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Thursday, March 1, 2018

Ultras, Setbacks and Moving Forward


           Since I started running 8 ½ years ago, my training has been pretty consistent, with an increase in mileage each consecutive year.  The biggest increases started in the second half of 2014 when I decided it was time to stop thinking about getting faster and start going further.  I put together a training plan to get me to my first 50k in January of 2015 and stuck to it like glue.  The race went well and I finished in 6 ½ hours.  Not the best time, but certainly not terrible.  Like I said earlier, fast is not my forte in long races.  Since that time, I have not looked back and have become a part of an ultra-running community that I consider my second family or Tribe as we like to call it.  The people I have met and the friendships I have made have been incredible.  Whether I am running, volunteering or just spectating, I know at least half of the people at every local ultra that I go to, and I always come away knowing a handful more, and become closer to the ones I already know.  This common bond of craziness that we all share can only be understood by us ultra-runners.  There is a funny quote I recently read that says, “With all due respect, if you’re not an ultra-runner, I discredit your definition of tired”.  This could not be more true.  When you are running an ultra that starts at night, you’ve been up since 6am, it takes you 34 hours to complete and by the time you get to your hotel you’ve been up 52 hours with no sleep, THAT’s the true definition of tired.  Trust me, I’ve been there.  LOL!!  And then what do we do?  We start looking for the next one to register for.  What is instilled in us that makes us want to run these distances is beyond me.  I guess it’s a variety of things for different people, but for me, it’s the challenge.  I love preparing a training schedule for my next big ultra.  For me, that’s what puts things in perspective and keeps me focused on what I have to do.  I’m not out to prove anything to anybody but myself.  And when race day comes and I toe the line with all the other crazies, my only thoughts are, run my race, thank all the volunteers who set aside their time to help out and do the best I can.  Since that first 50k, I’ve run numerous others, a few 8HOH runs, 12Hr runs, a few 50 milers, the Iron Horse 100k and three 100 milers; Wildcat 100 in September 2016, Daytona 100 in December of 2016 and Knock On Wood 100 in May of 2017.  I had planned to run my fourth in August of 2017, but life decided to get in the way and that did not happen.  
          Since that last 100 in May of 2017 I’ve had a number of setbacks that have kept me off the roads and trails for quite some time, and when I was able to run, it was very slow, painful, inconsistent and sporadic.  From starting to feel some discomfort while running in June, discovering that the discomfort was a hernia in July and then being told that it was a double when going to get it checked, surgery to repair them in September, recovering from the surgery but gaining weight in the process from weeks of no running, and then painful runs after starting back, to a personal event that left me unfocused and unmotivated, testing positive for the flu and then getting sick again 3 weeks later.  In total, the past seven months have not been that much fun as far as my running and health are concerned.  Many athletes can go through periods of time where their running and training can become a bit inconsistent since it’s bound to happen at some point, but I just never thought that, for myself, I’d ever go through a period of seven months of it being this way.   It has been very hard and frustrating, but such is life, and it can get in the way every now and then.  I’m a believer that sometimes things happen for a reason, and whatever that reason may have been, I’m ok with it.  I have a great life and am very thankful for all that is a part of it. 
          I am finally just about to start running again this coming weekend and hopefully the setbacks are over with so I can concentrate on moving forward and getting my running back to where I want it to be.  As long as things go as planned and I can get my body into the best shape it has even been in, I plan to toe the line at the 30Hr Southern Discomfort in Albany, GA on Saturday July 28th, where I will not only look to complete my 4th 100 miler, but run even a bit farther than I ever have by the time my 30 hours are up.  It will be hard to believe that by then, I would have only completed one race in a year’s time and it wasn’t even an ultra. Then, just over 3 months later, I will be running Justin Radley's Save the Daylight 48Hr in Englewood, FL and attempting to reach 150 miles for the first time.  This one I am really excited for! 
          I will leave you with three quotes that pretty much sum up the craziness of the ultra community.  The first is by T.S.Eliot and it is, by far, my absolute favorite.  It goes, "Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go."  The second is by William Shakespeare and it goes, "Bid me run, and I will strive with things impossible."  I love these two quotes so much that they are both a part of my calf sleeve tattoo.  You need to challenge yourself and push your limits.  You will never find out the answers to those questions unless you try.  The last quote is by Michelangelo, "The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short, but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark."  Believe in your abilities and shoot for the moon.

Hope to see you all out on the roads and trails real soon!!

Run Hard, Run Strong, Run Smart and #stayvertical my friends


March 1, 2018

Friday, June 9, 2017

Knock on Wood 100mi Race Recap

Upstate Ultras Race Director, Matthew Hammersmith recently hosted the 4th annual Knock on Wood race series the weekend of May 12th through the 14th, in Greenville, SC.  Distances included an 8k, a 50k, a 24 hour and a 100 mile endurance run.  All races were starting on Saturday May 13th except for the 100 miler, which was starting at 8pm on Friday May 12th.  Since I was taking part in the 100 mile endurance run, I made the 8 hour drive up to South Carolina on Thursday May 11th and spent the night at a nearby hotel.  Since the race would not be starting until 8pm the next day, I was able to get up when I wanted, have a nice breakfast and take my time doing some things before heading on out.  Just before noon on Friday, I made my way over to the venue which was at the Lake Conestee Nature Park at the main pavilion near the baseball fields.  As soon as I got there I met Matt and a few other people who were already setting up their tents and canopies since it would be our home for the next 2 days.  The first person that I actually met was George Rainey.  George noticed my Florida license plate as I was backing into my parking spot and asked me right away where in Florida I was from.  George let me know he was from Pensacola and was part of FUR, like myself, which stands for Florida Ultra Runners (if you didn’t know).  George, an older guy with a funny sense of humor, is quite the character.  I saw him setting up his tent when I got out of the car and offered to help him set it up if he would help me set up mine, which he did.  Since we were just going to spend the rest of the day relaxing by our tents, we took a ride to Publix to get some lunch, ice for my cooler and a few other things for the race.  For the remainder of the day we relaxed and helped other people set up their tents, shelters and canopies before taking a late nap before it would be time to get ready for the run.

