Posted by: runwithgarrison | February 8, 2012

Rocky Raccoon Race Recap

It is now a few days past finishing my first 100 mile race. What a trying, exhausting, and rewarding experience! First of all, I want to give a massive THANK YOU to my 2 person on-site support crew—Pauline and Tracy. Without these 2, there is virtually no way I would have been able to finish this race. They were a constant source of support, humor, inspiration, insight, and companionship. They were always at the right place, at the right time, with exactly the food, gear, and coaching that I needed to make it to the finish line. They took time away from home, work, and family to get wet, muddy, cold and sleep deprived to selflessly help me complete this endeavor. In my opinion, Ultrarunning is a team effort. No way I make it to the finish line in these races without my massive and awesome support team! Pauline posted all the updates online for everyone almost immediately. At each aid station, she made sure to read me all the posted comments and text messages. It was truly incredible to hear from people all over the country as I was out there slogging through the mud each lap. I want to pass along to all of you one of, if not the, coolest thing anyone has ever done for me…Pauline contacted a bunch of people in our life via email and asked them to record a voice message to me in the days prior to the race. Pauline then took these 35 messages of inspiration and secretly put them on my iPods without my knowledge! All throughout the race, I heard the voices of friends and loved ones mixed in with my music. At times, I was even fast-forwarding thru music to hear the next message! Absolutely Unreal!! Thank you to everyone who participated in this amazing surprise.

Onto the race…

The dark night skylit up with lightning as the rain poured down on race morning. We seat in the minivan and just laughed as the rain seemed to come down harder and harder as the race grew closer and closer. Finally, it was time to strap on the headlamp and shoes and head over to the start area. The race started at 6am so we were on the trails in the card for about the first hour of racing. The plan was to go out slow, slow down some more, and be careful with my footing. No reason to get too crazy and roll an ankle. 100 miles is a long ways and there is plenty of time for a multitude of things to go wrong. I wore my Nathan hydration vest filled with 2 liters of Secret Drink Mix and figured from my training that I would drink 2 liters every 20 miles. As the race started, we all headed out into the darkness and rain. I tried to settle in on a pace that felt like 9:40-10 minute pace. I wore my Garmin but tried not to look at it too often in the dark since I was unsure of my footing. I followed the pack in front of me and enjoyed the crazy feeling of running on the trails in the rain and darkness. The visor on my hat shielded my eyes from the rain as my Petzl headlamp lit up the trail in front of me. It felt like we got to the Damnation Aid station around 6.2 miles into the race easily and the race had quickly spread out. I was already running by myself most of the time and I was able to turn off the headlamp because the daylight now made the trail visible. Of course, once i can see the trail clearly, around 7 miles, I slipped on a patch of slick mud and wound up square on my backside. To be more specific, I landed on my Nathan Vest with a bladder full of fluids inside. I feared that I broke the bladder and I would be without a vital piece of equipment for the rest of the race. Fortunately, nothing broke and I was just a little scraped up. I heard the first message around 9 miles and I was totally awestruck that Pauline pulled off such a feat. After each song, I would anxiously await either another message or the next random song. The rest of the lap went well. I felt good but probably did not eat enough. I have had some GI issues in previous ultras so I decided to try and stick with potatoes and salt for as long as possible during the race since I kew these worked well for me. Unfortunately, these were not available so I opted to delay my eating. When I reached the Park Road Aid Station (15.6mi) Tracy estimated that I was in around 22nd place. I felt good and relaxed. It was nice to see them and off I went down the trail to meet them again at the completion of my first lap. I completed my first lap in 2:51. Significantly faster that the 3:20-3:40 I was hoping for and the pace was 8:33 per mile. I felt relaxed but I also knew that I could not sustain such a pace. I needed to just chill out. I changed out of my wet shirt and socks into dry ones since the rain had passed and I headed out onto the next 20 mile lap.

The best part of the first 3 miles of each lap was knowing that Pauline and Tracy would be at the less crowded Nature Center Aid Station. It was great to see them before heading out on the 12 mile Damnation loop. The Nature Center also had the only real (not port-a-potty) restrooms on the course–A big Plus! I continued to feel relaxed and ate a Clif bar out on the way to Dannation. I was still mostly running by myself and the trail just seemed to get muddier by the mile. As I ran through each mud bog, my shoes began to fill with sediment. The messages continued on my iPod and according to ultra, I came thru 32.2 miles in 4:16:09..I had dropped down to 7:57 pace.. I was feeling good but was still probably not eating enough. I tried to slow down and relax after stopping at the Damnation aid station @32.2. There was plenty of running ahead of me and I wanted to be smart about how to go forward. I came through 40 miles at 6:06:55 in around 20th place overall. I met Pauline & Tracy and changed my shoes, socks, and shorts. I was running fast and was a little worried that I had blown it by going out too fast. Tracy told me to just relax and treat the third lap as a recovery lap–just like it was an easy lap around the track. It totally worked…but there would be one problem….

