Keys 100 Race Report

Keys 100 - bike path near the mile 50-mile check-in
photo: closing in on 50 miles and picking up the pace. Then, disaster…

Stupid is as stupid does

Any ultrarunner knows that DNFs happen. ** (DNF=did not finish)

But they really sting when everything is going right – Pace consistent, nutrition tight, body strong – and then one stupid mistake, or perhaps a series of stupid mistakes, comes together to bring your race to a screeching halt.

This is what happened to me at the 2010 Keys 100 ultramarathon from Key Largo to Key West.

Stupid mistakes. Poor planning. Lack of respect for the distance.

Cocky, …I suppose.

The setup

I came into the race a little concerned about my ability to run. Having spent over a week on the nasty, parasite-killing drug Flagyl, my body was feeling a little torn up inside. The fact that I hadn’t been running for two weeks up until the event proved to be a good thing as my legs were recovered and ready to go, but this general feeling of “blah” needed to disappear.

At packet-pickup the night before the race, I started to get excited and strongly believed I had not only a finish in me, but perhaps a solid sub-24.

I felt that good.

6:00 a.m. start in Key Largo

As all us 100-mile runners and relay crowd meandered to the start line, I got the opportunity to walk and talk with Monica Scholz. This was a real treat for me as I’ve been aware both of her past accomplishments, and her present goals. She has over thirty 100-milers planned for 2010.

And when we started, I got in a few chats with Beth McCurdy, a personal favorite, before she charged up front with the lead pack.

Within the first few miles, I was greeted by, and chatted with all kinds of people who either knew me from this blog (and the ultralist), or who I’ve run many races with in the past – Jenn Vogel, Cyndi Graves, Alan Geraldi, Scott Sanders, Bry Gardner, Joe Ninke, Bill Andrews …and more.

My goal was to take the advice given to me by DC Lundell and Rob Youngren – start easy, implement a run/walk strategy early, and see how it goes. This would be the first time that I can remember implementing a run/walk strategy BEFORE fatigue required it.

So, I’ll just go ahead and admit it – yea, ok, it works.

The first 25 miles | steady as she goes

Running through the islands of Key Largo, Tavernier and Islamorada were pretty damn nice. You don’t have as many of the water views as you have in the later miles when the land mass is thinner between the ocean and the bay, but it’s still tropical and pleasant.

But, the heat cranked up quickly.

I’ve heard reports from the Vogels and others of 100+ pavement temps, but there were also some people thinking it wasn’t as hot as a last year, so I don’t know what the true deal was; BUT TO ME it felt extremely hot. Hotter than last year for sure. Maybe more humid, I don’t know, but it felt really, really hot whatever was happening.

But, aside from all that heat, there were some really nice breezes. Unfortunately, you could only benefit from these breezes when crossing the bridges since much of the early running blocked most of the wind.

Per Rob Youngren, I implemented a run/walk ratio of ~25/5 (minutes). This worked out great for the first 25 miles and the run/walk thing allowed me to have almost identical splits for 0-25 miles, and 25-50 miles.

Mistake #1: during the first 25 miles is where dumb mistake #1 began happening. My crew and great friend Matt kept pouring ice cold water over my head about every 3-5 miles. While this kept me cool, and felt like the right thing to do, it wasn’t. My feet stayed wet indefinitely, and while I had yet to find out how bad it was going to get, I knew it might be a problem later.

Let it be stated that I DO NOT blame him in the least. I would have done it to myself and am known for drenching myself in cold water whenever I can.

Miles 25-50 | moving well, but going blind

I went through my first low point after the mile 25 check-in. Even though I knew I was doing the right thing with super slow pacing, 5:59 seemed like a long time to get 25 miles in the bank on the road.

And, the heat was catching up to me.

Then a really odd thing happened, I went blind for about 4 miles.

