As I like to do I have taken a few days to think about my experience at the HAT Run Trail 50k before sharing my thoughts with you. Often this give me time to neither share too shining of a review from still being on that racer's high or to low of a review from still suffering from the pains after the run. In this case, no amount of time would diminish they utter enjoyment I had during this experience.
THE NIGHT BEFORE
For this race Hubbs was taking the kiddos to his parent's house for the weekend. His folks were renewing their vows and due to a scheduling problem our events happened on the same day. This meant that I needed to wait until he got to the PA house and picked up the kids before I could start the 3 hour drive to my hotel.
The kids and I used that time to play together since I wouldn't see them until Sunday afternoon. They enjoyed a little extra solo mom attention until Hubbs got there. Of course as all things go, by the time the cars were loaded, conversations had, last minute trips to the bathroom completed and arguments of who would get the last hug were had it was late. Which meant I would get to my hotel late after a week of getting to bed late. Oye.
I'll spare you the details of the long drive and summarize it with the fact that I am a rural chick. I don't believe any road needs to have 8 lanes of traffic and I think the concept of paying to drive in tunnels is insane! However, I made it to my hotel with the car and myself in one piece and tried to check into my room. yeah about that. I would have loved to see my face when the guy told me my credit card didn't work.
All race nerves were gone in an instant.
After trying three credit cards he finally got the first one to work. Hummm, operator error?
don't worry, I'm watching the other emergency cards for any charges.
Finally in my room I did the normal
check for bed bugs pre race set up; filled my pack with fluids and 6 GUs, got my ibuprofen ready, double checked my "drop bag", made last minute sock decisions and finally called home to say goodnight to the family.
Off to bed.
You may think it is a little over board to share all these details about the prep, pre-race, race and post-race things but I know from experience that when I am looking to run races I want to read all these details so I know what to expect when I am there. I also want to record how the event went for me because I am a runner who loves to run the same races over again. I want a record of what worked and what didn't for the next time I am here.
I drove for about 15 minutes to the address of the Stepping Stone Museum when I saw a car in front of me with two running stickers on the back. I decided to follow it. Good choice. It turns out I didn't need to go to the museum at all. I got a great parking spot which allowed my car to be accessible three times during the race if I had needed to get anything. Plus I didn't have far to walk after the race back to my car.
Packet pickup was in a building just at the top of the parking area. For a trail ultra this race had swag! We got a nice Northern Face draw string bag, a tech race tee and a copy of Born to Run. Oh yeah the author, Christopher McDougall was running with us. No big deal.
Seriously though, I saw him at the start and that was pretty much it. I am really not into the whole celebrity thing. I admire people who are able to do what they love to inspire and educate others but beyond that I'm not really going to knock myself out for an autograph. I mean, he didn't track me down for mine. I am a less-than-spring-chicken, full-time-working, mother-of-three, holder-together-of-the-Cable-family-universe and I find time to run 50-60-80 miles a week and run ultras, so who should be asking for who's autograph?
I don't hold it against him though.
515 runner registered. 420 made it to the start line.
362 would make it to the finish.
another reason for my delay in posting is a delay in getting photos so I'll share more later when I get them.
The start was a gathering of runners across an open field followed by a 3.9 mile loop and two identical 13.7 mile loops. The first loop began with an out and back on a paved park road. A narrow road. I had a little trouble finding a steady pace until we returned to the field and passing was more of an option. We passed through the finish line and pavilion to run across a large hay field before entering the single track trails.
During my first small loop through the trails, I realized that this race would be the best marked course I had yet run one. The course was marked with small bright yellow plates with arrows on them. It was nice to have the worry of getting lost removed from my mind. The next issue would be the creek crossings and there was to be a lot of them. This early in the race there were still a lot of runners bunched together but passing was possible and I quickly found myself running to two veteran ultra runners. Steve (who happened to be the driver of the car I had followed to the race site) one of the veterans said that the first creek crossing was coming up quickly and jokingly offered to carry me across. Knowing I had quite a few more opportunities to get wet I figured I might as well just charge across and cool my feet. Turns out the cold water was a welcomed relief each time I got the opportunity to get wet.
photo courtesy Jeff Hinte
My plan for pacing (what little pacing I attempt to do during these events) was to simply keep my 5 mile blocks between 45 minutes to an hour. After running the first small loop that gave me a taste of what the trail was like I felt that a lot of this race might be runnable, if I was smart about my paces.
Which we all know I am rarely smart.
