I got a DNF at Keys 100 at mile 65. I donated my unused shirt and race bag to the Paralyzed Veterans of America. My previous blog about the topic was so depressing I deleted it. That is all.
I got a DNF at Keys 100 at mile 65. I donated my unused shirt and race bag to the Paralyzed Veterans of America. My previous blog about the topic was so depressing I deleted it. That is all.
I always take a Friday off before Iron Horse 100k. It’s always valentines day. That means a goodbye lunch with the wife. By the time I get out of Tampa with a packed car it’s time to get going to Palatka, FL. I always stay at the Crystal Cove Resort. They have a restaurant and bar on the St. John’s river. The rooms are cheap and the view is worth it. The pre race briefing was at the start line and they have stuff for sale there so bring cash. A little bit of water is on the course was the warning we got at the pre race briefing. Now I had to decide if I wanted to risk GorTex shoes or not. If it is over ankle deep your GorTex shoe will fill full of water and it’s game over. Lucky me I packed every single pair of shoes I could find.
It rained hard in the car on the way to the start. The good news is it passed before I got to the start. The weather was perfect all day. The night before I had settled into my Mizuno road shoe since they drain well. 10 minutes before the start I switch into my Hoka’s. 30 seconds before start I decide to peel my jacket off and put it in the car. The gun goes off. I’m now running the opposite direction of everyone else as I head to my car with my jacket. Typical me, I thought, running the wrong direction full speed. So I get that sorted and make the start 60 seconds after the gun went off.
Out and back on the now paved rail trail. Flat and fast. Dry. New paved bridges. Scenic and fun.
This section is where a little incline training can start to help. There’s a mile straightaway with a 50ft climb. Just enough to grind at you on the uphill and feel like it’s not there on the downhill. If you can find something that mimics this in training it can help. There are several miles of +50 then -50 on the course over mixed terrain.
So after the paved straightaway, you turn onto a dirt powerline road with a few ups and downs before making the AS.
Out and Back
The first out and back from AS2 is flat hard packed sand. There was water here over ankle deep in one spot 10 feet across. Having seen much worse water crossings in longer races I run straight through it while other runners screech “eww!” And try in vain to go around. I tell them to stop waisting time and to go right through it. Always pick the fastest shallow route through water on the trail. Going off trail is always a waste of time in my opinion and the tendency is to get mud in your shoes rather than water if you do try. Since blisters come from heat, water, and friction mud can provide a vital third ingredient for your foot to make one if you let it.
Second out and back
This section has a few 50 ft ups and downs also. Sharper grades but same overall elevation per mile as AS1 to AS2. It’s a great change of pace. More twists and turns than I expected. Nothing of the old world of Iron Horse – a mental hell of railroad gravel and grass straightaway that went on FOREVER. Also in this section is a wood bridge over a nice stream. Don’t be fooled – come the mile 40’s this is clearly the hardest part of the course.
AS2 to Finish
Back up the powerline road onto the paved rail trail and back to the finish. So this is the loop. 4 times for the 100, twice for the 50.
100k out and back
So by now I’ve done the loop twice, I’ve headed back out. No jacket, headlamp in my waist pack. It got cold. I wish I had brought my jacket. Anyway, that’s probably my own fault, I didn’t expect the 3 mile out and back to take a whole hour! I was really sucking as a runner by now. Mostly walking. What could I do? Back at the Start I switched into my GorTex Montrails I had intended to run Iron Horse in and put on my jacket only despite feeling like I needed arm warmers too. I hoped being cold would help me keep moving and it did. After I left the car I saw another runner I knew come flying into the finish 9 miles ahead of me. I was going slow but it was PR time for me. 11 hours and 30 minutes into this thing with less than 9 miles or 10k to go I had a full 3 hours to get a PR. So I ran to AS2 – an by run I mean 4.5 mph. Yeah, I was weak and tired by now and doing the 100 miler scuffle jog I learned during all my 100 miler DNF’s. I get to AS2 and let the workers fill my bottle for the first time all day. Maybe I’m against germs? I dunno. Anyway, I go the 0.3 of a mile and turn around at the 100k turnaround alone in the dark cold night but it feels like Christmas morning to me. I did not make it here in 2011 as I dropped at 50 mile that year. Hell, I had only run 50k once prior and only had a 20 lumen headlamp with me that year so I was lucky I didn’t try anyway – I wasn’t ready.
AS2 to Finish
Sketchy stuff. There’s the same homeless guy at the mile 17 signpost on the rail trail from 2011. Then I pass a lady, with NO HEADLAMP in the pitch dark who told me on lap 2 that she didn’t have one because she planned to finish before sundown. A quick note to anyone who wants to Run Iron Horse 100k – the road to hell is paved with good intentions. No matter what your pace plan is bring a headlamp. I can’t imagine what it must have been like on the powerline road in the sand and roots with no light.
