Sunday, September 9, 2012

Red Mule 5K Race Report


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.


  1. Key Deer
  2. Iguana
  3. Bald Eagle


  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


  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


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.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Croom Fools Run 50 Mile Race Report

I can't believe so much time has past since my last blog entry.  I wanted to get something down, especially this race report from just a little over a week ago down before I forget everything.

Stats: 50 mi, 08:35, 10:17 pace (6th place overall)
It was fun and challenging. All in all a good time. Finish time just under 8:35, which amazed me since I had to slow down quite a bit. It's funny how paces under different conditions mean different things. I remember looking at my watch and seeing the pace at 12:45 and thinking "Awesome!! I'm under 13:00" Other times I didn't even look for miles and miles. The hills and the heat made it a humbling experience - in no way humiliating, but very humbling. 50 miles is a long way to go.

Started out in the dark, running behind two or three other people including a woman named Heather who was also wearing Brooks Launch like I was (made me feel better that I'm not the only dork who doesn't wear trail shoes on a trail run!). I think the first 5 miles was the most enjoyable, somewhere around a 10:00 pace.

I didn't have my camera with me so I've found some pictures that other people took, like this one showing what it looked like before the race started:

After the warm up loop, passed through the start and saw Jenny, Sean, and MPR. Start of the first big loop went well. Ran on sections of trail I had never been on including a long narrow gulley which I had to walk most of. I caught back up to the people I ran with for the first 5 miles, then came up behind Andy Barrett. Andy has done a ton of races and I thought to myself I should not pass Andy since he knows what he's doing and I don't.

Here's a picture of the ravine we had to run through:

We chatted a bit and he would look at his watch and say he was going too fast. Finally I asked if I was messing up his pace, he said yeah, he was going a little faster than planned since I was behind him. So, I got in front of him and put some space between us. The rest of the first loop felt great with a few miles under 9:00 pace.

Shortly after the start of the second loop I started to think I was in trouble. I had been running by feel and enjoying the day, but I wasn't pacing myself. I was taking no walk breaks. 50 miles is not 62 miles, but it is also not 26 or 31 miles. I made an effort to purposely slow down a bit.

At 23.4 miles I went down pretty hard. Landed on my right side with the force spread between my hip and shoulder. There's the moment when you're not sure if you are hurt or not, fortunately I wasn't, got up, brushed myself off and got going again, a little more mindful.

I reached the aid station where Dawn S. was volunteering, stopped for a bit, then Andy B came up from the trail and went by me. I started running behind him again, felt good but kept a good gap and eventually let him go again.

Another trip past the two pits (here is a picture of coming out of one of the pits)

 and the last aid station. The hills had grown a little taller but were still not that bad (glad I at least was able to come out a few weeks earlier and run these hills two sets of out and back).

Coming back up Tucker hill, I saw Eudair running toward me. We ran back to the starting area where Franco took my picture and they helped me switch out my bottles. I put some ice in my pockets and kept going. Andy B. was there again and I stayed behind him again for a bit before letting him go once again.

The mental boost of seeing Eudair, starting the third loop and catching back up to Andy soon started to fade.
Walking again became my friend. I had listened to some music but soon was not in the mood to listen to it. Instead, the most comforting sound was when I was walking, there was a breeze and I could hear it whooshing through the trees overhead.

I'd walk a bit and then say to myself, ok, just an easy jog for a bit. No set run walk schedule, just walk for a bit and then try to make it to the next up hill or maybe the next mile or half mile point on the garmin.

Saw Dawn at her aid station for the last time then made my way out to the pit again. Would stop and chat here and there with people walking the 50K. I was thirsty, but my stomach was full of fluid, almost but not quite sloshing, I was sweating and would stop here and there for a bathroom break, so although very thirsty I was not yet dehydrated.

Reaching the last aid station was a huge boost. The volunteers were super encouraging, told me my place and said "Just 5 more miles!" Yes, I can do that I thought.

For the third trip through the hills, they had grown a little taller still and I think they added one or two more onto the course. I looked at my watch and saw 8:18. I didn't think it was possible but it looked like I could still beat my 50 mile time from Iron Horse.

So, I did the best I could to keep going. Came up to a couple who was walking the 50K, they told me "one mile out". Another big boost. I looked for the white stripes on the trees that marked the designated camping areas because that was a sign of being almost done.

Up the last section of hill and finally DONE!!

