Clothing and Equipment
Be prepared. Check the weather before you leave home. February in the Everglades can be unpredictable. In the prairies, it can be hot and the sun is strong. Bring clothing to match conditions, including a hat, and don’t forget extra socks and shoes. Aid stations will be placed approximately 2 to 6 miles apart (with water-only stations part-way between the longest of them), so carry enough fluids and food with you to cover those distances. (Most will be 4 miles or less, but carry more water/sport drink with you than you think you will need.) Also, every runner will be given, and required to carry, a whistle or similar signaling device that will be provided at pre-race check-in. We recommend that you bring a clip or wear a waist pack, backpack or similar product to hold this item so that you do not have to carry it in your hand the entire distance.
Aid stations will be positioned strategically, typically between 2 and 6 miles, for all races. Each will be fully stocked with an assortment of food including fruit, potatoes, PB&J and other items, water, ice, sports drink, soft drinks, electrolyte replacement product, bug spray, sun block, "Trail Toes" or similar anti-friction product, basic first aid items and much more.
Portable toilets will be located at certain aid stations that can be accessed by truck. Remember that this is wilderness!
Pacers and crew support are NOT allowed on the course. Plan your race to take advantage of aid station support and your own drop bags.
Drop Bags (Personal Items)
Specific aid stations will be designated sites for drop bags. These locations will be announced before race day and communicated to all registered runners. Locations will be chosen for their strategic importance. For example, if a certain section of the park is particularly wet or muddy on race day—and conditions can vary significantly—drop bags will be allowed at the next accessible aid station for access to dry socks or shoes. Aid stations at Gate 7 or 12 will be ideal places for 50-mile competitors to place headlamps or flashlights in a drop bag in the event they are still on the course after nightfall. (After dark, you will be off the trails and on Janes Scenic Drive, but it is virtually impossible to see after dark without a light.) Headlamps at the start of the 50 mile race may be left at an early aid station. Lights may be placed in ziploc bags available there with the runner's name and returned to the finish line for retrieval after the race so that they do not have to be carried all day. In general, runners may choose to leave food, drink mixes, changes of clothing, foul weather gear or other items at any of the designated drop-bag sites. On Friday afternoon at the orientation session, or on Saturday morning before each race, runners will be able to place drop bags into specially designated containers for delivery to the aid station. All bags must show clearly the runner's name, race number AND aid station name. NO GROCERY-TYPE PLASTIC BAGS WILL BE ALLOWED; USE SOMETHING SUBSTANTIAL. Bags will be delivered to each station indicated and handed to the runner when he/she arrives at that checkpoint. After the race, all bags will be returned to the finish line for runners to retrieve. Note that the race organization, officials and volunteers will do their best to safeguard these items and get them to the finish line before each runner completes the course. However, due to the sometimes primitive conditions and distances, their return or condition cannot be guaranteed, either en route or at the conclusion of the race. It will be the runner's responsibility to retrieve his/her drop bags prior to leaving the park.
The three race routes may include swampy areas, grassland prairie and wooded uplands. Most swamp trails were originally old logging “trams”—i.e., raised road-beds—used to haul logs out of these areas. Certain of the trams have been maintained by Fakahatchee staff and volunteers for access to various sections of the park, but remember that these are rugged areas. Many will be uneven and are likely to have plant growth on them. In some areas of the course, the running surface will be grass or other trimmed plant material, rocky ground, dirt or mud, and there are areas with cypress roots, or "knees", extending above the ground. These create very real tripping hazards, which can cause injury. Some areas might be covered with water on race day as they were in 2012, although everything possible will be done to minimize that likelihood. The last few miles of each race will be run along “Jane’s Scenic Drive”, a gravel and dirt road that is open to automobiles. Trail shoes are not required for EVERGLADES ULTRAS, but are highly recommended.
25 kilometer race begins at 9:00am. Runners will have 10 hours--until 7:00pm--to complete the distance.
50 kilometer race begins at 7:30am. Runners have 12 hours--until 7:30pm--to complete the course.
50 mile race begins at 6:00am. Runners have 14.5 hours--until 8:30pm--to complete the course. However, 50-milers must also have reached Janes Scenic Drive before 6:30pm for the final leg to the finish line or will not be allowed to finish the race.