After getting up from my nap, I took a walk over to where the Fleet Feet Sports of South Carolina had their tents set up.  My friend Heather Hart, a fellow InkNBurn Ambassador, was there with her husband Geoff and a bunch of friends that they run with in the Myrtle Beach area.  I had reached out to Heather earlier in the year to ask her if the venue and course was worth me driving the 8 hours to get there.  She replied to me pretty quickly to say that it definitely was and so that is when I decided to register and let her know I’d see her there.  When she saw me walking up, she recognized me right away since we had actually never met in person. The power of social media, right?  Anyway, she introduced me to Geoff and all of her friends and they instantly treated me like one of their own.  I got the feeling that they liked me since every time I saw them on the course or passed by their tents, they would shout my name, cheer for me and even shout, “We love you Joe!”  This made me laugh and smile each time I heard them say it.  Halfway through the run I started shouting back “I love you guys too!”  They got a kick out of that.  The tight knit ultra community is so cool to be a part of and I love being a part of it.  Some friends once told me at my first 100 that you should be able to leave each race with 1 new friend, but this one I left with more than a handful.  How cool is that!  After talking for a bit, it was time to head back to my tent to get ready for the run.

After getting ready for the run around 7pm, I mentally prepared myself for the task that would be at hand, making 20 loops of this 5 mile technical trail course to complete my 3rd 100 mile endurance run.  Since trail runs always end up being slower than road runs, I figured 30 to 32 hours would be a good target to complete the race in.  That would mean that I would finish between 2am and 4am Sunday morning, allowing myself to sleep in my tent or car for a while before making the trip home to Florida.
After a quick pre-race briefing by Matt and watching the drone take some video of the area, the Star Spangled Banner was played and a few minutes later we were off on our journey.

At this race I was going to stick to my plan from the very beginning and not let anyone else dictate what I was doing.  It’s hard when you first start a run and everybody busts out like there’s no tomorrow and you want to try to keep up, but you need to ignore that.  A 100 mile endurance run is no joke and like I always say, slow and steady wins the race.  Well, maybe not wins the race, but completes the distance.  This time around I planned to do a FB live video after every 10 miles (2 loops) to let everyone know where I was and how I was doing.
Shortly into the first loop, the rain that had been holding off for the entire day finally made its appearance and continued for almost the entire time it took me to complete the first two loops.  It wasn’t a torrential downpour like they had been calling for, but at times it was a steady rain and even though we had canopy from the trees, we still got wet.  Being that it was nighttime and we were already wearing our headlamps, you really had to watch your footing on the technical parts since the course got a bit slippery, which slowed everybody down.  I finished the first 10 miles in about 2 hours and 20 minutes.  Tailwind Nutrition, which was the official fuel for the runs this weekend, was being consumed at a steady rate, approximately every 7 to 8 minutes, totaling about 20 to 24 ounces every hour.  This early on in the race I don’t concern myself with taking in any other type of calories other than my Tailwind.  I did fill my first two bottles with their Tropical Buzz flavor, which is caffeinated, to jump start the run.  I also took an S-Cap after each loop.  These things saved my run at Daytona in December and now never run an ultra without them.
Before heading on out for loops 3 and 4, I decided it would be a good idea to change out of my wet shirt and into a dry one, including a pullover and a new hat, since the rain had made the air a bit cool and damp. After refilling my 2 handhelds with Tailwind, I was off.  Once again, with the rain from earlier making the course wet and muddy, I had to take my time and watch my step, especially on the first part of the course where you are maneuvering around rocks and roots while going up and down inclines and making your way through switchbacks.  Every now and then I had to steady myself by slowing down or grabbing a tree.  Slowly but surely I made my way around the course 2 more times and by the time I hit 20 miles it was just after 1am putting me at a pace of about 4 miles per hour. 
When I was finally done with 6 loops and 30 miles in, it was around 4am.  That meant I had been running for about 8 hours already and I was a little tired, but feeling good.  I was making my Tailwind a bit stronger to get the extra calories and eating some pretzels.  It was still dark at this time and so I was still being cautious on the trail.  It takes a toll on your legs, but nothing I knew I couldn’t do.  I was really looking forward to the next 2 loops since it would mean daylight!
When 8 loops were finally complete and I was 40 miles in, it was light out again and I was able to see what I was running on.  It was now about 7:40am and I had been out on the course for almost 12 hours.  I was getting a bit tired from being in the dark for such a long time, but the daybreak gave me a second wind and I was ready to continue.  A funny moment that I have to share is that during my 7th loop, I closed my eyes while taking a walk break and missed the turn onto the trail.  I knew pretty much right away though since the surroundings didn’t look familiar and I backtracked about 25 yards.  I thought that was pretty funny.  It was also great to finally get the headlamp off my head.