Got my finishers mug and filled it with ice and mountain dew twice. Saw Andy B. who it turns out I was one minute behind. And then I sat for about 45 minutes. Actually, I'd stand for a bit and then sit down, but basically did nothing. I was hurting and drained, but felt really good deep down inside.

A lot can happen in 50 miles.

I wanted to see what I was capable of today, so I went out a little bit faster (after taking it easy during the dark part), and although I had run the hilly section a few times a couple weeks earlier, and I had run a good part of this course already and felt ready, the course and the heat got to me a little bit.

I'm itching to do another 50 or more mile race soon, just not sure which one yet.


I took Sunday and Monday off, but decided to go for a run on Tuesday morning, it went better than expected, doing just over 5 miles at about an 8:30 pace.

I was surprised how good I felt. Now I'm racking my brain to figure out what I did that made me recover quickly so I'll be able to do this again - here's what I remember - 2 cups of mountain dew over ice in my croom finisher's mug, one shocktop, a few random snacks followed by a bud lite lime given to me (free beer somehow tastes better!), a muscle milk on the drive home, tijuana flats for dinner, a mostly relaxing Easter Sunday, a short walk on Monday - well, in any event I am thankful for feeling good.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Recovery and Next Race

I can't believe so much time has gone by since the 100K race.  I've been meaning to get a blog update in, so here it is before any more time goes by.

Recovery Week:
Basically, it was pretty smooth compared to how it could have gone.  After the race, I took Sunday through Wednesday off completely from running and other exercise, except for some walking.  Then I ran Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday

Thursday - 5 miles with the Striders group, 8:44 pace.  I think I looked funny at first when I started the run - a bit stiff, but I managed 5 miles with no big problems and looked more normal at the end.

Saturday - 8 miles at 8:38 pace in Starkey park.  A little bit farther, and feeling a little bit better.

Sunday - 3 miles at 8:42 pace.  I was going to rest this day, but my brother came to town and wanted to go for a short run.  The incentive was so that we could justify eating some doughnuts that he brought with him from Rochester at a great local place there called Donut's Delite.

 So, that was basically it.  No drama, no hidden injuries.  I was kind of tired in sort of a weird way where it would hit me at random times during the day, and I also seemed to have kind of a slightly sedated feeling.

Anyway, on Sunday, one of the plans was to go kayaking in Homosassa Springs and possibly see some manatees

However, it was kind of rainy that day.  But, we decided to try anyway, and we all got into the car and headed up there.  On the way there I remembered that there was a place to go kayaking in Weeki Wachee, another place with a natural spring which is mainly famous for it's mermaid show   

But, the natural spring fed river is a great place  to kayak

They have a trip which takes about 3 hours to go about 7 miles, then they pick you up and drive you back to the parking lot.  However, since this was a spur of the moment decision I did not have the hours of operation, and the latest you can start is 12:00 noon.  We were about 10 minutes late.

So, we continued onto Homosassa Springs, where the weather had gotten worse.  When we arrived, they were not letting anyone out on the water since although it was just sprinkling it was due to possibly get worse.

Since we were up there we visited the park instead.  Saw some manatees and went inside the "fishbowl" which is an underwater viewing area inside a 55 foot deep natural spring where you can see tons of fish swimming just outside the windows:

They have other animals in the park to look at as well.  All of the animals are native Florida species except for a Hippo named "Lucifer" who was granted honorary Florida native species status since they couldn't find a home for him when they decided to ship out all of the non-native animals.  Here he is:
And here is my brother, and younger son looking at "Lu"

As well as brother and my oldest one looking at "Lu"

And finally, a sign warning about where to stay away from when looking at "Lu"

It was a pretty fun outing even though the kayaking never quite happened, although we'll definitely try for the Weeki Wachee trip sometime soon.

More Running Stuff:
So, in the next two weeks after recovery week, I've ramped miles back up to 30 miles one week, and then last week 45 miles.  Capped off last week's running with a nice 15.5 mile run.

The next race is April 7th in Croom, where I did my first 50K race just this past January.

The April race is called the "Fools Run".  I originally signed up for the 50K race again, however, just sent in a check for the difference to run the 50 mile race instead.  I'm a little nervous about doing it mainly because - I'm not really nervous about doing it.

I'll just go out and enjoy it.   It's an incredibly scenic park and a good part of the route will be on sections of the trail I have not been on yet - although I'll be heading up there this Saturday to try and get in at least one loop (the race will be a loop course of about 16 miles repeated three times, plus a starter loop to add up to 50 miles).

