Forgotten Florida 100 - A Race to Remember

BY: CHRIS STANGLE - 2022 participant & 4th overall finisher

Forgotten Florida 100 – A race to Remember

As far as Florida Ultras are concerned, many lack appeal to the masses. The majority are either loop races, which deter some folks, or they are all out swamp stomps that can stave off others. I’m not saying there are not great Ultras here in Florida, they’re just far and few between. The Rum Bum Races’ Forgotten Florida 100 may have just taken the lead for Florida Ultras, by combining a point-to-point course with an insane variety of terrain, conditions, and atmosphere. This beauty played out like a stage race, with nearly as many different race strategies as there were competitors. As the event unfolded, all of Sean “Rum Bum” Blanton’s pre-race tips began to light the path to an epic adventure I will never forget.

It all began 6:00 am February 5th on a dark dirt road outside of Christmas Florida. Packet pick-up well organized, flowing efficiently, and a free pre-race photo to capture the eyes of the

innocent. A quick pre race briefing from the man himself standing on his tailgate, updating us on last minute course modifications to aid us in missing some of the worst flooded areas. As he jumps down from the tailgate and into the driver’s seat, he led the pack for the start until directing us to our first turn. From there, it was on us to follow course markings, utilize GPX files and, in worst case scenario, the Gaia app on our phones (mandatory gear requirement).

After the first turn we quickly found ourselves diving into the trails under the dark canopy as all were jockeying for position. With the 45 milers and 100 milers starting together you really had to decide for yourself who you were going to go with and who you were going to let go. A short distance into the trails we started to find out where all that rain had gone with areas of ankle to shin deep water/ mud.

Nothing unmanageable, just the realization that this course indeed is going to be wet, and often. 6.5 miles in we come to the first aid station

“The Division” which was a crewed aid station, well stocked with several volunteers attending to runners. With the help of my wife Ivi, I took the extra time to change sock and shoes due to upcoming runnable dirt road miles, topped of my pack and was on my way. The next 7 miles were dry and fast dirt roads. A welcome change as we were able to settle into our paces and take in some of the epic scenery. Along the roads with the sun rising, I saw several different species of birds perched along the tree lines and numerous ponds. The weather was perfect for a long effort with temperatures right at 60 degrees with overcast sky and a forecast the predicted most of the same for the duration. Mile 13.5 we came to the “Far Out” aid station, again well stocked and attended by one of my dear friends Kris Mannino. From there a brief out and back to a small peninsula trail and right back to “Far Out” by mile 15. Again, just a quick top off and back on

the move.

Shortly after leaving the aid station, we dove back under canopy into the forest and really got to work navigating more technical trails,

water, and mud. This continued off and on for the next 8.5 miles, with the trails gracing us with short reprieves between reminders that this is not going to be a typical Florida Trail Race. At mile 23 we come to our next crewed aid station “The Middle”. For me this was the next stop for foot care, fresh socks, a full reload of race fuel, then back on the move within 4 minutes thanks again to my amazing wife. Once again, we switch modes with dirt dual track, grass road and trail for the next 7 miles, all the while changing ecosystems like someone was flipping a switch. With the inevitable crossing of a 4-lane road the decision was made for the safety of the runners to shuttle us across, when I approached the aid station prior to the shuttle Sean was there giving clear direction, a shuttle was waiting for me, and I was across the road and running again in less than a minute. Once across my wife again like a trail angel was there with a soft flask to swap and extra fuel knowing that I would not see her again until mile 42. The next 12 miles we traveled through Seminole Ranch which proved to be some of the toughest conditions on the entire course with soft ground, dense forest, technical trail, and yes, mud.

At mile 42 Phillips Aid station was a welcome sight with several of my RunFluent athlete manning the aid station and Ivi there all smiles and ready to attend to all my needs. This stop was a little lengthier following the onslaught of Seminole Ranch. I ate extra food, Ivi tended to my feet for foot care, new socks, and shoes. My teammates restocked my pack and filled me in on how all the other runners were doing. It wasn’t until now that I found out that the 2 leaders, John Parker and Maxwell Bennett, had gone off course and Sean was chasing them down to get them back on course. So, now, only Aden St Charles was ahead of me, whom I had seen leaving the aid station as I was coming in. I had no doubt Sean would make it right and get the other 2 back on course, and I would see them again, I just didn’t know when.

