Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Fort Clinch 100 / 50 Mile Race

I signed up for this 100 miler on a whim last fall in hopes of running a different type of race.  With roughly 65 miles of trails and 35 miles of pavement, Fort Clinch would provide a beautiful beachfront park to break up the monotony of so many mountain ultras.

The course & event lived up to it's description.  100 milers run 10X10 mile loops and 50 milers run 5X10 mile loops.  The loop is actually 10.4 miles, but the last loop in each event is shortened to equal out the distances.

My wife & I made the five hour drive down to the park on Friday evening and arrived on Saturday morning for the 6:30 AM start.  You could already feel the thick humidity hanging in the air as the ocean air stuck to your skin.  The ocean smelled great, but I knew the heat was only hours away from haunting us all.

It was bright enough for everyone to begin without a headlamp and I choose my normal starting position in the back of the pack.  I walked the first mile to warm up my legs until I slowly begin to work into a little running.

I had read that the course featured rolling single track trails with roots, but I was surprised at how steep some sections were because we were beside the ocean.  Not only this, but they were very twisty with lots of tight turns. 

All of the paved sections were fairly flat and if you were careful you could even choose to run in the dirt on the side of the road.  Not so much on the 1 mile stretch of concrete pier.  You just had to suck it up and get that section finished every loop.  On the plus side you were rewarded with a nice breeze and scenery.   Oh, and a outdoor shower to splash around in!

My favorite area of the course was running around the actual Fort Clinch.  It consisted of about a half mile of sand, but it was so cool to think of all the history that happened in that spot.  The Fort was to the right and ocean to the left.  I had read that it was possible to see wild horses around the area, but unfortunately I never did.  I had made a promise to sit down and enjoy watching them if I did so I REALLY hoped to see at least one.

As the morning went on I was enjoying getting a feel for the course and how to run each loop.  I was averaging about 2:30 for each loop and that remained my goal up until the heat begin to break me down after noon.

I hit the 31 mile mark (50K) in 6:55 and was very surprised by the time.  I was guessing that I would've been closer to 8 hours, but was still happy with how my body was responding so I decided to stay steady on my pace.

Just after this around the 34 mile mark, my left leg begin to lock up on me.  The large tendon on top of my foot that connects to the shin began to keep me from running.  It was only sore to walk with it, but running was out of the question.  I normally don't have much trouble putting little pains out of my head, but I knew that this one would lead to a injury if I kept up on it for potentially 19 more hours.

The blisters & fatigue that I had developed from The Blind Pig 100 two weeks ago also factored into my decision to switch from the 100 miler to the 50 miler at the end of my 4th loop.  As a matter of fact I had decided to just drop from the race completely after the forth loop, but my wife and another runner Dawn talked me into walking one more shorter loop to finish it.  I'm glad they did.

I felt a little stupid throwing myself into a 100 only 13 days after I had just finished another one on very little training.  I'm the kind of person who has to have a new challenge and push my personal limits.  I knew that I had pushed it to the breaking point so I was happy & satisfied to limp around one more loop and get the 50 mile finish.

Dawn & I kept each other entertained on the final loop and it made the time fly by.  We were both thrilled to reach the final mile of our race on the pier!

Mile 49.5 on the pier!
Enjoying this sunset as the race ended made the entire trip worth it alone!

I'm so glad that I went to this race and was able to finish the 50 miler.  I'll confess that I don't really enjoy running on roads, but this park was so beautiful it made up for it.  Caleb Wilson (RD) and all of the volunteers were super friendly and helpful.  Heck, they even gave out ice bandannas during the heat of the day and tied them around our filthy necks!

I don't feel any upsetting emotions about not finishing the 100 mile race.  I'm content because I personally gave all that I could and made a wise decision to not get injured on purpose.

I may take the entire family back down next year to run again.  The race website calls Fort Clinch a "True Destination Race" and I will absolutely agree with that.  Your family & friends can enjoy Amelia Island while you run until your legs fall off.


  1. I've never given any thought to Fort Clinch in the past, but I may just have to tackle this one next year. Thanks for a great report, Jason! I'm proud of you.

    1. It was a nice break from the mountains. Can't go wrong with this one!

  2. Thanks for the report... I might have to put this on my list