Friday, June 12, 2009

Keys 100 Race Recap

Once again I just have to say thank you to everyone because each one of you was crucial in one aspect or another to this finish; especially the one person crew that I had for the first 76 miles and due to scheduling conflicts must remain nameless and out of all photos!

Here we go at my second attempt at a race report so if you get bored just delete and when I get more photos to send you can just look at those.

A few days before the race begins I am scrambling to find another person to round out my crew of 1 and get a call from the RD Bob Becker who hooks me up with Bob Gentile. We exchange a couple of emails and a phone call and we have a game plan set for the day. The day before I leave for the race I get a call from the RD and he wants to switch my crew around and offers me a mother and daughter team and since being an RD is an extremely difficult task I agree. From the get go I did not get the same reassurance from them that I got from Bob but it was out of my hands.

We arrived in Key Largo 2 days before the race to get all settled in and stock up on supplies. On Friday I go to the pre race meeting and meet up with Bob Gentile and Tony Portera (who I am crewing at Badwater) and afterwards head out for your typically pre 100 race meal – plain grilled chicken breast and some steam broccoli. While at dinner I get a call from the mother and daughter and all of a sudden they have car troubles and will not be able to make it down to the race. It is now 9 pm and the race starts at 6 am. I was not concerned with the running just someone to keep my one person crew occupied for the next 100 miles.

Enough of the prologue and to the event itself. We all meet at the Publix parking lot to meet up, get in some last minute strategy and fuel and then we take a short walk down US Highway 1 to the start at mile marker 101. The race starts off slow as there really is no need to hurry things up as you have a 100 miles to go except for these two guys who take off like it is a 5k championship. I thought to myself that these guys will either burn themselves out or they are US National Team 100k road runners and in which case I would not be able to hang with them. I settled in early to a pace and was soon between an 8 and 8:20 pace and slowly moving up the ranks. The first 18 miles are brutal as the scenery is just plain boring and not at all what I thought the Keys would look like. After 18 miles or so and you hit the first of about 40 bridges that all changes and everything that you imagine the Keys to be it was. The change of scenery helped me picked up my pace and the miles started to go by and by mile 24 I had passed both 5k track superstars and checked into the first checkpoint at 28 miles into the race in a little under 4 hours. At this point my one person crew is working their tail off and we are well in sync – ice bandanas and ice water ready at each stop. As the bandana would be changed out I would grab some food and off I would go. 72 miles left and I was in the lead; that was extremely tough on me mentally as I did not know how to hold a lead for that long and I had no way to find out where the other runners where on the course.

The race from mile 28 to mile 51 was uneventful as I kept my focus on knocking out the miles and a few times I caught myself talking with the relay teams and I can remember crossing a fishing bridge and seeing a relay guy in front on me and I was trying to catch him. Here I am at mile 40 running across a bridge at a sub 7 min mile trying to catch a relay guy. There were a few times when I got caught up in that but quickly would settle back down into my pace.

After the check in at mile 50 is where the real fun begins. You have about 3 miles to go before you hit 7 mile bridge and as the name implies it is just that 7 miles long and since it is US Highway 1 there is not place for your crew to stop. There is a place to stop about a mile before the bridge but basically it is 8 miles unsupported with a few small climbs while on the bridge. It hit the bridge around 2 pm and by that time the ice bandana and ice water that I just filled up were already melted and the sun was getting hotter and hotter. I had to take my time across the bridge and conserve my fluids to last me for the entire 7 miles; so I did a combination of running and walking and an hour and 20 minutes later I had survived. Lesson learned next time take 2 handhelds and a camelback to get across that bridge. That was the only point in the race when the sun actually became an issue

Nothing really exciting to report from mile 60 to 76 as my focus on steady and pace was solid. Still 76 miles in my one person crew was on top of their game and I was more impressed with the crewing than my running. That person has been with me before but not as my only support out there so that was a new experience as well and it was handled very well.

At mile 76 my mood got even better as Bob Gentile appeared out of nowhere with gels and two other crewmembers Natalia and Jenny. The crew for closing out the race would be a 4 person crew and they kept me in line for those last 24 miles.

This is where I picked up my pacer superwoman Jenny; Bob said she can run a 9 to 10 min mile easily (3:30 marathoner) and thought it would be a great fit, she was game so off we went. We started out making a lot of small talk at keeping a pretty good pace with a few walk breaks scattered in between.

We would make stops every 2 to 3 miles depending on crew access and would take whatever fuel and caps Bob thought would be best and man gels never tasted so good. I kept asking the team to let me know where the next runner was so I could make any adjustments necessary and that is when it happened – they lied!!

My lead was down to 45 minutes they informed me and superwoman and I did not even look at each other and instead left the aid station in a shot. We were running 7:30 to 8 minute pace for a while until I thought I was going to throw up as I could not hold that pace much longer. Miles 87 to 99 seemed to take forever and really do not recall much of it other than a lot of road construction and one final gel – chocolate and was that nasty but it gave me the final boost that I needed. I really wanted to walk across that finish line with the entire team that got me from Key Largo to Key West because without them I would still be in Key Largo pushing my food and water to Key West. With about a tenth of a mile left though I heard from my team to sprint it in and somehow that is just what I did. Someone mentioned that my last mile was done at a 5:30 pace!

I had a great time out there and met so many wonderful people from the east coast and to all of you thank you but once again especially to my one person crew for the first 76 miles I do not know how you did it.

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