FastTrack Revisited (Palatka, FL) – January 19, 2019

In some ways, this year’s FastTrack was a much better experience for me than my previous race here. The weather was terrible – hot and humid on Saturday, rainy and windy Saturday evening – and I had several bad blisters, but overall I had a much better time this year than in 2018.

The race offers 3 options – a 6 hour, 12 hour, and 24 hour – and I once again did the 24 hour. Although the track is rubberized, the footing is harsh and feels like rough pavement (probably the reason I developed blisters on the soles and sides of both feet) but I didn’t have to worry about falling on the flat surface and gaiters kept the occasional pebble and other debris out of my shoes.

Around 7 am Saturday we set up my chairs and drop bags, and while we waited for pre-race instructions, I had a chance to chat with other racers. One of the best things about the race this year was visiting with some of my ultra friends, including Drina and Mike, Kevin and Annie, Doyle, Jimmie, and his wife Debra. Later in the day, my friend Kay, the RD of Perpetual Motion, arrived to do the 12 hour and we did several laps together.

The race began promptly at 8 am and we headed counterclockwise around the 398 meter track. Every four hours, we changed direction to give our legs and feet, as well as our minds, a break. I’m now used to the exasperating notion of having to do 5 laps to get one mile, so I never bothered to keep track of my numbers, instead relying totally on Mike Melton’s excellent timing system. As usual, my initial goal was to get to a 50k. That took me almost 9.5 hours. My only breaks were to visit the rest room twice. The cloudy and cool morning quickly gave way to a sunny 80 degree day; there is no shade on the course and the heat and humidity affected most of us.

Around 5 pm, Darcy arrived with coffee, chocolate milk, and tostadas and that gave me the opportunity to take a brief rest break to eat and drink real food. The blisters on my feet were starting to really bother me so I used this time to change shoes. Fifteen minutes later and I was back on the track. In addition to the food and drink, Darcy brought me a bag with my rain gear. My initial plan was to stay the entire 24 hours moving forward and – if it did rain (there was a 90% chance predicted) – I would put on rain pants, change my shoes and socks, and just keep going. At least that was my plan.

However, by the time the rain began around 8:30, my blisters were causing me to change my gait. I kept pushing through regardless, ignoring the pain as best I could. By 10:30 I was soaked to the skin. I gave serious thought to changing into my rain pants and putting on dry shoes and socks, but I was concerned that once I took off the wet shoes and socks, I would not be able to put dry shoes and socks back onto my bruised and irritated feet. I texted Darcy to come get me and when he arrived 15 minutes later, I turned in my ankle chip to Mike at the timing tent, assuring him I would return in the early morning to finish the race. By the time I left I was up to 47 miles.

What a blessing to return to the hotel for a shower, dry clothes, and a few hours of sleep! I manage to puncture a huge blister on my left foot but the blisters on the sole of my right foot were far too deep. When I rose at 3:30 Sunday morning, I felt much better, still sore, but ready for a few more hours of racing. I was back on the course by 4:30, and by the 8 am race finish I had managed to complete almost 60 miles (59.8 to be exact) in a total of 18 hours on the course. It was a better result than last year’s FastTrack, when I only achieved 53 miles.

We once again stayed at the local Hampton Inn, which was quiet, clean, and convenient. Although there are several local restaurants, we ate our Friday evening meal at Chili’s, mostly so I could stay with a familiar food regimen. Overall, it was a good experience, inclement weather notwithstanding.