Cottonmouth 100 Miler – Race Report

Date of race: 14 November 2015
Starting Location: Bear Lake, Milton, FL
Number of starters:28 / Number of finishers: 9.
Result: DNF at 59.4 miles

My 2nd attempt at the 100 Miler and again I DNF’d.  But, I do not feel I failed.  My heart was crushed by calling the race at 59.4 miles (though  I’m positive I ran 62 miles due to getting lost.)

Race route details:
The run was on primarily the Florida Trail from Bear Lake south to downtown Milton over to Hurricane Lake, to Alabama, back to Hurricane Lake, over to Karick Lake and back to Bear Lake.  Total distance would be 102 miles.

Day Before Race:
The day before I would go drop off four drop bags.  One back would be at the Juniper Creek (Mile 10.6 and 36.6), Peaden Bridge (Mile 50.4, Mile 91.7), Florida/Alabama Border (Mile 66.4) and at Karick Lake (Mile 84.05).  Dropped off four bags with tape on all the bags and dropped them off.  Grabbed my bib and the race bag and talked to the race director and his wife (the volunteer coordinator).  Then made my way back to hear about the horrific events that happened in Paris.  So I put a drew on my bib “pour Paris” and the French flag.  Thinking about those the next day while I ran.

1897707_10156305070460245_7218736260186399614_n

Day of the Race:

12219576_10207932250567959_2603176763561179678_nI checked into the race after driving 45 minutes from home to the start.  Last minute fuel and coffee and chatting with fellow runners.  The race started off on a beautiful day in Florida (sunny and a little chilly).  We got off 2 minutes late, which was absolutely okay.  Nothing wrong with this!  We had rain a week before which later on we would see mini puddles (or troughs ha ha) on the trails that would result in not being able to get around them.

My original plan was to just go into this race at a 20 minute run/10 minute walk pace.  Yet, I got caught up with the number of runners we had and some good people that I changed my game plan immediately when I started and hooked onto Dale (who was pushing for his first) and Mary (who has done multiple 100s).

12249656_10156320678995245_7165216159165592697_nMile 10

We took off and after the first 10 miles we got to our 2nd aid station (of 17) and the first drop bag location.  I didn’t need anything at this point so I just grabbed my Tailwind and grabbed some potato chips and Coke and made my way out to the woods and caught up with Dale and Mary. The trails were wonderful that morning and I was thoroughly enjoying this race.  Determined!

The next part of the run was to an aid station 8ish miles away at a place called Deaton Bridge. This would be the stop at 18.2 miles and 29 miles in. By the time we got within a mile of the this location we had already ran into the front runner coming back.  Very impressive!  We had barely walked and were enjoying the trails and the beauty along Juniper Creek headed south.  When we made it to the aid station we were not DFL and still doing very well!  Under Sub 24:00 pace, which was impressive but it didn’t matter to me, it was nice but the goal was to finish.  🙂

11115612_10156306468155245_3470945144445556113_oMile 18

After we got past this aid station we made our way towards our next aid station which was 5.4 miles away.  It was located along the train tracks and the furthest south we would go before heading back north towards Alabama.  It was an interesting stretch of the run.  A magical looking area where there were new pine trees growing and I wish I had take a photo of the beauty of this part of the trail.  That lasted for about 2-3 miles before going flat and headed towards a power line section where we ran underneath them to get back to more trails.  We would run along an area with very dry wood chips laid all over the place but I cannot describe the way the wood chips were.  They were almost solid like petrified wood.  It was weird.  We made it to the aid station finally and picked up one runner. This would make us all DFL, four of us sticking together for a few miles until we got back to Deaten Bridge again.  Again, the goal is to finish.

12249871_10156307272540245_7242578523755764823_n.jpgAid station and my drop bag.

