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Hashawha Hills 50K: Slip Slidin'

Slip slidin' away
Slip slidin' away
You know the nearer your destination
The more you're slip slidin' away

                      ~ Paul Simon

 This song was a fitting theme for the day

Why do I keep coming back to Hashawha Hills 50K?

It's a loop course, which is mentally tougher than a point to point course. It also means running the same route twice. There's several out and back sections that exist solely to provide the requisite mileage.

It's at a terrible time of the year, the last weekend in February. Everything is brown and dead.

The weather can be ugly (last year, race day featured crazy winds).

Depending on the temperature, the course features icy cambered hills or shoe-sucking mud and slop. This year, we got both!

The Start
Better than the forecasted freezing rain, we had misting rain for the first 15 miles.
All photos by Anstr Davidson

I almost bailed several times before race day. I had some good reasons:
  • The forecast of freezing rain
  • A birthday happy hour/dinner for two close friends the night before
  • The 4 a.m. wakeup to drive 90 miles to the start

Somehow, I propelled myself out the door to meet up with Team Gaylord, a boisterous bunch whom I dearly love. This gang makes any kind of hell seem like the most fun there is.

Thankfully the roads were not hazardous. The parking lot itself was literally a sheet of ice. I donned my YakTrax for the walk to the building where we gathered for the race briefing.

Starting the  Loop
Yours Truly and Beni running a brief paved road section of the course

And then the fun began. The course was frozen mud with lots of slick sections. Poor Beni went down in a cringe-inducing crash that would end her day after one loop.

We continued along at a cautious pace, warning each other about icy spots. Bob shouted what he considers encouragement at everyone we encountered on the out-and-backs. The rest of us pretended not to know him.

Mud at the Aid Station
It thawed a bit for the second half of the race . . .
There's a little of every kind of terrain here: Hills, none too steep or long but they just keep coming. Frozen, lumpy fields that threaten to turn your ankle. A few creek crossings, one wide and so cold it burned. Gravel road. A bit of paved road. Some sweet single-track trail in the woods. Pine needle-carpeted nirvana.

We completed loop one and recharged our supplies. As we trotted on our way, the winner arrived, obliterating the course record by 38 minutes. HOLY SH*T!

We hustled out of there. The mist had stopped, and the day was growing warmer. The frozen mud became squishy, shoe-sucking mud. The sweet, legendary Tom Green joined our merry band for a while. 

What did we talk about?
What didn't we talk about?

We talked about who was running what races next. We pontificated on the 24-hour run format. We complained enthusiastically about the ridiculous conditions, laughing and taunting each other. We somehow discussed fake dog testicles. Yes, they exist.

Team Gaylord
5 miles to go. There are no trail photos as Anstr was too smart to go out in that slop.

Why do I keep coming back to Hashawha Hills 50K?

This race for me is about friends, and our conversations.

It's about getting outside on a day when you'd normally cancel any planned outside activity and huddle in your warm, dry home with a hot mug of comfort.

It's about how lucky you feel when you realize it's a damned good day to run.

The Errandonnee: Winter Bicycling Challenge

My friend Mary, of Chasing Mailboxes blog fame, issued another bicycling challenge recently. 

These challenges get me excited about getting out and about when cold, dark Winter might otherwise have me cowering inside.

I couldn't resist the call of the Errandonnee, which sounded simple: Complete 12 errands in 12 days and ride a total of 30 miles by bike.

I got off to a slow start. I spent the first two days of the challenge snowshoeing (no regrets there). Tuesday morning I hopped on my elegant white steed and began. 

Daffodils along Rock Creek Parkway, errandonnee #1
It was one of those glorious mild and sunny days. I took Rock Creek bike path, fording several puddles in the path, and was rewarded by the sight of daffodils (a few in bloom already!) on the embankment south of the P St exit.

I made a quick stop for coffee at M.E. Swings and seriously considered blowing off work to continue my ride. I bounced into the office, beaming (and well-caffeinated).

I had big plans to swing by the dry cleaners after work mere seconds before they closed. However, I found my bike with a flat front tire (and myself without the tools to fix it. I know, lame).

After fixing my flat a day later, I managed to eke out Errandonnee #2 and #3 over my lunch break. I lucked into another sunny, mild day and made the most of it, pedaling the roundabout way to Bicycle Space to peruse some lighting options and then to Whole Foods for lunch and greeting cards. This challenge was going to be a piece of cake!

Trucks don't want to be shoaled either, errandonnee #2

Lunch at Whole Foods
So many lunch options! Whole Foods, errandonnee #3

Then I was off to meet my new baby niece over the three day weekend. When I returned, I had just two days to complete 9 errands.

I hit the bank, the grocery store for non-green bananas, Teaism for a gift of oolong, and finally my Tuesday night group run, all good for another 4.26 miles.

