Monday, September 1, 2014

Pinellas Trail Challenge 8-30-14

Pinellas Trail Challenge


46.26 miles, 9:54:30, 12:51 avg pace

The name of this race had new meaning after I finished it.  The challenge is to run the entire length of the Pinellas Trail - a seemingly innocent looking rails-to-trails bike/running path which starts in downtown St. Petersburg and finishes in John Chestnut park in Palm Harbor.  I've run many sections of this trail, but never the whole thing.

Last year only about 14 people participated for its first year.  This year they had over 70 people sign up, 58 starters and 39 finishers.  Course time limit of 13 hours and a 6:30 start.  I talked my friend Joe into giving it a try.  Although he'd never run this distance before, he's done well in marathons and is also very mentally tough.  I did however underestimate the severity of the heat and humidity.  I had reasoned that since I've run the Key 50 mile ultra in May one year and last year did the Western States 100 where it reached up to 100 degrees that this wouldn't be so bad, because it's mainly flat and "only" 46 miles.   I figured that a 10:00 pace would be somewhat conservative.  Maybe slow down a little at the end or possible speed up if I felt good - at least that's what the plan was.
 

Miles 0-9
These miles were great, especially for Joe.  For some reason my legs felt tired the first mile (slightly uphill the whole way but not by much).  I told him we would take a walk break for 1 minute each mile, do that as long as we could until we had to take more walk breaks.  He loved that idea.  So, things went exactly as planned.  We reached the first aid station at 8 miles.  Getting a little bit hot but the pace seemed reasonable.  First two miles were just under 11:00, followed by a bunch right about 10:00, then 11:00 for mile 8 which included the aid station, followed by 9:21 just after.



Miles 10-16
My dead legs feeling had gone away.  Next two miles were under 10:00.  Things started to change about mile 12.  It was getting hotter and I had a new problem - hip flexors were bothering me.  Maybe a combo of the slower pace and more bridges than I had expected.  Maybe 6 or 7 so far.  About mile 13 I realized that 10:00 was too ambitious for today and we should go with closer to 11:00.  So the next few miles were 10:50 to 11:20 range.

Miles 17-21
Miles were getting slower now.  At mile 19 Joe wanted me to go ahead.  I told him we'd at least go to mile 20 together.  When we got to 20 he told me to go ahead.  I felt pretty good through mile 21 and reached the next aid station where they had our drop bags.  Refilled my bottles there and had an ice pop.  I looked in my drop bag, thought about putting on more sunscreen and taking a muscle milk but decided to just go.

Miles 22-27
Miles got even slower but things weren't too bad.  At almost mile 25 I stopped in a small store on the trail called the Dunedin Boxcar and bought a bottle of water and a cola (Blue Sky natural soda).  The store guy asked if I was running today, yes 46 miles, the whole trail.  He gave me a cup of ice for the soda, I dumped the bottled water into my water bottle and went on my way.  Just after leaving the Boxcar, I ran into Didi (Joe's wife).  He had already texted her that we had slowed down and that I had gone ahead.  She had some ice and a cold towel and I took a handful of peanuts which tasted very dry which worried me a little.  I had slurped down the cola already and still had the ice cup, so I poured a muscle milk over it.   I thanked Didi and then headed out again, but at a walk.  With the stop, mile 26 was about 18 minutes, the next mile was 17 minutes.  It felt like I'd never run again for the rest of the race.

After leaving Didi, I was soon next to Weaver Park.  I was walking and not in the best spirits.  I had the empty ice cup in one hand and the muscle milk in the other hand.  I needed a third hand or at least some place to stop and get myself situated.  I looked down the trail and saw Jessica standing there as if she had appeared out of nowhere, holding a banana in one hand and a cold bottle of water in the other hand.  Earlier my phone was dying and I had just enough time to tell he I was at mile 20.6 and the battery was dying.  So, she had looked up where mile 20.6 was in the race, what time I had sent the text and where she was and decided Weaver Park was the place to be.  I think she had arrived about 5 minutes ahead of me.  We had a brief hi together and she gave me some encouragement and was also the third hand I needed, pouring the muscle milk into the ice cup and taking the empties from me.  She was an example of what another person referred to as a trail angel.  It's a person who appears when you need help but wasn't expecting anyone, they just show up, help you out then you are on your way again.  

