Friday, February 10, 2012

Rocky Raccoon Pt II The Background

Ryan and Rocky

It's nice when things fall into place isn't it? I had been thinking for some time about taking a shot at completing a 50 mile trail run. Like many, I suppose, I was hesitant. The jump from 50k to 50 miles can seem like a rather large one. Especially when my last 50k resulted in my first DNF. Click here to read that story. I had some real doubts about attempting anything more until I mastered the 50k distance. My mind works like that. But after examining the DNF and chalk talking every imaginable angle of it with grizzled veteran trail trolls my thoughts began to change. A sample of race reports from last year at RR was all it took to hook me. I contacted Mike Rush (10th place RR50 2012) and put the idea out there that perhaps we could get a group together to throw it down Tejas style. Mike and I both hail from the Lone Star State. He was all over it. Apparently he had already decided he was all in before I mentioned it. So the feelers were put out. In the end there was just one other local runner that joined the fray, David Newman. However, as fate would have it, another local, Ryan Holler, was tapped at the last minute to pace a mutual friend for his first attempt at 100 miles so we had another sucker along for the ride. Upon further examination Ryan was planning on sleeping in a vehicle. That was unacceptable to me. I offered up a spot on the floor at my parents house in Corsicana for Thursday night and the same at our hotel in Huntsville Friday night. As for Saturday night while pacing Tim Harrington, he was on his own, because David and I were headed back to comfort in Corsicana as soon as we were done. So that's it, we were set. Shortly after picking up my son, Philip, from school on Thursday we headed south. I thought it only appropriate to include an invitation to the mini me and include him on the adventure. He was stoked because it meant one less day of school that week.

I posed for this one. 

As we rolled out of Ozark country we naturally talked about running and got to know each other a little better. Ryan and Philip drew Spartan warriors in the back. We learned all about shoe design from Ryan too. Interesting stuff. We reached Corsicana about 11 o'clock that night. It was, of course, great to see my folks. My dad was a dedicated runner for many years starting back when the movement was booming in the 1970s. He was a regular at the Cooper Clinic in Dallas, ran a marathon PR of 3h26min and twice logged a monthly total of 450 miles. So he loves having runners around to swap war stories. And yes, he even broke out the old pictures of him running Dallas White Rock (with me tagging along near the finish). One of those photos made the front page of the Dallas newspaper. Nothing like running a marathon in a cotton t-shirt and a stylish sport watch with a metal band. But this trail running and ultra thing is all new to him. He thinks we are a little weird. And my mom simply loves to have company over. Trust me, you will not go hungry in her house. Friday morning found us eating up plates of sausage and egg casserole, bacon, fruit bowls, muffins and such. After that mom and dad worked my buddies over with questions. Soon it was time for lunch so we headed downtown to an Italian joint for pasta and pizza. And since we were in Corsicana we stopped off at the Collin Street Bakery before leaving for Huntsville. We picked up some cookies and a chocolate pie. After a round of well wishes and good byes we loaded up and split for Rocky country. 

Chocolate Meringue pie is a great post race snack.

We arrived shortly before the race briefing and met up with Mike and his son. Mike's better half was out testing the trails for us. Following the briefing I met a couple of folks that I had become familiar with from the Tejas Trails Facebook page. Before I forget, big shout out to Laz for grinding out his first 100 miler, cheers! As the crowd thinned out Ryan wanted to chat with Karl Meltzer. They had met a few months back at Pinhoti 100 where the Speedgoat had lowered his own course record to defend his crown and Ryan placed 9th in his first hundred. I mentioned this in my race report but I'll say it again. We all hear about the elite runners in the ultra community being approachable and I can now say that is certainly true. I was introduced and he couldn't have been much friendlier. He was amped for his race and wished us well on our endeavor at 50 miles. At my last big road race, and every other one,  the elites were quarantined from us regular folks.  That was nice to experience firsthand. We then got our packets and headed over to the hotel. David had found us a room at the La Quinta. But we couldn't get in because the key cards didn't unlock the door. David got to walk down to the lobby in the rain. Sucker. From there we made our way to The Homestead for dinner. There we met Mike and his family who came up from Houston along with Michael Mortensen from Denmark. Something like 24 hours of travel time from his house. That's serious folks. This rascal came all the way from Denmark to tear it up at Rocky 100. He and I met on the Tejas Trails FB page and I had invited him to join us for dinner. The wonders of social media. He mentioned it was his first trip stateside and the first time driving a car with an automatic transmission. He mentioned that he had figured out what the P, R and D were on the transmission but wanted to know what the other letters meant. I told him not to worry about that, he had all the important ones down. For the record, The Homestead was great. Attentive service, good turnaround on the orders and the food was hot, fresh and tasty. I opted for the 6 oz fillet, mashed potatoes and roasted vegetables with a garden salad. Make sure you leave room for dessert. They even had a jazzy quartet throwing down some good dinner tunes. 