Before I knew it, 10 loops were complete, I was 50 miles in and I was halfway to finishing this run.  It was shortly before 11am at this time and I was feeling great!  Before heading on out for loops 9 and 10, I changed out of my wet shirt, put on another (InkNBurn of course), threw on a pullover and this time added my Headsweats KONA visor since it was still a bit overcast and the sun wouldn’t bother my head too much.  I was eating and drinking like I was supposed to.  I did have a banana, pretzels and even a few potatoes after finishing loop 10.  I also started taking a few sips of Coke after each loop to get some extra carbs in me.  It’s just something that has stuck with me for each of my 100’s.
It was around 2:15pm when I finally finished my 12thloop and 60 miles.  I was only 2 miles away from the 100k mark and was still keeping up with my Facebook live video posts to let everyone know how I was doing.  I was getting a bit tired but really enjoying myself.  The course is beautiful.  Shortly before finishing up my 12thloop, we had to be rerouted due to someone having a heart attack on the course and the emergency vehicles being there.  It was a scary moment and I took a few minutes to stop and say a prayer that he would be ok.  Moments like this put life in perspective and it really hits home.  Luckily, Matthew, the RD, was prepared and did everything he had to before the EMT’s arrived and took over.  I’m not going to mention his name, but I did reach out to him personally after finding out who it was and just let him know that we were all thinking of him and are so happy he is ok.  He is now a friend of mine on Facebook and I look forward to hopefully seeing him again one day at another race.
Shortly before 6pm I completed mile 70, 14 loops and was truckin’ on.  Obviously I was getting tired at this point, but there was no stopping me.  I was feeling good and continuing to do everything I was supposed to to get me through these next 30 miles.  At some point it had gotten a bit sunny again and so I changed into my I Love Ultra Running hat.

Before heading on out for loop 15, I knew it would be getting dark again soon and had to put my headlamp back on.  I was hoping I would get at least one more loop in the light before needing to turn it on but I couldn’t take the chance and not bring it.  By the time I was finished with my 16th loop and 80 miles were complete, it was about 9:30pm and I was getting tired.  At that point, even though I had only been on the course for about 25.5 hours, I had been up for about 37 hours since the race had started at night and I had been up since 6am Friday morning.  This is definitely something to keep in mind when running a 100 mile endurance run that starts in the evening.
The next 2 loops that got me to 90 miles were just all mental at that point.  I was tired and ready to get this done.  The only thing was that I was now maneuvering over the roots and rocks again in the dark and more tired than the night before.  I found myself holding onto trees to keep my balance even more so than previously in the run.  There was even one point where I hit a small stump with the toe of my shoe and literally thought I was going to face plant.  It was one of those moments where my arms were swinging to try to keep me upright but my body was falling forward at such a pace that all I could think was, “Oh crap, I hope I don’t hit anything hard.”  Luckily for me my legs caught up to my body and I was able to get control and keep from falling.  Talk about a scary moment! 
Loop 19, miles 90 to 95, had to be the weirdest loop of the entire run.  I was very tired at that point and by myself, like I had been for most of the run.  My headlamp was making everything seem as if I was looking through a haze.  This is where I really hallucinated for the first time ever.  I was walking a part of the road when something to the left of me caught my eye.  When I turned to look at what it was, I saw the trees just floating and bouncing up and down.  It startled me to such a degree that I yanked the charging cable off of my Garmin that I was charging on the go at that time.  It was at that point that I really thought about lying down on the road and closing my eyes, but I knew I couldn’t do that.  I got my bearings under control and trudged on.  A short while later, while on another section of road, I started seeing these 2 red lights just bouncing in the air way up in front of me that looked like alien eyes.  Not that I would know what alien eyes look like, but this is what I instantly thought of.  Because I never wear my glasses on a run and am near sighted, the 2 lights turned into 4 and it looked like 2 aliens were just bouncing up and down in midair.  I had to keep telling myself that I was seeing things, but I could tell that I was getting closer and they didn’t disappear.  Sure enough, when I got even closer, I realized it was my friend George and his friend and I was seeing the light from their headlamps as they were walking.  This was a big relief for me to catch up to people since there were only a few of us still on the course at that time.  I finished loop 19 with them and was happy to be back at the tent with only 1 loop to go.
At this time, I had only one lap left and I was going to run it with George just to have some company even though they had about 8 loops to go at that point.  Before heading on out though, I decided that it was finally time to eat my Chick Fil A sandwich that was in my cooler.  The local Chick Fil A gave away chicken sandwiches in the morning, but at that time I was not ready to eat it.  Luckily, I had my cooler with me filled with ice and so I stored it for a later time when I really needed it and now was that time.  I needed some brain food to get me back on track for the last loop.  Talk about getting a bolt of energy.  After finishing the sandwich, I felt like it was hours earlier and I had all of this energy to burn.  Even though I was supposed to be running this last loop with George and his friend, they were still not ready when I was, so I decided to just take off on my own, especially since I was ready to run again.  I ran for 75% of that final loop and when I crossed the timing mat for the 20thtime, I had just completed my 3rd 100 mile endurance run with a time of 33 hours, 59 minutes and 20 seconds and I was so happy. 

This 100 was definitely the toughest of the 3 that I’ve done so far and was so happy that it was finally complete.

