Monday, March 11, 2013

Dances with Dirt - Green Swamp marathon

Withlacoochee River State Park
March 9, 2012

Trail marathon weekend! I was excited and nervous leading up to this race. Only three weeks since my last marathon and one long run of 12 miles on the trails a week ago was the extent of my long mileage training. I was hoping that would be enough to get me through this race. I was also excited because this was going to be my 10th marathon! Not many, by Marathon Maniac standards, but considering this was the 5th one since mid December, I was pretty proud of myself. :)

I headed up to Rhonda's house Friday afternoon. She was nice enough to offer me a place to stay the night before the race, since she lives about half an hour away from the race venue, it would be a quick trip in the morning. We had a nice dinner and a good chat before going to bed around 9:30. The alarms went off at 4:30 am and we were out the door by 5:15. We arrived at the race venue, the Withlacoochee River Park just before 6 am. We headed over to the tent to pick up our bib, t-shirt and post race meal ticket then headed back to the car where it was warmer. The race start was going to be cold! It was 43 degrees out! About 15 minutes before race start, we headed over to the porta-potties and then to the race start. It was a small group of people. 50 runners for the marathon and even less for the 50K. The 50 mile runners started earlier and the 10K and half marathoners were starting at 9am. The race announcer counted down to the start and then we were off!

The first part of the race is a 10K loop that takes us back to the start. We then continue on for a 20 mile loop. The first loop had a variety of terrain. Beautiful flat, grassy trail, single file path through very tall dead grass, sandy roads and deep muddy trails. A guy named John ran up to me and mentioned he's a maniac (I had my maniac tank on.) We chatted for a while, and while we were chatting, we missed some blue flags and went off in the wrong direction. Thankfully we heard some shouts behind u,s warning us of our error. Detour one of two. :) We continued on. We caught up with Wendy, who was down from MN. I ran with her for the rest of the loop. She was a pro at these long distance trail runs and helped me out with some advice. The temp was warming up nicely now that the sun was out, so I pulled off my arm sleeves and tossed them on to Rhonda's car as we passed the parking area. I stopped for a quick refill of my water bottles at the aid station, before running passed the start area and on to the big loop. Miles 1 through 6 - 10:26, 10:29, 11:31, 10:19, 11:01, 11:33

Heading out on the trail again, I was quickly on my own. For the rest of the race, I was often on my own, which is so different from regular races! I ran down a long sandy stretch and then out to the main road. We ran this for just a little bit before turning right, crossing a bridge and heading back onto the trails. Every once in a while I would pass someone or I would be passed. I was already see people having a hard time. It was still so early! One guy, who had passed me earlier, came up from behind me again. He must have had to take a break in the bushes. (I passed him again, for the last time, a mile later) Another guy, who had the water on his back for both him and his girlfriend, pulled off to the side of the road just before the first aid station. Never saw him again. Passed his girlfriend soon after and let her know he was a ways back and not looking to good. I stopped at the next aid station to refill my two water bottles grabbed a little snack and then headed on. Miles 7 through 10 - 12:08, 11:34, 11:44, 11:38

The next section of trail was challenging because of the little hills. I decided to walk up them after running the first one. I didn't really lose any time. The woman up ahead of me ran them and even though she pulled ahead of me on the uphill, I would catch up to her on the down hill and flat sections. A lot of the rest of the race involved running on trails with high brush and scrub, so I had a hard time seeing if anyone was ahead or behind me. I really had to pay attention to the pink flags we were following. Often, I would stop and look around because I hadn't seen a flag in a while. Luckily, I would find one just ahead and know that I was going the correct way. Miles 11 through 15 - 12:02, 11:02, 11:40, 12:50, 12:07,