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Iron Horse 100K Race Report

I can't believe that this race has finally come and gone.  There were so many unknowns before the race, but once it started, it was time to stop worrying and just keep putting one foot in front of the other, staying hydrated, eating, and taking in the experience.

And, after 11 hours and 6 minutes I crossed the finish line.

Day Before
Got on the road and left my house just after noon and stopped at Wendy's on the way up there for a baked potato to start carbing up some more.  Arrived into the nearby town of Palatka and checked into the hotel - a Quality Inn because the main host hotel was filled up.  After settling in, drove out to Florahome to go look to make sure I could find the starting area.

After that, headed back to Palatka to the Holiday Inn Express where the pre-race meeting was going to be held.  I felt a little bit intimidated because every seemed to look so much more "ultra-ey" to me like they had all done at least 7 or 8 100 mile races.  But, once I sat down and chatted with a few people I realized it wasn't like that at all.   Yes, there were some very experienced people, but there were some newbies like myself.  I chatted to a few people before the meeting, then we listened to the race briefing from Chris, the race director.  It was practical and entertaining.  For example, he told us about the "Bardin Booger", the local Yeti like creature, and about what to do if encountering a Florida Panther (run, of course), and about being required to walk across the old train bridge - no running allowed - because there's alligators in the water that might eat you.   At the end of the talk, as I was about to leave I saw Kim from Daily Mile.  She said she'd be easy to spot as the tallest girl there, so I said hi to her and her husband before I headed out.

Went back to the hotel and had dinner at the Beef O' Brady's restaurant there.  Maybe not what people think of for pre race meals, but it was close and I wasn't sure where else to go.  Had a cuban sandwich and a side of rice.

Race Morning
I woke up about 5:15 and slowly got moving.  I had somewhat organized my stuff but I felt completely unprepared, and slightly unmotivated.   Maybe I was just trying to get myself into the right frame of mind of starting out slowly.

Made it over to the starting area about 6:30, grabbed my drop bag and small cooler and walked over to the start.

If you want to see a breakdown by mile - Here are the (Garmnin) mile by mile splits.
Otherwise, here's what I can remember.

First 25 Miles
First 25 mile loop completed in 4:15, thinking it was a little bit fast but also wanted to take advantage of the cooler temps.  I started out slowly, feeling a little bit tight since I figured that there would be plenty of time to warm up.  Did my first walk break about 10 minutes after the start.  It felt kind of odd, because I didn't feel like walking.   But, I was going to try and do a 9:1 run:walk strategy as suggested by my friend Claude W.,, who also recommended boiled potatoes with salt and 5 hour energy (all of which were great suggestions).  However, I think I wasn't as disciplined about the walk breaks, and looking back at my splits for the first half, I seemed to take a walk break every other mile.  My fastest mile was 9:15 and the slowest mile was 12:29.

The air felt cool at first (low 60s) but kind of humid.  The temperature would later climb up into the 70s

The first 3.5 miles were on an out and back section heading west, then past the starting line out to the east for the longer section.

 Then, just after about 6.5 miles, the paved section ended and we were on the old dirt and gravel section of trail.

I'm not remembering too much more right now about the first 25 miles, other than how fresh everyone was looking.  I can't remember if it was during the first or second 25 miles that I took a picture of "M&M" hand and put it on Facebook -    
I think eating M&M's is one of those little things that makes an ultra marathon special, along with Mountain Dew and other fun refreshments they don't serve in marathons.

Second 25 Miles
Second 25 mile loop in 4:28 - a bit slower, not completely by choice, but at least partially, knowing I needed to slow down if I didn't want to really crash.  The temperature was climbing, but at least there was no more unknowns about what the terrain would be like.  I'd been on pavement, to dirt, to gravel, and out to the train bridge for a second time -  

A little ways after the train bridge was the turn around point -

On the way out towards the turn around for the second time, stopped at the aid station again, I heard a volunteer call out to one of the other runners that they had completed 41 miles and told them their time.  Since I still had to get to the turn around and come back, I was at about 39 miles and couldn't wait to be at 41 miles, so I'd be in the "40's" - a new running distance for me.  (although I had only just twice scratched the surface of the 30's before).

Coming back to the aid station I got to hear the same thing "ok runner 110, you are at 41 miles" (actually, at some of the stops they knew my name which was a really nice touch - all of the volunteers were awesome - especially aid station number 2 which was manned by Navy JROTC high school kids and a retired Master Chief).

