3rd Female Overall out of 400 competitors.
SALOMON: FAST WING TEE W, ENDURANCE 3/4 TIGHT W, EXO CALF, SENSE PRO W Shoes, and S-LAB SENSE HYDRO SET. Also L&M Vis 360 Run light, Suunto Ambit2 watch, Pocketfinder Personal GPS Locator, Oakley RadarLock Edge glasses with clear lenses, Clif Shot Gels and Garden of Life Nutrition.
|Here is a Map of my race that my husband was able to track me in real-time at 2 minute intervals as I had my Pocketfinder tucked in my back pocket. This is an hourly report that you view online or on your phone and take a look at speed and elevation at any waypoint. Pax always knew where I was during the race Thanks to this Great device. Get yours at http://www.pocketfinder.com/ and take the worries out of wondering where your loved ones are.|
It was not an ordinary run, actually nothing that would resemble running in any way we would know it.
First of all it was dark, completely dark, we were deep in the Florida flat woods and had a light from a full moon beaming down on us. But not any moon – A SuperMoon. The whole terrain had been sitting under water for days therefore those 10 grueling miles felt rather like 20. We were running, walking, wading most of the time thought deep soft mud, knee high water that often would get up to the hip and sometimes even waist deep. There were wet bridges and crazy scary water crossings with blinking lights and arrows when we were maneuvering through the swamps and enchanted forest. I felt like I was in some theme park during Halloween night at those sections but most of the time it was rather just me and the dark forest. All of it while being a hot and steamy Florida summer night was fully on. It was completely dark and the sounds of the swamps were unreal, the exhaustion and heat were overwhelming. We were soaked from all the water, moisture in the air and the sweat.
It was not any longer about who is the best or fastest runner. There were plenty of those today among us. It was about who was ready to keep going into the unknown and fight the elements, who wanted to proceed with adventure when things got tough, and mostly, who was willing and not afraid to suffer.
|All geared up and ready to go!|
We had so many fit, young and not so young, eager and just tough people tonight out there that I just could not believe my eyes; we were there in hundreds.
To come out in top 3 in this tough crowd was way more that I would have expected. It was mentally and physically challenging and exhausting therefore making this finish even more special and appreciated. I will not forget those hundreds of while lights and the sounds of the deep water underneath me for a long time...
I just wanted to give a Big Applause to those who didn't give up and finally crossed the finish line after two and a half long hours in the dark swamps. It was inspiring. Also the DTR crew did a tremendous job marking the trail system, having volunteers in key sections, fully staffed aid stations and of course the food, drinks, music, lights, awards and a fire pit in the gathering area.
Huge thanks to my husband Pax for being a mosquito ninja and our photographer for those long dark hours! And of course for being my mental support during this adventure.
Hope everyone had as great of a time as I did.
On to the Full Report
Swamp Run – Full Moon Challenge 10 mi
So here we just arrived after a little longer drive than expected in Jonathan Dickenson Park.
It’s still bright out but the sun is sitting already very low. I noticed right away two things, for once the terrain on both sides of the road leading us to the race site was in standing water, secondly this place was packed. Some 400 people were scattered and were finishing their preparations, grabbing lights, stretching legs, doing some jogging or catching up with friends. I saw a great number of really fit looking ladies out there and right from the start decided that I’m just going to have fun and will proceed with my adventure in that mindset.
|Just before race start...|
We also saw a friendly deer just walking out from the shrubbery to the middle of the street and completely not minding the cars around him.
I didn’t have much time for anything, but I made sure I was head to toe dressed “anti-mosquito style” and topped the outfit off with bug spray.
Quick packet pickup, bathroom stop and we were ready to rock. National anthem was Angelic as the person singing it and energy on the start line was really high. The camera guy was in front of us, the photographer, my husband also with his camera in position and waiting. DTR Crew was pumping up the crowd even more.
|Ocean of people ready to rock the darkness!|
We had an ocean of people lined up now and we all put on our lights at the same time. I jumped up to try to see everyone and said “Wow, that’s a lot of people” and the guy next to me said “and you are going to stay ahead of all of them”. Well I was not so sure about that but I liked his approach. ;-)
Sun was setting right now and nice pink faint colors were hiding behind the tall pine trees. I knew night was going to sneak up on us pretty quickly.
