May 17, 2017, Keys 100 race.
Today is Wednesday, 17 May and I am driving down to Florida to get ready for the race this coming Saturday in Key West. This will be my 8th 100-mile race. My sister Melissa and her family are visiting Disney (they are stationed in Cuba with the Coast Guard) and I am driving there to spend some time with them as well as the night. I will drive to Fort Lauderdale on Thursday and rest up. I am driving down here by myself but Janice and Andre are flying down on Friday to crew for me in this race. This is going to be one of my harder races this year and while I am very excited to do it I’m trying to remain focused. The heat and humidity along with the whole race on the pavement (I’m used to trails or sand) will be a factor for this race. I’m planning on taking it slow and steady. The time limit is 32 hours. I’m going to try to do mostly running while it’s cooler and do a lot of walk run while in the heat of the day. We will see how it goes. I did a 12-mile trail run yesterday with my friend Annie and Millie (my dog). I was feeling strong and felt good at the end. For the next couple days until the race, I’m planning on just eating healthy, hydrating, and resting as much as possible.
Before I left Charlotte this morning I had coffee with my mom at 7:30 AM. It was nice to see her and catch up. She gave me a little silver heart that contained an angel inside. I thought that was very sweet of her to do that. I have it in my purse.
Last week a close friend of mine came to me and expressed he was going through a difficult time his life/marriage. He requested a gift from my website that I started “gratitude by giving.” The website is about giving, for free, motivational gifts to people going through a challenging time in their life. Here is the website if you want to check it out:
Since he is a male and I did not want to give him a girly bracelet I gave him a rubber bracelet that said “strength” on it. I had two of them, one yellow and one pink. I gave him the yellow one and I kept the pink one for myself since he requested a gift for me as well since he knows some things I have been struggling with lately too. I wrote him a letter and said that he can draw strength from that bracelet at times that he needs it and then I would do the same. I brought that with me on this trip and plan on wearing it during the race. I’ll use it for strength when I feel I need it. Everyone goes through ups and downs during their life of course. I think it’s a strong person that can ask for help or even realize they can use help from others from time to time. I was flattered when he asked for help and was more than happy to provide it, even if it’s a small gesture. It may not be a huge thing but the meaning behind it is significant and those that understand it will appreciate it.
So far the drive down has been great. I have been listening to some music and just doing some thinking. The weather has been completely clear today. Perfect driving weather. I checked the weather in Key West for the race and we are supposed to have rain on and off throughout the race. I think this is going to be a very good thing to be so hot. I’m hoping the rain will keep the school and we need it and help us get through the race. We shall see.
Side note: it never rained once during the race and made it a bit hotter. I was hopeful for rain but it turned out ok.
Today I woke up and spent the morning with Melissa, Dave, and my two little nephews…Tyler and Parker. We took a guided tour of the hotel we stayed at, the Wilderness Lodge. Cool to hear about the history of the place. Then I left them as they drove to Jacksonville to catch a plan the next day back to Guantanamo Bay Cuba and I drove down to Fort Lauderdale. I checked into my hotel and organized my race stuff so I would be all ready and did t have to do that tomorrow. Then I decided to go for a walk on the beach for awhile. I drove down where I use to live and found what I thought was an open parking spot since there were no signs saying otherwise. I walked onto the beach just in time to get caught in a downpour, lol. Made it back to the car to find a $32 parking ticket…at least I wasn’t towed so I took all that as a sign I needed to get back to the room and head to bed soon. Stopped off at Publix and got some dinner (sushi and veggie chips and watermelon). Took a shower and a Unisom and fell asleep. Sleep well for 9 hours and had plenty of time to get ready slowly before I had to go to the Ft. Lauderdale airport to pick up Janice and André.
I was anxious for their arrival because I have been feeling rather lonely lately. Been doing a lot of traveling for races on my own which I don’t mind but I was really happy to have a crew for this one. Plus I was having mixed emotions about being in South Florida. Memories of growing up here as well as Mark and the whole relationship. He was supposed to be here with me on this race but since we are no longer together it has been an adjustment not having him. The last race I did solo and it wasn’t a problem at all but this race seemed to bring up a few feelings. Last year Matt, Mark and I took a trip down here and I was hopeful and under the thought that it was a permanent dynamic. Now that it’s over I do miss those dreams. I hate that it didn’t work out but that’s part of life, growing, evolving, and becoming a stronger person. It’s for the best but not always easy remembering the good times and wanting that to continue. Things have happened and decisions made that have repeatedly broken the trust so unfortunately those dreams and hope of our dynamic lasting forever is over and behind me.
