Monday, November 7, 2011

Rocky Raccoon 50K Race Report

The Bling
Rocky Raccoon 50K Trail Run
Huntsville, TX - 11/05/2011
Jeff Irvin
Overall Rank:  7th
Age Group Rank: 1st

Back in 2009 I did my first 50k trail run at Huntsville State Park. It took me 6h 19m to finish that race and about a month to get over the damage done to the legs and IT band. I was happy to finish that race but have always felt that I severely under-performed on that day and in the back of my mind I have been looking for Redemption.


The alarm went off at 2:45am and I promptly smacked the snooze button with ninja-like precision. Alarm goes off again at 2:54am and it is time to get the show on the road. Annie, being the world's best sherpa, snaps to it and we plow some breakfast and pile in the car for the hour and fifteen minutes drive north. My friend Bobby was running the race as well so he crashed in the guest room that night and around 3:30am we were on our way to Huntsville.

We got to the state park, picked up our packets, and went back to the car to warm-up. It was around 40 degrees, which is quite chilly for us Southerners. The race was scheduled to start promptly at 6am so this meant we would need headlamps for the first 90 minutes.  

The PreRace Shiver
One of the things I really enjoy about trail races are how laid back and friendly all the other racers are. We were all standing around 5 minutes before the race chatting and joking about what the upcoming 31 plus miles were going to be like.  I meet Annie's friend Nicholas, who was running the race, and we both had the same goal of coming in under 5hrs. Just good, solid people up there in the Texas woods!

The Race:

The race is two 15.5mi loops over single paths and old jeep roads. After the RD is done with his announcements he tells us he is going to walk up to the trail head entrance and sound the starting gun from there. About a minute or two later we hear him yell the race will begin in 45 seconds. I turn to the guy next to me and say, "Where the heck is he, I cannot see a thing?" The guy next to me says, "I don't know? Guess my plan to follow you isn't going to work?"

Gun goes off and 100 people head out in a single file line and we somehow find the trail head and the race is on.

First Loop - Miles 1 - 15.5:

The beginning of the race is on a single path and is a slight uphill for about a mile. A group of about 8-10 guys form off the front and we are moving at a pretty conservative pace trying to navigate the terrain of roots, rocks, sand and stumps. At the one mile mark you hear a bunch of garmin's all simultaneously beep and/or vibrate and I promptly announce, "Only 30 miles to go guys!"  

Everyone had a good laugh as we crossed over the main park road and into the heart of the trails. This section is technical and you had to be very careful not to catch a root and take a header. After we crossed the road a younger guy with his shirt off (it was sub-40 dgrees) took off and dropped us all with the freaking agility of a jungle cat. He was so light on his feet that it looked almost effortless as he ran through the single trail switch backs. He would end up being the overall winner.

At this point we had a solid group of about 8 guys and Nicholas took the lead pulling us successfully through the dark forest. We finally came out to the jeep trail around mile 4 and headed out on the first out and back section to the #1 aid station.  The jeep trails are pretty worn but a lot safer to run on so it is a little bit of a mental break.  

After the first aid station around mile 6 me and a couple other guys jumped out to the front and slightly picked up the pace. I really didn't want to go much faster but I sort of wanted to shake things out a little and see who the runner were. Since I had the strongest headlamp I took the lead and this was not fun. A couple of roots jumped up and hit me pretty good. I never went down but stumbled a few times and at one point twisted my left knee pretty good. It stung a little but I was able to quickly shake it off. 

We headed back down the jeep trail and I started chatting with another guy. Very cool dude and extremely efficient runner. I am pretty light on my feet and have decent form, next to this guy I sounded like a two-ton bull stumbling down the cobblestone streets of Pamplona! 

In our conversation he confirmed my observation about his running.  He had been a 2:21 marathoner and an 8:47 Ironman! Extremely badass! I asked him to save me a few pieces of pizza at the finish line. He finished second overall.