And we were off! The pace was high from the start, the fast guys in front were let’s just say really fast.
|Energy was up the roof right before the start...|
My plan was to simply listen to my body and when I feel like I have energy to run at a decent pace I would and when it’s not there than it’s alright as well. Just one minute in we got to the first flooded section; it was just a little sneak peak of what was ahead. I was thankful for my well-draining Salomon shoe choice since I still had a whole race ahead of me. I quickly realized how the terrain most likely was going to look like and was trying to just mentally put a big check mark and don’t be fussy about it. It was wet, slimy, and muddy, standing water was pretty much covering most of the path we were running on. There were not too many choices for good lines here and I had a few goals that I was aiming for. They were quite simple.
|And we are off! Hi Pax!|
Don’t twist my ankles was my number one priority, since I have still two months left to the World Championship in XTERRA in Maui and wouldn’t want to do something foolish now. But without seeing what is under let’s say 10 to 30 inches of water was an obvious possibility of something going wrong. I could not tell if there was a hole or even ground and mostly there were clumps of mud and grass so careful and light footing was important. Next, I hate spiders, and especially the hand size huge Banana Spiders and I was not looking forward running into one during this race, at some point I adjusted my L&M Light to face a little more upwards just to be able to spot them. Add to the list - snakes (yeah some people told me they had to jump over one), not being alone in the dark forest and finally after all of it was not giving up on the course and finishing the race.
|Picture thanks to DTR. Some 400 racers approaching the first bridge right off the start.|
I stayed with the fast group as long as I could but really quickly I was passed by three ladies. Oh well I thought, I was really going hard now and was already getting tired, but if this was not enough than it was fine with me since I was giving everything I got. I looked at my watch and I was only one mile in and I said “you have only 9 more miles of this boggy mess, you got this!”
I was sarcastic to myself but I had to run weird stuff through my head in order to don’t get discouraged. After this mile I had the sight of the third girl for a long while and still the group of guys ahead but had a very difficult time keeping up. Shortly all the colors from the sky disappeared, water become deeper and deeper and the group ahead was gone. I felt alone, I had no one to follow or pick the line off through the middle of the tight high deep water or rugged, sloped and really nonexistent often water edge. I saw lots of lights far in the back behind me but I didn’t want to slow down just because I was not comfortable being alone in the dark. This is when I said to myself “Beata, this is what you like, it’s muddy, it’s dirty, you are out in the forest, in nature, this is what you love, this is your element”.
I kept pushing and hoping somehow I will be able to get to the group in front. I saw the last faint light of one guy far away making a left turn and disappearing into the darkness. I was alone. Thankfully I was blasting now Rammstein in my one eared headphones for some distraction and had sounds of the swamp at night in the other ear.
Everything was kind of fine until I approached this weird and scary part of the course which took me completely by surprise. It had to be around mile three and suddenly the path took me over a narrow and slippery bridge into something that reminded me of a horror movie and a theme park at the same time. Big trees standing next to each other, blinking lights and arrows placed on the trunks and all of it in waist deep dark swamp water. I fell in for the first time and screamed; I scanned the ground quickly left and right for “Crocodile Dandi” and rushed in this maze of trees, water and arrows. It was really cool, thrilling, exciting and very scary at the same time. I kind of wasn’t sure if I should smile and enjoy it or if I should be terrified. I think I did and experienced both at the same time. When in the mid of it however I screamed again, “people, are here any people?” and just seconds later when pulling myself out of the water I saw a guy who seemed to be volunteering and I told him that I didn’t want to be here alone. And he said “yes you do” and I was like “no I really don’t” but honestly having a talking person right next to me was a relief in itself and made me feel that I was not there all alone after all.
|Lights are on and every single person out there shortly will have their own exciting story to tell...|
I kept going in the flooded knee high double track with big trees on both sides and started noticing a few lights behind me that were getting closer and closer. I knew with time they will catch up and I was very grateful when the four guys that were running together finally did. But I was so tired, so hot, soaked in all this water and couldn’t lower my heart rate even if I tried. They had a good pace but it seemed that I was going to have trouble keeping up with them. I was red lining already but had no choice, or put even more effort and try to stay with them or be alone once again in this dark place. I was fighting to stay by their side, every step was calculated and exhausting. It was the huge wet clumpy and sloping grass, or the deep water, or the more shallow water in middle with some grass poking out from it. We were hoping from one place to the other trying to pick the best place to plant the foot. It was extremely tiring and really never ending. At some point one of the guys started walking. Shortly we arrived at the second aid station and volunteers had drinks and were taking numbers of the bibs before we go into the back loop.
