“If at any point you’re running along and decide to try to avoid the puddles then let me tell you right now. You will not get around this course with dry feet. There are two stretches of about 100 yards where the trail is under water. It will come up to, like, maybe mid calf or maybe even your knees” Then he looks at all 5’2 of Ais and adds “It might actually get above some of your knees”

This report got mostly written last year and then forgotten about. I recently found it and thought I’d finish and post it. I hope you enjoy it.

If you want to follow the numbers more closely I’m on Strava as Rob Cummins Wheelworx or if you’re more of a pictures instead of reading type I post on Instagram as wheelworxrob.

 

Chasing Kona eBook available

From smoker to back of the pack triathlete to the Ironman World Championships.

Read about how I overcame all of the odds and discovered what it would take to get to the Ironman World Championships – my eBook is now available to buy as an eBook on Amazon UK, Amazon US, Barnes & Noble, and iTunes

It is also available as a paperback at Wheelworx.

Because it’s written a year after the fact it may be slightly factually imperfect (exaggerated) as my memory makes me into a bigger hero than I actually was on the day.

But we never let the facts get in the way of a good story.

Rob

We were at a trail race in the Florida Everglades. I suppose I should have expected to get wet. I looked back at at the race director, he was wearing an event t shirt.  “Gator Trail Half Marathon…”

Gator trail.

Cool name for a race I thought.

I wonder who came up with it.

A cool name for a race is definitely an important part of the marketing.

I then started to wonder where they came up with the name. A voice in the back of my head piped up with “You’re in the Florida Everglades Cummins, where the fuck do you think they came up with it?”

“That’s quite far enough to go with that musing” I told myself and looked down at my nice new fluorescent green Saucony road runners “This might not end well for you guys” I thought changing the subject in my head.

The race director went on to explain how the course is marked “The first lap is five miles and marked with red tape which then changes to blue tape for the last half mile, then you repeat the same lap, red to blue and after you’ve done two full laps you follow the yellow tape for a smaller three mile lap”

I ask, just to be sure, if the course is fully marked and if we need to navigate or memorise it? He confirmed that it was simple to follow and fully marked. I wasn’t sure….it sounded a little bit complicated. Did he say red to blue then yellow or red to yellow then blue?

I was running out of time and thought “you’ve an Ironman in your legs from six days ago Robbo, you won’t need to worry about figuring the trail, you’re not likely to be leading. Just follow the other runners”

After the race briefing we lined up at the start line and were counted down. I found myself at the front for about 100 meters before a big tall very “trail runner” looking guy went by moving a lot quicker than me. As I watched him disappear ahead I figured he was either much quicker than me or was starting too fast.

I couldn’t decide which it was for sure but I was leaning towards the former. Of course a part of me hoped he was pacing it badly and blew up. But it was only a little part.

Either way my legs were telling me that I was not going to try to follow him.

The surface was a sandy trail which initially was wide enough for a car but we quickly turned onto a narrow single track. I found myself in second place running at the front of a small group. I couldn’t look around as I was trying to watch the trail underfoot but I guessed there were maybe four or five runners on my shoulder.

I settled into a comfortable pace. I wasn’t going to go out hard with a tough race in my legs from less than a week ago. I thought it was safer to start conservatively and build into the run just in case I miraculously somehow felt better later on. Without really trying to I started to open a gap on the other runners with me. I was very careful not to push too hard. Pacing on the run is not my strong point and I have on occasion blown up quite spectacularly.

While I was mindful with my pacing I wasn’t careful enough watching the trail markings and missed a right hand turn.

The only thing that alerted me to my mistake was that the slowly diminishing sound of runners behind me just stopped. I looked back to see three runners disappearing down the single track turn that I’d missed. I cursed myself and realised that I’d have to be more alert of the directions.

In my annoyance at doing stupid shit I pushed and caught up with them quickly. I was breathing harder as I pulled up to the back of their train than I should be at this stage of a half marathon so I stayed at the back of the group for a minute to settle myself before passing them when the trail widened and started to pull away again.

Shortly after that I hit the water we were warned of and I decided to do as we were told and ran straight through them, taking as much pleasure in the splashing as a six year old playing in puddles wearing wellies.

The trail turned sharply and we came to another water feature again I splashed in at full tilt but this time I almost went down face first. “Shit” I thought grabbing a tree branch to steady myself. The water was close to knee deep straight away.

I did a funny high stepping run as I tried to keep moving as well as I could. After a couple of minutes of alternating wading and running I still couldn’t see the end of the water.

And then it got really deep. Almost up to my waist deep. I was worried about how Ais would cope with it being almost a foot shorter than me. I knew she would most likely be in past her waist for long stretches.

I briefly thought of the name of the race again as I waded on.

Gator trail.

“Stop that shit Cummins, they wouldn’t send you into a part of the Everglades that had Alligators in it” This thought led to “I wonder is their park surrounded with a fence then? Maybe that’s how they keep the Gators out”

It seemed to be quite a big park so this somehow didn’t seem like a realistic possibility. Again I pushed the thoughts of monster Crocodiles and Aligators away.

I was forced to a fast wading stride for long sections. I reckoned I’d been in the water for a couple of kilometres at this stage. 100 meters my arse.

Then I was surprised to hear a runner ahead of me splashing through the water and I saw the leader less than a minute ahead. I hadn’t seen him for a while so had figured he was gone and I was racing for second place which I was comfortably holding. All of a sudden my thoughts switched from cruise mode to racing with the realisation that maybe I still had a chance at the win. I kept on pushing with a renewed sense of urgency.

