the course

The course is a planned 20 mile out and back laps.  As race time approaches, course changes may be necessary to keep the course safe.  Changes will be posted as soon as they are known (usually a week prior to the race) and may shorten the length of the laps, but the total mileage will remain 100k and 100M and the distance between AID will not be longer than the stated 5-6 mile maximum. The course map below has the layout, AID locations, and mileage of the course.  The 100M will run 5 complete laps, the 100k will run 3 complete loops followed by a 2 mile out and back to complete the full 100k.

The Race Director and Technical Director personally run and prep the course prior to the race each year.  Course changes are made when the trails are not runable or are unsafe.  This isn't a mud run or obstacle course, it is a race.  That being said, it is a trail race which means we are more at the mercy of wildlife, nature, and the elements.  Each year, hogs generally rough up small sections of the northern part of the trail.  There are occasional roots, small rocks, and sometimes limbs and branches fall on the trail.   If you are an experienced trail runner, you will find this course to be a very fast, non-technical course.  If you have not run on trails, it would be wise to log some time on trails -- this course is open all year long and most of the course is runable all year.

The Long Haul course is not a technically challenging course nor is there any elevation to speak of, but every year, the percentage of finishers at all distances is less than 50%.  Some of this may be due to the fact that many attempts are by first timers, but every year there are experienced ultra runners that fail to finish.  As one of those who have failed to finish, I think one factor that is frequently overlooked is the weather.  Florida in January is generally beautiful weather.  It is the driest month and usually the least humid, but for Florida that means humidity levels around 60% (it is usually 90-100% in the summer).  Temperatures have been as low as 26 degrees and as high as 80.  I think it is the temperature change that many runners have trouble with.  Even with an average of 65 degree highs and 40 degree lows, that is a difference of 25 degrees and runners will experience it twice in the first 12 hours.  The race starts at dawn when temps are low and will quickly rise as the sun rises, as the sun moves across the sky and sets, temperatures will drop quickly.  If runners are caught far away from drop bags, they could be forced to run an hour in cold temps and may be hard to recover.  You would be wise to prepare for temperatures significantly (10-15 degrees) higher and lower than forecasted.  In 2014, overnight temperatures were expected to be in the low 40s / high 30s - well above freezing. The actual recorded temperature was 26 degrees - well below freezing.  Several runners had to drop and be pulled off the course due to hypothermia.  In 2012 several runners dropped and others had to stop as temperatures had risen to 82 degrees during the day - the forecasted high was 72.   All of that to say be prepared for extreme weather variations - even runners from places like Chicago and Vermont who trained all winter have been surprised by temperatures.  There is more to a course than the surface and elevation.

Click here to go to the Cypress Creek Preserve website.

COURSE RECORDS

100 Mile

Men's - Mike Morton - 13:18:58 (2012)
Women's - Alyson Venti - 17:14:36 (2014)

100 Kilometer

Men's - Julian Vincente - 8:48:30 (2012)
Women's - Brittany Beede - 12:09:42 (2012)

50 Mile (only run in 2011)

Men's - Julian Vincente - 7:48:21
Women's - Eve Lane - 11:09:05

Click here to download a .gpx file of the course.

LONG HAUL COURSE DESCRIPTION

The Long Haul Course is a 20 mile out and back course that is repeated until the total mileage is reached.  The Start and Finish is located just inside the west entry gate to the Cypress Creek Preserve at the location of Tampa Bay Water on 10 Cent Road.  The course is closed to public vehicle traffic, however there may be hikers, equestrian riders and cyclists on various sections of the course.  The race can be run entirely on trails -- the course does follow Pump Station Road and Swiftmud Road for short sections, which is an asphalt paved private-access road, but those sections may be run along the pavement in the grass.

Trail 1 (Creek Trail) Section
The Creek Trail is a hikers only trail -- there will be no horses or cyclists on this trail.  This is the only water crossing on the course and there is an optional temporary bridge that runners may choose to cross and avoid wet feet.  The water is no deeper than the knee.  The beginning part of this trail is wide grassy doubletrack until you reach the creek, which is about ¼ mile from the road.  Once you cross the creek, the trail narrows to twisting single track.  This is the most technical part of the course with substantial roots and trees.  After the ½ mile technical singletrack, the trail opens back up to grassy doubletrack for about 1 mile and leads back out to the road.  Once you reach the end of the Creek Trail, you will cross over Pump Station Road and onto Trail 2 (Southern Trail).  This junction is the cross section of the creek trail, the southern trail, and pump station road and can be accessed going out or returning on any of these crossings.  This is an area that is very popular among crew and spectators as you will pass this area more frequently than any other part of the course.  There will be a staffed aid station (AID 2) at this junction.

Spectator Area
AID 2 is located at the crossing of the Creek Trail, the Southern Trail and Pump Station Road. It can be accessed going out or returning on any of these crossings.  AID 2 is the best place for spectators as there is plenty of room to setup chairs, awnings, tents, etc and runners will pass by this point 4 times each 20 mile out and back.  There is also a shuttle to and from the entrance / start / finish / AID 1.

