Sunday, March 25, 2012

Race Report - 2012 HAT Run 50k

Well, I finished. I may not be counted as an "official" finisher since it took me longer than 8 hours, but I don't much care. I finished and I finished under some seriously tough conditions. I know everything is relative but this was not only the toughest course I've ever run but it was also the toughest conditions I've ever run in. So, let's get this insane race report started.

First, I started my race weekend by packing up the family and heading to my sister-in-law's place in Baltimore. Thankfully it's only a short drive from there to the race. Even more thankfully, it was close to an REI. Why am I thankful for that? Because as I was talking about getting ready for dinner with my wife, I realized I had forgotten my handheld bottles at home. Craptastic. So I headed out to REI after eating and picked up two bottles for the race. Oh, and did I mention that we had already stopped there before going to my SIL's place? Yeah.

Race day started out pretty decent. I got up at 0500 after a decent night of sleep, showered, got dressed, and headed out the door. I picked up some gas and an iced latte at a local Sheetz before stopping at Panera to get breakfast. From there I headed up to the park for the race. I nearly hit a deer driving in and a deer nearly hit me.

I was there right at 0700 and I managed to be one of the first 10 people there. So parking in the paved lot was easy. Once I got parked, I hiked my stuff to the pavilion for the race. The rain held off until I was all set to go for the race to start.

As expected I made several trips to the bathroom, not only before I got to the race but also before the race started. The indoor bathrooms weren't open so it was just porta-potties. Didn't really bother me, in fact it was nice to get in out of the rain.

I got my gear prepped and promptly waited for an hour or so for the race to start. I saw Andy O. hanging out and a few other faces that looked familiar but none that I knew. The pre-race brief was brief and then we headed out into the rain for the start.

The start was massive. Even with the foul weather there was a huge amount of people running. We ran across the field, through some more field, down the road, around the parking lot, to the 1 mile mark. Felt kind of bizarre to see a mile marker, but it was there. My pace was okay and I did my best to start in the very back of the pack. We came back around the parking lot to the pavilion where we kept out gear. As I came through I asked a volunteer how long before we came back. He said about 2 or 3 hours. Hmm. Not exactly what I expected. Based on the maps of the course, I thought we made a short 3+ mile loop before coming back to the pavilion and we had barely done 2. So I wasn't sure if he was right or if I was right. I put on my Nathan HPL 020 hydration pack just in case, packed a bottle of Perpeteum, and trucked on. And I promptly got behind an insanely large crowd of people waiting to get down a tiny gap in the rock wall. But I was okay to wait. The gap was small, the drop was steep, and there were plenty of pointy rocks just waiting for a victim. After that, it was a rough jaunt through the woods. We got lapped by one fast runner before heading along a different trail spur and getting stuck behind some slow guys. I was torn between going faster and passing them and going slower just to keep on track with my plans to start slow and finish strong.

Turns out I was right because after a few more miles, we came back to the pavilion. So I refilled my bottle again and headed out. This time I knew I was in for a longer trek. I had no idea where I was going so just hung on for the ride. I quickly came to my first major creek crossing and promptly got cold feet. The creek was wide but shallow. It wasn't as bad as I thought until I got through the other side and into some serious mud. It only got worse from there. And worse. And worse. There was hill after hill, roller after roller, mud after mud, and the list goes on. In fact, everything looked so much the same that the only sections that stand out are the non-trail portions. There was an aid station at the Campground that we went through twice. The first time around it was at the bottom of a hill and the second time it was after a long road section. In between was a long section in some fields. After the second campground aid station we headed back into the woods for a constant set of rollers. And then when you think it's done, you keep going. And then you go some more. And when you think you've reached the unmanned water station, you realize it's not where you thought it would be and instead you have to keep running up the hill.

Once I got to the top of the hill at the park entrance and realized I was say low on fluids I was tanked. Thankfully the unmanned water station was at the entrance so I quickly filled my bottle and kept running. The section between the park entrance and the end of the large loop is the worst. There's a long downhill road section followed by a stream crossing and a long uphill section. The worst part is hearing the finish and knowing that you have to go back up the hill you're going down. Oh, and to make things worse, I was passed by 6 people in this section. That's right, I got lapped before I could even finish my first long loop.

And somewhere in there was a set of stairs, a deep creek (up to my knees), a road section, and lots of mud. Oh, and Morgan Freeman. That's right, Morgan Freeman. I was cruising through the field section and tagged along with a group of runners. A lady and two guys were chatting away telling running stories. And the one guy was Morgan Freeman. I swear to God. He was tall, lanky, had graying hair, freckles on his face, and some uneven teeth. I swear he was Morgan Freeman from Robin Hood running in the field right next to me. I had no idea what to think.

At the end of my first long loop I ditched my hydration pack and stripped off my UnderArmour shirt. Everything was soaked and now I knew where the aid stations were. Thus I knew where to expect water refills. By this time I was exhausted already but doing my best to stay steady. Turns out I was way under-fueling because I didn't factor in the effort required to go up and down the hills and to navigate the mud.

On my second long loop, things got worse step by step. I managed to stick with some people through certain sections but eventually reached rock bottom when I got to the Campground the first time. I followed another runner in and was seriously struggling. I almost asked if I would make the cut-off but was too afraid of what would happen if I verbalized my fears. The old guy manning the table said it was only 4 more miles until we came back on the other side. So I figured I'd give it a shot.

