Race: Keys 100
Runner: Stacey N
Race Date: 05/19/2018
Location: Florida Keys: Key Largo to Key West
3 Bests – What aspects of the race did you like the most?
- Location, location, location! How amazing is it to run across 40 islands and their respective bridges? It’s freakin’ amazing. Running across a 7 mile long bridge with my pacer at sunset in the middle of the ocean, is hands down the best sunset experience of my life. Gives me chills just thinking about it.
- I saw more wildlife during this race than I have on any other trail race/adventure. I saw 5 Key Deer (adorable), reptiles of all sorts of sizes and colors, so many amazing birds; the only ones I could ID were pelicans, seagulls, great egrets, and herons, and then there were the hundreds of land crabs (glad my pacer was with me otherwise I may have thought it was all in my head that the ground beside me was alive and moving). Then there was all the wildlife we could hear at night, but, not see. Some of the sounds were very creepy and eerie…kinda horror film sound effect like.
- The vibe of the race was so awesome. It draws a great crowd.
Not so much – Aspects of the race that didn’t do it for you
Can’t think of a single thing. This was a bucket list race for me and it delivered.
Weird factor – What’s the weirdest thing about this race?
Not necessarily weird, but different if you are used to running trails. You do need to be more thoughtful about how and where to handle when nature calls, as you are in the public eye almost the whole time. There really are no places to hide to do this…not too mention it’s illegal, and well who wants to see that while they are driving around? There are a good number of businesses along the route, and most are happy to allow runners to use their facilities. The rule of thumb was if you needed to do this, buy something before you leave to get back on course. There are some businesses that have requested to not have runners use their facilities and these are outlined in the very detailed map of the race.
Highlights of your race – What did you do well and enjoy about your race in particular?
What did I do well?
- My head and heart were “all in” for this from start to finish. It is amazing how much of a difference there is in this department when you are doing a race that calls to your heart and soul versus, “just getting another race in because”. I had fun, I had 6 hours of all my fav songs, sang, and smiled my way down to Key West. I had two amazing, positive, strong, experienced, and thoughtful women that helped to keep me on track the whole time. I had so much dang fun with them and have such gratitude for Deby Kumasaka and Vivian Doorn. Thank you again ladies!
- I paced my self well. It can be tough in the beginning when you are stoked up and folks are passing ya by. I had my watches programmed for run/walk ratios of 8 min/2min and 5 min/2 min. I started this from the beginning and did this for about 90% of the race. So my watch was my boss, when it vibrated on my wrist I did what it told me to do. This saved me a lot in the mental energy department. For the first 60 miles, I stuck to the 8/2 mostly. I had some sections where I walked a lil longer due to eating too much or the wrong combo of food. There were some times where I ran longer due to flooding of pedestrian paths and needing to run on same side of the road as traffic and just wanting that to be done or due to being on a bridge while noticing lightening and thunder which made me just want to get off the bridge ASAP. That helped to pick up the pace a few times! After 60 miles, I went to 5/2 to try to be more smart with my energy when I knew I was gonna be more tired in the night time hours. Again, there were some points where I just had to keep running. Such as in the sideways water dumping, hail, and wind storm that happened in the middle of the night. I was able to run pretty decently the last 15 miles of the race and passed about 20 folks. The last few miles I was able to pick up the pace a decent amount and beat the lightning storm to the finish line. I love the feeling of finishing strong and picking people off to pass, it is so much fun!
- Nutrition and hydration were dialed in. I follow a plant based, gluten free diet and carried everything I needed in my crew van so this would not be an issue. I had lots of options, as I was expecting this to be a hot race and for my GI tract to go sideways. Variety is the spice of life. Some of my tried and true things that I like did not work for me at all. It was no big deal as I had other choices. I ate early, often, and as much solid real food as possible. Even though it was raining during the race it was still warm and muggy for this PNW gal so I made sure I was drinking enough. Other than eating too much or the wrong combo of stuff, I had no GI issues outside of the mild nausea and sweet race fuel fatigue that can come with this distance and consuming race fuel. My fav surprise things that worked for me were: Electroride, fizzy water, grapefruit, and hummus or baba on Happy Campers hemp bread.
- I used an ice bandana from miles 15-50 despite the fact it was raining for a good portion of that. It was hard to gauge with the warm rain and cloud cover what the temperature was. I knew it wasn’t hot like it is known to be for this race, but, I felt like my body was just at that point of getting a little too warm. I figure I was soaking wet already, so why the heck not? It really helped me keep moving and to keep up with good nutrition for the whole race as it lowered my heart rate enough for my body to do what it needed to do. I used it again in the morning for the last 10 miles.
- I was able to pull a Hail Mary on my feet at mile 50. I waited too long to switch out socks and do foot care, so I won myself trench foot on the verge of maceration with oodles of small blisters. My feet got squishy at mile 6 of the race. I knew I was gonna have some issues, but, I chose my socks (compression Injinji’s) well and lubed my feet with Trail Toes pre-race so I thought I had lots of time. So now to the part that I did well here. I let my feet air and alcohol dry for about 45 minutes and took the time to do proper foot care. It was tough to wait it out for that long and it saved my feet. At mile 60, 70, and 80 I took the extra time to change up socks and do foot care. I lost a good amount of time doing foot care, prolly about 2 hours total. But, I avoided maceration, yeah!