So I run the last mile to the finish and get my buckle. Go to the car, get my recoverite from the race bag and drink it by the burn barrel. Success!
Thank you Iron Horse
This race has the best aid station volunteers and race director and medical staff ever. Maybe that’s because I’m a veteran but I really felt at ease with the way the ROTC ran the aid stations. It was a tight ship. Very top notch stuff. If it were my own race I wouldn’t do even one thing different. Thank you to everyone that helped make the Iron Horse Endurance Runs such a great success!
Then I head to my car to go back to the hotel and grab a shower and to get a beer at the hotel bar – it’s only 9:00! I shake violently in the cold from the burn barrel to the car. My heat works in the car today so luckily I stop shaking. Back at the hotel I peel of my calf sleeves and shoes and look at my Achilles’ tendon and scream! It’s the size of a carrot and beat red. I honestly thought I snapped it clean off. After my shower I did the zombie leg drag from my room to the hotel bar. In my head, I thought it closed at 11pm but the sign said 10pm and it was 9:58pm. I went in. They were closing. The nice bartender offered to sell me a beer but I really wanted food so I left. I ended up eating Taco Bell in my hotel room. A fine victory meal for me. I kind of wanted a beer by the river but I’ll survive.
2 weeks since the race. I have been diagnosed with a strained foot tendon. Not the Achilles – that one is actually fine. It’s an anterior tibial is tendon or some such nonsense. I can point to it but don’t ask me the name of it. I’m a jogger not a doctor. This is a recurring thing for me. 3 weeks off and some strength work should get it back up and running. I could run today but that’ll make long term recovery take longer. But I get to eat a lot of Girl Scout cookies on the couch. I joined a gym too. I blame this injury on not following the strength training advice given to me in 2010 by a DPT. The gym should help.
Well, it was a hard road back to Wild Sebastian. I had 3 previous DNF’s at the 100 miler finishing at 25, 50, and 75 previously. I began to feel the small voice telling me that I just can’t do this distance. To take a word from Grady in the Shining “We think your heart isn’t in it. Maybe you haven’t got the stomach for it.”. Something within me keeps wanting to get out and try to kill it even if I end up froze up in a mental maze again.
So I bought a copy of the about titled book by James Loehr, EdD. and decided that everyone must be right. It’s my mental game that is falling apart during the 100 miler. I complete all of my training plans on schedule. I seem to eat ok. I’ve got my feet figured out. So I bought the book. Page 38 of the book makes you run through a little test to find 4 weaknesses to focus on each day for one month and restart each month. So I took the test and held to recording the training for TWO DAYS. It’s still taped to my desk. I thought that I would just try to keep up with it mentally without a paper copy since I missed a couple days. I made some strides in my 4 areas.
I didn’t feel nervous as I had previously. It actually entered my mind for the first time before this event that running 100 miles might not result in death and may actually result in returning healthier than before – god forbid I let myself think that! I ran a standard sub 6 hour loop 1 (25 miles). I got back to the start line, I looked into my drop bag, I did a quick assessment. Do I need anything in here? No. Off I went. A mile later I realized I was out of Gel and salt that I looked right at and decided I didn’t need!?! I was clearly in some sort of brain fog in the heat of the day. I was pulling 3 mph for 2 hours from just past the start to aid station 2. I was, in my head, cussing the salt. I would no damn way drop at Bob Becker’s aid station. He’s the damn Keys 100 director and I’m headed to his race in May. He did save the day with a few salt pills that allowed me to complete lap 2.
So what the hell happened this time?!?
I was running out of aid station 3 and caught up with one walker with no light at night, when I decided to walk it in. So I just went into group think and went with her and a few others who also caught up in a big night walking group of 5. We walked all the way to the start. Everyone decided to drop at 50. Ted Cory ALMOST had me running again but I wasn’t hearing it. Some others yelled at me with disappointment. Didn’t buy that either.
Each time I hit the start finish I seemed to be in a fog. I was cycling my running form focus and daydreaming purposefully. I guess I started to hit a low and went with it. But why? How had I forgot to stay motivated? Holy shit! That is the answer. The next morning I realized that the word motivated never even entered my head the entire race. I hadn’t ran through my 4 mentally weakest areas AT ALL even once during the race. If you want to keep going you need to stay motivated. I went into cheeseburger mode and went to eat McDonalds. It was really good.
This is just for fun to piss off some overly motivated 100 mile runners:
Blisters before mile 20!
Blisters underneath other blisters before mile 50.
Wrong Shoes leading to knee pain.
Rain at night.
No water crossing.
Out of salt.
Out of Gel.
Out of Endurance Aminos (included in salt drop).
Out of Anti Fatigue Caps (included in salt drop).
Backpack and a water bottle (seriously, that is redundant bullshit).
