Sunday, November 8, 2009

Rocky Raccoon 50k, 11/7/2009

I sent in my entry fee for this race right before I decided to do the Q50 50k. I signed the bottom of the entry form, and then I added a note to the race director, Paul Stone. You see, he is the guy who held the finish line of the Hog’s Hunt 50k open for me to get an official finish time in, even though I finished after the 8 hour cutoff. The note read: “I promise to finish this 50k within the cutoff time.”

Now, let’s get back to the beginning of the weekend. The plan was for me to pack my car Thursday night so that I could leave for Huntsville from work in Rosenberg at around 1pm on Friday. I have not figured out the specific reason I cannot get away from work when I say I am leaving. It turned out that I had to drive back to Sealy and go to the bank before I could start my trip. That was not so bad. The bad thing is that when I was about 10 miles from home, I realized I had forgotten my Garmin (GPS and Heart rate monitor) that I use for all my racing and training. I also forgot the last of the wonderful fig cookies that Mom makes for me. I really wanted to share a cookie with PC, who I was meeting for the race. I also wanted to try a shorter route from home, but all I had with me in the car was an atlas. The atlas shows secondary roads, but they are so small on the map, that they are not labeled really well. Also, country roads in Texas are not very well marked. I missed a turn and ended up in Conroe, just where I did not want to be on a Friday afternoon. My ETA for Huntsville State Park had been changed from 2:30pm to 4pm, and I finally arrived at about 5pm. I checked in and found PC. J-M was already there, too.

I walked over to the park lodge to pick up my race packet and introduced myself to Paul Stone, reinforcing my promise to finish the race the next day within the 8 hour time limit. I planned to stay at the park all weekend, so I brought home made pasta salad with hard salami and turkey pepperoni for our pre-race carb load. The pasta salad was delicious! PC brought veggies and some really good bread to go with our meal. I set up my tent, and then we had dinner. Afterwards we built a campfire and sat outside and talked for a while.

I think it was about 11pm when I went to get dressed in my race clothes and go to bed. (Remember, I always sleep in my race clothes, at least the bottom layer). It was kind of chilly, so I put on my thermal tights over my shorts. I was still cold when I got up at 5 in the morning, so I chose to wear my new CW-X compression tights to race in. They are also supposed to support calf muscles, hips and IT band while working out. My top layer was a Star Trek shirt a friend bought for me. I chose to carry my hand held Nathan water bottle and leave the fuel belt behind because I knew the aid stations would be well stocked and they were. I filled my Hammer Gel flask with a mixture of espresso and vanilla gel and stuffed it down my sports bra so it would be easier to dispense.

I was still worried at the start of the race about not having my heart rate monitor, but there was nothing I could do about it at this point, just go out there and get it done… I ran into a friend, Donna, (met her at my first 50k Sunmart 2008) who I have been seeing at a lot of races, and she will be at a lot more of them I will be doing in the near future, including the Davy Crockett Bear Chase in Groveton Texas which she WON last year!!! And, she qualified for Boston. What a thrill!!! Anyway, we stayed together and talked through the first 4 or so miles, and then I suggested that she go on and run her race from there. I didn’t want to hold her back, and I was afraid I may have started out too fast right at the beginning of the race. There was also an older man who races a lot that I traded race position with several times during the race. Now, everyone needs to remember that I am not in competition with anyone except for ME. My only goal in this race was to finish it in less than 8 hours.

The 25k runners started passing me and I commented to the third place woman as she passed me… I told her I thought she was running third and she said I am and waved her hands in the air! Exciting! Anyway, I always stay to the right when the faster folks are coming… A lot of them made positive comments to me as they passed. You know, that is the best thing about trail racing. The runners never begrudge sharing the trail with slower people like myself. There was a smooth stretch where I could get a real good walking pace going and a couple of guys told me I had a nice walking pace on the trail. When I told them they were a lot faster than me, they told me we’re all going the same place, the finish line. That always makes me feel good about what I am doing.

