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Cory, Tampa Bay Contingent Set to Take On Keys 100

By JOHN GREGG, TB Reporter

The ultramarathon starts in Key Largo and ends in Key West.

Several dozen ultrarunners from the Tampa Bay area will be in the Keys this weekend to participate in the Keys 100, a point-to-point ultramarathon which starts in Key Largo and ends at Higgs Beach in Key West. The ninth annual event features four different competitions: Individual races of 100 miles, 50 miles and 50 kilometers, and a 6-member team relay race of 100 miles. In its brief history, the Keys 100 has grown to become the state’s biggest and most iconic ultramarathon and runners from all over the country travel each May to the Keys to test themselves, not only over the distance of 100 miles, but against the elements, namely the brutal heat and humidity which Florida is known for this time of year.

After running the Keys 50 as his first ultramarathon in 2012, St. Petersburg resident Ted Cory (shown in accompanying photo on the Pinellas Trail) will be returning this year to attempt the 100-mile event for the first time. The 38-year-old, whose long term goal is to be accepted into the Badwater 135, has been preparing for the race since late January after coming off a three-month layoff due to a grade 3 quad strain suffered at the inaugural Daytona 100 Ultra Marathon in November. There, he finished 25th out of 57 finishers.

Following a period of base-building and strength training, not unlike training for any other running event, his coach sharpened Cory’s training for the Croom Fool’s Run 50-mile in Brooksville at the beginning of April. Cory responded by finishing second overall and as the first male. “Croom was a training run for me. We took a look at all the pieces to see what was working and what we needed to fix before the Keys,” said Cory.

The two-time Pinellas Trail Challenge finisher trains primarily at Coffee Pot Bayou and other trails in downtown St. Petersburg. He uses a low heart-rate method for his aerobic training, with some speed and tempo work thrown in later in his training cycle. To get used to running in the extreme heat, Cory uses standard methods employed by many ultrarunners but also, by his own admission, some unorthodox ones.

“One of the things that we start to incorporate as we get closer to the race is runs in the heat,” said Cory. “I don’t add tons of clothes and stuff because of the heart rate training; you just end up not having an effective run. But I also don’t use anything to cool me off, so I don’t use ice or anything like that during training runs like I would during a race.”

In addition, Cory, who says, “he doesn’t prep like a normal human, even for an ultrarunner”, walks around St. Pete wearing sweaters with his shorts and does not use air conditioning in his home currently. He also employs the help of family members for a heat training method he calls The Sentra Sauna. It consists of Cory sitting in an old beat-up Nissan Sentra during the hottest part of the day with the heat on full blast. Armed with an egg timer, which serves as a kind of kill-switch, the designated family member retrieves Cory from the locked car after a specified period of time.

Cory’s preparation goes beyond actually training for the event, though. There are many logistical considerations in completing a point-to-point 100 mile race in extreme heat, and the help of a support crew is essential. But like selecting the proper gear, having the right people on your crew is a must according to him.

“You want to make sure you have a good crew chief. You want someone who is experienced, but also someone who is really aligned with you. You have to make sure you’re on the same page as far as the game plan. The Keys is actually a little easier to crew because it’s just one road and you don’t have to do all these little turn-offs. You really need to have at least two crew members for them to really be effective in a 100 mile race, especially in regards to driving, because they start to have problems with their sleep too, especially if they are not an endurance athlete. That’s one of the issues I’ve seen people have with it.”

Lynsey Bray, a 37-year-old from Holiday who has crewed at the Keys 100 several times, concurs on how vital a good crew is in gaining a good result for the runner. She also points out that the Keys race has its own unique set of problems to contend with.

“Every race presents its own set of challenges to crew but point-to- point races like Keys can be logistically difficult to crew because they are so long and require constant movement,” said Bray. “The team’s sanity really benefits from extra preparation. This race also presents runner-specific challenges because it’s so freaking hot. I discuss the runner’s food and fluid plan, as well as how they want to cool themselves. Talking about this stuff ahead of race day saves time and confusion on the course.”

Cory is among about a dozen runners from the Tampa Bay area who will be participating in the 100-mile event. Notable among other area runners is Pat Hrabos of Sarasota, who won the Pinellas Trail Challenge (PTC) back in September in a course record time. The PTC has quickly gained a reputation in the Florida ultra community as “Florida’s hottest ultra” and is a good proving ground for potential success at a race like the Keys. Hrabos seems to be in good form as he recently won the inaugural Daytona Beach 50K. And while former Miami resident Aly Venti, 2014 Badwater champion and Keys 100 female record holder, is a favorite to win the 100- miler, Hrabos looks primed for a good performance at the Keys.

Other area starters include 63-year-old Karen Alexeev of St. Petersburg, one of only three people (and the oldest) to finish all three PTC races. Alexeev has over a dozen ultra finishes to her credit and finished the Keys 100 last year in just over 30 hours.

Kathleen Wheeler, 55, also of St. Petersburg, who has 100-mile finishes at the Keys the past two years and well over 60 ultra finishes to her credit, will also be on the starting line Saturday morning.

Other Tampa Bay-area runners participating in the 100 mile race are: Scott Boe of Tampa, Phillip Brown of Lakeland, Natasha Cosgrove of Lake Wales, Danny Davis of St. Petersburg, Scott Dean of Bradenton Beach, Luis Gomez of Clearwater Beach, Joel Royston of Plant City, Alexander Schwarzbauer of Bradenton and Claire Stirling of Sarasota.

In addition, another dozen runners from the area will be competing in the 50-mile race, including one of the best ultra runners in the world, Katy Nagy of Sarasota. The Hungarian-born Nagy is the reigning 24 Hour World Champion and had an incredible performance at the 153-mile Spartathlon in Greece last year where she finished fourth overall competing against the world’s best ultra marathoners, while also setting the women’s course record. The 37-year-old is a heavy favorite to win the race overall.

The Keys 100, which will also serve as a fundraiser for The Cancer Foundation of the Florida Keys, will take place on Saturday and Sunday (May 21-22.) For more information, visit http://www.keys100.com .

Columns | Running | Ultramarathons | Keys 100 | TB Reporter

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Cory, Tampa Bay Contingent Set to Take On Keys 100
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Cory, Tampa Bay Contingent Set to Take On Keys 100
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The ultramarathon starts in Key Largo and ends in Key West.
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Tampa Bay Reporter
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