Intro: An Odd Pairing
A month ago, I ran the Lake Okeechobee Scenic Trail (“LOST”) 118-mile race, which started and ended in Clewiston, a small town on the south side of the lake that is widely known as the competitive bass-fishing mecca of the United States. In my write-up of that race, I joked that bass fishermen and ultra runners were quite the odd pairing…. The LOST 118, however, has nothing on the Palm 100, a 100k (62 miles for my non-running friends) race that is held next to the beach in South Florida on a Saturday during the height of spring break. (The 100k race starts on the beach in Ft. Lauderdale and runs north to Boynton Beach and back). That’s right — in addition to dealing with high heat, humidity, and an unrelenting sun, runners were forced to navigate perhaps the most challenging obstacles in an ultra: drunken, roided-up douchebags and their stripper/hooker girlfriends:
(A representative “douche,” known as “Brah” on the website hotchickswithdouchebags.com (seriously).
To give you an idea of the typical “douche” mindset, Brah was reading a newspaper last summer, and on the front page it had a picture of the revolution and intense fighting that was occurring in Cairo, Egypt. His reaction: “Dude, look at the PARTY they are having — that looks SO sick!! We need to get over there!!”)
Race Start (Miles 1-25)
(By the way, Brah is actually a tax attorney in Boca named Nick. I wish I were joking; I’m not. How would you like that f–ker giving you tax/estate planning advice??)
Okay, on to the race report…. At around 6 am on Saturday, about 60 of us runners gathered at the intersection of Las Olas Blvd. and A1A, and prepared to battle each other, the sun, the humidity, and Brah and his friends in our attempts to survive for 62 miles. (That guy in the blue looks really cool).
It was actually very pleasant, with a nice cool ocean breeze, when the race started at 6:20. That would change drastically. After about a mile or so, I found myself running at the front of the race with Brad Lombardi (no surprise there), Michele Graglia (no surprise there), and a few others. (As most people reading this know, Brad is a very strong runner who is prepping for Badwater this year; Michele is really fast too; he just won the 55-mile “50-mile” Everglades Ultras a few months ago in the ridiculous time of 8:15 (I say “ridiculous” because the Everglades race was the opposite of a fast course — parts were underwater, parts were through a jungle, it was really hot, etc. And while advertised as a 50-mile course, it was apparently measured by members of the Casey Anthony jury, because if that was a 50-mile course, I’m a French prostitute named Chloe with webbed feet . . . )
At any rate, I was probably a bit out of my league hanging with these guys, but I felt great and didn’t feel like I was pushing myself at all, so I decided to just go with it. Big mistake. Huge. (And yes, as any woman reading this will immediately recognize, that was just a “Pretty Woman” reference — I’m a complete dork; I’ll discuss “Brah” and Julia Roberts in the same report 🙂
I was feeling so good, in fact, that I somehow decided that it would be a good idea to stay with Brad when he decided to drop the hammer and run five sub-7 min/miles in a row from miles 10-15. Brilliant. By Mile 15, Michele (pronounced Mee-Kella — he’s Italian, and a super-nice guy) had caught up to us, and actually pushed the pace even faster. Staying consistent with my general mindset for the race (namely, idiocy), I decided I needed to keep up with him. Brad wisely hung back a little bit. Michele and I hit the Mile 20 mark in around 2:40, right as the sun was really starting to settle above us. Good times ahead. (Feeling good and in the lead. That would last. Sure.)
