Let’s just just leave that word there by itself to emphasize what I think about this race. There’s a thing in psychology called the Framing Effect where what you think of something is based on how it’s presented. The course description starts out with the flat two miles before the continuous rolling terrain kicks in so even though I knew I was in for 16,000 feet of gain/loss I was discounting that. Don’t be me. This course is relentless.

Obligatory pre-race photo a couple minutes before Go Time.

The race moved to a new location this year (Brady’s Run Park) and now consists of eight 12.5 miles loops. Well, my Garmin measured the race at 102.5 miles so they’re probably a bit longer than that. There are three aid stations along the route with one of them hit twice. So one mile to The Lodge, another mile to Four Seasons, 6.6 miles to get back to Four Seasons, and then 4 miles to the start/finish at the Rec Center. One of the neat things about the race is that you have to literally run through buildings at each of the aid stations. The Lodge is a little unnecessary, but it’s nice to have a couple more indoor restrooms available. The cheerful volunteers here also put a little extra pep in my step each time I came through.

Along the first paved mile.

Personally, I loved the 4am start. I’m not really getting a whole lot of quality sleeping the night before the race so I’d rather be on the trails moving than waking up every 10 minutes to check the time. It seems most runners didn’t get enough sleep as we all missed the first turn onto the trails and did an extra hundred yards or so. The first loop was relatively uneventful for me besides the fact it took about 7 miles for me to realize I was going out too fast and needed to slow down. I got back to the Rec Center at 6:45 or 15 minutes before the 100k and 100M relay runners started.

Second mile runs next to the lake.

The second loop was all about becoming familiar with the course as it got light out. The 100k and relay runners started streaming by me a little after Four Seasons. Normally getting passed can be a tad discouraging, but everyone was giving encouragement back and forth so overall it’s a net positive.

The third loop is where you’re able to settle in and finally get to work. Those fresh legs and thoughts of dream performances you started with can finally be laid to rest as the enormity of what you drunkenly optimistically signed up sinks in. It was towards the end of this loop when I heard “Hey, Phil it’s Pat” behind me. I turned to find none other than Pat of Bouncing Soles fame coming up quick on my heels. We had shared a bunch of fun miles at Eastern States a couple years ago and it was nice to catch up with him. We spent most of the next loop chatting and leapfrogging each other as he was a little faster on the trails and I was a little faster in the aid stations.

Race was very well blazed with yellow Rabid Racoon signs on trees.
There were also signs letting you know where not to go.

The fourth loop was where my nutrition started falling apart. Tater tots really hit the spot the first time I came through Four Seasons so I grabbed a handful on my second arrival. Unfortunately, the first one caused me to gag so I rushed to the trash can. It didn’t come immediately back up, but I had a dry heave a couple seconds later. Deep breath, sip of broth. Wait for it. Then my internal dialogue goes “And he sticks the landing! Would you look at that, a 9.9 from the Romanian judge!” Happy days.

In order to manage my almost touchy stomach, I decided to back off the calories on the fifth loop. I swapped out the Coke from one bottle to straight water. I was still getting some calories from the Perpetuem in my second bottle along with snacking at the aid stations, but it was less than optimal. The upside is that I still felt really good. The downside is that I wasn’t moving as fast as I had been before. I do these races to complete rather than compete so I’ll take feeling good and moving slowly to the alternative all day every day.

The race was nice enough to add some jumps onto the course for extra fun.

It was back to darkness for the sixth loop. The only interesting thing that happened was that I finished up right as the midnight half marathon was starting.

The seventh loop more than made up for the uneventful prior one. I hadn’t even left the parking lot of the Rec Center when the rain started up. It was only a very light drizzle, but apparently it was enough to cause my brand spanking new knuckle lights to glitch and go out. I dropped them off at Four Seasons without any concern as they hadn’t really been any help up to that point. My Black Diamond headlamp was more than bright enough and I didn’t even notice a difference without them. Well, until that headlamp decided to go almost completely out on me about a mile out from my return to Four Seasons. It should have lasted the whole night on the new batteries I put in, but apparently not. Luckily, Sarah came up behind me soon after and was gracious enough to stay with me sharing her light until we got into the aid station. They had some AA batteries for me and I was good to go.

Well, almost. You see I had been getting wetter and wetter as the rain continued past the expected 1-2 hour forecast. This lead to me getting colder if not completely cold. I had failed to pack my rain poncho when I left the Rec Center to start the loop so asked if they had any there. While they did not, they were nice enough to cut up a garbage back for me to wear. It had basically just stopped raining at that point, but I have yet to be too cold overnight in a hundred so decided to err on the side of caution by adding another layer to my wardrobe. And the extra warmth was needed because. . .

A stream crossing, not the stream crossing.
The stream crossing.

This is probably where we need to talk about the river crossing. Immediately after leaving Four Seasons for the second time the course crosses a stream. It was maybe 20 feet wide and about 12-18 inches deep. Not too bad, but the water was cold. C. O. L. D. Cold. Thankfully, we had exceptionally mild temperatures this year (40-60 degrees) so cold, wet feet weren’t too challenging. My feet would be too cold for maybe the first 10-20 steps the other side of the stream and then would slowly warm up to where I wouldn’t notice them after a couple minutes. My strategy for the crossing was to get as warm as possible before going into the water so that it would cool me down to only being a little cold and not shivering cold. Fresh handwarmers from the aid station on this loop was the perfect thing to keep me comfortable on this penultimate loop.

Lot of runners out there were trying to get through this without trekking poles. Glad I wasn’t one of them.

And now we need to talk about the mud. Oh, the mud. The course is not technical by Rocksylvania standards, but their difficulty was on par with other races due to the slippery conditions. The mud sections were numerous early on, but relatively short. As the rain progressed, more sections got muddy, the muddy sections got worse, and things just steadily deteriorated from there. My guess is the rain/mud added about 45-60 minutes to my finish time over the last 2 loops.

Descent into the finish was lit up at night.

Eventually, the sun came up on my second day right before I reached Four Seasons for the final time. I thanked the volunteers, grabbed some awesome french toast, picked up my knuckle lights, and crossed that damn stream for the eighth time. The last four miles took as long as the last four miles always take. That being about twice as long as you think they should. I was a little amazed that I wasn’t passed by dozens of runners along through here considering how plodding my shuffle was.

Finish line photo in my thematically appropriate attire.

Overall, I had a great time and loved my experience. If you’re considering this race because of the generous 36 hour cutoff, beware. First, this is not an entry level course. Second, the number of aid stations and loop nature provide a large number of very convenient opportunities to quit when you don’t want to continue on. And you’re going to want to quit at some point. Finally, the biggest wildcard will be the weather. We got very, very lucky this year. Normal March weather conditions will provide an even greater challenge than the race presented this year. But if you’re up for a challenge, you can expect to find one at the Rabid Racoon 100 Miler.

Coming up to The Lodge aid station.
Approaching Four Seasons for the first time.
Coming back into Four Seasons for the second time.
This sign cracked me up as it was placed half way down the steep hill leading into Four Seasons for the 2nd time.
Some chill double track trails.
This is the second big climb.
Final pic belongs to the final sign on the course letting you know you’re almost done.

3 thoughts on “Rabid Racoon 100 Mile Race Report”

  1. Awesome write up Phil! I was so excited when I saw your orange shirt and trekking poles, I instantly knew it was you. Great running with you as always and I’m SURE we will cross paths again. You are so fast at aid stations I am always impressed. I need to hear your strategy for how you kept your feet from becoming destroyed. I’ll let you know when the video is live, you are in a bunch of the clips.

Comments are closed.