Sunday, November 6, 2011

Rocky Raccoon 50K - first ultra!

Pretty much how I felt this weekend... 
This was probably the best running moment of my life!  Although it consisted of many moments from when we headed to Huntsville Friday afternoon with my girlfriends to the actual 50K race all 8 hours and 16 minutes of it!
I was very excited from the get go about how things would pan out.  I was super excited to get to go with my friends on a road trip and do the 50k.  It made me feel even better that three of the four of us had never done a 50k.  Fiona, Libby, and I all were new to that distance.  We had all completed marathons but my last marathon was a year and a half ago in the spring of 2010.  The rest of them had completed their marathons in the last few months if not weeks!  My longest training run before this race was a 20 miler before the Palo Duro weekend.  So I was a little worried that even though I had been training for this race for months, that I might not have enough mileage.  I figured there was nothing I could now but run the race.
Hotel Huntsville!

 So we head down Friday afternoon and get to the hotel and get checked in.  Then we head to packet pick up at Huntsville State Park.
Corina and I at the park entrance...

I thought the alligator thing was a joke until we drove past this sign...

The crew from L to R: Me, Fiona, Corina, and Libby
This was at the start/finish area...
We got our stuff from packet pickup and checked out the area around the start and finish.  It was a gorgeous park!  I loved the trees!  I could tell I was going to love the race already!

So we go eat dinner at the Farmhouse cafe - highly recommend it if you ever go to Huntsville!  They had some delicious stuff on the menu like my favorite chicken fried steak, but I didn't get it...I had to be stomach has had issues on race day before so I  knew I had to play it safe.

After dinner we all went back and got ready for the race.
Pinning on my bib...

Laying everything out for the drop bag to make sure I don't forget anything.
I was bib 30 and Libby was 31!
So now that everything was laid out - we went off to bed about 8.  Alarms were set for a bright and early 4 am wake up call!  AHHH!  We had to be down to pick up our chips at the start line by 5:30 and the race started at 6!

Ready for the race...
We got to the race site and got our chips and promptly returned to the car for as long as possible because it was a tad chilly!  

So off we go on our first of two 15.5 mile loops. It was dark for a good hour, maybe an hour and a half...dark, dark...
It was DARK!!!

We made it to the first aid station still altogether.  

1st Aid Station - 4 miles in - still dark!
As we continued to run, the sun finally began to come up and it was beautiful!  We hit up the second aid station at about mile 7.5 all still together and eventually broke off from there.  Fiona and Libby took off and Corina and I ran together.  Loop one was pretty uneventful except for the period where I was tripping on roots every other footfall.  I was just out of rhythm or something.  Luckily I didn't fall then, I'm pretty sure Corina was hoping I didn't fall and knock her over!  So we continue to run and talk and the miles go by pretty quickly!  At each aid station, I was eating a handful of chips and m&ms and then every hour my Garmin was set to beep so that I would take my honeystinger and my s-caps.  Somehow though, on the last aid station at mile 12.5 I stopped my Garmin and didn't realize it until 2 miles later!  UGHHH!  Wasn't a big deal that first loop, but later it would be an issue when I was like at mile 25, alone, and so exhausted I couldn't think to do the math.
Sun coming up finally!

Corina and I on our first loop!
Last aid station on first loop...I'm eating - Corina is hook 'em-ing...(is that a word?)

So off we go, finishing up our first 15.5 mile loop and I am feeling good and strong.  I knew I needed to stick with a nice steady comfortable pace on the first loop and I did that and finished in 3:55 - my goal was 4:00 so I was feeling pretty confident.  
Coming in from my first loop.

Leaving on loop 2 
So off we go on loop 2.  Fiona left a little earlier than the rest of us.  She is by far a faster, stronger runner and she had kept her pace slower on her first loop so she could go faster the second loop.  I think she wound up with a negative split when it was all said and done.

Off we go, the three of us ran together for about the next 9 miles, until we got to the second aid station.  It was nice being able to see the trail in the day light that we had only seen in the dark earlier.  However, the long Jeep road that we ran on mile 2 in the dark seemed a whole lot longer when it was mile 17 in the light!  I thought that road would never end!  But it did and we got to the first aid station where Corina got some more meds for a sore knee and off we went...Corina was hanging back a little but she was right behind us.  At this point we knew there was only one guy behind our little group.  We were the last of the 50k-ers.

At the second aid station - about mile 24, we separated from Corina but only after a group shot.