Before I knew it we were headed back up the hill to the "finish" aid pavilion to start the first of two 13.7 mile loops. I grabbed a small cup of water and a few pretzels, pulled out a GU, snapped a few photos you know the ones I don't have to add yet and headed out across the hay field.
During the first loop I felt extremely confident in my running aka I ran too fast and I ran a lot. In previous trail races I have been hesitate on downhills. This course allowed me to run all the downhills. With the 9800 feet of elevation change I was constantly using different muscle in my body, I know that played a big part in allow me to run as much as I did.
I rarely stopped for longer than a minute at aid stations on this loop. I was relying on GU, my hydration pack and a few pretzels that I'd grabbed. At the second creek crossing during the second big loop I made a mistake. I didn't pause to look at the creek at all I simply charged across only to end up hip deep in water with my feet sunk in a sediment pile.
A brief run through at an aid station with Christopher McDougall
I'm in the pink in the background.
A section of the 13.7 loop was on trail roads and briefly on paved road. While the majority of a trail run is not ran at a consistent pace, this section I ran at a very fast pace. I heard the warnings from other runners that I was running too fast. Of course, I knew that it was a calculated risk to push during this section not knowing how long I would be on the road and knowing that I have trouble scaling my pace back once I am provided with a easy road to run on. Luckily the road didn't last too long and I quickly found myself at an awesome aid station located at a community park. The funny thing was this aid station was maybe 25 yards through the woods from the aid station pictured above. I didn't like knowing that during the second loop.
I filled my pack and continued to loosely follow my plan of taking a GU about every 45 minutes to an hour. I took a few ibuprofen at this aid station too. There were port-a-potties here and I debated about stopping since there were few times when I was running alone but decided to risk having to coop a squat along the trail if necessary.
I wish I had my photos to share the beauty of this course. It was almost perfect running. There were only a few muddy spots in drainage areas. The weather was ideal and surprisingly I hadn't over dressed. I don't know when I fell in running with a young lady, Jenn and her boyfriend. I honestly can't recall if it was during the first or second loop. It seemed like I was with them for a long time. Long enough for me to think they were tired of my chatter. But I have to mention them and thank Jenn especially for the company on the trail. She told me that the HAT was her first 50k.
Jenn went on to finish in 6:14
Even though I knew she was a bit younger than myself, that competitive nature kept me from letting her get ahead of me until late in the second lap when sanity finally found me at the end of the road section after I ran it too fast for the second time. So a big THANKS to Jenn and her boyfriend for helping me enjoy my own HAT experience a little bit more!
Facing the finish line to start the second loop was not at all difficult for me. I had listen to many veterans say that seeing the finish line and knowing you still had to keep running was an issue but it really didn't bother me. I enjoyed having the race not only broken up by aid stations but also by the loops. I knew I only had one more loop to go and I was done. Mentally it actually helped me manage the distance.
I paused at the aid station only briefly. Again I was relying on myself for fueling and only indulged in a few pretzels and water. During the race I only topped off my pack once.
But there was the hay field again. I don't enjoy running cross country and hay fields are not very smooth. I was so happy to hit the tree line and go back into the woods. My second go round with this loop was for the most part identical to the first. I felt strong the majority of the way and enjoyed the scenery a little more the second time. Stopping at a giant white oak tree to take photos of fellow runners. The view around the lake from within the trees was amazing. By this point as my body tired I noticed more aches and pains. One of which I had ignored to this point.
I had gotten a little rub mark from all the grit that had gotten in my shoes from the creek crossing but had been able to ignore it until now. Not being willing to stop I adjusted my socks and hoped for the best.
It's at this point those last few miles when you know that the end is near that things get tough. All those little annoyances that you could ignore suddenly become major issues. As I had been using my time on the trail to pray for certain people and issues, at this point my prayers turned to all the runners behind me. I know how hard it is to run for hours on end and those runners who would finish after me know the challenge too. I thanked God for the opportunity to do this crazy thing that I love. I encouraged the runners around me who were so eagerly awaiting that final hay field that I had previously disliked.
And there it was. An opening in an old stone wall awaited me after a brief climb and that suddenly amazing hay field lay beyond it.
Oh how I loved that hay field! No hay field of my youth ever smelled as sweet. I didn't have much push left to give but I ran with everything I had to that finish line. A set of bleachers were filled with cheering supporters and race finishers. My ultra friends cheered something like, "Here comes PA!"
And 6 hours and 17 minutes after I stood in a Maryland hay field with 420 others,
I was finished.
2011 HAT Run Trail 50k ~ 6:17
second best trail ultra ever
AFTER THE RACE...to be continued
The winner of the CSN Stores gift card will be announced tomorrow.