Asch conformity yielding.
Not enough slack.
Too much slack.
The right amount of slack.
Assumptions about future splits making finishing impossible.
Forgetting the word motivated.
Worrying about liver function.
Worrying about kidney function.
Worrying about urine color.
Not worrying about urine color.
Lack of competition at the back of the pack.
Forgetting to return from daydreaming cycle to form focus cycle.
I quit running.
Laying down for 10 minutes after lap 2.
Never using a pacer.
Never having a crew.
Listening to others.
Not listening to others.
Not seeing the full moon.
Not having good songs on my iPod.
Turning off my iPod and chatting with people who ended up dropping at 50.
Dropping out with people at 50 mile mark.
I Thought the race was Saturday. I drove 90 minutes north ready to race. The gate was locked. I called the Race Director at 6am. I quickly hung up remembering her telling me how she laughs when she gets the calls on the wrong day and that she doesn’t answer. I returned to the website. It was the wrong day! Yikes! The Holder Mine campground was locked so I drove south then west then north up a dirt road to Tillis Hill. I parked and ran 14 miles on the D loop of the Citrus Tract. I saw signs. I knew this was the course. I was glad I went because I didn’t remember that technical section that well.
It was the right day! I got my bag and moved my car out of the campground. I returned and left a bag of goodies at the finish line. We got a pre race briefing. The winner of Western States 2013 was there. So this race appeared to have a winner called already. I’m not going to get into too much detail on this race but I feel as if I should encourage all runners who can make it to attend any of the Ultras on Trails events. The runs are donations only to help the organizer cover gatorade. Terri Hayes, the organizer, is a badass Angeles Crest 100 finisher and long time veteran to ultra running and let me tell you after having been out there and eating a DNF at mile 37.5 at Cloudburst Summit on the AC100 course that I went to this run eating crap. I respected this lady on a whole new level and had to explain to her that I am not near the runner that she is. We shared a laugh about AC100 and how hard but beautiful the course is.
I went out slow and got a 50k PR! I ate chocolate Hammer Gel and Bacon Jerky which ended up tasting like I was running powered by chocolate covered bacon. I passed a gal I couldn’t seem to catch for 22 miles in the technical section where she had ran way off course down by a pond and she never caught back up. I flew through the rocks remembering every turn from the day before, although I ran it the other way the day before. I finally checked my Strava data at mile 28 and was on course to PR! I wasn’t even going for it. It just ended up that way. A day well spent.
Pinellas Trail Challenge
Someone created a Pinellas Trail Challenge. To run from Tarpon Springs, FL to St. Petersburg, FL. So, of course, I just signed right up! 40 pavement pounding miles. It’s pretty hot out there too. 10 days before the race the noon “feels like” temperature, which is the temperature adjusted for humidity and dew point (maybe, I’m not a meteorologist), was 106! So, it’s a beast out there. The forecast, first available 10 days before the race, shows a high of 89 and a dew point of 72. Luckily that’s a little better. However, it could change and be worse by then. It’s Florida so you never know!
Things always depend on race day conditions like how bad of a hair day I’m having or if I’m hungover. Thankfully I woke up on time. 2am and my new analog alarm clock is clanging actual bells (my wife hates my new $10 alarm clock). It’s a wind up clock an it was only $10. I had to have it.
Hit the road
So I finally got out the door at 3:30am and began driving south around the bay. It’s all open road and I’m there at 4:30am in time for the bus. We drove north, way north, right past Tarpon Springs to Port Richey! I informed the driver that he had clearly missed the turn. We headed back south.
At the start were a few cars. A guy and his wife set up a table, made us sign waivers, and gave us a wrist band with a phone number to call if we gave up. It was a nice and unexpected security to have that wrist band. People complained about the bad start area with no parking. I told my buddy I was running with on the trail that we would be better off starting at the Tarpon Springs Sports Complex 800 yards away which has ample parking and open bathrooms just off of Tarpon Rd and Jasmine St. It was literally a 10 minute walk up the trail from the start area, make a left go 800 yards, left into the parking just past the graveyard.
Anyway by the time I got from the park, which I detoured to in order to pee before the race start since it was so close, back to the start area it was time to go. I was the first person to take off since my watch said 6:30. So off I went. Having ran the course the week before I was able to help the leader not get lost twice in the first mile. The course headed west, then north then west then north before veering south for the long haul. There was a place just past the US 19 underpass where you DO NOT go north again 2 miles into a preserve – you keep going straight to the sponge docks.
Tarpon Springs is quite pretty in the morning. I’d take this run over a lot of other morning jogs any time. Then the trail goes into Palm Harbor. If you know your bananas you’ll be able to spot the Primate Sanctuary here before mile 5. The chimps are adorable. Of course we had to stop for a second here. Then we ran on through Dunedin. Then we ran through Clearwater and a few sketchy intersections with no pedestrian crossing button where you just had to run for it. Then we ran through Largo. Then we ran through Seminole. Seminole still has something of old Florida about it to me. It’s not a headliner destination but its quiet. It gets damn hot around here. The trail opens up to the sunshine in an unrelenting way all the way through St. Petersburg.
