- 5 miles/8K, 13.1/Half Marathon, 26.2 miles/Marathon, 50K, 50 miles
- Trail Race
This was my first ultra and I could not have asked for a better experience!
Packet pick up was available ahead of time at a local running store, but since it was all the way across town I opted to pick my number and shirt up on race morning.
A quick word about the shirts, they are all printed in house! In fact all signs and awards are also made by the race team which I personally think is pretty awesome fits perfectly with the trail running atmosphere! The shirts are also the best fitting I have ever gotten from a race by a long shot....and they are incredibly soft to boot! A lot of my race shirts end up in the back of the closet; this one I am wearing all the time.
Back to race morning packet pick up: other than the fact that my hands were shaking from the cold (it was in the low 60s I think) so badly I could barely sign the waiver, I sped right through and got all my things in order for the day. The crew and volunteers were there an hour before the fifty miler start and 2 hours before the rest of us mortals took off. There was also the option to set up a tent since the 50miler/50k/marathon would go through the start/finish line several times. I did opt to set up a tent and it was a great idea! I had a place to hang out and get myself ready while I waited for the race to start. This was also the very first race I have been to where there was never a line for the portapotty. There were plenty available and I never had to wait which was amazing.
The race started on time and, while it was pretty cold out at the start it heated up quickly to over 80 degrees for the better part of the day. For the 50k, we ran the half marathon loop twice followed by the 5 mile race loop. The vast majority of the trail was through open grassy areas which was pretty but offered very little shade later in the day. It was not a very technical race, unlike others in their series. There were ruts and things to watch out for, but there were no single track areas or major obstacles to dodge. While the grass was wet from dew in the early hours of the race, there were no other parts where your feel got wet despite the fact that there were views of swamps, ponds, and I think even a big lake for most of the race. Just so the runners could not complain about lack of variety in terrain, there was also a two mile stretch (ok maybe a little longer than that) of sugar sand on the half marathon course. For those of you following along at home, that means I got to run in twice. Well actually I walked it twice and that was plenty challenging. Though there was really not that much elevation change, after all this is central Florida, the tough terrain certainly made this race quite challenging.
They aid stations were well staffed and each had a shade tent which was amazing later in the day when there was no shade to be found on the course. All of the aid stations had water and a snack of some sort, about half had Gatorade. Being a trail race, of course the food was great. There were gummy bears, oranges, goldfish, potato chips and more. The volunteers where phenomenal as usual and made the whole thing possible.
While I am usually not a fan of running laps, I actually really appreciated it in this case because it gave me the opportunity to stop and change my socks and shoes every loop. After the long stretches of sugar sand it felt really nice to be able to switch into a clean pair of socks and shoes. The group I set my tent up next to was also just incredible and were cheering me on every time I came through as if they had known me forever. The race crew at the start line were also fantastic and checked in with me every lap and encouraged me on my way.
When I finally made it across the finish line it was so mind blowing and I was so so so incredibly grateful to have had this opportunity and to have picked the best possible race to run my first ultra. It was hot, the sand sucked, and the people made every minute worth it!
I would absolutely recommend this race to anyone. There are distance options for pretty much any interest and the experience will stay with you forever.