Like always, I want to thank Tailwind Nutrition for being the best fuel that works for me.  I used it more than I ever have in any of my 100’s so far.  I used the caffeinated Tropical Buzz for the first 2 loops to jumpstart my run, switched to my Naked Unflavored for the next 75 miles, modifying it as necessary to add more calories in the later miles and then even switched back to Tropical Buzz for the last 15 miles to give me that jolt from being up for so long and being so tired.  I am proud to be a Tailwind Trailblazer for them and hope that I can remain one for a long time.  If you are looking for a fuel that works, please try Tailwind Nutrition, you will not be disappointed.  I also want to thank INKnBURN for being the only tech shirts I wear.  The shirt might have been covered up at certain times by a jacket or pullover, but the base layer was always INB.  At the times that the shirt was not covered up, I was constantly being complimented for the awesome shirt I was wearing and I did wear 3 different styles.  INB’s Dry Ice technology makes their shirts, in my opinion, one of the best on the market.  Headsweats trucker hats always makes its presence known while I am running and this time was no exception.  I even sported a visor for the very first time in any run, the KONA, and I loved it.  My I Love Ultra Running trucker hats even made appearances in this run including the new Keys reflective hat.  I love representing my PUR / I Love Ultra Running family any time that I can and I sure did that up in SC that weekend.  A number of people asked where I had gotten these awesome hats and so of course I let them know.  I also let it be known that I was a part of the iRun4Ultra family that I also love being a part of.  Even though I am not an ambassador for them, I always like to thank AltraRunning for their awesome running shoes and Balega International for the incredible socks they produce.  I wear nothing but these two brands when I run and coupled together at this run, they kept my feet dry and blister free.  For this run I chose my Altra Lone Peaks and my Balega Blister Resist.  My C3Fit calf compression sleeves also made an appearance for a short while and like everything else, worked out perfect for that weekend.  My run would also not be what it was without all of the support from all of my friends near and far on all social media outlets.  The likes and loves and comments I received while doing my live posts meant so much to me.  Each time they gave me that drive to get the next 2 loops completed.  And last, but certainly not least, I would not be the man and runner I am today if it were not for my wife Kasi, who said to me seven and a half years ago, when I said to her that I wanted to train for and run a marathon, that I should because she knew I could do it.  I haven’t stopped running since that day and have taken my running to distances I never would have believed I could do.  She knows and understands the passion I have for this sport of ultra running and she is my biggest supporter and fan.  Thanks for being who you are honey.  I love you!

If you are looking to run an awesome 100 in the South Carolina area in May, Knock on Wood is the perfect venue for all the right reasons.

For me, it’s now on to the next adventure!!

Run Hard, Run Strong and #stayvertical my friends

Joe Rainone
June 9, 2017

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

C3Fit Compression Gear Review - Performanec Compression Sleeves and Arch Support Short Socks

Recently I was contacted by the US affiliate of the Japanese based company, C3Fit compression, to test out and review some of their products.  The basis of the C3Fit brand is to incorporate graduated compression, body conditioning and comfort to the wearers that improves body function and enhances fitness quality.  C3Fit carries a variety of compression gear for men and women including a variety of support socks, tights (long and short), calf sleeves and even a long sleeve top.  The first 2 items that they sent me were their performance calf sleeves and arch support short socks.  I decided to test them out over the weekend, on different days, so that I could really focus on each product individually, to give it the best review that I could.

 For my long run on Saturday I wore the compression sleeves.  Right from the moment I removed the sleeves from the box, I was already liking what I was feeling.  The nylon/polyurethane material was so silky to the touch that I knew would feel right on my calves.  The thin material was perfect for the warmer conditions of Florida and the elasticity of them would  allow for a wider range of ankle and calf sizes.  The sizing of the sleeves were great.  They started just above my ankles and went all the way up to just above the top of my calves.  Coverage of the entire calf area is important as some sleeves don’t cover enough or are too long and can cause issues with the Achilles if it goes down too far or the back of the knee if it goes up too high.  The compression itself was excellent.  I had no issues during my run with muscle vibration since the compression was not so tight to cause discomfort but not loose to where it didn’t help.  I actually kept the sleeves on after my run for a bit of a recovery since the run was long.  I definitely felt the difference after taking them off too.  These sleeves were different from what I have worn before.  Others that I have tested were either too tight where I could just barely get them on or off, too thick to where they caused heat issues or too loose to where they did not help me at all.  These were definitely the best of the bunch.  

For my shorter run of 12 miles on Sunday I wore the arch support short socks.  These socks are different than regular socks in that they promote arch support through their taping effect that reduces burden to the soles of your feet, absorbing impact and enabling movement.  They are made from polyester, nylon, cotton, acryl and polyurethane and are very soft and comfortable to wear.  I must say that as soon as I had these on, I could feel the support on the soles of my feet and arches, almost like I was wearing arch support shoes.  It had this snug feeling that once I put my running shoes on, I had to get out on the road.  My run felt much smoother than it normally does and I had no issues at all with tired feet after I was finished.  The socks even have this cushiony tag in the back so there is no contact to your skin from the back of the shoe.  This is the first arch support sock I have worn, but I am definitely looking forward to wearing these socks again on my next long run because of how they made my feet feel and I will definitely be getting more.

If you are looking for great calf sleeves or arch support socks that to do what they are supposed to do, you should try C3Fit.  It's no wonder that some of their products are certified as General Medical Devices in Japan.  You will not be disappointed.

