Monday, December 31, 2018

Race Report: The HUFF 50K Trail Race 2018

ORN:  50K, 6:46:46, 13:06/mile, R/W 3/1.    90th of 156 finishers, 3rd of 6 in M65-69 AG

Quick Summary:    Just a very enjoyable day in the Indiana woods on runnable trails on a very mild, December day.   Enjoyed this race to the hilt.   

The Gory Details:

The HUFF 50K is a year-end mainstay of the midwest trail running circuit.  It's been around for over 30 years, the last 8 in it's current location at Chain O Lakes State Park near Albion, Indiana, not far from Fort Wayne.   I've run it many times.

I first participated on December 16, 2004, running a single 10 mile loop just seven months after the start of this era of running.  Until that day, I had never run trails at all.  I'd never run farther than 8 miles before that day.   So, it's funny to read now my race report of that day.  Dan Quayle, where are you now??  But, it was a big deal at the time.  

I've written about all prior HUFFs since the organizers had to move the race to its current location at Chain O' Lakes State Park.  Weather conditions in late December in Indiana give each year its own character . 

2011:  The Deep Water Year. ( 7:33:44) The most philosophical I've ever been on my blog.  The lessons of that wet, cold, muddy day still hold, remarkably.  link  The 2011 race and the "aura" surrounding it has grown over the years.   When I meet anyone who also ran that day there is an instant bond.   

2012:  A very runnable race day: (6:26:45)   link

2013: Another nice HUFF race with more snow pack, but I ran in shorts anyway: (6:32:01)  link

2014:  A good day and a 50K PR at the time (6:19:28) link  

2015:   The most runnable of the series, leading to my current PR of 5:59:51 link

2016:  Seven inches of fresh powder made it a day of slipping and sliding.   Amazingly, I won my AG. (7:23:12)  link

2017:  The coldest and harshest weather of the race series.   My head was not in it either, so I dropped out after one lap.   link 

Having done poorly last year in bitterly cold temperatures, I wanted to complete the full 50K this year. I drove to nearby Columbia City, Indiana the day before the race and hunkered down at Super 8, eating in my room and trying to then sleep.  

I left the motel at 5:30am, scoring a primo parking spot before 6am.   With an 8:15am gun, I had time to eat some oatmeal, nap a bit and stay warm in the car.

The view from my car, pre-start

With the sun still not fully risen, we got started sorta on time, which is a de facto tradition at this race.  The weather was between 29 and 31F all day long with cloudy skies and negligible wind.   Importantly to this trail race, there was no snow on the ground, had been little rain,   A very wonderful, runnable trail race day.

10 minutes pre-race, ready to go
Lap One was fun.  The pack was intact and the footing was wonderful, neither too hard nor too soft.   I chose to particularly work on my downhill running technique, knowing I'll need that full well at Boston in April.    It was just enjoyable.    The only fly in the ointment was a persistent "rock in the sock".   Somehow, three times, I managed to flip a pebble which got not inside my shoe but inside my sock.   Had to stop, take off my shoe AND sock, clean it out, reload, all in the woods.   

I finished lap one at 3:14 and headed back out to do the course again.

Lap Two at HUFF is always different from Lap One...the relay runners are largely done, the one lap folks are done, the full 50K field is spread out.   This year was the same.  

And I enjoyed it immensely. I simply ran and got into my own world, alone in the woods.   I had a good friend from work who I knew was having a tough day as I ran and many thoughts went his way.   

Around Mile 23, I was tiring but I knew a secret weapon awaited at the Rally Camp aid station.   They are famous for having fresh hamburgers and I remembered their miraculous powers.   I ran into the station, looked for the warming table, where a lady assisted by slathering ketchup all over a half-burger.   Yum...down it went, washed down with a cup of CocaCola.   Man, was that good.   I suddenly felt wonderful...the proteins, sugars and caffiene combined to pick me up for the final seven miles.   

The view in the woods looked like this almost all day.   

What I saw all day...a carpet of leaves

I simply ran and got into my own world, alone in the woods.   I had a good friend
from work who was having a tough day, as I ran and many thoughts went his way.

At finish line, with RD Mitch Harper

 I finally got into the final mile or so of the course and it was great to pop out of the woods and run the half mile or so to the finish line.   I felt fine and it never gets old to finish a marathon or ultra.   Fortuitously, as I concluded, Mitch Harper, the long-time race director was there and I could thank him and get my photo with him and my belt buckle.  

So, there it was, a nice run to conclude 2018's running.   It was marathon/ultra finish #85, which astounds me.    

Thanks for reading.   And persevere.


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