Personal numbers from last Saturday’s Dances With Dirt Green Swamp 50K:
Time: 5 hours, 28 minutes, 59 seconds
Overall finish place: 15
Age group finish place: 2
Snakes nearly stepped on: 1
Face plants: 3
Men’s tree relief stops: 2
Creeks waded through: 2
Salted potatoes consumed: too many to count
Hell of a good time: 1
Green Swamp is one of the four DWD races put on by Running Fit every year. Each offers a variety of races ranging from 10K up to 50 miles, and team relays. And this year, there’s a super cool belt buckle for anyone who completes an ultra (50K or more) in all four. Having never done a DWD before, naturally I signed up for the whole shebang. You don’t know what you can’t do until you try!
Withlacoochee Park at 7 a.m. was around 42 degrees, but it warmed up quickly to the mid-60s – a perfect morning to run, and a gorgeous afternoon for hanging out after the race. The 50K course consisted of an initial 10K loop, then a 20-mile loop out in God’s green nowhere, and a final five-mile loop, each time ending back at the main aid station – handy for changing clothes or shoes.
I prefer racing trails to roads; the scenery is better and the ground is more forgiving than cement. And it keeps you sharp mentally. While with some road races you can practically close your eyes, at Green Swamp there were logs to jump, creeks to wade, and mud fields that could suck your shoes off. It equalized the field a bit – just being a fast runner didn’t guarantee a top finish.
There are some tradeoffs. For one, it’s easier to get lost. The course was marked by little flags spaced every so often, and if I missed a turn I could go a long way the wrong way. I was saved from doing just that once by someone ahead of me retracing her mistake. One poor guy wound up back at the start half an hour into running his marathon. (No, he wasn’t that fast.) And five of us ran quite a ways along a barbed wire fence – only to find out we were on the wrong side. It was either retrace our steps, or crawl through. You can guess our choice.
But keeping a sharp eye on the flags led to losing sight of other hazards (see “face plants” above). Stupid trees, they think they can just put their roots wherever they like. And the snake I didn’t see until too late is likely grateful I missed him. (Not that I would have been in trouble. He was only 19 feet long with twelve-inch fangs.)
And it got lonely out there; the 50K runners started out together but spread out pretty quickly, and for a long time on that 20-mile stretch it felt a lot like I was the only one out there. The aid stations were a big relief, as much for touching base with humanity again as for the food.
My food and drink plan was pretty simple. Just a banana and some oatmeal pre-start, then salted potatoes and water at the aid stations. After finishing, I took last year’s lesson in wooziness at Run Woodstock to heart and ate more potatoes and drank a lot of iced tea and lemonade. The result was that I felt fine the rest of the day and had no problems driving back to Orlando and flying home that night. Well, other than stiff legs. And Orlando Airport on Saturday night is no place for a civilized person to be. But that’s another story.
After the race, one of the organizers asked how I liked the course. “It was fine,” I told him, “but do something about those tree roots next time, will you?”
Next in the series – Gnaw Bone, Indiana in May. Can’t wait!