Mistake #2: Here’s what I think happened – I sprayed a bunch of Bullfrog sunblock on my face, but didn’t rub it in well enough. As I ran, I would spray my face with my water bottle trying to stay cool. I think some of the sunblock ran into my eyes. It was horrible. I could not open my eyes for more than a split second, and this went on for about 45 minutes.

I’d open them really fast to make sure I wasn’t running into US1 highway traffic, and then close them again for relief …all while I was still running!

It didn’t help that I was running without sunglasses, and I think the combination of the chemicals in my eyes + the bright glare of the mid-day sun = burned-out retinas. Luckily, Matt gave me his sunglasses to use and it helped a little, but I still suffered for quite awhile with burning eyeballs.

Once the eye issue cleared up a bit, we were directed onto this thin bike path bordered on both sides by thick, tall 15-foot mangroves. The 25/5 ratio thing was becoming too hard, but I was finding much success in a new run/walk ratio of pole-to-pole.

I’d guess that the power poles in the Keys are generally about 1/10 of  mile apart, so I’d run from one pole to the next, then walk to the next one, where I’d then run again to the next pole.

This pole game was awesome. I caught a lot of people this way – most of them who had seemingly already begun to walk-only, so it was cool to inch closer and closer to them until I’d finally pass.

I really liked this strategy and need to remember it.

Because I was running such short intervals, I could run them pretty fast and not get gassed. Then, the short walk would allow me to recover.

I kept this up from about mile 35-ish through the halfway check-point, and even across the 7-mile bridge. It not only helped me move up in race position, but it also helped gobble up the miles a lot faster.

I hit the second 25 mile split, at mile 50, in 11:53 with an almost identical split to the first 25 miles. I felt strong and according to the girls manning the table, I was now in 25th place.

I was shocked that as slow I was moving, there were still 75+ more people behind me.

Miles 50-60 | the surge

I declined water at the 50 mile check-in because I knew I’d be seeing Matt shortly.

Or, so I thought.

Somehow, he lost me, but later found me about 4 miles later, just before the 7-mile bridge. I was out of water and wondering “where the Hell is this guy?!” when I heard a beep and saw that apologetic smile.

I didn’t care that much. It was nice of him to be there, so I just jumped in the back and started eating everything in sight – Ensures, pepperoni, cheese, Oreos, and handfuls of fruit. I knew I needed to stock up for the trip over the 7-mile bridge since that’s a scary, hairy bridge with zero crew access.

I passed a bunch more people just before the bridge, and crossing the bridge I continued to pass other 100-mile runners.

Between miles 50-60, I bet I passed over 10 people and I was starting to feel really confident.

Sure, I was tired – but I wasn’t anywhere near beaten down and I could still run.

Miles 60-68 | The fastest decline in ultrarunning history

And then all Hell broke loose on my feet.

After the bridge, I continued my little sprint/walk routine. It was dark now, headlamp a-glowin’ and although it was still 87 degrees in the dark, the breeze was far more accessible.

Traffic died down a little, and every so often you’d get little glimmers of peace …until the next semi-truck came screaming around the corner in the black of night.

I was amazed that I wasn’t really sore nor all that tired. I started doing the math and thinking that if I could continue this pace, and complete that last 32 miles in under 8 hours, I’d guarantee myself a 25-26 hour finish…

…and then I felt the most painful skin-tearing ever in my life.

I sat on a bridge near Bahia Honda, threw off my shoe and sock, and looked at the pale, snow-white bottom of my foot. The skin had cracked open, kinda like “athlete’s foot”, in three distinct places and you could see dark blood oozing in the cracks.

Then, in the worst coincidence possible, as I limped along avoiding the right foot, the left foot starting stinging. Welcome to mistake #3…

Mistake #3: Earlier, thinking I knew what I was doing, I tried to tape a developing blister on my left foot. But since I’m such an idiot, lame-ass preparatory dude, I screwed it all up and made it too tight. I knew it was too tight, but chose to run with it poorly taped anyway.

