2012 Photo & Stories
My Everglades experience was a little different than a few of the people in my group, mostly because I got lucky and didn't get lost.
I started with Halpo and Henderson. The tram had left us off about a half mile before the start line so we jogged with about a third of the crowd to the actual beginning. The warm up felt great and we were all looking forward to the run.
At the count off the eventual winner took off like a bat out of hell and we never saw him again. The three of us ran into the woods together although Henderson's faster pace started to build the increasing gap between us. That was the last I saw of Henderson's face although, thanks to the prairie and his yellow-sleeved shirt, I did see his slowly shrinking figure for the next four miles or so.
Halpo told me he was going to stop and take a picture and that was the last I saw of him, too. I emerged from the trail onto a very muddy section leading two guys from Boca. There was a marked work-around to circumvent the mud and I took it, leading the group until I kicked a hidden root and fell down. The ground was soft and I did a quick inventory and finding no problems, hopped back up and kept going. The toe I had hurt when I fell training in Tropical Park a few weeks ago started to throb and I thought that would be the end of my race but after a mile or so I forgot about it and kept on.
The prairie section was mostly hot and sunny with a strange surface of dried mud and matted dead grass. I was beginning to regret wearing a black shirt but was pleased that I wasn't wearing the black tights, black zip up top and camel back water bladder that the bald guy next to me had on. We traded leads a few times thru the prairie and talked about other races we had done. A little thirsty and running too fast (9.4) but otherwise all good so far.
Finally we went back into the woods, which was nice because there was shade but tough because of the rocks and roots. The two of us passed two women who had passed us in the prairie and ran though the puddles which were about ankle high. Lucky for me, he was ahead when we reached the unmanned tent with the dogleg right hand turn. Only because he ran to the right did I see the pink ribbon and follow him, otherwise I would have followed the trail to the left as so many others did.
The trail got more treacherous and I almost fell a few times. The rocks and roots I could see posed no threat and the ones I stepped on blind but square weren't a problem either. It was the ones that hit the side of my feet that threw me off balance and I finally crashed down again. I wasn't hurt at all but stayed on the ground for a few moments because I was pissed and frustrated, giving my competitor the chance to get away. The rest of the trail had deepening and deepening puddles and I tried to work around many of them. After a while it dawned on me that the clipped stalks on the sides of the trail were like punji sticks and would really hurt if I fell on one of the so I gave up running on the perimeter and charged straight through the puddles. They were, indeed, calf-depth — which I think means that small cows could drown in them, some were almost knee deep. And my knees are pretty high off the ground! Plus, the water was COLD! My toes were frozen by the time I went through the fourth or fifth puddle.
When I popped out of the woods, Gloria, Ali, and Kim were there so I peeled off my running pants and stuck the muddy mess in the basket of Ali's bike. I had a drink of water and a quarter banana and ran on down the road.
About two miles later I came to another rest stop and had a cup of water. As an afterthought, the guy manning the booth asked if I had a bag with dry shoes (I was pretty muddy and wet) and I fished through the box and found my drop bag. I debated losing the time to change but finally gave in and peeled off my muddy shoes and socks. Damn, did that towel feel good. So did the dry, warm shoes and socks.
The next two miles were heaven. The road was relatively smooth, the route was shaded, my feet were warm and dry. I was making good time and was speeding along, repeating the mantra "I'm just eating up the miles" and picturing myself a real life PacMan character, just gobbling up the distance.
For the last four miles my times got slower and slower until I was trading running with short bouts of walking. Strange, too, because after eleven miles I kept telling myself "only four miles to go, that's nothing" and "only three miles left, I can do that in my sleep." Apparently pulling myself through the mud on the prairie and the deep mud on the trail had taken its toll on my thighs because the last two miles were slow and painful. I kept thinking how glad I was that I didn't have another 16 to go and how proud I was of Daniel, Lorna, Vilma, and David A. You guys are heroes.
The party at the finish line was great. I drank five bottles of water and drank two beers and never had to pee. When i finally did go later, it was yellow brown and thick Apparently, dehydration also had something to do with my ever slowing times. I also ate two hotdogs and two hamburgers when I remembered that we had been late to the hotel and hadn’t eaten dinner the night before so clearly my fueling strategy was to blame.
But the experience was great! And I've already gone from "what the &$@!!? Did I do that for?" to "I can't wait to do it again next year.” Unlike the road races I’ve done, no one at the trail ultra displayed any attitude. Everyone was friendly, helpful, and truly happy to be there. It was my first trail race but definitely not my last.