15th street bike lane
Based on the number of cyclists in chilly February, I predict actual bike traffic jams in May.

Movie errand, E St CinemaOn the last day of the challenge, I still needed at least 5 errands and 17-plus miles. I dithered over my glove choice - wool gloves or Lobster gloves? The temperature was already in the mid 30s, and the high was predicted to be in the 40s. Wool gloves would be fine! 

Off I rolled to the dry cleaner and to Open City for breakfast. Boy was it blustery. And much colder than the temperature indicated. No matter, it would surely warm up. Instead of padding my commute with a loop of Hains Point my frozen fingers steered me directly to work.

I still needed 12 miles and three errands, but I had plans to see a movie. So I did what any normal person would do: I donned storm socks, a buff, my wool cycling cap with ear flaps, fleece-lined bike pants, wool gloves, three base layers plus a down jacket and hopped on my bike. I rode toward the Capital Crescent Trail with the plan to ride 9 miles to Bethesda to see a movie.

I made it about two miles before my fingers cried uncle. Luckily, Cycle Life bike shop was right along my chosen route. I snagged the very last pair of lobster gloves, which happened to fit perfectly. I was on my way again.

The wind was cold and blowing steadily in my face. I rode a couple more miles and decided I'd prefer a tailwind. I flew past commuters fighting the headwind.

My next destination: D
inner at Qdoba. Sadly, I found it to be a far inferior to Chipotle, but when you're as hungry as I was (and 13 of your 20 digits are numb) you'll eat anything.

My final stop was E Street Cinema for a movie. Did you know they sell Dogfish Head 60 minute IPA (and wine and bourbon)? Also, "small" is objective when it comes to popcorn. I enjoyed the Animated Shorts. As a bonus, an hour into the movie my toes regained feeling.

I hightailed it home afterward to complete the Errandonnee Challenge with a couple of bonus miles, feeling very accomplished. Below is my control card, click here for all my photos.

errandonee control card page 1
errandonee control card 2

Winter Crosstraining: Snowshoeing

Snowshoeing is far and away our favorite way to spend a winter day. It's a fantastic crosstraining workout. You can even run in snowshoes if you're coordinated (and the snow isn't too deep).

An impulse buy I made two winters ago, our snowshoes have paid great dividends in fun.

Though we haven't been able to snowshoe in DC since Snowmageddon 2010, we found a winter paradise just a few hours drive from us. While we get an average of just 16 inches of snow per year, Canaan Valley is blessed with an average of nearly 180 inches per year!

Frost line.
It's paramount to dress properly for this sport. Saturday was sunny and quite cold with some wind. I wore two baselayers, my windstopper and a shell, glove liners and mittens. Sunday was much warmer, cloudy and still and I peeled off layers as I went. 

Don't forget to refuel after burning all those calories. You can warm up with a variety of delicious hot soups at Whitegrass Cafe. We particularly enjoyed the Chorizo, White Bean and Kale Soup and Brazilian Fish Stew.

You can do some serious climbs here. A few hours of snowshoeing netted us 1,264 ft of elevation gain.

We hustled down wide, groomed thoroughfares; we tramped through fresh powder in the woods, ducking beneath snow-laden boughs; we took in expansive views from the aptly named Bald Knob.

Whitegrass has 45 trails - over 50 km miles
When there's snow, it's a magical place indeed.

View of the Pipeline from Bald Knob
Have you ever been snowshoeing? Cross country skiing? What is your favorite way to cross train in winter?

Winter Miles

A lovely stretch of trail in Rock Creek Park
Photo by Sara Davidson
I've been building my mileage this winter, bit by bit. I've run more miles this January than ever before, and I'm on track to do the same in February.

In the cold and dark winter months, running with friends is what I need most.

I need the commitment to someone else to propel me out the door.

I need the endorphins the miles of chatting and laughing produce.

Friends make the miles even better. I may not be fully awake here.

Morning runs aren't my usual habit, but I was looking forward to this. We were running one of my favorite loops through the woods, right smack in the middle of DC.

We started our run with lights, moving quickly through the chilly dark streets to the trailhead.

This trail offers a little of everything - downhill, a couple of stream crossings, some flats and few big uphills. I feel very fortunate to have these trails so close to home.

After a couple of miles, daylight began to illuminate the landscape. We extinguished our lights and enjoyed
seeing everything around us for a change.


Near the end of the trail, Sara snapped the photo below. We always have a little chuckle about this sign.

From the Merriam-Webster dictionary: stren·u·ous adj.
marked by or calling for energy or stamina : arduous
The "Strenuous" trail to the left is flat as far as the eye can see. The "Moderate" trail starts up a steep hill almost immediately

We picked up the pace on the pavement toward home, finishing with high spirits and a sense of accomplishment.