I died three times on the HAT Run 50K course yesterday. Maybe even four. And in my time of dying, I managed to pull out a PR. I had an unofficial time of 7:04 compared to 7:52 last year. Kendra had asked me if I had planned on shooting for a PR earlier in the week and I said it was a game day decision. Well, I woke up and said, hell…let’s PR. I initially had a goal of 7:00 set in my head, but by the end of the first big loop (mile 17-ish), I was on pace for a 6:30 finish time…and while I fought the mud I was feeling GOOD!
The second half…well, that’s a whole different story. By the time I hit the second loop, the mud was shit. The snow had melted from the day before and a bazillion (around 480 runners) had trampled through and mucked it up. It really felt like you were running on quicksand. There were parts that were perfectly flat, but you could barely walk it without sliding all over the place. I had no traction whatsoever. All the energy that I had during the first half, gone. I spent more time trying to stay upright than anything and I was successful. I stopped trying to side step to “cleaner” ground, because it just made things worse. Instead, I just trampled through ankle deep in shit mud the rest of the way. There were several times where the mud suctioned on to my shoes and I almost lost them and the downhills where treacherous. Have you ever tried to stay upright doing down a mudslide? Yeah, like that. Going up the hills were no better. You take a step and then your foot slides right down back to it’s original position. It felt like I had to take three steps for every step forward.
My nutrition and hydration leading to the week of the race was crap. I’ve had hardly any appetite lately and pretty much have eaten one maybe two meals a day. This is not like me at all. I eat like a professional linebacker. I eat a lot. But, not this week! UGH! I had one meal the day before that consisted of chicken, rice, and spinach, and for breakfast, I had a banana and a slice of Irish Soda Bread with my coffee. That’s it. It’s all I could stomach. And my water intake was probably at 40% of what I normally do the week of the race. So not good and I don’t recommend it.
I decided to do what I always do and eat something at every aid station. Take a bite of anything and drink at least two cups of some kind of liquid. I stuck to mostly Mountain Dew (sweet nectar of the gods) and Gatorade. I took Endurolytes when I remembered (two pills 4 times during the race) and I had one and a half sleeves of Clif Chomps during the race. I was running on empty most of the way but I was doing my best to try and stay ahead of the game. I told myself that perhaps this is what the last 30 miles of a hundred miler will feel like. You’re running on empty and your body, while starved for nutrition, just doesn’t want it. I guess we’ll see when that race comes up.
‘Cause sometimes you just feel tired,
Feel weak, and when you feel weak, you feel like you wanna just give up.
But you gotta search within you, you gotta find that inner strength
And just pull that shit out of you and get that motivation to not give up
And not be a quitter, no matter how bad you wanna just fall flat on your face and collapse.
(‘Til I Collapse ~ Eminem)
As I said in the beginning, I died three or four times during the race. It’s hard to hit a wall and make a come back. I can’t believe that I hit the wall all those times and got a third and fourth wind. Each time I hit the wall, I was done. Completely done. My legs didn’t want to go and the shit mud made it worse. I wanted to just give up and walk the rest of the way. At this point, I could walk and finish in time of the cut off. Who needs a PR anyway? Each time I decided to give up, I talked myself out of it. I started to tell myself out loud “pick up your feet” and “keep going.” I knew that my mind was going to be the only thing to get me through this and talking to myself out loud helped me keep my head in the game.
Although I was just shy of hitting my target time, I’m thrilled to have done so well in those conditions. Rumor has it that it was the worse conditions in over 10 years. Frankly, it was pretty dangerous. A few times, I was very close to slipping off the edge of some of the single track and the downhills were just shit.
I had the pleasure of chatting it up with a few folks during my run. Bryan at Keystone Runner was kind enough to take a quick selfie with me. Feel free to head on over to his Instagram page and shout him out. He’s training for a 100-miler.
This guy Phil was kind enough to loan me his gloves in the beginning. He was also kind enough to wait over two hours for me to finish. He did that thing in 5 hours!!! Holy smokes!
Leigh helped give me a push too. When we hit our drop bag at around mile 17, I asked her if she was changing her shoes. I did so last year, but this year I didn’t feel I needed to. She talked me out of it and I’m glad she did.
And of course, my crazy running crew! They always make these things fun! I adore every single one of them.
Here are some of my tips for running HAT.
- Get your hill training in. We trained at least once a week on the hills and it helped tremendously. I passed most of the people on the hills as I was able to
Hulk-stomppower walk them instead of saunter.
- Do some cross-training to get your legs and core strong, because…hills.
- Eat and drink at every aid station. There’s an aid station about every four miles. Even if you’re not hungry, grab a perogie, french fries, whatever. Stick something in your pie hole and eat it. By the way, they have one of the best aid station set ups ever!
- Train for all running conditions – and this isn’t just for the HAT Run. We had several muddy training runs and I was able to go out a week before for another long muddy run. I hated it, but I’m glad I did it. I think it helped me learn how to get my footing even though my feet were slipping out for under me. You never know what race day is going to bring – rain, snow, whatever. There were a couple of training runs that I took indoors because of rain, but not all of them. Don’t be afraid to get cold or dirty. You’re a runner, you’re supposed to be tough.
- If the course is muddy go straight through all of it. Trying to side step mud just sets you up for more slippage. Hey, you’re muddy anyway and sliding back down into the deep muddy center doesn’t help. Suck it up and go through it.
- Go through the stream crossings. The water is cold, but it helps reduce the swelling on your feet. And if the course happens to be muddy, it’ll help get some of the mud off of your shoe.
- Eat. Oh, I said that already.
- Power walk the hills. Note that I said power walk. You lose a lot of time on those hills and there’s a shit-ton of them all the way to the end. The hills never end. Prepare for them and power up with deliberate forward moving steps while trying to conserve energy.
- Lube your feet. I put a thick coat of Aquaphor on my feet and wear Injini socks. No blisters whatsoever.
The HAT Run 50k is a very well organized race. The race director, crew, and volunteers are amazing! We got some sweet swag which consisted of a shirt, cooler, and umbrella. The finishers got the official HAT hat. The aid stations are phenomenal! So much to chose from such as perogies, fries, candy, chips, water, Gatorade, sodas, PBJ sandwiches, pickles, cookies…all of it! The course is always a challenge in any condition, but it is beautiful. This will most likely be a yearly race for me.
I have to admit, I fought for this race every step of the way. I typically don’t push too hard when I run as I like to have fun with it. But today was different. I needed to push myself and run hard to see what I can do mentally and physically. And while a little piece inside tells me that I could’ve done a lot better under better conditions, I’m happy with the accomplishment. All I have to say to the mud that had my number…SCREW YOU! Ain’t no mud gonna take this runner down!
So, what’s next? The North Face Endurance Challenge – D.C. 50-miler in three weeks. ACK!