The first selection looked sinfully good. (R. Holler)

After wrapping up the post dinner chatter it was out into the drizzle and back to the hotel. But not before stopping at the beer store for some post race hydration fluids (which, sadly, we ended up being too tired to partake of when the time came). At the hotel we couldn't get into our room again because the cards still wouldn't work. David got to go down to the lobby. In the rain. Again. Sucker. Or so we thought. It seemed to take a little extra time for him to come back. When he does arrive he tells us that while in the lobby he sees some guy at a laptop who looks like a runner. So he hits this dude up:
David: "So, are you here for the race?"
Mystery Man: "Yes."
David then inquires "So, what's your goal?"
The guy says "13 hours"
David realizes it's non other than Hal Koerner disguised in that awesome lumberjack beard. Meanwhile Ryan and I are standing on the balcony in the rain. Who's the sucker now?

In the room we quickly settle down, get our gear lined out and hit the sack. We had discussed getting out to the park to watch the 100 mile kick off at 0600 and decided if the weather was sketchy we'd just fore go that to stay dry. Well, at 5 AM it was raining rather hard so we took a little extra time getting some breakfast. For me it was a hard boiled egg, a waffle, some yogurt and orange juice. We piled in the van and braved the wet roads down to the park along with everyone else. We ended up parking east of the Nature Center so we got a 1 mile warm up jog to Dogwood. In the rain. Toting our gear. In the dark. Fun times. I thought 50, 51, what the hell is the difference? We found ourselves a little cover under a corner of the last tent and waited for the start. And then we ran. In the dark. Through the rain and mud. I won't recap the race because I already did that here.

Dogwood Crossing post race, directing traffic, texting and looking good. (R. Holler) 

After my finish I grubbed down a bit at Dogwood before I met Ryan who drove the van around to the finish area. He suggested hitting the shower but I didn't have a towel. He said just use some dirty clothes to dry off. It then dawned on me that there was a good use for that race sweatshirt after all. That shower was great as it fought the chill off and washed away most of the grime. I got dressed and drove the van back to the Dogwood crossing where Ryan had returned. He was now stopping traffic for runners. I joined in as best I could and tried to keep my legs from seizing up by shuffling my feet and lightly stretching here and there. It charged my tank to cheer on the runners whether they were finishing up 50 or heading back out for another 20 mile loop on the 100. Most were hitting loop 4, a few the final loop and a couple just loop 3. I had to think to myself how daunting a task it must have been to trudge on into those dark woods with all that muck and the chill settling in the park. From there I watched as Hal, then Karl and Oswaldo raced in to finish their races. David was calling with updates on his status. After he finished up I did for him what Ryan had done for me. That only seemed fair. Ryan had geared up and was down at Dogwood prepping to pace Tim for the final 40 miles of the 100. After I shoveled David into the van we began our return trip to Corsicana about 90 miles away. We stopped to fuel up and I thought to myself these people must be wondering what is wrong with these two guys getting gas. Why are they walking so funny? There definitely some looks. 

