For February’s look at world ultras I’ve picked one close to my heart, Rocky Raccoon 100 in Texas which occurs this weekend on February 2-3. It’s the race with several of the fastest 100-mile times ever in North America including the only sub 13-hour trail run to date.
Generally considered to be a great first 100-miler, Rocky Raccoon has a low altitude, looped course (easy logistics for drop bags, crews, and etceteras) and relatively low elevation change with around 5,500 feet of ascent and the same descent. There’s a 30-hour cut-off too, meaning that a strong walking pace is feasible given the lack of mountains in the way and no hills more than about 100 feet. Breaking 24 hours gets a different buckle to sub-30 with the addition of some color.
The race is set in Huntsville State Park in Texas and the 20-mile loops cover plenty of flat doubletrack trails as well as short sections of singletrack with rocks and roots, starting predawn. This is not a technical trail by any stretch of the imagination but those roots can slow things down when the legs get tired and it gets dark. In terms of temperatures, again the conditions are excellent for running with lows that can be below freezing and highs during the day that are likely to be around the 60’s. Humidity can be a slight issue but really the conditions are almost ideal for trail running usually. Even if it rains, the course usually drains well and doesn’t get too muddy unless there’s a crazy storm.
Runners come to this event to attempt their first 100-miler or to go faster than they’ve managed in the mountains. Then they come back again for the great and friendly organization from Joe Prusaitis and the Tejas Trails team (who are also responsible for the USATF 100k Trail Championship at the Bandera 100k and many other great Texan races).
If you’re trying to choose a fast trail 100, this one fits in with other options like Umstead 100, Long Haul 100, Keys 100 or Rocky Road 100. Or there’s the fast 50-mile version with three loops and mainly the same course as the full 100. You know it’s fast when the course record is 5:43!
The Sharp End of the Field
The past few years have seen fast times at Rocky Raccoon, despite some of the worst weather the event has seen in the 2012 edition. So with 2012 Ultrarunning Magazine Ultra Runner of the Year, Mike Morton, entered everyone is excited that about what sort of time he could post (not least the author). However, Mike tells me his main focuses this year are the 24-hour World Championships in May, Western States 100 in June and the Spartathlon in September. So it doesn’t look like he’ll go for the 12:44 course record this time, but it’s certainly on his radar. Since he ran three 100’s in the low 13’s last year, he’s certainly the man most likely to run faster than anyone else in North American history.
Other fast finishers include Paul Navesey from the UK and Joshua Finger, but it doesn’t look like the field is as deep as the past two years and the women’s course record looks safe.
Rocky Raccoon 100 holds the fastest male and female trail times in North America.
- Men’s record: Ian Sharman, 12:44:33 (2011)
- Women’s record: Jen Shelton, 14:57:18 (2007)
Call for Comments (from Meghan)
- Who’s racing Rocky this weekend? If so, care to put your goals out there?
- Even if Mike Morton is not treating this weekend as a goal race, do you think author Ian Sharman’s course record (and, thus, the American soil 100-mile trail record) could still be in jeopardy?
- Do you have a good Rocky Raccoon race story from a past year?