- I took a 2 minute nap on a bus stop bench. It stopped my sleep walking and allowed me to perk up, win!
- I used lots and lots of Trail Toes lube everywhere. Outside of my feet, I had zero skin issues or chaffing despite being wet the whole race.
What did I enjoy about my race in particular?
The whole experience just seemed to flow so well. It was just so fun and it felt meant to be.
Lessons for others – Share your pro-tips on the race to help the next runner
- If you are a crewed runner, figure out a way to keep your stuff organized well for your crew’s sanity. You see your crew more often during this race than you do during most other ultras. Only un-crewed runners use drop bags. Turn around time for your crew to regroup and organize is not as long as it is for a mountain ultra. My crew met up with me in 5 or 10 mile increments. Had it been the hotter weather that regularly occurs at this race, it would have been more frequently. I had used Ultimate Direction’s North Rolls to organize all the little things, they worked really well. I had two, one hung on the back of each front seat. While my crew was hustling to do other things for me, I could just sit in the second row seat and shop for what I wanted. Having everything so visible was really great for my tired brain.
- Learn how to manage your feet in moist conditions and make time for it on race day. While this year was an anomaly with all of the rain, humidity in regular years has been reported to do a number on feet as well.
- Study that map and have your crew study it. It helps to know where your bathroom stops are, what places are open late hours, and what landmarks to look for so you know where to look for your crew, and which side of the road they will be on. It was not always obvious to my tired brain. I did run pass my crew at one stop.
- At night make sure you and your pacers are light up like Christmas trees. You are running at night on a highway that serves tourists that may have had a few too many sun downers.
- Make sure the folks that are fishing on the pedestrian bridges see you and you see them before they cast their reels! I had two close calls, one time where I thought the person saw me and did not, the other time I did not see the person casting as I was too busy looking at pelicans….doh!
Lessons you learned that will help you next time around
Gonna look at my feet before mile 50, especially if they are making loud squishy sounds.
Aesthetics – Is it a pretty course?
It takes about 20 miles before you get to the bridges. I love bridges and love running by the water. For me it was hands down the most beautiful course I have ever run on road or trail. The turquoise ocean, 40 islands, wildlife, wild weather, and amazing skyscapes took my breath away.
Difficulty – Is it a tough course?
It is mostly flat road. You decide if that is tough on your body or not. I think the race is deceptively difficult do to running on a combo of pedestrian paths, residential roads, and an active highway; running around motorists requires a different type of awareness of your surroundings. Managing weather conditions can also make it deceptively hard. It is used as an indicator and qualifying race for Badwater, that should tell ya something.
Organized and well run – Did it feel like a well-oiled machine or were they flying by the seat of their pants?
Very well-oiled machine!
Competition – Is there a strong field?
Yes there is!! There are some strong and speedy runners that show up every year for all distances.
Logistics – Does it require a special handshake, registration a year in advance, hotels all booked? Give us the low down on the nuts and bolts of making the race happen.
- I am not sure how fast it fills up, registration is already open for 2019. Sign up, do it! You know you want to. I already did.
- We flew into Fort Lauderdale, stayed over night there and got all errands and major grocery shopping done due to my special snowflake manner of eating. We then stayed in Key Largo for two nights close to the race start. We stayed in Key West the night after race and then drove back up to Fort Lauderdale to have yet one more overnight. I did not want to do a 3-4 hour drive and then hop onto a 6 hour plane ride. I am kind of a princess that way. Places in Key Largo and Key West can fill up so do not wait until last minute to book your lodging.
Aid Stations – Standard fare or anything special to know about the aid stations in terms of what’s available or when?
I think it was standard fair? The only things I ever got from them were bananas and some ginger ale.
Weather and typical race conditions
- Typical weather is hot, humid, and strong sun with virtually no shade.
- This year was a cooler year, I have no clue what the temps were. It was rainy and very wet. At night I was still warm enough running in only my sports bra and shorts, I say this all as a PNW runner. I know a good number of locals were cold at night. I was only cold once at night during the sideways rain/wind/hail/”I think the wind is blowing the ocean on us” downpour. It rained so hard both my pacer and I had to empty the water out of our running jacket sleeves a few times.
Gear – Did you need anything special or is there anything you’d recommend for the next guy?
Good reflective gear, clothing to protect you from the sun, ice bandana, and cooling towels. Bring coolers or buy locally.
Spectators – Is this a friendly course for your friends?
Yes, very much so!
How’s the Swag?
A super awesome and colorful belt buckle for the solo hundred milers.
The Overall Score – How many stars do you give this race and do you recommend that others run it?
Out of how many stars? I give it how ever many I am allowed to. It was awesome and I cannot wait for 2019.