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 


  1. Congrats on completing another race. Cool to read about the other runners, too.

  2. Thanks Paz and Clarinda, it was quite an experience.

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