By Dave Yancey, a.k.a. Florida, a.k.a. Orange Shirt Guy
Keys 100 Ultramarathon and Relay
Key Largo to Key West
Date: 17 – 18 May 2014
Many people ask why anyone would want to run a hundred miles. My answer is rather simple; I signed up for the Keys 100 before completing my first 50 mile run. I knew that, to have any hope of making it to the start line, I would have no choice but to complete the 50. I avoided the temptation to use the same approach for guaranteeing success in the Keys. Rather, I established a solid training plan, signed on with a couple of great coaches, recruited a Superstar crew (Barbara Neel, Renee Tavakoli, & Michael Turner) and tested everything. I used each training run as an opportunity to test nutrition, hydration, safety gear, and pacing strategies.
During my taper, I used all of that extra time to obsess over being well prepared for anything that might occur. It was my hope that, being over prepared, I would not need to use much of what I had packed. Yes, I had everything organized in bins to make it easy for my crew to find what they needed.
I also spent quite a bit of time working on my own personal running algorithm; a massive formula to account for my capabilities which includes temperature, fatigue, time of day, and distance. I did this to establish a best case pacing plan which would have me finishing in an optimistic 23 hours and 15 minutes. I’m kind of a numbers person and know that if I can nail down what I should be capable of, I can set some higher goals and keep pushing to improve.
After having some fun decorating our van, I tried to settle in for a short night of sleep. A cell phone crash and non-functioning hotel alarm clock shortened that sleep. NOTE: Add a wind up travel alarm clock to my packing list. After 30 minutes of messing with my phone, I got it rebooted and re-synchronized to the proper time. Alarm set; time for sleep.
I was up at 3 AM and began casually preparing for the day. The hotel coffee pot didn’t quite work for me so I ran down to the van and grabbed a couple of packets of instant coffee. I did warn you that I was prepared for just about anything!
We arrived at the start line before the relay teams started because we wanted to get some start line photos. Of course arriving early also gives you the opportunity to chat with FURmily that you haven’t seen in a couple of months. My crew and I were happy to see so many familiar faces. Rather than feeling anxious or nervous about the day, I felt calm and was ready to enjoy running with friends.
We couldn’t have asked for a better weather forecast, the temperatures were going to be cooler than usual, slightly overcast, no rain, and up to 26 mile per hour tail winds! Those tail winds would prove to be very helpful.
I stepped into the starting corral with 30 other runners in wave three and at approximately 6:35 AM we were on our way to Key West. I planned to start no faster than a 10 minute per mile pace and very quickly settled in to a comfortable pace while enjoying conversation with Bob and Dana. They were moving a little faster than I intended so I told them I needed to slow down a little and wished them luck. I recall thinking that I should be hitting the first mile soon and checked my Garmin only to be surprised that I had already passed 3 miles.
My first 25 miles were relatively uneventful. I had a vFuel gel about every half hour and took one S Cap every hour until I started feeling some cramps in my legs between miles 24 and 25. I increased my intake of S Caps and water and slowed down a little. I crossed the 25 mile checkpoint at 4:42:50 which was about 20 minutes slower than my planned pace.
It didn’t take long before the signs of cramps were gone and I was running strong again. As I neared the 32 mile mark, I was ready for a shoe/sock change. It felt really great to rub my feet briefly and let them cool down for a couple of minutes. I also picked up a couple of Ziploc baggies of Hammer Perpetuem at this stop. I would mix a little bit of water in the baggie and make my own gel.
At about 1 PM I started feeling some nausea and dizziness. I remember asking myself if I should stop for a few minutes before I entered the pedestrian bridge leaving Long Key at about 34 miles. I ultimately decided to keep pushing forward although I would slow down some to try and recover. By 2 PM I was feeling much better and snapped a selfie before I started running again.
I wanted to do a quick blister check on my right foot at about 41 miles in and discovered that everything was good to go. Shortly after that I picked up my first pacer, Michael, and we went into a planned fast walk pace for the hottest part of the afternoon. We were stepping out at 15 – 16 minute miles. I also used this slower pace period to try and get some solid food in me. Chef Barbara prepared a tasty turkey & garlic hummus wrap and served it in bite-size pinwheels. Tasty as it was, I was only able to eat about three bites. My nutritional intake from this point on was spotty at best and my running suffered some because of it.
We picked up another runner while fast walking, Kevin from Texas, and had an enjoyable conversation. During a large portion of our walk, we had another runner slightly ahead of us who kept running but couldn’t put any road between us. The lesson I took from that is that a fast walk is preferable to a slow run and requires a lot less energy.
I crossed the 50 mile check point in Marathon at 10:35:18 which was about 19 minutes slower than my planned best case. I managed to pull off miles 26 – 50 about 1 minute faster than planned. Just after the 50 mile mark I resumed intermittent running as the heat of the day started fading away.