Anyway, picked up my in-laws and we drove to the hotel in Marathon Key West. Then went to the packet pickup and runners meeting. Made it back to the room where I went to bed at 8:30 pm while they went to dinner. I wanted to try and rest before the race so opted not to go to dinner. I snacked before I went to bed.
Race day! Woke up at 4 am. Had all my stuff ready and got dressed. Headed to the race start at 4:30 am with Janice and André. Slept pretty well last night but woke up a lot. I was excited to start the race and get going. Before the race started I saw a lot of people that I knew. Some of the people I knew would be there at this race but a few of them I didn’t know we’re coming and that was a nice surprise. I chatted with a few of them and did some stretching before my wave took off. I was in the third wave and we officially started at 6:30 am. We started the race and I ran with my friend Lisa for the first 3 miles. We had a good time chatting and catching up. After around mile three I went off on my own. I was feeling good and trying not to go too fast to conserve some energy. The miles start at 100 and count down to 0, so keep that in mind as we mention the miles we are at. When I met them the first time after 20 miles it was at mile marker 80. I ran the first 10 miles straight without walking. The second 10 miles I did a walk run but mostly ran. At mile 20 I saw Janice and Andre with the car for the first time. They had decorated the car with some cute sayings and my number along with an official runners poster that they had to put on the car. It was good to see you and I liked it. The quotes made me laugh. It was not getting too hot yet but I was getting ready for the heat. After I saw them I kept on going and saw them in another 10 miles. I listen to my music this whole time on my iPod shuffle. I also carried my phone so that they could track me. Janice made some notes during the race as well and I’m going to add them into my report: From Janice…”We met her at mile 20. She looked happy and strong. She said her legs are starting to cramp earlier than usual because of the heat. She cooled off with some cold rags and told us what she wants for lunch. A sandwich from Publix…Turkey, tomato, lettuce, white American-cheese extra cheese, no condiments.” “Planned to meet around mile 35. We are estimating 3 hours since she is planning to walk. It’s 10:19 AM and we estimate seeing her around 1:19 PM near mile 35. That is mile marker 65. André and I noticed on the way to Publics that mile marker 65 is on a bridge so we decided next meet up will be either mile marker 63 or between 66 and 67. We will decide on the way back to meet her. André found that there is a stop at mile marker 65.4 so we are going to shoot for that one.”
I physically was feeling pretty good but mentally I was not 100%. I had been a little down the last couple days and being out there with a lot of time to think just gets your mind wandering. Last year at this time I took a trip to South Florida with Matt and Mark and we had such a great time. Mark and I are no longer a couple and it is for the best but it is still difficult to have positive memories especially being in a place where those were created. I know it’s hard to understand but there was a lot of emotions and feelings that were evident in the last couple days. Mark was a big part of our lives and he was definitely a big part of the races, for that to be over is an adjustment. I was a little upset and will admit a little angry that things did not work out the way they could have. This was on my mind for a while but I was eventually able to snap out of it. What helped me get out of that mental state was Janice and she didn’t even know.
I met them again after 15 miles which was 35 miles into the race. Janice ran with me for 15 miles at this point. Janice notes: “Stephanie and I ran 15 miles together. I thought we would do more walking than we did, considering the heat. We talked a lot and hopefully, that kept her mind off of the heat. We ran through a five-mile area called “Hell’s Tunnel.” It’s named this because it’s so hot and humid. It lived up to its name. We met two other runners who offered us ice from their support crew and warned us when we almost stepped on a black snake crossing in our path in Hell’s Tunnel.”
At this point in the race, Janice was a big help. She did a lot of talking and I was able to listen and get out of my mental funk. We talked about all sorts of things as well as plans like we always do. Talking about plans always eases my mind and gets me excited about the future. This was the hottest part of the day and I felt we took it easy pretty well. The temperature was 89° with a real feel of 100 and humidity of 100%. There were only a few periods where there is shade so we were exposed to the sunlight most of the time. I stayed hydrated and was good on calories. I didn’t have a problem eating solid foods which were a good thing. As hot as it was I didn’t feel too bad about it. I would put ice on the sides in my pockets of my sparkle skirt which was really helpful. I also ate ice chips and had cold water from my pack bladder which was very refreshing. I put Tailwind and Mestrength electrolytes in my bladder pack. The biggest challenge I felt at that point was my mental state and it was completely turned around with Janice being with me during that time. Once we approached Hell’s Tunnel it was pretty hot. It was fun to joke around with the other two runners we met and hear about their running experiences. The funniest part of the whole race was when this big black snake came after us. It was crossing the sidewalk we were running on but it was standing straight up and Janice almost stepped on it! It scared Janice and me to death. Janice screamed and leaped into the air and I tried to grab her. After we passed the snake and were not attacked I started laughing so hard and couldn’t stop. I don’t know if the heat was getting to us or if it was just absolutely hilarious but you had to be there. The two guys behind us were laughing hard too.
