Iron Horse 100K (or maybe just 50 miles)

The Beginning

This all came about in June of 2015, my Dad and his brother, lets call him Uncle Curbcrusher, decided that they wanted to do a race where they would get belt buckles instead of medals. Uncle CC found the Iron Horse Endurance Race scheduled for Febr 6, 2016 in Florahome, Florida. They gathered to look at the course, and since it was only about two hours from the house, I made the mistake of meeting them for lunch. With a little bit of persuasion on the part of these two septuagenarians pointing out that this was during the Florida dry season, it would be cool and the course is mostly double track and flat I was convinced to join the endeavor, and the next thing I knew I was training for a 100K race.

The Course

Before talking about the race, it is important to talk a bit about the course. The run takes place on a paved rails-to-trails bike path and on forest service roads inside the Etoniah Creek State Forest. From the start-finish line in Florahome, Fl the runners head west on the rails-to-trails bike path to the town of Grandin 1.75 miles away and turn around and head back to the start-finish. I referred to this as the mini-loop in my pre-race visualization, and in during race thoughts. The course then continues approximately 2 miles east to the packed dirt Holloway Road. The course then deviates about 50 yards north onto a double track that runs next to the power lines. After approximately 2 miles under the power lines, the course reaches aid station 2 which is at the intersection of 2 roads imaginatively named East V Road and West V Road. This is also the entrance to the primitive camping area for the forest. The course travels 2 miles up the East V Road to a split that starts approximately a 4 mile loop through Green and Red camps and then back to the split, and then 2 miles back to the intersection of the East and West V Roads, for a total of 13.5 miles at this point. Th course then travels approximately 3.75 miles up the West V Road and Fieldhouse Road to aid station 3 located at the official entrance to the state forest, then back to the intersection for a total of 21 miles. The course then traces the power lines and the rails-to-trail bike path back to the start-finish line for a full loop of 25 miles. For the 100K, you do this loop twice, and then start a third loop, but turn around about 3 tenths of a mile up the East V road.

2016 100K Attempt

The race got underway at 7:00 am Saturday, and would continue to 11:00am Saturday. Temperatures were in the mid 40’s with a slight wind and overcast skies. I was dressed in a long sleeve running shirt, long compression pants and shorts, carrying a Osprey Rev 1.5 backpack. I started with the attitude that I should be able walk 3 miles and hour and finish the race. However, I really wanted to be done by midnight, which would be about a 16:45 pace. My race plan was to run 1 minute, walk for 4 until I couldn’t keep my heart rate under 65% of max during the run. Then I would switch to a 30 second run followed by a 2 minute walk until the same HR condition was met. I was hoping that would get me through the first 25 mile lap, and after that I was willing to walk the rest of way.

The mini-loop (3.75 miles to Grandin and back) went well. Uncle CC and a friend (let’s nickname him Boom-Boom) of his (running a 1/1) were about 5-8 minutes ahead of me, and Dad was about 10 minutes behind. I managed less than a 14 min pace through the end of the rails-to-trails path at about 5.5 miles. The power-line double track slowed me down. There were areas where is was sandy, not bad sugar sand, but enough to slow you down, and then an area were water covered the path and you had go into the woods to go all the way around, or jump from soggy area to soggy area over a 2 foot wide puddle. Aid station 2 arrived at mile 7.5 with no real problem.

Entering the state forest, the East V Road was easy to run on for the most part. It had rained hard (3+ inches according to the race organizers). Running in the tracks and dodging the puddles took a bit of a toll on my HR, but I was staying in range, and my pace dropped into the mid 14’s. At mile 10, I pulled the PB&J out that was in my backpack and had my first meal break, and munched on some M&Ms too. I was fairly happy with the way it was turning out. The course was fairly flat and except for being a bit muddy, it was fairly easy terrain.

After completing the East V Road, I started up the West V Road. This road was more of a road than the East V Road, meaning that there were less two tire tracks on this road and more of a 8 – 10 foot wide graded surface that was worn where tires went over it. There was more elevation on this road, and my HR started creeping up in the run. I switched to the :30/2 interval, but my HR was still approaching the 65% limit I’d set in the run portion. I switched it up to a :20/2:10 interval, and that kept the HR where I wanted, but dropped the pace to about a 15:30 or so. As I reached the aid station 3 turn around, Uncle CC and Boom-Boom were just leaving. I stopped and picked up a fresh PB&J sandwich for the back pack to replace the one eaten at 10 miles, use the ranger station’s toilet and clean out the sand and crap that had collected in my shoes, a fairly long stop. About a mile out of aid station 3 I ran into Dad headed in, which meant that he was about 15 minutes behind me. On this leg, I ate the PB&J I had picked up at the aid station around mile 20. The run back to the intersection was uneventful.

Headed back to finish the first loop, I kept the :20/2:10 interval until the end of the power line track, and the switched back to a :30/2:00 once on the pavement of the rail-to-trail bike path. I reached the start-finish line at about 6:22, which is a bit over 15 min mile pace, but considering that included the two stops at aid station 2 and one at aid station 3, I was happy with the way it was turning out. The volunteers at the start-finish aid station helped me fill my water bladder in my backpack, grab a snack and get going. After completing the second mini-loop, I stopped at the car and reloaded the backpack with a PB&J sandwich and some more M&Ms. When I arrived back after the mini-loop, Uncle CC and Boom-Boom were changing shoes and reloading provisions.

