Tampa Bay Ultrarunners Finish Keys 100-Miler
By JOHN GREGG, TB Reporter
Brutal heat conditions forced many in the field to drop out.
Several Tampa Bay-area ultrarunners were in the Florida Keys last weekend to participate in the Keys 100, Florida’s largest ultramarathon. In what turned out to be the hottest conditions in the event’s nine-year history, the marquee 100-mile race was won for the second time by 2015 U.S. National 24 Hour Running Team member, Aly Venti, a former Miami resident who is also the female course record holder. Forty-five percent (66) of the 146 starters in the 100-miler ended up dropping out , largely due to a heat index well into the 100s, but of the 80 who persevered in the brutal conditions, several were from the Tampa Bay area.
Danny Davis, a 46-year-old from St. Petersburg, led the local contingent, finishing in 25 hours, 41 minutes and 57 seconds. He was followed 20 minutes later by Luis Gomez, a Clearwater Beach resident who was attempting his second 100-mile race. This was his first 100-mile finish. A two-time finisher of the Pinellas Trail Challenge (PTC), Gomez is still trying to process the experience and is partially in shock that he was even able to finish.
“It’s tough for me to process, after doing 75 miles at Iron Horse (Endurance Runs) and feeling I could do more, I wasn’t as afraid of the 100. But in those conditions and watching the runners around me getting zapped by them, I have a hard time wrapping my head around how I was able to push through it,” he said less than 36 hours after finishing in 26:00:59. “So there’s definitely a proud factor, but still disbelief, which seems to overshadow the proud piece.”
The middle portion of the race was the most difficult for the 32-year-old native of Peru, and he took two 30-minute breaks after the sun went down to take in calories and to deal with medical issues like chafing and blistering. But Gomez, who finished his first ultra in 2014, is quick to credit his two experiences competing at the PTC for helping him grind out a finish at the Keys 100.
“I may not have even attempted this race without the PTC experiences,” Gomez said. “PTC is a perfect stepping stone to the Keys in my mind. PTC taught me about myself in the heat, in those conditions. It was an invaluable training experience before the Keys.”
Gomez, who says that it took “seven years of terrible marathon running” before he began to enjoy the sport, learned about the symptoms of dehydration at the PTC and was able to, with the help of his crew, use multiple techniques like ice bandanas to help him cool off to prevent his body from completely shutting down.
“I knew the symptoms of being overtaken by the heat; the cramping, the stomach irritation and lack of desire to drink or eat when in the heat. I knew the symptoms and my crew helped me hydrate more and convince me it was okay to slow down off the planned pace after my pee turned orangey with a hint of brown around mile 35.”
Pat Hrabos of Sarasota, who won the PTC last year and set a course record, was among the early frontrunners in the race and took over the lead around 60 miles before having to drop out due to a terrible case of chafing. “(I’m) disappointed in the result, but happy with effort. My crew did an awesome job, I feel terrible for letting them down,” said Hrabos, who finished third in the 50-mile event last year.
Ted Cory of St. Petersburg, like Gomez a two-time PTC finisher, also had to drop due to injury around 80 miles. Cory was looking at a possible Top 20 finish before a leg injury suffered at the Daytona 100 last year flared up and forced him to make a tough call and call it a day.
Barbara Gay Neel of Riverview, another two-time veteran of the PTC, competed in the 50-mile event last Saturday, and with her 15th place finish was one of 13 women to finish in the Top 20.
Like Gomez, she draws a lot of comparisons to the two races. “I have been thinking about this all day. I can’t decide which race was more difficult. I believe the PTC was temp(erature) hotter, but it did have some small areas of shade. For me the only reason the Keys race was more difficult than the PTC was my pace and heat training,” Neel said. “At the Keys this year I ran a faster pace, the first 25 miles I was under a 12-minute mile. I think paired with not having many months of heat training, that I will have for (the) PTC, (that) made this a more difficult race.”
She, too, utilized an ice bandana to keep her body cool and saw her crew much more often than at the PTC. “My saving grace was a handkerchief that was filled with ice. I kept it in my hand and held it to my face a lot. Probably why my lips are chapped today!”
Other local finishers in the 100-miler were Kathleen Wheeler, who finished the event for a third straight year, and Karen Alexeev, who at age 63, was the oldest female finisher. Both St. Petersburg residents, Wheeler has finished the PTC twice and Alexeev is one of only three three-time finishers along with Jeremiah Hartz (who completed the 50-mile event) and Tracy Connolly. Scott Boe, 50, of Tampa, was the fifth and final Tampa Bay-area finisher this year.
In the 50-mile race, joining Neel and Hartz as local finishers were: Brian Donovan of Land O’ Lakes, Jerry Rains of Bartow, and Sharon Nance, Luis Duran, Betsy Slay and Danny Slay, all of Lakeland.
Completing the 50-kilometer race from Tampa Bay were: Randy Fletcher of Lakeland and Bob Skaggs of St. Petersburg. Lakeland also fielded a team called “The Wolf Pack” which finished in third place in the 100-mile, six-member team relay. The team was a scant 10 seconds behind the second place team from Miami, the Joint Warriors.
For complete results from the 2016 Keys 100 see: http://mcmtiming.com/keys100-ultras/ .
(The accompanying photo shows Clearwater Beach resident Luis Gomez, wearing sombrero, who completed the first 100-miler he had attempted. Photo courtesy of Jenn Banak.)
Tampa Bay | Running | Ultrarunning | Keys 100 | Aly Venti | TB Reporter
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