Monday, February 6, 2012

Rocky Raccoon 50 mile MudFest 2012!

Hello Blog, have you missed me?

Let’s go ahead and dispense with the formalities. It rained. It was muddy. It was fun! The official results not posted yet.

Arrival at Huntsville State Park Friday at around 1:30 pm found Chris and Miles working hard at getting the aid station set up. My plan was to help them, so pitched in and helped wherever they directed me, including stringing strand after strand after strand of Christmas lights and hauling supplies from the lodge. Oh, and testing said Christmas lights while a torrential downpour was in progress… interesting, but stupid. We did everything we could so that all they really had to do was unload the perishable food in the morning and start cooking. I missed the pre-race briefing, but I ALWAYS read the race document so felt I was well prepared for the race the next day.

I am so lucky to have friends like Deborah Sexton! She organized the hotel room for the weekend and the Friday night pre-race dinner at the Farmhouse Café on 14th Street in Huntsville. As usual the NTTR group was very friendly and we had a nice chat (newbies and ultra veterans alike) before going back to the hotel to get our things ready for Saturday morning.

There were 5 ladies in one hotel room and there were no problems with everyone taking their turn in the restroom. LOL. As usual, I showered and put on my base layer and my socks before going to bed. I put my timing chip on the ankle strap, drank some water and went to bed. When we woke up Saturday morning, the storm going on outside was EPIC! That had been the forecast all week, and we paid to play, so let’s get this show on the road! The 100 mile race started at 6 am, and I arrived at the park in time to see them head out through the woods in the downpour. There were some friends who offered to crew for me because another one of their friends was running his first 50, so I found them and headed to the start at around 6:50, in plenty of time for the starting gun. It is customary to check in with the timing people prior to the start of this race, so I asked where the check-in table was located. When I was told that the timing chip was the check-in as we crossed the mat… I felt a huge pit in my stomach. I had forgotten my chip at the hotel. The stream of expletives that escaped my mouth was another EPIC occurrence at Rocky Raccoon 2012! I never thought to ask for another chip, so I RAN the half mile back to where my car was parked and DROVE back to the hotel to get my chip. It was the DUMBASS runner move of the day.

When I got back to the start line, I threw my car keys at the crew and headed out to the trail. As I passed the timing tent I said, I guess we can start when we are good and ready, right? I was so angry, I think I started with 16 or 17 minutes on the clock, and I had a pretty serious time goal as far as I was concerned, having emailed a pace chart for a 13:20 finish to all my friends with a note that stated “no Crazy outfits this time, I am serious.” Starting the race late does not really qualify as serious, right? As I headed out to join 700 other crazy folks on the trail, I just tried to forget how stupid I felt and focus on the task at hand. I don’t usually run much, but planned to run/walk this race. The 50 mile course is 3 16.67 mile loops and the plan was to finish each loop as close to 4:26 as I could, that would give me an average pace of 16:00 per mile. My finish time for the previous two 50 milers I completed was around 16:45, for an average pace of 20:06; so, if I completed this one according to plan, the PR would be another EPIC occurrence at Rocky Raccoon 2012. Since I don’t have official results and splits, the part of the story where I talk about my loop times will be estimated.

Back to the story – It was not long before I encountered the first of many mud pits on the trail. No worries, the rain had slowed down by the time I started, and I expected the mud, so I just plowed right through it. Trying to go around would just slow me down, and I had some lost time to make up. When shooting for an average pace of 16:00 per mile in a trail race with an aid station every 3 to 5 miles, you need to move faster than that in order to take a minute or two to stop at the station, refill your water bottle, use the potty if necessary and then get the heck out again. I was not fooling around, just refill and run on. The mud… did I mention the mud? 700 other folks had already plowed through the mud pits once before I got to them. Every one was sloppier than the one before. The spot I was most worried about was right after crossing the dam. There was lots of slipping and sliding going on there. I almost sat down and used the hill like a sliding board, but chose to ski on my running shoes instead. I was hitting most of my miles in the 13:00 to 14:00 minute range, so totally making up for the time I lost at the start! Of course, my bad attitude for starting late was catching up with me and my back was tightening up causing my sciatica to kick in. I know, you’re not supposed to talk on the cell while you are in a race, but I called Melissa, my friend and ultra-massage therapist. She gave me some tips on how to release my lower back, which I planned to do at the end of the first loop, or risk having to drop due to the sciatica. I kept powering through and finished the first loop somewhere around 4:00, giving me plenty of time to clean the mud out of my shoes, clean my feet and put on dry socks, and lay on the ground to fix my back.

