2014 Hell Hole Swamp 10K Gator Run
Jamestown is a very small town in SC. A crossroads, really. The last census reported a population of 72. But as small as Jamestown is, it is known for quite a few things. If you've ever traveled Hwy 41 or 17-A, there's a chance you were caught in it's infamous "speed trap". And for 43 years, the town has had the annual Hell Hole Swamp Festival that hosts beauty contests, barbeque cook-offs, a parade, a children's spitting contest using cocoa mix and an arm wrestling contest...just to name a few. Or, if you happen to be a runner, you may have run in the Hell Hole Swamp 10K Gator Run.
The real deal......
(photo courtesy of someone else)
The winners receive a real mounted alligator head.
Well, I am a runner and I ran the 10K Gator Run this morning. Of the 6.2 miles, the first and last miles were on pavement. The 4.2 miles in the middle were on a rock/dirt road that ran through part of the Francis Marion National Forest. Cliff and I drove the "run route" a few weeks ago, so I already knew the rock/dirt road was going to be a challenge. After riding the dirt road, I can't say I was overly excited about running this race. But I was already registered, so decided to do my best.
I read a race report from a previous year and it was described as sightings of alligators, snakes, boar and wild turkeys being possible. If you've been a reader of my blog for awhile, then you know how deathly afraid of snakes I am. So, this little bit of information did not help my excitement level. Cliff was unable to be with me today because he had a race of his own. (Bragging on him for a minute....he won his age group. Go Cliff!) Usually, he is with me and fighting off such animals is totally his gig. I might mention, he has never had to defend my life against such creatures, but it's his duty none-the-less. Or, to arm me with weapons....just in case I am charged by a wild hog or something.
So anyway, as I said before....I was not overly excited about this race. The thoughts of rock roads and snakes and such was enough to give me the shivers. I figured there was safety in numbers, though, unless I got left behind. OMG, there goes another fear!
The finish line, but also the area for packet pick-up.
I arrived to the "middle of town" to pick up my race packet, which also happened to be the finish line. I overheard someone asking where the start line was and one of the Hell Hole Swamp staffers said, "You take a right and go down about a mile...there will be a white line in the road. Start there." HaHa, I was amused.
I guess this guy was making sure that there was indeed a gator along the way.
Oh well, to each his own. If I had to run with that thing on my back, I would chuck him into the first swamp I ran by.
At the start line, a pick-up truck came riding up beside us with a man standing in the back, wielding a shotgun. All of a sudden, we realized that he would be the one to give "when the gun goes off" a whole new meaning. He aimed his gun, shot....and nothing. The gun didn't go off. HaHa! He turned a little red. He opened the shotgun and replaced a shell and gave it another try. And BOOM......we were off.
The first mile was on paved road, which was not closed to traffic I might add. It was all good, though. The residents of Jamestown were happy to have us there and gave us plenty of room on the highway. After a mile, we turned right onto the rock/dirt road that ran through a portion of the Francis Marion National Forest. There was a well appointed water stop and although the temps were cool, I needed something to drink. I was already breathing hard after going out too fast, as usual. Let me tell ya, their water was ice cold....a nice surprise for sure.
Heading on down the rock/dirt road, I was acutely aware of my surroundings. I was looking out for snakes, wild hogs and alligators. I was concentrating on landing surefooted. The last thing I needed was to step on a rock and twist my ankle. I surely did not want to be left behind. And then, I started noticing the birds chirping and the smell of sweet honeysuckle. I was actually enjoying myself. Mile two came quickly, then another water stop, a right turn and then mile three. Ahead of me were three ladies and about this time I was able to pass two of them. The third was still a good distance ahead. I didn't make it a goal to pass her...I just wanted to stay near. Because, you know the thing where there's safety in numbers. Anyway, approaching mile four, I noticed that I was starting to gain on her. I began channeling my inner "Alice". Remember Alice....my very fast running friend? Well, I started chanting to myself....Run like Alice, Run like Alice, Run like Alice. And then, it wasn't long before I passed that lady, too.
The rock/dirt road and the lady I passed around mile four.
Just over four miles and the sight of the railroad crossing made me exclaim out loud, "Thank goodness, we are almost back to the highway."
Back on the highway, we had roughly a mile to go. Again, the roads were not closed to traffic and we had cars passing us every few minutes. I did not feel alarmed or worried. The drivers were being respectful. With about a half mile left to go, the parade participants had started lining the road. I don't even know what all those trucks and corvettes were doing in the parade, but there was a passel of them. We had to dodge a horse being removed from a horse trailer, a few men in red shirts and I'm guessing part of the "Shriners". I kind of laughed to myself because they watched us like we couldn't see them. I waved to them as I passed and they just glared. Can only imagine what they were thinking....probably something like "Look at that one there, she's done tuckered out." Ha!
And just like that.....the race was over. I was clearly surprised at how awesome this race turned out to be. I didn't see the first snake or wild hog....holla! The temperature was just right. The smells were just right. The water stops with ice cold water was just right.
And the enthusiasm of the Hell Hole Swampers was just right.
I had a great race and will definitely be back next year.
In case you were wondering:
Ran: 10K (6.29 miles on my Garmin)
Finish Time: 1:18 hr
Avg. Pace: 12:29
Place: 92 out of 105