|1:26 hours later I'm finally back. For sure it felt way longer than that!|
|Apparently WE ARE Glowing in the Dark!|
Yes, that was a good progress to be on the way back but each time I looked down at my Suunto Ambit 2s I was on mile 5.37, 5.56 5.78 and I was so terribly tired. It was the longest mile and I really wished so much to see on the watch mile 6 to finally say to myself that I was way beyond the halfway of the race. I was now fixed on the red light of my running guy in front. I had a difficult time to stay close but was determined to not lose him. Now what seemed like a hundred of other runners were heading toward us head on, I was ducking people and the rows of white lights were going by me. They all were still going out. I wanted to say “Great job”, “Good work” “Keep pushing” when I saw them but I had no energy to get any words out of myself. I just did it in my head. And once again I had to force myself to keep running high through the water and focus on lines and foot placement. And of course looking ahead and saying, “Follow the red light”, “don’t lose the light”. The guy ahead did catch up however to other racers and now there was a guy in green right behind him covering the light. I knew I was going to lose him now. But somehow with time I was able to catch up and be right behind the guy in green. He told me that there were three ladies just ahead and almost at the same time stumbled over a hidden in the grass tree stump. He was fine and his friend checked on him too to make sure he was OK. I looked ahead and I noticed the girl in 3rd place that passed me a whole 5 miles or so ago. I started feeling hope now for a top three and sped up slightly. All of the sudden I saw her bending down and started tighten up her shoe laces, I though “Thank goodness for the quicklaces I have on all my Salomon’s since I never have to worry about something like this happening to me. When she was still focused on the shoe and kneeling down this is where I made my pass. It was funny however since I did it kind of in a “Ninja style” and went by her quite unnoticed.
And when I thought that I got away with my stealth like pass the guy in green behind us decided to scream for the whole forest to the girl “Here goes your MEDAL!”. LOL, really, really, here goes away my super pass. :) We still had almost 4 miles to go and the creepiest of deep waters, blinking lights and slippery bridges section. Thankfully I was not alone there this time around and passed one guy while in the swamps, now just meters ahead I had once again my beloved “guy with the red light”.
|It felt good to sit down and submerge myself in the burrito-land....|
I was happy, but my legs were so heavy by now that getting out of the deep water and maneuvering the bridge was really challenging. I could now hear and see once again what was coming up since I had someone in front. I knew just from the sound when the deep water was approaching and when it was time to slow down. I also know that every little decision and line will matter since I was being chased by the girl that I just passed. It was only two of us in close proximity and the rest of the forest was dark. Now my red light guy in front stopped to work on his shoe and I said “oh no you can’t do that!” and he smiled and said “no worries, I will be there in a second”. And he was, he did catch up and led us for a really fast paced and exhausting final miles. I was very grateful. The legs now after tougher pars would just bend underneath from the exhaustion; air was still humid and hot. But there was no slowing down now. At some point he said “I can hear it” and yes I did too, we heard the announcer at the finish line. But we still had a long and difficult two miles. My pace was slipping slightly but not terribly. He thought we had only mile to go but even though I wanted to believe it I knew it was much more.
|Beautiful night fire pit.|
But I could almost feel it and taste it; we were so close to be done. Path got a little more manageable now and it was really no one around, I was really glad I had company. I looked back a few times and I saw lights in the distance and knew that I must stay ahead and can’t slow down even though my body begs me for it. And then I heard the sound, and said “something is there” and the guy with the red light replied “yes we are almost there” and I’m like “no, something is walking there”. Apparently some night creature was traversing in between the palmetto palms knocking loud the giant leaves. He thought it was an Armadillo and I like to believe that it was one also for keeping my spirits positive.
And finally we saw the lights, we heard the music, we were flying now thought the final water, wooden bridge and winy single-track. He took off and I kept my pace and arrived on my own some 20 seconds behind. I was happy to finally cross the finish line.
|That's a proven fact: Wherever there is a fire pit, there I am. I just Love night fire!|
After all I ended up 3rd female on the finish line and only 1.5 minutes ahead of 4th place. Other ladies were much further back, but the first two just destroyed it and arrived with some of the fastest guys. I was definitely very happy with how I managed this insane run.
|Full moon is on!|
Only my eyes and eyes of those who covered this whole race track can tell what really was out there, since it is so difficult to describe every moment, sound, feeling and detail of this adventure.
Because it was exactly it: an adventure, a challenge, and a test; something to push through and overcome.
Long after I was done and was so happy to see my husband who was tracing me along the way on his phone from my PocketFinder I had in my back pocket. After we had some nice drinks, ate burritos, talked to friends, relaxed, and sat at the fire. Long after the people were still pouring in and returning from the long journey out there in the forest.
|It always had been one of my favorite quotes!|
It was really tough and inspiring to see how people loved and enjoyed and challenged themselves and didn’t let all those obstacles stop them. I was happy to see them crossing the finish line with a big smile on the face.
|Overall Female Podium!|
Thank you: Salomon, Sunnto, Light and Motion, Suunto, Clif, Oakley, Pocketfinder and Garden of Life.
|Is beautiful Bella singing to the full moon or trying to sneak a kiss?|