“Perhaps the genius of ultrarunning is its supreme lack of utility. It makes no sense in a world of space ships and supercomputers to run vast distances on foot. There is no money in it and no fame, frequently not even the approval of peers. But as poets, apostles and philosophers have insisted from the dawn of time, there is more to life than logic and common sense. The ultra runners know this instinctively. And they know something else that is lost on the sedentary. They understand, perhaps better than anyone, that the doors to the spirit will swing open with physical effort. In running such long and taxing distances they answer a call from the deepest realms of their being — a call that asks who they are …”
– David Blaikie

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

KEYS 100 Mile Ultramarathon Race Report

KEYS 100
100 mile run
May 16, 2009
6:00 a.m

RACE DESCRIPTION: The Keys 100 has three events: 50 mile, 6 person 100 mile relay, and the 100 mile ultramarathon. The 100 mile race starts at mile marker 101 in Key Largo and ends at mile marker 1 in Key West. The race basically takes you southwest until mile marker 4...then you finally make a left turn and make your way to the finish. The race is put on by Bob Becker and the race's fundraising goes to Prostate Cancer Research.

DECISION TO RACE: In November 2008, after my twins turned one year old, I decided to sign up to run the 50 mile race. So, I started training 20 weeks out, using the Comrades 54 Mile race plan found at www.halhigdon.com. About a month before the race, I started chatting with Bob Gentile, an experienced ultrarunner, who told my husband about his running blog: www.blogmyruns.com. Bob listened to how my training was going and asked, "Why the hell aren't you running the 100?" Why not go all the way for my first official ultra? So, I decided to upgrade.

TRAINING: I informed my running partners and friends of this decision and they were all so supportive and psyched. Thus, my weekday mileage doubled, and the weekend hours doubled for training. The most I trained up to for this run was a fast 42.5 miles in about 7.5 hours. I knew then that I had made the right choice of going for the 100.

PRE-RACE: My husband (David), and my friend (Pam), and I drove down to Key Largo to get checked in for the race. I was ecstatic...it was finally here. Nothing existed except for this race for the past week! We picked up the running packet and number and waited for the meeting to get started. I saw so many Badwater shirts and got goosebumps, I was in the presence of some of the toughest runners on earth. One day I'll be running with those people....one day! Among many notable runners were Lisa Smith-Batchen (2 time winner of Badwater) and Sister Mary Beth Lloyd, and her 89 year old father, Buddy Lloyd. Sister Mary Beth gave a heart-tugging speech about her charity that raises money for orphans whose parents died of AIDS. Please take the time to check it out: http://aidsorphans.blogspot.com/

RACE MORNING: David and I got up early and drove from Marathon (where we were staying -
around mile marker 50) to Key Largo for the start. I filled my pack up with Pedialyte, got sprayed down with sunscreen, took a few pics, and looked at the time. 5:56 a.m.! I took off running to get to the starting line. It was a good quarter of a mile to the starting line. As soon as I saw the cluster of 100 mile individual runners, they took off, so I kept on truckin'.

The sun's rays started to sprout over the beautiful Florida morning sky. I ran a few miles on and off with Keith Zeier, a true hero out there on the course. He was running for a special cause that day, in memory of many fallen Marines...please check out his charity as it is very worthy of your time: http://www.firstgiving.com/keys100.

Around 8 miles down the road, I decided that the camelback pack had to go. Seriously, why did I really need to carry that thing if I had a great crew? At this point (at about mile marker 93) I saw David and Bob Gentile. Bob gave David some S-caps and told him that I may need them later on down the road. I carried a bottle of water from that point on.

I ran a bit with a Keys race veteran, Ryan, for about 5 miles. He had run the inaugural race before the actual inaugural race. This year was his year to make it to the finish, as he had not before. I passed him at some point after watching him do a cartwheel when he saw his crew. Bob met up with me again and gave me an ice bandanna to tie around my neck...great idea. It literally kept my whole body cool. He ran with me for 2 miles and told me to make sure to Powerwalk, as I had not walked at all. He also told me a phrase that stuck in my mind, "Beware of the Chair!" I was determined not to sit down unless I absolutely had to.