It was nearing 6 PM as Michael and I approached the entrance to the seven-mile bridge and we decided that we should grab our nighttime vests, flashers, and headlamps in case we didn’t make it to the next support stop before dusk. We made it 100 yards into the seven miles when I realized, in a brief moment of clarity, that we didn’t even mention lights at the last support stop. I continued walking while Michael ran back to get all of our nighttime gear.
Michael caught up with me about a mile into the bridge and we resumed our run. The seven-mile bridge leaves you very exposed to the winds. As befitting a perfect running day, those winds were at our back… and they were strong. I dipped down to a 9:45 pace for portions of the bridge but I also walked up the hump. I could feel nausea coming on every time I ran and that would plague me for the remainder of the run. Coming off of the bridge at mile sixty I had made another 15 minutes and was only off of my planned pace by 3 minutes. That would prove to be the last time I was anywhere near my planned best case pace.
By mile 62 I was essentially done running, except for some short bursts where I tried unsuccessfully to push through. I switched out pacers and got to spend some time with Renee. Although walking at this point, she managed to keep me moving forward at a good pace. I hit mile 65 just a little before 9 PM and changed shoes and socks again. My crew also filled a Ziploc bag with ice so I could cool my feet down. That felt incredible!
I started feeling like I might have a small pebble in my left shoe at about mile 69 but wanted to push ahead and deal with it at my next support stop which happened at almost 73 miles. My crew discovered a hot spot on my left foot, used a lancet from my kit, and then taped my foot up. Renee informed me that it was going to hurt like hell for a little bit but it would eventually get numb.
I switched out pacers again and took Barbara out with me; she had the joy of dealing with the darkest hours of the race. As I began moving again, I noted that Renee was indeed correct… It hurt like hell. The pain did subside eventually but I discovered that every time I stopped and then started again, the pain came back with a vengeance.
I crossed the 75-mile check point at 17:27:49 which was about thirty-seven minutes behind my pace plan. I was now entering the phase of this race that I referred to as the death march. As I hobbled along, I watched my mile splits slide from 17 minutes per mile down to almost 23 minutes per mile.
Somewhere around mile 86 Barbara relayed a message from Renee that if I ran 13 minute miles to the finish, I would come in under 24 hours. I made a final push at running and discovered that the blister did not hurt while running but my nausea came back quickly. I decided that it was easier to move forward in pain than it was to do so while sick, so I went back to walking.
I was now in the territory that none of my training could prepare me for. My “Superstars” more than made up for that lack of experience on my part. They kept me constantly moving forward while they refilled my vest with water, gels, and S Caps.
We attempted to take a team selfie somewhere around 92 miles into my run. It turned out to be the most out of focus and washed out photo I have seen in a long time; it is also my favorite. Everyone had been up for more than 24 hours and the sun had not yet appeared on the horizon. Although you can’t see my, Michael, and Barbara’s faces, we each had that same smile that Renee was wearing. We were all having fun doing something we love!
Barbara kept me safely moving forward as we came into Key West and negotiated the cross walks to head down the Southern side of the island. We picked up Torami Williams, who had already completed the relay, at the 99 mile mark. Tori and Barbara kept my mind occupied for the final mile and guided me in to the finish line where I was able to put on a smile, two thumbs up, and a final running effort for the day!
My final time was 25:47:02, 2:31:50 behind my projected best case pace. I consider that a success for my first hundred, but be warned “24 hour mark”, I’ve got my sights on you and I will beat you to the finish next time!
|Water||5 Gallons (probably several more gallons of ice as well)|
|Perpetuem||10 single scoop servings|
|Turkey Hummus wrap||3 bites|
|Heart rate range||59 – 144|
|Average heart rate||133 (running)|
|Clothes changes||That’s why I became known as orange shirt guy|
|25 Mile split||4:42:50|
|50 Mile split||10:35:18|
|75 Mile split||17:27:49|
|Total non-moving time||50 minutes|
Maria Williams – Running
Lisa Taylor – Strength & Conditioning
Debbie Voiles – RunTampa Founder
A hundred of my great RunTampa friends who pound away the miles with me, rain or shine. Special thanks to Carla, Dale, Roger, & Ryan who make me run faster and to Michelle D. who is an inspiration to us all. Never give up!
My FURmily that makes running long – fun. While I’ve been out supporting some of our Florida races, I’ve secretly been learning from all of you. Thanks!
Keys 100 Ultramarathon & Relay
Bob Becker – Race Director
Mike Melton – Race Timer
Susan Anger – Course Marshall Coordinator
Bob & Cindy Schnell – Race Photographer
Elizabeth Stupi – Manager of DNFs (I’m glad I didn’t have to talk to you)
Aid station volunteers, course marshals, logistics crews & other volunteers.
A race of this quality doesn’t just fall into place. It takes significant planning and coordination to get everyone from their respective start lines to the finish safely. Bob, Mike, and the entire crew did an outstanding job!