Miles 28-36
After I finished the muscle milk a guy came up behind me, asked how I was doing - hot and tired.  He said he had started out too fast, had a rough patch and was better now.  Just up ahead he said his friend had an unofficial aid stop with water, ice, beer, and pork sandwiches (it did not sound odd to me at all).  He also invited me to run with him sometime  - they meet on Wednesday nights at the Tarpon Tavern, he also knew some people from my group as well.  Next, from behind comes Oliver.  I've seen Oliver at a lot of races - (he's a very tall fit guy and a dead ringer for Yul Brynner as pharoah in the Ten Commandments movie).  This was his first ultra and he had a goal pace of 12:00 and seemed to be right on track.

Finally I started running again after a good two miles of pretty much not running.  Actually, these were short bouts of running.  Go as far as I could without my heart rate shooting up too high (I was not wearing a heart rate monitor but I could hear the pulse in my ears telling me to slow down).  I ran into Joe's brother Tony, said hi to him and told him Joe was maybe 10 minutes back.  Went over the last pedestrian bridge for the trail and then saw Didi again, grabbed some more ice, thanked her and went on.

There were several miles of mainly open trail and almost no cloud cover.  At one point I saw shade from a cloud up ahead but it kept on moving, just staying out of reach.
As I got near Wall Springs Park, there were two women and two little girls with an impromptu aid station - ice, water, ice pops and a chair with a shade umbrella.  I sat for maybe a minute while they filled up my bottles with water and ice.  Got going again with two nice cold bottles against me.  Still felt like a long way to go to get to the Tarpon Tavern at mile 36.  Stuck for a little bit at the traffic light crossign Klosterman, but once I did was feeling closer - at least no longer impossible far.

At about mile 35 another couple had a small aid station.  They had fruit, so I at a slice of pineapple which had never tasted so good as this one.  They asked how I was doing and if I knew who the president was - I really had to think about the answer and pretended that I was joking when I told them I almost said Bush.
And then finally, the Tarpon Tavern aid station, just past mile 36, only ten miles left to go.
Joe was there, he had dropped out at mile 29, had eaten lunch and had a beer at the Tavern and was in great spirits.  I apologized for dragging him into this but he was ok and having a good time now.

Miles 37-46
I left the Tavern and continued heading north, looking forward to when the trail turned to the east in just a little while.  It felt like there was a small rock in my shoe so I stopped at a bench and sat down to check it out.  Right calf charlie-horsed on me and I actually screamed a bit and then waited for it to go away.  At that point a young lady (later found out her name was Tracy) who was just behind me at the aid station went ahead of me.  I followed her for a bit but then she disappeared.  Like all the other runners (and volunteers) she was very friendly and encouraging.

The trail went under US 19, then headed south a bit, and then east again.  I was not looking forward to the stretch on Tarpon Ave with its rolling hills (which although somewhat small would feel like mountains).  But soon I saw Joe again and Didi- more water, ice, gatorade and encouragement.  As I was moving again I saw a green pickup truck which beeped and then pulled over.  It was my long time friend Dixie.   He knew I was running today and wanted to find me.  He had driven to the finish line, asked about me and was told I had made it through mile 36.  He ran with me just a bit and pointed to the hill up ahead and told me the downhill would feel easier and when I turned onto East Lake Road there would be shade.  It felt like a blessing of sorts.  Shade did not come right away but it did eventually.

I also stopped again at someone's SUV and took a banana from them along with some more ice, one last top off.  It was another couple of volunteers who were hopping from place to place to help out the runners on the course.  I talked to them after the race and thanked them and found out I kind of knew them.  Had seen them at other races - the guy is usually about 10 minutes ahead of me at half marathons - super awesome people who know how to give back.
6 miles left, 5 miles left, 4 miles left...  These miles felt like I was getting closer but still too far away to feel almost done.

Joe intercepted me a few more times but I was pretty well stocked up and hydrated.  The last two miles there was some cloud cover with a storm not too far away.
And then finally I saw the brown and white sign with the words "TRAIL ENDS"


That was it, I had made it (although still about 3/4 of a mile into the park to get to the finish line).
It was great to hang out with the other runners, volunteers and friends.  Saw a few more people finish.  As I was leaving later, saw a few more people making their way down East Lake, on their way to the end.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Western States 100 Race Report (2013)


Finished my first 100 mile race and first WS100 which I was lucky enough to get into on my first try.

I feel like there is so much I'm missing here, so feel free to ask questions to help me remember!