Until the first check point, I was alone with my iPod. I think it was between mile 13 and mile 20 into the race that my right knee started to feel tight, but nothing serious enough to make me stop moving.

MILE 75 CHECK-IN: I yelled out my race number (#27) to the check-in manager and ran to the bathroom. There was a line, but the people saw that I was a 100 mile competitor and let me go ahead...so courteous! I made a quick clothes change, chugged some chicken & stars soup, pumped (another interesting obstacle for me in the race...see "TMI" section of this report for more details), and off I went.

CREW ARRIVES: Until mile marker 70 or so, my only crew member out on the road was David. He was really into the race at this point. Aki, Steve, Tami, JP, and Pam came out and saw me right before the first beautiful bridge. David and Tami hopped on board and started running with me. I walked up the bridge and saw a dead manatee...sad.....ran back down the bridge and kept moving. Tami ran a good 6 miles or so with me, then went back to the house to rest up for the night running. David continued with me and we met Chris Lear, a soon-to-be graduate from Rutgers. This race was his graduation present and his parents were his crew. We finally got to a 2 mile bridge that seemed more like 5 miles. David had stopped to walk back at the beginning of the bridge. It ended up that David ran 10 miles in Nike Free shoes with NO socks and suffered from worse blisters than mine. Ewwww.

<<David's blister after 10 miles.

Pacer, JP, ran with me along with Chris to the awful bike path. This bike path was easily worse than any "dreadmill" I had been on. It takes you off the main road into a tree-like tunnel and all you see in front of you is more bike path. It reminded me of that David Bowie movie, Labyrinth as it was ongoing, and it smelled like the bog of eternal stench. Lots of dead things rotting along the way. Keith Zeier had caught up with us and shared that he had thrown up...a lot. Once we got to a cross street, I told my crew member, Pam, to get him some Pedialyte and an S-cap. Seeing the look on his face after he took a sip from that Pedialyte, I knew it wouldn't stay down long, but hopefully it would help anyway. We also ran into a guy named Rob who ran Umstead and said that this was - by far - one of the toughest races. His calves were cramping and we gave him an S-cap as well. I think it was somewhere along the bike path that I was handed a knee brace from JP...it helped.

HALF-WAY: JP, Chris, and I kept truckin' to the 50 mile half-way point and checked in at 11:17 and some change. After the check-in, Rylie (2 years old) paced me for about 10 feet saying "go Robyn go!" To date, she is the youngest pacer I have ever had! After check-in, I needed food. My crew ordered a Hawaiian/Veggie pizza. We ran over to the Publix shopping plaza in Marathon and I made a quick clothes change as David stocked up on more groceries and supplies. Just the smell of their pizza made me nauseous! I ate my watermelon and moved on.

Chris and I took off on our way to the next milestone - the 7 Mile Bridge. I met Tami, my pacer, and we ran most of the bridge, playing "run 4 poles, walk 2" to keep things interesting. The sun was starting to go down by the time we hit the end of the bridge. Beautiful sunset. One more time we'd see that sun before this race was over.

NIGHT: The crew put on our headlamps and Aki ran with me from that point for 10 miles or so. Chris didn't have a headlamp, just a blinking LED light, so at around 65 miles into the race, my pacer, Aki, ran with him the rest of the way to help light his path. Tami grabbed a few glowsticks and started running with me. We saw a key deer, which was cool. We stopped at a gas station and got popsicles and I was offered a "rub down" by a drunken local cyclist...Ewww.

At around mile marker 28 or so, my right knee was locking up on me. Damn. I popped another Exedrine or Alieve or whatever someone handed me and kept moving forward, walking. We met Pam and she joined us as we approached the 25 mile marker check-in spot. I was informed that I was in the top third of the pack (77 runners signed up, I was 23rd in the front...but not that many finished!). So, this motivated me. I had to have Pam pump (TMI) for me....was geting tired, but was happy to keep going.

