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.
100 MileMen's - Mike Morton - 13:18:58 (2012)
Women's - Alyson Venti - 17:14:36 (2014)
100 KilometerMen'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 DESCRIPTIONThe 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.
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 lillipop course that will be run the same direction whether you are going out or returning in. You will follow a wide corridor that is a grassy road with a crushed coral base for a short period until you divert on to double wide perimeter tracks. You will be on these grassy trails (which are mostly shaded) for most of the southern lollipop. The total out and back mileage of the southern trails are 3.37 miles. You will return back to the spectator junction / AID 2 and head east for about 1/3 mile on Pump Station Road.
Trail 3 (Bog Trail)
After running along Pump Station Road for about 1/3 mile, you will turn south onto a short trail we call the Bog Trail. You will see several bogs along the trail, but the trail is firm and dry. The bog trail is a total of about 3/4 mile and is grass/dirt doubletrack for all but about 1/4 mile, which is a tight single track through sawgrass scrub. The bog loop will return back to Pump Station Road directly across from Armadillo Alley. You will cross over Pump Station Road and continue north on the next trail.
Trail 4 (Armadillo Alley) Section
Trail 4 which is a grassy sandy doubletrack 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. An unstaffed water / HEED hydration station (AID 3) is located on this section of pavement at the point where you turn north to Trail 5. The total amount of pavement is about 1/4 mile.
Trail 5 (Hog Hollow) Section
Trail 5 is the northern most section which has a lollipop loop at the top which totals about 3 miles. The beginning of this trail is sandy / grassy doubletrack similar to much of the course. You are likely to encounter wild hogs more in this section of the trail. Even if you don't encounter any hogs, you will likely see their markings. Hogs furrow and dig in the dirt to get their food, and as a result the trail can look like someone took a rototiller to it. The northern most section of the trail becomes more technical as it becomes more of an oak forest and also turns near a swamp bog. As you near the lollipop, you will be bearing to your left and heading north to the northern preserve border where you will find a barb wire livestock fence. You will turn right (east) and run along the fence for less than ¼ mile before turning right (south) down a sandy doubletrack. You will head down this doubletrack for about ½ mile before turning right (west) back into the woods. As you head back into the woods, this is another technical section and you will need to look closely for markers as the trail here is not well defined. Eventually you will come back to the point where you bore off to the left to go north on the lollipop, you will turn left and head back south.
Notable Mileage Distances
Start/Finish (AS1) to Trail 1 Start - .5 miles
Trail 1 Start to Trail 1 End (AS2) - 1.75 miles (2.25 cummulative)
Trail 2 Start (AS2) to Trail 2 End (AS2) - 3.5 miles (5.75 cummulative)
AS2 to Trail 3 Start - .5 miles (6.25 cummulative)
Trail 3 Start to Trail 3 End - .75 miles (7 cummulative)
Trail 4 Start to Trail 4 End (AS3) - 1.5 miles (8.5 cummulative)
Trail 5 Start (AS3) to Trail 5 End (AS3) 3 miles (11.5 cummulative)
(Trail 5 is a lollipop so the halfway point of the lap is about halfway through trail 5)
Trail 4 Start (AS3) to Trail 4 End - 1.5 miles (13 cummulative)
Trail 3 Start to Trail 3 End - .75 miles (13.75 cummulative)
Trail 3 End to AS2 - .5 miles (14.25 cummulative)
Trail 2 Start (AS2) to Trail 2 End (AS2) - 3.5 miles (17.75 cummulative)
Trail 1 Start (AS2) to Trail 1 End - 1.75 miles (19.5 cummulative)
Trail 1 End to Start/Finish (AS1) - .5 miles (20 cummulative)
Greatest distance between Aid Stations is 3.5 miles.
Distances are rounded and approximate total lap distance is 20.1 miles