Ancient Oaks 100 Mile Run

Enchanted Forest, Titusville, Florida
Dec. 11-12, 1999

by Matt Mahoney

When Stu Gleman single-handedly put on the first ever Ancient Oaks 100 mile endurance run, he wanted an easy course, fast times, and a high finish rate. Accordingly, he invited some of the most extreme, hard-core ultrarunners in the U.S. for this low key, no fee, no aid, no awards, and no wimps race. He got more than he bargained for.

The race was held on the gently rolling trails of the Enchanted Forest, a 2.75 mile loop repeated 37 times. The time limit would be 30 hours, from 6:00 AM Saturday to noon Sunday, with no intermediate cutoffs. Although the race was billed as no aid, Stu provided a fully stocked and staffed aid station with water, Gatorade, candy, chips, chicken soup, and almost everything else we might need. When I ran out of batteries for my flashlight during the night, volunteers went to the store and got me more. Not bad for a race with no entry fee, considering that most 100 milers charge $100 to $200. Stu even gave us T-shirts with no advertising.

The Runners

Ready to go: Jose Wilkie, Jim Musselman, Stu Gleman, Mike Dobies, and Matt Mahoney. Not shown: Ray Krolewicz.

Jose Wilkie of Louisville KY was featured in the Dec. 1999 issue of Ultrarunning, having just broken Rick Gillespie's 1996 record of having finished 12 100 mile races in one year. Wilkie ran his 13'th at the Mile High 100 in October and today would be his 14'th. Jim Mussleman was right behind, having tied Gillespie, and was running his 13'th today, if you include the first half of the Double Mohican 200 miler in October. Their incredible feats are chronicled below. Finish place is shown in (parenthesis). Many of the 100 milers were held on consecutive weekends.

100 Mile RaceGillespie '96 Wilkie '99 Musselman '99
Rocky Raccoon, TX 21:21 21:56 (18) 20:56 (14)
Pueblo Nuevo, NM 26:54
Umstead, NC 24:59 23:41 (23) 21:25 (14)
Massanutten Mt., VA 30:21 28:51 (22) 24:41 (6)
Old Dominion, VA 24:41 20:17 (11)
Kettle Moraine, WI 24:52 24:53 (23)
Mohican, OH 24:14 (19) 19:25 (5)
Hardrock, CO DNF DNF DNF
Vermont, VT 22:53 22:04 (17) 20:11 (7)
Mt. Rushmore, SD 29:17 (5) 27:31 (2)
Leadville, CO 28:21 28:35 (117)DNF
Haliburton, ON 22:55 (5) 20:50 (2)
Wasatch, UT 32:28 31:57 (68)
Superior Trail, MN 30:23 23:52 (3)
Angeles Crest, CA 30:17 30:29 (53) 26:46 (23)
Arkansas Traveller, AR 23:22 (20) 19:55 (6)
Mile High, CO 28:19 (2)
Ancient Oaks, FL 26:58 (2) 24:50 (1)

The rest of our running resumes pale by comparison. Mike Dobies of Michigan has three consecutive finishes of the Barkley 60 mile fun run, most recently finishing third in 34:40 (out of 33 starters and 3 finishers). In that race, Stu Gleman dropped out after 20 miles in 10:15, and I missed the 40 mile cutoff (26:40) unofficially in 28:07. The Barkley, held in Tennessee in April, is a 20 mile loop with 10,000 feet of climb per loop, over very difficult on and off trail wooded mountain terrain with no aid.

At the Hardrock 100 this year, I finished in 42:39 and Dobies in 44:50. Wilkie and Musselman both dropped out mid race, probably due to a lack of altitude acclimation, but went on to finish Vermont one week later. Gleman last attempted Hardrock in 1996 but missed a cutoff after 31 miles. Hardrock has 33,000 feet of climb and an average elevation over 11,000 feet.

Ray Krolewicz was one of the top ultrarunners in the U.S. in the 1980's, when most ultras were still held on pavement. He currently writes a column for Running Journal.

The Race

Ray Krolewicz (right) was late for the pre-dawn start. The rest of us stayed in a close pack for the first lap (29 minutes) with Gleman running in front holding a stick to knock down the giant spider webs. After lap 1, Ray showed up and we ran another lap in a pack, Ray running in jeans, unsure of the trail conditions. By then it was getting light. Ray then stripped down to shorts for the next lap, and within two laps, he and Mussleman pulled ahead and lapped the rest of the field, with Wilkie, Gleman, Dobies, and I staying in a pack.