David and JP were in one car and leap-frogged every 2-3 miles and slept at each stop. Steve, Tami's husband, kept going back and forth between Aki and I, checking to see how things were going.

It was dark. Really dark. I started getting dizzy from looking at the circle of light in front of me. I finally "lost it" or "bonked" when a car came full speed at us on the shoulder. Tami pushed me out of the way. I put my hands on my knees and started crying. Damn drunkards.

Five minutes later, we were walking again and we ran into David Ingram from Tennessee. He had duct-taped his blistered feet...it looked painful. I kept thinking, "at least I don't have blisters!"

Tami and Pam took a break and Tami's husband joined me for a few miles. I didn't feel like talking or listening to talking any more. I broke the silence when there was a young man in front of me at one point who looked like a zombie. His crew was trying to help him move forward. I told Steve, "I don't look THAT bad, do I?" referring to the zombie guy. Steve hesitated for a second then said, "No! You look pretty hot for having three kids!" He had no clue I was comparing myself to the awkward fellow in front of us. It did give me a good laugh though.

After learning how to pee out in the wilderness (which, by the way, I highly recommend...it provides such a sense of freedom!), the sun was due to rise behind us. This part of the run is so blurry to me...I remember looking over a bridge and thinking that a great white shark was staring at me with its mouth wide open. That kept me moving a little faster. No rest for the weary!

The sun was up and my crew was ready for day 2. They were all awake, yawning, but awake. I started to pass some other runners up in Key West. They seemed to be going through what I had gone through a few hours before. I was over it. I was smiling and ready to put this "beast in the bag." I remember seeing Cartwheeling Ryan, not even thinking about cartwheels anymore. I saw Alan Geraldi with his pacers and felt his frustration...he was one of the guys wearing the Badwater shirt at the meeting. I felt so honored to be in this race alongside him for even a minute. My gameface was on! Chris and Aki had finished, so they came back and ran with me for a few yards....

My pacer, JP, powerwalked with me to the finish. To be honest, I saw that 2 mile marker and thought "One more mile!!!" Boy, was I wrong! It was a little more than a mile to the finish line, or maybe I was just confused which is highly possible. I kept looking for the "tent" people were telling me about - where the finish line was located. We made a few twists and turns and still did not see it. JP even downloaded the Top Gun Anthem so I could hear it as I finished! I listened to the darn thing twice then handed it back to JP! I saw Aki standing along a rail and she started walking toward me telling me that it was just ahead. I finally caught a glimpse of the tent, gritted my teeth and broke into a full speed run as fireworks of pain shot from my knee to the hair on my head. Well, "full speed" at that point was probably a 9 minute mile pace. I felt like Forrest Gump with his leg braces on, running really awkward!

I finished in 28 hours, 54 minutes, and 13 seconds. Not too shabby for an "ultra virgin".

J.P. Rosario, David Flores, myself, Tami Pippin, Aki Kuwahata, Pam Heck, and Stephen Pippin (seated).

David and I, steps away from the finish line. >>

TMI DETAILS: TMI stands for "Too much information". For some readers, it may be disturbing. To give a brief history prior to explaining the additional obstacle I faced during this race, I have to warn you that it may seem a bit gross (especially to men, podiatrists, those without kids, and cattle).

In preparation for this race, I tried to wean my twin boys from breastfeeding. In short, it did not happen. So, my crew carried a hand-pump for me. I pumped at the first check-in, as it was getting ridiculously uncomfortable to run with rocks in my sportsbra. This killed a lot of time, but was worth it. I did not get another chance to pump until the last check in before the finish. I wanted to conserve my energy, so my friend Pam pumped for me. What a true friend!!! All in all, I am proof to all of those mothers that you can do ANYTHING even if you are still breastfeeding. Don't use "being a mom" as an excuse, use it as a reason to accomplish more!