You should probably make a sock change at mile 20 if you run the full 40 miles of the Pinellas Trail. I have two blisters down to the last layer of skin to attest to why. Also, I would recommend 10 solid hours of nutrition and water planning just in case things go south. Don’t give up if things do.
Gulfport into downtown St. Petersburg has a few crossings with no pedestrian buttons where you have to run for it again. Then you run through downtown hit the water and hang a left to the park at the finish.
There was a real finish line and food and drinks. Hell, there was a real aid station at mile 17. Not bad for what I expected was a fun run with no frills. It was a lot of fun! The view from the park was great at the end. It made me want to take a nap and maybe become one of those bums sleeping beside the trail. Ok, not really, it made me want a shower at home most of all. The weather was on our side. Sun all day and light rain for 5 minutes a few miles before the finish.
It had been almost two years of training up for Angeles Crest 100. 3 runs at Wild Sebastian (The 50, the 75, and the 25 miler), a 100k at Long Haul, a 50 miler in the Green Swamp, a 50k at Calico. I ran a 100 mile week. I bought two iPods, new shoes and insoles, a plane ticket, a hotel room, a heart rate monitor.
It was a little chilly outside. I put on a jacket. Everyone lined up and the firetruck blew the horn and the race started. I ran around the corner and up the street, took a right and ran down the next street, and turned left to start the initial climb – walking mostly. The day before I climbed this a little and thought I was just about at the top. I realized when I got into the switchbacks that I hadn’t a clue how serious this climb was going to be. It’s 5:30am and I’m hiking switchbacks behind the only person who has ever finished every single Angeles Crest 100 ever ran. At this point I’m thinking “Great, stick with this guy and you’ll be fine!”.
Watching the sun come up over Hisperia as you summit inspiration point is probably one of the best ways to spend any morning. When you get to the top the wind that these mountains hold back blows across your sweaty suffering legs and it feels like heaven. Not to mention you are thrust into a landscape that doesn’t even exist just a few miles below. Up here it’s a forest of cedar, fur, and pine with fields of shrubs that just don’t grow lower down the mountains.
It’s a hell of a suffering to get there, despite the beauty, and sadly 50 of 163 participants dropped from the course at the first aid station. Other runners, later on down the course, explained that they heard their friends saying things like “It’s not worth dying for!”. I don’t think that you should even be signed up if you plan to screw around and drop at Aid Station 1. Any high school cross country runner could finish that 5 mile ascent. Angeles Crest 100 is a limited entry event for serious runners who want to test their physical limits of endurance. If you signed up and dropped at aid station 1 you used a slot that a serious endurance runner was denied.
I don’t know much about the volunteers. I do know Cheryl Zwarkowski, of multiple Badwater finish fame, was there. I know I made it in and out in under 60 seconds at aid station 1. Thank you volunteers!
As you leave inspiration point you can see Mt. Baden Powell in the distance and you get excited! The first downhill must be right here, right? No. Theres a little more up and down a few hundred feet here and there before you’re allowed to descend to the bottom of Mt. Baden Powell. It is a sweet downhill once you get to it though.
The easy place to make a mistake
The problem with racing is that not all courses are the same. In Florida, it’s common to see an aid station every 3 to 6 miles but not at Angeles Crest 100. From AS2 to AS3 is 12 miles! You’d actually see it if you looked at the Delta column of the pacing chart (Huge hint for future runners). On this section from AS2 to AS3 you need 4 water bottles. I had read 3 somewhere and this was fatally bad advice for me. I filled my handheld and not my backpack, which I was just using for backup, and took off up the mountain after a few pieces of melon.
This climb is so hard up Baden Powell that it makes the climb up inspiration point look like games. I had done my bridge repeats in Florida like a good soldier but there is no way I was prepared for this kind of climbing at this kind of altitude. I was fine with the pain – big deal. It was the heart rate data that scared me. I was pumping a full 163 beats per minute walking up that mountain.
Everyone passed me
The old timer who finished all of the previous Angeles Crest 100’s was the first person to pick me off. He walked past me and disappeared. I never saw him again! The it was girls, old runners, and finally a hiker with a knee brace and hiking poles. Although, I eventually did pass him back. I walked this climb. I had no intention of running it. It wasn’t even in the plan. The plan was to run the downhills and walk the uphills.
However, I eventually made it to the top, sucking wind like a boy scout on his first real hike. Then I got to the sweet downhill. Funny thing is, my heart rate recovered to 120 beats per minute at full speed run on the downhills. I was looking ok. I wasn’t sure how the 163 bpm would shake out in the long haul – I had never elevated my HR that high in an endurance event but I was willing to find out how it played out. Would I be ok?