I was behind the recommended pace to finish under 30 hours for most of the first half of the race but I stayed steady and finished 230 out of 277 finishers out of 388 starters on what might I have heard was the 4th hottest WS100 race so far.

Squaw Valley to Robinson Flats (start to 29.7 miles)

 There were hints of light at the 5:00 am start and the beginning of the course (which was a dirt road up the ski area) was lined with lights.  The first aid station was in 3.5 miles and it would be a serious climb.  Recommended pace was to stay faster then a 24 minute pace which I did (17:33, 20:14, 18:24, and 20:03), the peak was about a half mile after the aid station, then it leveled off and started to go do down hill.  Just after the aid station it got really steep (almost hands and knees steep but not quite).  That first big hill had worried me when planning out this race since I have really no experience climbing up 2500' in 4 miles at the start of a 100 mile race which continues with up and down up and down for the rest of the race, so I was glad to have at least survived that.

Ok, 25.7 miles to go on the "new to me" section to get to Robinson Flats.  Next aid station, Lyon Ridge in 7 miles.  The recommended time to get there was by 7:40 am, I showed up at 7:45.   The little amount I was ahead at the escarpment had vanished.  When the course got "easier" my pace didn't pick up right away.  I'm not very good at running on very rocky stuff, in fact I'm pretty bad at it, but no doubt I did what I could.  The last three miles coming into Lyon Ridge aid station were in the 12:xx's so that at least kept me close.

Red Star Ridge maybe?


Similar story with the section between Lyon Ridge and Red Star ridge, I arrived at the next aid station still behind the recommended pace but still well ahead of the cut off.  The weather was still pretty decent.  The low 50's from the start were long gone but it wasn't bad, although it was starting to turn warmer.

From Red Star Ridge to Duncan Canyon, I averaged a 15:30 pace which was a little bit better for me, but now I was 12 minutes behind the suggested 30 hour pace.  After the aid station, I continued descending into the canyon.  I knew it would be a hot and tough climb out of it but that I could do it.
There was a stream criss-crossing the descent and a much larger one at the bottom.  I would stop and soak my hat and let the water spill over me.  At the bigger water crossing I was up almost to my knees in water which felt great.  Kept on going and began to climb.  The climb seemed to take forever with miles in the 18's and 19's.

Cooling off in Duncan Canyon


One of the BEST moments of the race was when I could first see the Robinson Flat aid station.  There was tape marking the way in and volunteers directing me in.  I knew that once I got here I would at least have the advantage of knowing the rest of the terrain since I had run all of it from Robinson Flat to the end during the training run (minus the actual river crossing).  And even more so, when I saw my family I completely welled up inside with emotion.  They were the biggest support crew there all dressed in bright green shirts cheering for me!!


 

They later told me I didn't look so good. I know I didn't feel so good either.  I was still 12 minutes behind the suggested pace, but at least I hadn't lost more ground, and from here on out I knew what I was in for as far as the trail goes.


Robinson Flat to Dusty Corners (29.7 to 38 miles)

 Between the next two aid stations I averaged 16:10 and 15:16.  After leaving Robinson Flat I had a fairly short climb of less than a mile, followed by some tough downhill which would give way to a relatively easy run on a fire road.  I also heard one noise I didn't want to hear for the rest of the race.  I could hear three warning blasts from the Robinson Flat aid station.  Starting at 30 minutes from the hard cut off the sound three horn blasts, then two blasts at 20 minutes, and one at 10 minutes as a warning to those who are getting close to the aid station to hurry up.  Fortunately I would not hear this sound again.

During the excitement for seeing my crew and getting onto familiar surroundings I had forgotten two things.  I forgot to switch garmins (as the one I was wearing was only good for another three hours or so) and forgot to grab the muscle milk I was going to drink for protein.  I wasn't planning on seeing them again until Michigan Bluffs at mile 55.  But, one piece of advice I had heard was to not let little problems worry you.  I would just run until the garmin died and then hopefully find someone running a good pace to tag along with and I would just eat more peanuts for the missing protein!


Dusty Corners to Michigan Bluffs (38 to 55 miles)

My crew said I didn't look so good at Robinson Flat (29.7), but looked a bit better at Dusty Corners (mile 38).

