Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Post-post race report: The Rocky Racoon 50-miler.

(Now, with pictures! See below...)

It took a long time to do, so it will take a long time to write.
The Rocky Racoon 50-mile Trail Run-- which should be called, the "Rooty Racoon" but somehow that isn't quite as catchy, I suppose--is three 16-2/3 mile loops through Huntsville State Park, and the first thing *I* noticed upon arrival is a small, almost unobtrusive sign off to the left side of the road, so small as to be almost an afterthought:

I only saw this sign once, but ruminated on it continuously the last 1/3 of the race.

Or maybe it just said, "Alligators Exist." That would be almost existentialist. Alligators exist, and I exist. Thus, I will be eaten. I put it out of my mind until late in the race, which is when the silliness of the late-race dillerium sets in.

So, three loops. The forecast was mid-to-upper 70s, and humid. I would be walking.

The first loop was not bad. I walked it, carrying on a conversation with a woman who was also walking, although her pace was a bit faster than mine. I was able to keep up for a while because she'd done a marathon less than a week ago LESS THAN A WEEK AGO and had to stop at aid stations and stretch.

On the first loop I passed people, though they passed me back later, for good. A nagging pain started on the ball of my right foot. When I came into the finish/start/turnaround station at 11:30 am, I took off my shoes and socks and was surprised to find a nice little pile of sand adhered to the bottom of my foot. Huh? I cleaned off my foot, and applied a bandaid to a spot on the inside of the same foot that was starting to feel a little raw. My time on the first loop was about 4.5 hours, and nearly 20 minutes in the aid station.

I headed back out just before noon, leaving my jacket behind, with my shirt tied around my waist, and my hand-held full of gatorade. Ironic. GATOR-aid.
Which exists. IN THE PARK.

The second loop was harder. It was hot, and my feet were softening. Things were starting to hurt. I knew from experience that usually I start hurting, and then things get better around mile 20. Except, this time, they didn't. And, not only did my feet hurt, but it was HOT and HUMID. I started wondering about the sign. You know the one. Say it with me, now:

This course is mostly flat. I'm going to guess that biggest climb is maybe 10 feet. Maybe. And that happens about 3 times on the course. But there are roots. Roots about every 1-2 feet. This wasn't a problem for me, actually - I was moving pretty slow and had time to navigate around them, but occasionally kicking them and stepping on them was beginning to take its toll on my feet. My third loop took 5.5 hours, and I spent about 20-25 minutes in the aid station.

See those roots?
No you don't.
And neither did
the people who
tripped on them.
Some look like
loose twigs.
Some just don't
show up at all.)

I sat down at the aid station just before the finish/start/turnaround station, and had a cheese sandwich. It was awesome.

I found out they were serving HEED, and I don't know why, but once I started drinking it my stomach, which had been queazy, started feeling better. My legs even stopped hurting. I headed into the finish/start/turnaround station feeling pretty good, convinced my painful times were behind me.

Right before the finish/start/turnaround station, there was a group of people sitting by the path, cheering. For some inexplicable reason, as I went past, all five or six of them fell silent. SILENT. One of them said, weakly, in a normal speaking voice, "Good job."

Then they cheered wildly for the three or four runners 20 yards behind me.

PEOPLE, Do not cheer for people unless you're going to cheer for everyone. That's all I'm saying.
When I headed out to the third and final loop, I stood up and knew I was in trouble. Oh, boy. I sat back down for a moment. This was going to hurt.


Should I quit? I don't remember doing anything that hurt this much before.

All I have to do is make it from aid station to the next, right?

It was just before 6 pm, and the sun was going down. I had my headlight. I had just put on my compression socks, for whatever reason. I knew this would take a long time. The aid stations were 3 miles, 3 miles, 2 miles, 4 miles, and then finish. I put a water-proof patch over the ball of my right foot, which was showing warning signs of forming a blister under the callous. There was a hot spot on the inside of my heel on the same foot, and I put a blister shield on that.

I drank a Slimfast. I stood up. OW.

I headed out. The sun set. I turned on my headlight.

I stopped to adjust my shoe, and that's when a man in his 60s or so ran by me and patted my backside. Startled, I straightened, "sorry, I guess I was in the way."

He called back, "it was quite nice, actually."


I came into the first aid station and sat down, hard. On the way there, I was really hurting. It no longer felt good just to sit down for a while and then have a short time of relief and recovery. I no longer felt better after standing back up. Sitting down was just a short respite from standing. I was walking slowly, possibly a 30-minute mile. Occasionally, the endorphins from one painful area would knock out the pain in the other areas for a quarter-mile or so and I would pick it up, and then slow back down again.

