YABRR: Rocky Raccoon 2018 Edition
Updated: Dec 14, 2018
For what ended up being a short race for me, this will probably be a long report. As usual, all the important stuff is above the line.
Besides thanking each and every runner out there (and with this years course you were guaranteed to see everyone), and the race staff, once I again I have to thank the crazies at DDR who staffed the Gate aid station. My guess is I'll miss someone (sorry). Nikki, Agustin, Marcela, Billy, Ines, Susan, Ginny, Elaine, Brent, Michael, Rolando, Matthew, Mike, and Andy. Without y'all there is no way I'd have made it as far as I did. As always, Shellene.
The morning started off with fantastic running conditions on the new course. The new course goes straight just past the road crossing and bypasses the conga-line section at the start. I was feeling a little bit froggy, so I started off close to the front and hammered (my version of hammering that is) early. I knew that I was going to pay for that, since there really wasn't much in my legs after last weekend, but I wanted to burn the boats big time - and I did. Spent a portion of the first lap with Lowell and Matt, during this time we got some light rain, just enough to add a layer of slickness to the trail. The section past Damnation had been modified, you could see what was left of the old bridges as you went past them. In this section there is one bridge that has a steep exit, I did the dreaded one foot slide on it. First lap done sub 4:30, very happy with that time since it was almost all motivation and cardio. Took in a good amount of liquid and real food (BP&J, cheese quesadillas) , while skipping tail wind (I decided to just use electrolyte tablets).
Quick turn at the start/finish and off on lap two. I knew I was going to have a drop-off, and expected it to be about an hour. The conditions were getting worse, as more rain fell. Lots of slick mud. In the week leading up to the race there was discussion about running it in road shoes. I didn't post: "Road shoes are fine, unless it rains", since I didn't want to curse the event - hopefully folks in road shoes were prepared. During this stretch I got some sad new, Shaheen was rolling her ankles and decided to play it smart (this wasn't her "A" race). I made it to the Gate(s of Hell) Aid station and picked up my spare lightweight jacket.
INTERLUDE, the jacket: At Bandera I started with a lightweight Brooks jacket, knowing that I'd remove it and stow it on my belt early. My plan was to put it in my drop bag at Nachos. When I got to Nachos they couldn't find my bag. I spotted Brent's drop bag and threw it in there. I let him know I had done that when I saw him on the course, and told him I'd get it from him later. After the race we both forgot about it, so he brought it to the aid station for me.
I also added a new trick to my collection. A hydroflask with 3/4 ginger ale and 1/10th shot of fireball will do wonders for your stomach. I got more bad news here, they told me that Jess had stopped, and I watched Lowell call it a day. Carl joined me here for the rest of the loop (sometimes ahead, sometimes behind, always nearby), he had made a mistake of believing a weather app, and was without a jacket when the rains hit. I offered him the spare jacket, but he passed. What both of us found interesting was the fact that we were in short sleeve shirts, and we kept seeing runners bundled up - it wasn't that cold. As we were running we passed a lady runner who looked like she was about to head down the hypothermia highway. I stopped and asked how she was doing, besides being cold she had been throwing up, and was going to DNF. I told her that she had plenty of time to get her stomach under control, and to talk to the folks at Damnation before she pulled the plug; and gave her the spare jacket. Carl and I then hit the Slip and Slide (nice, muddy downhill), I managed to stay in control - thank you Salomon Speedcross, as did Carl. We made it to Far Side, filled bottles and headed back to Damnation. When I got to the Slip and Slide it was obvious (looking up) that there was a good path on the right side, so we kept telling runners heading towards it from Damnation to take the left path - hopefully they listened. I got to the bridge that tried to airborne me, and this time I figured out that it was possible to take a long drop off the side safely, instead of chancing the ramp. Yet more bad news, as I came across Shandra walking from Damnation with her drop bag, she was being smart and not pushing through a chance of damage. Carl stopped at Footsteps For The Fallen to grab a jacket, I figured he'd catch me sooner or later. Second lap done in 5:30, about what I expected. I had 50 miles and 20 hours. I spent about 15 minutes putting hot soup in, adding my night kit and motivating myself to head back out.
INTERLUDE, low spot. At this point what little I had in my legs was long gone. I could have walked off, gotten a shower, drove home and slept in my own bed. But this was a training run specifically to push past the low spots when my legs were gone.
I headed out solo, not sure if Carl was ahead or behind me. I figured I'd see him again no matter what. As I rounded a section of the trail I spotted my spare jacket, and the runner was much happier than when I last saw her. She got my bib number, and said she would put the jacket on my drop bag. More importantly, she said she was considering pushing on. I don't know if she did or not, I hope so. I then ran into Dale (couldn't see crap, almost plowed him over) and he told me I was chasing Carl. I caught him at Footsteps, talked a little trash ("I hate chasing Carl, I hate leading Carl, at this point I just hate Carl!") and kept on moving, knowing that we would play leapfrog for the rest of the race. As I approached the Gate, I could feel the muscle tightness in my legs start to do something nasty to my Achilles - this was not good.
INTERLUDE, Appalachian Trail. 17 years ago I was thru-hiking on the AT, while up in Pennsylvania with tight muscles, stepped wrong and had a slight tear in my Achilles, I was through hiking on the AT.
Since I knew that masking the pain would allow me to continue, but with a high chance of damage, I was done with pain pills. I decided to up the dosage on my ginger ale to 1/2 shot. Ate some hot food, including the requested bacon wrapped tater tots (yum), and sat for a bit. At this point I said goodbye to Carl, since he had to keep moving. I want to say that I then got up and started moving down the trail at a reasonable rate, but that would be fiction, not a race report. I took maybe 20 steps with Agustin and headed back. Sat for maybe another 5 minutes and tried again, only to return to the chair. Thought long and hard about it, and decided to see if I could make it to Damnation, where I would reevaluate. 10 steps and back. At this point I officially DNF'd. Since I was done, I knew that I could go for some heavy pain masking (just one though - that's my limit) and asked if anyone had a Stout. The answer was "No, but maybe Mike and Matt will when they get here", followed immediately by "they're here". They had exactly what I needed, sadly my ride was leaving so I only drank 1/2 of it (but I was promised that it wouldn't go to waste).
I stopped by the start/finish to turn in my chip and pick up my drop bag. Sitting on top of it was my Brooks jacket. It had made it home, and I really hope she finished.
Got up around 5, and drove by the Gate to say "goodbye and thanks". From there it was a leisurely drive home, listening to a mix of Celtic and Bluegrass, including We Banjo 3: an Irish Bluegrass band.
#DDR That which does not CHALLENGE you does not CHANGE you.
My plan at this point has changed, I originally intended to take 2 weeks off from running, now it's going to be 3 weeks.
Postscript, and a special shoutout to Jenn, she finished in 29:22, getting Revenge on Rocky. Every time I saw her she looked positive, and she got it done.