Running 100 Miles in the Florida Keys

Keys 100 – My second 100-Mile Race

Oh yea, this has me written all over it.

Self-supported race, with beaches on both sides, run in 90+ degrees, heavy humidity, treacherous running environments, with lots of potential hazards and multiple possibilities for real danger…


I registered with enthusiasm.

But you love the trails, why run a road ultra?

I dunno really.

I do love the trails. Every ultramarathon I’ve run this year {2008} has been mountain trails and I enjoyed each and every one of them; but I’m interested in branching out in 2009, tossing in some ultramarathon variety.

I love ultrarunning and want to try everything that sounds cool to me. I want to taste all aspects of the sport from point-to-point races, to timed races, to trail races, to road races and everything in between.

You only live once, ya know.

Planning the 2009 Race Schedule – Some new, Some old

So far, 2009 is shaping up with three 100+ mile races.

  • Across the Years – To ring in 2009, I’ll be running the 72-hour track race at ATY outside Phoenix, Arizona. My goal is to log 175 miles over the 72 hours. Will I sleep? Maybe not.
  • Keys 100 – Simple enough. Start at the highway mile-marker 101 in Key Largo and keep running until you fall off the continent at the edge of Key West. I love it. Unique in many ways.
  • Superior Sawtooth 100 – Quite simply the most difficult challenge I have ever encountered. Naturally, I must go back and do it again, right? This race changed me as a person in ’08.

Now, of course, in between these 2009 marquee events, I’ll sprinkle in some 50-milers, 50Ks, the usual marathons, and lots of 5 & 10Ks. I’m certainly running the annual Peachtree Road Race, the ING Marathon, the Atlanta Marathon, the Sweetwater 50K, Mountain Mist 50K, Laurel Valley …and a bunch others, so if you’re down, come get your running groove on with me.

Need a place to stay in Georgia to run some local races? – hit me up – just make sure you’re ok with dogs, ’cause we got’em and they’re big ol’ boys and girls.

2009 is going to be a great year!

* New Project for 2009:

Here’s an interesting ultrarunning accolade – Completing a recognized¬†ultra race in every one of the 50 states. For an even bigger challenge, how about a 100-miler in each of the 50 states?

Stump Jump 50K Race Report

How about that view?

Stump Jump runners, you know the one I’m talking about. Trottin’ along that bright green, over-grown, thin single-track ridge, just’a ’bout one mile before “the loop” portion of the lollipop course – stops you dead in your tracks, huh?

“wow. nice.”

The view makes the mountains look huge, and the river look cool as those ridge temps rise, and once again you’re reminded you why you love the trails so much.

Welcome to Stump Jump.

Fancy 50K

Stump Jump has more of a marathon feel. Lots of big name sponsors, thick swag bags, expensive product giveaways, and flawless race management. Not to mention a slew of runners from all over the Southeast – many of whom have made this race an annual deal.

It’s easy to see why.

The usual local speedsters were there – Todd Henderson, Marty Coleman, the Whortons, Youngrens etc… and the race certainly carried a strong runner-family vibe that made post-race chillin’ very comfortable.

So you think your special?

I guess I am so cocky, living in my own head of la-la-land, that I don’t believe I need to ever recover. Like somehow, even though I am still a newbie, I don’t need to take recovery seriously.

But, since September 7, after completing my first 100-miler, I have succeeded in avoiding rest almost completely. Instead, I found myself:

  • CrossFit competing, locally and nationally, with Fight Gone Bad (twice)
  • Busting a 10K for time so that I could secure a good Peachtree qualification for ’09
  • Pacing my son in another local 10K
  • Practicing the olympic lifts and kettle bell training incessantly
  • and of course, now running the Stump Jump 50K …and sadistically shooting for a PR

Well, the PR wasn’t gonna happen. People who know the course quickly assured me of this fact, which only made me feel silly and stupid; but worse, I really had no business running a 50K at all right now – with or without all the ridiculousness I’ve been involved in over the last 30 days.

I wasn’t recovered.

So there, I got it out of the way. I had to say it, but I won’t dwell on it. The race itself deserves much more than me droning on about my idiocy regarding my over-training, lack of rest/recovery, and obsessive disorder to run myself into the ground.

Pun intended.