I wasn't expecting to see them at Dusty Corners.  It's "only" 8 miles to run from Robinson Flat to Dusty Corner, but I think it is about a 30 mile drive over some pretty tight and twisty dirt roads.  They made it somehow.  It felt like a huge turning point.  I was now only 3 minutes behind the recommended 30 hour pace, I had a fresh garmin, downed a muscle milk and was able to see part of my crew again (they had split in two to get here).
From Dusty Corners to the Last Chance aid station I picked up even a little bit more time.  I was still 3 minutes behind the 30 hour pace, but this meant that I was also over an hour ahead of the absolute cut off time.

  At the Last Chance aid station (mile 43.8) the volunteers said I looked a lot better than many of the people who had come through earlier (but then I left the aid station without my camelback and had to turn back to get it, wasting 2-3 minutes).

At Devils Thumb (47.8) I was in 351st place, and that would be the last point where I was so far back. Heading down towards El Dorado Creek (mile 52.9) I looked across the canyon to the trees and they moved towards me and then back, then towards me again. Ok, don't look at the trees. On the march up to Michigan Bluff (mile 55.7) it felt like something was in my shoe on my left foot, I stopped a couple of times but couldn't find anything (it was the start of a big blister which fortunately didn't shut me down).

Getting a high five from Thomas and some random girl


Michigan Bluffs to Foresthill (55 to 62 miles)

  When I reached the top of Michigan Bluffs I saw my family for the third time. Jamie paced me and we had a blast running through the dark to Foresthill School at mile 62, even through the dreaded Volcano Canyon. All of the light faded a little bit after 9:00 but it the race felt a little easier and I felt like I could relax.  Jamie doesn't run trails very much but she navigated through the dark like a pro and kept up positive conversations the whole way.  I wore a Petzl headlamp and a smaller energizer light around my waist, between the two lights and Jamie running out in front I didn't have any problems seeing.

  As we approached the school at Foresthill, all the kids in my crew ran alongside me and Thomas said "Dad, were running with you so you don't hallucinate" or something like that.
Here is the "pacer hand off" where Jamie (2nd from the right) , passes pacer duty over to my brother Tim (far left), who will run with me for the next 16 miles to the Rucky Chucky River Crossing.



Foresthill to Rucky Chucky (62 to 78 miles)

  Switched pacers to my brother Tim at mile 62 who ran with me until we reached the river crossing at Rucky Chucky. We ran past aliens (decorations), Christmas decorations, and a guy throwing up.  We held a pretty steady pace.  This section was a lot easier to run in the day especially when it was on a day starting fresh.  However, for already having done 62 miles, it went pretty well.

  I'm trying to think what else I can remember about this section.  There was a lot of dust.  Tim did a great job keeping moving and the hills that I remember from the training run seemed bigger when running them in the dark.  We didn't see the same spectacular scenery but could tell it was there.  The moon came out but mostly we just enjoyed the darkness and the company of the other runners.

  At one of the aid stations I grabbed what I thought was a cup of Mountain Dew but it was really chicken broth - not a nice surprise.  However, Tim knew it was chicken broth and thought it was the best thing all night.  Time sort of stood still (but not really, I knew the clock was ticking).

    Jim and Jamie met us at the river and Jim crossed with me, hand over hand holding onto the cable as the volunteers told us exactly where to step.

Rucky Chucky at 3:00 am with Jim


Rucky Chucky to Finish (78 to 100.2 miles)

 After we crossed the river, we sat down and put on fresh socks.  I couldn't have imagined how good that would feel.  It still felt like something was in my shoe but at least the socks felt fresh now (and probably a good thing I didn't see the size of the blister).

 Jim ran me in the rest of the way. As it got light out again it didn't feel like I had just run for 24 hours but had entered into a new race.  I felt good coming into the Auburn Lake Trails aid station (mile 85.2) and had just picked up the pace, but coming out of the aid station my legs felt sore and heavy for the first time. It scared me and I decided I shouldn't push so hard, just try and hang on.

   We saw Tim and Jamie at No Hands Bridge (96.8), with Jamie ready to pace me but Jim was still going strong so decided to keep going to the end. The temperature climbed into the 90's as we climbed the last big ascent of the course. After passing Robie point people were congratulating me which made me nervous as I wasn't done yet. I started to push a little bit early then backed off until I was close to the track. The whole crew was there waiting for me as I took off into a sprint around the track to the finish line.







Wow, what an amazing adventure.   Predawn to morning, to afternoon, to evening, to night and back to morning again.  My legs held up, my stomach held up and my kidneys held up.  I remembered to have fun.  I had a ton of help along the way.  Somehow it all came together and I earned my finisher's belt buckle.

