The Fort Clinch 100 and 50 Mile Endurance Runs

UPDATE: The event scheduled for March 24th 2018 has been canceled.

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The 2018 Fort Clinch 100 and 50 Mile Endurance Run is a true destination event. The race takes place entirely inside Fort Clinch State Park on the north end of Amelia Island.

With it’s rich, diverse history, opportunities for a wide range of outdoor recreation, shopping, dining, gorgeous Atlantic ocean sunrises, and stunning sunsets over the Amelia River, the island is an absolute gem tucked away in the very north east corner Florida. Having been occupied by 8 different forces over the past several hundred years, its also known as the Isle of Eight Flags, and was once a haven for pirates.

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More Intuition Ale Works I-10 IPA, WENCH! AAAAAYYYYEE!!

The Fort Clinch 100 is the first race in what will eventually become the Isle of Eight Flags Ultra Series. The 2018 race will include the FC100 and the FC50 Mile. The series now includes the Bronze Man 12hr; and eventually the 100k road race.

A part of the park system since 1935, Fort Clinch is one of the most well-preserved 19th century forts in the country. Although no battles were fought here, it was garrisoned during both the Civil and Spanish-American wars. During the 1930s, the Civilian Conservation Corps began preserving and rebuilding many of the structures of the abandoned fort.

The Fort Clinch 100 is a challenging, but runable, multi-surface 10ish mile loop that will test both road and trail runners alike. It is a mix between roughly 6 miles of continually undulating, twisting, mostly shaded oak hammock single track trail; over 3 miles of paved road; about .5 miles of semi-packed sandy beach. The trail runs through forest that grew on top of ancient sand dunes, so the hills are very short but steep and tend to come one right after another. The road sections tend to be false flats. The sand sections add to the challenge but are still runable if you do it right (the secret is not pushing of to hard when you run). Added up over 100 miles the cumulative gain is somewhere around 7000′-8000′. It is can be a technically difficult course and will wear you out before you realize it is happening if you do not respect it. It is NOT as flat as it appears.

You are likely to see plenty of wild life on the trail: bobcats, alligators, raccoons, armadillos, white-tailed deer, fireflies, horseshoe crabs and various species of shorebirds. If you’re lucky, while running on the beach section of the course, looking north across Cumberland Sound, you may see wild horses on the beach at the south end of Cumberland Island National Seashore or bottle nosed dolphins swimming through the inlet.

The 2018 FC100 is set for the weekend of March 24th.

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Tailwind Nutrition at the Fort Clinch 100!

I’m excited to formally announce that Tailwind Nutrition is the official sports drink of the Fort Clinch 100 will be at all the aid stations! Tastes great, and best of all, wont upset your gut while you run. My good friend Ashley Walsh recently won the Pistol 100 running on Tailwind Nutrition almost exclusively. LOVE this stuff…

WHY TAILWIND

All you need, all day. Really.

I created Tailwind for racing the Leadville 100. It’s designed to overcome the nutrition problems faced by endurance athletes in events like 50’s, 100’s, 24-hour, and multi-day epics. Tailwind combines complete fuel, hydration, and electrolytes in a tasty drink that won’t turn your stomach into a brick. Read on to learn how Tailwind helps athletes get endurance nutrition right.

Complete Energy+Electrolytes+Hydration

Ditch the gels, bars, chews, and pills and go all day with just Tailwind.

Tailwind mixes with water to meet your calorie, hydration, and electrolyte needs, no matter how big a day’s in front of you. Deliberately mild, customers describe the flavors as “clean” and “light” with a mouth feel as close to water as you can get while still meeting your nutrition needs.

Your hydration pack will love Tailwind too. Tailwind dissolves completely on contact with water and cleans up with a quick rinse. No film, no lingering aftertaste, no gooey mess.

Better Absorption

Tailwind’s glucose/sucrose fuel takes advantage of how our bodies absorb nutrients. The combination of Tailwind’s fuel, electrolytes, and water has a synergistic effect, allowing the body to absorb more of each. Once in the bloodstream, the glucose in Tailwind fuels muscles directly, allowing athletes to go longer at higher intensities.

Tailwind’s electrolyte profile mimics what you’re sweating out. Tailwind is all you need. Go ahead and donate those electrolyte pills to a good cause. You won’t need them anymore (and you won’t need to buy them!).

Easy on Your Gut

The three most traumatic moments in my stomach’s career: Spring Break Palm Springs ’91, Lechuguilla at the bottom of the Copper Canyon ‘93, and Gel #6 Leadville ’04. No more! Sipping Tailwind is like having the wind at your back, not like a kick in the gut at mile 45.

Not all stomachs can handle the sticky sweetness or hard-to-digest molecules found in most nutrition products. We’ve been there, and we’re just grateful there’s only one video. Sipping Tailwind provides steady, small doses of fuel that pass right through the stomach. The composition of Tailwind’s fuel matches what the gut is made to absorb, so Tailwind enters your system quickly, without taxing the digestive tract.