So I barrel to the bottom of the mountain. I sip my handheld dry. I go a little further and sip the backpack dry. Now it hits me. Here I am on the side of the Angeles Crest with no water and no idea how far I need to go. I see a sign that says “Vincent Gap 1.8 ->” so I’m thinking “cool, I can make that”. I remember the name vaguely from the race book and assume it must be the next aid station. There isn’t anything at vincent gap. Not anything. So I am running and running. I ran for 90 minutes with no water. About a mile before I got to the aid station I had given up. I thought “screw Angeles Crest 100 if the logistics are this bad!”. I started walking. I was ready to miss the cutoff and chalk it up to a lousy aid station gap that was unrealistically large for having a mountain climb in the middle of it. Remember, it’s not just 12 miles, it’s thousands of feet of climbing and descending!
At AS3 things are touchy. I weigh in at 141. That’s down 7 lbs from start weight. They tell me to sit and drink. All the while I’m laughing aloud and thinking “gee I wonder why? I’ve been running 90 minutes with no water!”. So I comply out of thirst and not advice. I get up asap and head out. I thought I missed cutoff but they told me I was 13 minutes ahead. So I laughed, and said “ok then, bye” and off I went. I climbed a hellish section and snapped a photo.
The descent here was stellar. Steep switchbacks and rocks galore. I was a kid in a candy store. If you fell you really were going to fall far here. I passed a few people on this section. Then I crossed a road.
Then there were real steep sheer sides on both sides and hard cold wind wipping up the sides of sheer rock faced canyons. This was the kind of place you didn’t even feel comfortable stopping. Too treaterous. Really fun terrain.
Then I made it into an aid station and had made up 15 more minutes. Things were looking up. I hauled off onto a road 2 mile section. Very boring. Then down into the canyon. I ran down that canyon. The someone told me “it’s only 1 or 2 miles. It’s only back up to the road from here”. I thought I had time. I got comfortable. I set in walking. Too bad it was 7 miles and not “a few”. I missed the cutoff by a long shot – 20 minutes. I was walking too slow. The climbing had got the best of me and I was stubmling up the mountain out of gas. I thought I was better than that but I was only human.
The only saving grace for this run was that if I’s seen the course before I ran it than I’d never have attempted it at all. I would recommend anyone considering this run sign up the day registration opens and fly out to the course work and trail run on one weekend. Otherwise, you’ll have no idea what you’re up against. Pictures and blog reading hearsay won’t be worth a damn for you on race day – you’ll want to get your boots on the ground in advance.
All over now
So, goodbye California! It was fun. Maybe next year I’ll take on something I can handle. Big Bear 50? Back to Florida for now!
Everybody in running knows the week starts on Monday. This is to put your long run on Sunday when you’ll actually have time to do it. Monday is usually a rest day but I had bigger ideas this last week. So I decided to strap on my Montrail Badrocks and head to Stephen Wentworth park and run a 5k. Mostly, this was inspired by Patrick Reed. It was a quick jog out to the lake. The water had risen by the crossing and the usual rubble was underwater and I had to balance beam across a mossy tree limb that I wasn’t sure was going to hold me up. I stayed dry out and back though. I got home and locked my keys in the car again! So I ran another 3 miles to my in-laws house carrying my drop bag in 5pm heat. 6 miles. Not by choice.
3:45am wake up. North Face hydration pack filled with distilled water, the ol’ 6 shot hammer gel, the iPhone with a Mixcloud 3 hour mix loaded. 7 miles later I crossed the river, turned around, and headed home. Well, except my Garmin shut itself off at mile 6 at McDonalds while using the facilities. Not that I care about reviewing my slow pace. I’m not setting any records lately.
3:45am wake up. The cat lady loop. A sick sick distance from my house. Exactly 5 miles away is a gross trailer with old people with cats. That’s where I have to turn around. If it wasn’t on a lit 6ft wide jog path – I’d go somewhere else.
Repeat Tuesday. Well, except my Garmin held up this time.
Ran another 6 miles on the jog path. That’s 50 by Friday. All of those miles on that jog path except for the first 5k. At this point I still don’t have anything in stone. Might be an 80 mile week and who knows where I’ll be but at least it won’t be on THAT jog path.
FUR Candy Ass 50k at Lake Baldwin. A strange cool breeze mixed in with the humid heat this year. It was a quite pleasant breeze and it made me wonder if this isn’t why it’s called winter park. The lake is partially a dog park which was an added bonus if you like cute puppies, big Great Danes and $20,000 rewards for lost dogs. Someone was actually offering $20,000 for a lost dog! There were tons of familiar faces at this race. I did not win. However, my wife was happy knowing that if I died at least someone would find my body – as opposed to the solo forest run I was planning. 82 done.
