2010 Keys 100

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They Keys 100 is a road 100 ultra that provides novel challenges and is modeled after Badwater 135. In the spirit of Documentation Is Evil, I've tried to keep this as short as possible.

1 Introduction

The Keys 100 is intended to mirror the Badwater race in many ways. While it is shorter (100 v 135 miles), cooler (~90s v ~120s), and flatter, heat is still the primary concern. The Keys 100 has higher humidity, which increases the heat stress and causes additional problems like maceration. Like Badwater, the race has no Aid Stations; each runner must provide their own support crew, though unlike Badwater there is an un-crewed option using Drop Bags every 10 miles. This is a race that requires respect; 74 runners started the race, but only 34 finished it, which is a high DNF rate, even for a 100 mile race.

2 Course

  • Heat. This race is all about the heat. The air temperatures are warm (80-95f) with high humidity, but the direct heat of the sun made a huge difference to the perceived heat stress. For me, the race divided roughly into quarters
    • Morning. The first few hours were warm (mid 80s) and high humidity, but no direct sun. Normally, I aim for a reasonably even pace in my races, but these conditions mean that the first section was faster than the rest of the race, though close to an even effort. (First 25 miles in 4:01. I was in 3rd place at the check in, 6th after a 10 min restroom break. 3 of the 5 ahead of me would DNF.)
    • Midday. Once the sun rose enough that the shade was lost, things became hotter and the pace slowed. With the sun almost directly overhead, there was no shade at all, even on the paths that were tree lined. Unfortunately, the trees blocked any breeze for most of the time. For this section of the race, my pace was limited by the heat. With the heat adaptation training, I did not find the temperatures uncomfortable, just slower. (Miles 25-50 in 4:04, moved into first place at the 50 mile check in and remained there for the rest of the race.)
    • Afternoon. I was expecting things to get better as the sun started to go over, but it actually got worse. Because I was running west, the sun was directly in my face and as it moved from its noon zenith, it hit more of my body. It was also at this point that sun burn became a problem, which made the heat and sun uncomfortable. I was hoping that the clouds would build up in the afternoon and provide an early respite, but this did not really happen. And all the time, the air temperature continued to rise. The expectation that things would improve in the next hour or so added a level of psychological distress to this section. (Miles 50-75 in 4:39)
    • Evening. As the sun set, the heat did abate, but I was not able to pick up the pace much. I suspect exercising in the heat for so long had taken its toll. (Miles 75-100 in 4:28)
  • Elevation. The Keys 100 is about as flat as you could possibly make a point to point 100 mile race. There are a few bridges, but these present trivial elevation changes.
  • Navigation. It's pretty much impossible to get lost on the course, as you follow US 1 the whole way. I was not sure if it would be clear when to cross the road, when to use bike paths, etc, but the path was pretty obvious and marked with red chalk.
  • Surface. The course is asphalt/concrete; some bike paths, service roads, bridges and the shoulder of US1. For some of the time the camber of US1 was enough to cause some ankle/knee stress, but nothing that impacted performance.
  • Bridges. The bridges had beautiful views out over the ocean, but running between the cars and the concrete barrier at the edge of the bridge was disconcerting. If a driver were to get distracted and go into the shoulder area, there would be nothing you could do. (Update: for the 2011 race they put cones along the bridges to create a visual barrier. When I ran the Keys 100 in 2014 I found the cones made a big difference.) The longest bridge is 7 miles, which is the only time I carried fluids, using a Nathan hydration pack, though in practice I only drank about a pint in that time.
  • Crew access. With a few exceptions, it is easy for the crew to meet you as frequently as you need. My crew met me every 3+ miles to start off, dropping down to nearly every mile by the end.

