I had been dreading this race all year because I just don't do well in high heat and humidity. Luckily we dodged the weather bullet this time but it was still plenty hot and sweaty. The race organization was great, the people were great, the aid station folks did a wonderful job but still I have to say that I just didn't enjoy this race. Perhaps it was the fact that it followed two more adventurous runs which are more my style, Zion and Salt Flats. And maybe I'm just getting tired but I really found the traffic, heat, noise and headlights to be very wearing. Much of the run is right on a busy highway across the Keys and the traffic was relentless. The constant noise, danger, and night time headlights had me wishing I was elsewhere. Also, when we had to run on the shoulder the camber was often so bad I felt like I was running across someone's pitched roof. The Keys are pretty to be sure and I wouldn't mind a vacation there in the winter but a mid May 100 mile race ... never again.
For this one Liz and I flew down Friday afternoon, collected a rental car, and made it to race headquarters just in time to register, collect our timing chip, and find a seat for the 6:30 briefing. RD Bob Becker whizzed through the briefing like a pro, giving a run down on what to expect and answering all questions. I was wondering about how we would stay on course because the race map that had been handed out seemed quite complicated and I wondered if I was going to have to memorize turns or carry the map. It turned out to be wonderfully marked with about a million signs throughout the course.
We slept in a hotel about 10 minutes south of the race start at mile marker 100. (The race starts at MM100 and goes to MM0) Within about 30 minutes of starting we were in a pretty good downpour which lasted almost two hours. Usually running in the rain kind of sucks but even sitting in the car at the start I was sweating so the cooling rain felt quite good. The day stayed cloudy which was a godsend. I have a hard time imaging how miserable and hot it would have been if there had been full sun with that humidity and heat. There were often places where we were running down the highway or a parallel road and there were trees/bushes on both sides of the road blocking all wind. To have the sun beating down on those areas too would have been devastating.
We also crossed many bridges, one of which was 7 miles long. Crossing the bridges was nice as there was usually a breeze. There were many runners and a ton of crew vehicles and people. It was nice to see all these folks and to get their energy and encouragement. One thing I noticed in this race was how much time many of the crewed runners spent with their crew. These folks would come flying by me and then another 10 miles down the road they'd come flying by again. Crew can be a great asset but you really have to be careful not to waste too much time getting pampered!
I stopped at 50 miles to change shoes and get ready for the stretch across the 7 mile bridge. I grabbed my drop bag and as I was going through it I thought that I had screwed up and put the wrong stuff in this drop bag. I had warm clothes and spare batteries here. Oh well, I thought, I need to be more careful next time. Then as I returned the bag I noticed that there was another bag of mine there. And another! And another! My race number was #50 and we were instructed to put our names, the mile marker and our bib number on our drop bags. And rather than have us put our drop bags in different piles for the aid stations they had volunteers sorting them. So the volunteer just saw my race number and put all my bags at MM50. I'm glad I noticed as my lights and reflective gear which I needed at the next aid station at 60 miles would have been there at 50. I arranged for someone to bring my 60MM and 80MM bags to the proper place and struck out for the bridge.
Up until this point I had been doing okay with eating and my stomach but during the 3 miles to the bridge from 50 I started to feel bad and during the whole 7 mile bridge I only managed to drink 1/2 of one water bottle. My stomach was already going bad but being up high on the bridge with the cars whizzing by 2 feet away I felt worse and worse. I think it was the noise, the motion, the heat and movement of the bridge from the traffic that got to me. I felt pretty bad by the 60 mile aid station so I sat down to change in to my night gear (it was 7:30) and drink iced ginger ale. I was able to drink a can and a half of ginger ale which was great giving me some fluids and calories. During the next 35 miles though my stomach continued to rebel and the only other calories I could get in were some more ginger ale, a starbucks drink, and 1/2 of a grilled cheese which I ate at 80 miles. That's not many calories for 45 miles!