As I neared the Campground again from the other side I was passed by a guy walking. Yep, he passed me. While he was walking. I was totally expecting to be told to climb into the van because I was beyond the cut-off but the guy in front of me got some drinks and snacks and kept going. So I figured what the hell, I'll keep going too.

On the other side I passed the mustache man that walked past me and passed three more ladies (one looked injured). After that I slowly made progress and caught up to two Marathon Maniacs. I ran/walked with them for a solid section through the park entrance. After that I kept them in sight but slowly lost ground to them. I had no running gear left until the end when I managed to run the last field across the finish line. I got my finisher's hat and blanket thingie, thanked the race workers, and went to my bag where I sat down and cried. After that I felt much better and packed my gear and left.

I'm sure there's more to talk about but that's the meat of the race.

Rainy. Temps started around 60F but dropped to maybe 55F by the finish. It rained on and off through most of the race but the worst was at the start. Heavy clouds.

Fluids and Fuel:
I took an e-Gel at the start. Ran the first one-ish miles with a bottle of Hammer Fizz. Ran another two-ish miles with a bottle of Hammer Fizz and my hydration pack. I ran my first long loop (about 14 miles) with my hydration pack and a bottle of Hammer Perpeteum. My second long loop was a bottle of Hammer Fizz and Hammer Perpeteum. I periodically took shots of Hammer Gel. Recovery was Hammer Recoverite and several pierogies. I seriously underestimated my fueling needs. I needed more fuel for the hills and the mud. I also underestimated the aid stations and how often I'd get water. That was mostly due to now knowing the course.

Aches and Pains:

My knees hurt towards the end, but that was expected. The worst pain was my toes. I managed to score two tiny blisters on my two toes next to my big toe. Both are my problem toes but the heavy downhills and constant attempts to stop falling were likely the cause behind my toes getting blisters. Oh, yeah, and add in plenty of water and mud. My calves were also hurting after the first long loop from attempting to climb up the hills and through the mud. My right quad was hurting just like it did from the ICY-8 and kept nagging me for a solid 15 to 20 miles.

I wore my UnderArmour long sleeve shirt for a good 15-17 miles. By the end of my first long loop it was soaked through and I was getting way over heated so I just ditched it. Same goes for my gloves. I also wore my hydration pack for a good 15 miles because I didn't know where the aid stations where or knew that much about the course. My Amphipod handheld bottles did great. Best gear of all was my Altra Zero Drop Lone Peak shoes. The extra large toebox helped but the traction was amazing. I saw a lot of people fall and everyone was slipping. And while I was slipping too, I didn't fall. Not once. And while I fully expected to fall because I was wearing a white shirt, I could see and feel the difference in traction. Coming in second in the awesome gear category was my homemade Hammer Fizz carrier. I'll work on getting a post up later on how to make them.

Codename - Andy and Red
Yeah, so I told you about seeing Morgan Freeman on the course. Well, combine that with the mud and rain and I felt like I was reenacting a scene from The Shawshank Redemption.

Mile 1 - 12:06 (faster than expected)
Aid Station 1 - 1:35 (getting my hydration pack on)
Rest of Short Loop - 36:56
Pre-Campground Section 1 - 1:02:23
Post-Campground Section 1 - 56:10
Last Section 1 - 1:27:30
Aid Station 2 - 3:43 (changing clothes)
Pre-Campground Section 2 - 1:16:16 (about 14 minutes slower)
Post-Campground Section 2 - 1:11:00 (about 15 minutes slower)
Last Section 2 - 1:40:03 (about 13 minutes slower)

Short Loop - 55:40
Long Loop 1 - 3:26:04
Long Loop 2 - 5:06:44


Anonymous said...

Congratulations on the finish! Brutal mud for your first HAT Run (my 2nd and last yr was beautiful). I ran in road shoes and had no traction. I'd planned for a finish an hour faster, but the "one step fwd, qtr step back" up the hills was tough. Took what the trail gave, kept it positive, and finished reasonably strong.

By the way, "Morgan Freeman" was James Moore - 20+ HAT Run finishes - respect. :)

Bill Smith

Neil Richard said...

Thanks Bill. I watched last year's race and loved the weather. Was hoping for a repeat for this year's race but just dealt with what I had. And while I wanted to tell Mr. Moore that he looked like Morgan Freeman, I was way too terrified he'd push me off a cliff or something. Decided to just run with him and enjoy their conversation and pace while I could.

Shellyrm ~ just a country runner said...

Great job hanging in there. It was a hard HAT course this year. I love that you thought James Moore was Morgan Freeman. It's good to have a sense of humor to distract you when the discomfort creeps in!

Neil Richard said...

Thanks Shelly. Maybe I'll try it again next year (and maybe then I'll be brave enough to confront "Mr. Freeman." Can't wait to hear your race report.

-Melissa- said...

Congrats on doing that! That is awesome and crazy at the same time. :)

Lauren said...

1) I found showering before a rainy 50k amusing. 5 miles into a trail run, I'm a stinky piece of dirt!
2) Beginning any race in the rain SUCKS.
3) Congratulations for sticking through this. Sounded like a TOUGH one.
4) For me, afterwards is always the best. : ))
5) Good luck on your next race.