Friday, February 13, 2009

Dances With Dirt Green Swamp 50 Miler

The urge to race drew me to Florida to participate in the inaugural Green Swamp DWD. What I thought would be a nice break from a cold Michigan winter was not such a break. Temps at the start were in the 30s, I was planning to only wear shorts and tshirt. I decided to keep my fleece shirt on for the first 10 miles. At 5:30, 25 of us headed into the darkness ready to tackle 50 miles of Florida swamp. I settled into a comfortable pace at the front of the pack. The early morning fog made visibility tricky, but the first 5 miles were on sandy roads. Passing the start/finish at mile 5, I was comfortably in fifth place. Very early into the next five mile loop, I lost the trail. I saw the last flag then they just disappeared as I stopped on the playground. I looked until the next runner came along. We searched together until we guessed a direction and found a double flag. It was in a strange location, but we didn't have many options and decided to follow it. I had my doubts as we wound around the swamp, but it was correct. One off trail section was littered with cypress stumps the caught my foot. I stumbled until I found a clear section then took a nose dive. Landing on one of the stumps would surely have finished my day. Mark and I continued to run together for quite a while. Slowly, he pulled away as the miles began to take their toll on me. Aid station to aid station, I plugged on. Eventually, I caught up to Mark again. A brief Hello and I passed him. Checking behind me on some straight aways, I never saw him coming behind me. Coming up ahead was the bag drop station at mile 27. My feet were dry but I had visions of a clean shirt, hat, and a resupply of Ensure. When I got there though, my bag was no where to be found. Luckily, I was not in desperate need of anything, so I ate at the aid station table and continued on. Passing the 50K turn around point, I knew I would only see 50 milers for quite a while and there was one runner shortly ahead of me. Out of nowhere he was suddenly coming back towards me. He said we just needed to go to the gate up ahead and turn around. When I got there, I could see pink flags down the trail and a yellow sign. I yelled back that we needed to go over the fense. He cursed at his mistake and followed me over. I slowly opened the distance between us. Best I could figure, I was in fourth place at this time. Then another runner came up behind me. He was moving much to fast and smooth to be a 50 miler catching me, but he was. Turns out he had gotten lost early on and was making up time. When we reached the aid station, we were in third and fourth place. We talked for a little until he picked up the pace. I needed to finish eating before running again. I continued back to the fense crossing where a couple other racers were doubting their location. I confirmed to them that they were heading in the right direction. Back to the drop location but still no bag. Oh well, only 13 miles to the finish. I was really begin to wear down and was switching between running and walking, 10 minutes run, 10 minutes walk. Soon it became 5 minutes. The aid station at mile 44 was a very welcome sight. It meant just a short stretch to the start/finish and then another 5 mile loop. At that aid station were some drop bags, sure enough mine was there. I put it in the dead bag area and headed for home. Across the river and home was in sight. The only problem was the 5 mile loop waiting for me. It would be so easy to stop right here. But I resupply at the aid station and try to run across the parking area. Shortly into the woods, I have to walk again. I try to run some more, but it just isn't working. I realize that I will just have to walk it in. I keep my arms pumping to keep the speed up and focus on moving forward. Some areas look familiar, like where we missed the turn at the playground earlier. I just kept waiting for the flags that took us off the trail for the river crossings. They just couldn't come soon enough. Then, up ahead, I spotted them. The leaps across the river in the morning were a distant memory. I just splashed my way through. Thinking I had about a mile or two to go, a lady walking through the swamp said it was less than that. Oh wouldn't that be great if it were true. Sure enough, the climb under th barb wire fense was just up ahead. Then I looped through the park and out at the parking area. I tried to run across the finish line, but there was no way. A brisk walk would have to do. A small loop to get to the far side of the line and I was done. Slowly, my hip began to get sorer and sorer. By the time I had visited with other runners, called Lisa and got some food, I was in agony. Walking was no longer possible. A girl lent me a shoulder to lean on for the walk back to the car. Walking from the car into the hotel was beyond painful. A couple guys came out of the hotel to help me to my room. A trip to WalGreens for Advil and a cane made me at least functional again. The pain was intolerable, but I finished my second 50 miler in 10:02, a new PR. I was fourth overall and first in my division. The hip is recovering, a week later and I can now walk without a limp.


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