Headed back out on the trail for loop 2, right on schedule, and very proud I had made up for lost time. Aid stations are packed with ultra fare, which I am not sorry to say, is mostly JUNK. Since starting the Paleo diet a year ago, I just don’t eat ramen noodles, cookies, crackers, pretzels, candy, quesadillas and pancakes. I also don’t drink soda or Gatorade. So, I brought along my pre-mixed ultra fuel (pureed sweet potatoes, dates, pineapple juice, egg white protein powder, coconut oil, cinnamon, ginger, and a little sea salt all blended together and poured into my fuel belt bottles) and some home made pemmican bars. I did use some Hammer gel and Endurolytes too; it IS a race after all. The nutrition and hydration went pretty well, though I did need to pee twice during each loop. The good thing is I never had any cramping during or after the race, and I knew what to do if my hands started to swell. This time right after passing the dam, I encountered a huge tree that had fallen across the trail sometime after I completed the first loop. The conversation that resulted was hilarious. Most folks thought they just forgot seeing it the first time around. I am just thankful no ultra runners were injured when the tree fell! About half way through the second loop, my back loosened up and I was really able to embrace the raccoon and the mud! A couple of times, I shouted… “I’m five years old!!!” There was one good thing about the mud: the water was cold, so it was like a built in ice pack every 30 minutes or so, so no foot problems. Second loop finished in about 4:30, including the stop to change shoes at the end… still right on schedule.

Almost left for loop #3 without the water bottle… thanks again, crew!!! Headed out, knowing I was going to meet my second goal of finishing the race in fewer than 14 hours! My back was better, there was no more pain in my left IT band, calf and hamstring, I had my music back and charged up for the last loop, and I had my headlamp ready for when darkness fell! Nothing could go wrong from here! The best thing of all was approaching the Park Road Aid station in the dark and seeing those Christmas lights that I had helped string the day before! I knew my friends from Houston would be there to cheer me on to the finish! They even had a true Paleo snack for me: almond stuffed, bacon wrapped dates! They made my day and when I asked the time of day because I couldn’t see my Garmin anymore, I took off for the finish in high spirits! The crew expected to see me at about 9pm, just making my 14 hour gun time goal, but when I saw the clock as I sprinted to the finish; it read 13:38 hours (8:38 pm). OH, MY GOD!!! If I had started the race at 7 am along with everyone else, I would have finished at a clock time of 13:21 or 13:22, just a minute or two over my “blue sky” time goal. I never really dreamed I could do 50 miles in those tough conditions that quickly! I know in the grand scheme, and compared to fast runners my age, it’s not a big deal, but to PR by 3+ hours in a 50 mile race – well that’s freaking HUGE! So, I finish, and my crew is nowhere to be found… they are off cooking pork fajitas so their friend and I will have some hot protein to eat at the finish. I got my medal and my hugs (thanks Deb and Janice), and headed out to hot food and to revel in my personal win!

Back to the hotel, shower, sleep a few hours and prepare to work the aid station Sunday morning so I could help the later 100 mile finishers see their way down the trail with some hot food and words of encouragement.

What a great way to spend the weekend!

Music notes during the race:
At 10 miles – Sublime “40oz to Freedom” No - 40 miles to freedom!
At dusk – Opeth “Harlequin Forest” (They are the trees, rotten pulp inside, never well)

Sorry so long for a measly 50 miles, but they are my thoughts to share if you wish to read them. Thanks… malvs2walk (and sometimes she runs!)


  1. WOW! What a great race report! Congratulations on your HUGE victory!!!!!!!!

  2. Great report MA. What an amazing finish for a 50 mile trail race! Great going.

  3. Cheers to you, fantastic result despite the tough course conditions and a hiccup of a start.

  4. Congrats on the massive PR, Maryann!!! Thanks for coming back to volunteer Sunday morning, to help us 100-mile runners out. That was huge of you.

  5. Excellent! Love the "paid to play" approach :)

  6. Thanks for all the kind comments... need to post a correction. Turns our the first time I did this race, my time was 15:44, not 16:44. That makes the PR 2:05:44, oh and the official results have been posted.
    205 13:38:31 Maryann Ramirez F 50 TX
    366 start / 259 finish / 87%

  7. Love your blog! Great read and I am so proud of you! CONGRATULATIONS, MARYANN!!!!

  8. Congrats on your 50 miler. Funny story!

  9. That's the MaryAnn we know!

  10. Wow, a 2hour + pr...........that is FREAKEN HUGE!!!! As I say all the time, you totally ROCK mate!!!!

  11. Thanks so much to everyone who reads my blog. I don't take the time to write for it often enough.
    The kudos I get from my running/racewalking friends are what really keeps me going, and I am ashamed that I don't always pay it back in kind. I do value each and every one of you... reading about your exploits and accomplishments gives me something to shoot for!

  12. Hey Maryann,
    I have only now had a moment to sit and read your entire post. It is wonderful! I agree with you about the aid station food, though HTrex does a great job at offering choices more in line with what we really need. LOVE THEM!!!!!!

    You did fantastic and I hope you don't mind, but in my lame efforts to prolong getting my post together, I linked your post on my blog...

    Congrats on your huge PR! You are one awesome lady!!!

  13. Same to you on the PR, Karen! You had an amazing run on a tough day yourself! lastly, I appreciate your linking my post!

  14. Congratulations! That is a huge PR and to do it in tough conditions like that is amazing.

  15. ooh, just saw your comment, Mike. Thanks! Headed for a tougher 50 miler this coming October... just to see what I can do!