Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Hat Run Race Report

Each and every race I've run has had it's own set of circumstance that has made it unique and memorable. Holiday Lake was covered in 8 inches of snow, Blue Cruise was my first Top 10 finish, MMTR my first 50 miler, not to mention struggling through PF and Hip Bursitis just to finish, and Hat Run 2012 was no diffent. The run up to this race has been so very different than any race prior.

Having really messed myself up running MMTR with too many injuries, my one and only goal was to be able to run HAT with my former soccer players Wayne Peiffer and Dave Simon. I had no idea how long I'd have to rest and heal for the injuries to pass but around Jan 1st I was very concerned I would not be able to run. Luckily around that same time the pain in my feet and hips began to go away and I was able to train with both Dave and Wayne for about 4 weeks. While I only was able to put in about 25 miles a week this training was crucial to maintaining the strength my legs would need for HAT. After those 4 weeks the PF in my left foot began acting up again so my training became almost exclusively biking for the month of March.

However, on race day I was still very excited to spend the days on the trails. Dave Simon had pulled out of the race, but Wayne was still in. Another guy from PBU, Dave Rogers, that had been on the wait list had gotten into the race so we all drove down together. The ride down was good. We talked strategy and race prep. This was going to be the first Ultra for both of them so obviously there was a lot to cover.

All seemed to be going well until it started raining. For me this was great! I love running in the rain and I knew that if the course became a huge mud pit that would only increase the uniqueness of the experience for myself and other racers. Wayne however did not have the same reaction. As we sat in the car pre-race listening to the rain pound the roof of my car he made it very clear that he was not looking forward to spending the day dirty and wet. Oh well, this might not have been what he signed up for but hey it's an Ultra. Did he expect it to be easy :-)

The race began. Wayne, Dan and I all started together. Hat run has a unique start. Everyone lines up across a very wide area and crosses a grass field before looping around the Start/Finish area for a bit until you get to a trailhead. By the time Wayne and I were about 2 miles in we did not know where dan was but we knew he'd be ok. He had come on a 20 mile run with us about 3 weeks earlier on a very hilly trail and though he struggled he wouldn't quit.

The first few miles of the race are always fun. No one's tired yet and the conversations are good and fun. We ran into Gregg Holst, another runner from Bucks county, who informed us that this race was like a party on trails. He was right, at least for the first 15 miles. We ran, and talked and enjoyed the nice single track. Coming back through the S/F we saw Wayne girlfriend and parents who had come to help cheer him on. We continued on for the first of two 14 miles loops in good sprits. In all honesty the first 17 miles or so were pretty relaxed and easy. As we came out onto the field that brings you to the S/F for the 3rd time I think Wayne had a problem.

Hamstring cramp and it wouldn't go away. Though we had run about 95% of the trail so far we had to walk into the S/F. I was pretty worried at this point. I was feeling fine but I remembered back to Mahlon Mayhen, and Blues Cruise where basically I spent the last 10 miles just trying to fight off cramps all over. Knowing that this was a real possibility for Wayne I made sure he drank almost 40oz of water and gatorade and even made him eat 2 bananas (he really hates bananas). This seemed to work really well and he would have basically no cramp issues for the remainder of the race.

So we began the second 14 mile lap. Basically this lap was all about keeping enjoying the trails. I knew my feet are going to be giving me problems for a long time so this may have been the last race for me this year, who knows, which meant I really wanted to enjoy those last 14 miles. And I really did. The conversatin between Wayne and I was short and sweet. I was wide awake but he had begun to settle into the "one foot in front of the other" mantra, and was soley focussed on finishing the race. I had been there before but not today. I really love the trails for this race. So much single track. It was great. I must say I was very happy to find french fries and perogies at the final 2 adie stations. I love deep fried food during an Ultra. Go figure right.

The final mile of the course was very very muddy. We had run down the road and began the "final hill," which was more like 3 hills but I think it's better to combine them into one long hill with multiple sections :-). At this point I knew our race was basically over and that we would soon be dining on  whatever BBQ was awaiting us at the S/F, however the trails had one last trick to play on Wayne. Coming down a hill with about 500yds to go he slipped on the mud and his legs started cramping again. I can imagine his pain having run so far and having been so close and then to have a little slip bring so much discomfort. This forced us into a bit of a walk but we were still able to run the whole field to the finish. We were greeted by his paraents and GF and everyone was all smiles.

Standing at the S/F after a race is great. You get to watch people come in and the joy on their faces is contagious. Everyone is happy. Everyone shares their stories. It's just a great place to hang out. We all stood around watching for Dan knowing that he was out there struggling through his final miles. Seeing him coming across the field was a joy. Knowing how much effort he had put in and the satisfaction he'd feel crossing the line reminded me why I do these races and why I bug everyone I know to get involved. Even if it's just coming to a race to cheer on your friends the experience changes you. I hope Dan and Wayne have been changed. I hope they take what they've accomplished as use it as inspiration to push themselves to greater things in all area of their lives. And I hope I do the same.

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