Miscellaneous Details

What did I eat? -
  • lots and lots of fresh fruit
  • peanuts
  • Payday bars
  • Potatoes dipped in salt
  • Coke
  • Mountain Dew
  • Gels (PowerBar, Gu, Roctane)
Drink - water, Gu Brew, some Accelerade at the start

Shoes - Brooks Cascadia

Hydration - Camelback Rogue and one Nathan 22 oz handheld bottle

Socks - Thorlo (first 78 miles) , Belega (last 22)

Apparel - Jacksonville Marathon short sleeve shirt, Race Ready shorts, Mountain Hardware Cool Zero white hat

Watch - Garmin 205 which I swapped out twice

Advice I took - (some of it was from these guys, about 40 WS100 wins between them I think)



  • bring a ziploc bag to put food in so I could eat and walk past aid station
  • wear lots of white
  • stay hydrated
  • stay electrolyted
  • keep moving
  • save the caffeine boost for the evening
  • have fun



Motivations

I had some big motivations for wanting to finish the race such as this maybe being a once in a lifetime opportunity, that it was my only chance to finish my first 100 mile race first try, and there were lots of people wishing me luck and tracking me.  But I also had some smaller simple motivations like looking forward to sitting down with my feet in a cold stream and a beer in my hand





And another one was being able to put the 100.2 sticker on my bumper that I bought the day before the race.


Sunday, September 9, 2012

Red Mule 5K Race Report

Updates

It seems as though "Forward Progress" stopped making any progress and was stuck in May just after the Keys 50 mile race.

On August 25th I did a 5K since I wanted to see where I was at and I had enjoyed doing it 2 years ago when.

I have been running the past few months in the 40's and 50's for weekly mileage.  Running with friends and running alone and sometimes running with new friends.


Red Mule 5K
3.1 mi, 18:53, 06:05 pace
Decided to run this race just a few days ago, so glad I went. 18:53, 1st place age group and second fastest 5K as well as PR for the course. Ran into Dan French before the race, and then ran into Neil C. while warming up. Lined up next to Neil and Jacki, saw Jacki take off and followed behind Neil.

First mile felt oddly easy due to all the excitement and not watching my pace. There was a time clock at the 1 mile point which said 5:54, although my garmin had the 1st mile split at 6:00 even.
Next two miles were challenging but I was able to hang on. Because other people were slowing down around me I had to try and catch up to people ahead of me and also I started looking at my watch to make sure my pace wasn't dropping.  If I was better at just knowing if my pace was dropping then I might do better.

The last about 0.2 miles go off the road, and I think I lost a little bit of focus on speed since I had to focus running on the slightly uneven ground.  Got out kicked at the end by a high schooler who then threw up after crossing the finish line - my hat goes off to him!
Two years ago when I did this race, I was 20 seconds slower but one the masters division.  I was glad I could improve my time and as for the plaque I couldn't have been happier over who won it, a super fast, super nice guy who's always there to help people out and whose career is helping troubled kids.
Lots of fun on a nice flat shaded course around the lake in the woods north of Brooksville.

Dan jumping off the back of a truck and me pretending to do so for the picture


Warm-up and Cool Down
5.47 mi 00:52 09:32 pace
2.2 mile warm up before the race, mostly easy with some strides. Then a little bit over three miles after the race, most of it was off road with Dan, Chris and Larry through the woods, a nice treat. Racing flats seem to make good trail shoes after all - although now they don't look as pristine as they used to!

"I will remember these things that happened"

At the end of fourth grade, my youngest son did an art project, which shows a fourth grader wearing sun glasses but with words on them.  He recounts the things he will remember looking back at the year in fourth grade and what he is looking forward to during the summer.  The phrase stuck in my head ever since I read it.

The Red Mule 5K is advertised as a Labor Day run (although it is one week before), and before that the kids started school and Labor Day has come and gone, and soon the "official" end of summer will be here.

So, here are a few of the things I will remember from the summer of 2012, there are so many more memories, but these are a few of them

Eating Texas shaped waffles in Texas

Trip to the Thousand Islands (upstate NY near Canada by car)

Getting rained out at Mini Golf - we didn't finish the game but had a lot of fun running from the rain and then watching it.

