The big challenge in this race for me came from my work schedule since Rocky Raccoon. With 12 days between races here early in the year and much less opportunity for work later in the year I'm trying to pad the bank account a bit and so working quite a bit. I worked 96+ hours (all 12+ hour night shift 7p-7a) in between Long Haul and Iron Horse with 84 of those hours coming in the 7 day stretch ending on Thursday morning before the race. I slept well Thursday night but on Friday I went to sleep at 10pm and woke up at 1am - wide awake. This often happens when trying to transition from night shift. It's as if my body thinks I'm just down for a nap. I didn't toss and turn, sleepy but unable to sleep. I was WIDE AWAKE! Oh well, at least I had Thursday's good sleep in the bank. I'd just have to tough it out for the race.
We flew down to Jacksonville on Friday and made the 1.5 hour drive to the race briefing at 6pm. RD Chris Rodatz gave a thorough and humorous briefing warning of the threats of dehydration and alligators. The course is on a rails to trails corridor and at one point there is a long and old trestle that we were required to walk (and not run) so we wouldn't fall off and get eaten by an alligator. Seriously. Disqualification loomed for those daring to run the trestle! The course consists of a 12.5 mile section of trail that we would run out and back on 4 times. Approximately 1/3 of the course was paved which was very nice, and new since last year.
It was good to see Jay and Anita Finkle, Tyler Peek, Joe Lugiano and others at the briefing. After the meeting an internet motel search found us an affordable room at the Budget Inn and the Golden Corral filled our bellies. Drop bags would be delivered in the morning. The weather forecast called for 50% chance of showers Saturday day and 40% at night. As I said above we went to sleep at 10 but I was awake from 1am on looking at the internet and just relaxing. I was a bit worried about not sleeping but not too frustrated really. I was enjoying just doing nothing after a busy few weeks.
At the start it was very humid and warm. No need for a thermal shirt or gloves. We started on the pavement with a 1.75 out and back before heading to other end of the course. I had heard some horror stories about how the rocks could beat up your feet but I really only found about a mile of the course to be uncomfortably rocky. That being said though, at the end of the race and post-race the feet felt quite pulverized. I think that even the sections where the railbed rocks were not exposed or loose were very hard. That plus the pavement made my feet and joints feel as if I had run a road marathon rather than a trail 100. After passing the start/finish line we had about 2.5 miles to the end of the pavement end and then a mile and a half or so the next aid (aid station 2). This section between the pavement and aid 2 was where the rocks were loose and hard on the dogs. The stretch from aid 2 to the next aid station (#3) was the longest of the race. It ran about 5.5 miles and seemed to go on forever. The course has very little elevation variation and few turns so it can get monotonous. There is a stretch coming from aid 2 to aid 3 where, at night you can see the light of the aid station from about 2 miles out. It made me think about stories I've heard about Heartland. Finallly, past aid 3, where we could have our second drop bag, we did a 1.4 mile out and back. This was the section with the trestle we had to walk. It actually seemed quite safe to me but only due to the dual ribbons of 2X6's that had recently been nailed to the cross ties. I'm assuming this was done for the race - it sure did make crossing easier! Thank you to whoever did that work!
I felt terrible as I started the race. It was warmer than I like and I just had no oomph. The first lap wasn't too terrible but on the second lap I was really struggling. I was sweating like crazy, sleepy, lacking in energy and just not having much fun. At one point about 6 miles into the second loop I got so sleepy that I was weaving all over the place and moving way too slow. As I've done many times in past 100 milers I laid down on the side of the trail to take a quick nap. I use my water bottle as a pillow and can usually drift off in a couple minutes when I'm this sleepy. I had just started to drift off when the inevitable runner from behind caught up and, worried about this body lying on the side of the trail, asked if I was alright. I said, clearly, "I'm just trying to sleep." Usually, people will just move on but not this person! Are you sure you're alright? More grumpily, I replied that I was just sleepy, thinking that this person would let me be. "Do you want me to send someone back from the aid station?" By this point I was wide awake and grumpy. I sarcastically said "Thank you for waking me up" and ran off down the trail. For whatever reason, I didn't struggle with sleep again until after dark.
I continued to struggle through the second loop finishing in about 10.5 hours. As the sun went down and the temps moderated a bit I felt better. At least until the sleep monster hit again. This time I went off the trail into the woods and got a solid 10 minute nap. That nap along with liberal doses of 5 hour energy, Starbucks double shots with energy drinks, and caffeine pills I managed to stay awake the rest of the race. Throughout the race Liz had been ahead of me and despite my napping and a porta-pottie break she had stayed consistently within a mile or two in front of me. We'd see each other at about the same spot at each end of the trail. I finally caught up with her a bit after aid 2 on the way to aid 3 on our 4th lap. We chatted and told each other about our respective races. We were both moving slower, spending more time walking and less time shuffling as most people do at this point in a 100 miler.
The section coming back from aid 3 to aid 2 seemed to go on FOREVER! Finally, we reached aid 2 and walked the rocks back to the pavement. Once on the pavement, we moved better though our feet were on fire. Finally the finish was in sight and Liz's watch said that we had about 7 minutes left to break 23 hours though she wasn't sure how accurate it was. So we punched it. We were probably doing 8 minute mile pace for that last 1/2 mile or so. Results are not out yet so I don't know our exact time but it was 22:57 give or take a minute or two.
|Myself, RD Chris Rodatz, and Liz a few minutes after|
finishing the Iron Horse 100 mile run.
Finally, a word about the swag! The sub 24 hour belt buckle is very nice - a picture can be found on the event website. And the technical race shirt will be proudly worn at the our next event the Doubletop 100 just an hour from home. Nice. No airplanes or rental cars!