“Florida Has No Hills.”

Draggin Tail 25K, 50K Race

Sometimes, it was just meant to be.

If you watch Weeds, I feel like the Nancy Botman of athletic life. If you don’t watch Weeds, my point is that for all the spontaneous, goofball crap I do, I somehow come out of it all with cool new experiences, renewed excitement, alternative perspectives, and an overwhelming satisfaction for having done the right thing.

Going to Florida with Joe Fejes at 2:00 in the afternoon, on a Friday, was the right thing.

Doing so eliminated an on-coming work burn-out, introduced me to a whole ‘nother set of ultraunners, re-introduced me to previous acquaintances, and even allowed me to put a face to a name of a well-respected, supportive ultrarunning veteran with whom I’ve been communicating online for over six years (Wad up, G?).   And all this while running some of the most surprisingly difficult and unusually diverse state park trails in Florida:

The Draggin’ Tail Ultra Trail Challenge is a test of one’s motivation, preparation, physical stamina and mental fortitude! Torreya is like the Beauty and the Beast. It has all of the beauty “Mother Nature” can provide but the “Beast” simply chews up ultra runners of all ages and skills and spits them out.  One is always dealing with the three “H’s”. Heathumidity and hills that give all the ultra runners the fourth “H”! Hurting muscles!

— Draggin Tail 25k/50K web site

To Be Good, Sometimes You Gotta Be Bad

If you are good at what you do, you will always be busy. But to continue to be good at what you do, you have to want to do it, and I do my best work, and am most career-driven, when I am filled with experiences of adventure – be it running cool places, hurricane-surf travel, SUP races, martial arts sparring, obstacle training, or even, yea…even, golf with my wife.

Call it yin and yang.

Without this constant stimulation, I can’t focus, and find myself yearning to bust down the walls, break my rusty cage, and run.

Rolling with a Supa’star

I just know him as Joe.

We travel to races, talk about boy-stuff and eat steaks and asparagus.

I pick on his bald head, deaf-ness and aloof demeanor. He calls me a fat ass and slow.

But it’s kinda cool rollin’ with a guy who has a good chance at winning the event, and maybe even taking a course record. We love Joe. Most of us will brag when we have a mediocre athletic performance of any kind, but Joe can break a world record, mention it once, and move on to the next challenge.

It’s a refreshing trait. We love that bald bastard.

Dude, Please, Get on with the Race Report

So, yup, Friday afternoon, we drove to “who in the hell knows where”, Florida, and stayed at a uber-fancy hotel called the Airport Hotel …in a place where there is, uh, no airport.

Airport Hotel, Blountstown, Florida

But, we weren’t really deterred.

Not by the hole in the bathroom door, the musty window heater unit, nor even the unusual fact that the owners were sleeping in a trailer behind us.

Nope, what really tripped us out was the fact that we would switch time zones anytime we moved around the property. Lying in the bed, it was central standard time, but sitting in the bathroom, in the same tiny room, eastern. We never really had any idea exactly what time it actually was, and this could pose a problem for getting to the starting line on time.

It didn’t, we got lucky, and by 8:00 (ish) a.m. we started running.

Joe was running the 50K (two loops), and I was running the 25K (one loop). Joe’s goal was to win, but he’ll never tell ya that. My goal was to simply have a great, impromptu run, through some interesting Florida forest.

Beautiful Torreya State Park

I took off running in a pack that included Florida ultrarunning legend, Gary Griffin, Bobby York and a few other dudes I didn’t know.

After a “space-out-the-runner-pack” jeep road, we dipped into some extremely beautiful, dark forest that was indicative of what you’d expect to see in Florida. I don’t know the names of all the flora, but imagine small, thick palm and palmetto-looking trees and bushes, all mixed in with tall skinny hardwood trees.

Torreya trails

The trail was thick with roots, and the terrain was never, and I mean NEVER flat.

You were either running up, or down, and never very long either way, but always getting switched up in one way or another. We climbed 1000 feet in 15 miles. In florida!

Torreya State Park trails

Yikes, I thought Florida was flat? Someone forgot to tell Torreya.

That stud pack dropped me like a nerdy kid, and I ran the entire rest of the 15.5 miles all alone – and loved it.

Beautiful, foggy, early-morning views of the Apalachicola River.

Tight, winding, single-track – all technical and gnarly.

Quick, little steep ups, and fast, quad-punishing drops.

Wide open tree’d fields you’d expect to see along the coast, then thick, deep, dark forest, more indicative of the Appalachian Trail.

Just a beautiful, beautiful place to run.

I think I fell in love with Torreya. Maybe its just lust.

Florida is Just a Cool Place to Be

And just like that, it was over.

I actually saw one of the RDs, toward the end, coming up the trail to take photos. I mentioned to her how beautiful the course was and I really didn’t want it to end.

In retrospect, I guess I could have continued for a second loop, thus entering the 50K race, but, uh, well, no. That didn’t happen.

The finish area, filled with smiling people, food, refreshments, and a finisher’s clock, sucked me in like a sea turtle chasing the surf.

I spent the rest of the event, waiting for Joe to finish the second loop, and chatting it up with all kinds of cool people: Gorden, Travis, and Elizabeth, along with RDs Joe and Marty, and many other new friends and contacts who’s names escape me as of this writing, but I sure hope reach out to me and reconnect.

Way cool people.

Way cool vibes.

Way cool event.

…but please don’t come next year, cuz it fills fast, and I want another shot :)

Rock on runners.