 Harvesting backyard bananas - (I ate some, gave some away, and even made a loaf of banana bread)

Labor Day water balloon fight in backyard



Special thanks also to my son's Civics teacher who told me how much she liked my blog.  I visited her class during my sons open house.  So, to Mrs. M, here is my "homework" assignment completed.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Keys100 50 Mile Ultra

Keys100 50 Mile Race:

Summary - How was the race?  The race was good.

Marathon to Key West.  Start time 10:00, just after some pretty heavy rain.  Heading off into the unknown but knowing enough that I would be ok and would see things and talk to people and eventually finish and remember the day.

I finished in 8 hours and 50 minutes.  It was harder in many ways and in some ways easier, but mostly harder.  It was just different.  This was the first all road ultra I have done (ok, I've only done four ultras - 50k, 100k, 50miles, 50miles).   I tried to run the first half a little bit slower than I did during the first half of the last 50 mile race, which did help a bit, but still faster than I should have gone.  I'm still learning how to run these.

I was part of something today, just like everyone else there, whether they finished first or last or didn't quite make it all they way.  They all dared to show up and see what happened.


Stats: 8:50, 6th male , 7th overall, 1st age group 45-49
Splits can be found here.

10 miles25 km
© 2010 NAVTEQ© 2012 Microsoft Corporation


Evening before the race: 

I got on the road a bit after 10:00 in the morning, making good time, with only a couple of stops, a small slowdown for rain, then about 10 or 15 minutes stuck in traffic outside of Miami, and before I knew it, was on Key Largo, then soon after in Marathon where I made it over to where the starting area was going to be and also picked up a few things at the store before checking into my hotel.

Lots of great local looking restaurants to choose from, but I didn't want to think too hard about it, so I went to the restaurant located right behind the hotel called "Catch 53" (hotel was right around mile marker 53).  Had a nice BBQ chicken pizza on a very thin crust, which also came with some hearty bread and very garlicky dipping sauce (vast quantities of minced up garlic).

Wanted to have one beer, asked what the had on tap, they said they had a Belgian beer called Palm, so I had one of those -




Spent a little bit of time getting my stuff organized and went for a short walk.  Across the street was the other side of the island.  I just missed watching the sun go down.  There were people out enjoying the evening, hanging out by the water, and a family pulling their boat out of the water.

Race Morning:

Finished getting my stuff organized, filled up my drink bottles, got some ice for the cooler and had some breakfast.  Not sure of what is was doing or how the day would unfold.  Saw other runners getting ready, in the elevator, the hallways, as usual every one else looked like they knew what they were doing except for me (at least that's how I felt).


Made my way over to the starting area, checked in, got my timing chip and put my two bags in the bins - one for the 20 mile marker spot and one for the finish line.  Did some milling about and waited for the pre-race meeting to start, trying to process it all in.


The Race:

Ok, like every other race, you stand there expecting the start, but when the start actually happens it still feels like a surprise.  Am I really going to run this?  Why am I here?  What's everyone else thinking?

The first few miles are on Marathon Key, and then we approach the aptly named Seven Mile bridge, because it is seven miles long.
In the picture above, you can see one of the runner's crew vans, and just to the right of it is the Seven Mile Bridge sign.  A lot of runners had crews that would follow them and meet up with them every so often.  In past years it was much harder to run this race un-crewed, but this year they added more support at aid stations for people running it alone like me.

Actually I think running this bridge might have been one of the favorite parts of the run (there were other favorites, but this part sticks in my mind because I felt fresh, and coming up over the top of it I had one of those profound "it's good to be alive" moments.


They had orange cones to call attention to the shoulder, but the traffic wasn't too bad at all.

They had a photographer at the bottom of the bridge
And then just past this point was the first, staffed aid station, which seemed to come and go by pretty quickly.  In the picture above you can see what looks like a white rag hanging down from my belt.  It was actually a sleeve I had cut off from an old shirt.  When I got to the aid station, I put a baggie of ice inside the sleeve, put the sleeve around my neck and pinned it to my shirt.  Worked pretty well to keep me cool, and the rhythm of the clinking, and eventually sloshing ice bag was what I listened to for most of the run.  I had music with me but probably listened to it for not more than an hour total.

The first 9 miles were all 9:40 or faster, with the 10th mile a little bit slower (10:13) due to the aid station stop.

The next 4 miles were all under 10 minute miles, then a slower one at mile 15 due to the aid station.  16-19 were still good but were starting to show a slowdown already, partly by choice and partly not by choice.  Nearly 20 miles in the heat were starting to take a small toll on me.

