Friday, December 31, 2021

2021 Year in Review

Totals: 2021 -- 1,636 Miles Since 2004 -- 24,565 miles This year was quite a pivot point for me personally, as I retired from my day job and now have had a full calendar year to try to figure out what my life now holds. One component to that is running and the year contained a lot of useful learnings. For the year, my monthly miles (the figure of merit, in my estimation, of running) left me with a “bleh” view...yet I learned from it.

I am not pleased I had only five months over 140 miles and only two over 150...I’d like to see all months at 140 at least. Yet, the low months came as I tried to figure out my new daily routines in retirement (I finally got that solidified in November...). August was super low as I took on an interim consulting gig and grappled with where and when to run in a different town. So, while I’m not impressed with the chart, I do have a much better grip on my daily running routine and my long-term running trajectory. Thank you, Hal Higdon. Stepping back further, here are my annual miles since I started this era of running in May, 2004.

Whereas I felt “bleh” examining my monthly miles, I’m quite pleased looking at the total miles for the first year over 1,600 miles since the excellent training year of 2017. In many respects, I think I “refound” my rhythm in running in 2021 and I’m very pleased it shows up in the aggregate miles for the year. I turned 68 this year and I feel no need to lower the mileage totals, despite what many would say. Given the further clarity on training plans I found late in 2021, I’m quite excited about what 2022 will hold. Specifics of 2021 included 18 races of varying distances, including six marathons and four ultramarathons. I never get tired of race day! The camaraderie, the vibe, the competition with oneself and others, the ups and downs of each event...they just never get old. I’m so thankful to be able to still participate. Clearly, the highlight of 2021 was finishing my 100th marathon/ultramarathon. This took place on September 25 in, of all places, Ely Minnesota at the Ely Marathon, made even greater by having two of our sons join me...three Elys, running Ely in Ely. Just amazing. It was a phenomenal experience alongside a major milestone. You can read my race report if you wish.

Onward to 2022. Thanks for reading. Persevere. .

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Race Report - HUFF 50K Trail Race 2021

ORN:   50km, 8:04:51, 15:33/mile, R/W 3/1, 142nd of 157 overall, 5th of 6 Men 60-69

Summary:  The HUFF 50K Trail Race is one of my favorite races of the year.   This was my 11th consecutive start and tenth finish.   Overnight rain and 34F temps made this year’s run a muddy one.   It was hard to run on much of the course but I never tired nor doubted I’d finish.   Nevertheless, this was the slowest of all my HUFFs. 

Gory Details: 

In my blog post about last year’s HUFF, I noted the silly idea I had to sleep in my car near the start line the night before.   Remembering that ill-fated plan, I booked a room in Columbia City and drove up on Friday, December 17, 2021 for the race.   I picked up my bib, had dinner with a fellow runner and slept well.    

Interestingly, the company who did race timing for this year's HUFF used a returnable chip on a Velcro ankle strap, as opposed to the now-more-common disposable chip on the back of the bib.   Think mud on Velcro here...more later on this.

I was up early and scored a good parking spot at 6am of race day.  I enjoyed breakfast and a nap in my car...I like an unrushed approach to race morning whenever possible.   I was pleased to see the number of runners up from what we had a year ago...the 2020 HUFF was one of the very few live races a year ago.

The weather dictates the nature of each HUFF.   This year the theme was “mud”.   While it had been dry for most of the week, it began raining in the area around 6pm on Friday and continued uninterrupted through noon on Saturday.   Overnight, it was often heavy...during the first portion of the race it alternated between a steady rain and a drizzle.   But wet it was.    

Off we went, right on time at 8am.  It appeared 200 or more runners started th 50K.   Another 150 or so would start the single loop race an hour later.   

The first four miles were reasonably runnable.  Once past the first Aid Station at the School House, however, we turned west and ran along the entire north boundary of the park.   Easily 70% of this full 4 mile stretch was gooey.    I slogged along, though, and felt OK.   The Rally Camp Aid Station at Mile 8 was quite understated this year but marked the end of much of the  mud and the start of the hillier portion of the course.   Familiar territory all for me.  It’s hard to describe the beauty of the final 7 miles of the loop.   

Even with the leaves gone, the woods are full of life and scenery as the route criss crosses the long ridge winding through the park around each of the connected lakes.   Photos don’t do it justice and I drank it in.  

Finishing Lap One, I made a few gear changes at my car.   The rain having stopped, I swapped my rain jacket for a windbreaker, swapped one soaked knit hat for a dry one, grabbed a pile of peanut butter filled pretzels and headed back out.   I had contemplated changing into some dry socks too but decided it wouldn’t be worth the time.   That was one good decision on the day.  

I ran Lap Two almost entirely alone, encountering only two other runners in the entire loop.   The rain was no longer falling from the sky but that which had fallen filled up the rivulets draining onto and through the trails.   The 700 or so footfalls which had preceded me by this point had churned the mud into a muck often over the tops of my shoes.   More than a few times I felt my foot begin to come out of my shoe as I moved forward.   I carefully avoided that...retying a shoe over an even-muddier sock while sitting on the soaked ground didn’t seem a good idea.   

As muddy as it was, though, I found the day very pleasant.   Temperatures were flat at 34F / 1C all day, with very little wind in most of the woods.   It was quite comfortable.   It simply wasn’t very runnable.   For much of the course to the Rally Camp Aid station, I just had to walk to avoid falling.   

Experience may also have helped.    During Lap Two, I thought repeatedly of my first running of the HUFF on this course in 2011 and my long blog post on that race.   I anguished over the mud that day....fell once...felt defeated mentally through it all.   It all came back to me.   On this day however, despite similarities in conditions, the mud was simply mud.   The race was simply a race.   I was grateful to be in the woods and doing an ultramarathon.    I truly enjoyed the final 6+ miles on the hillier (and less muddy) portion of the loop and was grateful I could comfortably run a ridiculous distance like 50 kilometres.   

The highlight of the last section of the race was the final aid station, a loud, fun event.  I loaded up on flat amazing elixir found only at ultramarathons.   Man, the sugar and caffeine tasted good over the last couple of miles.     Back to the main road, around the lake, through the Boat Ramp parking lot, up the hill and across the finish line.   One more HUFF in the books.   

I got the muddy gear secured in a bag.  Those Velcro timing chips??  Volunteers at the finish line asked us to pull them off and put them in a bucket.   Oh my...what a sloppy, stinky mess that looked.   Glad I wasn't the one having to clean them to reuse!!   

I didn't rush off, took care rehydrating with chocolate milk and more PB Pretzle Balls.  I ultimately got on the road and slept very well that night.    

I was very pleased with how un-sore I felt in the several days following the race.   The only surprise was a rash on the top of my feet, which I attribute to abrasion from the mud and grit that soaked my shoes and socks for eight hours.  It cleared up fairly quickly, but I've never seen this before.  

Overall, my experience at HUFF served to confirm the choice I made after analyzing the Monumental Marathon in early November and determining I just needed more miles to make this all work.   

Thanks for reading.   


HUFF History

I went back and listed all my times for HUFF...Clearly “Each year the course is the same; each year the race is entirely different; you have to always adjust.”   

2011  7:33:44    High Water year link

2012  6:36:49 link

2013  6:32:01 link

2014  6:19:28 link

2015  5:59:51    Course and 50K PR link

2016  7:23:12 link

2017  DNF...ran one lap only in near blizzard (and didn't write a report)

2018  6:46:46 link

2019  6:25:42   Best running conditions link

2020  7:09:29 link

2021 8:04:51