At about 8mi we hear someone coming up behind us and turn around to see the jungle-cat guy who was in the lead? He has a big smile on his face and tells us he took a wrong turn and was lucky to see our lights. He promptly re-takes his position off the front but for some reason me and the two other guys decide to try and run with him. We cover the next two miles at a sub-7min pace as I was sensing he did not like us with him. Now I am still feeling comfortable but the voice of reason in my head that I usually ignore started to make some sense about my inability to hold a sub-7min pace on these trails.  I slowed down and the other two guys (jungle cat and elite runner guy) pulled ahead and shortly after that one of the the other guys I had been running with decided to kick it up a notch and he passed me around mile 13.

At this time I coasted into the finish area in the 4th position and it was time to start lap number two!

So fast the camera could not keep up!
Making the turn 
Annie and Beth - Best Volunteers Evah!

Second Loop - Miles 15.6 - 31.2ish:

I made the turn and Annie and my friend Beth were volunteering at the aid station. It lifted my spirits to see them and they quickly grabbed my water bottle and filled it up. We were able to leave a drop bag at the turn around point. In the picture about you will notice my hands are full. I was dropping of my head lamp and empty EFS Liquid Shots container. I tossed these into my bag and took off. The entire turn around, drop off, and refill probably took no more than 20 seconds.

I headed back out and saw Nicholas coming in and he was maybe 2 or 3 minutes behind me. The next 6 or 7 miles were pretty uneventful. Aside from the 50k, their was also a 25k and 10k taking place.  The 25k started an hour after us and the 10k started 30 minutes after the 25k.  This meant the trails were a little more crowded but it was also sort of nice to see other people.  

About 20 miles in my left knee that had been twisted earlier started to give me some grief. It felt fine climbing and running the flatter areas but hurt like hell when I tried to run the downhills. It was more of a swollen/irritation type of pain as opposed to a sharp/stinging pain so I knew it wasn't serious and would just have to suck it up and nurse it later.

Around the 22nd mile I heard someone yelling behind me and it was Nicholas.  By this time I had been running alone for a couple of hours so it was nice to see him. We ran together the next 4 or 5 miles. He was having some hip flexor pain and I was gimping along down every downhill. We chatted it up and it really helped pass the time.  I was trying to stick to his shoulder for as long as I could but at one point looked up and he was gone! He had an awesome race and finished in 4th place.

Once again I was alone and just trying to focus on moving as fast as I could without falling. It was getting harder and harder to lift the feet up over the roots and my form had become much more of a shuffle than a run. At this point I was in need of some motivation and believe it or not that motivation was strapped on my left wrist in the form of my Garmin 310xt! Right at this point I looked down and simultaneously hit the 26.2mi mark and my split was 3hr 45m - not to shabby on the trails and this gave me the boost I needed.

The knee was sore and limiting me a little but at this point in an ultramarthon everyone has some sort of hurt going on - this is when you just have to dig down and focus on putting one foot in front of the other.     Over the final four miles two more guys passed me and they passed with authority. It sucks to get passed but you got to respect the effort from these guys this late in the run. 

The final few miles hurt and hitting the finish line was great because it meant I could stop.  

Only a few more yards to go!

My type of finish line!

Post race activities included cookies, a bag of M&M's, ice on the knee, warm clothes, and cheering on the rest of the field:

Front Row Seat in the Sun!

Damn It Feels Good to Be a Gangsta.
My Trakkers Teammate, Anne, was also running the race and this was her first 50k. She finished with a huge smile and told me she had a blast. And because she is crazy and 31.2 miles is not enough she went and ran an additional .8 miles to give her a round 32mi for the day. Go check out her blog to read about this lunacy!

Okay, I am not usually a flip flop with socks type of guy but my feet were too swollen for shoes and it was to cold to be with out socks - bring on the jokes (-:

Funny story. So I am sitting and waiting for Annie to come over so she can take a picture of me Tebowing in front of the lake. At this time a guy just finished the 50k and I overhear him telling his buddy he wants to get a pic Tebowing in front of the finishers chute! This led to a lot of laughs and then of course, group Tebowing:

Lake Tebowing:

Bobby Tebowing at the finish line:

Couple Tebowing or Couplebowing:


What worked?
 - EFS Liquid Shots: I carried one flask for each loop for a total of 800 calories.
 - First Endurance PreRace Caps: Three caps 30mins before the race and three more at the turn around.
 - EFS Drink: Started with a 20oz bottle with three scoops or 300 calories.
 - Hoka One One Bondi B Shoes: Review to come later but these shoes are a little slice of heaven on the trails!
 - Peeing myself while running: After stopping to pee three times on the first loop I decided enough was enough and in the words of Harry from Dumb and Dumber, "Just Go!"

