I’ve waited all week to see her. I couldn’t wait to hear all the gory details of her newest feat, a 50 mile ultra marathon trail run. Dana waits among the others for the Saturday morning running loop. Nonchalantly adjusting her headband and fleece. It’s a brisk 46 degrees this morning which means it is the heart of winter for us Tampanians. Cordially welcoming light hellos we begin our run and I just can’t stand the anticipation any more. The only thing I like more than telling long stories, is listening to them and I want all the details.”So, Dana, how was your big long race and what was it like in the Everglades?!?” Oh yeah this “trail run” was through the Florida Everglades. A section of the state that most people don’t even like driving through. There is a long stretch of interstate known as Alligator Alley, famous for you guessed it, alligators. Along with many other wild animals and poisonous creatures.
Dana is humble and casually mentions that it was a long but joyous experience. “That’s nice but I want to know everything, did you see gators, does your body go into shock, how was the course?”, I ask. She is now smiling truly delighted to go into the fuller long version that I was hoping for. She explains first that after finishing the race, she decided she would never do another one again. However after reflecting on the experience all week she’s not sure, maybe one more. Sounds a lot like child birth to me, just give it time, you’ll go through it again. Anyways the race started at 6 am and they stayed at a little Inn down the road. My guess is this event is the Inn’s biggest selling point for the whole year. Her brother Darren, who is also a great running friend, ran in the event. Along with their friends Josh, Anna, and Mark. The first seven miles she ran along with her friends but upon getting into the thick mud, she pulled back to keep her balance. It’s very slippery. She explains how she lost her shoe twice. She fell once but ironically not on one of the trails. Sure she says she made it through the sinking mud but falls on the smooth paved road. By the way, I would have no problem telling people how I fell on a road or mud pit if I were running an ultra marathon.
The course is divided into fingers of trails that all connect to one long road. So you run down and back into these “finger” trails and then check into the aid stations along the main road. She perks up to tell us that one of the trails was closed for 50 years and they just opened it for their event. I just watched Jumanji the other night, this would not be cheerful tunes to my ears. I know what could be hidden beyond those trees and locked up for long periods of time. “Wow that’s great, I think”, telling her. “Yeah everyone was really excited”. “Yes I’m sure the gators were ecstatic”, I tell her. The rangers check in with you along the trail and by the end of the race, all of the volunteers know you by name, all 47 runners. For a marathon that’s like a deserted island. Very cool though to be on a first name basis. I’m lucky if they say my name when crossing the finish line and I’m talking about my family who’s actually looking for me.
Dana smiles explaining how they were given orange whistles. She said they were told to blow the whistle if they do see an alligator. I jump in saying, “That’s AWESOME, so nice of them to train all the wild gators. Maybe they could come do some work with my dog”. She laughed and discloses that the whistles were to signal the rangers. I like it better to think that they tame the gators. It will forever be trained gators in my mind. Also they “joke” that if you need to take a bathroom break to remove one article of clothing- such as a hat, and leave it on the trail before entering the woods. That way if you go missing they have a place of reference to start the search. Well that’s encouraging, I can’t wait to sign my name on the dotted line for this charming little event. If only I had a brother who wanted to share in a bonding experience such as this.
As the day comes to a close, the sun sets and the sky goes black all but the moon is dark, pitch dark. Which is ironic because were about 5 miles in on our run now and the sun is only just starting to rise. Dana had just her last four miles to go in the race but in excitement to finish, forgot to grab her head lamp. The only light she had was an old LED bracelet. At last she saw the flickering light from the tents that lay upon the finish line. She said “it seemed like the road went on forever and the light didn’t seem to get any bigger or brighter”. The longest part of the run, her last few dark miles. Just her and the wild but orange whistle tamed alligators (again, just the version that I prefer). At last she made it and before the cut off! She said she was over joyed to eat what tasted to be like the best turkey burger ever. Then later taking the most rewarding shower of her life. Maybe one day I will try a crazy, enduring event like this. Until that day, I’m happy to just be friends with people who run at this kind of level. It’s truly inspiring. I mean we are a special kinda crazy, we talk about long distance running, while running long distance.
Dana’s Tips To Become An Ultra Marathoner
- Run long marathon training distances
- Cross train with weights and Cross train with even more cardio
(Dana takes a full hour weight training class or spin classes after long runs)
- Run 5 to 6 days a week
- Try out your gear before running, such as a camel pack
- Break up the distances in increments of 10 miles to help pass the time.
Example: After 10 miles in a 50 miler, say you only have 4 more “10’s” left, when you reach 20 miles you only have 3 more “10’s” left, etc.
- Have your brother talk you into just signing up for a crazy long race through the Everglades!!!
Everglades Ultras – Check out to sign up for your next race!
Good Luck Runners