Honestly, if it weren’t for DampRid for RV’s I don’t know how I’d survive that drive to Tampa. I saw a dead body in the median of I-75 slumped in a car surrounded by 5 cop cars, and a sideways truck just before I got off the freeway. Traffic was nuts! I’m glad I work at home.
Ugh! Snooze. Snooze. I finally stumped into my techno hell pile of running clothes and electronic junk accessories just before 6am. I was leaving Tucker Hill headed into the Withlacoochee State Forest by 7am. 5 miles of hills, turn around and run it back to the car. Reload water bottles. Go again. Two miles out I froze dead in my tracks. Thunder! Oh no! Not again! I had been stuck in this forest before on a night solo run praying to god to be alive in the morning! I turned around and looked at the cloud. It was west, but it was heading north of my position. So, I decided to go to 5. Then I learned that I am not a meteorologist. I got to run 5 miles back to my car across the biggest hills on the Croom loop in a lightning storm. Yes I did drop and lay flat on the ground once. That was the funniest part – but only in looking back. It was terrifying at the time. Also, if I had been there at 6am I would have missed this ENTIRELY! Damn snooze!
Is it worth it?
100 miles in 7 days. You can run long distances and train less than this. I know people who have done it. Do you gain anything by running this many miles in training? In as much as you’ll gain something going from 50 miles to 70 miles per week there is something to be said for it. Mostly, it’s mental. I hit some lousy moments on day 5. An extremely lousy 6 miler was probably the best part of it. That is to say, it was the most like the tough part of an ultra when you’d rather be having a bath or lying on the couch in front of the tv. I would say that you should consider at least a 7 day streak if you’re running an ultra, really commit to it, enjoy that you don’t even enjoy it – get a little tougher. Seriously, if you hear thunder at mile 92 get your butt outta there! However, if you can run 70 you CAN run 100. It’s worth considering. So too is the forecast – not just the radar of current weather.
A shot at redemption
May 2011 I ran Ultra Miles for Moffitt 12 Hour for 22 miles with taped toes and gave up with extreme foot pain. It was my last attempt at running with toe tape and also my first.
So I signed up again for Ultra Miles for Moffitt. It wasn’t a choice. I have downward trending long run results since November. It’s bad juju. I have to reverse this as soon as possible to remove the curse.
A huge thank you is due to all of the people who donated to the Moffitt Cancer Center before this race ever started. Somehow, this race generated more donations to my athlete page than I had expected. Thank you all!
Rainy day Tampa
It was 79% humidity at the start. Not my favorite condition but the wind off the rain clouds to the west made it seem easier. It’s sundown in the first hour of the race so you don’t have to worry about heat at Ultra Miles for Moffitt. The competition is real at this event. Among them, a guy who ran Nanny Goat 100 on a circle track, a gal who just finished Colors for the Cure 100, and an old timer trying to set the 60-69 American record for the 12 hour just to name a few. It rained for a few welcomed minutes during the first hour. After that I finally dropped my new Mountain Hardware waterproof running hat.
There were probably more anti-minimalists wearing Hoka’s out there than people attempting the less is more approach. I ran in a Montrail Rogue Racer described as a Minimalist Trail Racing Flat. Honorable mention goes to the guy who ran it all in Luna Sandals. Watching that guy run felt like going back in time 1,000 years!
So I started slow, telling myself to not look more than 3 feet in front of myself, and not to be pulled into running fast laps behind a relay runner. I could feel that I was staying successfully in HR zone 1 at this point by just jogging 11:00 minute miles. I had 24 hours worth of Perpetuem in single hour bags and tiny pill baggies with 1 each endurolyte, endurance amino cap, and anti fatigue cap. I stuck with these at first making only a 2 min stop every hour to refill my water bottle and take the three pills. I hit a real low at mile 16. I started walking so I stopped at my drop bag and got out the hammer gel and got back on track somewhat by eating a gel and changing socks from a trail toe sock to a 2XU compression road sock that I haven’t had the chance to wear in years. Those are great socks by the way. The placebo effect alone is worth the purchase. So I got mad about how lousy I was doing before 30k (18 miles) and started running. I always get through it by 30k. This time was no different. The pain of any 30k is pretty consistent so I was in a familiar place despite the concrete underneath the rubberized track which by now was reminding me it was just beneath the rubber surface with each step. Pain in the feet, knees, and hips with each step is not something you get on trail runs on sand. I started running 4 laps and walking one lap. Actually, I made it quite a bit longer than I had anticipated employing this strategy. I got to 50k and went a few more laps. I had a cup of coffee and went to the restroom. My eyes were red but one eye had a vein that had blown up earlier in the race. I was having intense eye pain. I got my car key out of my drop bag and drove to Walgreens on Fletcher Ave. and bought Visine A and Visine for Tired Eyes. I drove back to the race and put both in my eyes. I could barely see out of my right eye now. I gave my timing chip to Mike Melton and said goodbye to the race director, got my stuff and went home. I didn’t know what the hell was wrong with my eye but I wanted to drive home while I still could. Perhaps salty sweat got it or I was just tired or it was an allergy – I still don’t know. I left just before 4am a little irritated that I wouldn’t finish all 12 hours.