The real slow down started just after mile 15. My legs were so sore! All of the uneven terrain was really taking a toll on my body. My upper back and neck was getting pretty stiff too. I decided to start taking walking breaks. Just after mile 19, we came up to another aid station (there had been one other one before this). I drank two small cups of soda ( I'm not much of a soda drinker, but this tasted awesome!) a cup of water and ate half a banana.  I then walked for almost half a mile before running again. The soda tasted great, but it was not sitting great in my stomach. There was a relay category to this race (50 miler I think) and at this point, we were seeing them run past us on the opposite side, towards the aid station. They all had way to much energy! Miles 16 through 20 - 14:57, 13:35, 13:11, 17:49, 14:47

This last part of the race was the hardest both physically and mentally. I was really hurting and the terrain was getting choppier and harder to manuever. There was no way I could run through some of these sections, even if I felt up to it! I was thinking that maybe I wasn't cut out for this type of running, that I should have trained better and that maybe I should not run the 50K next month. The weather was perfect today, but it is bound to be much hotter next month. I really need to work on some positive things to chant to myself to help get me out of these funks I get into! I missed another turn during mile 24. I passed a couple of girls who had stopped and were stretching. It wasn't until about a quarter of a mile later that I realized the trail was much rougher than normal and I couldn't find a marker any were. The girls weren't to far behind me, so I yelled back to them asking if the saw the flag. Just then, I saw a couple of runners off to the side. We had missed a sharp left turn! We back tracked and soon were on the right path. It looked like a big truck had driven through, punching a bunch of holes in the ground at random intervals. I had to walk and hop through this section. Then we got to the section that had chest high weeds. I could have used a stick or something here. My arms took on that job. I was still taking long walking breaks. Running about half a mile and then walking for a quarter of a mile. I figured I should be able to make my sub 6 hour time goal with that. Finally we hit the last aid station. I asked how much further we had and was told a mile. We made our way into a section with lots of tall cypress trees and lots of little cypress nubs sticking out of the ground. With the shuffle like running I was currently doing, there was no way it was safe for me to run through this! I knew there was going to be a river crossing coming soon, but wasn't prepared for how deep and wide it was! I had seen a video from last years race. The person was able to hop over the "river" because there hadn't been much rain. I figured it would be the same this year. No such luck. A guy just ahead of me, plowed through it. Getting his leg stuck in the sand, but pulling it out quick and making his way up the bank on the other side. I wasted a minute or two walking a little ways up the river to see if there was a better place to cross. Nope. Two other runners caught up to me. I let them go first before getting in. The water camp up to my knees and was cold! It did feel refreshing though. I made my way across and up the bank. We made our way back to the sandy path that lead to the parking area. Having soaking wet shoes and then running through deep sand is no fun! I started to walk a little, but when I looked at my watch, I saw that it was 5:52! I needed to hustle to make it in under 6 hours! I started running again. Ran through the grassy area of the parking lot, passed the aid station, gave a high-five to John (who had finished) and ran through the finish!
Miles 21 through 26.9 - 14:16, 13:55, 14:15, 18:03, 14:54, 17:29, 16:09
Finish time: 5:56:08

After I passed the finish line, a woman came up to me, asked my name and age and then told me I was first in my age group! Crazy!! I got my finishers medal, a bucket with the race logo and a pint glass with the race logo. I grabbed a bottle of water and a banana and then waited for Rhonda to finish. She wasn't too far behind me, finishing just over 6 hours. We grabbed our meal tickets out of our car and headed over to get some grub. Cole slaw, BBQ chicken and beans. Plus a cup of iced tea. Yummy! We headed out soon after. It was after 1pm! I needed to get a shower and head home.

Overall, I am proud of myself for running this race. I wish I could be faster, but that just takes practice. Most everyone is slower running the trails. I did waste a lot of time at aid stations. My Garmin shows my moving time as 14 minutes less than my overall time! Oh well. I enjoyed chatting, eating and drinking at the aid stations. :)

Post race notes: bring a towel and a beach chair to the next trail race. Not a lot of seating at these trail events. Lots of race finishers were laying on beach towels on the grass or sitting in their beach chairs. Also, bring flip flops! It would have been nice to get out of those wet socks and shoes right away. :)

Race shirt and bling. It was definitely an Extreme Trail Run!

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