On a September Saturday night in 2016 sitting with several MRC members, a commitment was made to run Rocky Raccoon 100 Miler. It came to pass this past weekend.
Before anything else, much thanks is given to the crew. The crew is very important. Tim Leeth and Eric Fortner, as well as John Meaney who lent his camper for the weekend. Both Tim and Eric volunteered to pace a loop very long ago. All three provided support and encouragement. Without them, this achievement would have been much more difficult.
The weekend before the race, John showed Tim, TJ (Tim’s son), and I how to operate his pop up camper. With some instruction and a little practice we quickly became novices. Tim and I picked up the camper the following Thu evening. It was an adventure for Tim since this was the first time he pulled anything with his truck! Fri arrived, Tim picked me up and we headed to junior high to get TJ. Then lunch and we drove to Huntsville State Park. We arrived and selected a camp site. Walked down to pick up the packet and listen to the race briefing. The course was new this year, four 25-mile loops instead of five 20-mile loops. This was due to the devastating effects of Hurricane Harvey. Some of which was still evident on the course. While the course briefing was being delivered, a bald eagle flew across the lake… an inspiring site. Afterwards we set up the MRC tent in the start alley. Then headed back, got the camper set up and Tim cooked up a fine camping dinner. After dinner we met our camping neighbors who were quite… eclectic. The husband had plenty of proud big stories. The wife had finished RR100 several times as well as Western States 100 and corrected her husband when he had errors in his stories. LOL. We hit the sack to get ready for the next day.
Saturday awoke early at 0430. While eating checked the radar and light rain and drizzle was south wrapping to the west. It would show up around 0700 and last for several hours. Tim and I headed to the start. I met up with Jon, with his wife Meghan, a fellow runner from my Katy days who was starting his fifth RR100, attempting to finish his fourth. 0600 approached, I got in the back of the pack with a few minutes to start. A few butterflies and deep breaths. A lifetime of preparation was about to play out. Countdown. Start. The adventure begins. Pass Tim cheering me on. The first mile and a half was pretty much walking as the field spread out. Then running, it felt good to start in earnest. Roots everywhere, big gnarly ones that can reach up and grab you. Several miles in, the dawn starts, so does the beginning of the rain. The drizzly rain that will persist for about 10-11 hours. Made Nature Center for the first time, grabbed an Oreo and off again. Running felt good now, pushing a bit, looking back these were 11 and 12 min miles. Putting money in the bank for withdrawal later. Past Gate and to Damnation (almost 10 mi), ate, drank. Then the dreaded 8.4 mi out and back to Far Side. Far Side was liquid only, no food. This would happen three more times. It is more a test of mental than physical. Down the hill and over the bridge. However the bridge was taken out by a 60 ft oak and pushed down stream. Awesome power. Out and back to Damnation okay, ate, drank, Nature Center, ate, drank, pit stop, and headed home. Loop 1 done. 5:41. No falls, not even a stumble. Felt a little tired but good. Ate, drank. Changed shoes and socks and off again. Back out and felt good through to Damnation, again, ate drank (there is a lot of eating and drinking). The jeep road was a little muddy but okay, for now. Far Side out and back part 2. About mile 35 the only time it rained, it rained for about 10 mins. At this point I began to wonder what I was in for. It turned out about the only time doubt entered my mind. I thought of past races, MRC folks, Dan, Marc, great Nebraska football teams that rolled over everyone, anything and everything inspirational. Suddenly there was Far Side. Drank up, pulled out some Danish shortbread cookies I stashed from Damnation and the world was better. I knew Eric would be pacer soon that made things better as well. Pit stop again. On the way back a few spots started to get a little muddy. Made Damnation had a BBQ beef sandwich, yum, Nature Center and it started to head to dusk on the way to the start. Pulled out the head lamp and finished up. Met Tim at the head of the alley. Instantly felt better. I soon could hear Eric. Got a smile. Went past 50 mi in 12:24 (that is 1824 time wise). Ate more, drank more. The food started tasting better, any food. Watch dies. Got to the tent and Eric changed my shoes and socks. He cleaned my feet as well. Great crew! Pit stop again. Told Eric let’s get going. Eric wears the watch, I think I only ask him once what time it was. Walked up the alley and got wishes from Kristal. A little walk and run. I slid down one of the wooden bridges at mi 51, a portent to come. Running and hiking with Eric get legs back then went off for a good 10-12 minutes feeling like I am flying over roots going by people, Eric saying nice work. Felt great. Met and chatted with a gentleman with Sunmart jacket, they put on the RR in the 90s. He finished it many times. Made Nature Center, ate, drank, and off. Down and around to the jeep road and then up its hills. The road turned to mud in many places down the mile or so to Gate. Up and down hills avoiding mud/puddles in the dark. Fun! Eric helped a lot. We passed someone Eric knew, it would happen multiple times. Turns out this guy ran a 50k last weekend. Anyway keep on plugging, ran where it is not slopped, power hike where it is or uphill. After Gate to Damnation again. Trail is getting sloppier. Rain has stopped but the runners are spreading out the mud as they walk through it. Almost 60 miles, ate, drank. Back to the Far Side out and back, part 3. The muddy areas get worse. Eric continues to run ahead at times and I have to catch him. This is good. Mile 62, almost Far Side, a mud puddle that I navigated last time (in the light) was bigger and harder to see. I told Eric to go this way, the way I went last time. Well my backside ended up in some stickiness. He helped me up. Tried to wash it off, not so much. A good laugh. Not too long I had dry muddy hands. Made Far Side and cleaned up a little. A volunteer brought Girl Scout cookies! I had one, yum. Changed some batteries then back. Power hiking back Eric says, ‘Look it’s Gordy!’ I’m like who is he. Gordy is just the man who started the whole 100 mile craze at Western States. He was here to qualify for the run he started. 74 years old. Inspiration came over me. Rolled into Damnation, again, mile 68, ate, drank. Greeted with ‘Good Morning’. I ask Eric what time it is, it was midnight. First stop where I had chicken broth with mashed potatoes a pickle and a piece of bacon. Mmmmm. Brian Brown texts Eric. So we Facetime him back. Nice to talk to someone. Brian offered his advice on how to finish up the 50k. Headlights were becoming dimmer. Made Nature Center, mi 71, ate, drank, and Eric’s 50k buddy was in the back of the tent. He went to talk to him and told me he had leg problems. His real problem was that he did not want to tackle the Far Side out and back again. Eric the good crew only told me this after the race. Making the way back hit those bridges again. We catch to a couple, the woman was swearing and moaning about every other step. Blisters. They kept up with us even though we were moving faster. We make the bridges. I tell Eric these can be slippery, so I decide to slip down one both feet first, land on my butt, and slide down. My pinky gets caught between the slats. It hurts but time to move on. We get a little further away from them up a hill and Eric says ‘Whatever you do don’t be with her on the last loop, she makes me want to quit!’ Get back to the last hill and the alley is in sight. Find Tim, cross the line, the clock says 20:18 that means it is 0218. I have 9 hours and 42 mins to go. A little confidence starts, 25 miles of some areas of sloppy track and roots to go. The plan is the power hike until the sun comes up and then run if I want to. Change socks again. Feeling a hot spot on the left ball of the foot. Lube it up good. Pit stop again. Changed batteries. Another hotspot was treated as well, let’s just leave that one alone… Started out at 0225, 9h 35 min left. Tim was an excellent power walker pacer. We hung together at a good pace. Tim tells me TJ finished first in his division in the kids trail race. Nice! Got past Nature Center mi 79, ate, drank, and onto the jeep road on the way to Gate. It was muddier than before. Slow and easy. Tim walked up front to guide the way, good crew. Made Gate, ate, drank. I asked for the time, it was about 0430. Last time at Gate, it felt good. The reality of finishing began to sink in. Back down the jeep road with Tim out front listening to his music. Reminded Tim I did not like hills or hills with roots. Little did I know Tim started counting kills on the loop. Made Damnation, 84.6 mi, ate, drank. The last time for the Far Side out and back. I asked the time, did a quick calculation. We needed to be back before 0900 for me to feel comfortable. Began to feel the blister get worse and at times feel it was full. 4, 5, 6 kills. It made the time pass. Dawn was coming. Passed a lady who was kind of delirious. She said she was falling asleep. She sat down. We navigated the big mud puddle without issue, going around it in the brush. Dawn hit, foggy and damp. Made Far Side for the last time, mi 89. Tim performed surgery on the blister with a pin from his bib. Slathered it with anti-chafe cream. It hurt. It hurt for about 15 mins but abated. Time check and off. We continued on. Pit stop. The light helped. Tim got a pep in his step and went out ahead a good bit several times. I got the feeling he was getting excited too. Kills 8, 9, 10. Made Damnation. I asked the time, 0830. Perfect. Reality sinking in. Actually started joking a bit about it. Plan to get in Nature Center around 0930. I reminded Tim that I do not like hills or hills with roots, again. Legs are getting heavy and feeling a little slower. Keeping on. Kill 11, 12, 13. Will calls and we talk with him. Spirits perk up. He wants to know when I get to Nature Center. Further down the path to the aid station, there is Eric coming around the corner. He had walked down from Nature Center, a mile. It was perfect. I was tired, going uphill, with roots. Hiked into Nature Center with both crew at 0929. Eric headed to the finish. Folks clapping coming into the station. A soul injection. The lady at the aid station gave me chicken broth with mashed potatoes, it went down well. After I was done she looked me dead in the eye and said ‘3.78 mi left, plenty of time, now go get your buckle.’
Perfect. That was it. Onward. Tim pulls ahead to keep a good pace and the minutes go quickly by. Kill 14, 15, 16, 17. Make those bridges again, mi 99. Avoid the steep ramps. Head up the hill from the lake. Tim says Lia has to know how much more. I said tell her 1400 yards. Round the corner to the last hill. A woman is shouting at the top of the hill. It is Meghan. I get a big high 5 slap and there it is… the alley. I am excited, Tim is smiling. I will start running at the road crossing. People are clapping and shouting, people I don’t even know. It hurts to run, but not too much. Bounding down the gentle slope to the finish. See TJ. See Eric. Thank God. Done! Mind is blurry, what just happened? A lady reaches into her pocket and hands me the buckle. She says ‘Well done.’ 28:39:11 well done indeed.