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Cottonmouth 100 Mile Endurance Run

Posted November 18th, 2015 at 02:20 PM by Black Spurs

I find it hard to figure out where to start to tell the story of this race. I could never get truly motivated to train for the race. I had some great training runs, but they were not long enough or frequent enough to really put me in a place, physically, to run a good 100 mile race. And when I say “good 100 mile race”, I mean to finish comfortably. I am not trying to be competitive. I understand what being competitive takes, and I am not willing to make those sacrifices. Nevertheless, I love to run 100 mile races.

This was the first race my wife and kids came to, and one of the reasons I chose this race is because it is very close to one of her childhood friend’s homes in Milton, Florida. I just wanted them at the finish line; I had no expectations in them being out on the course at aid stations. That would only distract me anyway. The second reason I wanted to run this race was because it was an out and back, which is the type of course I have not run. However, this was really sort of like two out and backs with the connector trail back to the start/finish roughly in the middle. We checked in at race headquarter and met up with friends Kelly, Jo, and my brother, Nathan. Nathan and I had a pretty simple plan: Run together until we were no longer running together.

We started the race a little after 6AM on Saturday morning, all 26 of us. I knew from the very beginning that a bunch of people had started out way too fast. I did not. But I was reminded that in bigger races I sometimes get a little annoyed at the “conga line” that is almost always at the start of a trail race. This thing was wide open from the get-go if you wanted it to be. We cruised down the trail, crossed a road, hit some jeep road and got to the first aid station. I think I was in 24th place. Since I had eaten almost nothing for breakfast, I figured I should start eating. It really worked with the idea that I was actually doing a training run for the race I was actually running. So, why not eat your pre-race breakfast at mile 4?

After about 10 miles, my stomach was starting to cause me some problems. I wasn’t on the verge of throwing up, but there was a queasiness that is far worse than throwing up. I decided to stop eating and just drink Tailwind until I felt hungry. I really wanted to quit; my quads had started hurting worse than I can ever remember them hurting; the direct sunlight was killing me; I had a splitting headache, and I took a nasty fall somewhere about 12 miles in where a 3 foot long stick somehow got wedged under my shoe strings and the other end of the stick got lodged under a root and literally flipped me over. I created a whole new series of profanities during and after the fall. I felt like I was going to die shortly after the sun peaked over the pines.

Eventually, we saw the lead runner coming back after 4.5 hours. Kelly was 16 minutes behind him. We ended up at the south turn around, and I asked a volunteer where everyone was. We had only seen a few folks pass us coming back. She said some folks got lost. I have no idea what happened to them.

By the time we made it to mile 40 or so, I was starting to feel better and was running more steadily. I had to walk way more than I wanted to in the first 40 miles. But I started cruising pretty well at mile 40ish. We flip flopped with a group made up of Jerry Sullivan, Mike Smith, and a lady whose name escapes me. At about 40 miles, we all started running strong and keeping it in a pretty tight line. Nothing existed outside of the 5 of us running through the dark woods, and it was fun.

At mile 53 (Wiregrass), I drank some broth that had some noodles in it. My stomach accepted it, and off we went to the Florida/Alabama line (Mile 66). We got to the north turn around at mile 66, and Nathan and I pulled away for what I thought might be the last time.

Miles 66 through 80 were pretty smooth, except for one spot where we got lost momentarily because we lost the trail. But then, there is a little out and back to Karick Lake where the aid station at mile 84 is located. Let me say that the trail was marked very well, but the race was not marked as well as I had hoped. Runners had to pay special attention to yellow caution tape that was supposed to be reflective but was not. So, it was quite easy to miss a turn, and we missed quite a few. When you have run 82 or so miles, you really don’t want to run an extra one or two. We cut down an old logging road that emptied onto a dirt road. And we kept going and going and looking and looking. Finally, I stopped and told Nathan that we missed something. About that time, Mike came up about a half mile down the road and turned off to his right. So, we ran back down to try to find the turn off. We eventually found it and ran toward the aid station, 3 miles away. I was running well at this point, despite being frustrated. When I came to some sort of turn, I yelled back to Nathan to be on the lookout for the turn. We emptied out into a campground at, Karick Lake and completely missed the markings. We must have walked around for 5 or 10 unbelievably frustrating minutes when we finally saw a headlamp coming from the lake. The guy told us that we needed to hug the lake and go the other side. Honestly, the fact that the aid station was on the other side of the lake just about did me in, mentally. I just really wanted to sit down and quit. I was defeated. Nevertheless, we continued and met Mike leaving the aid station, and he calmed me down a little before I got into the aid station. At this point, I am thinking that we may not make it. I took a deep breath and reminded myself that getting to mile 84 before daylight is not a problem, but in my mind, I wanted to be at mile 91 or so at this point. Somehow, I managed to keep my head together here.

I was off food again and had been for quite a while. We filled our bottles, thanked the volunteers and moved on with renewed vigor. I really started pushing as hard as I could back to Wiregrass (Mile 88). Nathan had dropped back further than I thought. I later found out that he was 15 minutes back at Wiregrass. I left the aid station quickly without eating, and I was on to mile 91 at Peadon Bridge. I got there just behind Mike who said I must have run pretty hard in that last section to cut the distance like that. Maybe he was just trying to make me feel good, but I did push as hard as I could. Mike’s wife gave me a whole plate of Waffle House hash browns and scrambled eggs that went down well and was the first substantial intake of solid food since mile 10. Mike and I left together in short order, concerned that a volunteer told us the aid station at the connector trail was closed. We had two water bottles, each, and we were concerned that 11 miles and two water bottles would be pushing from mile 91.

Then, we missed another turn. We figured it out within a couple of hundred yards, and I grabbed a big limb and put it in the middle of the logging road to at least make Nathan and whoever was behind us pause long enough to hopefully see the taping. Mike and I ran for a while, but he eventually pulled away. I knew I would finish; the math was on my side. But I really wanted it to be over. I started to dig deep and ran some of the fastest miles of the race on some smooth trails. I hit a highway, ran down to the next spot where the trail started again and ran back to the connector trail. Suddenly, I saw a runner coming toward me on the trail. He asked if I was Nathan. I said no; he is right behind me. I had no idea he had fallen so far back at the time. Shortly, I hit the connector trail where the aid station was still in operation. I was going to finish, so I hung around a few minutes and joked with the volunteers. I could see Mike at the top of the next hill. I ran/walked the rest of the way.

The last little section was painful. Each step I ran was like someone pounding on the bottom of my feet with a hammer. So, I resigned myself to walk it on in from there. At almost that very moment, I saw Kelly, who dropped from the race around mile 66, and another guy coming up the trail. We walked back into the campground; Kelly took my water bottles, and I ran the last quarter mile or so into the finish in 28:55. In the end, I am glad I did it, and I am super happy that I was able to hang on and finish in the presence of very special friends and my family.

I think this has the potential to be a great race, and I am sure they will work on getting some of the bugs worked out. I never changed socks or shoes for the whole race. I never sat down one time during the race. I ate virtually nothing the last 92 miles of the race. Even with not being in the best shape, I was expecting a much better run than 28:55, but sometimes you have to take what you have and do the best you can. I never lost my focus on finishing. And this would have been a very easy race in which to lose your focus. We started with 26, and 9 finished. The winner turned out a 21:13. He was looking at sub 15 at the start. If you just looked at terrain, you would think this would be an easy course, but it was far more painful than any race I have ever run.
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