What did this equate to? Well, the tape literally began to tear the skin because it was wrapped too tightly, so I took it off. This proved to be worse since I now had exposed flesh rubbing in my shoes at both the big toe and pinky toe areas.

Matt was cool when I expressed that my race might be over.

“Naw dude, come on, go one more mile and see what happens…”

So, I did.

It took me 22 minutes to complete mile 67 to mile 68.

I was dejected. I knew it was possible to continue on, just hobble-walking, but at what price?

I have Western States in just a bit over a month from now, and that’s my 2010 marquee event.

I just couldn’t risk shredding my feet further.

Just like that, my race was over.

So what did I learn?

I learned a lot in the race. Some things new, and some things that were “reinforced”

This DNF really stings because I never saw it coming.

I ran well and got stronger as the race went longer.

My nutrition was great – I survived on a base of Vespa + Ensure and fresh fruit. For the occasional protein snack, pepperoni and cheese, which tasted great and satisfied my desire for “real food” in the later miles. Cokes and Oreos when I needed a spike.

Today is Tuesday, and I am not at all sore muscularity-wise. If it wasn’t for my jacked-up feet, I could easily run and train today.

But instead, I’m sitting here, trying to keep the bloody foot balloon from swelling past my toes while playing smear games with vitamin E oil, and antibiotic cream.

Like I said, “stupid is, as stupid does.”

Keys 100 race report creative summary

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Comments

I concked out at 68 as well this year. 2011. I was cruising just fine and feeling great. No foot problems or cramps. Just sat down in chair at support van to break at 68 and it went black. Looking back at log book my crew was keeping I had began declning real foods around 30 miles and was living on gel packs and overhydrating. never saw it coming. I hit 64-66 on a high and did that in 21 min. realized it was a bit fast, and backed off to a 31 min for next two miles. I thought that was great and walked into 68 fully confident, feeling good and just rady for a 5 min break. A lesson that it can happen in seconds!

Wow- I am doing the 50 mile version. I have a lot to learm and much to train in the next 4 week!

Jim

[...] before my problems began to cut into my walk. Once you can’t even walk, as I learned in the Keys 100, you’re pretty much outta’ mobility [...]

@David: we actually greeted each other a couple of times as we leaped frogged some throughout the race. I didn’t know if you recognized me or not since I look quite a bit different than I did at ATY – nice work dooood.

I met you at ATY, failed to link up at Keys 100. Not finishing may be a blessing in disguise, since it is hard to run two hundreds in two months (unless your name is Monica or Hans Dieter). I’m always surprised when someone recommends a 25/5 run/walk schedule. Mine was 3/2, then 1.5/1 (still same ratio) but that was still too fast, so lots of walking mile 70 to 90, then your trick of running and walking the power poles. Still finished under 24 hours. So you are definitely on the right track. Of course, when you get to a mountainous race, all that goes out the window. My feet were also in bad shape, I think it was the humidity. At WS100, some runners go through the streams and let their shoes air-dry. But the runner I was crewing for also had feet in bad shape from running in wet feet. So be prepared with dry socks at the drop sites. Best of luck at WS, and perhaps I’ll see you there (I might be at an aid station). You did fine, every race is a learning experience!

[...] even better, swimming 5K was all it took to shake off the Keys 100-miler DNF and gain some confidence back.  …well, that, and losing my big toenail this morning which [...]

@Rob: one of my favorite quotes, ever!

Christian:

Another fantastic race report from you – I hope that your feet heal quickly. Your reports are always an inspiration to read and again I am ready to ditch the office and head outside and get into “the arena” after reading about your adventures (regardless of the outcome).

Cheers!

Rob Turner

PS – I leave you with one of my favorite quotes from Theodore Roosevelt:

“It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”

“Citizenship in a Republic,”
Speech at the Sorbonne, Paris, April 23, 1910

I had to re-read this a few times.

