62.45@11:41, 12:09:55, 3rd overall, 2nd male.
Iron Horse 100k, my 10 year anniversary of Ultra Running
Pretty much everything worked out on this race, felt pretty good overall, met my "B" goal and came pretty close to beating my "A" goal.
I ran this race 10 years ago as my first longer than 50k ultra race (I had done one 50k before that race in preparation). The course has changed quite a bit since 2012. The race used to be strictly on a rails to trails route starting in Florahome, FL, with a couple miles paved and the rest on dirt or crushed gravel. The unpaved section has now all been paved, so now the race route exits the paved area and runs a couple different spurs into the Etonia Forest.
The other major difference is in 2012, for the 100K you would run two 25 mile "loops" and then go out and do another half of a loop. After running 50 miles, you could also choose to be done and collect your 50 mile finisher medal. But this year, a 100k racer gets the initial 12 mile half loop out of the way first, and then runs two by 25 miles with no option to gracefully bow out at 50, it's either finish it or don't. With no choice to finish early there's no temptation.
First Loop (12 miles)
The morning was nice and cool for Florida, prerace meeting about 6:30 right near the starting area. I had on a very light jacket to keep warm which I was going to shed right before the race started. Last minute course change added a half mile run to the west, turn around and head back to the start so that the course would not be short. So, I kept the jacket on. As we came back to the start decided to keep the jacket on.
About two miles on the pavement, the course makes a left onto a side street, run down a little bit, and then right onto a dirt road underneath some power lines (not the big huge ones with steel towers, but medium sized ones on large wooden poles a little bigger than telephone poles). The dirt is a little sandy, but not quite sugar. There's an uphill but not too bad, but enough to know this won't be a totally flat course. It's about a mile and a half to the aid station and a junction where two spurs of the course separate.
We head up the first spur until reaching a timing mat for the "short" loop turnaround that the 100k racers are doing. So, at this point some people keep going and a few of us turn around. The dirt here is pretty hard packed, it's almost like pavement and feels fast for a trail.
The morning is still very cool and I'm still wearing the light jacket. Head back towards the start, down the loose dirt beneath the power lines and then back to the paved trail, back to the start. First loop is done.
2nd Loop (25 miles, first full loop)
Back out and running the first full loop, get to the point where I turned around last time but this time keep going. Averge pace is slowly getting faster, dipping just under 11:00 pace. I'm sticking to the 7 minutes of running and 1 minute of walking. A little bit past where the turnaround was for the short loop the trail enters into a section of pine trees. It reminds me of the hall of pines from Long Haul. At some points the trail turns from hard packed to some sugary stuff here and there. The pine section is the loop part of the lollipop.
It's around this time I see a notification that Jenny tagged me on her Instagram, she posted a vide of Tom racing his first 10k race (BDR in Safety Harbor), coming in first place with a time under 34 minutes. It was pretty cool to watch and made my run feel easier (at least for a while). I'd check my phone or send a text on the 1 minute walk breaks as well as taking some sips from the bottle or eating a snack (had another one of those Reese's Big cups (with pretzel pieces) that I had during Long Haul).
Get back to the junction, quick stop at the aid station, and then onto the next spur. The dirt road descends slightly and eventually crosses a bridge over a creek, then after this the trail climbs. It seems to slowly go up forever, where you see what looks like the peak, it flattens out but then you see it go up some more. I think it's around here where I take off the jacket and tie it on my waist. The road turns a few times and then the aid station is off to the left. It's slightly off the course but I stop there anyway just so I keep taking in a little food here and there. After the aid station is another 1.5 miles out to the spur turnaround. The road widens (it's still dirt but it looks like they are going to build a 4 lane road here at some point), turn off the wide road and then onto a narrower and rockier road with some more ups and downs. Finally, the timing mat off to the right, I'm careful to make sure I get close enough to the box. I'm wearing two timing chips, one on the bib and one on an ankle strap. Timing guy believes in redundancy.
Turn back, stop at aid station again, then make my way down the hill, down to the little bridge and then back up, heading to the aid station. When I'm less than a mile away, my eyes start to sting. Sweat has rolled down and I must've but the suncscreen/bug spray combo where I shouldn't have. I've got Hammer sports drink in my bottle, not good for rinsing. I try wiping and squinting but it doesn't help much. Eventually get to the aid station, beg for a paper towel and rinse out my eye (mainly just the left one). Ok, much better. I've lost a little time but I'm moving again without the stinging.
As I get back to the starting area, there's two women and a guy running together. I slowly pass them, get to the turn around, cross the timing mat and stop at my car which is parked on side of the roard with tailgate facing the trail right across from the aid station. This is my one planned sitting down. I need to gather up what I need for the rest of the race. It will get dark before I get back so need a light. I forgot my new headlamp and just have an old one. I also have the USB charger that has a light bar on it I can use for backup and can also recharge my Garmin which might run low before finishing.
3rd Loop (25 miles)
The two ladies and one dude go cruising by just before I'm ready to get up. I get going again (with this sitting down, it would be my slowest mile for the race at 16:52). I feel slower at first, but stick to the run/walk. I gradually start catching up to the group but they seem to pull ahead each time. After a few times nearly passing them, I finally pick up the pace just enough to go by them. I put a little space between us. Turning off the paved path and over to the dirt road, where I slow down a little on the uphill I can hear the group catching up again. But once I get past aid station 2 and onto the lollipop section I'm by myself again (they must have stopped a little longer at the aid station). My legs feel good again. Still light out but the weather is cooling slightly and before it gets too cool I take the jacket from my waist and put it back on.
Finish the lollipop, go by the aid station and onto the last spur. Now it's just one more out and back. I'm not looking forward to the climb up the hill that seems to go forever but I keep going, keep doing the run/walk. I come up to two women running together, slowly go past them but a little after that one of the women catches up to me. Not sure which race distance she's doing I ask her but she says, no she's the aid station captain for aid station 3 and was bored so was out doing a few miles back and forth from the aid station.
I reach aid station 3, grab a couple small bites of food and take a few shots of coca cola, then head out for the last mile and a half to the timing mat. Feels like they moved it but garmin says no they did not it's right where it's supposed to be. Get back to aid station 3 but don't run up to it, run by it and wave and say thanks. Maybe about 7 miles left. There's some rain sprinkles here and there, sunlight is running out.
Down to the little bridge and then climb back up to the junction and aid station 2. I skip that aid station also, only a little over 4 miles left now. At the start of the dirt road under the power lines, there's just a tiny bit of light left. I put on the headlamp but I'm having trouble keeping it lined up and getting it to sit right with my hat. I give up and carry it like a handheld. After a couple of stumbles on the roots, decide to just walk this section (14:59, 16:04). One headlamp is coming toward me, say hi to the woman that owns the light, keep going and finally back to the paved trail. The unscheduled walking break has freshened up my legs enough to where I'm back running on the running intervals. With the paved trail, the not so great headlamp is more than enough.
Finally, about a 1/3 of a mile from the finish I can see the LED lights of the time clock.
Just over 12 hours. About an hour slower than 10 years ago but only three weeks out from my PR 100 mile race.
Hang out for a bit. A volunteer makes me a quesadilla (the really simple kind, perfect post race or during race) and gives me a coke. The 2nd overall, 1st female is there hanging out with her husband trying to warm up by the fire. She did around 11:30 and the first place guy was around 11:20 I think.
This one of my favorite parts of any race, the post race hang out.
Overall, really enjoyed this race, glad I took a chance.
Decide to not risk driving home (about 3 hours) and instead get a hotel in Gainesville, but then can't fall asleep until 3:00 am!