Park directions, parking:
From I-75 (“Alligator Alley”), drive to Mile Marker/Exit 80. Exit there onto State Route 29, and drive South for 15 miles. A mile or so before the turn to the park, you will see a sign for “Jerome”, FL, where there are some scattered houses. Shortly thereafter the speed limit drops to 45, and you’ll see the “Copeland”, FL sign. Slow down and look for County Road 837, “Janes Scenic Drive”, where you will turn Right. There is a brown wooden sign for the “Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park” at the turn, and we will place race arrows there, as well. Turn onto “Janes Scenic Drive”, then make the first hard right to continue on “Janes”. Proceed about 5/8’s mile, turning left toward the lake opposite the large beige metal storage building. On race weekend, there will be signs or people to show you where to park. Race HQ will be there at the big tent next to Lake Harmon.
From US 40, “Tamiami Trail”, drive to the traffic light at the intersection with State Route 29. (Look for signs for Everglades City.) At that flashing light, turn North (away from Everglades City) and drive approximately 2 miles. Look for County Road 837, "Janes Scenic Drive" and race signs and turn Left onto County Road 837--Janes Scenic Drive. Then make the first hard right to continue on "Janes". Proceed about 5/8 mile, turning left toward the lake across from the large beige metal storage building. On race weekend, there will be signs or people to show you where to park. Race HQ will be there at the big tent next to Lake Harmon.
Arrival time and orientation options:
You must attend either the orientation session on Friday afternoon at 5:00 or the pre-race meeting to be held before the start of each race at the respective race starting lines. Those attending Friday may arrive anytime after 2:00 PM to pick-up their race packet. The meeting at 5:00 PM on Friday will include a presentation about the Fakahatchee from resident park biologist, Mike Owen, or the park manager. The Fakahatchee is open to the public during the day and you may run, walk or bike on any of the existing roads or trails if you want to check it out prior to race day. Runners arriving on Saturday morning for ALL events should be on site at Race HQ at least one to 1 1/4 hours before their scheduled start time to pick-up the race packet and be on the transport to the starting line where the required briefing will take place.
50 Mile runners only: you will be starting in the dark at 6:00am, and must carry or wear a light. You may leave these at a designated aid station and they will be returned to the finish line for post-race retrieval. If it is likely that you will still be running after 6:00PM, you should leave another light in your drop bag at the Gate 12 or Gate 7 station. That way you will have it available should you still be on the course after dark.
Dress: Clearing trails in the Fakahatchee for this event is difficult work and virtually impossible to groom 100%. (When you see how thick the vegetation is in some of these areas, you will appreciate the incredible amount of work done by park staff and volunteers to prepare as carefully as possible for EVERGLADES ULTRAS.) Trees and limbs fall regularly and plants grow rapidly, even in winter. So, expect in some areas to have contact with plant material. You should be able to avoid contact with poison ivy and vines with sharp thorns, but contact is possible. As such, we suggest wearing tights or leg covering of some kind, and a long-sleeve shirt for protection. This is not a “must”, but is strongly recommended.
The course and safety:
All trails will be carefully and fully marked with ribbons and flags, color coordinated for each event, plus directional signs where appropriate. Each section of trail where there are active runners will be patrolled by a park ranger on an all-terrain vehicle. These race marshals will be monitoring the course for safety, including moving critters off the trail should any be encountered. We will be running in areas that do not see much human activity, so with active vehicles and runners on these trails on race day, most animals will head for other parts of the park. Still, reptiles, including alligators, will often lie in open areas to sun themselves and you may see them along the course. While they are not particularly interested in you—they have plenty to eat out there!—they generally don’t want to move back into cold swamp water, either. Remember that these are wild animals, so keep your distance should you see an alligator or snake on the trail, and NEVER feed any wildlife. If the trail is blocked, stop and wait until the ranger gets there; he/she will move the animal. Each runner will be given at check-in and MUST CARRY a safety whistle. This is to be used to call a ranger should you encounter an intransigent animal, become sick or injured or need assistance for any other reason. Rangers will be covering miles of trail, so be patient and occasionally blow that whistle. Should you be running and begin to pass an alligator partially hidden in the grass, just keep going. In general, stay alert and be aware of your surroundings. No matter the species, keep your distance and try not to startle them and you’ll be fine.
Should you want to “drop” before completing the race, or should you become sick or injured, try to get to an aid station. Otherwise, use that whistle and signal for a ranger. You will be transported (with a possible hand-off or two) to the finish line. Most rangers and aid stations will be able to communicate with each other using either cell phones or radios. There is cell coverage in some parts of the park.