1.) You got balls.
2.) You still have your priorities in check, otherwise you would have continued and you would have hosed yourself over for Western and Hardrock.
3.) You’re always appreciating the learning experience and getting humbled by the run every time.

Excellent effort. Heal up those feet and burn up that WS course.

@Bedford: Thanks Bedford. Nice job this year gettin’ it done. I posted a comment on your blog but it wouldn’t go thru.

Thanks Rob – yea, 25/5 become tough after about 35 miles and I resorted to the pole-to-pole method – which most likely was a 2/3… {grins}

Christian,

Nice report and sorry you didn’t make the finish. Dropping was very smart with WS looming. I had to DNF Massanutten last year to learn several important lessons including “respect for the distance”. Some lessons (at least for me) can only be learned the hard way. Recover well.

Bedrock

Impressive effort. Too bad about your feet. I think you’d have had a great race if that hadn’t happened. Still, you did the right thing in stopping; you’ve got much bigger fish to fry next month at WS 100. I noticed that you incorporated a 25/5 run/walk strategy. To me, that seems a bit aggressive. Might be good for the first 25 miles while you’re fresh and you’re not yet in fat burning mode, but after 25 miles or so I’d have been more comfortable with 10/2. While the total run/walk per hour is the same, I think I’d be quicker overall with 10/2. That 10 I’d tend to run a bit quicker knowing I’d have a 2 minute break shortly. I doubt I’d average running as fast for a longer 25 minute block. But that’s just me. Heal up and get ready for the big dance. The good part of WS is it is full service, if you do have foot issues, I can promise you there will be staff on hand to properly address it. That said, think about Blister Shield and changing socks frequently at WS. That is the dustiest trail I’ve ever run, you’ll be filthy within a few miles; think what that’s doing to your feet! Good luck!

Christian,
The 25/5 has worked well for me in multidays. It makes sense but it takes patience and you succeeded there. I am in the same boat with you, having DNFed MMT at mile 86. My race fell apart quickly as well. Just as Val and I thought we were gaining time and speeding up, the problems started to rear their heads. I am happy to be your DNF buddy this time :) . I will look forward to seeing you do well at WS!
Nice report–I enjoy your writing style.

Juli

@Bill – Good idea on the spray bottle. I was sorta doing that with my water bottles, too {wink}

@Crump – I don’t think I had any issues from the Flagyl, but who knows?

@Alene – I wondered where you were? I don’t know how we never met.

@Geoff – I have had good success with DryMax. Perhaps I’ll go back.

@Ernie: wow, thank you for the compliment. Good luck in 2010!

Christian,
You are still my favorite Ultrarunner hands down. I love the honesty of your reports. Your descriptions of the races are also well written. After reading your report on your Nicaragua race I felt like I had been there. Keep up the great reports.
Ernie Matties

Great effort in spite of the screw ups. Next time use a spray bottle to cool down; water won’t get your shoes sopping wet. Go to the Badwater site for tips on training for and running in the heat. Running on the road in the heat is, IMHO, much tougher that a trail run. The heat can be relentless and will wear you down. You have to be prepared to deal with it.

Another great resource for dealing with your feet is John VonHof’s book: Fixing Your Feet. Get it and tape your feet the next time you do a long road run. Hmm, I need to take my own advise :)

http://www.fixingyourfeet.com/

Thanks for sharing and keep at it. I am sure you will have a good run at WS. You have learned a lot from this experience. Now put it into practice.

Bill

Think the Flagyl might have had something to do with your feet? Some drugs will manifest side effects in endurance sports that otherwise would not happen. There doesn’t seem to be much research on this. Not enough people participate. I have found some not so good things out about medicines I have had to take, and none of the doctors really knew anything about it.

Ouch! Sorry I missed you, and sorry about your dnf but with feet like that I can see why… Get john vonhof’s book.
Good luck healing your feet and go into WS with the new wisdom. I hope the giardia B-GON worked!