Whispering Pines 12 Hour / 6 Hour Ultra Recap

If you live in Florida, or even outside of Florida for that matter, love running on trails with like-minded individuals in an organized, competitive and fun setting, with a low cost, you should look no further than the Whispering Pines 12 Hour / 6 HourRace.  This well organized run takes place at Whispering Pines Park in Inverness, Florida on a Sunday in the middle of February each year.  This year it just happened to be during President's Day weekend.  Race Director Terri Hayes, a long time ultra runner herself, likes to give back to the ultra running community, that she has been a part of for so long, by putting on low key, laid back, runner friendly events for people of all ages and abilities.  The cost to enter the races she puts on is, well, there is no cost.  Terri organizes these races as a way of paying it forward.  All that she asks for is a donation of any amount you are comfortable giving to help cover the costs of food, supplies and other general necessities that are associated with organizing an event as such.  Terri even has finishers awards made for all participants and after  covering her costs for food and amenities, gives the rest that she has collected to the park as a way of saying thank you for allowing her to put on this event.
                This year’s running was in its 4th year and the second time I have taken part in the fun.  I originally ran this race back in 2015 when it was in its second year.  Terri had moved it to April that year, but has since moved it back to February.  At that time I had only run one 50k a few months prior since I was just getting involved in ultras and the trail and ultra community.  I didn’t know what to expect when I started, but I did know that I was going to run as many loops as I could with the hopes of lasting all 12 hours.  Suffice it to say, I ran 9 loops in just over 12 hours for a total of 43.2 miles.  I was so excited that I had done it.  This year, being that I have now been running ultras for just over 2 years, I knew I could run at least 10 loops or more.  My plan was to not take long once back at the pavilion after each 4.8 mile loop.  I was going to refill my handheld with my Tailwind Nutrition and get back out there for the next loop.  With my Headsweats trucker hat on and my handhelds all set to go, I did stick to the plan for most of the run, but there were 2 times that I took longer than I had planned to get back out there.  Being a part of the trail and ultra community, you get to know a lot of people and it was at these two specific times that I stopped to talk to some of my friends.  It’s always good to see familiar faces at events like this and so I always like to chat for a bit.  I knew that because of the extra time I took that I could complete only 10 loops this year.  As I was finishing loop 9, Donna Laparo, was just starting her 10th loop as well.  Donna and me ended up running the first few loops together, before going off on our own, after stopping on the first loop due to getting a bit confused with the trail markings.  Since it was already dark at that time and headlamps were already on, she was bringing her husband with her to keep her company.  When she saw I was finishing loop 9, she waited for me while her husband went back to the pavilion.  I don’t know why this is, but for some reason, no matter how many times you run the loop during the day, when it gets dark, the trail looks completely different, so it’s always good to be able to run with someone.  Since this was going to be our final loop of the day, we decided to just walk it out.  Even though 10 loops would officially be 48 miles, when we finally got back to the pavilion, my Garmin was showing that we had actually run 49.5 miles because of that mix up on the first loop and going the wrong way.  Terri let us get in the extra .50 miles by running around the baseball field to finish the day with 50 miles. 
                By the time we were done, there were only a handful of people still hanging around, including the guy who just set the course record by running 13 loops for a total of 62.2 miles.  He had run by us a few times while on the course and he was flying.  He was a really cool guy though and he made it a point to come over and tell us that we did great.  I just love the trail and ultra community.  It was such a great day!! 
                So, in February of 2018,  if you are going to be in the area or live close by, come on out to Whispering Pines Park and run the Whispering Pines 12 Hour / 6 Hour ultra, meet Terri Hayes and become a part of a community that I think is pretty awesome.  I will definitely be there and you should be too.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The Daytona 100 – Race Recap

Did you ever wish you could run a 100 mile race on a course that catered to your style in perfect weather conditions?  Well, that’s exactly what we got this past Saturday, December 10th, 2016 in Jacksonville Beach, Florida for the second annual running of the Daytona 100 that is directed by ultra running legend Dave Krupski and his wife Alex.  The Daytona 100, only in its second year, is a newer 100 mile ultra here in the state of Florida that starts at the One Ocean Resort and Spa in Jacksonville Beach and travels 100 miles south, ending at Daytona Beach’s North Turn.  It starts at 6am on Saturday morning and ends at 12pm on Sunday, giving you 30 hours to complete the distance.  The course is flat, fast roads with a few beach sections thrown in for good measure.  As luck would have it, a small cold front moved in the day before, so the temperature at start time was in the upper 40’s, daytime temps were only in the low 60’s and nighttime in the upper 50’s.  To make it even more perfect, throw in a 10mph tailwind to push you along.  To say that we were anxious to get going was an understatement.

Jennifer Van Vlack, my ultra running partner in crime and co-member of Team Truckin’ On, and I, started planning this race back in mid-September, shortly after completing our first 100 mile race at Aaron Thompson’s and Ben Pangie’s Wildcat Ultra.  This one would cater to us though since, as much as we love the trails, we are more used to running on the roads.  Being that a cold front was moving in and the weather forecast was calling for temperatures that would be ideal , (highs in the low 60’s and lows in the high 50’s) we couldn’t wait to get started.  We both believed that we could sub 24 this race if everything worked the way we wanted it to. Our plan was to run 5/1 intervals from the very beginning, for as long as we could, before making any kind of adjustments.  A perfect scenario would be to hit 50 miles in 10 hours so that we could set ourselves up for a nice back half.

