Wildcat 100 - Pensacola, FL September 1 - 2, 2017

The Wildcat 100 Ultramarathon was our first racecation. My husband Jon and I flew to Miami on August 28. We picked up our Cruise America RV rental - our home for the next 9 days. We combined the Wildcat 100 mile ultra with a trip to Biscayne and Everglades national parks, our 16 & 17th national park visit. We had a great time at the parks, where I also completed the junior ranger activity book. I do this at just about every national park we have hiked, rock scrambled, and rock climbed in. I was sworn in a Biscayne, Everglades, and Big Cypress Nature Reserve junior ranger and received my badges and patch. I love our national parks! The visits to the parks also helped me acclimate to the heat and humidity in Florida.

We hooked up our RV in Miami Everglades Resort the first two nights. It is a great place. We also hooked up at KOA in Sugarloaf Key one night. We spent time in Key West, Islamorada, and Naples, where we spent one night with friends. We left Naples early Friday morning September 1 and drove 11 hours to Escambia Equestrian Center in Pensacola, site of the Wildcat 100. We hooked up the RV here the next four nights. A great deal for $20/night.

Race bib and t-shirt pick up time was Friday from 12 noon - 1pm. We arrived at 6:30 pm. Ben, the race director personally delivered my bib andt-shirt to the RV. Jon made dinner. I laid out my running clothes and gear on the RV bed. I added more Nuun hydration bottles to the freezer. Jon and I made a short video about what running clothes and gear to pack, and how to pack for a 100 mile ultra racecation while living in an RV. The video is on my Facebook page - Ultra Miriam. Click here to watch it.

We had a delicious dinner of sautéed pork chunks in olive oil with spinach, asparagus, onions, mushrooms and served with avocado and bread, and a glass of my dark chocolate almond milk, coconut milk, and ice cold seltzer concoction. We purchased all these food items at Publix supermarket. We went to bed about midnight. Naturally, I tossed and turned. I tried to muffle the loud overhead AC with iPhone music and my Plantronics wireless Backbeat Fit headphones snuggled in my ears while I sung myself to a light sleep. Race day morning, Jon whipped up breakfast: a fried egg, spinach, mushrooms, and a piece a bread smeared with avocado served with my concoction.

This was the 4th annual Wildcat Ultramarathon. The Wildcat offers 4 events - a 25K, 50K, 100K, and 100 miler. All runners started at 8 am. Race day and race weekend were super hot and humid with temps in the low 90s and 70% humidity. Sunshine, blue skies, no wind, and no rain. A fellow runner parked next to our RV mentioned it was going to rain on Saturday but it never happened. He also said that last year it rained 8 straight hours. Many people dropped, including him. This year he finished his first 100 miler!

The loop is 2.5 miles and 40 laps if you're running the 100 miler. I like to run in heat but the heat and humidity in Florida is a lot more stifling and steamier than the humidity and heat wave we endured in New Jersey in July and August. But I had trained well. I was feeling good. The course is mostly grass, not always level with some divots and minimal elevation, and three short dirt trails. Two of the trails had some puddles from previous rainfall.

Even though my pace was a little bit slower, I was happy with my time, having lots of fun at mile 12 and staying strong at mile 15. Only 85 to go!

My hydration throughout the 100 miles was great! I stayed hydrated with Nuun hydration. My nutrition was also very good and consisted of avocado, almond butter, small pieces of bread, and pickles. But at mile 22.5 my toes on both feet were burning. My toes have never burned during any race event. Normally, I begin icing my feet at about mile 40 or 50 due to soreness and tired feet. But this was not the case. My feet were not sore or tired. The terrain was soft and not rocky or root-infested. I began to ice my feet at mile 22.5 to give my burning toes some relief. I reached mile 30 feeling a tad wiped! It's so hot and humid! The combination of draining heat, burning toes, and time to immerse them in ice water definitely slowed my time. 

With  70 miles to go, I chugged along and chipped away into the solitary sport that is ultrarunning. I slowly ran another 10 miles. My toes were burning. Time for another ice bath. And time to remove my Asics trail shoes and put on my Vibrams, a Christmas gift from my son Sebastian a few years ago. This would be the first time I'd run in them during an ultra. After another ice bath, Jon put on my toe socks and Vibrams.

The sun was starting to set but it was still hot and humid. I ran a couple of laps.  My toes felt better so I felt better. Then I had a little dinner - a meatball, a slice of avocado, a piece of bread, and an ice cold Pepsi. It felt good to sit down in the cool RV. It's was about 7 pm, almost 12 hours after the start. I wanted to peel off my wet and sweaty clothes.