Did we mention that Tailwind is made from all natural ingredients and organic flavors? It mixes crystal clear and tastes light and clean, so you can drink it all day. Artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives are so 1992.

Value

We get it that performance matters more than price when it comes to nutrition, but why pay more than what you need to? Check out some math for a 10-hour race (2500 calories at 250/hour):

Tailwind 2500 calories Tailwind = $17.50 Electrolytes = included Total = $17.50

Nutrition named after a hand tool 1600 calories from drink = $11.20 1 gel/hr (900 cal) = $14 2 electrolyte pills per hour = $3.40 Total = $28.60

Not needing a spreadsheet to keep track of nutrition? Priceless.

What About Protein?

We researched it. We tested it. We asked experts about it, so you don’t have to. Protein during exercise doesn’t improve endurance, but it does correlate with GI distress.

Studies show no significant endurance difference between carb-only and carb-protein drinks. Protein is hard to digest and can shut down your digestive tract during exercise. It can also slow the absorption of carbohydrates needed to rebuild glycogen stores during the critical recovery window. For these reasons, protein’s not included in Tailwind. Want to dive deeper? Check out JoeFrielsBlog.com here and another article here.

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100 Mile and 50 Mile Finisher Awards!

Check it out!

The awards for Fort Clinch finishers!

100 Milers: antique brass buckle.

Fort Clinch 100 Finisher Buckle

Fort Clinch 100 Finisher Buckle

50 milers: Custom personalized leather belt. When you finish, my friend Bryon from People’s Leather will be on site to get your size and info. Belts will be mailed out about 4-6 weeks after the race. He does great leather work. Check out his stuff at http://www.peoples-leather.com/

50 Mile Finishers also receive a buckle with the belt, although not quite as fancy.

50 Mile Finishers also receive a buckle with the belt, although not quite as fancy.

50 Mile finisher award

50 Mile finisher award

For those of you who already have a 100 mile buckle from previous years, come get a matching belt!

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A Llama in Leadville- Part I

After more than 4 years of hoping, wishing and praying for some way to make it to this town, I finally rolled into Leadville, CO close to 10pm, the Friday night before “The Race Across the Sky.”

Leadville, CO. The highest city in the US.

Leadville, CO. The highest city in the US.

My entire introduction to the world of ultrarunning was the book Born to Run, back in 2009. So, the very first 100 mile race I ever read about was the Leadville 100. The story of Ann Trason and the race against the Tarahumara had captivated me. I had just driven into a town steeped in ultrarunning history. To say that I was excited was a serious understatement.

I noticed my good friend, fellow Mas Loco and Ultra Caballo Blanco RD, Maria “La Mariposa Apache” Walton, was still awake and posting on Facebook. Mas Locos are the runners who have traveled to the Copper Canyons to run with the Tarahumara in the Ultra Caballo Blanco (formerly the Copper Canyon Ultra Marathon). Most everyone who runs is given an animal name that represents who they are. She apparently was having trouble falling asleep. She would being crewing for another Mas Loco and Luna Sandals runner, Tyler “El Tarzano” Tomasello.

Me: “You still up?”

Maria: “Are you nearby?”

Me: “Getting some dinner at a little pizza shop.”

Maria: “There is an extra bed here at Greg Labbe’s house.”

Sweet. I wouldn’t have to sleep in my car somewhere and worry about being harrased by local police for loitering or whatever. Greg Labbe is a veteran of the Leadville Trail 100 and has been opening his home for years for a lot of the Mas Locos who have come to run Leadville. Micah True would crash here whenever he was in town, choosing to sleep in the “Presidential Suite,” which is basically a shed with electricity and a mattress, no heat or A/C. I met Maria in the parking lot by the house and she showed me inside. Her and Jess Soco, another Mas Loco, were staying in the RV. Other runners were camped out in the garage, others were crowded in the upstairs bedroom and still more in campers and vans in the driveway. I ate my dinner as quietly as I could in the kitchen and noticed an old race poster hanging on the wall. After eating half of the biggest calzone I’ve ever seen, I tucked in on a sofa in the RV. The race start was 4am.

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Poster from the 1994 Leadville 100, where Ann Trason raced against the Tarahumara. The 1994 race is where Micah first met the Tarahumara, following them back down to the Copper Canyons soon after. Bottom left pic: Micah pacing Maria at the Javelina Jundred in 2010. Bottom right: Micah in one of the areas Burro races. Behind that Barefoot Ted’s foot prints, his “autograph.”

I set my alarm for 3am. It felt like I had barely closed my eyes before it went off. Unlike most times when I have to get up early (I am not typically a morning person), this time it wasn’t hard. I popped up, threw on my Luna Sandals and my new Salomon Minim Down jacket (thanks, Dad!) and walked inside the house to find a bunch of my friends already up and eating breakfast. Patrick Sweeney, who had somehow finagled his way into a LT100 entry, Tyler Tomasello, Mike Miller, Jess and Maria I’d seen a few months ago at Luis Escobar‘s Born to Run Ultra in Los Olivos, CA. as well as Jennifer Johnson Cline. My Canadian buddy, Flint, however, I hadn’t seen in over a year and a half and was pretty stoked to see him again. Tyler and Pat both run for Luna Sandals.