After waking up just before 4am, I got ready for the race.  I had prepared what I was going to wear the night before so there would not have to be any thinking in the morning.  I decided to wear my newest Headsweats hat, Ugly Christmas sweater, since it was that time of year.  I also chose to wear my 26.2 INKnBURN shirt over a long sleeved compression shirt to start with plans to change into my 50 after I passed the 26.2 mile distance and change into my 100 after passing 50 miles.  I also wore a little bit thicker Balega pair of socks since it is the only brand I run in.  My shoe brand of choice to run in is always Altra.  I went with my Paradigms, the most cushioned road running shoe that Altra makes.  I felt it was the most appropriate choice for the terrain we were going to be running on.   I also brought two handhelds with me filled with Tailwind Nutrition, my fuel of choice, because it really works.  My crew had the rest of the Tailwind that I had brought with me in the car and would continually replenish my bottles each time I saw them.  Fortunately for me, Tailwind Nutrition was the official fuel/electrolyte replacement drink on the course and so it would also be available at every aid station.  Our crew dropped us off at the hotel/starting line at about 5:20am since we were required to be there by 5:30am to check in.  After heading into the hotel lobby, where all the runners were gathering, we said hello to a number of people that we recognized or knew from other races.  At about 5:45am, Jen and I headed back outside to get a few pictures by the start.  Being that it was still a bit chilly at that time, everyone was bundled up with layers.  I even took out my gloves to start the race with, only to find out I had grabbed my Injinji toe socks instead, mistaking the toes for fingers.  We really laughed at this.  Talk about a funny moment to take the edge off. 

A few minutes later a prerecorded National Anthem was playing, and as always, I removed my hat out of respect for my country.  Less than 2 minutes after that, the timing clock was counting down from 10 and before we knew it, we were off on our quest.

Because of the location of the race, crews were only allowed to crew in 5 designated areas for the first 31 miles, the first being between miles 3 and 4.  Jen and I knew that we didn’t need our crew that early, so we told them to meet us at the second location, the Mickler’s Landing parking lot, which is right around mile 13.  During these first 13 miles, the run was going great and we were sticking to our plan.  We weren’t pushing ourselves and the scenery of all the homes was keeping us from even thinking about the run.  It was here that our most awesome Team Truckin’ On Pit Crew got to work.  Jen’s friends, Chris, Lindsay and Sara, all flew in with Jen to crew the both of us since we were running this race together.  I had already met Chis and Lindsay back in September when they crewed us for Wildcat. Even though Sara was the newbie, she fit right in.   We met them in the parking lot, took a couple of layers off, refilled our handhelds, and then were on our way.   It was at this point that we were originally supposed to enter the first beach section, but because of Hurricane Matthew and the damage it caused, we had to run along the shoulder of A1A to mile 16.5, where the first aid station/check in was located. We told our crew to meet us there as well since they were able to.

We reached AS1 a short while later by continuing to stick to our plan.  We let the aid station know our bib numbers, refilled our handhelds again at our crew vehicle, ate some food and then continued on our way.  We would be seeing our crew again at mile 22, where AS2 was located and the first beach section would start.  Jen and me continued with our 5/1 intervals and were keeping each other preoccupied by telling stories and keeping up the conversation. 

By the time we got to mile 22 and saw our crew again, Jen and I had been running for about 4.5 hours by now.  We were just over our pace to hit 50 in 10 hours, but were close enough to feel good about where we were.  Again, we shed any layers that we wanted off, refilled, ate and then hit the beach.

To be perfectly honest with you, I’m not a fan of running on the beach, even though the surface was pretty solid.  Beach running can really sap the energy out of you very quickly.  Maybe this is what got into my head at this point because this section was taking me down the wrong mental road.  Not even a mile into this section, Jen knew that something was wrong with me when I just got really quiet.  She was trying to make me talk about things to distract me from thinking about what we were doing, but my answers were short and it was not working.  As runners, we know there are times that this can happen and it’s nothing against anyone you might be running with.  It was at this point that we cut our intervals down to 4/1 to see if that would work.  Just under 2 hours later we were finally at mile 28 and leaving the beach section.  The Team Truckin’ On Pit Crew met us here where once again we refilled our fuel/hydration, ate some food and changed some clothes.  I changed out of my 26.2 INKnBURN shirt and changed into my 50 INKnBURN shirt like I had planned.  Right before leaving I heard my name called and turned to see Claire and John Kelly, new friends of mine I had met at Justin Radley’s 8 Hours of Hell race series.  Claire was the only one running though as John was crewing her.  This was her first 100 miler and I was rooting for her.  I gave them each a big hug and john got a picture of the two of us before Jen was pulling me along to get going.  I was so glad I got to see them!

