Tag Archives: Green Swamp

Truth, or Trail Lore?

As a trail and ultra runner I’ve had my share of unusual experiences, and heard a bunch more, because we love to share our stories. And I suspect that we fall prey to Fisherman Syndrome – the temptation to stretch the story a little each time. The hills keep getting a little higher, the creeks deeper, and the bears bigger.

You think you’re good at discerning truth from fiction? Have a go at the questions below. Which of these things really happened to me, and which did I make up or “exaggerate” a tad? Have fun!

  1. Complete the sentence I actually overheard: “Never stand between a runner and …”
    1. His carbs
    2. The finish line
    3. Coffee
    4. An oncoming vehicle
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  2. Which of the following did I experience at the Burning Man 50K? (Hint: there may be more than one correct answer.)
    1. Sunrise over the playa
    2. Losing a toenail
    3. Being offered whiskey by spectators
    4. Running with a naked woman
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  3. I was looking for my drop bag at an aid station at the Kettle Moraine 100. What was the actual advice a volunteer gave me?
    1. “We have them sorted by bib number.”
    2. “Sorry, some of them haven’t arrived yet.”
    3. “Are you sure you’re at the right event?”
    4. “Take any one you like, they all got the same shit in ‘em.”
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  4. How many of the following happened to me at the 2014 Green Swamp 50K in Florida?
    1. Face planted four times on a pancake-flat course
    2. Stepped on a snake
    3. Was saved from getting lost by someone who did get lost
    4. Flew home that afternoon to run a 5K the next day
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  5. Which of the events related to Run Woodstock freaked me out the most?
    1. My first “natural run”
    2. Being chased by baby raccoons on a training run
    3. Headlamp failing in the woods in the middle of the night
    4. Seeing the following sign at midnight on a high chainlink fence just off the trail:

Ready? Answers below.

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Are you sure you’re ready?

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Okay, here we go.

 

Answer to #1: “Never stand between a runner and his carbs.”

It was after a race, and there were slices of cake on the food table. Someone was blocking me from the piece I wanted, and I sort of lunged around him to get it. I apologized, which triggered the remark from a spectator. Note that I think the other three choices are also sound advice.

This will do for starters.

Answer to #2: All of them.

During the first loop I felt a sharp pain in my left food. At the water stop I took off my shoe and sock. The problem was my big toe. As I peeled off the tape, the toenail came off with it. No big deal. And there was no more pain! And sunrise over the playa was absolutely amazing. Well worth getting up at 5 a.m.

I did run with a naked woman for a while (and she finished ahead of me – oh, the shame). Spectators offered many interesting things to us, including whiskey and mystery liquids. You can read all about it in this previous post.

Answer to #3: Choice (d) – “Take any one you like…”

There were lots of drop bags at this station. My mind keeps stretching the number and the area, but here’s an actual photo of some of them. Fortunately I did find my actual bag without too much trouble. I don’t remember if they were sorted by bib number. It would make sense, come to think of it.

Answer to #4: Choices (c) and (d)

Out in the middle of nowhere, I was happily running along when a woman approached from the opposite direction. “No,” she said, “wrong way. I just found out.” Sure enough, a few hundred yards back was a turn we’d missed. Good thing, or I might still be out there.

And 2014 was the year I’d set a goal to run every race put on by RF Events. Green Swamp was a Saturday in Florida, and Shamrocks & Shenanigans was the following day back in Ann Arbor. So I flew home the same day, and ran Shamrocks the next day. The staff still talks about it.

The other two answers are close. I didn’t step on a snake, but I almost did. And I actually face planted six times on a pancake-flat course. Pesky alligators.

Answer to #5: Choice (b) – yep, the baby raccoons!

I wasn’t afraid so much of them, but of Mama, who must’ve been somewhere nearby. So I booked the hell out of there.

Headlamp failing is certainly cause for concern, but I wasn’t worried. First, an aid station was just up the trail with my drop bag, in which was a spare headlamp. Second, I always carry two light sources at night, so I had a small flashlight as backup. Be smart out there!

