Some races the challenge is finding the courage to toe up to the line, others is finding the internal fortitude to endure, and yet others is the discovery of self and our place in the world around us. It is rare to wrap these unique experiences into one event. The CFITT managed to package such an adventure. This 250 mile, self-supported race presented the best of Florida for me over 4 days and 16 hours where I carried a heavy pack (i.e., 25 pounds) and some memorable sufferings, but now that I ate and slept my life away, I only carry a heavy heart that the event is over.
What is CFITT?
The Cross Florida Individual Time Trial is one of the longest self-supported running race in the US, a 250 mile bike packing route across Florida that mostly takes place on dirt roads, paved bike paths, and trails. The race requires that you be fully self-supported. There are no aid stations, crews, or supply caches allowed on the route. Everything you need must be carried with you or commercially available along the route. Using a GPS tracking device, your progression is recorded and seen by anyone who follows you. You must follow the track and hit checkpoints by taking a “selfie” at specific places, including your start with one foot in the Atlantic ocean and your finish with the other foot in the Gulf of Mexico. A group start is made in early December from the East coast, but you can do your CFITT at anytime and start from either the East or West. The “Yo-Yo” option is also available in which you can do a back-and-forth. This race was created by Karlos Bernart, an enthusiastic adventure cyclist with limitless projects involving bike packing and the outdoors. The CFITT is one of many events proposed by SingleTrack Samurai Productions.
In 2015, Karlos decided to also invite ultra runners, if any would be crazy enough to do it. Some registered, but only 3 found the courage to toe up to the start line: Paul Austin, a man with a mind of steel going from East to West who had previously completed the course on bike, Tim Puetz, my fiancé, an Army Ranger for whom it would be almost like a walk in the park, and myself, the only woman, crazy enough to take on this gigantic challenge.
It is not easy to be a pioneer - but oh, it is fascinating! I would not trade one moment, even the worst moment, for all the riches in the world. - Elizabeth Blackwell
On December 9th 2015 at 4:45 AM, I became the first woman to run the 250 mile self-supported race Cross Florida Individual Time Trial. I took 4 days, 15 hours and 58 minutes to cross the state of Florida from the West to the East following the CFITT route. I only got 13 hours of sleep broken down into slots of 20 minutes to 2 hours. It requires an extra dose of courage to take on a challenge no one has ever done before. Being the first one to do something involves a lot of unknown, especially when the event format is self-supported. Your logistics for food, water, rest, pace, wildlife encountering, terrain, weather, distances, etc., is what will determine how your race will go. I carried a 25-pound backpack, so that I was prepared at a minimum for the worst. I never asked my body to perform for that long before. I probably tore a ligament in one of my feet which slowed me down at some point, but I kept going until I reached the Atlantic ocean. It is impressive what the body can do. When you think you reached your limits, you simply embrace the physical and mental pain and you keep going. Now that one woman (myself) and two men (Tim Puetz and Paul Austin) pioneered that epic route on foot, ultra runners will be attracted to follow our path, and we couldn’t wish for anything better as “happiness is only real when shared”! Join the tribe!