Texas weather is unpredictable. It was dry for this race all of about 2 hours. After that – it rained hard, then just sprinkled for 4 hours, rained hard again, sprinkled some more, got foggy, then sprinkled some more. I saw some of the gnarliest falls – from trips and falls. First mile this old guy tripped, broke his glasses, and tore up his elbow. Saw the same guy later in the race do a Charlie Brown fall when Lucy pulls the football away. The Dude’s feet went up over his head, it was awesome – but only because it wasn’t me and he didn’t get terribly hurt…
Race: Rocky Raccoon 100
Runner: Stephen D
Location: Huntsville, TX
- Texas people are very nice people. And they have their crap together. It made everything really fun and entertaining.
- The trails are actually pretty nice trails, they are soft, covered in roots and very runnable.
- Because you do the loop multiple times –
- You know exactly how far you have to go
- You know when you are getting close to an aid station
- You know when you are getting close to finishing a climb or descent
- You know when you are getting close to the finish itself
- You can have a planned pace and easily check your pace throughout the race
- You actually get a firsthand glimpse into what is happening at the front of the race since they will come flying back by you (multiple times)!
- BONUS: if you see a root that looks like a snake – after the 3rd time you are freaked out by it, you might (and I say might – since late in the race you might hallucinate a snake) realize that stupid root you’ve seen 6 times now is NOT really a snake.
Not so much:
- Texas weather is unpredictable. It was dry for this race all of about 2 hours. After that – it rained hard, then just sprinkled for 4 hours, rained hard again, sprinkled some more, got foggy, then sprinkled some more. I saw some of the gnarliest falls – from trips and falls. First mile this old guy tripped, broke his glasses, and tore up his elbow. Saw the same guy later in the race do a Charlie Brown fall when Lucy pulls the football away. The Dude’s feet went up over his head, it was awesome – but only because it wasn’t me and he didn’t get terribly hurt…
- The mud or more so, the clay. I personally love wet and environmentally demanding races, but didn’t seem to manage well here. It was so freaking slippery. Water on dirt is fine, unless that dirt is clay. I’d say 2/3rd of the route we ran this year was covered in clay type dirt and it was very very slippery. So slippery in fact that I tore my calf muscle due to slipping going up a small incline.
- As I ran the first mile I said to myself – these roots aren’t so bad, then I saw that old guy go down, then in a matter of 20 more minutes watched multiple more people trip all over the place. I got really worried that would be me later in the race. Luckily I was relegated to a crawl with my busted ass calf so didn’t get the opportunity to actually run much past mile 65 but if I had, I am sure the roots would have been calling my name. Tripping sucks, and I saw plenty of bloody knees and elbows to know that I don’t want to trip.
- There are some seriously impressive people that run these races. It was great to see a very large assortment of people running. There was a 14 year old kid, an 82 year old man, large people, small people etc. Sometimes I would see people that were absolutely crushing the race, and I would continuously ask how the heck they were so fast! At the same time, I know a lot can happen in a hundred and any given day people can have a race of their lives or a tough outing. That is what makes these races interesting. Anyone that has the guts to step out on a race course is simply an awesome person regardless –even when they are faster than me ☺
- Other thing I saw was people taking naps at aid stations. Hadn’t seen that before, and I wanted to but didn’t.
- Seeing the race develop, it was inspiring to see the leaders come back at me each time on the loops, some of them are very intense
- Running with my buddy Dan. I had a great time, and they provided the exact amount of motivation I needed to keep me going, without ever going back into the Demon cave (I was in the pain cave from mile 65 on).
- Running my second 100 miler and completing it as well as getting to see Dan finish his first 100 miler.
- Having my dad not have to worry about logistics. He knew where to go each time, since it was the same!
- I did take my lessons learned from my last race and executed them well.
- Seeing 2 sun rises is fun, but they weren’t true sun rises since it was more cloudy and rainy.
Lessons for next time
- I think I will plan on having my feet taped before the race ever starts. My pinky toes, my insteps and my heels. For whatever reason I can run 50 milers and 100k’s no problem, but with 100 miles I get blisters. Having your feet taped mid race eats up time.
- I would have liked to not have pulled my calf. Not sure how to prevent that though… Stupid calf.
- The only thing I can think of is not running two 100 mile races within 3-4 months.
- I feel like I started well, I was perfectly on the pace I wanted to be on. I think I hit 50 miles at almost 11 hours perfectly. If it weren’t for my calf, I was really happy with my performance until that point. Plus I finished, and to me that meant a lot. My dad told me at one point, you can go home and people will say “yeah a torn calf –that sucks, stopping makes sense” or “DANG! You finished 100 miles with a torn calf!?” Not sure if that was stupid or not, but darn it my dad has a way of motivating me to keep going…
- The other thing is that there are a TON of people that run this race. The first loop was extra crowded because the volume of people. Just be patient, it thins out pretty quick.
Most Important Course specific knowledge
- Don’t go out too fast unless you are Matt Urbanski. It’s easy to do. Don’t do it.