The marathon point passed without incident. Temperatures climbed to the mid 70's with high humidity. For miles 30 to 40, Musselman and Krolewicz continued to lap us while Gleman pushed the pace and Wilkie fell half a lap behind. This was getting embarassing. When I ran 3 laps on these trails with Stu a few weeks ago, he was huffing and puffing while I floated over the trails and hardly needed to breathe. Now he was pushing the pace and I had to fall back. "He will pay later", I thought, and let him go.

50 miles, and it is getting dark, right on schedule. Krolewicz had been playing with us all day, running some laps in 24 minutes, walking others in an hour. What is he up to? I had been consistently walking over half of each lap including all of the uphills. It was nice to be able to run in light shoes and not have to carry a pack. I expected to slow down a bit during the night, but still expected to finish in about 25 hours, breaking my P.R. of 27:53 at Vermont.

I had planned to stay up all night by drinking Mt. Dew, but at 8:00 PM I was overcome by overwhelming fatigue and had to take an hour nap in my car. This wasn't supposed to happen until around 3 AM. I woke up cold but refreshed, but by then Gleman and Wilkie were a lap and a half ahead, and Dobies by 2 laps. Krolewicz now at 57 miles, also went to take a nap, planning to sleep a few hours.

I walked with Dobies until 4:00 AM, about one hour per lap. Nobody was doing much running any more. It was hard to keep track of our miles, 60, 65, 70, 75, it made no sense. I took another 15 minute nap. Mike asked me to wake him up in an hour after I had done another lap, putting me one lap behind. By this time, Krolewicz, who apparently was sleep deprived coming into the race, woke up, walked one more lap, and decided that the remaining 8 hours would not be enough time to finish the last 40 miles, and withdrew.

By dawn, the positions of the remaining runners were firmly established. Musselman came in first, running strong most of the race, but forced to walk the last lap, to finish in 24:50 for the win. Wilkie was second in 26:58. When he passed me on the last lap, he looked as fresh as he did running his first. Gleman never did pay for his early effort, and finished third in 27:54. Dobies pulled ahead of me at dawn and came in fourth in 28:21, at which point I had two laps to go.

I was still wondering if I would make the 30 hour cutoff. At dawn I had completed 30 of 37 laps, and had 5 hours to run the last 20 miles. "Anyone can run 20 miles in 5 hours", I thought, trying to ignore the 80 miles already on my legs. My quads protested, and I could only manage to run the few downhill segments and average 45 minutes per lap. Stu's brother Mike Gleman, a Badwater 139 veteran, paced me for the last four laps. "The trail is beautiful, isn't it", but all I could think about was staying on pace to finish. I knew every turn on the trail, every fallen tree that I had to hop over or duck under, every plank laid across the muddy spots. We had the option to reverse directions to relieve the boredom, but nobody but Stu did, the rest of us content to run all of the laps counterclockwise.

Even splits were my best chance of finishing, but with 2 laps to go I had to increase my pace to 40 minutes per lap. Yet it was taking all of my effort just to walk. It was as if I was dehydrated, but I was drinking frequently and urinating clear every 15 minutes. My hands were so swollen that I couldn't make a fist. Stupid! I had hyponatremia. Why didn't I recognize the symptoms earlier? I added salt to my water bottle and recovered enough to run the last 2 laps in 40 and 35 minutes and finish in 29:54.

The Aftermath

This was supposed to be an easy race, like Vermont or Rocky Raccoon. The results tell a different story. Mike Dobies improved on his PR at Massanutten Mountain, one of the most difficult 100's in the Eastern U.S., by only 6 minutes. My time was 7 minutes slower than Leadville. Jim Musselman was slower than all but two of his other hundreds. Ray Krolewicz had only his 6'th DNF of his career that included hundreds of other ultras and many overall wins.

How could this happen? The biggest hill was probably 20 feet. There were no major challenges, like the high altitude of Leadville or the rocky terrain at Massanutten. The footing was good. The weather was good. Our feet stayed dry. We had everything we needed at the start/finish, so there were not the logistical problems with drop bags or crews. We didn't even need to carry packs. Perhaps it was the 13 hour night, or maybe we spent too much time at the aid stations. Maybe we just were all out of shape. Nobody could point to a single factor. I still believe that the course is fast, but it will take until next year to prove it.

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