Two of my favorite people, Pat and Maria, at BTR Ultra earlier this year.

Flint running in the 2012 Ultra Caballo Blanco down in Mexico

Left to Right: Scott Smuin of Luna Sandals, Mike Miller and Jess Soco, at the Born to Run Ultra earlier this year.

Tyler cruising during a Rarajipari (Tarahumara ball race) at the Born to Run Ultra

Tyler cruising during a Rarajipari (Tarahumara ball race) at the Born to Run Ultra

Mas Locos

Mas Locos at Born to Run. Left to Right: Jim, Dawn, Tyler, Sally, Stephanie and Shawn, Maria, Luis, Jess, Scott, Pat, Mike and myself.

I also got a to meet a few runners I’d only known from Facebook that I was surprised to find staying at the house. One was elite runner Ian “that Rocky Raccoon guy” Sharman, and his pacer/crew Sean Meissner, who is certainly no slacker on the trail, either. Sean is also a writer for iRunFar and manages the online store. I’d actually met Ian briefly in a pizza joint in Lone Pine, CA after the Badwater 135 in 2012, and mentioned it to him, but I’m pretty sure he didn’t remember me, lol. Ian is running the Grand Slam this year. The Grand Slam of Ultrarunning is made up of the 4 biggest and oldest 100 milers in the US, all just a few weeks apart: Western States 100, Vermont 100, Leadville Trail 100 and Wasatch Front 100. The GS began back in 1986 when Tom Green became the first person to run all 4 races in the same year. Before the start of the LT100 Ian was about 30 minutes ahead of another elite runner in the Grand Slam, Nick Clark, and both of them were, so far, on pace to be well under the GS record of 74:54:16 set by Neal Gorman in 2010. (see this series of articles on iRunFar by Michael Lebowitz)

Dont let the Elvis Costume fool you. Ian can easily run a sub 3 hour marathon dressed like this. Sometimes as Spiderman. He also has a sub 13 hour 100 mile PR.

Nick Clark at the Vermont 100. Photo: Michael Lebowitz

Nick Clark at the Vermont 100. Photo: Michael Lebowitz

Sean at this years Ultra Caballo Blanco down in the Copper Canyons.

Another Facebook friend I got to meet was Ed Thomas from South Dakota. Fun Fact: Ed’s son, Nick, is the lead singer for the band The Spill Canvas.

Stolen from Ed's fb page.

Stolen from Ed’s fb page.

Michael and Kimberly Miller from Arizona were also there.

Michael, Kimberly and Ed Ettinghausen "The Jester"

Michael, Kimberly and Ed Ettinghausen “The Jester.” Ed was also running Leadville.

After getting a cup of coffee I decided to head down to the start line to find some more friends I knew would be here. I had also been recruited last minute as a pacer for my friend Sergio Radovcic, and wanted to touch base with him before the race got under way. There were several here from Florida as runners and crew and nearly all of them were veterans of Fort Clinch:

SergBad

Sergio Radovcic, owner of FitFul and co-RD for Powerman Florida, at Badwater 135 this past July.

Michelle at the Speedgoat 50k this past July

Michelle (runner) and her husban, Kenny Matys (crew), of Atomic Climbing Holds. Michelle at the Speedgoat 50k this past July.

Scott D’Angelo (crew) of Doghouse Performance Cycling Center in Boca Raton. I had the privilege of crewing for Scott at the Badwater 135 last year. At the finish line, left to right: Albie, Angry Dan, Christina, Scott, Lane and Jen Vogel, myself.

Eric taking a break during FC100.

Eric CantStop Law (runner) from Fit2Run in Tampa, taking a break during FC100. I think he thought this was a calender shoot.

At Ancient Oaks 100.

Tammie Wonning, crew for Eric law, at Ancient Oaks 100.

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Grant “Dingofish” Maughan volunteered at the FC100 earlier this year. He ended up placing second at Badwater this past July.

Zane Holscher (runner), RD for Destin 50 Beach Ultra and his dad, Larry who is an excellent photographer, would also be here. I never did run into them, unfortunately.

Matt Mahoney is an old school ultra runner from Florida, and race director of the Wickam Park 200 mile ultra, who is a veteran of both Hardrock and Leadville.

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Matt on Colorado’s highest point, Mount Elbert. Stolen from his FB page.

Ran into long time Facebook friend, SoCal Coyote, entertaining motivational speaker, coach and all around nice guy Jimmy Dean Freeman, who I usually call Yimmy, instead of Jimmy. Why? Because of the movie “The Whole Ten Yards.” In the film Bruce Willis plays a mob hitman named Jimmy “The Tulip” Teduski, whose mob boss father is from some European country where the J’s are pronounced as Y’s. So now I call anyone named Jimmy, Yimmy. Why? Because I’m a nerd. Was this a pointless tangent? Yes.

