Keys 50K race recap
Let me start off by saying if you ever have the chance to come run this race, you MUST do it. Yes, it’s a hot and humid sufferfest, but it perfectly encompasses the spirit of the Keys! The race director is amazing as well as the support for it. Everything works so smoothly, and the communication for all the different moving parts makes it seamless. The first time I ran it was when my mom surprised my sisters and me with the relay registration as a Christmas present when I was barely pregnant with Rhett. By the time the race rolled around, I was almost 32 weeks and still trucking along comfortably. It was still my favorite race experience to date!
I don’t know if I ever would have actually attempted an ultra without someone encouraging me to do it with them. I probably would have talked about trying one “some day” for a long long time. So I have to give the biggest shoutout to Rachel for getting me on board to tackle her second Keys 50k and my first! I literally never would have or could have done it without you. Rachel’s knowledge and experience was invaluable in planning for and training for this race. We were able to prepare our minds for this as much as our bodies, and we both worked a lot on mantras and “callusing our minds” when we got in a tough spot. I don’t think we would have even finished without that preparation. We both fell in love with David Goggins, so if you can get past a lot of f-bombs, go check out his book (Can’t Hurt Me) and YouTube videos! His mindset stuff is pretty incredible.
Our plan was to only focus on a single 10K at a time, and we did that pretty well. I’m bad to be looking ahead to how far it is to the finish the whole race, and Rachel did well to remind me “there is no finish line.” That first 10K went super smooth, of course. The 50K started at 1 PM, so naturally it was already hella hot. We did 4:1 intervals and felt like we were doing a really slow, conservative pace. By the end of the first 10K, we even had some nice cloud cover and a breeze. It was actually a wonderful feeling. Our crew (my parents and Tucker) met us at a checkpoint somewhere around that 10K mark, and we only took a minute to refill bottles, get some salt caps, and take a pic before heading back out. “One down!” I hollered as we trotted away from them. Those 4:1 intervals were relatively easy to hold at our overall pace of like 11:30-12:15.
Around mile 7 or 8, we started to get rained on some, but it was welcome! It felt so great, and we really just enjoyed our intervals and the break from the sun for a while. It was breezey, the rain was so light that we couldn’t even really feel it hitting our skin, and again, the lack of sun was awesome! It was sometime not long before meeting up at our second checkpoint, though, that the rain stopped and the humidity came rushing in. We now had some pretty soggy shoes, and the heat felt way more intense compared to our few miles of bliss. I started to struggle mentally to stay in that “second 10K” and just get to my parents. We regrouped, refilled, and whined a little, but my parents sent us back down the road into the sun. We tried to perk ourselves up some by saying “next time we see them, we’ll be over the halfway hump!” But that only did so much. We were still only 13-14 miles into a 31 mile race, and the sun was starting to take its toll on our attitudes. We did a lot less talking and a WHOLE LOT of walking for the next while, with the halfway point passing silently. I think we were both afraid to face that we were ONLY halfway.
We planned to meet again at a checkpoint at mile marker 11.9, but it felt like forever away, so we agreed to see them sooner at 13.4 (mike markers count down to zero until you hit Key West!) It still took YEARS to get there. We abandoned the 4:1 intervals when we just couldn’t pick it up, and we would resume them as soon as we both felt able. It was such a team effort to keep each moving forward! Every so often, one of us would note though that people weren’t really passing us, so that must be a good sign. We cheered on anyone who did though. This race has so much camaraderie.
We ended up seeing my parents at checkpoints more frequently than we originally planned, and we each chugged pickle juice at pretty much every one. By the time we met them at mile marker 5, I was about ready to let my mind wander to the finish line! It finally started to feel safe to do that. I felt like a million bucks (in comparison to how desolate I’d felt in the previous miles) once we got started on that final stretch, but the heat had gotten to Rachel for sure. For the next five miles, she battled symptoms of heat exhaustion like an absolute champ, and I walked along powerless to help her. I cried some with two miles to go because I felt we would never actually finish, but looking back now of course that’s silly. Although those last two miles were so painful and so long and so slow, we never stopped moving forward. We crossed the finish line hand in hand and just hugged in disbelief. Ok maybe it was disbelief for me because Rachel had done this before, but it was surreal for me! This training cycle got so messed up by my sciatic issues in February and then my volume not being near what I wanted and my training marathon getting postponed, but we still made it happen. I am so proud of all the obstacles we overcame to achieve this bad boy, and that sense of achievement is what keeps me coming back.