Monday, February 9, 2009

2009 Rocky Raccoon 100 Race Report

Over the past few years the Rocky Raccoon 100, under the extraordinary leadership of Race Director Joe Prusaitis, has enjoyed consistent growth and become recognized as an extremely well-organized, logistically simple 100 mile trail run.

Known as one the “easier” 100’s, Rocky Raccoon draws veterans and newbies to Huntsville State Park 60 miles north of Houston every February to run five 20-mile loops through the park. This year Joe made significant changes to the course and, while the general terrain was still the same as in the past, the course contained far fewer dirt road sections and far more rooted, winding, sandy, single-track trail sections. From my perspective and for a runner of my ability I felt this added about 10-15 minutes per loop over the previous course.

My day started pretty well as I fell into a lead group with Scott Jaime and Jonathan Gunderson. During the first 20-mile circuit we chatted about our summer running plans (Jonathan – Badwater, Scott – Hardrock, and me – the WS/HRH double) and got a sense of the day. By the time we came around to the start/finish (in a new location from past year’s which cut out ¼ mile of pavement) we had settled into a nice pace and began to feel the heat coming on (temperatures ultimately reached the low-80’s). I took a bit longer in the Aid Station than Scott and Jonathan took a bit longer than me so we left for Loop 2 in that order.

I pushed a bit for the first 10 minutes of Loop 2 thinking I could catch back up to Scott but he appeared to be making a move so I let him go. By the time I got to Dam Road (Mile 26) he had a 90 second lead on me that he built to about five minutes by the end of Loop 2. He looked steady and strong on each of the out and back sections and it was shaping up to be a pretty good race. In addition, Jamie Donaldson, one of the strongest female 100-mile runners in the country, was cruising along about 10 minutes behind me and I knew she would be close all day.

Loop 3 went well. The temperatures were starting to rise but a nice breeze was keeping it manageable. My nutrition plan of eating all solid foods and sports drink for the first 60 miles seemed to be working and my legs felt strong. By the time I approached the turnaround at Mile 60 Scott’s lead was a bout five minutes and I thought I might have a chance to make up some ground on Loop 4. I also spent a bit of time at this turnaround talking with Joe and Kevin Sullivan (the 50 mile race winner and my crew for the last two loops) and Joe said he had a pacer for me for Loop 5 if I wanted one.

I left the 60 Mile mark at 8:55 on the clock and was thinking 15:30-16:00 might be enough to win. I pushed pretty hard up to Dam Road at Mile 66 and as I was leaving the aid station I saw Scott about two minutes up the trail. It was a long, straightaway section so I was able to keep him in my sights. After about two miles I met up with him, we chatted a bit, and I ran on. He seemed pretty tired but I wasn’t sure if I’d seen the last of him. Not only is Scott tough but he’s fast and his experiences at Hardrock and other mountainous 100’s suggested to me that he would be patient and smart. By the time I got back to the start/finish at Mile 80 I had a five minute lead and was in and out by 12:15 on the clock. The race was on!

I quickly filled up my bottles and grabbed seven gels (my plan had been to switch over to all gels and sports drink for the last 40 miles as my stored glycogen was clearly tapped out by this time! Needless to say, I’d be eating one gel every 25 minutes for the last loop). I also was joined on this loop by Larry King, Olga Varlamova’s boyfriend, who, even though we had never met, seemed to know exactly what I’d need to do to finish strong. At about Mile 94 he told me that there was light behind us and it was gaining. He said, “I’d bet money that it’s Scott.” We put the hammer down and ran hard for the next hour. I came across the line in 15:58 and Scott came in about 12 minutes later. However, we came to learn that he was with 2 minutes of me with four miles to go. It was good reminder for me of how a pacer can help late in the race.

After finishing we had a blast hanging out and seeing Jamie finish (3rd overall, first place woman) was a thrill. After an hour or so of smack talking and generally being my usual obnoxious post-race self Kevin and I left for the hotel and a quick night’s sleep before my 9AM flight on Sunday.