As for the zombie warning sign? I wasn’t freaked out at all. I put it there! I set it up around midnight and removed it before sunrise. Only the 100-mile and 100K runners got to “hallucinate” that sign!

And my first “natural run”? It was somewhat uncomfortable at first, but after a few minutes it’s just people with no clothes on. And running, which is always good. You can read about it in this previous post here. And if you infer that by “my first” means I’ve done others since? You infer correctly, dear reader. Try it sometime!

Do you have any funny, strange, or freaky running experiences you’d like to share? Post away!

Down and Dirty: Green Swamp 50K Race Recap

Personal numbers from last Saturday’s Dances With Dirt Green Swamp 50K:

Me with fellow PR Fitness ultrarunner Tracy, enjoying a post-race adult libation.

Me with fellow PR Fitness ultrarunner Tracy, enjoying a post-race adult libation.

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.

Green Swamp - First 10KI 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.

Green Swamp - Batman 2

How superheroes stay in shape. (Relay team.)

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.)

250px-Gadsden_flag.svgAnd 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.

Remember when you could do this in Michigan? (Or did I dream it?)

Remember when you could do this in Michigan? (Or did I dream it?)

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!

Green Swamp, Red Can, Black Goodness

DWD Green Swamp - Start-Finish Line with Deer

I’m in not-so-sunny Florida today, resting up for my first ultra of the year – Saturday’s Dances with Dirt Green Swamp 50K in Dade City. This morning I was out at Withlacoochee Park to help set up. I love volunteering at Running Fit races; the events crew is laid back and the pace is unhurried, yet everything comes together on schedule. And after an intense week of being audited and traveling (Costa Rica – yes, it was rough), it was great to hang out with fellow runners and decompress.

It was cloudy and chilly all day, and the Michigan contingent wasn’t too pleased. But race day promises to be sunny and warmer, starting in the 40s and warming up to the low 70s. Excellent for running an ultra. Can’t wait to hit that trail. I will have to watch my step, however, and not just for roots.

Watch your step! Fire ant nests are everywhere - including the starting chute.

Fire ant nests everywhere, even the starting chute.

More about Costa Rica with my race recap next time. For now I will address a subject as dear as running to my heart, and equally important to civilization and the future of humanity. I’m speaking, of course, about coffee.

Cafe Britt - Dark Roast 2

Grocery-store stuff in Costa Rica, but good.

Costa Rica has a deserved reputation for excellent coffee; the Doka Estate’s French Roast remains my favorite. Trouble is, there’s also a lot of cheap, poorer stuff and/or bad preparation; the outstanding hotel I stayed at unfortunately served coffee I found undrinkable. So I went to their gift shop and got a dark roast to make in my room. Their only size bag was much more than I needed, but it was quite good, and I packed the rest for my trip home.

So today, as I helped set up the registration and awards area, I was asked to wash the coffee maker – a vital piece of equipment at 4:30 a.m. Saturday as the crew begins race day activities (such as sending off the 50-milers at 5:30). And in the box of coffee supplies I came across the dreaded RCOD (*).

Does anyone else see the irony here?

Does anyone else see the irony here?

Now runners love coffee as much or more than anyone else, and with all the attention serious runners pay to what else goes into their bodies, you’d think they’d be just as discriminating about their choice of coffee. Apparently not. “We’re on a budget,” I was told. “And at 4:30 we just need something hot.”

Clearly, an intervention was needed. These folks would never try to save money buying $40.00 sneakers to run their marathons in. They needed to see that drinking nasty coffee to save a few bucks per pound was just as nutty.

Synchronicity! I had the Costa Rica coffee in my running bag in the car. I retrieved it and donated it to their cause. I’ll let you know what happens, but if at least one more person awakens to what real coffee is, it’ll be more than worth it to me.

READ MORE: How to drink better coffee, and support those who care about quality, without busting your budget

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(*) RCOD = Red Can of Death. Refers to a certain distinctive red can which contains a bad-smelling, worse-tasting substance marketed as coffee. I don’t know if it actually contains floor sweepings, but many cheap brands do, according to the BBC.