What did not work?
 - HEED:  This was the sports drink at the aid stations and it tastes awful. It gave me some calories and some hydration but the taste is horrendous. I actually considered licking the dirt at one point to get ride of the aftertaste. 
 - Amphipod Full Tilt Hydration Pack: It was rubbing against my back. I left it hanging on a sign at mile 16 and picked it back up at mile 30. I would not have been upset if someone would have stole it.
 - Tebowing.

I came into this race with the goal of finishing under 5hr 30m. My stretch goal was under 5hrs. My final time was 4hr 39m which is a PR of over 1hr 40m. 

That my friends is what we call Redemption.

Thanks for reading,



  1. amazing job jeff!!!! how are your feetsies feeling today?

    heed is absolutely disgusting.

  2. That is redemption! Great job Jeff!

  3. Congrats, that is awesome!!! I have a hard enough time wrapping my head around 26.2, let alone 31 miles

    BTW, I swear we already talked about NO TEBOWING!!!! Dang Nabbit Jeff

  4. The feetsies are feeling surprisingly well? Actually going to run after work today! Long live the Hokas!

  5. Peeing on the go... it's the way to go.

    Awesome job on your Redemption Run, Jeff! You crushed that trail :)

  6. Freaking hilarious about the Tebowing.

    Dude. Congrats. Freaking awesome race, you are such a rock star. I am so stoked for you. We were stalking you down in FL. I have a dumb phone so I couldn't comment much until I got back to the hotel. ANYWHO, Congrats!

    Way to pee yourself BTW. I have been doing it for 2 years now.

  7. As Mandy would say (since I spent the weekend with her) that was wicked fast! For you having a freaking bum knee... you are awesome! Good job on peeing yourself. Definitely saved you time and probably kept you warm! :)

    Love the Tebowing...

  8. Love the Tebowing!!!
    Jungle cat and elite guy have their own blog site... they were referring to you as BADASS!!!


    I guess we won't be seeing you in any Hammer sports attire??

  9. Redemption baby!!! I knew that you would go sub-5.

    First off, you look totally bad ass in the picture with the ice on your knee.

    Great job on the race! I'll have to do a trail run one of these days. It sounds like a blast. 2 loops sounds tough, but I bet with it being dark on the 1st loop, the 2nd loop was like a whole new route.

    If you can hit 3:45 at the marathon split on a trail with a bum knee... good Lord... Look out Woodlands Marathon!

    Rest up and take care of that knee. Delay the marathon plan for a week or two if you have to. Better to get it fixed now than have it creep back up on you in a month or two.

    PS: I got a picture of my bro-in-law Tebowing in front of a giant apple at the orchard this weekend. Totally thought of your and your race at the time.

  10. Seriously? A 1:40 PR that my friend is KICK ASS! And since I am from Denver I LOVE that you are making fun of Tebow.

  11. I can't say enough about a 3:45 on a trail forget the bum knee and you have time on your hands beofre the Wodlands. I think Ryan Hall might want to rehire his coach b/c there just might be a new American marathoner to talk about.

    Great recap of the race and love how you always whip the crowd up with those one liners.

    40* is brutal cold but where was that when I raced yesterday. It was something like 65* and sticky. This fron better pass through soon b/c I am seweating up a storm in NOVEMBER!

  12. This is a great recap! congrats on such a final finish. I plan on doing a 50k next year in the spring and I'm excited

  13. Jeff! Absolutely FLIPPING amazing! You knocked a half marathon time off your PR for this distance and race.

    Sorry about the knee man. Have it checked out. Running downhill and getting pain usually means some patella tendonitis. Stretch out or get deep tissue massaged your legs ASAP to prevent any further muscle tightening from yanking on the tendon connection points.

