A year ago I ran the Long Haul 100 finishing in 20 hours 49 minutes and after it vowed never to run another 100 miler again. Well we’ve all said that and we know how long that lasts. So this year I decided to try again and aim for a sub 20 hour finish. I decided to run the Ancient Oaks 100 on the east coast in Titusville, Florida at the end of December. I started off strong and was feeling great. I had trained hard for the last several months and the last 8 weeks had done back to back long runs each weekend, around 20 miles each run. I had selected this race rather than running the Long Haul again in January as I had a goal race in February called the Last Man Standing where I was hoping to run the 4.166 miles every hour for as long as I could, hopefully to be the last man standing. This would allow me about 8 weeks to recover for what would probably be 150+ mile race.
I thought this 100 would be good training and I planned to run 10 minutes, walk 1 minute and repeat the process and I felt like I could still finish sub-20. However when I started I decided I would run the first lap of the 3.5 loop course to get a feel of course and where the difficult parts were and then plan to walk those sections on each loop. For some reason, probably because of my competitiveness, I didn’t walk and carried on running each loop, but watching my Stryd power meter to make sure I wasn’t going over 200 watts, so my effort was consistent and my pace varied as the wind and terrain changed. I felt like I kept my nutrition going well and I was feeling good running my race, not worrying about my position.
I probably was in about 8th position after the first lap but gradually was picking off people in front of me. I’m not sure what loop I was on when I fell for the first time, in a non technical section of the course, probably just a root hidden beneath all the pine needles. The course has several technical areas, some heavily rooted areas and other sections of uneven ground caused by wild hogs rooting for food. There was also a small hill with steps which I did walk up the steps of the bank as it was steep and my hips wouldn’t run up them. The fall was hard, sudden and didn’t give me chance to break it, landing hard on my knee and chest. I got up, brushed of the dirt and carried on running.
During the daylight I fell another 3 times, each equally as hard and in non-technical areas, perhaps the last was due to tired legs but I think the others were due to lack of running trails and probably not lifting my legs high enough. I reached the 50 mile mark in a little over 8 hours 46 minutes, well on target to break my sub-20 hour goal. I had a pacer planned to join me for the last 31 miles and I just had to keep my pace going until then. By now I had moved up to second position and was a lap ahead of my nearest rival, but was exchanging positions with Grant who was in first place 1 lap ahead of me. I didn’t think I was going to be able to catch him as he looked strong and has won several 100 miles races, but I was somewhat confident I could take second. However when the dark came and I put my headlamp on, my first lap didn’t go well. I fell once more and tripped around 4 times but managed to prevent myself from falling on those occasions. I was walking the difficult sections of the course and now had slowed during the other sections to avoid injuring myself. During this loop I decided to call it a day and end the race. I was no longer confident I could run sub 20 hour on that course and more important I felt that if I continued to run I would fall many more times and probably injure myself and it wasn’t worth it. I was disappointed decided that I wouldn’t run anymore 100’s and probably wouldn’t run any more races in the dark. I was at ease with my decision to DNF the race, in my mind it was ‘Do Nothing Foolish’, and I was happy that I would be able to enjoy other races. I had ran 63.5 miles in 11:46:34 and only walked a little on the last loop.
The race was well organized and was a good course, but I need a little more experience with trails and running at night to run this race. There was great encouragement from the aid station volunteers and other runners and their crews. I felt guilty informing the race director Mike I was dropping out, I hate not finishing something but I honestly couldn’t run this course in the dark and I didn’t want to walk to just finish the race as that’s not me. I left determined that I would never sign up for another 100 or race in the dark, but as you can guess from the title “Part 1”, it didn’t take long for me to change that decision. I almost forgot to mention my hip, that’s because once again it wasn’t a factor in my racing, training easy, eating healthy and exercising have really helped me. I’m now just over 10 years since my THR and once again this year I ran 2,000 plus miles in the year.
Thanks to my friend and super ultra runner Bernadette DePerty DuBois for the photos.