Trail 2 (Southern Trail) Section
The Southern Trail is a lollipop course that will be run twice in each lap. You will follow a wide corridor that is open and unshaded for for the first 1.5 miles.  It is a crushed coral base with a grass in the middle and sides.  AID 3 is located 1.5 miles from AID 2 and is where the trail diverts off to a grassy double wide trail that is a mix of shaded forest and palmetto clearings.  It is the most remote part of the course so you may hear or encounter deer, especially at night.  Once you leave AID 3, you have a 3 mile round trip back to AID 3 and then a 1.5 mile trip back to AID 2.  The southern trail is a total of 6 miles and you run it twice each lap.

Trail 4 (Armadillo Alley) Section
Trail 4 which is a grassy sandy double track trail through a typical Florida Oak / Pine / Cypress forest.  The trail is relatively root free, and generally grassy in most areas.  Don’t be surprised to see whitetail deer running through the sawgrass or armadillos scurrying around at your feet.  This section of the trail is approximately 1.32 miles until you return to the north spur of pavement aka Swiftmud Road. You will run on a brief stretch of pavement until the turn around near a utility building.  This is the halfway point (10 miles) and you will now run the course in reverse for a total lap mileage of 20 miles.

Notable Mileage Distances (Approximate)
OUT
Start/Finish (AS1) to Trail 1 Start - .5 miles
Trail 1 Start to Trail 1 End (AS2) - 1.25 miles (1.75 cumulative)
Trail 2 Start (AS2) to AS3 - 1.5 miles (3.25 cumulative)
AS3 round trip back to AS3 - 3.0 miles (6.25 cumulative)
AS3 to Trail 2 End (AS2) - 1.5 miles (7.75 cumulative)
AS2 to Trail 4 Start - .75 miles (8.5 cumulative)
Trail 4 Start to Turn Around - 1.5 miles (10.0 cumulative)

IN
Turn Around to Trail 4 End - 1.5 miles (11.5 cumulative)
Trail 4 End to AS2 - .75 miles (12.25 cumulative)
Trail 2 Start (AS2) to AS3 - 1.5 miles (13.75 cumulative)
AS3 round trip back to AS3 - 3.0 miles (16.75 cumulative)
AS3 to Trail 2 End (AS2) - 1.5 miles (18.25 cumulative)
Trail 1 Start (AS2) to Trail 1 End - 1.25 miles (19.5 cumulative)
Trail 1 End to Start/Finish (AS1) - .5 miles (20 cumulative)

Greatest distance between Aid Stations is 4.5 miles.

Distances are rounded and approximate total lap distance is 20.1 miles

WILDLIFE

The Long Haul attracts runners from all over the world, so it is necessary to brief all runners on the wildlife that they may encounter on the trails.  The best way to avoid any wildlife is to simply be noisy - talking, clapping, singing, etc. will be heard by the animals long before you see them and all of the animals try to avoid human contact.  NEVER APPROACH A WILD ANIMAL.  If an animal is blocking the trail, and is not moving, simply return to the nearest AID station and alert a race official.  The Cypress Creek Preserve is home to dozens of native Florida wildlife,  you will see countless (and harmless to you) birds including herons, egrets, eagles, hawks, wild turkeys, peacocks, and vultures.  The most common wildlife experience in the Long Haul is Armadillos.  Armadillos are as harmless as they are stupid and they tend to root for bugs near the trails -- generally these encounters occur at night and the biggest concern is not punting them or tripping over them.  Another harmless animal would be white tailed deer -- you may see or hear them running through the sawgrass or palmettos.  There is a population of feral hogs in the preserve.  You will see evidence of the hogs in areas where it looks like someone drove a roto-tiller over the trail.  Hogs are generally harmless, however, DO NOT APPROACH A HOG - they are large and can become defensive, especially if there are piglets in the area.  Similarly, Coyotes may be seen or more likely heard in the preserve.  Florida coyotes are generally about 40 pounds are generally not a danger to adults, but like hogs, DO NOT APPROACH A COYOTE.  Black bears have been spotted in the preserve and although extremely rare, DO NOT APPROACH A BEAR and please report any sighting to a race official.  Since there is water in the preserve and we are in Florida, we must include the Alligator on our list, however, no gators have ever been sighted near the creek crossing on the trail.  The water is very shallow at the trail crossing and Alligators are usually very inactive in January. NO NOT APPROACH AN ALLIGATOR. There are several kinds of poisonous snakes in North America - unfortunately, Florida has all of them.  Fortunately, cooler weather is not something that snakes enjoy, so you are not likely to encounter any of them.  The most likely encounter with snakes would be on the asphalt their sections of the trail in the early morning or evening as they use the asphalt to warm themselves.  Rather than give you a primer on how to identify poisonous snakes, let's just say, DO NOT APPROACH A SNAKE.  If you encounter a snake of any size, please give it a wide margin and alert a race official at your next AID station.  Lest you become concerned about your safety, people use this preserve every day without wildlife incidents and we have never had a wildlife incident during a race.  Keep in mind that you are repeating the same course 5 times, so there is generally enough persistent traffic on the trails to keep the animals away from the trails.