This year’s HAT was very special. The buzz we created last year translated into even more participation this year. I was really excited to see my running friends again. There were so many invitations for different meet-ups that unfortunately, it wasn’t possible to make them all. Last year Jeanne B., Colleen, Matt F., Andy O., Steve S., all ran this trail race together. This year our core crew grew to Brodie W., Jenny J., Andy O., Jeanne B., Bobby O., Paulie G., Greg S., Peter L., Steve S. (third place finisher overall), Preston G., Jon S., Stein L., and Ally S. That doesn’t even include some of my favorite BRRC people like Juda M., Bart R., Luke B., Elisa W., Mark W., Darryn W., Andrea W., Ann F., Lois S., Curt S., Dechen S., and I am sure I am missing others. I think you get the point. I was running with a large group of friends and it made this event feel like a fun outing rather than a race. I was calm and happy pre-race instead of nervous and anxious. After all, I knew the course and I knew the runners.
Speaking of the course the HAT 50k is a tough and challenging course located in the Susquehanna State Park in Maryland. “The course is mostly single track trail with a mix of open fields, dirt road and some paved road. The course features nearly 9,800 feet of climbing. There is a starting loop of 3.6 miles followed by two identical loops of 13.7 miles. There are 4 stream crossings that can be challenging depending on the water level – there is always the chance of getting wet feet.” (See image above) The course itself is unforgiving with constant climbs and descents on uneven trails, you have to be focused at all times. I would remind myself with a mantra “no lazy steps,” the fatigue would set in and I would have to remind myself again after a stumble or a bad foot plant “no lazy steps.” We were lucky this year and blessed with almost perfect running conditions. The skies were clear and the temps didn’t get much over 50º F. I ran the course more conservatively than last year. By the end of last year’s HAT my quads were blown and my calves were rusty and splintered into aching little punks. I was determined to feel less broken at the end of the HAT this year. I did a pretty good job of managing the race this year, experience helps. I was able to take 43 minutes off my finish time from last year but, still would have liked taking at least 15 more minutes off. In a race this long it should be easy to continue to cut time off. There’s always next year. Here are the 2011 Results. I placed in the top half and that ain’t too shabby. Out of the 515 registered runners, 95 didn’t show up, 58 DNF’d (did not finish) 362 actually crossed the finish line. I was #158 over all and 57th in my age group.
This race really has become about something more than running for me. It has become a place of camaraderie. Friendships are grown and strengthened at this race. The course is hard and that is a source of pride for all those that run it. You get the feeling if you can complete the HAT you can take on anything. This year the race directors gave everyone a signed copy of the book “Born to Run” by Christopher McDougall. Chris ran the race with us too. We got a chance to hang out with him before the race and from the limited interactions I had with him, he was a super nice humble guy. If you think there is pressure running a big race, imagine what it’s like when your a running celeb. It can’t be easy to perform with everybody there knowing who you are and having the weight of there judgment on your back. My kudos to Chris, I would have just gone south and hung out with the Tarahumara. I have done tough running challenges and the HAT is a tough day of running for all levels of runners guaranteed. Hopefully I will see you there next year.
This year I ran in the New Balance MT101 trail shoes. They are a light flexible and feel extremely nimble over the technical terrain of the HAT course. They handled rocks, roots, mud, packed dirt and paved roads. I brought along a second pair of shoes because I was worried the minimal running shoe (New Balance MT101) might be an issue after multiple miles. I never had to switch out shoes, the MT101s were able to keep me feeling good all the way to the finish. I did make one modification/addition to the shoe. The low collar of the shoe doesn’t protect against trail debris so I purchased a pair of Dirty Girl Gaiters and added a Velcro strip to the back of the shoe to secure the gaiter. This worked great and kept the debris out without adding much weight to the shoe at all. The gaiters are quite soft and comfortable. They will be going on all my trail shoes here on out. Balega socks were my pick for this race. Packing two pairs and switching out at the 17th mile worked out well for me. After the stream crossings a dry pair of socks were heavenly. I ran with trekking poles during the GORE-TEX® TransRockies Run and fell in love with them for trail running. I find that they help with fast descents and keep your back straight on the uphill climbs. I use Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork Trekking Poles. Out of the 400+ participants I was the only one to use poles. It was a great conversation starter. The poles are super light at .5 lb each and collapse down to 25 inches. I have tried several Hydration packs including; Nathan, Osprey, and Camelbak. For running the best pack I have tried is the Salomon XT Advanced Skin 5 S-LAB. The pack fits great and rides snugly. This pack is designed specifically for trail running and has great features like:
For nutrition I used Honey Stinger Ginsting Gels and packets of Justin’s Peanut Butter and Honey. For the most part, I drank water from my pack, at the aid stations I would down some Gatorade and flat Coca-Cola (one of my favorite treats on long trail runs). I was very well equipped for this race and had no issues with gear or nutrition. (except the one time when I choked on the peanut butter.)
I really do love this race, it has become my focus for winter training and a fantastic kick off to Spring. This past year the HAT 50k sold out in two weeks! If you want to run it in 2012, be ready to sign up the day it opens for registration.
Check out this related post with a review of the New Balance Minimus Trail Shoe by Professor Of Minimal Shoe Advocacy (PoMSA) Pete Larson