Rocky Raccoon was an experience!
It was 29 degrees at the start and dark which meant pretty slow go until we made it to the jeep trail and headed for the first aid station. The course started to string everyone out and it was pretty easy running the rest of the first lap. I caught up to Ben Holmes just past the Dam aid station and we ran together for the remaining 7 miles. We finished around 3:35 (I'm not sure of my exact splits).
Nikki was my crew and did a great job. She had my drop bag ready and quickly helped me change socks, fill my water bottle, restock my GUs, find my IPOD and head out. She was a real trooper through the entire day and night and there is no way I could have done it without her. On a side note, besides the state park, we found no redeeming qualities in Huntsville. I felt strong on the second lap and came through 40 miles around 7:05-7:10; I was working hard to hold back my pace trying to stay comfortable and cover about 5 miles an hour. I just kept telling myself you have got to slow down or you are going to crash. I was doing a GU every 30 minutes and drinking 20 ounces of Hammer Gel HEED between every aid station. At the aid stations I would usually grab a half of a PB&J and walk until I had finished it. I was in a pretty good rhythm and having no issues other than a slight groin rash. I changed shorts, medicated the rash, and head out for lap 3. It was 1:30pm so I opted to head out without a light or cold weather gear. I knew I had to make it back by 5:30-5:45 or risk being caught in the dark and getting cold. The third lap was probably the most mentally challanging but I pushed into 50 miles at the Far Side aid station in 9:07 (my 50 mile PR, HA!) and seem to rebound once I made it back to the Dam.
I finished 60 miles in 11:10 and still felt great. Nikki was ready to send me out and had a Rockin K pull over, stocking cap, gloves, GUs and headlamp ready to go. I made it to the first aid station and almost to the trail head before it got dark. I went to switch on my headlamp and the light was extremely dim. I had changed batteries prior to starting that morning and the light worked fine for the hour I needed it. So it took me awhile to adjust to the low light level and I basically stumbled my way through the rest of the fourth lap. I still felt good and was pretty much alternating running a song and walking a song to the Site 179 aid station. I left the aid station at mile 77.25 and my I must have twisted my left foot at some point. My heal to my forefoot was extremely stiff and tender and I ended walking most of the 2.75 to complete lap 4. I finished 80 miles in 16:05 and was ready to get some warmer clothes on and limp my way back on course.
Nikki again had everything ready to go and even made change all my clothes and dress a little warmer than I had planned. A good call as it dropped to around 32 degrees during the final lap. I spent about 15 minutes in the aid station had a cup of hot soup and headed out. Nikki walked with me for about a quarter mile and as started to head out I realized I didn't have my headlamp and flashlight! She ran back and got them and I was off. I swithed to my back-up $9 Christmas gift head-lamp that put out a huch beam and had a flash light hung around my neck for additional lighting. That system seem to work as I had little trouble on the final lap. It took about 20 minutes for my foot to loosen up and I powered walked my way to the first aid station in 1:10; I discovered that I was able to walk faster than I could run and decided to go into the ruke-march mode at that point.
I maintained a pretty good clip, remained focused and approached each portion of the trail individually rather than thinking holy crap, I've got to walk another 15.9 miles! I made it to far-side in 2:30, spent about 5 minutes explaining my Brew to Brew vest and describing brew to brew to the crew and headed back. I hit the Dam aid station in around 3:25-- didn't quite make the airborne standard for a 12 mile ruke march in 3 hours but felt pretty good knowing I only had 7.3 miles to the finish. I managed a slight jog down the jeep road and down the trail to the stream before walking up to the dam. They have cut all the trees off the dam so you can see right across the lake to the Lodge and the finish line! Slightly depressing but oddly motivating at the same time. I power-walked through the next trail section and came into the Site 179 Aid Station at 2:30am. Had another cup of soup and headed off for the last 2.75. The last 55 minutes passed pretty quickly and I strolled into the finish line at 21:27:12! I basically walked the last 20 miles in a tad over 5 hours. I was pretty pumped.
Damage assessment at that point was a slightly bleeding groin rash, a chapped butt crack, some type of minor foot sprain, and two blackened big toe nails! Not too bad, I thought. I started to stiffen up and was getting pretty cold, Nikki and I headed back to the hotel, I tossed and turned for about 4 hours and finally just got up. We went and had pancakes and headed back out for the Awards ceremony. One of last runners to finish in just under 30 hours had the comment of the day--- Where do I get my belt buckle!