Monday, April 4, 2016

HATs Off, Pants Off, Dance Off - Recent Shenanigans

It's been around a month and a half since my last verbal rambling of words followed by more words supported by both vowels and consonants. Some of you might have been out there missing my musings. To those who have, the wait is over. To those that weren't, you had absolutely no wait because you didn't care. Maybe I should be sad about such lack of love from the internet but I've been listening to a lot of Napalm Death lately so all is right in the world.

So what exactly have I been up to since the Swamp 50K? I've been working on me. By that, I mean training and racing to help boost my confidence. Last year, I pretty much thrashed my 'I can beat you' mentality I could take to any race. Performances at Phunt and Swamp have helped put me in a positive direction to start the year but with Hyner 50K in April as my first target race of the year, I knew I had to do more. As a result, I opted to skip the Naked Bavarian 20 Miler on March 6th and sign up for Seneca Greenway 50K on the 5th instead. Part of my logic for this was I wanted to see how I would do on a somewhat familiar course that isn't as windy as Swamp was for 50K. (I won a prior point to point version of the race in 2014.) It also helped that it was a Saturday race and not Sunday. That's Meet the Press day!

Well, in short, despite some good lead up to the 5th, I got a cough the day leading into it. Still, I drove down to a Maryland Rest Stop on the evening of the 4th to sleep in the car. Got some decent shut-eye after nailing down making the back seat of the car level. However, woke up with a hack. Yet, I still drove to the race site. Parked went for a jog and nope. Was not going to happen. I got back in the car and drove back to PA. Also proceeded to not run for 3 more days. That's great for moral.

I was a little down but I knew I had a 5K coming up on the 13th on a course I'd run before. So once I resumed training I prepped like usual. The 5K was up near North Wales hosted by the Village Tavern. It is a lollipop course with some rolling hills. Previously, I ran 16:19 at the event but was unsure what I would do since I last raced a road 5K on Halloween of last year! Cutting to the chase, I won it in 16:30. Not bad. I'll take it.

Due to the rug being pulled out from under me with missing Seneca Greenway and Naked Bavarian, I had looked for another 50K to do. Choices were narrowed to Lt Stone near Pittsburgh and HAT in Havre De Grace, MD. One was 4 hours away, the other around an hour. One was open, the other sold out but with a waiting list. Still I put my name in for the waiting list at HAT not expecting to get in but a few days later, I was in! I said to myself....good, I didn't want to drive to Pittsburgh anyways.

(And the only people who had any idea I was running HAT were Peg and Kat.)

So this meant a number of things:

Only had to drive a little over an hour
A 9am start meant I could sleep in until 7.

Those are two very important things every now and again. And with still adjusting to Daylight Savings, really a bonus since I'd been sluggish all week waking up.

Come Saturday morning of the 19th, I woke up to some Brandon Flowers/Killers tunes before popping in the new Killswitch Engage album in the trusty Nissan Versa (even with the pesky Tire Pressure System light on) cd player for the drive down. Driving was smooth and knowing bathrooms would be port-a-johns (or Honey Pots as they get called in MD), I opted to hit the Chesapeake House rest stop. Plus, who doesn't like heated bathroom use?! Not longer after, I got to Susquehanna State Park aka the race site. Parking was easy. Getting my bib was a tad longer than I expected. Apparently A-E is a popular range of letters and the line surprisingly long. Made me even happier to have used the bathroom before arriving.

Once I had my race number, I grabbed my gear and walked over to the start/finish location which was around 1/4 mile walk. As usual on a multi-loop course, I set up my trusty camping chair. I was pretty locked in with my gear. I've been tightening my organizing and prep a bit that has made things a bit easier lately. One of those aspects has been having some Tailwind pre-made and frozen in the freezer. Not in my handheld bottles but empty Seltzer and Powerade bottles. This has been great since I don't feel like I waste it if I don't use it all. I just freeze it again.

As I was lacing up my Montrail Fluidflex shoes (opting to go with Farm to Feet socks), I ended up talking to one of the 'rabbits' the race has to lead out runners for the 4 mile mini-loop. It was good to know there were pacers to show the way early. And it was helpful to know they were not racers so I didn't do anything too stupid. Like go out at 6:30 pace. Well, before I knew it, that hour at the site went by quick as it was time to start running 50K. The HAT Run starts in a big open field in a scene resembling Braveheart. In a flash all 330 of us were off.....but......

My plan for a relaxing start did not go according to plan. Another runner went after the pacers. Shite. A put up or shut up moment from the gun. Yes, I had checked the list of entrants on Ultrasignup. I had an idea of what others might do but you really never know. My best course of action was to stay with the other racer and gauge the situation sooner rather than later. Thus, in pursuit I went. Dang, this is quick, I thought. Yet, it was still comfortable for now.

