I did it! I exceeded my primary goal for 2017 – 7 ultras with at least 70 miles – at Save the Daylight at Ann Dever Memorial Regional Park in Englewood Beach, with 102.3 miles, good enough to get a medal (for finishing the race), a 34-ounce Gusto Mug (for completing 100k), and a buckle (for getting at least 100 miles). That’s quite a lot of bling! In addition, all racers got their choice of a tech or cotton/poly shirt, a small flashlight to use after dark, and a toothbrush (important for those of us who stay overnight on the course).
I did the 24 hour here in 2015, finishing with 100k. Last year I did one of the Eight Hours of Hell races in the same park, on practically the same course, but still managed to get lost (a few arrows were missing) and only achieved 22 miles. I keep coming back because, while the course is trail, it is mostly crushed shells and soft pine straw covered dirt. There are a few rocks and roots that might possibly cause me trouble, but on the first couple of laps on the 3.3 mile loop, I try to memorize where these potential tripping hazards are located. There are two smooth wooden plank bridges (my favorite part because I can lift my eyes to look around me at the scenery) along with a short loop around a pond, with real bathrooms that we pass every go-around. If I must do a trail race, this is the one I prefer.
To get to 70 miles, I would have to complete 22 laps, a total of 72.6 miles. My plan was to begin at 9 am on Friday with the other 48 hour racers, spend as long as I could on the course while hoping to achieve at least 10 or 11 laps. Then I would go back to our hotel (the Hampton Inn in Port Charlotte, a 45 minute drive away), shower, eat, sleep, and then return to the course just before daylight. Because the park is completely dark at night, I was fearful of falling even though I was armed with a flashlight, headlamp, and backup batteries. I would try to spend the 2nd night at the race, even if I was resting or pacing my friend Joyce. That plan worked. I must admit that I felt some trepidation and reluctance on Saturday morning as I realized I had to walk on a trail for 24 more hours but my desire to reach my goal pushed me out of my comfort zone.
Although we stayed at Port Charlotte, the host hotel (Gem Coast Inn) is much closer, about 3 miles from the race site. We wanted to stay at a Hilton family hotel so we opted for the Hampton Inn but, while it was very clean and quiet, it had a poor selection of Direct TV channels (no MSNBC or Weather Channel, loss of power during important college football games) so we would probably not stay there again.
There is a covered pavilion with a fully-stocked aid station and plenty of room to set up a drop bag and chair or two. My friends Joyce and Ray were there (Joyce did over 115 miles in the 48 hour!) so I set up my supplies under their canopy. Ray made sure we both had plenty of bug spray, snacks, drinks, and other needs. There is a second unmanned aid station at the half-way point with water, ice, Tailwind, bug repellant, and sunscreen. During the race, there is plenty to eat – hamburgers, sandwiches, watermelon, pizza, and more.
Although the race is not chip timed, the volunteer time keepers quickly get to know the runners (and walkers) and are responsive with our lap count. RD Justin knew about my mileage goal this year and asked if I wanted bib number 7 or 70. I chose #70 – it was easy to remember my age (usually by 20 hours into a timed race, I can barely remember my name let alone my bib number).
I asked Justin if he would make sure every turn on the course was well-marked (it was) and if he would mark the entrance to the park after circling the pond with lights and an arrow (he did). That eased my tired addled brain as I grew more fatigued during the later hours on the course.
By 8 pm on Friday, I had completed 11 laps (36 miles) so when I returned around 6:30 Saturday morning, I knew I only had 11 more laps to go. As the sun rose and it warmed to the mid-80’s, I managed to do those laps fairly quickly. By 6 that evening, Darcy returned to check on me and bring me some hot coffee to keep me alert and awake. I told him I had met my goal and was now going to try for that 100 mile buckle. I could either do exactly 100 miles, stopping at the 1 mile marker on my 30th lap, or could continue around to do 102.3 miles. By the wee hours of Sunday morning, I easily had enough time to do that complete 31st lap. My legs and feet were tired and sore, but my emotions were high; I was elated. Justin gave me my awards (medal, mug, buckle) and I changed into warmer clothes (nights were in the mid-60’s) so I could rest and relax while waiting for Darcy to come get me.
We went back to the hotel so I could shower and change and then we headed home, stopping at Blue Highway in Micanopy for pizza, antipasti, and calzone.
This is a grand race for walkers who want to test their mettle on a mild trail. For me, it was a wonderful opportunity to achieve an important goal.