Trip Report for Rocky Raccoon 100 mile run Feb 2nd 2008
In order to adequately report my experience of running my first successful 100 mile race, I feel like I need to provide some background to make it easier to understand what this accomplishment meant to me. My health has always been pretty precarious. When I was about 2 months old, I contracted spinal meningitis, and my parents were told that I had about a low chance of surviving, and that if I did survive, I would almost certainly be brain damaged. My mom and grandma took turns holding me around the clock because that was the only way I would quit crying, and miraculously I survived. My parents were sure that I was retarded, since I didn’t speak a single word until 18 months of age and was smiley and happy all the time, but by the time I started school I was at the top of the class intellectually.
When I was 12, I fell and broke my nose, which started a nasty cycle of horrible sinus infections, and I was pretty sickly throughout the teen years. At age 18, I had nasal surgery to correct the damage from the broken nose and did somewhat better for a few years after that.
I started my career at age 20 and married Lori at age 21. The additional demands of full-time work and later the added demands of having children really began to take a toll on me physically and mentally. In 2003, I became tired of the chronic sinus infections and went to a surgeon. He put a scope up my nose and discovered some serious bone damage caused by the constant infections, so I went under the knife and had things repaired. This was pretty much the breaking point for my body. I was suffering from various myalgias, difficulty sleeping, digestive problems, joint pain, you name it I probably suffered from it at some point. I was allergic to virtually everything, and ended up losing almost 50 pounds because everything I ate made me sick. I was a complete mess both physically and mentally, and Lori pretty much didn’t know what to do with me. It was causing serious strain on our marriage.
One night during this time, I was feeling particularly bad. I was laying in bed, long after bedtime, with a pulse of 100 and I felt like I was going to melt down even though I had no covers on and no clothing but my underwear. It was then that I had a sickening thought – if I continued down the path I was on I would soon no longer be able to work and provide for my family, and would eventually die from whatever was wrong with me. I thought about all the things that that would mean for a long time, and finally resolved that I wouldn’t go down without a fight. I would swallow my pride and do whatever I could to get out of the mess I was in and be truly healthy for the first time in my life, or I would die trying.
I began exercising, which was very difficult for me at the time. I couldn’t handle anything too intense, but found that I could tolerate some weight lifting. I began doing Body For Life and soon was at least starting to look a little bit better and getting a bit more energy. I still couldn’t do any type of cardio exercise though – every time I tried I would be sick for 2 or 3 days afterwards. Eventually I was able to start riding my bike for an hour or so at a time, but was still struggling a great deal. On December 1st 2004 I decided to start a disciplined program of running every other day. I ran for 5 minutes that day, and then 10 minutes 2 days later. Within about a month I was up to 45 minutes at a time, although it was very slow.
During this time, I had started seeing an allergist and was taking allergy shots. After 9 months of so of this treatment, I had a chronic sinus infection that didn’t respond to the antibiotics anymore and I was feeling worse than ever. I had just read The Maker’s Diet by Jordan Rubin and decided that enough was enough. I quit taking all the meds, stopped going for the allergy shots, and started trying to follow the diet from the book. In two days, the infection was completely gone! Finally something seemed to be going in the right direction.
In mid 2005, Lori and I decided that it was time for a serious change. We had devoted the last three years to building up a residential rental property business and we were just really tired of working all the time. We had been spending all of our vacation time in Estes Park, so we decided to look for a business opportunity there while we were on our summer vacation. After spending 2 weeks trying to buy a business, we were at a dead end and finally just decided to buy a house and move there and see what would happen. We signed the deal on Sunday morning right before we drove back to Kansas and moved in September. I was able to keep my job in Kansas, going to a 7 day on – 7 day off schedule.
In April of 2005, I ran my first race. It was the Mennonite Run for Relief 5K, which I ran in 29:56 with a great deal of knee pain. Two months later, I ran the Estes Park ½ marathon in 2:09:10. In June 2006, I ran the Estes Park Marathon in 4:51:45. I then tried the Leadville 100 race, making it 60.5 miles in about 17 hours.. In June 2007, I ran the San Juan Solstice 50 in 13:31 and thought I was ready to give Leadville another try but I was only able to go 76.5 miles in 22 ½ hours before completely giving out. After this race, I was having a lot of trouble with my back and hips and just couldn’t seem to get it together. I started seeing Grant Spencer (a Gonstead chiropractor) in December and he was able to get the healing processes that were blocked by poor alignment back into play.
In early December, I went to another allergist who tested me for food allergies and found that I was allergic to dairy. Finally! I had discovered what had been holding me back for so long. After removing milk and cheese from my diet, I quickly began to recover and start training for the 2008 Rocky Raccoon 100 mile race. I was able to do two 22 mile runs in January, and figured I was as close to ready as I was going to get given the short amount of time I had to train.
On January 31st, I flew to Austin with my close friend Michael and stayed at his mom’s house that night. In the morning, we made the 3 hour drive to Huntsville. Later we met up with some wonderful friends we met online, Bill and Sandy, from San Antonio, who had volunteered to crew for us. After going to the pre-race meeting and going out for a great Outback steak dinner, we settled into bed and were asleep by about 9.