Mile 20 would end up being my slowest mile due to a stop at a convenience store.  Although I had sunscreen on I was getting worried that I should put on some more soon.  I had some in my drop bag but that would not be for another 10 miles.  I ran into the store and asked if they had any small bottles of sunscreen, nope.  I scanned what they had on the shelf, looking for a high SPF.  I was wasting too much time now.  I went to the back and used the bathroom (my only one for the course), and just bought a bottle of water.  There was a guy walking out of the store who looked exactly like one of my neighbors which is not a very likely thing since this particular person was tall with very long blonde dreadlocks.  He's also a really good guy, so I figured I would ask this look alike, as it seemed like the kind of person who would help me out.  He checked in a compartment in his VW micro bus, but couldn't find any.  I thanked him for checking and went on my way.

There was something about that moment, where you run across someone, a complete stranger willing to help you out, that helps you get going again.  Also, the bottle of water was ice cold, and tasted so good.  It was the best water I had all day!

A little bit after mile 20, something in the grass next to the shoulder caught my eye.  It was a large iguana.  I had never seen one "in the wild" before.  I was about to take a picture, when another runner came up behind me and said hi, and accidentally scared off the iguana.  She apologized for ruining my picture, I really didn't mind at all.  It makes a nice story at least!  This runner's name was Noelani.  I ran with her for a bit and eventually drifted if front of her.

However, her friend Amelia was crewing for her, and I later found that she used me as a guide to know whether or not she was at the right spot, she'd see me and know that her friend was just a few minutes behind.  Amelia helped me out a couple of times with offers of ice and water.

Miles 25-28 were all slower than 11 minute miles, with one of them slower than 12 minutes.  I made it to mile 25 about 4:11, which was 4 minutes faster than the first 25 miles at the Ironhorse 100k race.  A little slower would have been better, but as I said earlier I'm still learning how to do these things.

Made it to the mile 30 aid station, where my drop bag was.   I had a whole bunch of stuff in there I didn't use, like an extra pair of shoes in case my feet were wet, and some extra bottles of accelerade.  I did pull out and drink the bottle of Muscle Milk I had in there.  I actually hadn't had that much food, other than the sports drink (my accelerade I carried and the Heed they served) and the gels.  I did have one Cliff bar also.

One of the things I had in my bag also were a couple of blinking lights I was supposed to wear if on the course past 7:30.  The way I  was feeling, it seemed like I might need them.  About a quarter mile from the aid station I realized I forgot the lights.

I had gone into this event with time being of secondary importance, I just wanted to experience it and finish the race.  However, now there was a time goal.  I had to keep going to reach the finish before 7:30 so as not to risk getting disqualified.  I needed to keep on running.  With 20 miles left, I could not afford to fall apart and do a lot of walking.  Just keep going.

As usual, when I started slowing down I thought I was "blowing it" but nothing could be further from the truth, because you just go out and do what you can do.  Also, pretty much everyone else slows down, too, so it's not a big deal.

After the aid station, I concentrated and keeping my pace faster then 12 minute miles as long as I could, I somehow managed to get them all under 12 with many of them under 11 minutes.  I would run until the garmin said 0.25 miles, then walk until 0.40 miles, then run again until back at 0.25 for the next mile.  It felt tedious, and during the last 10 miles, I would sometimes start to cramp up just as I got to the walk break.

I was starting to feel close once I reached the Key West Naval Air Station entrance, still a ways to go but it felt close now (yet still really far).

With 5 miles left to go, the runners sign that they used to mark turns and whether to go over the highway bridge or pedestrian bridge was pointing down into a parking lot which I followed.  I ran into the parking lot and then back out, not knowing why I had to do that (I later found out there was ice and water down there but I somehow missed it).

Just past this spot I suddenly felt like I was not on the course any more.  There were no other runners to be seen.  I saw a crew van parked at a Burger King.  I burst in there and asked who's van it was and then asked the people if I was still on the course, they said yes.  I felt overly dramatic bursting in there but I was just dreading getting lost.  Right after that, a runner came up behind me, he said the turn was just up ahead.  He was going out a good clip so I soon lost him.  He was part of a relay team.  I later found out that no one passed me after the 25 mile point ( I passed three people and a fourth person dropped out).