As I started the second loop headed toward aid station 2, I was feeling a little tired, but in good shape. I kept the :30/2 interval going until the pavement ended and managed some more less than 15 minute miles. Once I hit the power line road, I switched back to a :20/2:10 interval, and instead of running for the :20, did a fast walk. I also ate my 30 mile PB&J sandwich. This resulted in my pace dropping to about 16, but it was comfortable and I figured comfortable was what I wanted for the next 30 miles.

Much like the whole day, it was overcast and gloomy as I was leaving aid station 2 on East V Road for the second time. I was about 8.5 hours into the race, 3:30 in the afternoon. From what I was told it didn’t get above 41 (weather history here), but I was warm and cozy. A little more than half way around the East V Road loop it started raining. As I remember it was about 9.5 hours into the race and it didn’t make me cold, it was just an inconvenience. I was glad that I was getting off of East V Road though, as it had the most standing water on it from the rain two days earlier, and I figured as the rain continued, it would get worse. I had a driving goal of trying to get to aid station 3 before it got so dark I needed a headlamp, and I was keeping my pace under 17 min/mile just walking. All in all things were looking very promising.

During my stop at aid station 2 I saw Dad. This put him about six miles behind me. At my pace that was about 95 – 100 minutes, not sure where it was at his pace. I headed up West V Road, the mission to get to the aid station by dark. West V Road in the rain was different. My Pace slowed some more and my times dropped to over 17 min/mile. I hit the aid station right at the last light was fading. I got my drop bag and got the big head lamp out (I had been carrying my small head lamp) and another PB&J sandwich. At 42 miles in, I was 20 from the finish and it was finally dark. A volunteer thought I looked cold and got me a cup of warm broth, for which I was very thankful. Looking back, I probably should have had two.

Leaving aid station 3 as I was wolfing down the PB&J I saw Uncle CC and Boom-Boom. They were about 5 minutes behind me, and had missed Dad at aid station 2. The whole West V Road I didn’t see Dad, so I was a bit concerned. West V in the dark, and the rain was a different animal. I learned that a headlight in the dark is not really useful for avoiding puddles. In the daylight, you can see puddles and try and miss them. Even with a headlight on, you’d see the puddle right before you foot sunk into it. In addition, I spent so much time with my head down that my neck was hurting after about 2 miles. In addition, it was starting to get cold and my pace was slowing as I did a couple of miles close to 19 minutes.

At aid station 2 I stopped and spent about five minutes at a burn barrel. A volunteer was kind enough to bring me some broth and water again, and I warmed up and go ready to head for the start-finish line. The power line track in the dark was worse. I was slowing down quite a bit, and the water was deep in ruts on it so my feet were staying wet. In addition, my Garmin decided then was the time to drain the battery, so my GPS race ends at a 47.16 miles, 12 hours and 46 minutes at a 16:15 pace for the day. The course heads west from aid station 2 along the power line road and the rails-to-trails bike trail, and the wind was coming fairly constant from the WNW. That meant a cold wind and rain in your face the whole way.

As I approached the start-finish line, 50 miles into the race, I was mentally preparing to do the 12 mile loop needed to finish the 100K. I wanted to stop and put on a dry shirt, and grab a windbreaker and a hat, along with another PB&J sandwich. When I dropped the backpack so that I could get the wet shirt off, I started shivering uncontrollably. I finally got a dry shirt and jacked on, but was still shivering. I left my headlamp and hat and ran over to a burn barrel. I stood at the burn barrel 5-10 minutes until I felt warm and then headed back to gear up with a headlamp and hat for the final loop. As soon as I got out of the radiant heat of the burn barrel and the wind hit me, I started shivering again and couldn’t stop. At this point I decided the that my body was vetoing my minds decision to continue.

I made my way to the start finish line and “downgraded” to the 50 miler. I got a 50 mile medal, not the 100K belt buckle that I’d hoped for, but I was going to get warm. My official time 14 hours and 4 minutes.


I headed back to the car, turned it on and maxed the heat. I grabbed a blanket I had in the car and huddled under it. It took about 15 minutes before I quit shaking enough to start texting folks. I found out that Dad got picked up on the course at 36 miles. He had taken and hour to cover mile 36, and was having trouble walking. He made the smart decision and asked for help. The kind folks from aid station 2 came out and picked him and brought him back to the start-finish. He told me when he was telling them on the ride that he hated to DNF, one of the guys told him that DNF also stood for “Do No Fatality.” Maybe not grammatically correct, but a true statement there’s no reason to die for the race.

Uncle CC was about 10 minutes behind me at the 50 mile mark. He and Boom-Boom ran the mini-loop, before Uncle CC decided that the conditions were miserable enough (he claims there were snow flurries) that he would downgrade to the 50 miles also. Boom-Boom kept going. It took him a bit over 6 hours to cover the last 8 miles of the 100K course. Of the four of us that started, he was the only one to do 100K. But he said he didn’t get warm for over 3 hours after it was over.

I’ve run a bunch over the past 5 – 6 years with my Dad and Uncle CC. Dad is 74 and his brother is 70. They talked me into trying the 100K with them and I’m proud to have run with them, but about 2200 on Saturday the 6th, I was really questioning whether age brings wisdom.

After warming up, my feet were a bit sore and swollen the next day, and had a couple of new blisters, but overall a good nights sleep and I felt pretty good.

Race Results

Wondering about our little groups 1 out of 4 finishing the race they signed up for, I looked through the results and the original race roster to try and get a feel for how many people finished their intended race and downgraded. Here’s my one pass, no QA of the numbers run through the results and roster:

Result 100 Mile 100 K 50 Mile
Entrants 40 69 46
Finshers 21 54 60
DNF 4 11 14
50 Mile Downgrade 7 18 NA
100K Downgrade 11 NA NA

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