We actually had caught up a little bit at this point (mile 29) and were still pushing sub 24:00.  We took a few things, took a restroom break and pushed forward to the next aid station.  The one individual with us would push away from us.  We ran into some Boy Scouts who were setting up camp and thought we were crazy.  Yes we were and would eventually make it back to the first drop back location (Juniper Creek North Trailhead).  Here we would grab some stuff and change clothes because our next aid station was 7 miles away and sunlight would soon hit.  This is the first mistake I learned for a 100 miler (always pack a headlamp in all drop bags). I was not prepared for this and thankfully Dale had a backup light for me to use when we needed it.  We would later run into a Bo (race director for Bear Bait Ultras [the first ultras I ran in Florida when I arrived]) who came out and took photos of us.  We would arrive at Bear Lake Jackson Connector (first aid station) right when the sun finally was down.

Coming into this aid station I was happy that Dale had the extra headlamp for me.  This aid station was a welcome as they had Mountain Dew and I needed some energy boost before heading back out.  We took off and it was a little confusing as to where we had to go but the aid station pointed us in the right direction and we headed off into the woods looking for the next aid station which was at mile 50.  This was when things started to get crazy.  We ran for a little bit and then we ended up to County Line Road (our first area of road we would have to run).  We unfortunately got lost and lost about 20-30 minutes and only went .5 miles in the wrong direction.  The directions in the race manual were confusing and there were not lights on Hwy 4 where we couldn’t figure out where to go. We went towards Bear Lake (where we started) but it was wrong, we had to go into Okaloosa County.  There were no markings once we got to the end of the road, or visible markings in the dark.  If we had crossed the highway, we would have seen the sign had tape to get us in the right direction.  Again, super dark area and we lost a lot of time in this area.

Once we got in the right direction things started to get complicated from here on out.  We would pick up a new runner who was getting lost as well and did the same thing as us (went the wrong way).  We would eventually get back on the right trail and would eventually hit troughs (big puddles) of water along the course and would eventually make it to the Paeden Bridge aid station.  It took a while but we definitely lost a lot of time in this area as there were so many turns and confusing parts to this area in the dark.  Before the bridge, we were at another bridge  (probably a mile before) and we didn’t see our trailhead entrance until we started searching in the distant woods and finally found it again.  Lost and confused it was starting to become frustrating.

Finally at Paeden Bridge (mile: 50.4/but not halfway done) we would meet up with a few runners. One runner would drop here (but not with our group) and we had a great aid station crew here.  We were able to grab new clothes (as this was drop bag #2) and fuel up. Here I wish I had changed my jacket as I did not change it from wearing it earlier and this would be a downfall later.  I should’ve changed it to so I could stay warm, but I was already warm and didn’t realize this would be a downfall (tip #2 I learned: change into drier clothes at night no matter what!).  I was also able to finally grab a headlamp as the one from Dale finally made ran out of juice a mile away.

We would pick up another runner (the runner from earlier) and we continued the DFL crew running…which now grew to 5 runners (Dale, Mary, Cindy, Wes and Me).  Cindy was ready to drop but we convinced her to move on and come tag along with us as we took off.  The next aid station was 3 miles away and we would make our toward the Wiregrass aid station at mile 53.4).  Here we would run to the next aid station and walk some.  Mary was unfortunately falling asleep and we were trying to keep her up by continuously moving.  The cold would come in and out in this area as we headed out into a vast open area and a confusing area where the trail was marked for during the day…but not for at night.

We made it to the next aid station at Wiregrass where it was a great aid station.  We would run into this aid station three times along the course (yet we only made it once.)  Here we would be able to grab chicken noodle soup and some warm soups and continue to make our way to the next aid station 7 miles away at Hurricane Lake.

We continued on (the 5 of us runners) again back out into an open area of a trail marked for during the day (as the Florida Trail is used for during day use and not night use) and again would continue to run/walk all the way to Hurricane Lake.  All I remember along this course was we ran into a dog that had a tracker on it, it was probably a hunting dog, that made for an interesting run as it came out of nowhere.  We would also walk through more puddles and some we couldn’t avoid so I would slosh through it.  As we got closer to Hurricane Lake it was confusing again.  We made it into Hurricane Lake but had no clue as to where we should go.  We saw multiple fires along the race course and thought we needed to go towards them but we decided to run along the dam and maybe hope to see if we went the right way.  We saw some people at the bottom of the dam halfway and we made a joke that they took a long way down to get to use the bathroom, they clearly were not part of the race and were confused.  We would finally see a tape marking and knew we were along the right part of the course.  We ran all the way across the dam to the other side and turned back into the woods to get to our next aid station.

