What happens when a bunch of insane people get together for the weekend to run around in circles for no particular reason? You turn on the camera and record as much as you can for possible use in lawsuits. These are the chronicles of the 2013 Rocky Raccoon.
The morning started bright and early. Except that it wasn’t so much bright as dark. But the early part more than made up for it. We arrived exactly three minutes too late to capture the four folks heading out for the 100: Gumbo, the Flying Matzes and John Wayne. Probably just as well because Gumbo would have hurt me if I tried to capture her before this race. Kind of focused.
Four of us set out a little later for the 50 miler — Jenster, Linnea, Justin and myself. I didn’t think I had much of a shot, but this gave me a good excuse to hang out with some great peeps.
I ran one lap, giving me the opportunity to see the kids in action. I ran a couple more miles after that to make sure, but called it a day. I face planted three times, breaking my previous record and several unnecessary bones. But it was a 19.2 mile day and a good, honest run, so I’m happy. Time on my hands! What to do?
It wasn’t long till the Flying Mozzarelli Sisters came by. The first thing you must realize is how hard it was to get this. Here’s me on the chase.
The second thing you must realize is how cool these guys are. The Jenster is just off 32 marathons in nine days, so her legs are a little pooped. Linnea was coming off an injury that has limited her long run to 11 miles. They ran it together, and it looks like they just had a movable party. I’m guessing they didn’t get the memo that running isn’t supposed to be fun.
Shortly afterward, the Flying Matzes came by. If you’ve never met the Matzes, you can’t imagine what a surly couple these people are. Take a frown and turn it upside down, folks! AND they keep trying to slip beans into my damn chili. Here they are on the second loop.
The trail is pretty spectacular. So nice that I kept going down nose-first to get a closer look. Here is a typical stretch as occupied by the Flying Spumoni Girls, as seen by me lying on my side in the dirt.
And then, they ran around in circles. The exciting thing about this race format is that it’s run in 17- and 20-mile loops. So once someone comes by, you know it will only be five hours or so till they come past again. No time to blink.
First in were the Linguini Girls. The coolest thing about this video (other than, of course, the Linguini Girls), is that it was dark and I needed an assistant to hold a light. And that was none other than the legendary Runnin Brotha, speedster, streaker and all-around nice guy. And not a bad light man either, although we probably violated some sort of union rules. Here they are:
Next in was Justin (a friend of mine from work who competed in the Summer of Muskrat), who completed his first 50 mile run on a hot day and was still smiling. He’s incoherent and tired in this video, but still fields a random Three Stooges question without skipping a beat. Sign me impressed.
That left us with the 100 (gulp) milers.
Here are the Flying Matzes at 60, still pouting:
And Gumbo. I feared shooting Gumbo videos because she was super-focused and didn’t want to be messed with. I’m certain she would’ve punched my except she couldn’t afford to lose the extra arm-swing energy.
The John Wayne story: We missed John at 60 AND 80. He’s a sly one. The big news there was that Sass, who was just down to drink beer for the weekend, got enlisted to run 20 miles with John. You gotta love a guy who can say “Pitch black dark? Rooty trail? Count me in!” He’s OK.
This is Gumbo after 80. The best thing about finishing 80 is that you’ve finished 80. The worst thing is that you have to do 20 more. I risked my life to get this footage. Mostly I’m loving those monkey pajamas.
The saddest part of the weekend came at 80 miles, when the Matzes, who had been battling some insane major injuries from mile 10 or so, had to bow out. The bad news: Putting the dream on hold when you’re so close. The good news: So, so many more dreams ahead. I feel sorry for the next course they take on. Spending time with these two reminded me that heroes are not defined by finish lines, but by one’s heart. They are heroes indeed.
And then, it was over. This was Gumbo’s first 100, and a huge deal, so we were hell-bent on getting a video of her finishing. When runners finish in the dark you have to follow the same procedure over and over and over and over. Watch for dancing headlights in the distance, scrutinize as they get closer, and then determine in the last 30 yards or so if this zombie is YOUR zombie. Turn on camera, film till you see it’s a false alarm, turn off camera.We did this literally for two hours. Matt, Gumbo’s incredible patient hubby, supplied us with his best information from course reports regularly, but to no avail. Here’s a photo of Mo and Matt waiting. Did I mention Mo was cold?