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Yimmy about to tackle his first Leadville 100.

You can listen to Yimmy’s recollection of the race here on an episode of Trail Runner Nation podcast.

There were plenty more people there, I’m sure that I knew and got to see, and didn’t see, but this post is already going to be really long and I will have to break it into several parts. I also have ADD and I’m getting lazy. Onward to the start!

WAIT! Almost forgot that I met fellow Mas Loco, Scott Jurek! Viva Mas Locos!

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7 time Western States 100 winner, Scott Jurek.

The Leadville Trail 100 was HUGE this year. 1200 people registered for the event, while somewhere between 900-1000 actually started. I have never been to an ultra with more than 350 runners. The atmosphere was awesome. It ended up being the longest start to any race I’ve been to.

And it would turn out to be a complete disaster!! Just kidding… There were definitely issues resulting from the huge number of runners at this race that need to be addressed, and apparently have been, but I’ll get to that in a future post…

TBC…

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The 2013 Fort Clinch 100 Race Director Report

First a thank to the Fort Clinch 100 sponsors:

Amelia Island Yacht Basin

Athletes Fueled by Mila

110%. Play Harder Compression Gear

Red Otter Outfitters

MOON RIVER Pizza

Amelia Hotel at the Beach

The Crab Trap Restaurant

Intuition Ale Works

Amelia Island Runners

FitFul

Ultimate Direction Hydration

Justin’s Nut Butter.

Entrepreneurs Empowering Entrepreneurs from Justin’s Nut Butter on Vimeo.

Luna Sandals

The Endurance Trust

THE RACE

For the past several months I’ve had a recurring nightmare:  I organize a race, sometimes road and sometimes trail, but come race day somehow I’d totally forgotten to organize volunteers, set up aid stations or mark the course. This was probably due both to conscious and unconscious fear of failure I’ve dealt with most of my life and was likely compounded by my newbness as an RD. Stories of failure by a popular race company and director out in California, didn’t help either. I’d heard tales of sponsors and runners showing up to the venues on race day with no sign whatsoever of the RD and company.  If an experienced person/company like that can screw up so badly, how could I not? It would nearly become self-fulfilling prophecy.

Nothing fancy, but just enough to help get you across that finish line.

Nothing fancy, but just enough to help get you across that finish line.

By race morning the aid stations set up still had not been completed in time to start the race at 6am and we had to push the start back by 30 minutes. Thankfully, most runners were OK with this as it would be less time till sun up and less time needing to wear a headlamp. They could also enjoy a few extra cups of coffee around the fire pit.

Sunrise at the Fort Clinch 100

Sunrise over the coastal grassland and dunes at the Fort Clinch 100. Photo: Carey Lynn Clarkson

However, after the race started and runners had been on the course for more than 30 minutes it occurred to me that I hadn’t marked the trail on a half mile section known as Willow Pond Loop (alligator pond). I had marked the rest of the course the night before, but when I came to willow pond loop, I skipped over it. I’ll be honest, with only a dim headlamp, Willow Pond Loop is creepy as hell at night! I wasn’t going back there by myself. I reasoned that it would be bad for business if the RD was eaten by a swamp ape or a gator or one of those giant, rabid, mutant, shark eating squirrels we have in our woods.alligator

Alligator swamp on the Willow Pond Loop

Alligator swamp on the Willow Pond Loop

Other than this initial set back, and one more later where some kids decided it would be fun to pull up the course marking flags to wave them around, everything smoothed out and the race went off without any other serious hitches.

Thankfully, legal pad toting, time keeping extraordinaire and defender of the race flags was there to correct the children: "HEY! You there! Foolish ignorant child! Do you love Santa Clause, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairey?... Yeah? Well they are ALL.DEAD! And its YOUR fault. Now go put those flags back where you found them!"

Thankfully, legal pad toting, time keeping extraordinaire and defender of the race flags, Elizabeth Stupi, was there to correct the children: “HEY! You there! Foolish ignorant child! Do you love Santa Clause, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy … Yeah? Well they are ALL.DEAD! And its YOUR fault. Now go put those flags back where you found them!” *Bambi laughing under her breath* “hehehe stupid children…” Photo: Carey Lynn Clarkson

Bambi sadistically takes video as the traumatized children run away crying "Oh, this is so going on YouTube..." Even her evil little chihuahua, Kiki, was laughing while the video was recorded.

Bambi sadistically takes video as the traumatized children run away crying “Oh, this is so going on YouTube…” Even her evil little chihuahua, Kiki, was laughing while the video was recorded. Photo: Carey Lynn Clarkson

Defending, two-time, USATF 100 Mile National Champion, Dave James from Scottsdale, AZ had flown in the week before the race to hang out and explore the island and the course. Despite my poor performance as host with everything else I was trying to get done that week, Dave never once complained. This apparently was a special time for him being back in Florida. You can read about it in his race report here.