About half way home I really began to get tired. I couldn't tell you where but we gimped into a little gas station and I get myself a package of peanut butter crackers and a Starbucks coffee shake thing. I figured a little protein, some sugar and a dose of caffeine would do me good. I popped a cracker in my mouth and immediately felt the sting. On my last loop out at Park Road I opted for a cup of noodles. Without testing it I dumped half the cup in my mouth. I'm guessing the temperature at 300 degrees. The roof of my mouth and tongue was now burnt beyond hope and raw. The little bit of salt on that cracker just rubbed right in there. More good times. From then on I stuffed crackers in the sides of my cheeks, got a drink allowing them to soften up and then chewed with my molars. Back at my parents house we drug ourselves in and I collapsed on the sofa. It felt so good to take the weight off of my feet. Finally. I decided that the sofa would work fine. I could put my feet up on the back. I drifted off to sleep sometime after midnight. At 5 am dad woke me up accidentally not expecting me there. We chatted about the race and I ate a plate of eggs and a piece of that chocolate pie. Back to sleep this time in the bedroom. After sunrise we had a buffet of my farm fresh eggs I brought from Arkansas, more fruit, oatmeal, some sausage and potato casserole. And we told everyone of our adventures. David and I then headed out for a walk clocking about a mile around the block. It felt good to move. Along the way my sister drives by and stops. She had driven down from Dallas to get in on the action. Back at the house, dirty clothes into the wash and then more chatting. But this time it was about the adventure mom, dad and Philip had Saturday. They had gone to the safari park at Fossil Rim and baked a cake. The cake was actually a homework assignment and Philip got bonus points for actually making a cake.  Shortly after that Ryan sent a text that he and Tim were finished and he was headed this way. Congrats to Tim for grinding it out in his first hundred. We met up near the highway and headed back to the house. Mom was already fixing Ryan a plate of warm food. By now Ryan had been up for about 34 hours, most of it on his feet, through all that rain, crewed for me and David and Mike and paced and prodded Tim through the dark and mud all night. He deserved a plate of warm food. We even saved him a piece of pie. Well, half a piece.

Philip taking lessons from his Ninnie on the finer points of cake making. 

Before long it was time for us to push north. Ryan was asleep within minutes. We stopped in Dennison for Whataburger. These boys had never enjoyed a Whataburger before. Ryan woke up. He ate and then went back to sleep. David spilled my drink all over the floor. The old timers were giving us strange looks. I think it was Ryan's compression socks and leather shoes. Maybe it was my argyle hat. We made it to McAlester, OK before stopping again. I needed more caffeine and sugar. Philip and I found this cool machine that makes shakes. Next to it is a cooler full of different frozen shakes. You pick your flavor, pull the lid, put it in the machine, choose your setting (thin, regular or thick), push a button and there you have it. The machine mixes it all up. While paying for them we saw a guy buy a 4 foot long beef stick. No joke. It's called the Whippersnapper. Back in the van. Ryan is still sleeping. We check to make sure he is still breathing. Good to go. Back in Bentonville I kick David out at his house and then Ryan before Philip and I head out to our house in the sticks. Mission accomplished. 

It's great to be able to do something like run a 50 mile trail race. It's even better to share that with friends and family. My parents were so wonderful opening their home to me and my friends. It beats the hell out of a hotel any day of the week. Not to mention the home cooking. We even had a fresh sheet cake that mom and Philip made for us. Try getting that at La Quinta.

The Players

Mike Rush: Local running stud, owner of Rush Running and former member of the Razorback Track Team at the University of Arkansas. He got off course, logged some bonus mileage and still finished in the top ten with a time of 8:04:47. He says he's coming back for a shot at 7 hours flat. He wants some hardware.

Mike Rush celebrates with Miles after his Top 10 finish. (R. Holler)

David Newman: David committed early on and then was stricken with an ITB injury. I think over the last month his longest run was 10 miles? Yet he toed the line and gave it a shot. And damn if he didn't finish. All I know is that this dude must eat nails for breakfast.

David "Roll Tide" Newman (R. Holler)

Ryan Holler: Crew Cat Extraordinaire, Pacer, and all around Lead Cheer Person. Part Jedi, part wizard and all good. Ryan will downplay his role but he was a big part of our success. I know he had to cover at least 50 miles after standing on his feet all day.

Ryan "Gandolf" Holler, the Jedi takes a snooze after 34 hours.

Philip aka Felipe: This is the fourth time Philip has gone on a trip for a race with me and I always love having him around. He drew a Spartan, made us cake and sported that boss of a hat liked he owned it. And he finished all of his homework before we got home. How can you not love that?

My Parents: They rolled it out for our crew. It was a completely wonderful trip because of them opening their home to their half weird youngest child and his two crazy buddies. Good company, great food and more than comfortable accommodations. Next time, I want them down at the park. As nice as that hug was from Ms. Joyce at the finish, I want one from my momma and pops.

Mom & Pop, thanks for being a part of it all. Love you!

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