About mile three, the course was on a nice wide path next to a sea wall with a great view of the ocean.  Just then, a very nice looking young woman gets out of a van and points to me, I point to myself and she says "yes you", and then pulls out a 20 oz ice cold blue Gatorade and says "Here, you need this!!".  I sure did need that, and it was the best tasting, and coldest gatorade I could hope for.

With just three miles left and a fresh gatorade in hand, it should have felt like it was a piece of cake to finish.  Well, it didn't quite feel that way but I was able to pick it up a little bit.  A couple more turns then I saw some small cones marking the last turn to the finish line, and then


















I was DONE!!


Well, finished with the race at least, now was time to relax and talk to people I met along the way and talk to people that had just finished.

The last time I went to the Keys, I said I would make sure that I had a beach towel with me, so here's what I had


















 It was a great to hang out for a bit


I wasn't sure how I was going to get to my hotel, or how I was going to get home the next day.  Perhaps a cab to the hotel and a bus back to Marathon?

I saw Noelani and Amelia and they said they could give me a ride.

The next morning at the hotel lobby, I was talking to a few people.  One of the guys said he could give me a ride back to the beach for awards and to see the 100 mile people finish (yup, still going).  He said he could also give me a ride back to Marathon.  His name was Jason, he had finished the 50 mile race in 13 hours and had to walk the last 20 due to blisters, but was ecstatic that he had finished.

When we got back to the beach, we saw this guy finishing:


His name is John Pyle.  He ran the entire 100 mile course in 27 hours carrying that American flag.  It was the last 100 miles of his 3,000 mile run across the country from San Francisco to Key West to raise money for the Wounded Warrior project.

He wasn't the last finisher either.  The later it got, as another 100 mile runner would finish the cheers got even louder.

Finally, we got on the road just after 1:00 in the afternoon, and as we were heading out we saw one more runner just outside of Key West, shuffling along, holding a gallon jug of water, determined to finish.

Then, back to my car in Marathon which had patiently waited for me in the K Mart parking lot, then another 7 hours and I was back home.


Ok, back to reality, and back to the day to day challenges.  Life is what happens, day to day, step by step.

Once again I feel like I've left out so much stuff, so many important details and lessons learned, but this will have to do (glad to at least do this since I'm a week late now!!)


















Cryptic Notes to self.

Wildlife:

  1. Key Deer
  2. Iguana
  3. Bald Eagle

People:

  1. Noelani (runner) /Amelia(her crew)
  2. Bob Becker (RD)
  3. John Pyle (Patriot)
  4. Jason
  5. Andre
  6. Brian
  7. Susan gave me a F.U.R. sticker
  8. Chris M. guy
  9. 3 mile left to go Gatorade girl
  10. Crew team parked at burger king
  11. 31+ hour guy still running as we were leaving

Other:

  1. Conspiracy foods
  2. Best tasting, coldest ever bottle of water
  3. View from seven mile bridge, for all seven miles
  4. All the little stores, restaurants and fishing spots, wondering if each one of those was somebody's favorite
  5. Glass of Palm Beer at Catch 53 in a Palm glass, BBQ chicken pizza
  6. the interesting people of key west 
  7. Key West Roosters 

Friday, May 18, 2012

To the Keys!!









Tomorrow morning at this time I'll be at the starting line, getting ready to run 50 miles from Marathon Key to Key West at the

Home







Here's my stuff laid out as I'm packing:


The plan for now is that this will be my last ultra for a little while since I'm going to try and concentrate on running a half marathon in under 1:25 so that I can run NYC marathon with my brother in 2013.

During spring break for the kids (beginning of April), we went on a road trip with the destination of staying in Miami for one night in a high rise hotel downtown (which surprisingly had some very good rates).  As we were a bit early to check into the hotel we thought we'd take a quick side trip down to Key Largo (about an hour out of the way)


 where we stopped at a park, walked on a mangrove boardwalk and splashed in the water a bit


Before heading to Miami and the hotel


Before that, I was last there (in Key Largo), sometime around 7th or 8th grade.  We stayed at a campground there in a pop-up trailer.  One day we drove out to Islamorada where I went fishing with my brother on a deep sea fishing party boat (I used my paper route money to pay for it).  We caught some snapper and other small fish, but I also hooked several times some big grouper, but they always swam into the rocks and I ended up losing them.

So, now, I get to go the rest of the way, all the way to Key West.  And what better way than to get there by foot.

It would be fun to come back with the family someday.