By Mike Campbell
4 Feb 2006
This year I didn't plan to run Rocky, but after being married for eleven years, my son, Michael Jr., and Abby had a gorgeous baby girl named Lauren. So I figured as long as I was taking a trip to see them in Houston, why not take on another 100 miler?
This happened to be a bonus, since Rocky sponsored the USA Track and Field 100 Mile Championship for this year. After surviving the VHTRC Annual or Semi-Annual Moon-Light run, my friend and fellow Ultra-Runner, Frank Probst talked me into switching over to the USATF side and in the end it paid off for both of us.
I was happy to have my youngest daughter Jamie journey south with me to complete a crew of four cheering me on day and night. After flying in to IAH, we drove to Michael's house and visited with the baby and Abby before heading up to the check in at Huntsville.
We didn't make it in time for the briefing, but I figured the 20-mile loop course couldn't have changed much since this was my third time up here. Picked up my race packet with a nice logo'd USATF turtle-neck fleece jacket and feasted on the pre-race dinner of salad, spaghetti, bread and deserts, until I was ready to explode. We drove up I-45 to the city of Huntsville and checked into the Econo-Lodge, not bad for around $45 per night.
By the time I organized my battle gear for the morning and took a couple of Unisom pills, I was out by 8:30 p.m. I started the normal toss and turn around 3:30 a.m. and finally gave it up at 4:30 a.m. and got ready for the 6 a.m. start time. Michael drove, and we checked in with about 15 minutes to spare.
The temp was around 40 degrees, so with some heat on my legs, I could survive with just running shorts, coolmax turtleneck, a short sleeve shirt and a light nylon jacket. We would be running for about 45 minutes before daylight, so I started with a headlamp. My choice was a Petz that has four neon lights, pretty good but I also carry a Princeton Tec flashlight for backup.
Journey started at exactly 6 a.m. and I was toward the front of the pack for the first lap. We ran over pine needles on the Jeep/ATV roads and it passed pretty fast. The problem on this course wasn't the rocks...it was roots that I nailed if I didn't keep my eyes on the trail.
I checked in and out of each aid station pretty quickly, stopping only to fill my Gatorade bottle or my extra bottle filled with Ensure that I carried. Two years ago at this race I had to stop at mile 60 because my stomach was unable to digest regular food. Since then, I stick to Ensure and Gels which my body seems to like for now. But as Frank says "you can fool your stomach for awhile, but soon enough it will catch on" (he only does the Gels).
I came in on track for the first lap around 2 hours and 50 minutes, put on some Ben-Gay Ultra, traded my empty bottles, stripped down to my tank-top, and was on my way. I felt like I was doing ok on lap two until around mile 35. My right foot was burning up. I limped into mile 40, (at around 3:30) changed my shoes, put on one pair of Injinju socks, and loosened my laces. It took another 10 or so miles before my foot felt more comfortable to run on, and I just hope it wouldn't be my Neuroma acting up again. I had just finished having my foot treated with degenerative alcohol, a procedure that dissolved the nerve to hopefully avoid ever having to get a painful surgery.
Naturally my time fell off on the third lap, and to top it off, the leader (Jorge Pacheco) passed me at around mile 55 like a bat out of hell with his pacer about 30 yard ahead of him. Coming in to Raven Lodge (the start, lap and finish spot) I refueled, greased up and was off for two more laps. Michael added the contents of an E-Cap (Endurolytes) in each bottle of Gatorade, mainly to keep my sodium and electrolytes in order. I also took another E-Cap every couple of hours and had a swig of V8 when I was able to meet up with my crew.
By now I believe we had passed the high of the day, (75 degrees) and soon would be on the downward trend as dusk set in. When I hit aid station (Dam Road) at mile 64, I dressed back as I was at the start, with my headlamp, army flashlight, short sleeve shirt, and tied my nylon jacket around my waist for later. This seemed to be the longest lap, but I had to stay focused (maybe just to get another cup of soup at each aid station) and once I got back around, I knew there was only one lap between me and the finish.
I re-fueled, BenGay'd, gloved, and hat'd up. I donned my super headlamp that throws out a wide neon light with its 4 "C" batteries...good enough to blind a deer, or fry an ant, whichever I passed. Hitting the 85 mile point feeling a little stronger started to pick up the pace, (since I was looking at around a 24 hour finish) with 15 miles to go.
I hit the final aid station (Site #174) with only about 3 miles to go and left word there for my crew. I kept at a 10 minute mile pace, and seeing that tent at the end of the road definitely brought a smile to my face and another buckle to my collection.
Finish time: 22 hours and 32 minutes.
I was able to get in a shower and nap before the breakfast and award ceremony back at the Lodge. We found out the Jorge Pacheco missed Eric Clifton's course record by less than a minute and almost half of the finishers completed the course under 24 hours. I finished 35th place overall and 2nd in my age group.
This was a great way to break little Lauren into Ultra-running--Michael made a great video for her to watch when she gets a little older. As always, my crew Michael, Abby, Jamie, and a little help from Lauren, kept me going through the race.
My wife Aleka, my greatest partner in life and training, and my daughter Andrea, cheered me on from home with the dogs...they both traveled to Houston a couple of weeks ago to see Lauren and run the Houston ½ Marathon.
My last dedication is to my mom, way back in Wisconsin, who keeps the candles lit so I can see the light and finish another trail run. Keep on running and see you on the trails ....thks Mike