What aspects of the race did you like the most? I love the loops. The predictability of this race make it really manageable both psychologically and logistically. The weather. We had a perfect day. Chilly in the morning, not humid during the day, and generally overcast. This made for fast running conditions. Positive vibe. There is a good feeling at this race. I’ve been here five out of the past seven years and it’s just a fun place to race. It’s not that Huntsville, TX has anything special I like, but when I’m in the state park at this race, it feels good, both as a racer and as a crew/support person.
Race: Rocky Raccoon 100
Runner: Matt U
Location: Huntsville, TX
Results – 14:04.08 (3rd place overall)
3 Bests – what aspects of the race did you like the most
- I love the loops. The predictability of this race make it really manageable both psychologically and logistically.
- The weather. We had a perfect day. Chilly in the morning, not humid during the day, and generally overcast. This made for fast running conditions.
- Positive vibe. There is a good feeling at this race. I’ve been here five out of the past seven years and it’s just a fun place to race. It’s not that Huntsville, TX has anything special I like, but when I’m in the state park at this race, it feels good, both as a racer and as a crew/support person.
Not so much – aspects of the race that didn’t do it for you
- We still have to wear this darn ankle chip timing device. It cuts up my skin and was my biggest race “wound” I had to recover from. It’s time for them to catch up with technology advances and get some better timing devices. And while I’m on this topic, given that they have us a wear a timing device, it would be really nice if they had more tracking check points for spectators at home to follow. It’s a small park and it seems reasonable to have more checkpoints than just every 20 miles.
Highlights of your race – what did you do well and enjoy about your race in particular
- I managed this 100 mile race better than any 100 miler I’ve ever run – this was my 10th attempt at the distance. I stayed in control all day, I pushed myself but stayed within my capabilities, and I worked hard all the way until the finish. I had a huge PR and I finished 3rd in the race. I have felt for a long time that I was capable of this and it was so awesome to finally put it all together on race day. I remember a specific spot on my way back to Damnation aid station on loop 5 when a Macklemore song I’d never heard before came up on my mix – Ten Thousand Hours. I got goosebumps and wanted to pump my fists in the air as certain lines totally clicked at that moment with me. The gist of it is that people that do well at their craft do so because they put in the time and they work hard to become what they want. I felt it all coming together out there this year at Rocky and it felt awesome!
Lessons for others – share your pro-tips on the race to help the next runner
- It’s not flat and there are lots of things to trip over. Train on trails and learn to pick up your feet and maneuver through uneven and rooty trail so that when you’re tired during this race, you don’t kick a root, fall on your face, or tweak something and ruin your race. And while there are no big climbs, it’s rarely flat. There are constant rollers that are runnable (I ran the entire course), but most people will likely need/want to walk at some point, so be ready for this and don’t let it mess up your mental game when the little hills don’t feel so little later on.
- Along the lines of my first point, have a good headlamp so you can see the roots well. I love my Petzl Nao and never felt like I had trouble seeing the rocks and roots. The first 45 minutes is in the dark and there will be dark before the finish so do yourself a favor and make sure you have a comfortable and highly effective headlamp!
Aesthetics – is it a pretty course
- It’s nearly all in the woods of SE Texas. If that’s your thing then it’s pretty. I don’t run this race for the aesthetics. 🙂
Difficulty – is it a tough course
- It’s 100 miles, it’s all runnable, but running for 100 miles is difficult.
Organized and well run – did it feel like a well-oiled machine or were they flying by the seat of their pants?
- They’ve got this race down. It was smooth and I had no logistical problems whatsoever.
Competition – is there a strong field?
- Fast times. Some years are faster than others. It’s been the USATF national championship race for the past few years so it typically brings at least a few fast folks.
Logistics – Does it require a special handshake, registration a year in advance, hotels all booked? Give us the low down on the nuts and bolts of making the race happen.
- I don’t think it sells out. Packet pickup is straightforward. Crewing, aid, drop bags – all that stuff is standard with no weird rules to abide by.
- I feel really good about how I handled this aspect of my race, and as such, I can’t comment much on the aid stations. I heard others saying how awesome the aid stations and their volunteers were, but I only utilized them for refilling Tailwind at Damnation aid station each loop. I drank most of my calories, but had crew handing me new bottles at all aid stations except Damnation, so I rarely had to stop. I ate my own food, primarily Pringles, along with some Clif Bloks. I had a couple ginger chew candies early on and three gels total on the day, but all of this was from my crew. I also had big hits of Starbucks Coldbrew coffee through the middle three laps which tasted great and gave me some caffeine. My stomach was good all day. At one point I pounded too many calories and had to wait to eat again for longer than normal. My fingers got a little puffy at one point so I backed off on liquids for a bit and ate more Pringles. And on lap 5 when I got to pushing myself harder, I went with gels and Tailwind so as to take less risk with food and stomach issues while I pushed it to the finish. Super happy with how this big logistical piece played out.
I was able to have one for the last 40 miles. My teammate Alan was there for me for the final loop and it was really helpful having him there with me. I told him ahead of time how I work with pacers and what my expectations were and everything went according to plan. We literally said maybe 30 words to each other the entire time, I ran in front of him, and I even kept my headphones in. However, his presence those final 20 miles definitely helped me to stay on my game and to work hard all the way until the end.
Gear – did you need anything special or is there anything you’d recommend for the next guy?
- I wore my Salomon 12L vest (more comfortable than my 5L) – it was nowhere close to fully packed. I wore my Salomon compression shorts, my compression racing shirt, and Nike Wildhorse 3 shoes. Everything went smoothly with gear and I didn’t have to change anything out all day. As always, I recommend practicing with what you’re going to race with and to go with what gets the job done and is most comfortable to you. For me, it’s my tight clothes and my pink compression socks!
Spectators – is this a friendly course for your friends
- Depends on how much they want to move around. They can be at Mile 0, 3, 16, and 20 of each loop if they want to make the effort to move along the main road in the park. They could also just camp out at the start/finish and catch you every 20 miles. And while there aren’t a ton of spectators on the course, there are so many loops and out and back sections that I was always seeing runners and giving and receiving support that it didn’t matter that spectators weren’t overly plentiful.
- Altra giftcards for some of the top finishers along with some yard art. Belt buckles for all finishers. There was cash for some of the top finishers if they are USATF members.
The Overall Score – how many stars do you give this race and do you recommend that others run it
- 5 out of 5 stars. I love this race, and I love it all the more now that I nailed a 14:04!