Rocky Raccoon 2018 Race Report by Eric Lamkin
I don’t usually write race reports, but this being my first 100 mile race I wanted to have something in writing to look back on. I was very nervous going into this race. I had no idea what to expect out of my legs/body past a 100k distance, or how my mental state would be with sleep deprivation and complete exhaustion. No pacers for me. The new race course is essentially a series of long out-at-back sections, with four 25 mile loops. I was a bit concerned with the monotony of seeing the same course sections over and over. The weather forecast was calling for 50% intermittent showers with a start-temp in the lower 40s, warming up into the 50s during the day. And what’s this?…good cell phone reception at the park!? That was a nice perk, and my wife appreciated the text updates after each loop. Well, the 1:30 am text had her concerned a bit. Here’s the quote “75i. Hurtng bad. Still able to run. Tired.” In retrospect I probably should have left out the hurting bad part. Neither of us slept that night.
Tent set-up..check. Packet pickup…easy as always. Listened to McWaters pre-race trail briefing…not much help as usual (but fun just to talk/see everyone). If you hadn’t looked at the course map or aid station chart at this point you are a moron. There were so many talented runners, big names I had read about in various magazines, and crazy outfits. I felt small, undeserving for some reason. I chocked it up to pre-race jitters, and browsed the goods table. I saw they were taking order for a Rocky finishers jacket. I ordered one and paid right then, hoping that my positive mindset and energy would be greater than karma and mr. murphy. Checked my race gear one more time. Everything seemed in order: headlamp w/backup hand-held light and a cheap backup headlamp in my drop bag just in case, salt pills, rain jacket, gels, ipod w/headphone, gloves, buffs, etc. etc.
Got up around 3:30 since I was awake. I never sleep well the night before. Ate some oatmeal, made some coffee, and just sat and took it all in for a few minutes. The park had some nice showers/restrooms so that was nice, so I dropped the kids off at the pool if you know what I mean and headed down to the start line. Another gear check at the Rockhoppers tent (big, very BIG thank-you to Jeanie and Rich). I decided to take a selfie at the start of each loop, for posterity…
The first 15 miles or so I just ran and chatted with folks, trying to see where everyone was from. Then I popped in my earbuds and
tried to keep a very, very easy pace. Just keep things on the rails. The rain picked up and started to make everything muddy. Long sections of mud to trudge through, 30-50 feet at a time with no way to go around unless you were carrying some bushwhacking tools. I
didn’t, so I got muddy. The problem with the mud was that it was all the same level, but the depth was unknown. I saw a runner sink down 6-8 inches and then fall. That worried me.
I started to appreciate these out-and-backs. The constant “good job!”, “good work!” when runners would pass. Learned a few
new ones and tried them out here and there. I shouted out to Gordy Ainsleigh “keep going Gordy!” a few times. He always attracts a group around him when he runs (I saw this at Bandera) but never seems to shout out to runners unsolicited. But in one section he was all alone, and as he passed by he quietly whispered “keep going brother”. I’m sure Gordy has tossed that comment out many times, but it hit me hard for some reason. Is this what get’s me into the Ultrarunning brotherhood? A crazy 100 mile run through mud and rain with
Gordy Ainsleigh? He called me brother. I don’t ever get emotional while running, but I teared up and flew high till the next aid station. That high passed when my calf started to get a little tingly, that pre-cramp tingle that I dread. That pulled me out of my head right quick. Drink water. Salt check (did I forget?). Slow down and walk the next 15 min. I try to avoid ibuprofen during a run. But being only
halfway done, I got into my drop bag and the end of loop 2 and took some, knowing that I was going to have to keep careful track of the dosages/times to avoid a trip to the ER.
The sun was already starting to set as I was finishing up loop 2. Loop 3 would be all night running for me. This loop had me dealing with my calf again (a few times). But I took it slow, determined not to let my body keep what my mind wanted to achieve. Everything started to ache a bit more, feet, knees, quads, you name it. They all hurt. My ipod battery died in the middle somewhere, so no music or podcasts until it charged a bit on the usb charger I had on me. I started to get really tired, but I met up with some other folks running and we held that group for 10-15 miles. Slowly the group dwindled until it was just me and another lady, Dalali from
Colorado. I told her about my pre-race jitters and that it was my first 100. Small talk mostly from me. She seemed pretty quite. Turns out this 61 yr old woman would become my mind-saver and my new hero.
