Long Haul 100 Race report,
(or race against the rain, 80 Miles to Midnight)
New personal record for 100 miles. Looks like I found something I can still PR in. Storms were pending. They could roll in anytime during the night or hold off until the morning. I wanted to get as many miles before midnight and hopefully enough so if worst came to worst and it got really bad I could shelter while the storm passed. Unfortunately, there was a chance that might not work if it was heavy for long enough as some reports said, possibly lasting 4 or 5 hours.
But, as luck would have it, would be mostly good except for near the very end.
I felt better prepared going into this race than last time and probably the time before. Last time was two years ago when it became a suffer fest and I might've dropped out or missed the Western States cutoff of 30 hours if Cynthia didn't pull me along and speed me up. In that year, 2020, I only had one long run of 18 miles between finishing the Towpath marathon in October and this race. In 2019, I ran the Jacksonville marathon in December and managed to also run the Croom Zoom 50k two weeks before this race.
This year I had one definite pacer lined up (Daisy) and two possible maybes (Joe and Cynthia). Cynthia ended up with a positive covid test and Joe had some work obligations so they were both out.
The evening before the race, picked up my bib, listened in on some of the pre-race meeting. RD gave a shout out to me since I'm the last person who has run Western States 100 by qualifying in a Florida qualifying race, which was the Fools Run 50 mile race in 2012. Shortly after that, the Fools Run was removed as a qualifier and until 2020 there were no Florida races that could be used as qualifiers. This year we have three runners going to WS 100.
I brought out some stuff - a beach shelter, a folding chair, small cooler, some supplies which I set up near "the hub" which is near the timing mat and at the intersection for the three "spokes" that make up a "loop" (it's actually cross shaped).
Saturday morning, lined up in the chilly (high 30's according to some people) morning, got in line for the POP and then back out of line (it could wait). Race started and almost everyone took off way too fast, heading east on the paved road on our way to the hub and the start of the first loop (the 0.9 miles out to the hub is just a bonus, no extra charge). On a per mile basis, 100 mile races are quite a bargain.
(I need to fill in more details for the laps but wanted to at least get something posted before the Iron Horse 100K on 2/5)
Loop 1 (2:10:42)
It's all fun and games when the race starts, pretty much everyone goes out too fast all in a big group. I lag back a little bit knowing there's plenty to time to catch up. Approaching the end of the first spur, there's a guy with a clipboard taking down bib numbers but no one is turning around right away. We seem to have gone past the turn around point before people realize that (maybe went about 0.2 mile too far, but that's just going to be noise compared to the overall distance). Back to the hub and finally hit the POP which I didn't have time for before the start.
Loop 2 (4:02:12)
Don't remember much about this loop but after finishing it, no longer feels like the race just started. Still a long way to go.
Loop 3 (5:53:52)
Felt good on this loop, sped up. Averaging much faster than 24 hour pace. If I could hold this pace it would be a sub-20 hour race. So, yes this is too fast in that regard but it's also part of the plan to try and get in as many miles before the rain starts sometime later which could be anytime between 2:00 am and sunrise. With the "starter" mile, the end of loop 3 is around 50km, so the 50km split is also a little faster than what I did at Croom Zoom. Croom Zoom is hillier and I had that slow start due to bad headlight, so this pace is not too fast.
Loop 4 (8:00:28)
Loop 5 (10:29)
Just as I was finishing loop 5, Jessica and the baby showed up. She was originally thinking she'd just come out for the finish but it was a nice day so she came out in the afternoon. I chatted with them, got a picture, and then asked her to wait while I did the first spur. Wanted the baby to have some time hanging out near the "hub" to soak up the race vibes. Saw them again after the first spur and they walked with me for bit on the paved road. It was a boost seeing them and looking forward to having a pacer at the start of loop 6.
I think it was this loop where as I was finishing up spur 3 and coming up the little embankment up to the paved road, Patrick Bene was yelling at me to run (all in good fun yelling) and Daisy heard this and shot back at him to not make me run up the hill. It was kind of funny but also nice how Daisy was sticking up for me.
