Rocky Raccoon is considered to be one of the “easier” 100 mile races in this country. The race is held near Huntsville, TX (home to Texas’ death row), just north of Houston. The course consists of five loops of 20 miles each, and the terrain varies between jeep trails and single track. Evidently the single track is covered with tree roots, and many runners find themselves tripping on them (particularly at night).
The course is relatively flat, at least as far as ultra’s are concerned. I’ve read estimates of about 5500 feet of elevation gain over the 100 miles. Because of this, the race draws a heavy number of 100-mile virgins. It also draws some big name runners, and this year the race is hosting the USA Track & Field (USATF) 100 mile championship.* The current course record holder, Ian Sharman, is scheduled to race again this year. In 2011, he finished in less than 13 hours. Do the math, and his average pace start to finish was about 7:38/mile! Seriously, the guy can’t be human.
Rocky Raccoon has more aid stations than the average 100 miler. On each 20 mile loop, you’ll pass through an aid station five times. One of the aid stations, Damnation, you go through twice on each loop. The longest distance between aid stations is six miles, which really isn’t bad at all (a lot of ultras don’t have any aid stations that close together).
- Dogwood (start/finish area)
- Nature Center – 3.1 miles (3.1 total)
- Damnation – 3.09 miles (6.19 total)
- Damnation – 6.01 miles (12.20 total)
- Park Road – 3.41 miles (15.61 total)
- Dogwood – 4.39 miles (20.00 total)
In the past, they have held a 50 mile and a 100 mile race on the same course at the same time, with the 50 mile racers starting an hour after the 100. Rocky Raccoon is held in a state park, and the park has capped the number of runners at 750 total. Last year, Rocky sold out relatively quickly. New this year, they’ve separated the two races, with the 50 mile race happening the weekend after the 100 mile. This allows 750 100 mile runners, and another 750 50 mile runners, rather than the old combined max of 750. Even though there’s not 750 people signed up for the 100 mile race this year (I think there’s about 600), it will still be the largest trail race I’ve ran. In road racing, the road generally stays the course generally stays the same width throughout the race. On trails, everyone gets funneled down onto the singletrack relatively quickly. As a racer, you’re left to decide if you want to expend more energy at the beginning to jockey for a good position going into the singletrack, or if you’d rather save your energy and risk getting stuck behind much slower runners (keep in mind, it’s much more difficult to pass slower runners when the trail is only wide enough for one or two runners, and not wide like a road).
No finishers medals at this race. Instead, the prize is typical of most 100 mile races – a belt buckle. The course has a 30 hour time cutoff, but there is a special buckle for those who finish under 24 hours. The two buckles are similar, with the 24 hour buckle adding some color and text to note the achievement of “sub 24 hour.”