Once we finish the 15 miles we were around mile 50 in the race which put us right at our hotel room. Janice book this hotel room for the purpose of being right in the middle of the race as a potential breakpoint. I took the opportunity to take advantage of the break and went into the room. I laid down on my bed in the cool air conditioner for exactly 20 minutes. I had to kick Andre out of the room so I could have some quiet time since he was making some food. I felt a little bad but I needed the rest and didn’t have much time. He understood and was a good sport about it. After 20 minutes I got up and got my night gear ready. They make you wear blinking lights on the front and back of you along with a reflective vest because it is dangerous running along the roadway at night. A good part of this race is right along the road next to the cars, especially on the bridges. It is quite dangerous actually and I was a little scared during the night at some points of getting run over by a drunk driver. Luckily everything worked out. Andre help me get my gear together, took my picture and told me that he was proud of me before I took off for the night run. That made me feel good. I had taken it easy throughout the day and had planned to do more running at night since it would be a little bit cooler.
I had a great time running through the night. 3 miles after I left the hotel I got to the 7 mile Bridge. It was very peaceful running as the sun went down and looking at the water. At that point, I listened to an audiobook for a while. I got into a nice groove and I was feeling a lot more positive and refreshed from the rest at the hotel room. I ended up passing quite a few runners at this point. One of the runners was injured in his leg and I told him I would send help his way when I got to the aid station which I did.
Janice and Audre were a great support and they wanted to meet me throughout the night. I initially felt pretty bad and wanted them to stay in the room and rest throughout the night and then help me in the morning but they insisted on meeting me throughout the night and resting from one stop to the next until I arrived. This turned out to be extremely helpful because my feet were starting to hurt. The heat from the day cause my feet to have a heat rash and my feet were on fire. As the race went on they became more and more painful so we had to work with that and the only thing that seems to relieve it was to take my shoes off and elevate my feet. This caused us to have to have more rest breaks, which I was doing great on time so it was not a problem. Janice notes: “Met up with her at 65 miles and she was very happy to see us. She was hoping we would be there. She laid down in the backseat for about 10 minutes. She is exhausted from the heat earlier. We agreed that it is best to meet every 10 miles for the rest of the race.”
That meeting with them was a great recharge and I was feeling wonderful afterwards. I ended up running more than they anticipated and met them in 10 miles earlier than they thought. I walked up to the car and they were both passed out asleep. I hated to wake them up but I needed to resupply. I tapped on the window and scare them both to death. Andre was in the backseat asleep and Janice was in the passenger seat sleep with her head against the window. They were both very startled when I arrived. I got there about 20 minutes before they were expecting me. They were both disoriented and it was kind of funny. Andre was locked in the backseat and couldn’t get out. He then set the car alarm off and cause so much racket and we were all laughing. The race meeting told everyone to be quiet and respectful at aid stops so other crews can rest. I don’t think we could have caused more noise if we tried to and it was so funny. We did t mean to disrupt everyone and got the noise under control asap. I eventually got the car keys from him and got him out of the backseat and turned the alarm off. He was like a trapped animal in the back of the car and pitifully helpless, but it was pretty funny. I crawled into the backseat and took a quick 15 minute rest. At this point another really funny thing in the race happened. As I lay down to rest Andre got into the front seat of my car and started eating pretzels. They were super crunchy and loud and he said only two more pretzels and he’s done. I said OK and waited and he ate the two pretzels and then continue to eat more pretzels. I wasn’t upset but I needed the rest and it was very distracting. I told him…”Andre, you can have all the pretzels you want in 10 minutes but you have to stop now! As I said that he had a big mouthful of pretzels and was stuck. He finished eating and was silent for the rest of the time. We laugh about it now, again you had to be there because at the time it was so serious. I will forever tease him about wanting some pretzels and snapping at him about it. I never slept on any of these rest breaks but it was tremendously refreshing to elevate my feet and take my shoes off. After the break I took off to do another 10 miles. During this time I was running along and all of the sudden saw a beautiful shooting star. I made a wish immediately and wish that one day I will be in a polyamorous relationship again with a boyfriend that I could trust. One that would be involved in running hopefully or at least supportive of it. I miss that. I was happiest in my life when I was in a polyamorous dynamic and that wasn’t long ago. I know that lifestyle is not for everyone but it is most definitely for us and specifically me for so many positive reasons. Matt supports it and completely understands and I am so grateful for that. I know it will happen again one day and I look forward to it.