I came out of the woods toward the start / finish line where there is an aid station, and when I saw the photographer, I held up my hand and made the live long and prosper hand signal for the photo! Lots of the folks who had finished their race (25k or one loop) were milling around the aid station, and I really needed to get in there and refill my water bottle and grab a handful of cookies or something salty to eat, so I asked… “Please excuse me, you all are finished, but I still have to go out for another loop.” A young girl looked at me, said: “You mean you just walked 15.5 miles in 3 hours and 43 minutes? Now I remember passing you on the trail. You REALLY walk fast!” I mean to tell you, if that ever happened to me in a road race, I would faint. Trail runners are just DIFFERENT! They parted and let me get what I needed and I thanked everyone and headed back out.

I felt good that I was able to get the first loop done in about the time I thought I would get it done. I knew the second loop would be a little more difficult, and it was. I had a few really bad patches where I was wondering if I would finish at all, let alone under the 8 hour cutoff. It seemed like I was barely moving, so I did take some time to regroup by slowing down a lot to give my body a break. It seemed to work and I was able to pick up the pace again. One thing that was helping me keep moving was the knowledge that I was not in last place as I approached the second to last aid station. The 7 Hills running club from Huntsville always mans the same aid station, and they are awesome. I joked around with them a little and one of the guys teased me about catching the guy who was right in front of me. I told them I just didn’t care what that guy was doing, I just wanted to finish. So, I took off and seemed to be feeling better.

The last aid station before the finish is 2.8 miles out. I was starting to get a cramp in my left inner thigh so I asked for some coca cola and maybe some electrolyte capsules because I really did not want to eat anything else. They gave me a salt stick cap and about 6 oz. of coca cola, and I downed the rest of that Hammer espresso gel I was carrying in the flask inside my bra. As I was finishing up stretching that cramp out, they told me I had 38 minutes to make the cutoff. I hauled my butt out of there thinking, there is something wrong with me if I can’t walk 2.8 miles in 38 minutes, even on the trails. I trudged up the sandy hill out of the aid station and as soon as I hit more solid ground, I really stepped on the gas. I came up on the man that I was trading places with for most of the race, and I said, I need to pass you now. When I did, he tried to keep up with me side by side on the trail, and I asked him to please not try to walk side by side with me, because I was going to trip. Just as the words left my lips, I tripped hard, but did not fall down. I just kept going and never looked back.

I made it to the turn towards the finish, the last mile and the volunteer there told me I had 13 minutes to make the cutoff and I said, there’s just no way I can do that last mile in 13 minutes after the day I was having. Remember, I just did another 50k 3 weeks ago??? Then I thought about the fact that I had done some running in the first loop, so when I saw the long down hill section coming up, I started running. I don’t know where it came from, but I was running faster than I have ever run on a trail in my life. When I reached the bottom of the hill, I kept running a little farther just for good measure, and then I finished the race walking. I so wish someone else had seen me running as fast as I could after struggling for 30 miles. I am sure I was a sight. I still cannot believe that I did that last mile in 9 ½ minutes. Yes, I had 13 minutes to go, and my finish time was 7:56:32. Wow, I have never been happier at the end of a race. Yes, I was trashed and the first thought that came to mind was; “Oh, My God, I have to do a full marathon next Sunday.”

Great race, great company! PC and I explored some trails this morning for a nice hour and 45 minute recovery walk before we ate lunch and packed up to leave.


  1. Well, you did what you needed to do to finish the race!

  2. I am very proud of you, Maryann!! Great job!!

  3. wow, I love reading your report. You have to be so proud of yourself!! Well done and you finished as you promised.

  4. Very well done! Walking and running use different muscles so I can see how you run. Pretty amazing though to break into a run after walking so long. I guess now you will know if you ever need to make up time, you can do it!

  5. Inspiring! Thanks for sharing!