Race champion Rick Harris shares his experience running the Wildcat Ultra 50k ultramathon. Read on for his tips on running in extreme heat!
Race: Wildcat Ultras 50k
Runner: Rick Harris
Race Date: 9/04/2021
Location: Pensacola, FL
Results: 1st Place: 5:47:38
Strava Activity Link: https://www.strava.com/activities/5905301046
3 Bests – What aspects of the Wildcat Ultra 50k did you like the most?
- 2.5-mile looped course makes for easy access to aid whenever you want
- positive Race Director and volunteers
- attracts a lot of first-timers
Not so much – What aspects of the Wildcat Ultra 50k didn’t do it for you?
- 2.5-mile looped course (even though it makes for easy aid station access) is mind-numbing; but that can be a positive if you take it as a mental challenge
- step right-to-left slope around a retention pond threatens to exacerbate an old knee injury since you have to run it often with such short loops
Weird factor – What’s the weirdest thing about the Wildcat Ultra 50k?
HEAT!: it’s always hot and humid. Considering it got into the 90’s with a heat index will over 100 degrees last year, this year was “cold” with it only topping out in the 80’s with a heat index in the low 90’s.
Highlights of your race – What did you do well and enjoy about your race in particular?
I finished 1st in a race for the first time ever. My coach and I had planned how to handle the temperatures and navigate to a sub-6 hr PR. But, when the display at the start/finish showed me in -and maintaining- first place after several laps, the plan went out the window, and I started racing. Heat training over the summer paid off handling the “cooler” 80-deg temperatures and I handled hydration well finishing approximately 3/4 of my hand-held bottle every lap. The higher pace contributed to a bad stomach which lead to nausea for the last 15 miles, but switching to straight water and cycling Pepsi, ginger ale, and ginger chews helped a lot. An ice-filled bandana also helped with the temperature and stomach issues.
Lessons for others – Share your pro-tips on the Wildcat Ultra 50k to help the next runner
- Stay positive. When my stomach turned on me, I focused on problem-solving instead of how gross I felt.
- Surround yourself with smart crew, when possible. Having friends to help crew filled in the gaps when my plan went out the window as I switch from trying to just beat 6 hours to actually winning the race.
- Cheer on others and compliment aid station volunteers and crew. Give to others what you would like to receive yourself, and it will give you a mental and emotional boost as well as just make the world around you a better place.
Lessons you learned that will help you next time around
- Bring ginger chews in my kit
- Salt Stick flavored chewable salt tabs work better for me than electrolyte capsules
Most important course specific knowledge to know about the Wildcat Ultra 50k?
The course isn’t hard. The temperature is the biggest nemesis.
Aesthetics – Is it a pretty course?
There isn’t much of a view. It’s held at an equestrian center park so the course is either running through a field, under a power line, or through a jeep trail in the woods.
Difficulty – Is it a tough course?
Nope. Only one shallow hill. One section is a side-slant but can be hiked, if needed.
Organized and well run – Did it feel like a well-oiled machine or were they flying by the seat of their pants?
Simple and well-organized. Plenty of places to set up your own aid station in the back of your car or set up a tent. You can rent a camp spot or just set up in the field either side of the race course.
Competition – Is there a strong field?
A lot of first-timers, so the field isn’t usually that deep. A few local fast runners periodically show up but I currently have the 4th fastest time with only a 5:47.
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.
Just head over to ultrasignup.
Aid Stations – Standard fare or anything special to know about the aid stations in terms of what’s available or when?
Tailwind, soda, and standard chips, candy, and fruit.
Weather and typical race conditions
Gear – Did you need anything special or is there anything you’d recommend for the next runner?
Bring a cooler of ice and pack it in a bandana around your neck every lap or so.
Spectators – Is this a friendly course for your friends?
Very spectator friendly.
How’s the Swag?
The 100-miles get a nice buckle, but the other distances don’t get much. The 15 miler and 50k get a wooden medallion “medal”. Still, it is unique and it never is really about the swag, anyway.
The Overall Score – How many stars do you give this race and do you recommend that others run it?
4 of 5 stars for the unique challenge of the hot weather, good support, and easy logistics. If the location/scenery was more interesting, then I’d give it 5 stars.