Before the 4 mile mini loop ends, we merge into the latter part of the large loop. At this junction, our pace setters split off so it was other runner and myself. After a little while, we made some introductions. Since it has been over ten days from the race, I cannot remember if it was on that first loop or into the second. Once the conversation did start flowing it was pleasant. I would out the other runner's name was Taran and that over the summer before an injury he was working on qualifying for the Olympic Trials Marathon under the 1:05 half standard. DAMN. At that point, I recall saying, to Taran that he'd likely drop me but I'll run with him as long as possible. It really was good running and chatting. We did so for the first 12 miles of the race. He led through the first 8 (which was the first aid station on the big loop) and we went into the second together at which point he dropped back for support. We bid farewell but I fully expected to see the young man again. And that kept me moving....

Despite knowing the last 5.3 of the big loops was the toughest part and could come back to haunt me the second time around, I pressed. I pushed just that tad bit quicker up the hills. I didn't do the stream crossing too well as I didn't find the line I really wanted. Still, I was feeling good. I came charging into the end of the big loop in around 2:09:xx. Having set up my aid, I went straight to my chair to refill my Nathan SpeedShot Plus Insulated with Tailwind and to grab more Shot Blocs. (I had been squirreling away them in my cheeks and drawing down on them as I ran.

Going into the race my goal was to be around 4 hours. I knew HAT tends to have times over 4 and it was while more runable than Phunt, it had more climbing so it was in some ways tougher. I now had around 1:50 to run a second loop to get under the mark. I was doing the math in my head, 8 minute pace and I can do it. 9 and not. Time to get it done. Knowing the first 8 of the loop is the faster, I took what the course gave me. I floated on the downhills. Eventually, I came barreling through aid station 1 again to hear Phunt RD, Carl shout my name. I waved and said 'Hi Carl'. He was a busy man making french fries for the hungry runners. The next section between aid stations had a nice two mile gravel/paved road portion. I could move there but I had to get through some rolling to get there. I wanted 45 minutes left once I into the last aid station. Also, while I had no idea where 2nd place was, I wanted at least 5 minutes for the last 5.3 miles. Keep moving. The hurt was starting. Eventually, I made it to the aid station to hear Carl's cheer again. At this point, I figured out that both aid stations were next to each other! Talk about smart organizing. So super spectator friendly too!

In looking at my watch, I had 46 minutes to finish under 4 hours. Previous loop, it took me 38 minutes to cover the distance I had left. But I was now starting to come up to runners on their first big loop. Climbing and passing is hard. To make it tougher, there was a large hiking group on the trail!!!!

THIS SUCKS!!!! On singletrack it is super hard to pass people spaced out let alone a 30 person group. Thankfully, the hikers were nice enough to call ahead in the group to have those farther up move over. So they did not pose much of a problem as they could have. Considering I was wanting the race done, this still was a bit demoralizing. Yet, I was not walking the hills and that was good but the cadence was a half step slower. Umph. I just wanted to get to the last field. It seemed forever and once I hit the last bit of road downhill, runners finishing their first big loop were weaving through the woods to my right. What a tease! I had 18 minutes when I hit the road so I booked as hard as I could. As I got to the final trail rurn, I saw Saul who I knew back from NJ and RVRR! Said hi as I made the turn and that was a nice boost. The boost didn't last long as I really wanted to be done. This stretch felt like it was taking forever! Thankfully, after what felt like forever, I was out in the last bit of field. The HOMESTRETCH!!!! I crossed the line in 3:54:36. A time I was very happy with.

It is worth noting that it was the first time under 4 hours in a 50K since May of 2014. YES!!!!

For finishing, I was handed a nice HAT hat and camping chair (the chair is humorous since I have my own already).

Around 5 minutes after I finished and was chatting with others, it started to snow/rain. Immediately, when that started, the temp dipped. Thankfully, I had plenty of clothes to keep me warm. I moved my chair to under some trees so I could watch other finishers come in, chat and not get damp. Awards were done around 2:30 after which I had to take off as Peg's niece was in town and I wanted to hopefully see her before she left. Mission was accomplished! In my more impressive performance of the day I made it back to the house around 2 minutes before she left. Sure it was a quick hello but for family you like, you do such things.

And such concludes......HAT.

(Unlike the performance of the race and drive home, this blog entry has been a snail. It took me ten days to start it and over 5 days to reach this point. I was going to talk about another road 5K down in Delaware but I'm skipping those details. And since I started this entry, I ran a 10K trail race called Swamp Creek Stomp that was quite a fun experience. In short, it was so muddy that I had to go from lets run this hard and fast to, let's not do anything stupid. Still managed to run a decent pace on the two lap course. The second was much harder because there were sheets of slippery mud. You can see photos of the event on the Upper Frederick Township Parks & Rec's page: Swamp Creek Stomp .)

Now less than 3 weeks until Hyner....when the real fun begins.

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