Rocky Raccoon 50k Race Report

The Rocky Raccoon 50k trail race took place on Nov 6 at Huntsville State Park, and I ran the 50k with the goal of completing it under 6 hours.  I have run this course several times, so it was nice coming into a race and knowing what to expect on the course; 2 25k loops, nothing too hilly and technical, just roots, and well supported aid stations.  Additionally, we were blessed with a cold front which resulted in a temperature of about 37 deg F at the start time of 6 am.  A little different weather than I’d grown accustomed to in the summer, and even the week before had temperatures in the 80’s.   Standing around in the cold before the race, I was just ready to start moving and warm up.  I noticed that alot of the runners had no headlamps and there seemed to be more runners in general too than earlier this year at Hog’s Hunt (I checked the results and indeed there are about ~25 more runners).


Once we got onto the trail and off the road (quick aside–why does the first lap always proceed down the main park road, while on the second lap, the runners go on the trail? Maybe I’ll ask the RD) we got onto the trail and it seemed pretty packed.  Not much room, but this lack of space was alleviated after we got to the jeep road which opened things up.  Before the race, the race director said the course wasn’t wet (a storm system that came in the week before), but there was alot of work the park crew had to do to clean up the broken limbs due to the high winds.  So, if you hear a tree falling, you may get in an unexpected tempo run.  Sure enough, this foreshadowing came to fruition and led to a cheap thrill around 3 miles in as the sound of a tree falling could be heard in the pitch dark, followed by nervous laughter from the runners nearby.  I looked up (rather than at the ground as any good trail runner does) but couldn’t see anything or hear any complaints from anyone else, so on I went.   The rest of the loop was rather uneventful for me.  I felt great and the weather was good, couldn’t ask for much more.  I was still going pretty strong 13 miles in and was wondering if I was going too fast? Well, I might as well go when I feel good.


Finished the first lap in about 2:52 and continued back out.  The first few miles were o.k. but legs were definitely starting to tire.  Once I hit the jeep road again, I had to walk the ~60 ft hill (according to my garmin)  which is much tougher the second time around after you’ve already gone 17 miles.  The next few miles were still tough and my legs were not liking the little hills on the jeep road but walking seemed to give them enough rest.  I was just worried they were tiring out too quickly–these hills were not that big and I still had over 10 miles to go were I most undoubtedly would get more tired.  However, after 20 miles I was still on pace for a 6 hour finish.  I did notice before the 2nd aid station on the 2nd loop that it might be a good idea to take my head cap off (necessary for me since it was cold at the start but not so much now that it had warmed up probably into the 50’s).  Removing that cooled off my head, and I dumped some water on it for good measure which felt great.  At this point, my legs were getting more sore and it was much tougher mentally to continue running for 10 minute spurts (or even 5 or 6 minute spurts).  I also went to the bathroom and noticed I was probably dehydrated.  Whoops!  I guess the cool temperatures can fool you into not drinking as much water, and after I thought about it I don’t think I drank enough during the middle of the course.  This point was 5 miles to the next aid station, which was tough, but I managed to rebound with a strong effort the last mile or so before the last aid station, which was 2.8 miles to the finish.  I came into there having drank all my water and it was nice to see my friends manning the aid station.  I had 33 minutes to finish under 6 hours, but I felt totally gassed and my legs were pretty sore.  I didn’t take too long at the station visiting, and left and soon started jogging again, but it quickly became apparent I had gone a little too hard the 20 minutes before, and I needed to walk.  The last few miles I ran/walked and ended up finishing in 6:08.  So, a little short of 6 hours, but also set a PR by about 5 minutes.

So in retrospect, maybe I should have drank more water and that would have helped me in the middle of the race.  When I ran Hog’s Hunt, I remember I finished the last 2.8 miles REALLY strong, whereas this time I kind of ran out of gas a few miles short.  Maybe I could have been a little mentally tougher, or maybe I should have managed my energy a little better, but overall I was happy.  I missed my goal by 8 min, but that really isn’t that much time over the course of a 6 hour effort.   Also this race, I really didn’t run with anyone.  A few passersby here and there, but I was pretty much solo the whole time.  I know from experience it’s definitely nice to have company, someone there to push you along and chat with, but sometimes it’s nice to run your own race too–would be interesting to know if I would have done better with someone pushing me the last 10 miles.