I quickly washed up in the RV and changed clothes. I felt reinvigorated. I realized I would not finish any where near my best 100 mile finish - 27:13:07 or my second best 100 miler 28:33:02. My best 50 miler is 11:14:18. I completed 40 miles in 11:55 and some change. I was really behind my pace. But no worries! The time limit is 40 hours.

I washed up and changed clothes. My feet were feeling better in my Vibrams but the rest of me felt like it was in a sauna in the steamy hot and humid air under the starless black sky. Jon paced me and kept me company for 25 miles! I ran in my Vibrams for 30 straight miles.

Somewhere around mile 55, my legs started to feel tired for the first time. I was starting to feel tired. So I took a 5 minute break to rest my eyes and raise my legs in the RV. Jon also massaged my calves with the roller. I got back on the course and completed a 100K distance (62 miles). I was happy with my time (21:06:16). It was better time than the 100K I completed at the 2015 Montour 24 hour ultra in 23:21:53. (I walked the last 22 miles of this ultra with a foot brace and very painful right foot plantar fasciitis). Here was my chance to drop down to the 100K event and go to bed! But I was here to finish what I came for - my 4th 100 miler and my 21st ultra. (I had to drop at mile 69.2 of the 2014 C & O Canal 100. I was wheezing a lot. I was nauseated. I was freezing. It had rained all night. The towpath was flooded in areas. I vomited when I got back to the motel. I went to see my doctor three days later and was diagnosed with bronchitis - first time ever!).

After mile 62.5. I took another but longer break. I elevated my legs again and took a quick minute shower in the RV. I changed into a third set of clothes! I felt refreshed as dawn was breaking and a new hot and humid day was starting. 

At mile 65 I had delicious eggs and bacon in a cup made by the awesome race volunteers. At mile 70, my toes were burning so I took off my Asics and slipped on my Birkenstocks. My toes were free! I ran/walked in them for the next 10 miles. I have never run with Birkenstocks!!!

From mile 80 - 90 I ran/walked in my Asics again but Jon carried my Birkenstocks, just in case. When I completed mile 90, with gentle encouragement, Aaron the co-race director reminded me I had 7 hours to run 10 miles. Plenty of time. Jon walked ahead of me past the clock and sat on a bench to check his feet. I sat next to him. Jon then went ahead to the RV to get the headlamps and bug spray. I don't know what came over me but I removed my Asics and socks, slipped on my Birkenstocks and bolted like a bat out of hell from the bench. Jon had no idea where I was. With a renewed surge of energy and gratitude, I ran the fastest I had run since the start. I repeatedly recited my prayers, thanked God, and thanked St. Sebastian, the patron saint of athletes, for giving me the strength to go on, for keeping me strong, and for giving me the gift of ultrarunning. I thought of the early Christian ascetics and what they subjected their bodies to in search of God. I even thought of the unimaginable bodily suffering Jon Snow, Sansa, and Theon have endured on Game of Thrones. If they could survive what they had endured, surely, I could finish another 100 miler. They all gave me the strength to stay awake, to move my tired body, and to shuffle my feet. I could definitely get to the finish. I surprised myself. I had an 18 minute negative split this lap. I ran the next lap pretty fast too. I clocked 95 miles in less than 35 hours. I now had a little over 5 hours to complete 5 miles and reach the finish. It was almost 7 pm. I was super happy, exhausted, and delirious. The course was pitch black and only four of us were left on the course - three 100 milers and one 100K runner so, not a lot of headlamps beaming and lighting the way. And I just wanted to sit. But Jon joined me the last two laps and kept me moving, slow and steady. I would get my belt buckle, for there is joy in suffering!

At about 9:32 pm, with a big smile, I crossed the finish in an official time of 37:32:07! I placed 13/13 finishers. Thirteen is my new lucky number! I placed 8/8 female finishers. Forty-two runners began the 100 miler and only 13 finished. The 100K runner, who dropped from the 100 miler and slept many hours, followed me. The others dropped to the 100K. Ben, the race director gave me my belt buckle. I was exhaustedly happy! Holding on Jon's hand, and as he gently pulled me, I shuffled my feet a quarter mile to the RV and showered! My burning toes and the ice baths throughout slowed me down. I have myelopathy of the spinal cord and I may have been B12 deficient this weekend. It was super hot and humid. There's a reason the time limit is 40 hours. Thank God! And thank God for my Birkenstocks and my husband! He paced me for 47.5 miles, a new record for him! He kept me going! Slow and steady finishes the race! Finishing is winning! It was a great "racecation"! 

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My race report is published in Ultrarunning Magazine.