62.14 miles, 13:54:00, 13:25 avg
So, who does this? Does raceday registration for a 100K race? Now I know. Actually, I thought about running this race two weeks earlier, the day after my birthday when I ran a couple loops of the Croom Zoom course, also known as the "B" loop as the hiking trail is marked. That day I was toying with running my age in miles and looked for but did not find Andy "Croom" Matthews the race director who was so excited that the 100 mile race was finally happening that he ran 100 miles, some of it with friends and a lot of it solo. I haven't done much ultra-specific training but knew that if I lowered my pace I could get through it ok. The night before the race I told a couple of people I was going to do the 50K. My kids said I should do the 100K (partially because they wanted me out of the house longer but I'd like to think also that they believed in me).
Race started at 6:00 and the weather was looking good. First portion is a 2.2 mile "starter loop", starting out on pavement, turning onto a dirt fire road and then onto single track trail taking us back to the start line. Just sort of followed along with everyone trying my best not to trip or go out too hard. Back at the start at 6:30.
Started the first big loop, still dark. My first and only 100k was on a flat course with no hills and my time was just over 11 hours. Today I thought 12 hours sounded doable, so my plan was to try and do about 2 hour loops, maybe a little faster here and there to make up for the starter loop time. Still dark at the start of this loop I kept my light and grabbed my fuel belt for hydration. Felt good and finished the loop at 8:23 am, so about 1:53, right about where I wanted to be.
Light out for the next loop. Finished at 10:15 am, so 1:52 and still where I wanted to be but maybe I should be holding back a little bit? Ihad my phone in my drop bag at the starting area and did a quick post on Facebook for anyone who might be following my progress. The distance seemed not impossible but I was having more and more respect for what I had to still run. I hadn't run over 33 miles since August 2014 when I did the Pinellas Trail Challenge and April 2014 when I did the Croom Fools Run 50 mile race.
Started the third loop and was feeling pretty confident, keeping the pace steady and feeling a little more relaxed since I now had some good miles completed. Still a lot to go. There were two unmanned aid stations and one manned aid station halfway through the loop (about 5 miles) as well as aid at the starting area. The volunteers at the halfway point aid station were amazing. Seeing them each time almost made me feel like I was further along than I was. On the third loop I think I said something like "only have to come here 3 more times!" Felt kind of like I was already halfway done even though only 27 miles in. But then, with a few more miles to finish the third loop I had my first feeling of tired legs and thoughts that maybe this wasn't wise to jump into 100k distance on whatever training I had been doing.
But still, despite being a little tired feeling, still on track, finishing third big loop at 12:14, or 6:15 for about 50k - 45 minutes slower than running the same 50k last year.
As I headed out onto the 4th loop I saw Patrick Bene. He was doing the 100 mile race and had been running at a pretty big lead ahead of me. I opened up my first "5 Hour Energy", drank about half of it and soon had a renewed spring in my step. I chatted with Patrick for a bit until finally pulling ahead of him, he told me to be careful (would later realize that would have been a good time to not run ahead of him). Great to see the halfway aid station volunteers, but then sometime in the second half of the fourth loop slowed down a bit. Finished the 4th loop in 2:06, total time of 8:20.
At the start of each loop, there's a root covered section of downhill, maybe about a 1/4 mile. I would take it pretty slowly and mostly walk it. I'd also usually be eating or drinking something still. Each loop I'd go a little farther into the start before I started running again, especially on the 5th loop. I was beginning to really notice every little feature of the trail more and more each loop. Kind of comforting but also knowing all of the details made the distance seem longer in some ways. My feet also started really hurting and kind of started feeling bad all over.
But, as I finished up the 5th loop I was greeted by not one but two friends waiting for me. Both my running partner Jamie and my significant other girlfriend Jessica were both there. Both of them had mentioned they would try to come up but there was nothing definite. Also, with my facebook posts I wasn't able to actually check the comments as they were taking a long time to load. Just prior to seeing them I was dreading having to go back out there. But, things were different now.
Chatted with Jamie and Jessica as I gathered up my stuff for the final loop. They both had on running clothes and were ready to go. I wasn't sure what the plan was so I said, let's start walking and plan what to do. Before I knew I'd have company I was envisioning a 3 hour loop, which would just be an 18 minute pace - going to basically walk it but wasn't looking forward to a long lonely walk. As we got along farther into the loop I realized I was going to have company for the full ten miles. But, it was getting dark out slowly. So, it was actually kind of fun, felt more like a hike at this point and I wasn't suffering like I was on the 5th loop. Jamie had a light and I had my headlamp and a small flashlight. Made it to the half way aid station for the 6th and final time. Crossed the road and started the second half of loop 6.
I soon realized my headlamp batteries were completely dying. I should have put fresh batteries in but did not and should have had spare batteries. However, my original plan would have me in the dark for maybe only 15-20 minutes. Runners were periodically passing us up. Eventually Patrick and one of his pacer friends George came up behind us. Patrick was looking strong again and quoting Shakespeare. I asked which play the quote was from, at first he said Hamlet and then said Othello, something about screwing down your courage and not failing. (I later looked up the quote , it was from MacBeth - "What if we fail? But, screw your courage to the sticking place and we shall not fail").
Eventually a guy named Tim came up behind us and was chatting along. He was running the 100 mile race and on his 5th loop. His headlamp was very bright which helped quite a bit. He also had a spare headlamp which he gave to Jessica. Unfortunately, shortly after she put on the light, she tripped on a root. I went to help her up and there's that moment right after someone falls and you're not sure if they are ok or anything is broken. She got up and was ok (except for a really big bruise on her arm). As we got closer and closer, a couple more people passed us up but we finally made it. 10th place out of 22.
Three hours and four minutes for the final loop and race was finally over.
It was a memorable and rewarding experience, lots of ups and downs. Grateful for Jessica and Jamie showing up and sticking with me for the last loop, the aid station volunteers, Andy the race director, Patrick's inspiration, Tim's light and the general kindness and cameraderie of everyone out there.