 At this point Jen and I were back out on the road and on our way to AS3 which was at mile 32, the start of St Augustine.  Crew restrictions would now be lifted after going over the small Vilano Bridge at mile 31.  Right after starting on this next 4 mile section though, I was in a bad spot.  We decreased the intervals again right away to 3/1, but for me, everything was just going south.  As much as I would have loved to run this whole ultra with Jen, I also didn’t want to hold her back.  She’s only 31, 16 years younger than me and I’m just the old guy trying to keep up.  I knew she would sub 24 this race if she went off on her own, so a short while later I told her to go on without me.  She asked if I was sure because that’s just who Jen is.  We planned to do this together and she would have stayed with me if I wanted her to, but I didn’t want to hold her back.  I said to go and sub 24 this ultra!  I was going to walk a bit more, make my way to the next aid station slowly and go from there.  She reset her watch back to her intervals and went on ahead.  She would tell the crew to wait at the aid station for me.  By then I had about 3 miles to go.  During these 3 miles I thought of so many things, one of them being that I had nothing to prove to anybody since I had already run 100 miles and I was going to pull myself from the race.  Every now and then I would think otherwise, but with about 2 miles to go I tried to start running again and my calves started cramping and I had to stop and walk the rest of the way.  I texted my wife Kasi to let her know what was going on and she called me.  She told me that I knew how to listen to what my body was telling me and to listen closely.  She supported any decision that I made.  Kasi always knows what to say to me.   By the time I finally got to AS3, I had been running for just over 7 hours and I was still having a moment.  I decided to take some S Caps at this point if the aid station had any, which they did.  I swallowed two, had some food and rested a bit.  I then actually did tell my crew, as well as the AS, that I was dropping out.  Well, neither my crew nor the aid station people would let me.  The AS guys said that I had to run through St. Augustine and over the Bridge of Lions first and after doing that, if I still wanted to drop, my crew would get me.  I moved around a bit and realized that the cramping in my calves was completely gone, so I said I would continue.  There was even one runner, an older guy that my crew nicknamed The Mayor because of how he acted.  Before leaving the aid station, he asked me to give him a thumbs up to let him know I was ok.  Everyone was overjoyed and was so happy for me.  The S Caps that I had taken helped me so much that I would continue to take them every hour for the rest of the race.  I must say, I held it together pretty good, but shortly after getting to mile 33 I had a pretty emotional moment all to myself.  I knew that 90% of what I had just gone through was all in my head and I would have been pretty bummed if I had dropped.  Sometimes you just hit a really low moment in a race like this and for me, this was mine.  Luckily it was the only one I had.

So now here I was, back out on my quest to complete my second 100 mile ultra in 30 hours or less.  Since Jen and I made such great time early in the run though, I was still at a great place time wise.  My A goal of sub 24 would really be a push at this point, but B goal of 27:00 to 27:30 was definitely in reach.  I locked in to the adjusted intervals and made my way through St. Augustine and over the Bridge of Lions.  I really enjoyed seeing the town.  I definitely plan to come back with Kasi to stay for a weekend and enjoy the history.  The breeze off of the water lifted my spirits and really cleared my head. 

After leaving AS3, my crew went on ahead to meet Jen at her next spot and then doubled back to meet me somewhere around mile 36 or 37.  They noticed right away how much better I looked and were really happy for me.  I asked them how Jen was doing and where she was mileage wise.  I did this each time I saw them.  I found out later on that she asked about me as well each time she saw them too.  Since AS4 was going to be at mile 40, I told them to meet me somewhere around mile 44 or 45.  I refilled my handhelds, drank some coke, took a turkey wrap to go and was on my way.

The next 8 or 9 miles went by in no time.  There was some cloud coverage now, so I was happy I had on my heavier pullover.  I stopped at AS4 at mile 40, replenished my needs and was off in no time.  By the time I met the crew again just after 44 miles, I had been on the road almost 11 hours.  Since it was closing in on 5:00pm, I proceeded to put my headlamp, safety vest and front and back blinking lights on for the nighttime hours.  I ate some more food, refilled my handhelds with my Tailwind Nutrition, made sure all was a go and was off.  I would be seeing them again at mile 52 where AS5 was located.  This would probably be the longest stretch of the whole run before getting more aid.  Because of this I brought some quick eats in my pockets.

I continued to trudge along A1A, running, walking, running, walking…over and over, not thinking of anything but getting to AS5.  All I kept saying in my head was, “get to 50 and you could start counting down”.  When I finally got there around 7:00pm, I was feeling pretty good.    Crew members Lindsay and Sara were there like we had planned and once again got what I needed, made sure I ate and had fresh Tailwind and made me get going.  They would be meeting me around mile 57.

This was the start of running through Flagler County all the way to Marineland.  I got to mile 57 without a hitch, got what I needed and planned to meet them again somewhere around mile 65 or 66 since I was going to be getting to AS6 at mile 61.8 first.  When I finally got there around 10pm (16 hours in) I was really happy because my friend Jamie Woyton was captaining that aid stations with his sons and some other people.  When Jamie saw me, he shouted my name, gave me a big hug, sat me down and fed me some warm food.  Anyone who knows Jamie knows that he is just an awesome person and someone you want in your life as a friend.  He’s so positive.  I was feeling good when I got there, but I felt even better when he kicked me out a few minutes later telling me that he can’t miss me if I don’t leave.  He did give me another big hug before I left and told me he was proud of me and that buckle was mine.  Talk about an emotional boost, especially since I had 38 miles to go.

Once again I met up with my crew just past mile 66 in a Publix parking lot along the route.  I ended up getting there a minute before they did.  While I was standing there, a woman came up to me and asked me what this walk we were doing was for.  I just smiled and told her it was the Daytona 100.  She told me she saw all of these people walking and was wondering what was going on.  I don’t think she really knew what it was we were doing, but she made me smile when she said good luck.  My crew pulled up at that point and this time it was Chris and Lindsay.  Sara was out pacing Jen at that point.  The Team Truckin’ On Pit Crew was working like a well- oiled machine at this point, going to meet Jen, then backtracking to meet me, over and over, putting more miles in the car than we had planned, but never complaining once.  After once again getting what I needed from them I headed on out making that push for AS7 at mile 70.