Dave James on the FC100 course

Dave James on the FC100 course. Photo: Carey Lynn Clarkson

In what was going to be a dream race for me as an RD, ultra-legend, 2012 24 Hour World Champion and American Record holder, Mike Morton, was also scheduled to race at Fort Clinch. It would have been an epic show down between two supremely talented runners whose PR’s at 100 miles are right around 13 hours. Unfortunately, Mike sent me a message just a few days before the race informing me that he would need to pull out do to an ongoing tendinitis issue in his leg. With his return to the Western States 100, after over a decade long hiatus, coming up in June, I don’t blame him one bit. The Fort Clinch 100 is chump change compared to the one that started it all out in California.

Altogether, 29 brave runners toed the starting line at the Fort Clinch 100. The weather was nearly perfect for running: Lows in the low 40’s with a high later in the day of mid to high 70’s and relatively low humidity. In what may have been an omen, if you believe in such things, the first thing runners came across on the run out the the beginning of the trail, was the Easter Bun… I mean a marsh rabbit squished in the middle of the rode. Maybe it had been the result of someone who was just driving way to fast coming into the park that morning, or MAYBE it was the Fort Clinch Curse letting the contestants know that this would be no Easter weekend picnic hike through the woods. If you did not respect it, it was going to squish you into the ground.

They were lucky they weren’t running in conditions we had in the 2011 race. The temps were close to 100 degrees with 90% humidity making for a heat index of about 112 degrees. 3 runners went to the hospital that year and the legend of the Fort Clinch Curse was born. You can read Ashley Walsh’s account on her blog AshRuns100s.com. She ended up in the ICU for 2 days.

Only 4 people hit the 100 mile mark in 2011, and out of those 4 only one was female: Juli Aistars.

It would be reinforced just a few weeks later. While on a training ride, elite ultrarunner and triathlete, Jennifer Vogel (who was pacing one of the runners that was rushed to the ER during the race), would hit a hidden pot hole on a training ride, cruising somewhere around 23-24 mph. I commented to Jen that we’d know for sure if the park was cursed if something bad were to happen to Dave James or Mike Morton, or both. Not long after Mike Morton officially registered for the Fort Clinch 100, he got injured. Within days of the race he confirmed he hadnt been able to run for more than an hour without his tendon acting up. Dave James, even though he was able to show up and not get injured, came down with a nasty cold he couldn’t shake for over two weeks, and would end up running one of the ugliest races of his ultra career. However, it seems the FURs who showed up brought along some magic of the unicorn to counteract the curse.

Magic unicorn representatives were on hand to counter the the power of the Curse.

Magic unicorn representatives were on hand to counter the the power of the Curse. Photo: Bambi Pennycuff

Even so, only 17 would finish the whole distance and only 3 of those would go under 24 hours. Despite my warnings that the course is deceptively difficult and would chew them up before the realized it was even happening, several runners still went out fast. 17 of them finishing the first 10.15 mile loop under 2 hours.

Our first DNF beers of the day: Justin Radley and Jim Schroeder.

Our first Intuition Ale Works DNF beers of the day: Justin Radley and Jim Schroeder. Justin was forced to drop, not by the course, unfortunately, but by a foot issue that has been plaguing him for over a year. Jim recently had melanoma removed from his nose that ended up requiring reconstructive surgery after. His doctor had given him clearance to run, “only until your nose begins to throb.” And he did just that, logging a solid 30 miles for the day.

In an impressive display of guts running his first 100 miler, George Barthelmes of Bryceville, FL would stay only a few minutes behind Dave James until about 40 miles. He eventually slowed considerably deciding to take it easier on the back 50 to keep from blowing up. Despite what everyone thought, me included, it turned out George’s goal was never to race Dave James, but instead to get as many miles out of the way as possible during the cooler parts of the day, then coast into the finish. He had one rough patch between 60-70 miles, but finished in 21 hours 58 minutes. Just goes to show that you should never judge someone by what YOU think their race strategy is.

George around mile 70 or 80.

George around mile 70 or 80. Photo: Carey Lynn Clarkson

By 2-3 in the afternoon, temps had risen to nearly 80 degrees with only a light breeze. In the exposed sun it felt much hotter. Along with the difficulty of the course, the heat was beginning to show the toll it was taking on runners as one after the other they came into the main aid-station crusted in salt and looking exhausted. I would just smirk and think “I tried to warn you.”

Eric "Can't Stop" Law takes shelter from the heat in his awesome hat.

Eric “Can’t Stop” Law takes shelter from the heat in his awesome hat. Photo: Carey Lynn Clarkson

The Fort Clinch 100 course is made up mostly of roller coaster single-track through coastal oak hammock that grew on top of ancient sand dunes. It may not seem like much while you are running it early on, but what most runners may not realize is that all those small rollers add up to almost 9000’ of climbing and equal decent over 100 miles.

