top of page

Swamp Stomper 25K

Meeman Shelby Forest State Park
Millington, TN
January 13th, 2024


20th overall

18th male

Race Report

After a good race at the Mamba 25K in November 2023, and a first-place, sub-1:40 overall finish at the Santa Hustle half marathon in December, I had reasonably high hopes for a strong race and good placing at the Swamp Stomper 25K in January 2024. From a partial course preview I ran with the Trail Trippers two weeks before the race, I knew the general difficulty of the course at least through the Pioneer Springs (Blue) trail and the Woodland (Red) trail. The race itself turned out to be a wake-up call on my lack of preparation for racing on hilly courses.

The area received significant rain a few days before the race, but fortunately the trail was fairly dry with no major muddy spots on race day. A cold snap over the weekend dropped temperatures to around 25°F at the 8:30 AM race start, but with sunny weather and little wind, the conditions were quite comfortable within a few minutes after starting.

Most competitors started fairly slowly, and I was solidly in the top 10 after the short road section (~0.5 mi) and descent onto the Blue trail. I felt reasonably ok in the first mile at ~8:30 pace, but the downed tree I had to climb under at ~1 mile slowed me some, and mile 2 slowed to 9:30 pace due to the tree and trickier footing on parts of the trail.

The pre-race email from the Race Director referenced a few course deviations from previous years. The most significant was a new hill (~100 ft elevation gain at around 19% grade) on the Blue trail (which we would run twice for the 25K). This hill came just 2 miles into the race. After cresting this hill, we immediately proceeded back down before climbing a similar hill at 2.5 miles into the race. Through this stage I could still see all competitors up to about 3rd place, and everyone was walking the majority of these hills. Mile 3, with these two significant hills, slowed considerably to ~12:00 pace. I was passed by a group of ~3 runners who had been just behind me for most of the race in this section.

We hit the first aid station at the trail shelter ~3.2 miles into the race, and started on the notorious Red loop. After a 100 ft descent onto the trail, the course features a series of 5 hills in rapid succession, each with 70-90 ft elevation gain and 20-30% grades in the space of ~1.5 miles. Each climb is followed almost immediately by an equal descent, and I was not able to do much better than around 13:00 pace through this section. The second half of the 4 mile red loop is reasonably flatter except for a final 15% grade climb out of the loop at the end. I slipped a good number of places on the red loop and never really recovered.

By the start of the Chickasaw Bluff (White) trail (which I had never run prior to the race), I was in somewhere between 15th and 20th place and with a group of several other runners. This section is relatively flat; here my stomach started to betray me. I do not know why, but any pace faster than around 10:30 per mile caused me some light nausea. This would stick with me for the rest of the race. I was able to continuing drinking my energy drink (and later water), but could not eat gels or solid foods.

At the end of the White trail (~mile 9.5), the course climbs its most significant hill, a ~120 ft elevation gain to the trailhead. After walking up the hill (like everyone else), I got water and turned around for the return trip (which bypasses the Red trail on the way back). The 3 mile section on the way out to the turnaround averaged under 11:00 pace, but I was essentially spent by the start of the return leg. The next few miles were around 13:00 pace as I made my way back toward the aid station at the Woodland trail shelter. From the turnaround, I really didn't lose any places to the finish and ran alone most of the way.

There were 3 significant climbs to negotiate on the return leg. The first was the hill which separates the Blue and White trails. The second hill (which I missed the turn for and had to double back to) was the bluff hill with ~2 miles to go, which was added to the course this year. The last was the short but steep (10% grade) hill returning to the parking lot. I walked each of these and averaged around 13:00-13:30 miles in this last section.

I hit the final stretch in the parking lot a bit behind the eventual 19th place finisher, but couldn't catch him and finished 20th overall in an official 3:14:18 and 16.04 miles. This was a good 30 min or so slower than what I had hoped, but the mild stomach issues and the severe deficiency in my hill preparation meant that I considerably under-performed compared to my goals.

Despite my personal struggles, this was a great race on a beautiful course, and one I will definitely run again in the future. The organizers did a great job, and the volunteers at the aid stations were wonderful.

bottom of page