I ended up getting to mile 70/AS7 just before 12:15am.  When I arrived I saw the older guy I had seen at AS3 back in St. Augustine who told me to give him a thumbs up to let him know I was ok.  As soon as I saw him and said hello, he took one look at me and said, “Hey, it’s the thumbs up guy! You made it”.  That made me smile.  I sat down, had some coke, refilled my bottles with water in one and Tailwind in the other and had some food.  One of the aid station workers said that she had brought mini pre made toothbrushes, if anybody wanted one.  My eyes lit up!  How refreshing that was to brush my teeth at that point in the run.  These are the little things that keep you going when taking on an ultra like this.  Again, not spending too much time there, I got up and headed on out since I was going to be meeting my crew again around mile 75, which went without a hitch since I was still running the same intervals that I started back at mile 32.  Lindsay told me she had a shot of Fireball at AS8 that I was heading to next. 

I got to AS8, mile 81, at around 3:15am.  It was set up in the TGIFridays parking lot.  I sat down for a sec and again went through my routine of refilling my bottles, eating some food and drinking some coke.  It was at this time that we were to cross the road and run on the beach side of A1A since we were going to be heading back out onto the beach fairly soon.  One person at AS8 was telling everybody that the turn off was 7 miles up, which would make it mile 88.  I decided to meet with my crew again shortly before this around mile 86, which I did.  I got what I needed pretty quickly this time since I knew they wanted to get to the finish line to see Jen finish since she was around 10 to 12 miles ahead of me.  Lindsay did mention that Jen’s Garmin got screwed up around this point right before the beach and to be careful.  Being that I was 86 miles in, I could not think too clearly, but said ok.  I wish I had paid attention a little bit more.

Since the person at AS8 was telling everyone that the turn off onto the beach was 7 miles up the road, which would mean 88 miles based on my Garmin, when I got to 88, then 88.5, then 88.8, I started panicking and was texting Lindsay to find out if I had passed it.  She told me I hadn’t, not to worry and just keep going.  Long story short, the mileage was more like 8.5 to 9 miles to the turn off.  When I finally saw the signs for the turnoff onto the beach, I was so happy.  It did throw off my intervals a bit though, but I was not worried.  I had only about 10 miles to go.

When I finally got onto the beach and made the right turn, I had a little less than 4 miles before getting off the beach and hitting AS9 and meeting my crew for the last time before seeing them at the finish.

Slowly but surely I made my way on the beach.  By the time I was getting to the exit, Lindsay said she was going to come onto the beach so I could see how far I had to go.  It was now getting light out even though the sun wasn’t up yet and I was finally at AS9.  For the final time, I got what I needed from the car, refilled my bottles, ate some food and headed on out for the final 7 miles.  Lindsay was going to come with me to talk me through the final stretch.  We set on out and didn’t run much of this last stretch.  We talked, told some stories and even ran into a guy who at first made a funny comment after overhearing a story Lindsay was telling, but then went on and on, bragging about how great he was.  After about 10 minutes of this one sided conversation, I couldn’t take it any longer, and said we were going to run for a bit again.  We laughed about it after leaving him behind.

Finally, we were back on the beach for the final 2 miles and I kept looking to see if I could see the finishers arch that I would be crossing.  My walking pace at this time was somewhere around 19 or 20 min/mile.  When I was about ½ mile out, I was able to see the finish.  Jen and the crew were there waiting for me.  I crossed over with an official time of 27:17:05, a PR from my first 100 by just shy of 8 hours.

This 100 miler was so much different than the first but was just as rewarding.  Even though I ran most of the race on my own after Jen and I had split up, it never felt that way.  This was a journey of EPIC proportions and I am so thankful for being given the ability to do things like this.  These are the challenges in my life that I thrive off of and motivate me.  This ultra would not have been possible without the best possible Pit Crew a runner could have.  They not only crewed 2 runners, but did so by going back and forth along the route over and over again since Jen and I were at different places.  They didn’t complain once and handled it flawlessly.  Thank You Lindsay, Chris and Sara, from the bottom of my heart, for volunteering your time to come and help Jen and me accomplish 100 #2.  It meant everything to me and I know it meant everything to Jen as well.  I also want to thank my brands I am an Ambassador for, Tailwind Nutrition for fueling all 100 miles and keeping me going the whole way, Headsweats for the awesome trucker hats that I never run without and INKnBURN for the incredible tech shirts that I always wear when running and even when I’m not running because they look and feel so good.  I’d also like to thank Altra Running for making shoes for running that work for me better than any I have ever worn, and Balega International for making the most comfortable running socks, again in my opinion that a person can run in.  I also want to thank all of my friends for all of the words of encouragement and support during the entire run.  It’s always very humbling.  I tried to garnish every ounce of energy from wherever I could to keep me going. 

Last, but far from least, I want to thank my wife Kasi for being so supportive of this quest and believing in me that I could get it done….again!  Love you honey!

Run Hard, Run Strong and #stayvertical my friends.

Truck On!!
Joe Rainone,

December 14, 2016