Miles 20-32: The Decision
Needless to say, my reckless pace came up and bit me — hard — around Mile 22 or so, right in the middle of Boca Raton, the only section of the course with any worrisome wildlife. In other Florida ultras, race directors often highlight the various animals/creatures runners will encounter during the race. For example, in the Everglades, we were warned of gators, panthers, snakes, and bears. At Iron Horse, it was panthers and some mysterious “Bardin Booger.” At LOST, it was the general AIDS-infested population of Belle Glade. Boca, however, is probably home to the most dangerous animal in the state: the cougar. Luckily for me, because I got to Boca by about 9 am, most cougars were still sleeping from the previous night’s hunting 🙂
Anyway, when I reached Mile 25 or so, my body switched out of “let’s win this race” mode to “let’s death-crawl until the turn around point so we can quit” mode. By the time I reached the Ocean Inlet Park turnaround, I was convinced I would quit. I told the volunteer I was done, handed in my ankle chip thingy, and he phoned in my DNF. (I’m guessing the yellow flag doesn’t mean “you should run 62 miles in this weather”)
After 30 minutes had passed, I changed my mind and was making my way back to Lauderdale. Two things motivated me to do so: First, I hopped in the water for a good 10 minutes, which really cooled down my body temperature and refreshed me. Second, some loudmouth 60-something year-old New Yorker decided to run over a cone Bob had set up to block off the two parking spots he had reserved at the park, so he could park his car in the crowded lot. When the poor volunteer at the aid station mentioned to the guy that he couldn’t park there, George Costanza’s dad got out of the car, flipped him off with both hands, and proceeded to drop about 20 f-bombs and basically act like an 8-year-old throwing a temper tantrum. (I swear this happened). Eventually the volunteer had to call the police. Just ridiculous. At any rate, the combination of the jump in the ocean and the 60-year-old toddler acted to fire me up and give me a boost of energy to continue the race, so I was on my way. (But not before letting the guy know what I thought about his classy behavior).
Miles 32-47: Feeling Good Until Not At All
The next 15 miles were probably my best of the race. I ran the whole way, and managed 9-10 min/mile. Every once in a while in ultras, I hit “good” patches that are REALLY good; this was one of those periods. It lasted right up until the Hillsboro drawbridge, at which point the good patch turned bad within literally 30 seconds, and I wound up throwing up at the base of the bridge (which was a first for me in an ultra). Awesome. I blame Brad and those sub-7/min miles early in the race.
Miles 47-61: Hanging On
The last 15 miles were not particularly fun. I either felt awesome or shitty — there really was no in-between. At some points, I would run for 4-5 miles at a time, and at a decent clip. But whenever I thought the worst was behind me, I would overheat and be reduced to walking for 10-15 minutes. It was just brutal.
Mile 62: One Last Challenge
The last three miles of the race are run along A1A in Ft. Lauderdale. These miles are crowded with a capital “F.” While I had succeeded in overcoming several bouts of heat exhaustion, told off a crazed New Yorker, and avoided getting mauled by cougars, there was one last obstacle to overcome. On Mile 62 (and I am not making this up), a Brah-like roided-up douchbag decided it would be really funny if he picked up his trampy girlfriend and literally throw her into me. She hit me so hard I almost fell down. It was surreal. Normally I would have a few choice words to direct at someone like that, but my mind drew a blank; I just could not comprehend what happened, or why anyone on earth would think it would be funny to throw their girlfriend on top of a passing runner. So I kept running. (One of the fine companies that caters to Brah and his friends)
After shaking off Snooki’s attempt to derail my race, I finally reached the finish line in around 11:45, about 2 hours shy of when I wanted to finish.
(Still a little dazed from the attack 🙂
All in all, it was a great experience — one of those races that you look back on fondly — great when it’s over, but not so fun when you are actually running. When I got to the finish line, I found out Michele had won the race, convincingly, in a time of around 9:20, which is simply amazing, considering the heat/humidity/etc. (I didn’t ask him if he got mauled by cougars or The Situation). His performance (and those of the other winners, like Brad, who won the masters title in around 10:30) definitely inspire me to train harder for the next race…
With 20 miles to go, however, all I was thinking about was jumping in the ocean at the end, and cracking open one (or ten) adult beverages. Mission accomplished on that front 🙂
Before signing off, I’d like to thank Bob Becker for once again putting on a first-class ultra; his races truly are the premier ultras in Florida. Thanks also to all the volunteers who kept us alive on Saturday, with a special shout-out to the guy who had to deal with George Steinbrenner at the turn-around 🙂