I was feeling pretty good on this 10 miles stent but then my feet really starting to hurt again I had taken some ibuprofen but did not have too much relief. I was looking forward to the rest and elevation of my feet so much. The pain was getting worse and I decided that I needed a break a little bit sooner than 10 miles. I was 8 miles in and told Janice and Andre to drive towards me so that I can get a rest a little sooner. They were great and drove towards me and found me right before a big bridge. I crawled in the back seat and had another rest which was so helpful. It was getting closer to the time when the sun would rise. I was looking forward to that but knew it would start to get hot again when that happened. I got in a good bit of miles before that sun came up. I decided to run the next 10 miles on my own and then Janice would join me. She was going to join me at mile 90 and I would have 10 more miles to go. It was very peaceful running as the sun came up. I always love that part of the day. I was cruising along and enjoying the morning when I saw a wild chicken walking across the side of the road. All of the sudden a big rooster swooped down and raped the chicken. I wasn’t expecting that! I don’t see that every day and it was an interesting site to say the least. Of course I just kept going.
At mile 90 with only 10 miles to go I met up with Janice and Andre. Janice was ready to run as I was approaching. I took a quick break to get some more ice and we took off. I was feeling pretty tired but overall OK. My feet were killing me and I was ready to get this race done with. Janice and I did a lot of talking and I did more talking this time. I told her about some of my emotions and feelings and that was helpful. I talked about Matt and our relationship and how much I love him. Of all people she understands and that was good to talk about. We kept it positive and uplifting and again discussed more plans which I loved. We are staying in Fort Lauderdale until the following Monday and are very excited about it. We have a lot of plans to do various things and it was fun to discuss. Andre met us in 5 miles and I was looking forward to seeing him. Since my feet were hurting so bad I felt it necessary to start breaking down the race a little bit more. I would just take it 5 miles at a time until the end. It was nice to see him and he was happy and uplifting. He took our picture and said that we were looking good…we were almost there!! Those last 5 miles were pretty tough. My feet were on fire and hurt so bad. I know I talked a lot about that to Janice and she stayed positive about it and kept me going. I also talk to her about ultras and why we do this. I expressed some of my humble feelings of getting to the state and how it feels. I thought it was important for her to know and for me to express the draw of getting to these types of feelings and emotions in an ultra race like this. Not all ultra races are bad but the ones that are difficult such as this one with the heat and pain help me get to the point of experiencing some significant emotions. It was great to be able to express that with her and for her to not only be able to understand it but see it happening. A couple of times I had to stop and just stand still for a minute and then continue on. My feet were killing me. We got to some calm water off of the beach and Janice suggested putting my feet in the water. That was a great idea and I just walk straight into the water with my shoes on. It felt absolutely amazing in the cool water and helped the burning a lot! That got me to the finish line. I finished the race in 27 hours and 54 minutes. I was very happy with that time considering the conditions. I did not have a goal time or anything so I was just happy to have had a great experience throughout the whole race. No major issues thank goodness. It’s too be expected that your feet will hurt running on pavement for that long. I am not used to running on pavement at all for that amount of time. I’m very much a trail runner and prefer the trails. So this was definitely a challenge for me running on pavement in such heated conditions, but I did it with the help of my crew. This would’ve been a very tough race to do solo. Not impossible, but much easier to accomplish with help. I am fortunate that Janice and Andre wanted to be there and were so helpful. It’s a long day for a crewmember to crew for a runner. You hardly get any sleep and you have to do a lot of preparation and waiting. This was the first time that they crewed a race for me on their own and they did a great job.
After the race I sat down which felt great. I took off my shoes and my feet were still on fire and so itchy. We got something to eat and then Janice and I soaked our feet in the water again which was awesome. Then Andre drove us back to the room. I was so happy and proud to be done. I was also completely and totally exhausted. As soon as we got back to the room I laid down in the bed and fell right to sleep. Janice got a good picture of me passed out and it says it all. I still had everything on and I was dead to the world for three solid hours. After I woke up I felt like a human again and took a shower. Then we went to dinner and had a great celebratory dinner. I ate regular pizza and loved every bite. We had a great time discussing the race and laughing about all the funny moments. We made some great memories and have pictures to prove it. What a wonderful experience and I am so thankful.
Throughout the race, Janice and André updated a Facebook post I made so everyone that wanted to could follow along. I again received a huge amount of support from everyone and that is so touching. I’m amazed how people are so kind during events like this. I am very fortunate to have such kind people in my life. Thank you for reading about my experience. Next 100-mile race is in two weeks in Michigan….Kettle Moraine which is part of the Mid-West Super Slam race challenge in doing this year.