Aid station #10, mile 59.4/Hurricane Lake:
This is where we found a heater and three of us dropped, including myself.  I could not stay warm.  I tried three times to get out of this aid station but after 30 minutes of trying to stay warm I could not make it pass and quit.  I would get out in the woods running and wouldn’t make it far before I would shake uncontrollably and my teeth would chatter.  I feared only making it a mile down the trail and just freezing and going into real hypothermia and it being forever until someone would actually come by and pick me up.  It was bad and in the end I was crushed that I decided to not finish the race but at 38 degrees and being so cold next to a lake (not normal weather for Florida this time of year) I did not think I was going to be able to make it.

Things I learned:
+Hold onto someone for a 100 miler if you can.
+Have a headlamp in all your drop bags
+Wear warm/dry clothes as much as you can.
+Don’t forget gloves…I was using Buffs to keep myself warm.

One mantra:
+Respect the 100 miler!  It’s a beast but can definitely be fun.

Recommendations for race improvements:
+Better markings at night!  The course is perfect for during the day but not at night.  Cat eyes could help along the trees and spray painting the ground would help us get in the right direction.
+Maybe a drop bag location at Hurricane Lake given the lake effect and weather, it probably would’ve helped me to have warm clothes there to continue pushing.
+Mark the area near County Line Road (also put in the race directions to head toward the Okaloosa County sign, which was a few hundred feet away) it would have helped knock off a crap load of time.
+Create a Facebook page, maybe for both events…to be able to reach out to more runners by helping yourself let people know when race signup cutoffs occurred.  The Facebook group is not where all ultra runners in the local area are in, so some didn’t know about the cutoff a month early.
+For pacer bibs next time, just highlight the bib so you can determine who is a pacer or add a big P to it.  I recommended for the 50 miler and 50K (Deer Dodge) to distinguish the difference between runners by maybe highlighting them two different colors if you are using RoadID bibs.

Things I liked about this race:
+Volunteers.  Having volunteers always helps and they were phenomenal help.
+The aid stations were good.  Didn’t need to have such huge aid stations.  The later aid stations (Wineglass with warm soup was what was needed!)
+The course during the day was beautiful!  I’m glad the race course was selected and was done pretty well!
+102.1 miles was fine with me too.
+Race logo (belt buckle…looked great too!)
+Race director and his wife (the volunteer coordinator) for putting on a first time 100 miler in the local area.  They both are super nice and I’m glad we have a 100 miler here in the local area.  I will probably attempt this one again next year if I am here locally.
+A local race!
+Runner’s Manual was actually nice to have.

Final thoughts:
Overall it was a great race.  Minus the weather and getting lost (which I know they will fix) it was a great attempt at a 100 Miler.  I have plenty of faith going into my next 100 Miler attempt that I will finish it after going through everything I did at this race.  This was a first year for this race so I did expect a hiccup or two.  I encourage more ultra runners to come out next year and make this race grow.  It actually would be a great first 100 miler attempt as there is not much elevation change and if marked right, can really be an amazing race for the local community!  Thank you to the race directors for putting on this race and I hope (if I’m here) to be back again next year and kill this 100 miler.  🙂

I have not failed, I have only become stronger and that belt buckle will be mine soon!  Respect the ultra, respect the runners and respect mother nature!

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One thought on “Cottonmouth 100 Miler – Race Report”

  1. I love your race report, your lessons leaned and your respect for the distance and running. You show great courage in sharing the details. It can be so hard to be up front after a DNF, been there done that.
    Thank you. Good luck at RR100.
    Run Happy!

    Like

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