Hi Everyone....this is my rambling from the Green Swamp...(first 50 miler).
The beauty of the green swamp started with a 4am wake up call with all three of us (Ron, Tracey, and myself) ready to go. We let Melissa sleep in and rest for an extra hour or so for her ROCKSTAR performance and second overall female in the Marathon…(Thanks to whoever gave her a ride!!)
For Ron and myself this was it…the attempt to run the farthest we had ever run. Ron prior had run 38 miles and I Ran my first Ultra 50K last fall in Hell. Tracey on the other hand is true veteran and can probably out eat and run all of us combined.
As the race got closer and we sat in our van - Official RUT Vehicle for Green Swamp - we banged out a few tunes of GNR and Zeppelin. Our energy levels were high - due to all the fruit we bought the prior day at the roadside market and the fine protein meal from the Cuban place. (the one on the left). The air was chilled with weather that you might have thought we brought with us from Michigan. The Floridians were all bundled up in in their clothes saved only for deep freeze emergencies and we were deciding if we were going to wear long sleeve or gloves. Ron was able to borrow some gloves for the overly prepared Tracey and I used an extra pair of running socks since Ron and I both figured Florida…we don‘t need no stinking gloves. Long Sleeves and socks it was… And so it began.
The race started as usual with many words of wisdom from the Head Goat….all of which I remember is white…then pink ….don’t follow the guy in front of you (made that mistake in Gnaw Bone). The first 10 miles were smoking or at least their was so much fog in the air you would have thought it was. I found it to be the best part of the race….my IPOD was still off…I listened to the music of the land and concentrated on seeing where the next flag was…where’s the white..where’s the white…. I tend to remember maps in my mind very well and I knew that would only help me here in the fact that we would be all over the place (and never knowing what to expect in a DWD). But if flowed extremely well…the sand looked like snow from Michigan while the low fog thickened and the moon and stars shined bright. I remember for a few moments running and just looking up at the stars..and then remembered the barbed wire on some of the sides and decided to pay attention again…look for white. The miles went very easy…50 miles…piece of cake…I was thinking as we neared the 10 mile area (start/finish)…at 10 grabbed a few snacks…laced up my ipod…here comes Ron…and were off…looking back at the map…this should have been fairly straight forward…follow pink…if I remember correctly (maybe) ..it was still dark…and the pink at the beginning was a bit difficult to find during the first ½ mile out…and a guy named Dorn (another Rockstar!!) set us straight and were gone again…running and running…no care in the World that we still have 39 miles to run (more than we both had run before) …at this point with all kinda of different tunes blaring in my head I lost Ron and continued my journey…(some of which will take a very deep thought process and more time to write and remember) …miles 13 though 18 are a bit hard to remember without cheating and looking at my pictures (oh yeah..I carried a camera on this journey also..more for the gator shots)…I do however remember it took awhile to get to that 17.6 mile aid station…And as I arrived with the brighter sky’s I thought that’s it 17.6 ..wow…I’ve got some work to do…Up to this point hydrating myself wasn’t fantastic..not forgotten or neglected but definitely could do better…and I started my food and beverage intake a bit more and definitely more top of mind as the temperature rose.
Near mile 22 I was tired and moving slower than I should be if I was going to complete this. I told myself to keep moving forward and you will get past this.."You've done this…stop &!@#? around and get going" My walking turned into a speed walk (Olympic speed walker vision in my head)..arms a swinging…anything to get to me moving. And it worked..I caught up with a guy from Florida (John Lowery..I think)…found him on some trail road just before Thrasher ridge…great guy who had done many marathons..and wanted to do his 50 miler before he was 50...but he said..he had been ill and it wasn't in him today…he said he would turn at the decided and only do the 50k…I told him (after a bit of chatting) that I didn't want to deflate him but from what I remember from the map the decider was at 27 and back to the start is around 37. I think he was a little stunned..and we started running again. At 27 (the decider) I changed my shoes and into my RUT shirt (need to look good for the finish) and John stopped by and said he has gone this far he might as well finish it…I told to go ahead and I would catch him. And their comes Melissa during her marathon…MELISSA…stop let me take a picture…great…now you take a picture of me…great…great job and good luck..keep it up and many words of encouragement for both of us…she went right..I went right…but we were both going in opposite directions…I was renewed…great food (potatoes and countless oranges) and I was off again…and ready to run again..shuffle shuffle..pink ribbon…down the road…don't slip on the grass.. Over some fallen trees…under the bridge…jump carefully on the rocks..and go…make it happen..this is going to happen…the trail from 27 to 37 did take a fair amount of time…just before the 50K turn I saw a alien run past me…putting him about 9 miles in front of me..NICE!!…this area had many turns…some alone time…I think "STU" and a really nice lake at one of the exchange points…It also hosted some gators and a nice warning sign . The climbing over the fence was actually welcomed as it helped stretch some sore muscles (both times)…and then back to "the Decider- Mile 37"…just before getting their I met up with Tracey flying in from somewhere and after a few jokes and laughs together we went under the bridge, snapped a photo, and got to the aid station…their we assured the volunteer that we were all good and ready to go…and we left…separating just a bit later….the mindset of look for pink was fairly automatic and it was more of a focus on "keep moving forward" …. the next aid was just down the road maybe around 40-41 or so…and somehow (despite my best efforts) Ron Dober was ahead of me..by 15-20 minutes…SHIT…how did that happen…gotta get moving…from 40 to 45...it was more of a run 9 walk 1 run 8 walk 1.…and actually felt pretty good…knowing that this is going to happen… coming into 45 (start/finish) …I was thinking…it can't be over yet??? And of course it wasn’t …the folks were encouraging and great at 45..just as they were at 530am…one quick look…I thought non realistically 5 miles…7 minutes a mile..ill be done in 35 minutes..knowing of course that wasn’t going to happen….on the way out for the last five..a wave and hello to Jim (novi running fit) and time to finish it off…the last five was great and while still moving I did take some time for some last photos…the journey was ending I was coming out of the tree coverings that we had walked the day prior…I knew exactly where I was…a quick chill came over me and my eyes glossed over for 38 seconds or so…then the final stretch…down the dirt part lined in pink…a few people clapping and screaming something…I took my music off and trotted in….wow..this was great…this is great…Ron, Tracey, and Melissa were all their…a nice cold beer in hand ready for me…I had completed my first 50 mile race with some great people. WOW!
THANK YOU Running Fit and a special thanks to all the volunteers who spent many hours and days making this experience special for all involved. Special note to the guy from Milford? Who volunteered as was out in the sun all day (I’m sure many were) out near (I think) mile 40.
Thanks for listening to me babble…if you read down this far…and at the end of the day and forever we bonded more as friends, we wrestled with the gators (kinda of..or not), spent some very quality HOURS in the outback of Dade City, and did what we love to do….Run!
So have a very quality day..Mark McCaslin