Race: Rocky Raccoon 50-Miler
Location: Huntsville State Park, Texas
Concerns: 1) Alligators, 2) The two troops of Boy Scouts looking for alligators, and 3) Not pacing myself correctly
Results: 1st Female, 3rd Overall. 7:06
Significance: None on any real cosmic scale, but I was happy to race something shorter than a day.
Friday was exciting because one of my students lost a tooth in his Cheese-Its, and I had to demand that he find it and put it into his pocket. Also, everyone was still buzzing from the excitement of the Science Fair the day before. After school let out, David and I did a tune-up run, packed our bags, and headed to Huntsville. At our hotel, we set our alarm clocks for 4:20 a.m. then watched some of the Olympics opening ceremonies. I fell into a shallow sleep and dreamed that my student’s tooth was liberated in the washing machine and bit through all of his sweaters.
Leaving our hotel room, the hallways were full of other Rocky Raccooners scurrying at a frenetic pace. Ah, my people.
I picked up my race number, and saw Karen Kantor (smiling, of course) on my way to the starting line. Liza Howard was directing, so I sought her out at the start and she told me about the course conditions. I stretched, had brief reunions with Team RWB trail camp friends, and said goodbye to David. We were called to the line, and the gun went off.
The race is split into three 16.67-mile loops. There is a mix of climbing and descents, though nothing crazy; this is Texas. If you followed any of the coverage from last week’s RR100, you know that much of the terrain is covered in roots—unproblematic when you’re lucid, vexing when you’re fatigued. In the morning, racing by headlamp before the sun comes up, this means you have to dorsiflex your feet a little, leaning back on your heels so your toes don’t get caught under hidden roots.
There are also lots of open trails, surrounded by loblolly pines (a.k.a. my favorite type of tree). These areas are flat and fast. The trails were a little muddy when we began and grew progressively more sodden loop after loop. It wasn’t terrible, though. Anyway, it’s hard to have a terrible time with Tejas Trails—whatever the condition—because the people are incredible. The aid station volunteers…there are no words. Texas knows its hospitality.
This was my first race of the season and my first 50-miler in years. I’ve had lockjaw on the 24-hour for a while. When I started running ultras in college fresh off of running 3Ks on the track, I began with the 100-mile distance. Shortly after, I discovered the 24-hour event, which I really enjoyed because they are tidy and repetitious, so I stuck with them. I ran MMTR50 in 2007 and have run a few 50Ks as tune-up events, but I've never given those events my sustained attention. Fifty milers are not within my cultivated skill set. I want to change that. This year, I want to get fast. This race was a good early season gut check.
I aimed to keep my laps at a fairly even pace. Most of lap one was in the dark. I ran faster than I intended to (2:16) because running in the dark feels like a treat. In the early miles, the masses had not yet separated out, so there was a lot of talking, like a mobile meet-and-greet. In the middle of the lap, I fell off a bridge (a small bridge of Lilliputian dimensions that I could have stepped over entirely). But the impact woke me up, and I felt great.
Lap two was more of the same. I wasn’t sure if I was running fast enough or holding back, so I set my sights ahead and tried to pick off some of the boys. I used the open sections to accelerate, and I made more friends.
On lap three, Boy Scouts were ubiquitous. I was having a hard time believing that it was almost done. It's kind of awesome. You can run a 50-miler in the morning, and be grading papers and grocery shopping in the evening like nothing ever happened. David handed me my iPod. I had it pre-set to an Al Mohler free market economics podcast, and I switched it off. It’s funny how you decide things ahead of time, like, “This will be for your own good, Sabrina. You need to know these things.” And then you’re 40 miles into a run, and you say NOT A CHANCE to yourself. I listened to pop teen girl music, no apologies.
And then it was over. All I can say is that I love Team RWB and Tejas Trails, and I love 50 milers. I look forward to doing more! And I'm eager to do track work, strength building, and pace runs--whatever it takes to improve in this distance. Thanks, DryMax socks, for keeping my feet safe in the mud! Thank you everyone who volunteered at the aid stations. Thanks Liza! Thanks Joe and Joyce! And thank you David, Kaky, and Louie for crewing for me. I had a fun day.