Written by James Elson - http://www.centurionrunning.com/blog/

Rocky Raccoon continues to be a great early season throw down. In it's 23rd year, it's seen everyone from Anton to Hal to Scott to Karl to Mike to Ian come and race and this year it was also the US 100 mile Champs.

The trails are great. 5 x 20 mile loops isn't the same as point to point and you'll probably scream at the roots and resent the rollers by the end but at 5500ft total climb you aren't going to get much flatter and faster for a 100% trail race.

Here's some photos I took last time....Hi Paul!

This was my fifth time at RR100. It was my first 100 in 2009, my first DNF in 2011 and since then I'd been back twice, running 20:19 in 2012 and 17:32 in 2013. 

My pacing plan this time was simple. I wrote down Jenn Shelton's 2007 splits for her 14:57. Of course, on trail the weather/ ground conditions could ultimately decide the outcome more than my ability so I wasn't about to hang on those splits if it was out of my hands. The day prior to the race however, some of the other Brits and I: Pete Goldring, Chris Mills and John Volanthen went for a couple of miles out on the course and it was in perfect shape. Smoking fast. The weather looked good. So my pacing plan was ON. 

0600 Saturday and we disappeared in to the darkness on loop 1. As usual a couple of guys went screaming off of the front. David Kilgore ran the first 2 loops in 2:19 and 2:20 respectively, pretty damn fast! (But then he was on the phone by mile 50....) That left a small train of 5 of us cruising along by the power of Petzl Tikka RXP (worlds' comfiest headlamp) until the light came up. my Centurion co-coach Ian Sharman, Liza Howard and I ran together from Damnation Aid Station through to the end of loop 1, #livingthedream. Ian was running well within himself and Liza was after the US women's trail 100 record and the cash from Altra, the time to beat,14:45. I booted a root at mile 19 and crashed on to the trail lifting my toe nail off in the process, but other than that it was smooth all the way. Together we dispatched the first 20 miles in 2:32 (Jenn Split: 2:40). RAIN DANCE!

There was no messing around this time. I didn't need anything to get around the course fueling wise, apart from my handheld UD bottle, some water and 20 Salted Caramel Gu's. At the end of each lap I had to divert 50 yards off course to my drop bag and grab 4 gels but by that time my bottle was refilled by a heroic volunteer and I was straight back out again. I managed to keep my total aid station time during the race to 8 minutes, and 5 of those were at the start finish. No crew required!

I ran with Liza for a lot of loop 2 and we cruised through the marathon mark in 3:20. Ian pulled away a little and made his own space and ran his own race as he likes to do. Loop 2/ 40 mile total time 5:11 (Jenn Split: 5:20). STEADY NOW!

At the start of Loop 3 it started getting noticeably warmer and I had that dry salty face starting to happen, so I starting popping S! Caps more regularly and drinking just under a litre per hour. It worked. Most of this lap I ran with Paul Terranova. I've never seen anyone float around the trails like that. It truly was effortless. We blew through 50 miles in 6:36 and back around to the start finish in great shape with the clock showing 8:00:05 (Jenn Split 8:13). 8hrs is 8:00 miling flat and I knew I would have to spectacularly collapse now to drop behind 15hr (9:00 mile) pace. This was the part I'd trained for, too. I wanted to run well to 60 and then concentrate on running as much as I could from 60 to the finish. Each mile run at this point was another one that I couldn't lose time on. Confidence just built and built through loop 4 and although I slowed, it was no more than I would naturally expect during miles 60 - 80 of a race. I came in off Loop 4/ 80 miles in 11:08 (Jenn Split: 11:20). BRING IT HOME!

On loop 5 I hooked up with Henrik Westerlin from Denmark. We'd to and fro'd through the day but now our races aligned and we pushed each other to run almost everything when on your own it's all too easy to drop in to a hike. At mile 87 it got dark and at mile 95, I finally started to fade. I'd put it all out there for the last couple of hours and physically I was walking that line between pulling a whitey and well, not. We reached mile 95.6 Park Road aid station in 14hrs dead. Henrik had 47 minutes to go under the Danish 100 mile trail best. I sent him on, hiked a half a mile and came good again. At mile 99.5 I passed Traviss in a lot of pain. He'd taken a fall on the roots and cracked his ribs, giving him trouble breathing. Like the pro he is, he simply dismissed my concerns and shouted 'DON'T WALK NOW!'. So I ran in a scant few minutes ahead of 9th place in a time of 14:50. I'LL TAKE IT!

Final Splits/ Stats/ Results

Ian ran out the winner in 13:32. He was visibly feeling bad on loop 3, started loop 5 a few minutes behind the leader, but by the end had a 26 minute margin of victory. A really classy performance.
Nicole Studer set a new US 100 mile Trail Best of 14:22. A couple of weeks after 2nd at Bandera 100km. 
Liza finished a little over 15:30, not her perfect day but a superb effort all the same. 
Of the Brits, Pete Goldring came in with 17:50, a big PB. Chris Mills finished his first 100 in 24:20 and John Volanthen made it in under the one day buckle cut for 4 from 5 finishes. Traviss' ribs took him out at mile 60 but with 30 odd 100 milers finished behind him, nothing further was required as proof of a smart decision. 

Exceptional organisation, a superb course and a great day running around in the woods. It's a big PB for me and one that I put a lot of hard work in to. From that point of view, a really satisfying few months of effort. 

Numbers/ Gear/ Stats

My aim in training and racing was to keep it as simple as possible. Trim out absoutely everything that was non-essential. 

- 12 weeks averaging 97mpw w/ 100,000ft of climb. That was 650 miles more than my '12-'13 training block for the 17:32. 
- 101 consecutive run days from October through to 48hrs before the race, replacing total rest days with easy 25 min/ 5km recovery runs. That really helped me make running through the winter a habit, rather than start cutting sessions due to weather, time or daylight.

Gear for the race:
- Centurion Team Vest, Salomon S-Lab Shorts, Drymax Lite Mesh Socks, La Sportiva Beanie Hat, Brooks Pure Cadence Road Shoe. 1 Stick Body Glide. Petzl Tikka RXP. 

Fueling for the race:
- 15 x S! Caps. 20 x Salted Caramel Gu. 1 x UD Handheld & water.