Back on the move I make the 7.5 mile trek to Charles Bronson following mostly grassy/ dirt road tunneled by ancient oaks and all things Old Florida. Upon Reaching the Bronson Aid Station the volunteer informed me that the next 5 miles looped right back to him, so I topped off my water and pressed on. Bronson was a trip, the 3 ish miles were farm road with 4-5 thigh deep water crossing, which quite honestly, I enjoyed as they forced me to walk and seemed to sooth the firing muscles in my legs. Then, out of nowhere, the course dives into the forest on the middle of this vast farmland and it’s like nothing I’ve seen before. The trail was well marked, but crazy soft like it had just been cut. The canopy was insane, with giant palms and oaks blotting out the sky.

Roughly 1.5 miles through this little oasis and your right back out in the pasture, able to see the Bronson Aid station across the field. A quick stile traverse and I was back with the welcoming volunteer, he informed me that it was only 2 miles to Curryville road, which was the next crew access. No need to spend time refueling here, on to Curryville.

Approaching Curryville (mile 57), I again see Aden leaving as I was approaching, she was moving well and smiling as we wished each other well. I had no intentions of changing my race plan, so unless she lost momentum, I was not catching her, and I was perfectly content with that. Again, I took my time to sit down

refuel with more real food while Ivi pampered me and kept my feet in order. Donned my headlamp and was on my way. Leaving the aid station I saw John and Max back on the hunt and closing fast. Back across farmland and prairies as the sun began to set and illuminate the overcast sky in only a way the Florida sky can.

Mile 60, as we made our way back

into some technical single track I again

crossed paths with the Run Bum and he gave me a few word of encouragement and what to expect next. After a few miles of some pretty epic trail, then kick back out onto the access roads headed to Culpepper.

I had run Culpepper in a training run earlier in the year and was excited to see it again, unfortunately dark had set in by now and I’d be seeing it in the dark. Once arriving to the aid station at Culpepper I stopped and chatted for a moment while topping off on water, knowing that I would be right back in 5.5 miles. The loop combines 2 miles of farm road with a couple water crossing before headed back into the single track meandering along the river bank. Mid trail was an out and back that was approximately .5 miles, when I made the turn John was closing fast, by the time we mad it back to the Culpepper Aid Station he was pulling away, again, as it should be. 2.5 miles later I arrive at Brumley road (mile 75) and the next crewed aid station.

At this point I really starting to tire and modifying my run/ walk ration more than I’d like. Knowing I was starting to slow down, I limited the time I lingered and started down the road. This was the first asphalt section of the course which was a welcome change for

the moment as I was able to make up a little time and get back on pace. After 2 miles of asphalt the course made a sharp right onto the orange blazes of the The Florida Trail. This was where we were forewarned that there would be no flagging, only preexisting blazes to follow along with your GPX. At this point I switched my watch face to stay on the maps function to ensure I stayed on course, at this point I was already well ahead of my goal time, so staying on course would assure me a successful race.

The next 6+ miles really took a toll on the legs with miles of soft sand roads with mixed in single track and access roads, I had been on this trail before, but never with 80 mile legs. At mile 83 (Barr St) my teammates Scott Hoover and Chris Hoffarth caught up with me and offered words of encouragement. Scott jumped in to pace me for the duration. While chatting with the boys, Max came out of nowhere running like his hair was on fire. A quick greeting and he was on his way. Probably 1 mile after Scott joining me my

headlamp died, without

warning. Thank God for friends in dark places, but this slowed us quite a bit the next 2 miles until we hit the Lockwood aid station. From Lockwood on we would be on sidewalks, boardwalks, and bike path to the finish line.

One final time my amazing wife changed my shoes, this time to road shoes, gave me words of

encouragement, and Scott and I were on our way. I asked Scott to hold me to specific run/

walk ratios and get me to the finish line. That’s exactly what he did as we traversed Oviedo into Winter Springs where the course crosses beyond

the finish line for one final out and back. Approximately 1 mile from the turnaround we saw 3 headlamps headed our way, it was Aden, John, and Max all walking together. A remarkable site, after nearly 20 hours of effort, these 3 decide that the fight they all put up was worthy of sharing the glory. I cross the line at 20:30:29 and find that all 3 crossed the finish line holding hands with smiles on their faces. If that does not define the Trail/ Ultra Running community, I’m not sure what does. I assume for the outsiders looking in, seeing race pictures and hearing runner’s experiences there will be quite in emphasis on the water/ mud on course, but in the words of Sean “Run Bum” Blanton, “No mud goes on forever.” This event gives you a little bit of everything Florida has to offer. I honestly believe this event will become the premier 100 miler in all of Florida Trail Running.

Forgotten Florida, a race to remember. - Chris Stangle

292 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All