I successfully slowed down to a more reasonable pace and hooked up with Michael from Denmark and Mike Rush from Arkansas during the first few miles of the 3rd lap. Nice to get in some conversation. Still feeling good but my right hip really started to hurt heading into lap 3 and as the race progressed, the roots that i stepped over so easily became more and more of a factor for my right leg. Sorry for not mentioning this earlier–but as part of my hydration strategy, I ate 2 Thermolyte Metasalts every hour and I had no cramping issues at all throughout the race. Michael and I continued along the Damnation loop together and broke away from me probably around 50 miles. I came through 52.2 miles at 8:02.52. I had successfully slowed down to 9:15 pace and sat around 21st place. This would be a massive PR for 50 miles for me and after looking at the results, I likely would have finished around 5-7th place in the 50 miler with the same effort. But I was fortunate enough to keep on running for another 50 miles. Anyway life was good with the exception of my hip hurting more and more along the way. I came rolling into the Park Road Aid Station at 55.6 miles and felt great. The battery on my Garmin had died and Tracy offered me his. I declined the Garmin and a watch. I decided that I was just running against myself from this point on. The inspirational messages kept on coming and I had nothing but positive thoughts. For the better part of 55 miles, I thought about nothing but the race or about the wonderful people in my life. I was completely focused and positive……Until around 56 miles I realized that my hydration pack was empty. I started to feel this massive pit in my stomach. There was no way I could keep running without any fluids. I had committed my first major mistake. Turns out that I needed 2 liters of fluid for every 3 hours not every 20 miles.I thought about turning around and heading back to the aid station but I decided to keep moving forward. I started walking and my head started to go to a very bad place. I spent the next 4 miles feeling worse and worse about myself. How could I let this happen? Now that I was walking, my hip began to really tighten up. The temperature had been dropping all day because a cold front followed the morning thunder storm. I was now cold, depressed, hip in pain, walking….I found my bottom and it was not very fun. I came walking into the 60 mile Dogwood Aid Station and I was finished mentally. I handed my vest to Pauline and Tracy, they handed me my gear bag, and I walked away and sat in a chair. I had mentally checked out and I just sat quietly staring at the ground. I started thinking that I could not let Pauline and Tracy down. They had sacrificed so much and had been so awesome. I could not let down all the people who left messages, sent comments and texts along the way. I could not stop. I could not let this bottom get the best of me. It Always Never Gets Worse. In the aid station, I ate some quesadillas and drank some coke along with a big jug of Secret Drink Mix. I put on my sleeves and vest, walked out to Tracy and Pauline and put on my vest. They could tell that I was in a bad place. They were supportive and told me that they would see me 3 miles down the road at the Nature Center. At that moment, I thought the Nature Center might be the end of my race. I hobbled out of the Aid Station and out onto my 4th lap. I came through 60 miles in 10:33:43 in 33rd place. My hip felt awful and I was wondering what was next…

Somewhere around 62 miles I started to feel a little better and started to re-evaluate things. I might not break 20 hours but the big goal was to finish under 24 hours. This was totally within reach as long as I kept my head on straight. As I ran into the Nature Center at 63.1 Pauline and Tracy saw that I had come back to life. Tracy said he could see it in my eyes. I was positive and I laid out the game plan–I was going to run as much as my hip allowed and then walk when I needed to. I was going to finished this thing under 24 hours. Tracy told me he would run the Damnation loop with me on the 5th lap, I just had to get back to the Nature Center 1 more time! I ate an amazing Grilled Ham and Cheese Sandwich, had a coke, drank a bottle of secret drink mix and changed my socks. Nothing like dry feet!. I headed out to Damnation feeling confident that I was moving in the right direction, While out on the loop I remembered something a friend told me before the race–That after 60 miles it would be all about guts and emotional support. I thought about that a lot out on this loop. I know I had the love and support–Pauline was reading me the messages and comments that were pouring in via blog/text and I had those amazing messages on my iPod. I just had to do my part and provide the guts. I can do that! During the 4th lap, the sun set and I was back using my headlamp. I decided I would run whenever I felt comfortable with my footing. I would walk thru all the sketchy rooted and super muddy sections. I think the strategy worked. I reached 72.2 miles in 13:08:12. Still alone and in the dark, I was feeling positive and loved. Life was good. I came thru the 75.6 mile Aid station and joked with Pauline and Tracy…I’ve got just under a marathon to go!!! We all got a good laugh out of that one. It was getting colder and my hip was getting worse, but I knew that I could finish at that point. I reached the Dogwood Aid Station at 80 miles in 15:56:35. I ate and drank like a man about to head out for an easy 20 miler in the mud and dark…Quesadillas and coke. I was ready to knock this out!