3 What went well

  • Crew. My crew was my wife and two of my three sons. They did a fantastic job of having just what I needed ready when I needed it. They were also encouraging and optimistic; never underestimate the importance of the attitude of your crew!
  • Heat Acclimation Training. The Heat Acclimation Training paid off nicely. Not only did I have the physiological adaptations (lower electrolyte loss, lower Heart Rate, greater blood volume, etc), but I also had a number of psychological adaptations. The training got me used to Running in the Heat, so there was little discomfort for most of the time. The biggest advantage I think was learning the early warning signs of overheating. If my Breathing rate increases without the corresponding rise in effort or Heart Rate, that is a sign that I'm overheating and need to back down the intensity. I found it best to think of Running in the Heat like running at altitude or running uphill; you have to go slower for the same effort.
  • Hydration & nutrition. I drank about 5.5 gallons of sports drink, which is about 40 Oz/hour. I remained well hydrated (frequent urination, periodic thirst, etc) and well fueled. The only other nutrition during the race was a Reece cup at mile 90. I was not particularly hungry after the race, or the next day. My sports drink was Fellrnr's Go Juice which provided about 7,500 Calories and 500 grams of Protein.
  • Ice. Using ice helped reduce the impact of the heat. I used two 'Cool Off Bandanas', swapping the one I was wearing with the other when I met my crew.
  • Clothes. The Under Armor Heat Gear Top helped reflect the sun and keep me cool. I wore Race Ready Shorts and 2XU white compression socks. I'm not sure if the compression socks help performance, but they do feel good. I'm not sure if the compression socks increase swelling in the feet however. A 'Legionnaires style' cap helped protect my head and neck, though not my face as the sun set - Outdoor Research Sun Runner Cap.
  • Pre-race Massage. I had a very deep, painful Massage a few days before the race, which eased the muscles. (For those in Charlotte, I went to Roseanne at University Neuromuscular Massage, 704-405-4270 - highly recommended).
  • Relay teams . The Keys 100 is a relay race as well as an ultra. I found that the relay teams provided great company and support for a good chunk of the race. Being cheered on raises your spirits, and being cheered on by other runners is even better.
  • Modified Nike Free. As always, the MNF did a great job.

4 What went badly

  • Gastrointestinal Issues. During the race I had to use a restroom four times, which has never happened before. (I have had to use the restroom in a race longer than 24 hours, but only once and due to normal biological activity.) I'm not sure what caused the problem, which cost me 20-40 minutes in wasted time. I probably ate too much the day before the race, but nothing significantly different from other races. I have started taking iron supplements recently, which can have an effect on the lower digestive system. I don't think my nutrition in the race contributed to the problem as I have taken large quantities of my sports drink before without any issue.
  • Maceration. When skin is soaked in water for an extended period, it becomes white, wrinkled and softened. This is what happened in the race; 17 hours of continuous soaking took its toll on my skin. A blister formed just behind the ball of my left foot (see 'Taping feet' below for the cause) and when I removed my Shoes and socks to burst it, my feet were such a mess I could not work out where the blister was. I used Hydropel on my toes and they were fine. Had I realized how bad the maceration would be, I would have used Hydropel more liberally and probably been fine.
  • Chafing. With my skin condition, I am always careful to avoid chafing, and this is the first race I have ever had a problem. Luckily, I did not find out about the chafing until after the race, so it did not impact my performance. I wore my Race Ready compression shorts, but the weight of the water tended to pull them down slightly. I did not realize at the time, but this was enough to cause the shorts to ruck up between my thighs and chafe. I spoke to one runner who did not wear compression shorts and had to drop out at mile 50 with his shorts red with blood.
  • Taping feet. I taped one spot on my heel that frequently blisters. I used a good adhesive promoter (Matisol), but it was not up to 17 hours of soaking. The tape I used came loose, and bunched up just behind the ball of my foot, causing a blister.
  • Radiation Burns. I was mostly covered up from the sun, but the bits that were exposed burnt. The backs of my hands burnt but did not cause a problem. My face and my knees became sunburned and this was uncomfortable in the afternoon sun. I tried applying sunscreen, but the level of sweating washed it away in a few minutes.
  • iPod. In spite of Fixing iPod remote headphones I had two sets of iPod headphones fail on me during the run. This would not have been so bad if one of the failures had no occurred at the beginning of 7 mile bridge ;{