Christian, If you have not tried em, Drymax socks rule. They really work for me. One pair for the whole hundo, no blisters.

Smiles,

GSB

@cherie: does ice cream count?

@chris: thats funny. some of you dudes are pretty wise and i still never listen

Ah, grasshopper, I see that what you beheld in Easton you have at last learned for yourself–the power of the wok. Now, if you learn the ancient Chinese secret of Ta Ping, you will be truly invincible…

Oh, and an absorbent cloth makes a great cold compress without the wet shoes. Even better, add some ice in the hat–lasts longer, cools better, and only results in a slow, evaporating drip.

You’re going to do great at WS.

Chris

Hi Christian! I’m so sorry your race ended at mile 68. We were the next to last relay team to finish, Cocktail Bound. We were also the team that didn’t know your name but we ran with you quite a bit. Our little runner Vee was pacing with you for awhile. We called you blue shirt!

We were only doing 20 miles each but the humidity and heat were horrible and I’m from Florida! We suffered one broken ankle and one runner having to have rehydration. I admire your spirit and your honesty at knowing when your body had enough.

My husband will be attempting the 50 next year and I’ll crew for him. Let me know if we can help you if you try again next year.

wow. your feet look like an ultrarunner’s! poor thing. sometimes, dnfing is the smartest…

eat some chocolate. drink some wine. sleep. you deserve it.

Awesome effort! Once on one of my 100 miler a rather big blister popped while I ran and that hurt like crazy. I can only imagine what kind of pain your foot produced. The picture of your foot looks… wow.

Thanks for sharing your race. Keys100 is on my list once I can affort (time-wise) to fly there.

Good luck at WS100. I’ve applied for it 3 times and no luck for me so far. I’ll be at SD100 though.

Jakob Herrmann

WHOA! Sick ;)

I like your run/walk strategy, smart stuff. Even smarter stuff that you called the game when you did. WS what up! You are going to do so well there and I’m looking forward to your write-up :)

Christian,
Interested in hearing about your shoes and socks combination. In my experience, dumping water on your head would not be any worse than having feet always wet from sweat. Were your shoes ones that drain well and how about your socks? Wool dries great and wicks away moisture.
Tough about the DNF but they come, like em or not. May not be your last. Get the feet ready for WS. Doubt is not your friend.
Mike

Great post! I learned a lot from what you had to say and from your experience. I’m working toward my first 100 in the autumn, and took a lot of mental notes from what you learned throughout this race. I have a lot of respect for you for stopping and thinking ahead to your real goal instead of trying to push forth and risk Western States. Best of luck with your continued training once your feet heal up!

I haven’t attempted a 100 (yet) but it just goes to show you can’t take any of these ultras for granted. But I’m still in awe of your fortitude and tenacity – put this behind you as a learning experience and go rock WS and HR!

@JR – thanks dude – but in my ego-bruised, immature brain, it’s still just a DNF. 68 miles or 6 miles, I still did not complete the distance and for that I feel really shitty. It’s just me. But thanks for your props – I appreciate the nod.

Just gotta keep working at this stuff and get it right.

I’m proud of you for making good time on those 68, Christian. Here’s to the best of luck getting ready for the big Western States event.

Dude – I see you’re on the Western States 100 and the Hardrock 100 lists… you better put these ‘flat as pancake’ races behind ya and head to the mountains!

If you ever want to rock out some mountains in N. Georgia, I am always game to do some crazy vert! C’mon now!

Sorry to see about the DNF, though. Up and at ‘em!

– Greg

@Matt: Thanks man, and I’m really looking forward to the swim. Nowhere to DNF in the water… {wink}

hey man, the lessons learned should help out with western, and now you know that you’re in good shape, so get those feet fixed, and take it to the house in CA…

I just shudder to think of how I must have wronged you as a child for you to inflict such punishment on yourself. But we love seeing your toes my son!!

Still a Champ in my book. Next up: Swimming with the fishes, Son!

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