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From a race report (PDF) by finisher Jodi Weiss,

The best way I can describe this course is to say that at Fort Clinch 100, a ten mile loop can actually feel like 25 miles or more.  It’s worth mentioning though that the first loop, second, even the third was a runner’s joy – I loved the course!  However, this course was transformative, but not in the likely way; it transformed from a thing of joy and beauty, to something to be feared and dreaded after about 60 miles, when the ups and downs, the little I’m- going-to-catch-you-roots and knobs became the enemy.

The constant up and down can wreak havoc on your heart rate if you aren’t paying attention. Experienced ultra-runner Andrei Nana found this out the hard way. In his later laps he was having issues with his heart rate constantly going too high. I was actually rather proud of this as Andrei can be hard to please and loves a challenging course. Case in point, he created a Facebook group where any conversation about race distances less than 100k are deleted because, “they are not inspiring.”

Andrei finished in 27 hours 32 minutes.

Andrei finished in 27 hours 32 minutes. Photo: Carey Lynn Clarkson

He remarked to his pacer, 8 time Hardrock finisher, Chris Twiggs, who grew up here on Amelia Island, “I’ve run every 100 miler in Florida and this one is the most challenging.”

Beach section around Fort Clinch

Beach section around Fort Clinch

Throw in the sand around the fort, the exposed root and the mentally exhausting, leg pounding, never ending tunnel that is the half mile long fishing pier, and you have the kind of course where remaining focused and alert is essential to finishing.

This is only about halfway down the pier.

This is only about halfway down the pier.

Another take on the race, by 10th place finisher, Josh Nelson, can be found here. My favorite quote from the report,

The sense of relief was soon replaced by a feeling of hatred created by the fishing pier, as tired as I was I could not judge long distance. This only made the fishing pier seem to grow as I made way down the pier for the ninth time.

Despite his hatred of the pier, Josh stuck it out and finished in 26 hours 1 minute.

Despite his hatred of the pier, Josh stuck it out and finished in 26 hours 1 minute. Good enough for 10th place overall. Photo: Carey Lynn Clarkson

Josh with his new buckle and Intuition Ale Works mug and finisher beer, the People's Pale Ale.

Josh with his new buckle and Intuition Ale Works mug and finisher beer, the People’s Pale Ale.

As expected, Dave James took the top spot and set a course record in 19 hours and 37 minute beating second place by roughly 2 hours, despite it being an ugly race for him. I ran up to him as he was heading out onto the pier just before finishing his 9th lap, to see what he would need waiting for him when he came back:

Dave, “I need a bullet to the head!

Me, “We dont have any of those. Sorry. Anything else?

Dave, “How about an alligator to jump out and tear my legs off!

Me, “We dont have those either. What do you want in your bottle?

Dave, “Coke.”

That I could do. I grabbed his handheld and ran back to fill it and have it waiting for him, hoping that in the meantime he wouldn’t through himself off the pier to be eaten by the bull sharks waiting in the water below. Apparently, the thought had crossed his mind.

Dave James finishes in a new CR.

Dave James finishes in a new CR. Photo: Carey Lynn Clarkson

Waking up with a nasty cold, cold sweats and sore throat he still lapped every runner in the field at least once.

Keeping Dave warm with a roaring cardboard fire (we ran out of firewood) after his finish.

Keeping Dave warm with a roaring cardboard fire (we ran out of firewood) after his finish. Photo: Carey Lynn Clarkson

Dave normally finishes 100 mile races within a 14-15 hour time range and has a PR of 13 hours 6 minutes set at the North Coast 24. I was excited to present him with the Fort Clinch 100 Champion Buckle.

Presenting Dave with his Champion Buckle.

Presenting Dave with his Champion Buckle.

Apparently Dave had a belt handy and decided to go ahead and sport his well earned new SMO.

Apparently Dave had a belt handy and decided to go ahead and sport his well earned new SMO.

Claire Dorotik from Aurora, CO took the top female spot and 4th place overall setting a women’s course record time of 24 hours 19 minutes. Just a few weeks before, Claire was also the female winner in south Florida’s LOST 118 around Lake Okeechobee.

The race director with the winners Dave James and Claire Dorotik after presenting them with their champion buckles.

The race director with the winners Dave James and Claire Dorotik after presenting them with their champion buckles.

First time 100 miler Taryn Giumento of Fort Stewart, GA was 2nd Female in a time of 25 hours 35 minutes.

Taryn crossing the finish.

Taryn crossing the finish. Photo: Carey Lynn Clarkson

2 days later Taryn posted this pic sporting her buckle. Hottest. buckle photo. ever.

Great buckle photo by Taryn Giumento.

Another first time 100 mile runner was 2012 5th place UROC female Krystle Martinez.

On the road portion heading back from the trail.

On the road portion heading back from the trail. Photo: Carey Lynn Clarkson

I decided to have a little fun with her and do the old carrot on a stick routine with the finisher buckle to motivate her across the finish line in the last few hundred yards.

