Sunday, December 29, 2019

Race Report: HUFF 50K Trail Race, 2019

Race Summary:
50K, 6:25:42 (12:25/mile pace)
    Lap 1:   3:02:47
    Lap 2:   3:22:54
Overall:   85th of 153
M 60-69:   6th of 11
Lifetime ultra/marathon finish #90

I ran The HUFF 50K trail race on December 28, 2019.   This is the ninth year in a row I’ve run this race and have 8 finishes and one DNF (in 2017, in scary cold temps, when I dropped after lap 1).  It’s two laps of a 15.5 mile course in Chain O Lakes State Park, not far from Fort Wayne, Indiana. The park is a giant glacial deposit and has an amazing amount of up and of the few places in northern Indiana on which to run Real Hills.  (if you are interested, use the search function and you can find my other HUFF race reports)

I drove up on Friday afternoon, had a fitful night’s sleep in a mediocre motel but got to the race site by 6:15am and secured a primo parking spot well ahead of the 8:15am gun, with time to slowly eat some oatmeal, nap a bit and get set for a long day in the woods..  

I watched the day slowly enlighten and walked to the start grid.   

The gun went and the day proved wonderful.   The temp was just above freezing at the start, heading for the low 40s on the day, so I wore shorts and three layers on top with worked fine, I was quite comfortable all day long.   The trails were in near-perfect condition; firm but not muddy, not slick at all, very runnable. Even in some of the lower points where water drained across the trail, there was little mud, only some short spots that were moist.   

Lap One was, as usual, quite social with the 50K runners chatting and enjoying the day.   The aid stations are nicely spaced and well-stocked. I tried to not spend much time at the aid stations, I intended to simply reload and get going.    This worked mostly, except for the time I saw the RD, whom I’ve known for a long time, and he’s the type of guy you can’t have a short chat with. But it was good to catch up with Mitch.  

Lap Two always stands in stark contrast to Lap One at the HUFF...once again, it was a solitary adventure.   I think I only saw three or four other runners for the entire 3+ hours, so spread was the field by then. I enjoy this, of course, and just kept going.   The winter woods were just beautiful, the scenes overlooking the lakes in the park were striking, the weather most pleasant.   

I only fell once Saturday...went down pretty hard around mile 6.   Fortunately, I landed on soft dirt and while my glasses got dirty, I avoided a full face plant.   Only damage was ripping up my bib on my shorts, which was easily re-pinned. I had a second near-miss around mile 19, one of those times where I caught my toe and then rumbled, bumbled, stumbled into the brush, struggling to stay on my feet.   I did stay up but that near-miss took more out of me than the actual fall at mile 6. I gave myself a couple of minutes to collect my wits and carry on both times and neither had a lasting effect. 

The Aid Station at Mile 24 is legendary around here for some terrific trail food.   It’s a point in the race where mental and physical reserves are often depleted and they restore both.   In prior years, hamburgers are the main attraction but this year, they upped their game and served bacon cheeseburgers with a pickle on a stick.  Marvelous!! I downed one and it was a treat.   Sorry for the fog on my lens but you get the idea.

The final miles went reasonably well.  Other than a low spot around mile 28 (when, on an uphill slog, I just wanted it to be over), I felt fine and enjoyed the chance to run.   One runner I did see engaged in an interesting conversation, as he had just BQed a few weeks ago, was running his first-ever ultra and we talked about that process and anticipation at length.     

I finally popped out of the woods, ran the final half mile around a lake and finished.   Nicely, my new friend finished about two minutes behind me and we got our photo together.   

Won another belt buckle, honoring a local cross country coach who passed away earlier this fall.  

One observation I made, having run this race so often, was how it is dropping in size.   Only about half of the finishers we've had before.   I could tell there were not nearly as many cars in the park or runners in the grid.   Similarly about half the number of volunteers as in the past.   I wonder if the organizers are tiring of this (it gets little publicity, perhaps relying on reputation?) or if runners are less interested?   Just interesting to observe over time.

So, a good day.   I ran well and that was the goal.   Encouraged. Thanks for listening.   

And, as always, persevere. 

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