At each aid station, I took off my shoes and rubbed my feet, both massaging and also checking for hidden fracture.

Dammit. No fractures.

That meant I had to keep moving.

I figured out that if I carried my light in my hand, I could see better. It cast shadows away from me, so that I could see the roots coming. Only when I let myself get distracted did I kick any.

I'd seen people take some nasty spills all day. One girl went down hard in a cloud of dust. I was lucky, though. Or maybe just slow. When you don't have forward momentum, you don't really trip, you just kick everything in your path, which carries its own set of annoyances, but at least you don't go headlong into a tree.

Or an alligator.

Which, as you recall: EXIST. IN THE PARK.

I came into the Dam Road aid station, before the Dam Road loop, which brought it back to me 2.2 miles later. It was a long 2.2 miles. I was really, really hurtin'. I knew I could do this I knew it but boy, it was sure hurting. I wondered if my resolve to never do this again would stick or if I'd be stupid enough to sign up for another one.

I wondered if I'd have some sort of spiritual awakening that comes with pain and suffering. I hoped for it, so that this would all have meaning. That never happened. Just the constant sensation that some evil bastard with a large hammer was beating on my feet.

I wondered what happened to some of the people that I talked to earlier.

I wondered if there were alligators stalking me, the slowest moving animal in the herd, ready to pick me off, Darwinism at its finest: You're too late! I'd shout, triumphantly as I slid down the animal's gullet, I've already passed on my stupidity genes.

Such is the late night thoughts that make you giggle insanely to yourself.

>>rustle, rustle<< whatwasthat??

I shone my flashlight into the woods all around me. Didn't see anything. Most of the time, I was alone.

>>rustle, rustle<<
Shit! I tried to move faster, but it wasn't working. It was hurting. I made deals with myself. Just make it to 12:40, and then you can sit for 5 minutes. So that's what I did: I started walking 10, sitting for 3 to 5 minutes. Then I was walking 5, and sitting 1 or 2 minutes. Giving the rustling noise a chance to catch up to me.

At the last aid station, the volunteer rubbed my feet for me. Then he asked if I'd considered running.

Why, what a capital idea! If only I'd thought of this "running" thing sooner, I'd be done by now!

If I'd had the strength to laugh I would have. I just stared at him. Then I thanked him for the footrub, and stood up.


But then, you know, after a half mile or so, or maybe it was 2 yards, I did a little hopping run on my forefoot that kind of felt better - I think it took the pressure off my arches and such, but I could only do it for so long. I mean, it was after midnight, and I'd been on my feet for 17 hours or more.

Man, this sucks. At least in an Ironman I get to sit on a bike for a while.

Heh. Never thought I'd be jonesing for a bike right now. But I was.



and then:

>>quack quack<<
OH. Relief. That was definitely NOT an alligator, unless they're imitating ducks now. But what was the hell were ducks doing up this late at night? Was I hallucinating? Maybe we crazies had disturbed it, running through the woods.

But still, OW. OW. I stopped every once in a while to hold onto a tree, just for a moment, and pull one foot off the ground for a moment, just a moment, and then the other foot.

Ahhhhh. OW.

Ahhhhh. OW.

The last 4 miles were the worst. The absolute worst. Every 5 feet was a mile, and every turn that was to bring me into the bright finish instead, stretched into darkness, more dark woods, more trail. It was endless. I was exhausted. I was crying nearly as much from exhaustedness (is that a word? Well, it should be) as much as I was from pain.

And then, unbelievably, I was done, at about 1:45 in the morning. Or 1:39. Whatever.

Volunteers, at first, came to see if I was okay, being as I sat down immediately on the other side of the mat and refused to move another inch. And cried. One of them gave me a hug, and asked me if I needed anything.

But then some guy came flying across the mat, finishing the 100miler. He pranced from foot to foot, stretching, holding his arms high, doing a little dance--the people attending to me immediately dropped me like a bad habit and ran over to him, until there were 6 people attending this guy while he was saying, "I feel great! I think I'll get something to eat."
Then they hovered around him for a while, following him as he perused the food table, asking him questions.

Eventually, I leaned over and tugged on a pant leg. Could I, you know, could I have a finisher's medal? Please?

One of the volunteers helping the recent finisher looked over at me. "OH! I knew there was something I forgot." She went to get me a medal, and then some soup. I laid down for a while, but eventually got up and hobbled over to our car, running the heater until it was blasting hot in there, and then napped for a few hours, until it was time to go over and tend to Baboo, who came in about 5:45 and nudged me awake, and said, "Let's Go." But I'll let him tell you about that.