4:45 came much too early as we dragged ourselves out of bed and got ready for the race. We met up with Bill and Sandy just a few minutes before 6 and then we were off and running with 250 other runners. Michael and I decided that we would walk at least the first hour, and for a little while we were in last place! Soon we passed one older gentleman who was walking even slower than we were so we were spared the distinction of being dead last. We continued walking for 67 minutes, when we reached the highway aid station at 4.1 miles in. Michael had a nasty blister on his achilles tendon and had to pause to tape up, and then we took off running. Michael had been unable to train for 2 or 3 months, so we just took things nice and slow, and walked up every hill. After 4 ½ hours, we had completed the first lap of 20 miles and Michael was still feeling good.
We continued on for a few more miles when Michael started to feel the complete lack of training. At mile 30, he knew his time was up, and to continue on would only lead to injury. Leaving the aid station by myself, I had a huge surge of energy (probably induced by the headphones I put on after Michael dropped), and I took off at a pretty quick pace. This was a bad idea though – I had enough energy to run fast but my legs were getting tired, which lead to me kicking roots several times with each foot over the next ten miles. My toes were getting sore but were still tolerable at this point – little did I know what they had in store for me later on. I completed lap 2 in 4:20, total elapsed time 08:51:17.
I was still feeling good going out on lap 3, but within a mile or so I had my first low spell and couldn’t really run. Thankfully this passed after a few miles and I was able to start running again, although at a pretty slow pace. I completed the lap in 5:02, total elapsed time 13:53:36.
At the start of lap 4 I was still feeling pretty good, but like the last lap I soon crashed again and could only walk. From this point on I was mostly spent and would only run (slowly) a few more miles total for the rest of the race. Around mile 65 I paired up with another runner who was suffering a bit and we walked together for a while before I recovered a bit and left him behind at mile 68. At the aid station at mile 70, I had to stop for a while to get my feet cared for. I was getting some monster blisters that had to be popped and taped up, and my big toenail had an enormous blood blister underneath of it that was threatening to push it off (of course the sensation while walking was less than enjoyable!), so the aid workers popped the blood blister and pushed my toenail back down into its place and taped it down. I took back off and finished the lap in 6:40, total elapsed time 20:35:44.
The final lap was before me and I was one hurting unit, and it was getting harder and harder to go on. Thankfully I had my wonderful crew, Bill and Sandy, and of course Michael was also helping out since he was out of the race. It was such an emotional lift to see their faces and visit briefly with them at the aid stations. The race would not have been the same without them and I am deeply grateful for their selfless devotion to me during the race. Thanks guys!
I left the start/finish line for the last time and headed out. After a few miles, I again paired up with another hurting runner (he had a stress fracture in one foot – OUCH!) Unlike the first runner I paired up with he wasn’t an emotional drain and we had a great time visiting. We stopped at the aid at mile 90 and I saw something that provided a great deal of inspiration. You see, at this race you could sign up for either 50 or 100 miles, but, since both races were going on at the same time, the 50 milers could take up to 29 hrs to finish. There was a VERY large man, probably over 350 lbs, who had entered the 50 mile race and had completed 40 in the same time I completed 90. He had made a commitment to his family that he would get into better shape so he wouldn’t die young, and he set his sights on the 50 mile race. By the look on his face I could tell he was hurting way more than I was, and I was filled with admiration and awe as I watched him painfully get up out of the chair and head back out toward the finish line. I don’t know for sure whether he made it or not, but either way his accomplishment was much greater than mine, at least in my mind.
We headed back out of the aid station and went just a little ways when I heard a loud thud in front of me, followed shortly by a very loud primal scream obviously coming from someone in a great deal of pain. I shined my light ahead to see what happened, and observed one of my fellow sufferers had kicked a root for the 100th time, causing massive toe pain, and it had also caused him to fall face first onto the ground. He screamed for a couple of seconds, and then I watched him pick himself back up and start walking again. I had heard these screams in the distance several times (and had done a bit of it myself, even though I’m not very vocal). Everyone had warned me about the roots on the course, and Michael and I had even made fun of them earlier in the race, but the roots ultimately had their revenge on me and everyone else on the course.
I had been unable to eat anything and could barely even drink water due to nausea, but by this time the sun was starting to come up and I was feeling a bit better. At the mile 93 aid station, I slammed two glasses of HEED and a GU packet, and said goodbye to my new friend. Within a couple of minutes my body literally came back to life! I was off and hiking over 4 miles per hour and having a pretty good time listening to the headphones. I was able to keep up the newly found energy until mile 99, when I pushed just a bit too hard up a hill and my left leg totally locked up! Even very small steps caused intense pain in my upper leg and hip. I tried stretching multiple ways, beating on the affected muscles, and even tried modifying my walking technique for a few minutes without success when suddenly I found I could walk again, though fairly slowly. I continued on this way for a while longer, and then I saw the finish line in the distance. The adrenaline got the best of me and I was soon walking full speed again. About 100 feet out from the finish line I actually started running and came through the finish line a very happy man! Lap time was 6:53, total elapsed time for 100 miles was 27:27:31.
Bill, Sandy and Michael were there to greet me and quickly got me sat down in a chair. I took my shoes off and discovered a horrible massive blister on my heel, so the aid station personnel helped me pop and tape it. You can see a picture of it and many other pictures from the race that Sandy took at http://s50.photobucket.com/albums/f313/bpowers2002/Rocky%20Raccoon/
The next couple of days were a whirlwind of sleeping and massive eating to try and replenish my food stores (I lost 7 lbs from the race due to inadequate food intake). Many thanks to Michael’s family for putting me up and for feeding me so well after the race! I’d also like to thank Bill and Sandy once again for being a part of all this madness, and to Lori for supporting me as well.