Rocky Raccoon 100M, Huntsville TX

Elevation Gain: neg.; High Point: 371'

February 6, 2010 - There are good days........., and there are great days, someone once said. This was a good day even though I did not finish the one hundred mile objective I set out to achieve. By mile 32 I chose to yield to discretion and leave valor for another day.

A racer could not have asked for better weather - 30-something to 60 degrees with pure Texas sunshine - everything I could have hoped for. Race organization under Joe and Joyce Prusaitis was superior and the cameraderie among fellow participants was contagious for much of the effort. But I would return without the coveted buckle of accomplishment.

I managed to bug out of Pittsburgh on my way to Dallas prior to a major snow event which would sock in much of the east coast. Timing could not have been better - coming and going. One day's offset would have resulted in a missed race. I had been bothered by a sore heel all week after running some sub-six-minute pace during the previous weekend's 4M Jog up to Groundhog Knob. I could feel it even laying in bed the morning of the race. Since I've run on this injury successfully for at least three years I headed off to the start feeling rested and ready to go sub-24 if not sub-20 for this relatively easy hundred miler.

Nearly seven hundred participants would toe the line for the 100M or 50M this day. At 6 am the hundred-milers headed out in the dark in a refreshingly brisk atmosphere of anticipation. From the start at the Dogwood area the trail quickly became single track or jeep paths in the mostly pine forests of Huntsville State Park. The trails were padded with pine needles mostly and were not muddy, except in places, despite recent rains. I reasoned I would not need a headlamp for the first hour of running in the dark with the abundance of headlamps, which proved correct. While I carried a flashlight on my belt it wasn't necessary with the lighting provided by everyone else.

I have never started as slowly in a hundred miler as with this event. From the start the race was a single file procession of runners with minimal jockeying for position. Conversation abounded. I ran with Ruth Ann Helfrick from Elysburg for a few miles and enjoyed our exchange before moving ahead and sharing some laughs and stories with Olga Varlamova, whose blog I have followed forever. The first couple aid stations seemed to tick off quickly, seemingly because there were just so many people to chat with and little time to think about the race.

In time, everyone would find a comfortable pace and settle in to wait for the little voice of the ego that critiques everything. I could tell my left heel was not good early on, especially each time I tripped over the abundant roots on the trail. Due to a loss of the ligamenture on that side I seem to lose control of lifting my toes after awhile running on trails. It was a problem at Bandera and started to raise its ugly head once again here. While I stumbled a few times I only bit the dust once, but didn't sustain much damage as a result.

I went through the first loop of 20 miles in 3 hours and 38 minutes, only a bit slower than my anticipated pace, but was disturbed about the way my legs felt. My heel was becoming problematic, but my legs were becoming stiff, despite a 6 mph pace which felt comfortable. Perhaps it was from protecting my heel and running off balance or maybe I was not fully recovered from the physically hard race in Bandera only four weeks previous, but one thing led to another before both knees started to become tender as well. I concluded that yes, I was not fully recovered, but most of my problems were the result of compensating for my weakened heel. It portended to be a long day.

I lost pace and position on the second lap of five around the park. You know when you are in trouble. I've been there too many times. On a normal day I'm still gaining on the field through 80 miles, not losing to slower-paced contestants in the early going. Pain increased despite the easy terrain - no hills worthy of mention - and miserable slow pace. Connie Gardner blew past me going the other way and would go on for a sub-20 finish. I couldn't help thinking about running ahead of her in ultras previously and knowing that she was where I should be on such an easy course. It was not a hard decision to abandon the race on such a perfect day. I've done it before and bounced back to terrific performances after saving myself from an aggavated injury. So, at the Dam Road aid station I notified race officials and asked for directions for the shortest way back to the start.

There was no ride out of the middle of the park, so I walked and jogged along the most direct route for about three miles to turn in my timing chip and thank RD Joe for a great race. He genuinely was sorry to see me drop. I cannot offer enough positives about his organization and events.

I hung around the hotel for a day-and-a-half before winging home to two feet of snow on my car parked in extended parking at the airport. There was plenty of time to reflect and measure the after effects. All was not well with my body. Such a shortened effort should not have felt like it did. Perhaps my injuries are beginning to limit my dreams; perhaps I'm getting old; perhaps I just don't have the desire - the gana - to toe the line and race down those with more talent than me. N A W !

It was just one of those days - a good day nonetheless. I'll take off a couple weeks and start to build up for Bull Run and Massanutten. Everything balances. There will be great days ahead, and many miles to go before they plant me!

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