Wednesday, February 17, 2010

DWD Green Swamp race 2010 had a variety of challenging trail races going on. They had a 50M/50k ultra marathon, a 26.2/13.1, and a 50 mile relay team race. With all the different races, it was important to keep a close eye on your signage as they all weaved in and out of one another. At packet pickup everyone was buzzing about the wet course conditions. I asked Race director Randy “The Head Goat” what he thought he slyly smiled and said “It’s Bloody Muddy!”

The course would take us through swamps, cypress forest and down the beautiful Florida trail. The Florida trail is one of eight National Scenic Trails in the United States. It is a hiking only trail that travels more than 1500 miles across the state of Florida with 1100 miles of that being continuous. The trail was established in the Ocala National Forest in 1966 with much work done by Jim Kern from Miami.

I ran the 50 mile race which started at 5:30am with a temperature of 40. The days forecasted highs were in the mid 40’s. It was dark and we headed off into a relatively dry 5 mile loop. This consisted of some wide trail, single track and sandy footing. I ran a little quicker knowing I would have to walk some of the flooded areas later on. During this leg we heard an owl “Hooting”. I was running with local runner Paul Carrington. He told me this was a Hoot Owl. The owls hoot kind of sounds like it’s saying “Who cooks for you” We could hear two of them talking back in forth between one another. Hoot Owls are home bodies that generally never travel more than a few miles from their birth place. They prefer living in swamp lands.

The second leg was a little wetter but still easy to run. This leg had some open wet fields and woodsy areas. This is where I first noticed the giant 100 year plus oak trees. They had huge trunks with gnarly outstretched limbs. The canopy for one tree would outstretch 150 feet. The trees were draped in Spanish moss that swayed in the wind giving them a bit of an eerie feeling early in the morning.

I arrived at aid station 10.3 thinking they may have exaggerated the muddiness of the course. Here the volunteers told us that it was 4 miles to the next aid station and we would have a river crossing. We ran about ½ mile down a soft sandy road then hit some harder packed trail. We were on this for a very short time when the whole trail turned to water for the next 3 miles. It was cold, knee deep, mucky dark water. I tried not the think about this looking like a perfect spot to see alligators. The vegetation around us was thick. I wore my Flyroc 284’s and they drained quickly and stayed light with the wet muddy conditions. I felt great and was really enjoying the challenge.

I arrived to a very cheery group at the next aid station. It was a remote area. Volunteers had to travel through some tough areas to set up aid for us. We passed this nice crew twice and enjoyed there laughter at our mud soaked bodies. The next stop would be the Decider point.

Decider point was also a relay team exchange point. The adrenaline filled teams cheering added a lot of exciting energy to this aid station. Last year you left this aid station and went under the bridge through the Withlacoochee River. This year the water was up 70 feet. So we went over the bridge and then we turned into the woods. For the next 11 miles we traveled through pine tree trails, open fields, and wet single track areas with plenty of twist and turns. This went by quickly and we were back to Decider point with 17 miles left in the race.

A good portion of the last 17 miles of the race was on the Florida trail. Here I saw Armadillo, Cypress forest, Pines, Cabbage Palms and plenty of lush Florida vegetation. One of my favorite changes made to the course was in the last 3 miles. DWD took us off the Florida trail through the thick of the forest. We just followed orange ribbons that were tied to trees, cypress stumps, poison ivy, bones and whatever the “Head Goat” found along the way. Your tired mind was well worked watching for direction in this thick area. This was where the most spectacular Cypress Tree forest was. Cypress trees grow in very wet areas, so to adapt, their roots produce these smooth unusual “knees” that protrude above the soil ranging from a few inches to 6 feet. This was a really cool place and I felt lucky to see this natural environment. It was tough to run because the vegetation was so thick and muddy. Since it was close to the end of the race you didn’t mind a little walking break to take in the unusual sites of nature.

The finish line was good to see. A great picnic style dinner was set up. DWD puts on a great adventure style race that ensures you never get bored. Green Swamp is one of my favorites and I look forward to coming back next year to see my many new and old friends.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

2009 Green Swamp 1st overall Female, with my treasured trophy
Yo Alligator Jumpers...I'm preparing for Green Swamp 50 mile race at Pasco
County Withlacoochee River in Dade city Florida. Randy "The Head Goat" is race director of a series of Dances with Dirt Races. This is the first of four for the year. I did all four of DWD races last year. Randy has established his reputation as a race director that enjoys sending us through plenty of stupid spots. At Gnaw Bone race in Indiana we started the race on a 5 mile uphill through calf deep shoe sucking mud! At Hell Michigan the mud was so deep (it was above my waist, and I'm 5'8') we had to use a rope from one side of the mud river to the other to get across. After a rinse going upstream about a 1/4 mile down the middle of chest deep river we had to crawl up a 15 foot sticky black mud hill. Florida has been getting pounded with rain so as far as Green Swamp goes...The "dirt crew" said they had to tweak the course a little this year...if they didn't we would need a snorkel...and one of those shark cages! I will double knot on my Flyroc 284's and watch for alligators. I don't know what to expect of the Green Swamp course this year...but I'm sure it will be interesting!