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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

2009 Turkey Swamp Race Report

What a day! I would have liked it to have ended a little differently but we'll get to that in a minute. It started out with me getting up and looking outside to see it raining. Oh good, I thought, the rain will keep us cool unlike my past experiences with Turkey Swamp where it has always been 95-100 degrees and sunny. I got my stuff together, headed over to Charlie's and then carpooled with him over to Freehold. As we pulled into the park we ended up parking within a few feet of the two other guys who were running with us -- Paul and Frank. I don't think we could have timed it any better if we had tried.

We all headed up to check-in, which they conveniently had set up underneath the pavillion seeking shelter from the elements. At check-in we each got our bibs, shirts, and an assortment of other goodies stuffed inside a "green" shopping bag -- you know the ones you buy for a buck at Acme and then leave in your trunk when you go in to get the groceries only to buy another one to leave in your trunk again next time. From check-in it was a quick trip to the restroom then back to the cars to drop off all our stuff.

At the start, which was, as it always is, 15-20 minutes late, we stood around and chatted about this that and the other thing. As we were standing there I recognized the father I met at the Run for Dad so I said hello, congratulated him on making it out, then wished him luck. As we received our instructions from the race director, we discovered that the course this year was a new one. I was kind of nervous to hear that since I now had no idea what to expect but figured if it meant I didn't have to do that double hill at the beginning of the loop then maybe it'd be ok.

We took off from the usual starting line, then hung a right turn with the rest of the 10 milers, 25k-ers, and 20 milers, while the 50k-ers hung a left to put in the extra mile on the loop before turning around and getting back on the course with the rest of us lightweights. We stayed on the sandy gravel path for about a mile or so before making a left into the first section of trail. The trail looped us around the back of the park and then dumped us out onto a grassy field which led us into three uphill swithchbacks and then eventually out to the overflow parking area where we picked up the trail again heading uphill to the starting area alongside the pavillion, then back into a short trail section. When we came out of the trail, we were back on the sandy gravel path again and took that loop around and around and around...

The way the race works is that depending on your distance you run the same loop as everyone else does 4, 6, 8, or 12 times. The first two laps were a breeze. I tried to go out nice and easy knowing that the distance was going to kill me in the end. I also made it a point to concentrate on hydrating, taking regular sips from my handheld. For the first two laps I felt great. At the second lap, I came upon a water station and really had to use the bathroom. Perhaps I was drinking a little too much water? Anyway, I refilled my handheld and then ducked into a port-a-pottie. As I did, Charlie and Paul came running by so I planned on taking care of business quickly and then running ahead to catch up with them. When I caught up with them we were just entering the switchbacks and we all ran together for a lap which was great. With three laps down we were half way done and heading into our fourth lap.

Then, and I don't know if this was just me or not, but fatigue started to set in...way too early. What had been a lively conversation on the previous lap went dead quiet. I remember Paul even mentioning something about how quiet things got all of a sudden. As we headed off the sandy gravel path and into the first section of trail for the fourth time it was all I could do to keep up with Charlie and Paul. By the time we returned to the swithchbacks I had dropped back quite a bit and was just trying to keep them in my sights for as long as I could hoping that this was just a temporary set back. It wasn't though, and as they pulled further and further away I just tried to keep moving. As I came up on the end of my fourth lap I kicked myself over and over for not just having signed up for the 10 miler. As runners around me made the right turn into the finish to complete their 10 miles, I pushed on not really knowing how it was going to end.

The entire fifth lap was torture. It wreaked havoc on me physically, my legs feeling heavier with every step, as well as mentally, as my mind took over and the voice inside telling me to push on was hushed by the doubts setting in about whether I could actually finish. Still, I ran...and I ran...until I was back at the turn into the finish and saw a second wave of ten milers making their exit from the course. It was at that point that I caught a glimpse of the race clock at about 02:20:00 and I realized, with one lap to go, that last year I had completed my 25k by now. It sucked but I really didn't want to throw in the towel so I kept going. Then, about a half mile down the sandy gravel path, I asked myself why? Why was I doing this? I searched for answers but all I could come up with was because I didn't want to have to quit. Then I looked ahead and tried to imagine where I'd be if I did push through to the very end. As I did I came to the decision that it wasn't worth it. I've pushed through before in worse shape and gone home sick at times and other times spent the night in the ER getting IV fluids. Then I stopped. I just stood there for a minute half of me in disbelief that I was quitting and half of me in disbelief that I wasn't as disgusted with myself as I thought I would be. Then I turned and walked back to the finishing line to catch Paul and Charlie as they came in. Just because I had bonked wasn't going to keep me from cheering them on into the finish.

I saw the both of them coming in, looking pretty tired, but knowing that they, unlike me, were going to make it. After they came in and caught their breath we headed over to the pavillion for some post race refreshments. It took all of us some time to recover and then eventually we decided to head back up to the cars to get on some dry clothes. As we did we came across Frank, making his way uphill for the last lap of his 20 miles. At that point I looked down and was not surprised to find that he had once again, as he often does, shed his running shoes and socks and was completing the tail end of his race barefoot. Paul and Charlie just kind of looked at me and all I could do was shrug. If you know Frank, there is no explanation needed. As Frank went on to finish his race, Charlie and I decided to go catch him coming into the finish while Paul, who had someplace to be that afternoon, continued on to the car and took off from there. When Charlie and I reached the turn into the finish it was only a couple of minutes before Frank came barreling down the same sandy, gravel path I had thrown in the towel on less than an hour ago.

In the end, I think everyone was pretty happy with their performance...except me, of course. It sucks knowing that I quit but I still think it was the right thing to do at the time. It's an experience I will learn from and in the grand scheme of things it's just one bad day running of which I'm sure they'll be more. As long as the good days continue to outnumber the bad ones I'm fine with that.

Here's the race results for the folks that came out for the race:
Paul Rogers: 25k: 02:35:40.4: overall 22/53: 40-49M 8/10
Charlie Mann: 25k: 02:36:04.2: overall 23/53: 30-39M 7/11
Frank Sconzo: 2o mile: 03:29:35.4: overall 21/45: 30-39M 6/8
Bill Yorke: 25k: DNF

For complete race results, click on the distance:
10 mile 25k 20 mile 50k

For tons of official race day photos, click here.

Charlie has some other great shots he took during the race posted with his own race report here. Paul also has a report here with a nice shot of this year's race shirt.

L to R: Charlie, Frank, Bill Y., Paul


  1. That's a great RR..sorry you DNFd, but at least you were smart enough to stop and not have to be sick/sore/in the hospital later. I think it was a good choice. There will be more races another time, and you can attack Turkey Swamp again next year!

    Awesome crossfit today. One day I'll be able to do at least one measly pull-up on my own.

  2. You know, if you're going to pick a race to DNF, this was the one. It was pretty brutal, and I think the overcast weather was kind of deceiving, since it was drizzling and super humid. I'm glad I got a chance to run with you guys - one day we'll do the 50k.

  3. Nice report Bill. Thanks for posting the link to the race photos; I found three of me.
    And as for not finishing, I think you did great considering you hadn't done any distance training. You just dove right into a 15 mile trail run.
    Remember, these little set-backs are just what we need to take a giant step forward. Right, Bill?