I sat for quite a while at 80 miles thinking that Liz might be catching up and also expecting a storm to hit from which we had been seeing lighting for a while. An aid station worker had an iphone and the radar showed a band of intense showers heading right for us. It was pretty narrow though so should blow through pretty quick. I thought of lying down in a sheltered area there but the lightening didn't seem to be getting any closer so eventually I carried on. About a mile down the road, though, the rain started with a vengeance. Luckily there was a bridge right there so I crawled underneath it and waited out the storm. I was probably 30-40 minutes until the rain let up and I got back at it.
At 90 miles I left the aid station with Petra from the Czech Republic. We ended up walking together for the next 5 miles as the sky lightened. It was a nice break as we chatted about our lives and I asked her about living in eastern europe during the collapse of the Soviet Union. During the entire night I was doing a routine of walking and shuffling with the limit on my shuffling being my stomach. I would shuffle until my stomach felt too bad then walk. My legs and feet felt okay and my energy level was fine, it was just my tummy that was causing trouble. But after a solid 5 miles of walking I finally felt this intense hunger. I always carry at least a gel or two and pulled one out sucking on it tentatively. Soon after this Petra stopped at a convenience store to use the restroom.
I was worried that the gel would make me sick but it settled well and I found that I could shuffle without getting sick. I was able to shuffle in most of the final 5 miles passing a number of people in varying stages of disrepair with sore feet and blisters the biggest problem. I think the heat and the rain (most people didn't hide like a sissy from the second storm) gave many some bad feet. The last 3 miles seemed to stretch on forever but finally it was over. I got my SMO's (shiny metal objects) and a finish line pic then sat down to take off the shoes. The race finished right on the beach which made walking around barefoot pretty comfy. It was good to see Andrei Nana and Bradford Lombardi at the finish. I learned that Mike Morton had done it again with a huge course record and another sub 14 hour run. The women also showed extremely well with a close race and the 2nd and 3rd slots behind Morton. Alyson Venti with a 16:07 beat Tatyana Spencer in 16:12. Remarkable finishes, ladies!
A special treat at this race was getting to see John Pyle finish his Patriot Run Across America supporting the Wounded Warrior Project. We got to see him finish his journey which had started in San Francisco on March 1st. Now that guy has some stories to tell! Well done, John!
Liz pulled in at 27:31. Unfortunately we needed to fly out of Ft Lauderdale at 7:40 that night and still needed to get to our car 100 miles north in Key Largo. (We finished in Key West) We asked around but no one was heading up that way with most people having arranged rooms for that nigh in Key West. What a great idea! Doh! Mike Melton was doing timing at the finish and I asked him about using his internet connection to research a shuttle service we had noticed while running. But he told me that there was bus service and that we just needed to go to the bus stop to catch a ride north. Not the ideal situation but cheap. We gathered our drop bags together and hitched a ride with a race marshal going out to check on the tail end runners and waited for the bus. We tried hitchhiking without luck while waiting for the bus and had to switch buses at MM50 after an hour wait but eventually got to our rental car and started driving north.
I thought it would be impossible to catch our plane as it was too late but we gave it the old college try, switching off driving as we got sleepy in turn since we had been up for 48 hours or so. There was virtually no opportunity to nap on the buses. Anyway, we ended up doing the dash through the airport catching our plane in the nick of time. Thank goodness it was a small airport. We went from the rental car drop off, to the ticketing counter for our boarding passes, through security and to the gate in 10 minutes! Whew! We had pretty much been prepared to sleep in the airport and beg for a standby flight but Airtran got us on the plane.
Cudo's as usual to the race organizers and especially the volunteers. Thanks also to all the crew people who were always quick to offer help to any runner. Special thanks also to Timothy Purol's crew for buying me a roll of Rolaids when I ran out of Tums. The ultrarunning community is the best! It's now on to the Nanny Goats 100 this weekend.....
Liz adds: I just wanted to say that I have never experienced so many acts of kindness from crews and runners. I have never been at a race where so many people have reached out to help one another. I did not have crew but so many crew people helped me in ways that would take too long to describe in detail. I just want to say thank you to all of you who helped me so much. Thank you! Also I wanted to say that the post race party that had only begun looked to be one of the best yet. I'm truly sad I missed it.
Race count: Liz (14) Scott (9)