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The HAT Run 50K

Seven years ago, I ran my first ultra here. I remember the crazy mush mind I got in the last few miles of the race. I remember how my legs hurt afterward, so much that I could hardly sit still on the ride home. I signed up for another one immediately.

A grand old tree on the HAT course
Here I was again, toeing the line at my fifth HAT Run. Well, actually my sixth. I was here to redeem a DNF.
 
The Usual Suspects. With over 400 starters, the VHTRC was well-represented. Seeing so many familiar faces is always a highlight of this race.

Mad props to VHTRC members James Moore and Margaret Schlundt. They logged their 20th finishes this year!

Goofing off pre-race with VHTRCer @robcolenso


My friend Jerry was here too, running his first ultra. It was great to spend time with him on trail and soak in his positive energy. He graciously sang my praises for turning him on to trail running and giving him training advice. He ran strong, was smiling all day, and I'm not sure I've ever seen a happier ultra runner. Congrats, Jerry, and welcome to the club!

Race Day. It was truly ideal running weather - cool, sunny, and breezy enough that I was grateful for my arm warmers. The trails were in stellar condition, drier than any other year I could remember.

Rosy Abregu climbing one of the many hills
The Course. HAT is a loop course. It's a great first ultra. If you're trained to run a marathon it's a relatively easy transition. The trails aren't technical, the hills aren't killer. When they're steep, they're very short, and when they're longer, they're gentle. There's some pavement, some fields, and generally excellent footing.

Sounds like some sweet trail, eh?

I swear, this race is harder every time I run it.

A stream crossing on the HAT 50K course.
Runnable vs. Technical. Many ultras are not what you'd call "runnable." They're rocky, technical, over mountainous terrain where even the elites are reduced to a speed hike. Not a race where you can get a rhythm going, and pace? Out the window. One mile could be a 15 minute per mile slog up a treacherous climb, the next, a section of fire road you run twice as fast.


One of the "gentle" hills.
The dirty little secret of ultras is how little actual running we do. Sure, there are long stretches of fast, fancy footwork on trail.
 

There's a lot of speed hiking in the mix, too, and brief stops at aid stations for food you might find at a college party. There's laughing and chatting instead of the intense faces, heavy breathing, and pouring sweat seen at a typical road race.

HAT is very runnable. You're running along for ages, wondering when you'll get a break. Then you reach the cruel, steep little hills. These hills are short. You hardly feel justified walking them. But make no mistake, they're too steep to run. And they just keep coming.

None of my trail running friends are normal. I love ultras.
There's one long climb on each loop. It's too long to run, but you hardly feel justified walking, because it's such a gentle climb.

This race pisses you off because you feel like you should be running harder.

Out of Shape. I think I ran my slowest time ever. I left exhausted and already sore.

Did I mention it's a good ultra if you're trained for a marathon? I am certainly not. I've managed to rebuild my base after spending all fall in physical therapy, but as I mentioned in my last race report, I've done no speed work, or any specific workouts. I'm still rebuilding my base mileage. How long am I going to use this excuse? Only time will tell.

Crossing a field on the HAT 50K course

Brush With Celebrity
. I caught up to Born To Run author
Christopher McDougall with about 4 miles to go, just milliseconds after his Tarahumara huarache toe strap failed. I mumbled something trite about how he'd literally be going barefoot. I shouldn't be allowed to talk to people.
A la piscina en San Jose




An Aside: It is not a good idea to leave for a vacation the day after an ultra.  You will, surprisingly, not feel like packing after you run for seven hours. Above all else, do not book a ridiculously early morning flight.

Proper Recovery. Should you fail to heed those warnings, you'll need to spend the following day lying at the pool in a warm climate. Do nothing more strenuous than raising a cold beverage to your lips.


13 comments:

Sophie Speidel said...

Nice report! And perfect post-race recovery, imo. *JEALOUS*

karen said...

You'll need my permission next time you post a picture of me! Funny stuff. I didn't even remember your taking that until I saw it. Fun running with you!!!! See you at BRR.

Beth said...

That course looks awesome! I can't wait for my first trail ultra. Craziness.

Jerry said...

Great race report! Thanks again - I still can't stop smiling! It was such a fun time.

laurie said...

Sounds like a blast! I think I need to do an ultra in your neck of the woods one of these days!

JoAnn said...

A most enjoyable report. I wish I could be with you for a mini-section of the course (very mini):)

amyreinink.com said...

You had me at the photo of the gorgeous tree, and I would have been happy with a post just about Christopher McDougall's Tarahumara huarache toe strap failing. The rest: Gravy. Congrats on the finish!

Shellyrm ~ just a country runner said...

Great report. It was a great day in the woods! Nice that you got to run with Christopher. And even better that you had an amazing place to recover!

Katie said...

i'm super duper jealous of your recovery. :)

glad you enjoyed the day! love the pics.

Liz said...

You definitely make me want to try an ultra! Great job and have an amazing vacation.

Royanna Dawn said...

Great report... more like this, and I might be tempted to run an ultra... MIGHT....

Thomas Bussiere said...

Congrats on another HAT. Nice recovery!

Kacie Darden said...

Fantastic and very fun report!