A first time in the Tennessee mountains

Surprisingly, this is the first ultramarathon I have run in Tennessee. Chattanooga is a cool little town, with some rugged mountain trails, and I sort of fell in the love with the place from packet-pickup, through our night on the town, and on into the vibe at the race start.

I rode up Friday night with Jason Rockman, a local speedy dude, and after swinging by Rock Creek Outfitters to gather our race packets, we headed to out for a pre-race meal of bone-in ribeye steaks and salad …and one, …well, maybe two, micro-brews at Big River Grille.

Ready, Go!

Standing in the dark, crowded parking lot, as the race director was shouting out the last of the race announcements, he asked, “how many people are running their first 50K?”

Lots of hands raised. Like, about of a quarter of the group…

“God help us all”, was his last comment.

And with that, we were off.

First trip up “the stick”

The race course is shaped like a lollipop.

Runners head up “the stick” of the lollipop which begins with some trail that seemed to probably be part of a high school cross country course. Well manicured, with some tiny gravel mixed in, and gently rolling.

This is a good place to pick up the pace early if you’re feeling strong because the trails in the first handful o’ miles are double-track wide and not-too-technical.

The “easy” part ends after the first aid station, and runners are presented with a very fast, technical descent, followed by a steep ascent, before yet another very fast and technical descent. Some of these descents were hairy when negotiated with quick feet, and a couple of times I felt the fears of a misstep.

After aid station 2, Suck Creek Road, the “stick” of the lollipop becomes a stretch of rocky, ridge-running, which presents a bunch of vast, gorgeous views – but don’t take your eyes off the trail for too long or you’ll become acquainted with it up close – and with a thud.

Loopy in the loop

The loop part of the course felt very different to me. It was darker, gloomier …felt more remote; and for the most part I was really enjoying it. A few hills, but nothing crazy, and although the feelings of over-training were rapidly descending upon me, I was in trail running heaven.

Then the rocks came.

er, boulders…

There was this ridiculous boulder field that during any other time, I might of thought of as cool; but not at that moment. All the pains experienced during, and post, my Superior Sawtooth 100-mile race, were coming back to visit me – and coming back hard and strong.

I might be wrong, but to me, it seemed this boulder field was at least a mile long if not longer. My legs took a beating both from slippin’ ‘n jacking them on other rocks – to – simply tweaking and cambering my ankles and feet in odd stepping contortions from one rock to another.

Again, normally, I’d love this, so I’m sure others probably liked this stretch, but in pain, it made for a difficult challenge.

Then, of course, comes the notorious 17th mile climb.

A steep dirt road makes for some interesting foreshadowing. Once runners take a sharp left off the dirt road, the trail gets even steeper, heading straight up.

It’s tough.

But it’s still not as steep as the climb out of… well, I’ll get to that inna’ minute…

After that welcome summit, runners get a little more single-track, forest running, to finish the 10.5 mile loop.

Back on “the stick”

This stretch at the end of the loop, to Suck Creek Road about 4.5 miles away, was some painful running for me. Although we had run it the opposite direction in the beginning, it seemed at lot longer with 21 miles on the legs.

I saw some casualties on this stretch.

Runners sure can bellow some pretty unique noises during a good bust-ass, and sure enough, I heard a familiar, yet one-of-a-kind, loud grunt, followed by a thud.

Rounding the corner, I laid eyes on a bummed out guy sitting on a rock, rubbing and cringing from a calf cramping dirt dive.

I just have to say, that the climb out of Suck Creek Road is just plain, east-coast-no-switchbacks hard. I was woozy and walking up the mountain like I was drunk.  The beginning and end of this section, to the 28 mile point, is really, really steep and I had to use my hands to finally crawl up and out to that last aid station.

A little surge to the finish

The guy I rode up with is completely opposite, but when I realize I am within five miles of a finish, I tend to find some new found energy and extra pain threshold.

I started to push it a little for much of the last stretch to the finish, running strong, and passing a few people who snipped me earlier.

I crossed the finish line in 7:17 disappointed, very tired, loopy, and hungry.

And that was it.

Nothing glamorous.

No nutty experiences.

No Spiritual awakenings

No new friends.

Just a solid realization that I am significantly over-trained, under-nourished, and in need of rest.

The Stump Jump 50K is a top-notch event, perfectly run with awesome swag bags, giveaways, and post race experience; but this is the lamest race report I’ve ever written.

I guess that just happens sometimes.