Fort the final few hundred yards I did this. And it was hilarious watching her actually try to reach out and grab it :]

Fort the final few hundred yards I did this. And it was hilarious watching her actually try to reach out and grab it :] Photo: Carey Lynn Clarkson

Krystle finished with a time of 27 hours 34 minutes. Next to her is “Bruce” Sung Ho Choi, the 2011 winner. He was taking it easy this time around since he was prepping for UMSTEAD 100 the following weekend. He decided to hang back and keep Krystle company all the way to the finish line.

Krystle's beat up toes and a hard earned buckle!

Krystle’s beat up toes and a hard earned buckle! Photo: Carey Lynn Clarkson

In what was easily my proudest moment during the race, I got to see my good friend Tim Puetz, finish his first 100 mile race.

Tim marching across the finish line in 24 hours 30 minutes. Good enough for 5th overall.

Tim marching across the finish line in 24 hours 30 minutes. Good enough for 5th overall. I hope he returns next year to go for sub-24. Photo: Carey Lynn Clarkson

Honestly, I’m getting a little choked up thinking about it as I write this. Tim was one of the runners I met at my first ultra in Mexico, the Copper Canyon Ultra Marathon, back in 2010.

"Did I really just do that?"

“Did I really just do that?” Photo: Carey Lynn Clarkson

When ultra runner Micah True went missing in the Gila Wilderness while out on an easy 12 mile run, just over a year ago, Tim was one of the runners I traveled with to New Mexico to help with the Search and Rescue effort to find our friend. After our search assignment was over Tim, myself and Simon Donato, the other runner and star of the new Canadian adventure show Boundless,  decided to do a short search/shake out run of our own on a trail section we thought Micah likely would have used as part of his run. It seemed we weren’t the only ones who thought he would have gone that way, because while on the trail we ran into Remolino Molina, a longtime friend of Micah, and two others running back to the trail head to report that they had found him. He was dead in a creek running through a side canyon that cuts across the trail we were on. They’d decided to search the area on a gut feeling after noticing that the canyon emptied out only a few hundred yards from the Gila Wilderness lodge where Micah had been staying, making roughly a 12 mile loop.

After asking me if I had a radio with me (I didn’t), Ray and Jessica gave Tim and Simon a fleece pull over, some matches, water, one energy bar and a map to point out where Micah’s body was laying. It was dipping into the 20’s at night in the high country of the Gila, and even though they were only wearing tech t’s and running shorts, they ran out to watch over Micah’s body till SAR arrived. I ran back with Ray to report that Micah had been found and more importantly to be with Maria. It would take SAR several hours to mount a recovery operation to retrieve Micah’s body from the canyon. Ironically, his body would be carried out of the canyon by a white/cream colored horse.

More detailed accounts of everything that happened can be found in the New York Times by Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Barry Bearak and in Outside Magazine by Born to Run author Christopher McDougall, who also participated in the search effort.

Tim and I were both too exhausted to realize the buckle was still wrapped for the photo.

Tim and I were both too exhausted to realize the buckle was still wrapped for the photo. Photo: Carey Lynn Clarkson

Everyone hanging out, drinking their finisher beers and waiting for the last two finishers to come in.

Everyone hanging out, drinking their finisher beers and waiting for the last two runners to come in.

Bringing up the rear were DLF’s Wayne Wright and Jodi Weiss in 29 hours 44 minutes. I will always hold to the idea that the last finishers are always the toughest runners in the race. Typically they are the ones who put up with the most adversity, push through and get it done.

Jodi and Wayne elated for it to finally be over.

Jodi and Wayne elated for it to finally be over. Photo: Carey Lynn Clarkson

I ran the last few hundred yards with them to the finish line. As we were running Jodi and Wayne remarked that I needed to run my own race next year because, “you don’t know. I don’t think you understand how hard this course is.” Despite my protestations that, yes, I do understand because I designed the course and run it regularly, Jodi would have none of it.

So, challenge accepted. Next year I will be running the Fort Clinch 100. This works out well, anyway. I had toyed with the idea of creating a belt buckle just for me as the RD. Hey, race directing a 100 miler isn’t easy! I deserve to wear a buckle for it, or so I thought, at first. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that RD or not, if I want to wear a Fort Clinch 100 buckle, I need to earn it the old fashioned way. To do anything less would be sacrilegious and disrespectful to our sport. And just to add a little more pressure, I am going to do it under 24 hours.

Ultimately, the heart and oil that makes the machine go is always the volunteers who show up and bust their humps with little sleep for nothing more than a t-shirt, cheap swag or more often than not, absolutely nothing at all. It can be an almost thankless job if races like this aren’t a passion for the volunteers who attend. No matter how well organized a race is, without passionate volunteers, it can easily become a disaster. And man did I have some amazing people!

The Magical Unicorn Council of Willow Pond Loop!

The Magical Unicorn Council of Willow Pond Loop!

First and foremost, thanks to my mom, Chaundra Berghoefer, a realtor for Palm III Realty here in Fernandina Beach. She was easily the biggest supporter of the Fort Clinch 100. Giving of her time, not getting paid, and spending her own money on food in trust that I’ll pay her back, she put up with my generally tired and crabby attitude with little sleep herself and never really complained.

