the group and moving on, but thought it best to stay and enjoy the conversation. We talked ultrarunning and ironmen. I started to flag at this point and nearly rolled both ankles again (4 total near rolls!) and almost face planted 3 or 4 times when my toe caught a root. Fortunately, I never fell or rolled my ankle (side note: one of the 50k runners fell no less that 9 times! he was a bloody mess at the finish line).

Feeling Very Good at Around Mile 7

Beginning at mile 12 we all started to separate as each of us picked things up as we were able. There was an unattended water station at mile 12 and Jonathan took off after that. I did not see him again until the finish line. I held off Greg for a while but his ironman legs took the hills better than mine and he passed me by before too long. No worries, I reminded myself, I was already destroying my goal time and running my own “race” (it was a training run, but I was treating as something in between at this point).

I had planned on picking things up at mile 12 and dropping 8 min/miles but my hip flexors didn’t feel like they would cooperate and the hills suggested the smarter course of action would be to hold as close to a 10 min pace as I could. Closing in on mile 15, I felt really good psychologically and cardiovascularly but my legs ached considerably. My ankles both began to feel a bit weak back at mile 10, which hadn’t distracted me too much, but that was a sign of the wear and tear I was experiencing. The final mile was a pretty drastic downhill, but I spent the first half of it reserving energy because I thought I that I was going to have to go back up it before finishing. Once I realized that the downhill would end at the finish line, I picked things up and pushed as hard as I could. The final half mile was an 8:45 average, but the final quarter was around 7:40.

I sprinted to the finish line, hearing Rachel cheerme on, along with the rest of the crowd. It was an incredible feeling.
Savoring the victory... I beat the course.
It’s official. I’m addicted to trail running. I’ll definitely be back next year, probably for the Hog’s Hunt in April, but certainly for Rocky Raccoon...only the 50k leg this time. Bring it.

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