Finally, Mo snapped and came up with a new plan. She drove up the road, where she could spot our runner as she headed into the last quarter-mile stretch.
It worked brilliantly! I got a text message, from Mo, then a phone call Mo to confirm. On the second ring, my iPhone went black. THE BATTERY CHOSE THAT MOMENT TO DIE!!!! I sprinted for Mo’s returning car to get her phone as a backup. OK, I waddled like a guy who has just done 19. I sprinted back and got there too late, just in time for the aftermath. Sigh. This is why I never became a journalist. I didn’t talk to her here, because she has a big and very loving family, and this was their time to celebrate.
One secret I learned from her: If you want to ensure a successful race, bring a nephew in a custom raccoon shirt, complete with your race number on the sleeve (and yes, I want that hat!)
Then we waited for John Wayne. We were worried because the race has a 30-hour cutoff. He hadn’t had the best training cycle and had spent the entire previous day traveling. So we were all watching the clock tick down. He was down to about an hour of time in which to finish. Sass and Jenster went down the trail to try to urge him in. I hunkered down and prepared for the wait.
So I was peeing my pants when I looked up a minute later to see John FLY across the finish line. An absolute blur of euphoria and energy. And I missed it. Did I mention I suck?
Afterward, we gathered in the supply truck, the traditional post-race gathering spot, to discuss his race:
I must admit I was totally bummed while shooting this. I had talked to John just after he crossed the finish line. His reflections on the race in that talk were exactly why I’ve always thought he is such a special person. His wisdom on running is one I will carry through my life. And I missed the on switch on the camera, so the interview wasn’t recorded.
Except as we drove home, there it was. So as a parting shot, here’s John talking about running, friends and the spirit that is bigger than us. Thanks for letting me share the weekend, friends …
I think I enjoyed following this race more than I have enjoyed any race I’ve run. This was epic and so inspiring. Thanks to you and Sass for the play by play!!
Truly AMAZING! Thanks for sharing!
I’m truly choked up and trying to fight back the tears. Very inspirational; you make a great cameraman and these guys will cherish these videos for the rest of their lives. You are a true friend. Congrats on your 19 miles, too!!
Epic. These guys are nothing short of amazing. And I am proud to be able to say I have actually met some of them in person!! Garbanzo, your presence there was the added bonus!! You and Mo rock! Forever in debt,
Thank you. Your presence there made my race even better.
Thanks to all of you for something special.
I signed up for this race partly because I knew you would be there. It was a special weekend, and you and Mo were there for me. You both were my family. And the gift of these videos is nothing short of amazing. I can share these with my kids when they older and they’ll get to see their Dad realize a dream. Dreams do come true. I can’t thank you and Mo enough.
So proud of all of you! Y’all are so special and inspiring. I loved reading the play by play on Facebook.
I loved reliving the race through this post – thank you! I feel like the post and videos might even be able to make my non-ultra friends and family understand why I do this. And bonus: I totally got a video of John’s epic sprint finish! Now to figure out how to do something with it…
This is positively a masterpiece for human kind; a demonstration of love and courage and friendship that is rare and special. I am stunned. Congratulations to those who participated. Now if we could just talk 300 million people into watching, we could solve all of America’s problems overnight.
This weekend was a very special experience with very special people. I will carry it with me for the rest of my days.
Just. wow. Even way up north, I can feel some of those running endorphins floating by on the wind. You are all wonderfully awesome and inspiring. Thanks for these videos.
This one will be hard to top…
A special group of folks
Unbelievable…. I love this. Just love it. What a bunch of amazing people.
What an inspirational group of runners! Amazing! Thanks for taking this video and sharing all of this.
I made it because I had a great talk with John at the start of our third lap. It totally changed me from being negative to overflowing with positivity. You guys are wonderful.
Absolutely amazing. You guys are incredible. Each of you. Thanks for such a wonderful blog/report. Some of the best docu-journalism of a race I’ve ever seen.
Wow, this was so well written and really captured the essence of running. Great job 🙂
I love all the videos! I’m sorry your run didn’t get past 19 miles, but thank you for recording all this and sharing it with the rest of us. Truly inspiring stuff!