The excitement of passing that milestone soon faded when I realized there was still over 20 miles to go and I was hit by the worst slump of the race.  I even felt like crying, but when I opened my mouth up laughter came out (I'm really not making this up, it was like I was temporarily miswired).  I was listening to "Railroad Man" by the Eels on my mp3 player - kind of a fitting song and a bit sad, but I was out of my slump after hearing it:

And i know i can walk along the tracks
It may take a little longer but i'll know
How to find my way back

No tracks anymore, they were ripped out some time in the 80's, but it was a good song to hear on a seemingly endless section.

Then, I was back on the paved section and making my way to the starting area.  As I approached, I saw someone running towards me, it was my good running friend Eudair, we ran to the aid station and her husband got a few pictures of me.

So, first 50 miles in 8:43

Last 12 Miles
My math brain was working enough so that I knew 12 miles left, in 3 hours, or 15 minute miles would get me in under 12 hours. I stayed on a strategy of running part of the mile, then walking until my pace for that mile had gotten about 30 seconds slower than I wanted, then started running again until the next mile.

Got going again, and Eudair ran with me for about a mile before turning back.  After about 4 miles, I started to really feel like this thing would come to an end.

I kept on my run-walk strategy, which had evolved a bit - instead of a set amount of walking, I would walk in the middle of a mile until my pace slowed to about 30 seconds slower than where I wanted to be, then start running again.  It was easy to keep track of and a sort of fun mind game to play.

After the Race
I think I look a bit out of it
They handed my the finisher's medal, a belt buckle actually -

Not Knowing What I Didn't Know- The big thing that I found out was how much I didn't know but wish I had known.  Fortunately, I did take advice from people who had run these before, even if the advice didn't make sense to me when I heard it.

Walking - I have a new found appreciation for walking.   I think that some of the walking that I did early on really saved me at the end, maybe a little bit more might have helped.  However, once I got to the point where I needed to do more walking, it really did help to recharge me and get me back running again.  I was afraid I'd end up doing back to back miles of walking, but the walk breaks during each mile prevented that.

Eating - Pretty early on I started eating solid food.  I think I had a Cliff bar around mile 5.  I ate pretzels, m&m's, boiled potatoes, and pb&j at the aid stations, at least a little bit of solid food at each one.  At the end of each 25 miles, I drank a Muscle Milk

Salt - I had grabbed salt packets at Wendy's on the drive up, but ended up not taking them with me.  But, along with the potatoes, there was a bowl of salt.  I felt like I couldn't get enough salt, they also had Endurolyte capsules at the aid stations.

Drinking - Made sure and tried to finish drinking my two 10 ounce bottles before I got to each aid station.  I had mixed up Accelerade before the race and had some extra in my cooler at the starting area, but would refill with HEED drink that they had on the course.

TMI - To know if I was drinking enough, I had a goal to make sure to stop a few times to relieve myself and avoid getting into the dark yellow 

Shoes- I was worried about what shoes to wear.  I had read several race reports and everyone talked about how rough some of the gravel sections were on your feet.  I don't own trail shoes, however, almost all of my trail training miles I ran in Asics Nimbus which are nice and cushioned.  I did run the Croom Zoom 50K in Brooks Launch, and those felt pretty good, but my feet were a bit sore at the end.   Also, since about 8 of every 25 miles was paved, the Nimbus worked out really well.

 Everyone one I talked to on the course while running, walking, or at an aid station felt like family. Seeing Eudair and Franco as I approached mile 50 was a huge boost and was just about 6 miles after feeling like I totally had fallen apart. Glad I had my phone with me to text Jenny some updates and receive back words of encouragement to keep me going (she has always believed in my running ability more than me), as well as posting random pictures to facebook, gave me something to do and look forward to during the walk breaks (although it ended up jabbing into my back a bit too much, need to find a better place for it if I try this again).

Pleasantly surprised with a nice photo that Cathy B. took of me and posted to DM today. Inspired by Kimberly H. as she bravely took on 100 miles after missing a good deal of training, so very encouraging to me each time we crossed (I later found out she had to drop out after 89 miles due to some dehydration related issues, but it was definitely the smart thing to do, even more inspired by her courage to make the right call).

I'm still kind of in disbelief that I completed this - and except for the few aches and pains and the few low points, came through it ok. And as an added bonus, I'm happy with the time.

**Update - results are now posted here
I didn't realize it at the time but I came in second place overall for the 100km