Willow Pond Loop aid station.

Willow Pond Loop FUR station.

A HUGE thank you needs to go out to the FUR – Florida Ultra Runners group and Willow Pond Loop aid station captain Susan Anger. She was practically co-RD, taking a major portion of responsibility off my shoulders by handling this station with minimal, if any at all, interference from me.

Susan Anger says, "Go that way to the Alligator Loop of DOOM..."

Susan Anger says, “Go that way to the Alligator Loop of DOOM…” Photo: Carey Lynn Clarkson

She can be found at pretty much every ultrarunning event in Florida helping out.

Have no fear! Super "Volunteer Dog is here! Unless you go out on the alligator loop. You are on your own there. Got some excess salt I can lick off your leg before you go to your DOOM?"

Have no fear! Super Volunteer Dog is here! Unless you go out on the alligator loop. You are on your own there. Got some excess salt I can lick off your leg before you go to your DOOM?” Photo: Carey Lynn Clarkson

They were serving brie, shish kabob, turkey panini sandwiches, magical performance enhancing grilled cheese unicorn sandwiches made with authentic unicorn cheese made from magical unicorn milk, and bacon covered donuts. They were amazing.

Magical performance enhancing unicorn grilled cheese to help fend off the affects of the Curse.

Magical performance enhancing unicorn grilled cheese to help fend off the affects of the Fort Clinch Curse. Photo: Babmi Pennycuff

Bacon covered donuts! Who serves this kind of thing at an ultra?! The FURs do, thats who!

Bacon covered donuts! Who serves this kind of thing at an ultra?! The FURs do, thats who! Photo: Bambi Pennycuff

Seriously! Look at this! I didnt have to pay for any of this nor was it my idea. They brought it themselves!

Seriously! Look at this! I didn’t have to pay for any of this nor was it my idea. They brought it themselves!

My buddy Gene Meade, drove 6.5 hours from North Carolina just to volunteer. He worked tirelessly the entire race driving around to make sure every aid station was stocked off of just 30 minutes of sleep. It seemed as if he was everywhere all at once. He was also running UMSTEAD 100 the following weekend and would finish it in 26 hours 55 minutes.

Gene and Dr. Claire Johnson.

Gene and Dr. Claire Johnson.

Gene became omniscient during the Fort Clinch 100 and could be found at any point in the park at any point in time. He was zipping around in his zippy little yellow Fiat which I'm pretty sure is ACTUALLY a real TARDIS with a working chameleon circuit. hhmmm...

Gene became omniscient during the Fort Clinch 100 and could be found at any point in the park at any point in time. He was zipping around in his zippy little yellow Fiat which I’m pretty sure is ACTUALLY a real TARDIS with a working chameleon circuit.

Mike Melton, the race director for the Ancient Oaks 100 in Titusville, FL. the LOST 118 around Lake Okeechobee and the classic Strolling Jim 40 Miler in Tennessee, showed up.

Mike enjoys a relaxing beverage while watching the tried runners come in from their laps.

Mike enjoys a relaxing beverage while watching the tired runners come in from their laps. Photo: Carey Lynn Clarkson

He took over RD duties for a couple hours so I could get a little shut eye and also let me borrow his display clocks and pretty much any gear I asked for.

Mike took over timing for me for a bit. Thanks, Mike!

Mike took over timing for me for a bit. Thanks, Mike!

And Dave James Tsakanikas for coming out to my no name race to help me put a spot light on it and make it grow.

At the bluffs overlook on Big Talbot Island, just south of Amelia Island.

At the bluffs overlook on Big Talbot Island, just south of Amelia Island.

With his help promoting this race, the website has received thousands of hits on the website from over 10 different countries, been mentioned on the international ultrarunning podcast Talk Ultra with hosts Ian Coreless and Speedgoat Karl Meltzer, and mentioned in Ultrarunnerpodcast.com Daily News.

We even made the local paper: The Fernandina Beach NEWS LEADER!

Part one

Part one

Part deux

Part deux

RESULTS:

Men

1. Dave James, 35, Flagstaff, AZ, 19:37 (Course record. Previous record was 21:43, Sung ho Choi, 2011)

2. George Barthelmes, 43, Bryceville, FL, 21:58

3. Jeffery Kasal, 37, St, Louis, MO, 37, 22:37

4. Timothy Puetz, 34, Sliver Springs, MD, 24:30

5. Paul Chenery, 56, Toronto, ON, 25:13

Women

1. Claire Dorotik, 37, Aurora, CO, 24:19 (Course record. Previous record was 29:20, Juli Aistars, 2011)

2. Taryn Giumento, 27, Fort Stewart, GA, 25:35

3. Lana Kovarik, 43, Goose Creek, SC, 27:11

4. Krystle Martinez, 27, West Palm Beach, FL, 27:34

5. Tammie Wonning, 41, Severn, MD, 28:38

More complete results can be found on Ultrasignup.com

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See you next year!

Thanks for not pooping on the trail!

Caleb Wilson, RD

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