AHHH the last lap! I broke this lap down by aid stations. I just needed to get to 83.1 and then I would have Tracy with me for 12 miles. 5k alone, no problem. I just relaxed and followed the plan. Run when I can and Walk thru the nasty roots and deep mud. Everything felt good except my right hip. I ran into the Nature Center, Said Aloha to my dear friend the clean restroom for the last time, ate and drank a bit, and headed off down the trail with Tracy. Along the trail, we reminisced about old times and he provided the proper pacing along the way. Awesome effort by Tracy along the trail and the loop went by rather quickly. It was really cool running along the damn spillway under he clear sky and 3/4 moon with him. Something I will never forget for sure. We hit the Damnation aid station for the last time and headed back home. All the little roots and hills now seemed much, much larger. My hip was feeling worse and worse but I know that the finish is close by. As we pass people out on the course, they all ask ” finishing lap?” When I respond yes, they all are excited and convey congratulations. What a cool feeling. I wished everyone a Good Night and Tracy and I went along our way to see Pauline at 95.6 miles. She was very happy to see us because there were multiple reports of runners down on the course and she was a little worried. I carried my phone just in case we got in trouble but I am certain she was happy to see our headlamps come out of the forest. I have to admit, I was a bit mentally out of it for this last lap. I did a lot of following and most of the time, I had the opposite of focus—I thought about nothing. I left Pauline and Tracy at the Park road Aid Station and promised them I would see them in 4.4 miles. At this point, I was on total auto-pilot. I would love to say that I recognized trails, trees, and landmarks along the way that told me how far I was from home, but that would be false. I had no watch or Garmin–the battery only lasts 8 hours–so I was just chugging away. As I made the final turn and could see Dogwood and the finish area all lit up 400 meters away, I though to myself–“Wow, I am really finishing this thing! And I’m in one piece!” I was cold, muddy, wet, and mentally out of it…but I sure was happy to finish. As I came thru the finish line, so many nice people in the tent shook my hand and congratulated me on my outstanding run. I finished in 37th place with a time of 21:18:42. Pauline and Tracy met me with massive smiles and carted me off to the minivan and to the hotel where I showered and slept for a few hours.

Wow that hurt!

The next day we headed over to Austin to hang out with Doug and his amazing family. We ate at the Salt Lick and enjoyed Austin. Doug had me jump in between the hot tub and cold pool 3 times on Monday night and I feel like that really helped a lot with my hip. We are back in Honolulu now and I feel pretty good. I am a bit swollen in my feet, ankles, legs, knees, and lower back. My hip feels fine and I have only 1 blister! Unreal!!

I would like to thank everyone for all the kindness and support—this is a team effort and you have all been a big part of it! I would also like to note how amazing the volunteers were at this race—Super friendly, supportive, and helpful—Thank You very much!

Side note—only 218 of the 376 that started (405 signed up) finished the race–a 58% finishing rate and 91 runners finished under 24 hours.

My next race will be the Diablo Trails Challenge 50k in Northern California on April 21 and then I will be back in the Bay Area for the Miwok 100k on May 5.

I hope to see you there!



  1. So great to hear words from you. What an amazing story of highs, lows, endurance, perserverance, love, support, and success. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Mahalo Jenn! It was quite an experience. Now I’m curious to see how long it takes me to recover and for my body to look remotely normal again. Thanks for all the support and your inspiration everyday!

  2. Thanks to reading your blog on my phone (and not paying attention) I got on to the wrong train going home from work in Chicago. An express train out of the city. I spent the next hour leaving the city on an express train only to turn around at the next stop and having to get a local train back, stopping at all 15 stops, since the last express train back in to the city had already left. Thanks a lot ๐Ÿ™‚

    The blog is great. You have articulated the ebbs and flows of your run so well. I feel that for some people running is a spiritual experience. From reading your blog I think you’re one of those people. Congrats again and enjoy some rest before your next adventure.

  3. How often does one get to support a friend through their first 100 mile race? Pretty sure, in my case, it’s a once in a lifetime experience. Unforgettably priceless.

    Pauline was the captain of the ship. With Mike slogging it out on the course, she wasn’t about to let some measly sleep deprivation prevent her from providing Mike what he required exactly when he needed it. Even when she wasn’t with him, she was sneaking in support; sound bites from loved ones on Mikes iPod, brilliant! Thank you, Pauline.

    Mike, good luck in the golden hills of Cali this Spring.

    If you make it out to the heartlands again, Colorado.. where ever, I’ll try to find a way to be there.

    • Thanks T! Trip wouldn’t have been the same without you. Thanks for the support and for toughing it out with Michael on the last lap. I knew he would be fine (and grateful) with you out there. Thanks again for taking time away from your family to be with us…and for the five pack of Bud Light Platinums.

  4. Hey Michael! I just took the time to read this entry…I wanted to make sure I was present when I read about your experience. First of all, your a great writer. I was on the edge of my seat and I already knew the ending! I appreciate you sharing the mental challenge and hitting the bottom. It gave me great perspective and I will remember your words as I face challenges in the future. Thanks for sharing!

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