On a cool, rainy day in Huntsville, Texas, Sabrina Little and Ronnie Delzer reclaimed their USA Track & Field (USATF) 100 Mile Trail Championship titles at the Rocky Raccoon 100 Mile. The flat, usually fast course in Huntsville State Forest is home to the Fastest Known Time for 100 miles on trail for men with Ian Sharman’s 12:44:33 in 2011. The rainy weather and more circuitous modified course made this years race anything but fast with both champions running slower than their best times and half the USATF Championship field not completing the race.
71 USATF members registered for the Championship with just over 60 starting and only 35 hearty trail running members finishing the race in under the 30 hour cut-off.
Normally run on a 20 mile loop five times, the 2018 edition of Rocky Raccoon featured a modified course due to trail damage from Hurricane Harvey. After many hours of trail work and coordinating with the state park officials, race director Chris McWatters created a 25 mile loop to be run 4 times by participants. Making the course more difficult were several long out-and-back sections where runners struggled to see the nighttime trail in the glare of on-coming headlamps. As an early February race, Rocky Raccoon runners navigated 11 hours of total darkness in the dense South Texas woods with no moon light under the cloudy sky.
Runners started at 6:00 AM on Saturday in the darkness and by the 13 mile mark defending champion Ronnie Delzer (The Woodlands, TX) had a couple minute lead over 50 year old ultra running veteran Chad Ricklefs. Chad is a former USATF ultra runner of the year, national champion and member of U.S. 100 km National Teams. In a strong 3rd place overall women’s defending champion Sabrina Little (Robinson, TX) was cruising halfway into her first lap. At the end of lap 1 the top 3 positions remained the same – Delzer, Ricklefs and Little.
By the end of lap 2, the race was getting interesting. Chad Ricklefs came into the aid station in first feeling good and changed his shoes. Only 6 minutes behind, Sabrina Little entered the aid station in 2nd only 7 minutes behind Chad. A long time passed before Ronnie Delzer came into the aid station having run 45 minutes slower on his second lap. According to Delzer, “mentally I had a bad second lap”.
By the end of lap 3 – 75 miles into the race – the order the top 3 changed again. Delzer regained his racing form and ran 18 minutes faster than his previous lap coming into the aid station in first place. Little slowed her lap time by 23 minutes and came into the aid station 6 minutes behind Delzer. Immediately after crossing the timing mat on the way out to her last lap Little sat on the ground with her crew to rest and regroup. Many minutes ticked by but according to Little this was all part of the plan. “I planned to sit and rest for a bit after lap 3”, Little said explaining that her experience taught her that rest would make her last lap easier.
The sunset came at 6:00 PM, well before the first runners finished. When Ronnie Delzer finally appeared from the darkness, his kids joined him for the traditional breaking of the winners finish tape. Another national championship under his belt buckle, Delzer crossing the line in 14:52:37, over 1 hour slower than his 2017 finish time. According to Delzer, “I got second wind in 3rd lap and passed Chad at Damnation (aid station) and then Sabrina soon after that but the footing was tough and I had to dig deep”.
Finishing 2nd in the men’s race was Wade Barrett (Houston, TX) in 17:18:56. German Garcia (Flint, TX) rounded out the podium in 3rd with a time of 18:17:03.
Prior to Rocky Raccoon, Delzer raced to a 13:40 at the Brazos Bend 100 just 7 weeks ago. Looking ahead Delzer said he might race the Rocky Raccoon 50 Mile next week and is looking forward to returning to the Boston Marathon in April. Later in the year Delzer plans to race the North Coast 24 Hour with hopes of making the U.S. 24 Hour Team.
In spite of the up/down split times, Little finished in 15:23:36 to secure her 4th win at Rocky Raccoon with a 4 hour gap over second place Ashley Truan (Wixom, MI) who finished in 19:37:54. Bronze medal winning woman in the championship was Alison Miller (Forth Worth, TX) who finished in 21:13:37.
Asked about her recent training Little said, “I’ve been following Ian Sharman’s advice and strengthening my core and doing leg presses”. One of her best moments of Saturday’s race was getting a surprise visit on course from several of the cross country athletes she coaches. Asked about what’s next in her racing schedule Little plans to ran a half marathon and the USATF 50K Road Championships at the Caumsett 50K in early March.
USATF Age group champions included:
- Wade Barrett (Houston, TX) – M40-44 – 17:18:56
- Thomas Orf (Austin, TX) – M45-49 – 20:12:14
- Kimberley Pilcher (The Woodlands, TX) – F50-54 – 28:42:14
- Ted MacMahon (North Andover, MA) – M50-54 – 18:35:39
- Karen Lozano (Modesto, CA) – F55-59 – 29:11:03
- Roger Sutton (Ocala, FL) – M55-59 – 18:30:28
- Mike Smith (Sante Fe, NM) – M60-64 – 25:26:54
- Gene Dykes (Bala Cynwyd, PA) – M65-69 – 23:41:22
- Dick Canterbury (Fredericktown, MD) – M70+ – 27:52:46
A total of 35 USA Track & Field members (6 women & 29 men) from 14 states completed the 2018 USATF 100 Mile Trail Championship. Huntsville State Forest was the venue for the very first IAU Trail World Championship held in 2007. The 2018 IAU Trail World Championship will be held this coming May in Spain. Sabrina Little has submitted a resume with hopes of representing the United States in that race.
USATF Results are published here: http://edsresults.com/2018rr100usatf/
View over 125 race pictures on Google Photos here.
You can see how the race unfolded in more detail by reviewing LIVE coverage on the USA Ultrarunning Twitter account.
Rocky Raccoon 100 Mile organizers Tejas Trails are an American Trail Running Association corporate member. Photos and story by USATF Championship Liaison Richard Bolt.