Shortly afterwards we turned back into another sandy trail. I was relieved to be out of the water and running properly again. It was at this stage that I could feel just how much the water was taking out of the legs. They felt heavy and slow. I suppose last weeks race might have something to do with that too. The leader had gotten out of sight again on the twisting overgrown swampy trail. I heard noise ahead and looked up. I still couldn’t see the leader but I was getting closer to the noise.

It was coming from the undergrowth to my left. I slowed to a jog unsure of what I was about to come across. You know what I’m thinking.

There was a frantic rustling in the bushes and then a wild pig shot across the trail a dozen feet ahead of me. In this story he’s a big pig, must have weighed fifty, no more like eighty kilos. And he was a fast little gigantic fucker. He was out of sight before I could see if he had tusks but for the purposes of our story we are going to assume he had.

Huge big pointy dangerous tusks…

Yes he was a big, huge, long tusked Wild Boar. Strong and fast and dangerous.

I stuttered to a stop as I rounded the next corner in the trail to see a whole herd, okay four, more huge (moderately sized) long tusked Wild Boars (small wild pigs) I shouted and stamped on the trail to scatter them and then thought there might well be a protocol for dealing with Wild Boars (pigs) like there is for dealing with like, say for example a Grizzly Bear. You know, don’t run, stand your ground and wave at it.

Or maybe that’s meant to be run like a motherfucker in the opposite direction…

Anyway I’d committed to my course of action and they weren’t charging me.

Yet.

I shouted and waved at them again and slowly approached and stamped again. The closest pig huge savage Wild Boar looked at me and shuffled off into the undergrowth. I took courage from this and started to run towards the others and they too ran off squealing. Mark one up for Robbo the wild boar hunter.

I ran on and turned into the next water section. A few seconds later I heard a runner splashing into the swamp behind me. Shit I thought, damned pigs wild boars slowing me down. I’m getting caught. I pushed on but the runner behind was still catching me, the splashing grew louder. I came out of the water section and pushed harder. I hadn’t gotten near the leader but I was fucked if I was giving up second place without a fight.

Then there was a shout behind me. I stopped and looked back to see I’d missed a turn again and the runner who shouted the warning was the guy who had been leading earlier. I was surprised but realised that he must have gone wrong somewhere too. I ran back and caught up to him. I caught up to him and thanked him before realising that he was still running far harder than I could sustain and he started to pull away again.

I made it through the rest of the lap without any further drama, no gators or pigs or detours. I managed to follow the ribbons, red first then blue. The trail now somewhat familiar in places lulled me into a sense of security. I managed to stay on course almost all the way around until I passed a building that I didn’t recognise. I ran on for another thirty seconds looking around frantically for something that looked familiar. I stopped and looked back. I was gone wrong but I hadn’t a clue how far back. I turned on my heels and ran back the way I came. A minute later I came to the junction I missed and ran with a growing sense of panic.

I didn’t know if I’d been off course long enough to have lost places. I pushed harder. “Only five kilometres to go Rob, push”

I got to a junction and wasn’t sure where to go then I spotted a yellow ribbon. I turned and ran. Five minutes later I came around a corner to see the start line. I looked at my Garmin. Eighteen kilometres. “Shit, that’s not right” I ran on until I found the race director further up the trail and asked where I’d gone wrong. He ran back with me for a kilometre to the turn, we picked up another runner along the way, and he thought that someone had maybe moved the markers and cones (or maybe some toolbox hadn’t been paying attention and had gotten lost) He pointed us in the right direction and with a growing panic and frustration I ran on.

Fuck!! There’s no way I’m still in second I thought as I pushed as hard as I could. Sure enough I caught and passed a runner shortly afterwards. I tried to keep on pushing but my legs were completely fried from the wading, the sand and the tiredness from last weeks race and the stupidity (yes stupidity can hurt your legs as well as your pride) My Garmin beeped 21, then 22k and I turned and crossed a bridge, 23k. Holy fuck this is the longest half marathon in the history of the world.

There was a sign beside the bridge that said “Do Not Feed The Alligators” well I guess that answers the question about having a big fence around this part of the Everglades to keep the crocs out. And also where the name of the race came from.

With retrospect I’m quite glad that it was a couple of wild pigs herd of rampaging wild Boars I came across. It could have been a twenty foot Gator.

I came around a corner I recognised and there was the finish line and this time I was coming at it from the correct direction. Unfortunately there seemed to be a bunch of people already across it. Shit Cummins you clown. Next time someone gives race instructions, listen.

The result is that I end up just off the podium which is a bit shite but I do manage to win my age group.

Ais on the other hand wins the women’s race. I guess she didn’t struggle too badly with the depth of the water. And that she actually paid attention at the race briefing…

If you want to follow the numbers more closely I’m on Strava as Rob Cummins Wheelworx or if you’re more of a pictures instead of reading type I post on Instagram as wheelworxrob.

 

Chasing Kona eBook available

From smoker to back of the pack triathlete to the Ironman World Championships.

Read about how I overcame all of the odds and discovered what it would take to get to the Ironman World Championships – my eBook is now available to buy as an eBook on Amazon UK, Amazon US, Barnes & Noble, and iTunes

It is also available as a paperback at Wheelworx.