HAVRE DE GRACE Maryland, March 22 2014
The HAT Run or, as it’s known in our house, the 모자 is a very popular 50k race. Entry is capped at 500 and fills up within a few hours. The race is popular for good reason.
The course is beautiful, mostly single track trail but with some road and open, grassy field sections thrown in. There is a fair amount of elevation gain (the website claims almost 10,000 feet, but my watch recorded a paltry half mile or so).
I had been concerned that the trails would be a sloppy mess. There had been several inches of snow just five days earlier, on top of many similar accumulations throughout the winter. Amazingly, though, a few days of bright sun and warm temperatures had dried the trail out beautifully – there was only a very few small muddy patches, and the stream crossings were not more than ankle deep.
As I was receiving my packet from a kind volunteer I saw someone reaching across me to grab some bib-pinning safety pins. This turned out to be the famed zhurnalist Mark Zimmermann, whose site is one of my favorite places to read race reports (and more!). I would see Mark again at the finish, just as I was leaving. I called out “Looking good, Mark!”, and he expressed appreciation for the sentiment although I’m sure he had no clue who I was.
The HAT Run course consists of one small loop of about 3.6 miles followed by two identical longer loops measuring some 13.7 miles each. At the end of the first loop I noticed that we were running directly under the finishing arch. “That’s a little too much of a tease,” I complained to the woman beside me, earning a grin and a nod. In the end we would go under that arch three times, with only the last time counting.
There was an aid station set up in the start/finish area, since we’d be through there three times, but I skipped this the first time through. It was only some four miles to the next AS, and since the weather started out cool I had plenty of water left in my bottle.
There were three aid stations on the big loop, the last one being a couple of simple, unmanned jugs of water. The first two were actually only some 50 feet apart as the crow flies, although separated on the course by some 4.1 miles. The GPS track from my watch shows the pinch in the course in the northernmost area. Both of these aid stations were serving up what instantly became by far my favorite ultra food ever: freshly cooked french fries. They were hot, crisp, salty, and invigorating. I just completely fell in love with those fries.
I got to talking for a while with G. when I noticed that he and I were wearing the same model shoe – the Altra Olympus. G. will be running his second MMT this year, and I tried to pick his brain a little in support of my own first attempt on it. He warned me that there were very few runnable sections, but then he went on to say that he probably ran about 50% of the course. He also told me that he was planning to run 45 miles around his native Philly the day after the 31 miles of the HAT. Up until that point I’d been pleased with myself for planning a half marathon as a HAT follow-up; now I started to doubt whether I had anywhere near the training needed to achieve an MMT finish.
G. got up ahead of me for a while, and with about four miles left to go I found myself running alone for some time. I eventually caught up to S., a guy with a French-sounding accent who I later learned had finished shortly behind me at last year’s BRR. We ran together for a couple miles, eventually falling in at the end of a conga line of some 5 or 6 runners muddling their way up a hill. We stayed with that line for a little while, hiking a few ups and running a few flats, but it was moving just a little slow for my taste. I finally took an opportunity to zip around to the left as we went up yet another hill, noting with some surprise that G. was one of the conga line constituents.
I picked off a few more runners as the trail opened up into a sunny, grassy field. Then came a screaming, paved downhill where I really opened up the pace, moving up another place or two.
Then a little more single track before the course opened up and headed out through fields and road to the finish. Third time though the arch was the charm, and I finished in 6:38:45. I was pretty close to finishing in the top half of the results; I was in the top half if you include DNFs.
As long as they keep serving those french fries this will be a hard race for me to skip.
Miles this race: 31
Miles raced this year: 79.6