197 started, and 174 finished.

So, it's 3 days post, and how do you feel? Ready to sign up for another one?

Well. I'm pretty determined not to do another one of these. I don't like running at night - it's lonely and it's boring and taps fully into my paranoid delusional craziness and fears of being eaten by a bear or something with all the rustlings that make you afraid to pee in the woods. I don't like running until 1:45 in the morning - it's painful and it's tiring.

No, I think the 50K is my race. 31 miles is totally doable. You're done by supper and can get a good, normal night's sleep. You don't worry about wild animals stalking you in the dark.

But, I'm glad I tried it. Now I know.

And you can't ever know until you know, you know?

I wonder what else I can do...



  1. Wow Misty, congratulations on your finish at the Rocky Racoon! It sounds like quite the experience. I can't believe that all the volunteers abandoned you at the end there though!

  2. That's an incredible race, and a terrific race report. Bummer about the end, being all left alone and such. Great job

  3. Congrats, Misty! What a story! As always, I am impressed with your stick-to-it-ness. Way to go, girl! You continue to inspire me...

  4. Anonymous12:21 PM

    That was a fine race report -- and you showed great stamina and fortitude during those 50 miles!!

  5. Wonderful job! You are so inspirational. I'm glad to hear you finished and checked off another accomplishment!

  6. Hey - I want to be sure to let you know that 99.9% of the time those volunteers were the best. THE BEST. I think it was just late, and they were distracted.

  7. Gosh, I want you to do another one just so I can read the report. That was one seriously excellent report on a painful race. Congrats on the race, sure, but thanks loads for writing it up so well.

  8. I'm really glad you made it out of there alive. Did you hear that there are alligators IN THE PARK? That would have done me in.

    Proud of you for finishing. Really.

    As for what else you can do the answer is clearly 'anything'.

  9. Congrats on finishing! And FWIW, you weren't in any real danger from the alligators. I sometimes run where there are gators, too, and am here to tell the tale. Now, if you were a small yappy dog....

  10. It was nice meeting you at the start. Great Report! You really summed up the Rocky experience. See you on the trail.

  11. Wear that medal all week proudly...or at least the finisher's shirt or SOMETHING!

    (I think those alligators conspired to move you forward...)

    It takes a special person to realize their limitations.
    Don't feel bad about not ever doing another run of this distance. It's a small crowd who can.

  12. OMG-sounds like an acomplishment/nightmare/learning experience-oh and an emotional one at that. I can't imagine nor do I ever want to running or walking or crawling 50 miles. My hats off to you Misty-you did it.
    Best line ever-"Dammit. No fractures."

  13. I love the end (and the beginning and middle...but you never know until you know part)! Maybe the race director posted the alligator signs to keep the racers moving.

    I'm proud of you for finishing!

  14. Excellent work Misty! Now, to get over the fear of the bike, I think you should come up for the Hwy 212 Gut Check. :-)

  15. Wow! 212 WHOLE MILES? JUST FOR ME?

    eh, no.

  16. Well...actually it's 412, but who's counting at that point!

  17. Good job!! Sounds like aLOT of pain out there. Tough conditions in that heat.

  18. Nice pics! Love the gaiters.

  19. Rustling ducks in the bushes would REALLY scare me! I don't think I would be any good running at night alone like that.
    Good job hanging in there. Glad you got your medal.

  20. As always a great race report! You absolutely capture the experience.

    Running 50 miles with Alligators certainly gives you serious bragging rights! Great job!

  21. WOW, great job! Especially with all the roots, heat and aligators (er, ducks)! I am impressed by the fortitude needed to finish an ultra and you have it in spades! Congratulations!

  22. This was fascinating to read, thanks for sharing this experience!
    I'd also like to try some ultras and trail runs. You know creatures always sound bigger at night, but it does sound freaky at night with the noises. I think the gators are almost comatose at night without the sun's heat. Congratulations on your finish!

  23. What an experience, you are a brave soul to take that on and finish. Wow. Every now and then I get a thought about doing something like this, but then I banish it. I'm impressed that you followed through and finished such an epic event.

  24. Congratulations!

    Reading your report, I think you've graduated, but I'm not sure from what. Then again, I wouldn't need to know.

    Well done.

  25. A job well done and I felt like I was there racing with you after reading this. I love how you write. You made me laugh out loud at a couple points. you inspire me so much. Thanks.

  26. OMG OMG OMG. You are such a rock star for sticking this out. Especially now that alligators have evolved enough to use duck calls.


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 I'm no longer involved in multisport or endurance sports. I've started my own business, a psychotherapist specializing in anxiety d...