One final note: I had always wanted to try running every step of a 100 miler and in this race I did it. With the exception of a few walking strides on my way out of the aid stations I ran the entire race. I am not sure if my time was better than it would have been had I walked but it was fun to try and was good mental training for Western States (where I certainly won’t run every step!)


Anonymous said...

Super race, Andy. Putting that much time on someone with Scott's ability at the end is really impressive. Have a great recovery week.

Olga said...

Sweet start for the year! Now you are set for the next trilogy:) Congrats again! Final push always good to have for memories!

TonyP said...

Way to go Andy ! Congrats on a great race. Ran every step ! Amazing.

Paul DeWitt said...

Nice race AJW! Way to run a smart race.

Since Fast Ed couldn't take you down on his own, watch out for our CRUD tag team tactics at WTC - us old CRUD dudes have to stick together!

- pauld

Alicia said...

Nice run amigo. Sign of good things to come.

Geoff said...

nice run andy. that's sweet that you ran the entire thing... you could probably go sub 20 at hardrock if you run the entire thing. rest up.

Unknown said...

You're tough late! You're tough period! Next time give me a little sign - look back and flash your headlamp so I know where your at.

Nice running amigo! WTC+PBR=karaoke

AJW said...

Good one, Geoff. Run the entire thing at HRH, funny. I'm thinking sub-40.


Brandon Fuller said...

Congrats on a February 100.

Gundy said...

Great race, Andy. That was the most fun I've had during the first 20 of a 100-miler in a long time, just chattin' it up. Right knee gave me problems after mile 60, but even with a healthy body you're one tough runner. Way to stay consistently strong.

Anonymous said...

Hey Andy -

As I was reading your recap, I was hoping for Scott to catch you. It would've been fun if you finished second and we could slap the Bridesmaid label on you one more time. Still, it's very impressive that you held him off and even stretched your lead. Congratulations!

- Garett

AJW said...

Thanks Garett! I actually asked Scott if he wanted a pair of white sequined gloves and a bouquet for the post-race picture. He was not amused.

Scott Dunlap said...

The bridesmaid label is soooo 2007. It's top o' the podium for AJW!

Congrats, AJ. Hope you are having a great recovery!


Michael Alfred said...

Hey Andy,
I was the guy who said that I enjoyed reading your blog and said you were an animal when I saw you on your 4th loop. Unfortunately, it was my first 100 and I started out too fast and didn't drink enough water and had to drop at 80. I was inspired by your performance (I heard your pacer trying to convince you that Scott was coming after you left the Dam Road aid station) and will be gearing up for my 2nd attempt at the distance. See you out there again soon.

LK said...

Great to see the race from your perspective. Thanks for the opportunity to run with you for 20 miles. Hope you're recovering well. All the best at WTC!

Anonymous said...

Nice job Andy. You passed me at mile 50 for me and 70 for you. You looked really strong and steady all day. Wayne

Anonymous said...

solid work Andy. Well done!


Anonymous said...

Good job Andy! I have been ribbing you pretty heavy on the LB's blog, however you ran great, very solid run and another victory!

I'd like to see a blog entry on your weight, how it varies in the year, how you control it, how much beer you really drink in a week?

You're another big guy for ultrarunning, I'd like hear the struggles of a real world guy, dad, that works full-time like yourself.

Craig Thornley said...


What an exciting race. Great job. I wish I was there pacing you the last lap. Sounds like Larry did a good job of keeping you safe - that is what pacers are for, right?

Rest up my friend.

Anonymous said...

Congrats Andy! You looked rock solid all day long. We enjoyed watching the race unfold out at Dam Road. It was really exciting when you came into our aid station so close behind Scott J in loop 4. You had the eye of the tiger and he did not at that time. I am glad to hear that he at leased pushed you a bit after you took the lead! Very well run race, my friend...

Lynn B
Dam Road AS Captain

Lisa Smith-Batchen said...

How awesome...keep on inspiring us all!
Larry such a fine, fine person:)

Mark Tanaka (Ultrailnakaman) said...

Nice hammer and 1st place finish (you're over your old 2nd-place complex, right?)