Almost done ladies! 7 more to go!
I was still feeling pretty good at this point, although I had fallen and taken a pretty good digger on my knee at the beginning of the second loop.  But like Corina says "No blood, it didn't happen."  Well there wasn't blood because it was caked in dirt and that was a good thing because if it bled then it would have ruined my white Zensah calf sleeves and I can't have that!

So off Libby and I go...we had a good pace and we were very good about walking the uphills and running everything else.  Eventually about mile 25, I guess, I separated from Libby.  I got in front and then when I turned around I had run too far ahead.  I couldn't see her.  I didn't realize I was that far ahead until then.  I was just in a zone, and between dodging roots and rocks and branches, I just zoned out.  I stopped a couple of times on the trail when I thought I might be able to see her because of how the trail went but I never did.

Obligatory self portrait at mile 25...texted my husband and my mom that I was still alive and well with this pic.

Part of the was beautiful!
 So off, I was at this point that my brain was getting body was fine...but with all the roots and rocks kept me on edge and this was also the first time that I was in charge of watching for the orange and white tape that marked the trail at various points.  A few times I started getting a little panicky that I was off course because I hadn't seen it for a while, but it would always show up.  I knew how easy it was though because Fiona and Libby had gotten off course for the first loop.  Up until this point, I had been running with someone, now I had 6 miles to go on the trail by myself.  So I thought in my head to just break it down aid station to aid station like Corina had taught me.  Okay, if I can just get to the water cooler, I thought...then I knew from there it was about a mile maybe a mile and a half to the last aid station.  My Garmin was still off and I wasn't exactly sure how far off at this point and I was so tired, I couldn't even figure out really how far I had to go so it was just "Get to the aid station."  Finally, the aid station came into view...SAWEEEET !!!!  I knew from here - the next people I would see, the guy at mile 1 and the finish line...So I get my chips and my chocolate and take off...Still feeling really good...I got to about mile 29 and everything seemed to hit me...I was tired so I fell again, on the SAME hurt.  I was by myself and I knew I was okay, but it hurt bad.  So I took a minute and just sat on the trail and regained my composure.  I was thinking when I fell and that always gets me into trouble.  I cannot think about anything but the trail - or I will get careless.  I must be always aware of the terrain and that can be mentally draining at times!   So I get up, dust myself off, and take off again.  I finally get to mile 1 and see mile 1 guy and finish the rest of the run without any walking.  I got to the finish before I even realized that I was at the finish area and I felt great!
Officially done with my first ultra-marathon!

Finish line friends!!!

It took me 8 hours and 16 minutes to goal was 8...but more importantly, my goal was to finish and that I did...I had so much fun and I couldn't have asked for a better group of gals to share that experience with!  Everyone was so wonderful and supportive. 

On the way home, Corina and Libby were talking about future races and goals and it was then that I realized, I don't really care to ever do another marathon.  As far as road races go, I think the half marathon is as far I will run, but on trails - well that is a different story.  Trails are so different in so many ways.  They don't even compare.  I feel so much better today than I have after either of the marathons.  In fact, I ran today.  Yes, trails slow you down, which for a slow road runner makes you super slow, but, the atmosphere is so much more relaxed.  The mental toughness of the trails is hard.  I read a quote today that said something to the effect that road runners draw energy from the crowds but that on the trail it is just you alone...nothing to draw your energy from but yourself.  Sometimes that is hard.  Running is so mental for me anyway.  But I love this so much!  The 50K is the perfect distance for me right now.  It is hard enough to push my body out of its comfort zone, a lot, but not hard enough that I can't do it.  Someday I would like to do a 50 miler, but right now I am sticking with this distance.  

That being said, somehow Corina and Libby convinced me that I needed to do another 50K in two weeks.  So, all I have to say to that is "Watch out Wild Hare!"  I came home and within being home for an hour I had signed up for the race on November 19th.  After that the race schedule is empty until the New Year's Double , but I figure why not?  My mileage is high, I feel good...let's do it!


  1. Squeeeee!!! Love it!! So glad I could be a part of it!!

  2. Awesome race report! Congrats on a great run and fun time! So happy to meet you and can't wait for Wild Hare!

  3. Yay, Alicia! So much fun to share this experience with you. I had a blast running with you!

  4. I am so proud of you! What an accomplishment! I wish I had just a little bit of your commitment and dedication. YOU ROCK!!!!!!!!