Most of my bitching I kept in my head, but some were slipping out. The occasional, ‘fuck’, or ‘god damnit’, whenever I would trip on a root or rock, or the specially painful step down. Dalali asked if this was my first 100. Yep. This was her second attempt at a 100, with a DNF at Leadville by missing the cutoffs. I stubbed my foot on another root and a ‘I don’t know if I can do another lap’ slipped out. Dalali was ahead of me. She started walking and turned to me. She said (paraphrasing), “you can do this. All these negative thoughts, emotions, and negative energy you are feeling are simply in your head. 10 minutes from now it will be something else, because your mind’s only reference is past pain. You’re feeling negative energy from your whole life right now, from childhood pain when you were 7, to pain from teenage years, all your painful emotions and thoughts. That’s all this is. You can do this, and you will prove to everything and everyone that caused you pain that you can overcome, and that the pain they caused does not define you. You are scared also, because you may prove them all wrong and you’ve never experienced that.” It sounds a little ‘woo-hoo’ crazy when I write it down, but in that moment I was blown away. Then she told me how, in her forties, she started running. She skipped right to the marathon first (damn). Then she did a marathon in every state (double-damn!). Then a marathon on every continent. Then she did a series of one-off races, like base camp Everest, Machu Picchu, Patagonia, the list just kept going. And all of my bitching and aching just seemed childish all of a sudden. She patted my back, I told her thank you. And we kept moving, in a lot of pain. I almost broke down right there, but I followed her with tears running down my face in the quiet night. This angel helped me through my darkest moments, and I will never forget it. Thank you. I noticed my headlamp started to dim. Shit. I pulled out my hand-held and 5 minutes later it was the only working light I had on me.
I call this loop the “pain cave”. I was deep in it. I grabbed my old backup headlamp from by bag. I had no idea when I changed the batteries last. It was 1:30 in the morning, and I needed this thing to last until sunrise. Son of a bitch this was a gamble. Lesson learned. My mind was foggy. In the hectic scrambling to get out quickly I forgot to grab my GPS watch charger to re-charge on the run. My ipod had been charging, so I grabbed it, threw on the earbuds, and marched out sans watch charger. My pre-race planning was falling apart. I had brought enough calories and water for a 13-15 min pace. I did not expect to be ‘running’ a 20-30 min mile. The 4 mile out-and-backs
were suddenly taking 2+hours, and I was running out of everything. I would hit the aid stations and down lots of water, eat whatever looked good, and then eat it again. My watch died around mile 81. My concern wasn’t that I lost my first 100 mile strava map. My concern was more immediate. I was worried, without knowing the time, when was the last time I took salt, ate something, when did I last take an ibuprofen? Not good. I had no idea. I felt like I was running somewhere in the 15-17 min range. I would get to the aid station, ask the time, and realize it was closer to 20-25 min miles. Should have brought a regular watch or something that showed the time. Lesson learned.
The last 20 miles were all about soft steps. I no longer avoided the mud, I followed the footprints through it from those before me. My ipod died again. Oh well. But everyone out here at this point was determined to finish. Those passing one-liners of “nicely done” turned into complete sentences. “Good job, keep it going, you can do this, and see you at the finish line”. I guess when you’re moving that slow if you only say ‘good job’ then there’s that awkward silence between the two of you for the next 20 seconds as you both hobble by…. So everyone just said more, and it helped. I marched it in. The longest march of my life, but I did it. 28Hrs, 19 min. McWaters gave me a hug. I teared up a bit. Jeanie got me some food and a ginger ale (how awesome is she!), and I finally got to sit down.
I am so thankful to everyone who gave me support, help, and advice along the way. Too many to name, but I couldn’t have finished without
you. I never imagined how special this would be for me. So many other things unmentioned (don’t get me started on the halucinations!). Here’s a link to my running playlist I made for this race, in case you are curious what I listen to on the trail. Thanks for reading. -Eric