- They say the roots come out at night. To hell with that! They are out all day long. All day, all night. They don’t go away. Even when I had been relegated to a walk they were still there, making you look down constantly. Just waiting to take one of your toenails off, or worse take you down to the ground.
- Keep your attention on the trail, and what I mean by this, is don’t turn your head around to look back and try to keep running. I saw more people trip or slip this way. It is silly and an easy way to get hurt.
- Fix small issues early. If you have a rock in your shoe. Stop and take it out, don’t let it manifest and cause bigger problems later. I did wear gaiters which I would recommend.
- If you have Verizon, cell coverage is actually pretty good. My buddy Dan ran with his Garmin and its live tracking feature told my dad and Dan’s parents exactly where we were at all times. That was pretty slick and made things really convenient for them. It was great.
- This year we did a weird loop that was not the normal course, but the out and back for the 3rd aid station was a turn around point. It only had gels and water, so if you plan on needing more food or calories, pack extra when leaving Damnation.
- ALWAYS check in with the aid station to make sure your number was captured. There was some drama of someone cheating because their number didn’t get captured. He was actually DQ’d. So just make sure someone gets your number at each aid station and everything is good.
- Yes this is sort of a pretty course. It had some nice features like running by a lake. BUT, compare this to something like Whistler Alpine Meadows, then this race is lacking. The big draw is the speed, convenience, and ease of crewing
- This is not a super easy course for three reasons (they say this is a great beginner 100 miler, and I tend to agree mostly due to the atmosphere this race provides).
- There is NOTHING easy about 100 miles. Period. I don’t care if it were bone flat, 100 miles is a long friggin distance!
- The unpredicatability of the race
- Getting wet, cold, frozen, overheated, dehydrated are all potential issues. It all depends on the weather
- The trail
- Roots – need I say more. These aren’t your normal roots, these are big ass roots. WA trails have some roots, but the saying that everything is bigger in Texas fully applies here.
- The trails were never really conducive to getting some good speed going. There was not really a place where I felt like I could easily get a flow going. There are lots of turns and no real straightaways. If there were, unfortunately they were so muddy we could hardly get anything going on them.
Organized and well run
- Very well run. Tejas trails has got this race so well-greased, it was amazing, they had so much food, water, drinks, aid station help, and folks providing the most amazing aid it was fantastic!
- They even had feet people at multiple aid stations (the main one and damnation) that took good care of my feet.
- I liked the half-way point aid station Damnation – it was a music party and the folks there were genuinely having fun but being super helpful!
- This is a USATF trail 100 mile championship race – or something like that. So it brings with it some speed. Interestingly it doesn’t bring a ton of sponsored runners, but there was still some solid speed out there.
- I on the other hand was far too back to really care about the competition aspect for myself so it didn’t matter to me. (Other than wanting to know how I am doing)
- It is relatively easy to get to. It’s about 45 minutes from the Houston airport
- There are no hotels immediately close nearby, so me and my dad (and Dan) stayed at an air bnb within 20 minutes of the race.
- There is a 5 dollar charge for entry into the park, so on race morning, there is a huge line that builds to get into the park – plan to leave 20 minutes earlier than normal to wait in line. THIS IS DISCUSSED IN THE RACE PACKET BUT PLENTY OF PEOPLE MISSED IT.
- Drop bags for Damnation were supposed to be dropped off the day before the race at packet pickup. I missed that fact, but it didn’t hinder me much since the aid stations were so good.
- Drop bags for the main headquarters were dropped by the runner on the morning of, and it was labeled by bib number.
- There were no trail work requirements or prerequisites to run this race, which made things simple.
- Great aid stations.
- They really were efficient at the aid stations, if you wanted to get in and out, the aid workers were really good about helping folks out. If you wanted to chill and recover, they would help with that too.
Weather and typical race conditions
- This is what I discussed earlier – it was WET, MUDDY, and mid 50’s, but variable every year.
- A vest is good here, but I saw plenty of folks just using a hand held water bottle.
- A sock change is recommended every loop unless your feet are bullet proof. If you start getting blisters – take care of that stuff early since it will do nothing but get worse as you go along.
- This is not a super spectator friendly course, but I am not really sure what 100 miler is… Your family and friends get to see you at the HQ and that is it. You start and end at the HQ, and you go through it at least 1 time each loop. This race makes sense if your crew has a tendency to get lost, or you want to make it easy on them.
- The packet says your crew can meet you at other aid stations so long as they walk. My dad actually hiked out to another aid station which was great and was really helpful. His watch said he put in about 40 miles by the end of the day.
- Everyone that finished the 100 mi got a nice chrome buckle. If you go sub 24 hours, you get a bigger fancier one that says you did it sub 24.
- I give this race an 6.5 out of 10. It was right up my alley in terms of difficulty (from an overall difficulty due to 100 miles) but by the fourth loop I hated the course, I hated the mud and well, I hated my calf especially. Seeing the race happen live was pretty cool and it was inspiring to see the top people going so fast especially in those conditions. I’d be interested to know what the regular course is like, but really don’t have a desire to go back down there. It was a nice set of trails (when they were dry) and the course was fast, but 100 miles is a long way, and I am looking forward to some more mountains on my next one. On to Cascade Crest!