Race Report: 8 Hours of Hell Racing Series – Caloosahatchee East

May 23rd, 2015
Caloosahatchee Regional Park, northeast quadrant
$100 for a single race; $450 for the series of 5 + championship. Single race entry fees can be applied to the series if you choose to do the rest.
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I first met Justin when he directed my first (and so far only) 50k back in December. He was a really nice guy and threw a fantastic race, so when he announced that he was going to be the race director for an inaugural series called 8 Hours of Hell, my husband and I knew we had to do it. The premise of the series is exactly what the name says: a series of 5 monthly runs composed of 8 hours of trails, in the south-central Florida heat and humidity. Races start at 10am to maximize misery and are located in various parks in the Lee/Charlotte county area of south-central Florida. Each race has a fully stocked aid station with all the standard ultra goodies, plus a ton of extra ice and water for the heat. Tailwind is the electrolyte of choice for all of Justin’s races.

The first race was two days ago, on Saturday, May 23rd. We were in my favorite trail running park, the same one in which I did my 50k. Matt and I arrived at 9am to the staging parking lot, about 1/4 mile from the race start/finish. We met up with an acquaintance from my tri club, got checked in, talked a bit with other runners, and then got our gear loaded up in the sherpa cars. We brought one large water cooler filled with diluted Osmo for electrolytes, one cooler filled with some sandwiches, watermelon, grapes, ice, and other goodies. Even though Justin always has copious, fantastic food at the aid stations, we just wanted to be conservative to make sure we had our favorites.

The race began on time, with the usual non-existent trail fanfare (“Ok, you can go now”) with 19 out of 20 runners making it to the start. One woman was unable to make it last-minute. We were running a 4.75 mile loop, mostly single track. The route was about 30% flat, open terrain, 30% flat but very rocky or rooty areas, and 40% short but steep and very rocky/rooty black diamond mountain bike hills. It also had rained the night before so some of the hills were a bit slippery with clay mud. Because this course was so long, we had a second mini aid station with ice, water, and Tailwind at the start/end of the most difficult part of the course (the Far East and new extension loop).

I had promised my coach that I would take it easy so I wouldn’t ruin my IMFL training. Her rule was that if I was too tired to do a bike ride the next day, then I was banned from doing the rest of the series. My goal was to do 26.2 miles, a brisk walking pace. Super easy, right? HAHAHHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHA! My first loop was fine, I mostly walked with some guy I met on the trail and Matt, who caught up to us in the last mile. It started getting hot during the second loop, especially out in the open. I’m estimating a “real feel” of close to 100. My third loop was completely miserable, but I met a really nice couple who had just done the Keys 100 a week before so we ran/walked together. I gave the girl some grapes that I had been hoarding and she loved them, so for the 4th lap I decided to be brilliant and carry a whole baggie full of them for us to eat in Far East.

So there we were, 5 hours into the race (3pm). I was holding a paper bag full of these cold, crisp, perfectly sweet grapes for us to share. Just as we got past the Far East aid station to start the loop, the bag ripped open and all the grapes fell to the ground. We stopped, looked at each other in horror, looked at the ground. Looked back at each other, back at the ground, and then suddenly both of us were on our hands and knees desperately picking up grapes and shoving them in our mouths. Best grapes I’ve ever eaten in my life.

By then, clouds had come in and we were starting to hear thunder in the distance, getting closer every minute. The temperature dropped enough that I stopped sweating. Now, I’m terrified of lightning but I went out on my 5th lap anyway. When I got back to Far East, I met up with the lead woman and we discussed the weather situation. We had the option of doing a half loop by skipping Far East, with the caveat that once we shortcutted, that was it for the race. She and I decided that it wasn’t worth the risk even though we were under thick tree cover, and I was tired and didn’t want to push it, so we went back and reported our cutoff. Turns out that a message had been lost that the storm was moving away from the race, but it doesn’t matter, it was time to stop for me.

I ended up with a total of 21.75 miles in 6.5 hours. Given that the lead woman only did a 50k, I’m really content. I ended up 11th out of 19 people who started, but I was able to do a hard 35 mile ride the next day. More importantly, I had a lot of fun, made a couple new friends, and am looking forward to the next race!