The Downward Spiral
I did what I came to do. I reversed my long run downward trend. I have been running shorter and shorter since November 2012! It had to be stopped! So I at least broke that curse. Not by much – but that doesn’t matter.
Ultra Miles for Moffitt is a great cause. If you don’t even like running then this may be the event for you! People walk this one. The walkers who walk all night can get just as far as a runner who burns out and leaves 4 hours early (like me). If you’re a runner – this event may be for you if you like a challenge, can handle running on a surface that’s soft at first but feels like concrete over the long haul, or need an overnight training run. It would be cool to see USF athletics throw together a relay team. Too bad the one relay team went totally unchallenged.
Afterword: One runner this year used this race as a training run for Wild Sebastian 100. He then questioned himself part way through. I say you can’t compare the concrete to the sand. The first 50 at Wild Sebastian is going to feel much easier than that.
My third DNF at Wild Sebastian 100. My confidence was too high. I used a new hydration pack. I used Hammer Perpetuem as my only fuel strategy.
So here’s what I forgot. I forgot that I can’t stomach Perpetuem after about 30 miles. I learned this at Iron Horse 50 in 2011. I forgot to bring any gel. My last two attempts at Wild Sebastian 100 were entirely gel fueled. I even forgot to cut my toenails. I forgot my iPod for playing when I lose my mind at night.
It got hot. That’s never stopped me. It was the humidity. The hell that is Florida humidity when it gets bad is something you can’t put on paper unless you stick that sheet of paper in a boiling tea kettle. That’s how I felt.
I got some muscle pain that stopped me running and some problem with my guts that felt like I was producing a toxin that wasn’t pissing out but rather building.
I was dead set on stopping at 25 by mile 22 when I quit running. Spent an hour getting from 22 to 26. Had a coke at the start/finish and did my anti chaff, sock change, foot lube, anti blister powder in each shoe and put on deodorant since my own stink was almost unbearable. Then I just got up and started running.
It only lasted one mile. Then I realized I was trucking along toward my worst 50k ever by over an hour. I suddenly couldn’t stomach my drink. I got real nausea and held back a desire to vomit. That was the last straw. I had 5 hours of daylight left. The only thing at the aid station was a watermelon, sandwiches, and water, and GU brew. No gel. No M&M’s. No candy.
I drove home. I got on Facebook and left the Florida Ultra Runners (FUR) Facebook group and tore the sticker off my car. I was that pissed. I didn’t even get to 50 and that has never happened before. I really didn’t bring anything to the table this time. I may as well have not trained at all. I could have ran 29 with no training.
So, it’s AC100 next. I’ll be using my old North Face backpack with enough GU to drown myself – you can count on that. I guess I’ll have to train in this hell humidity until then. I don’t know if this will happen again next time. I guess I’ll just have to wait and see. I’ve got plane tickets, a hotel, and a valid entry so there’s no way I won’t be at the start line.
I promised myself I wouldn’t write this post but I did anyway. Shamefully. Anyway, it’s the Siesta Key Mental Health Awareness 5k next weekend. Because helping people feel comfortable going to a psychiatrist is important.
I don’t much like the cold. It was 41 degrees in Dade City, FL. The race started at 5:30am. I had on a beanie, gloves, arm sleeves, a windbreaker, t-shirt, shorts, calf sleeves, socks, shoes, a water backpack with a visor inside, a 6 shot gu flask, and a 20 oz handheld with an anti chaff inside.
We ran 5 miles on what I’d like to call “the poop loop” because it basically shakes the poop loose by the time you get back to the start. That’s where I decided to stop for a bathroom break. Bad idea. Multiple other races are about to start and every one of those runners are lined up at the portables by the time you get there. Look for a bathroom early and plan to not stop at the start to run a faster race overall.
I dropped my windbreaker, beanie, and flashlight at the start and took off again.
