Rocky Raccoon 100mi & 50mi
Rocky was looking huge and fast, until the winter storm dropped into Texas, creating a huge hiccup in everyone's travel plans. 700 people were registered, but only 512 showed up to run. Even with a slight dusting of snow on Friday, the course was relatively dry and clean on race day. The root problem took a back seat to the problem of ice on the bridges. The frigid 19 degree 6am race start froze a few water bottles but it slowly warmed up to 60 degrees, before dropping again Saturday night. The temperatures that kept so many from Huntsville also took a few out during the race. Our lowest finish percentage ever will verify that only 190 of the 316 starters finished the 100 mile, with 166 of the 196 in the 50 mile.
Zach Gingerich went out fast and was in front of the pack at the end of the first 20 mile loop. The pack: Ian Sharman, Michael Arnstein, Mike Wolfe, Anton Krupicka, Bill Fanselow, Hal Koerner, Scott Jurek, & Karl Meltzer were only a few minutes back. It was a 7:11 pace for Zach and the others at 7:30: all of them under pace to break 13 hours for 100 miles. It was insanely fast, and Liza Howard was only a few minutes back with nobody close.
Ian Sharman increased his speed during loop two and moved into the lead with a 2:24 20 mile split, almost matching Zach's first loop. The pack whittled down to Krupicka, Koerner, Jurek, Fanselow, & Wolfe holding steady with a 2:33 split.
Sharman didn't lose much on loop three with another 2:29 split. Krupicka & Koerner were all that remained of the pack, posting a 2:37 split. All 3 were still under the 13:16 course record time. Meltzer was moving up by holding steady, while Jurek & Gingerich left the race.
The 4th loop is where this race is usually decided and Sharman had a 20 min lead on Krupicka & Koerner going into it. We wondered if he could hold them off as they were running together, but Ian now had a pacer to balance things out.
Sharman ran another stellar loop with a 2:34 split to gain another 12 mins on Krupicka & Koerner 2:46 split. More importantly, Ian was still well under a 13 hour pace, and the trailing duo were also still on pace to break the course record.
The excitement around the lake was electric with the real possibility of a sub 13 hour 100 mile race. The finish line crowd swelled with everyone wanting to be there to see the finish of an almost unbelievable run. And Ian Sharman did not disappoint, coming in with a phenomenal 12:44:33 to erase Eric Clifton's 15 year old record by more than 31 minutes. 13:16:02 has been a time that a lot of people have memorized, but no more. The new time to beat is now even more formidable at 12:44:33! An overall pace of 7:39 a mile, or faster if you'd like to stop a few times at the aid stations to eat and refill your water bottles. 34 minutes later, Anton Krupicka finished with an excellent time of his own at 13:18:52, followed by Hal Koerner in 13:26:19, and Karl Meltzer in 14:27:20.
Liza Howard has won our hearts, not only with her phenomenal list of wins, but also with her humble demeanor and warm smile. She is a deceptive one, with her amazing desire and drive, hidden by a sly smile. She led from beginning to end, with only the time in question. At 15:33:09 she came in 5th overall to win the women's race for the 2nd year in a row. Brenda Carawan was 2nd in 22:36:31, followed by Terri Pfeil in 23:16:09.
Earlier in the day, Todd Braje set the tone by going after and destroying the 50 mile course record with a 5:43:08! Yassine Diboun was 2nd in 6:17:29, followed by David Brown in 6:37:43. Maria Clemente won the women's 50 mile in 7:43:28, followed by Carley LaRue in 8:39:30, and Lesley Hempfling in 8:47:45.
There were many cancellations from the runners due to travel problems, and my crew of 150 plus volunteers had the same issues. I heard many a tale of icy roads and tow trucks, and yet they all showed up for their unpaid weekend long jobs, while dealing with the same sub-freezing temps as the runners did for 30 hours and more. I don't know how to thank all these people enough for all the hours volunteered in the aid stations, the medical team, the radio team, those who marked course, put up tents, hung glowsticks, and then cleaned and cleared the course afterwards. Tejas Trails core staff of Henry Hobbs, Crash Johnson, & the Glockzins started on Wednesday and stayed til the last truck and trailer was loaded on Sunday evening. It was certainly a phenomenal effort on the run, but it was just as epic on the sidelines.