For a ‘Michigander’ the idea of leaving a brutal winter for 60+ degree weather plus sun sounded like a GREAT idea for an early spring break adventure with the family. Oh yes and also the idea of running 50 miles while on vacation even sweetened the plan (the Dances with Dirt Green Swamp trail race). We loaded up the rental minivan and left the frozen tundra of Michigan and set course to Florida! After being in the car for 2 days and 1300+ miles it was fantastic to arrive in the sun shine state! After a day of relaxation with my parents in Bradenton we loaded up the car and headed to Dade City on Friday afternoon.
After packet pickup and checking into the hotel, off we searched for some dinner. Well with 2 little boys that were absolutely starving, along with me, quick and delicious was the requirements and Panera fit the bill.
Race Morning – Clear skies and 40 degrees
Thankfully my dad offered to drive me to the start of the race as I think asking my sweet wife to wake up at 4:30am would have been a bad idea. :) Bonus to running these ultra events…you get prime parking before the race starts. I got my gear placed at the drop site, cleared out the ‘system’ and then hung out with my dad in his vehicle until a couple of minutes before go time (5:30am). Click on my headlamp and lined up towards the front of the line and BOOM….away we rolled into the dark. The 50 miler consisted of multiple laps – two 5 mile loops and two 20 mile loops. We first hit up the 5 mile loop and right away we missed our first flag and ran towards to the 20 mile loop. Luckily everyone else behind us followed suit and thankfully someone was able to direct us to the right path. :)
My overall plan for the day was to run my own race as I wanted to see if I could break my 50 mile time (for a flat trail course) which was 8:50. While keeping this as my first goal I wanted to try to hang with the leaders to see how their pace would be compared to my goal. After a couple of miles the two leaders starting pulling away from me and I let them go as we were bouncing between 8:15s & 8:45s. I knew if I kept that up I would be in trouble. So I settled into a pace with a couple of other guys by me. We rolled through the first lap (5 miles) in good time and while some stopped at the gear drop site I just kept rolling through. Off I set for the first lap of the 20 mile loop with another runner by me. At this point I was 2nd overall. The sun was just starting to rise and the headlamp wasn’t needed as much after a couple of miles into the loop. One technical aspect to this course that was a challenge was the short, short tree stumps (4 to 6 inches high) that in some places where scattered all over the trail thus making it a challenge to traverse through quickly. One section I did totally bite it and fell flat on my face. The kind of fall that your water bottles flies out of your pack along with a couple GU packets too. The guy rolling right with me helped me up and gathered up my gear. Love trail runners! I believe he was the one that finished the day in front of me (3rd overall).
As we kept trekking through the 20 mile loop I was feeling better and better as the temps felt perfect (low 50s) thus my pace was faster than I anticipated but I wanted to keep rolling with it as it felt great! Since I had hydration already on me (backpack) I could roll through the aid stations quickly thus I think why I was able to keep my pace moving along while staying up front with some of the leaders. As I rolled into the start/finish area with the gear drop site (25 miles in), I checked my time and was honestly shocked. 3:45 was my split time. I figured a PR was definitely in the plan now and maybe even a top three placement.
Well, the second loop wasn’t as fast as the first but times starting falling into my typical pace that I was at last year and felt comfortable with (9:30 to 10:00 min/miles). My biggest battle from here on out was the Florida sun. While I welcomed it as the warm temps felt great after a cold winter of running in Michigan but the direct sun with not much tree coverage on the trail hit me hard. After a while I started using the aid stations to just pure water on my head. While that worked I was quickly reminded how much of a better runner I am in cooler temps + no direct sun light. At one point I fell off from the leader pack and I was then focused on just finishing at a PR time.
As I finished my 2nd 20 mile loop, I was greeted with cheers from my family which was GREAT!! I only had one more 5 mile lap to do so I grabbed my sweet tea bottle and off I went.
I will say the last 5 miles was a physical challenge as I knew the finish was in sight and that if I could hammer out the pace I could maintain I might finish just under 8hrs. As the last couple miles came up, I did fall off pace for a sub 8 hr but heck I was already in line for a great day. When I came across the finish line I was thrilled to be completed and with a PR time (08:16) by 35 minutes!!! I then soon found out that I placed 1st in my age bracket and was 4th overall! Woohoo!!!
Overall race summary….Another fantastic Running Fit event! I absolutely love their trail events as they provide excellent support for the runners at the aid stations and at the start/finish line. If you are ever looking for a trail run, check out Running Fit’s calendar of events. This year I signed up for the Ultra Challenge (the BS Series) for all four 50 milers. The next stop is on May 10th in Gnawbone, IN for the DWD Gnawbone 50 miler. While Green Swamp was fun and fast, I look forward to Gnawbone as I hear it’s challenging yet provides beautiful scenery.
Video highlights capture with my GoPro HERO3+ Silver camera
Check out my other running adventures from my Vimeo ‘On the Run’ Album
Gear on the Run
- Salomon S-Lab XT5
- Socks – Wrightsock Double Layer
- Bottoms – Salomon Short Tight
- Top – INKnBURN Wave Tank
- This was the first run with it and as usual these INKnBURN shirts ROCK!!! If you haven’t tried them yet, you need too. Read about my gear review blog here.
- Arm Sleeves – INKnBURN Grey Skull 4Arms
- Headband – INKnBURN Current Tech Tech Tube (first half)
- Headband – INKnBURN Red Run or Die Tech Tube (second half)
- Watch – Garmin 910xt
- Backpack – Ultimate Direction Scott Jurek Vest
- Headlamp – Princeton Tec Apex Pro
- Glasses – Rudy Project Rydon
- Camera – GoPro HERO3+ Silver