Now on to the 20 mile loop. By the time I cleared the toilets and dropped my stuff at my car I was running to catch walkers! Over the bridge and thru some rough weeds along a short section of river an around a little patch of forest you find the first aid station at mile 9. Here I decide to build a pattern. I would eat one yellow M&M at every aid station. No reason. Just to remind myself to be quick, eat, and get moving. After this it’s a series of sand hills with nice views on the Florida trail. Theres a big aid station next you pass through on the way out and back with lits of people. 1 yellow M&M. 12.7 check. Bye folks! The next aid station is way out there at 17.6. Just a guy from Indiana who reminded me how miserable I’d be by the next loop. I laughed right in his face! I told him I was on 10 hr pace and that I wouldn’t be stopped. Then I ate my yellow M&M and left. It’s double track gravel road for a mile after this one and gravel roads are tough on the feet. I stayed on the pine needles as much as possible. I train a lot on double track gravel and happen to know that one pebble can hit your foot bone just right and make the rest of your run extremely painful if you don’t watch your step. Then there is an unmanned aid station they called BFE with just water.
After BFE we headed down a trail with shoulder height grass. You have to focus on the ground in front of you to not fall in this stuff. At least I did. Then I ran and ran and it got peaceful and there were no tracks or flags. I was lost. I was mad but I turned around and headed back to the flags. I found them finally a few valleys back. Then I ran the same direction as the other runners. When I got back to BFE 1 hour later I realized I was running the course backwards! I left BFE at 10am and it was now 11am! I was pissed! PR? Hell, would I be allowed to finish? I threw my water bottle and shouted some profanities next to a Boy Scout troop. Not this Eagle Scout’s finest moment. I kept running.
Ran into a guy from VA who was running the 50k and decided he was less lost than me. Followed him off onto another wrong turn and did another extra mile there. Then he says “you can still do the 50k!”. I laughed and told him I could do that at home and that I was here for 50. I’d sooner get in the car and drive home at 25 than drop to 50k. No 50 miler has ever made me DNF. Not North Face GA – certainly not this one!
Back at traffic jam I ran into Krystal Martinez who was 10 freaking miles ahead of me now going the other direction! She asked if I was that far in front of her! I said “hell no! I got lost.”
Then I went back to the start. There’s a water crossing a mile before the start on the big loop and everyone seemed perplexed. Some guy says, “what do we do?” And I said ” go across” and I ran right through it.
Do or die time!
I pulled off those shoes and socks, baby wiped my feet, sprayed them with cool feet, put on clean socks, and put my wet shoes back on. If you run this race and you don’t sock change at 25 you’re really asking for a blister and/or other foot issues. I left the aid station with 5 minutes left before the cutoff insuring the race director that I’d run the next loop faster since I was lost for an hour on the first one. I dropped my water backpack for the first time ever on an ultra. The aid stations were that well stocked. I kept my 20 oz handheld only. I had to speed up and I needed to drop weight. This did the trick.
Big loop 2
It got hot. Hot for FL anyway in March. It’s not exactly the Mojave desert out there and I always laugh when people say it’ll be miserable hot out there. It never is to me. This time at Ranch Rd, mile 29.1, I talked war stories about Alafia Marathon with one of the aid station workers I recognized from local races, said thanks and got moving. I had to negative split this sucker not rest on my laurels! The second loop was the same as the first (duh!)
This time I found the spot where I got lost. They flagged the left side of the sharp left hand turn only. I was running on the right side of the double track and followed the path to the right in the shoulder high grass at the t-intersection on lap one, I now knew. Double flags (flags on both sides at the turns) would have been nice in this unmaintained section.
So I finished lap 2 (eating one yellow M&M at each aid station for no reason) and got back to the start and had to repeat the “poop loop” before I could finish the 50. Off I went! I ran and ran an ran until it felt like someone knocked the wind out of me. Then I’d walk 30 seconds fast and run again! I still pulled off a PR!
Big Woods Brewing
I made it! A PR! None of the missteps mattered anymore! Because I ran all freakin day for the sweet sweet taste of free beer! Big Woods Brewing from Indiana brought a dark beer that just about put a tear in my eye. So good! Some Run Tampa peeps were there on a relay team called “The Bedrockers” dressed as Flintstones. The cool one had to go fly to NY right after the race so they left and I caught up with Terri Hayes (Did I mention Terri Hayes is tough?). Terri Hayes is tough. About then a guy I started the “poop loop” with came rolling through the finish. Wow! It’s amazing what we can endure. It’s more amazing if you can do it without cussing in ear shot of the Boy Scouts but everybody needs a reason to improve, right? Besides, are you even alive if you can”t eat one dang M&M at each aid station or have a beer at the finish? Enjoy yourself!
Depressed and Miserable reminder
If you are the type who stares off into the middle distance at your first ultra saying to yourself “why? why? why?” please watch the you tube video in my previous post called “the guide to being depressed and miserable” and ask yourself if you are doing a few or all of those things and try to NOT ruin your own freaking day! Don’t make yourself miserable! http://youtu.be/98kMS_ovQyc The first step to correcting a problem is recognizing it. Eat more M&M’s people.
Also, yellow #5 is not even legal for consumption in the UK. Found that one out later. Apparently it makes you hyperactive. So go run a 50 miler!