Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The HAT Debacle

On Saturday morning, I drove down to Havre De Grace, MD for the 23rd? running of the Hinte-Anderson Trail (HAT) 50K.  I entered this race as training buildup for a tough summer of racing ahead and I learned alot from the experience.  As I mentioned in my last post, the HAT run was not a focus race for me, however, I wanted to run well there and compete no matter what the competition turned out to be. 

Before each race, I do my research of the starting field to determine what the competition may be like.  However, I did very little research on this one.  I did know a few names that were entered and some that miraculously entered about a week prior to the race.  Alex Barth is always a strong contender in any race that he runs and my early focus was on him.  He has run the course about 3 times and won it twice before.  My initial race strategy was to run with Alex and try make a move sometime during the race.  Knowing he's a better trail runner/hill runner than myself, I knew this would have to happen on some of the flatter sections.  Unfortunately, a new name popped onto the list, in the form of Gabriel Rodriquez.  Mr. Rodriquez ran a very respectable CR time at Blues Cruise in October, which was a race that I had used as a training run leading up to Tussey Mountainback.  Unfortunately, I succumbed to injury the week before Tussey and had to take a deferral until 2012.  Anyway, my race strategy had now changed and I decided to go out faster than I otherwise normally would on such a hill inundated course.  Disaster!!

Every once in a while.....I have to run "outside" yourself to test your fitness.  You have to push yourself beyond what is comfortable.  This is what I tried on Saturday.  The HAT run starts with a relatively flat 2 miles.  I ran a pace which has usually been a pretty easy marathon pace in the past.  I went out with a modest 6:29 mile followed with a 6:31.  The next little starter loop proved to me that the rest of the race would be difficult.  After entering the woods, the course takes you through a series of twists and turns, rises and falls.  Rocks and roots litter the course and make for some technical challenges.  Being that I am not the most experienced trail runner, I fell off the pace into 4th behind Rodriquez in 1st with Barth and Dixon running about 1 minute back.  At most I fell about 200 meters behind going through 5 miles in 36:30 (~500ft elevation gain).  Coming out of the woods, I successfully closed the gap back to Alex and Mike.  We ran together over the next couple miles hitting mile 10 just under 1:15 (~1000ft e.g.) until hitting the pavement around mile 12.  At this point Dixon starting making a break for it chasing down Rodriquez.  My guess isthat he started hitting 6:00min/mile or under while I kept a 6:40 pace until nature "called".  Barth pulled ahead, but was still in sight.  I progressed comfortably to the aid station refilling my water bottle.  The next few miles include a couple of difficult climbs which will be difficult on the second loop.  After making my way back to the start/finish, Barth was no longer in sight.  I stopped at the pavillion to refuel with my old man fuel of choice (Ensure Milk Chocalate Shake) and grab another water bottle with Endurox (orange).  17.4 miles was passed in 2:10 still under 7:30 pace.  As  I started the next loop, nature started calling again.  Long story short around mile 22, I hit the wall and lost any mental capacity for finishing the race.  Coming around to the aid station at mile 25, I decided to call it quits.

As it turns out, Mike Dixon broke the previous mark by 14 minutes, blazing through the course in what must have been a negatively split race.  Alex came home in 2nd a good 22 minutes behind with 3rd place another 10 minutes back.  Derek Schultz surprised with a 4:16 and Matt Wilson, my training partner, ran a good race finishing in 4:23, not bad for a 49 year old.

I look forward to running the course in the future using a differenct race strategy.  I learned alot about my training from this race, past, present and future.  The past is the past and I can't always compare things to what I used to be able to do on the road.  I need to run in the present and take into account current fitness.  For the future, I decided to drop the races in April, namely Trail Runners Dont Run Boston 50K and the Boston Marathon.  As mentioned previously, the Ice Age Trail 50 Miler is my early goal race.  I have 2 months to get in shape...luckily I still have the legs to do it.

The day after HAT, Matt and I headed out for a nice easy 11.5 miles with Terry Kelly on the completely flat Betzwood trail, running between 7:30-7:40 pace.  Legs felt great and now the real training begins.

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