Thank you all for the great experience and friendship.
Bruce Turkel TOP^
Mary Beth Northrup
Good morning Bob!
First, I wanted to say that I loved the race on Saturday – for an inaugural race (I ran the 25K), I thought it was very well done. Here’s what I especially liked:
• Thank you for offering a 25K option. During the peak of running season, I would have found it difficult to slot in a 50K race, but a 25K is perfect for a training run between races. The last-minute sale price made it a no-brainer for me to register.
• Love the sweatshirt – it’s nice to get something besides the usual t-shirt! How about a Palm 100 running hat or ice bandana? J
• The course was beautiful! What a great place for a run. The wonderful weather was a bonus.
• The course was clearly marked. I thought the clothes-pin / ribbon system was ingenious.
• The post-run refreshments were outstanding. Plentiful supplies and a lot of variety.
• A great group of volunteers, as usual!
A couple of improvement suggestions:
• When I went by the aid station just before Mud Tram, there was no one there, and I don’t recall seeing any supplies either. Fortunately some volunteers met me along mud tram with water, otherwise I would have been really dry before hitting the next aid station. I think that was just a timing issue.
• There was quite a long wait to get my drop bag from gate 12 station after the race – 3 hours. I believe the issue was the need to send someone to town for water supplies, which of course took priority over drop bag delivery. You have to expect some glitches in a new race.
Thanks for all that you do to organize these events. I’m sure that it’s a labor of love. Please give my regards to your lovely wife, who I had the pleasure of meeting on Saturday.
I’ve enclosed my Everglades race report for your reading enjoyment … see you at the Palm 100!
Mary Beth TOP^
David Altshuler - My First Ultra
A number* of gentle readers have been gracious enough to inquire about my 50 kilometer race in the Everglades this past Saturday.
The experience was, in a word, "exquisite." Faksahatchee Strand, in addition to being the largest park in Florida, also has wonderfully diverse habitats. We ran through hardwood forests, prairie, and swamp. Every five miles brought us into a new habitat. No alligators, but there were herons galore and a red shouldered hawk as well as an owl. Aid stations were well stocked with home made blueberry muffins, pretzels, and jelly beans. There were Oreo cookies as far as the eye could see! Admittedly not a low calorie diet but the nice thing about running for seven and a half hours is that you can eat pretty much anything you like. I've been to weddings that weren't catered as well.
Cypress knees and large stones made every step an adventure; vines were specially trained to capture our ankles and pull us lovingly down into the mud. But every time we fell, we got up and trudged onward. The mud was said to be "calf deep." At first we thought calf deep meant eight inches of mud, enough to come up half way to our knees. It turned out that "calf deep" meant enough mud to drown a baby cow. (Sorry.)
How does an ultra differ from the dozen marathons I've run over the last 30 years? Not to take anything away from the shorter distance--"26.2. Because 26.3 would be crazy"--but there is something to be said for a race where no one cares about time or distance. In the marathon, competitors are frenetic. We're trying to hit our splits, run a specific pace, qualify for Boston, tie ourselves up in knots. In the ultra, the emphasis seems to be on camaraderie and conversation, a journey rather than a destination. How fast are the participants running? No one knows. There are no mile markers and the course may be 31 miles but probably not. The course is 33 1/2 miles. More or less. The "hitchhiker paradigm"--telling emotionally intimate information to strangers because you're unlikely to ever see them again--is in full force. Running a marathon, with ten thousand competitors, is like trying to meet the girl you're going to marry at a crowded dance club in a big city. An ultra is being introduced to a great girl at a small town pick-nick.
Admittedly, I became something of a medical emergency at the finish. And getting lost on the course for five or six miles was a major "oops." But I recovered quickly from a mantra of "never again" to thinking about the great food, the great friends, and the great terrain. I can't wait to start training for next year.
As soon as I can walk down three steps without wincing of course.
* Hey! "Three" is a number.
First of all, I'd like to thank you for organizing such a fantastic race! I absolutely love it! It was an extremely tough course that went through an equally exquisite place. The landscape through the Everglades is surprisingly diverse, with prairies, thick forests, rivers, and swamps. There is also a huge variety of animals -- alligators, snakes, and beautiful birds. There's nothing like sharing the road with a snake to help you pick up the pace, or to see an alligator bathing under the sun. Not to mention all the insects, who unfortunately are very keen on getting some of your blood!