Loop 6 (12:59) (100k 13:29)
Going into this loop, was looking forward to this being the last one that I had to run alone, the thought helped me keep moving forward and not worrying if I was pushing too hard. Pace was slowing but I was getting a lot of miles to keep me on track for 24 hour pace (14:24). If I could hit most of the miles at that pace, combined with the first half time of ten and a half hours I could hit sub 24 with some room to spare.
Took a little too long at the spur 2 aid station (ended up with about 17 minute pace for that mile).
Loop 7 (15:50)
Ok, just keep going. And now I have some pacer help. So that Daisy wouldn't have to run all 40 miles with me, she was going to skip a shorter spur here and there. But for spur 1 of loop 7, she was with me. Heading south down spur 1, I found myself having some trouble lifting my legs and getting out of a shuffle. Coming back to the hub I announced I was going to try a strategic sitting down and see if that refreshed my legs. So, with this few minutes of sitting down, mile 63 was 23 minutes. And, once we got going again legs didn't feel much better. There wouldn't be a whole lot of running for most of the remainder of the race. Just try and keep the power walk pace fast enough and watch the time spent at aid stations. Miles 68 and 69 had a little bit of running and got the pace into the 14's (but not quite magic 14:24 pace). I did spur 3 by myself. Almost went down at one point in one of the rooty sections.
Loop 8 (18:39)
Did not make it to mile 80 by midnight, but it was still late night instead of early morning, rain was still holding off and felt pretty comfortable that no matter what we could still finish.
Loop 9 (21:29)
Finishing up this lap, it was approach 4:30 in the morning. My legs were tired but stable. My best time to finish this race was a little over 25 hours. I didn't think I could break 24:00, but I wanted my finish time to start with a 24 at least. I told Daisy and Lucas to just keep me moving no slower than 18 minute pace for the last lap, which would mean the lap would be 3 hours or faster and I'd be well under 25 hours. I knew there were things that could go wrong so wanted a little bit of cushion in case I cramped up and needed to stop or the rain started and got brutal.
Loop 10 (24:19)
Very excited to start this last lap. First stop was the trip to the check in tent at the far end up the first spur, thanked the volunteers and told them this was my last visit. They said they'd miss giving me grief (mild messing with me here and there throughout the race, all in good fun).
I had announced I would not be stopping at all for anything, but at some point did stop one more time to empty out my shoe of trail debris, but otherwise kept on moving.
Made it up to the end of spur 2 and checked in one last time but did not stop, had plenty of water still in my bottle.
It was some point in the hall of pines that the rain started but was not bad yet. Wouldn't get bad until we reached the paved road. We already had our rain gear on from earlier when we'd get a few sprinkles. I knew that when it started it might come down hard and start suddenly.
Then it started, buckets of rain. I was wearing a $1 poncho which kept me dry and in a light to moderate rain would keep me warm, but the rain was hitting so hard it was chilling me and the plastic was too thin to keep in the heat.
Just keep going, almost done.
We turned onto the trail for spur 3. The trail was turning swampy and as the road went from double track to a single track trail the trail was a small stream with mud banks on either side. Around that time, two or three guys came towards us in the other direction. It was still before 7:00 am and they could make it under 24 hours if they ran (found out they made it with a few minutes to spare).
When dry, this last bit of single track was slow for me, trying not to take a hard fall from the roots (had a few stumbles earlier).
Finally made it to the timing mat at the end of the spur, turned around and once we reached the double track and were out of the woods, we were also out of the woods figuratively with the rain slowing down and the sky starting to lighten.
And then, the final timing mat, the end of the race. Crossed the finish line. Amy handed me my buckle and congratulated me saying I was the first to get the new buckle (over 24 hour buckle was redesigned from a rectangle to an oval).
I'd done it, new PR. But really, just like the last two times here, it was more of a we did it. The pacers kept me going, pulled me along and kept me from the middle of the night despair.
Marina was still out there and I wanted to stay, but even with some dry clothes and more layers and I was feeling chilled and needed to get back to my car to warm up. Daisy and Lucas packed up my stuff for me (Daisy kindly and accurately said I "was useless" as far as packing goes). They walked me to the shuttle (pickup truck pulling a trailer) and Marina's parents helped me into the cab of the truck. Daisy and Lucas rode with me and then moved the stuff from the trailer to my car. Thanked them both again and said goodbye.