    And thanks for pointing out you used EFS. I am giving the vanilla another shot (pun intended) next season.

    You are going to have an AMAZING running campaign coming up!

  14. Yeah, Heed. I'd rather drink Nuun. And that says alot I think.

    Dude. killer job sounds like a great day.

  15. Awesome and inspirational recap. You are welcome to come to Wisconsin if you like 50k races in the cold. We have one coming up in February Iv'e thought about at least volunteering for.

  16. Sure, peeing on a cold run makes you warm at first, but did it later make you cold? That would be my concern.

  17. Excellent job!!!! You did amazing, way to crush this race!! Loved the tebowing pics too!

  18. Strong work Jeff! Loved the recap, thanks for the laughs and the inspiration :)

  19. Holy shitballs! Nice job out there. Fing impressive. And warrants swearing in comments.

  20. You are amazing! What an incredible job you did. Redemption? Hell yes! Love the tebowing.

    So I think you have found your niche in a big way. Do you plan to do more? Longer?

  21. Redemption?? Yeah, that and you totally kicked some ass. Nice job, very impressive!!

    Congrats ;D

  22. oh yeah, I thought those shoes look familiar-interested to read your upcoming review on the HOKA's.

  23. redemption indeed - wow! congrats!

  24. two 50k's notched before a standalone marathon = bada$$ and a great stat!
    fantastic effort and great result
    already getting a payoff from your increased run schedule !!
    great report

  25. Great job Jeff. You trained well and had a great race. Most importantly, it looks like you had fun. Congratulations! See you at the Houston Marathon.

  26. Damn you gangsta, you killed that 50K this time! Redemption beyond words. I think those sandals are quite cute especially with socks on.
    Congrats on a 1st AG finish and a huge PR!
    Reading your RR almost makes me want to sign up for one. Haven't done a 50K since 2000.

  27. HOLY COW!! You TOTALLY got redemption in that race! Woohoo!! You did awesome!!

  28. Dude! You sir are a Rock Star!

  29. Way to go on a great race! That was super fast! I think running on trails would be a whole lot more difficult, but to top that off and do it in the dark would be really rough! Nice work!

  30. Excellent racing, Jeff. It was great to meet and run with you, and I'm glad you got your revenge on this course. Sounds like you're game for The Woodlands marathon in March. I'll see you there!

  31. Holy cow! That is serious PR. CRUSHED!!!

    Aside from any pain (lol), it sounds like a fun race. We have a technical trail run here called the HURT 100. Maybe you can put that on your bucket list someday.

    Enjoyed your race report.

  32. Holy shit Jeff! That IS redemption! And with a swollen knee. Jeez, give us mortals a break! ;O)

  33. Damn buddy! GREAT JOB!!! Just looked up those gay shoes you wore... uhhhh, Jeff, how bout you stop being gay now k? haha. It's alright we all know you wear them to be like 3 inches taller ;)

    Alright I kid I kid!

    Seriously though, solid performance and if I would even call that redemption... I would call it FUCKING AWESOME!

  34. Amazing job!

    A 3:45 trail marathon with a somewhat hurt knee is amazing! You will indeed destroy your real marathon in January.

    Interesting on the Hoka shoes, I think Fast Cory got a pair of them and loves them as well, I might have to try on a pair sometime.

    lol on the Tebowing!

  35. WOW! Great job Jeff! Maybe a 50k run will be my next thing.....hmmmmmmmmmmm.

    : )

  36. Ya. Three days late.
    I know I freaking suck.
    Like you said.....twitter killed the blOgger...oh whatever I still suck.
    You on the other hand

    Freaking. Killed. It.
    So funny you hate heed. I like that crap. But .. I like pickle juice... Whatever. ;)
    So when's your 50 miler? 100 miler?

  37. Holy shit, that's an awesome trail 50k! Someone told me your finish time before I read this and I thought that cannot possibly be correct. Congrats on the ridiculous PR and great race!