The course required running on an equally varied range of surfaces (and typically a combination of them): sand, grass (often up to one's knees, through thick forests), rocks, logs, dirt roads, mud (a lot!), and water (also up to the knees). Going through these rivers reminded me of a scene of "Adaptation", which was in fact shot on that park, in which the unlucky character played by Chris Cooper was crossing one of the rivers when an alligator decided to have him for supper.
The water in these rivers was surprisingly cold, which was nice to cool off, since some parts of the course were very hot. I had never ran on some of these surfaces before, and it was quite a learning experience. Imagine how unsettling it is to lose a shoe in the mud, or to fall a number of times, tripping on logs and rocks, before starting to get the hang of it.
But being out there, experiencing this amazingly beautiful place, made every step on the course worth it. And it was a treat to be able to share the whole experience with Jason Dowdell, who is an amazing guy, and made it all feel as though we were crossing a paradise. I can't wait to run the race again next year!
Thanks for all your fantastic work!
According to my GPS, the 50 mile course had almost 53 miles (52,96). It was actually nice to run 3 extra miles in such a special place!
All the best,
PS: See you in the Palm 100! TOP^
Bob Dozoretz, Bib #307, Winner Men’s 60 + division in the 25 Km Photos
“Strider Smarts”, presented by Coach Bob Dozoretz
Many publications have articles and advertisements for trail running, races and gear, so when I saw the Everglades Ultra Race[s] listed, I thought this could be fun.
Those who know me know if it’s different, I’m there. There was a 25K, 50K and 50 miler to choose from, so the 25K appealed to me, even though it is a 16 mile trail run through Fakahatchee Strand [swamp] in the heart of the Everglades.
I’m no trail runner, but do own trail shoes and run on the sand each week so I was a little prepared! Besides, what could be better than breakfast at the Road Kill Café in Everglades City after the race?
Attending a mandatory orientation the day before, we were instructed to blow our whistle if we encountered any animals that decided it was their home, not ours, or if we required assistance. The trail was well monitored by park rangers and race personal, but it’s a big park!
Our race started at 8:30 AM and we would be bussed 4 miles to the start by a WW2 Swedish transport vehicle, seriously. Were they even fighting? I thought they were neutral. About 30 of us took off into the great unknown, not too concerned about time, which is a real turnaround from racing as I know it.
The cool morning soon turned warm, then hot and we shed our outer shirt at the 1st of 4 water/aid/food stations. Refilling our water bottles we headed across a prairie, running steadily on beaten down long grass for a few miles toward the woods. There we encountered a trail, well marked and muddy, with Cypress knees sticking up and limestone outcroppings protruding from the forest floor. This is real trail running and new to me and it was imperative to run with my knees high, no shuffling here.
Another prairie and another wooded area. This last area had a lot of muck and almost knee deep water. Nothing you could run through and the cool water actually felt great. Some runners changed their shoes and socks after that encounter, as the rest of the race was on dry dirt roads. I didn’t.
16 miles is long and I really was not ready for that distance or moving forward for over 3 hours, but it was great! The race was very well organized, tons of food, unique awards [walking sticks], exhausting and exhilarating.
Great weather and camaraderie made the morning one to remember. You won’t see the beautiful vistas shown in trail magazines but the Glades has it’s own unique beauty, and it was a thrill and privilege to be part of it.
I highly recommend you try an off road race. They are fun, challenging and introduce you to a new side of our sport. Look for this one next January as the inaugural event was a great success or check out the Jan 2012 Trail Runner magazine race directory which features 1,367 events.
I Am A Runner
Very challenging course: 2nd place finisher in the 50 mile race was Jesper Olsen, from Denmark, who has literally run around the world! In 2004 and 2005, Jesper’s “World Run” included 16,395 documented miles, across Europe, Asia, Australia and the United States. The EVERGLADES ULTRAS interrupted Jesper’s “World Run II”, where he has thus far run from Norway south through Europe to the tip of South Africa, then from the southernmost part of Chile on his way to a finish in Newfoundland! Coincidentally, last week found Jesper passing through the Miami area on his way north, and he decided to run the “50” as a side race. At the finish, after running the course in 8:45:14 to finish second, Jesper said:
"It was quite possibly the one of the toughest competetions I've done since I in my 29years of longdistance running as I very rarely do races on other than tarmac (most races are on that surface in Europe)."
Jesper Olson / World Runner – Said at the finish of the Everglades 50 TOP^
Dusty Hardman's Blog and Photos TOP^