The 4th annual Hump Day Race takes you through the very scenic White Clay State Park and includes densely packed trails, a plethora of creeks, steep hills and wildlife. The course meanders through PA, MD and DE. It is a 50 K ++ event, which means that the run is a bit longer than 50 K. The race director says it is more like 33 miles. Of course, 33 miles if you do not get lost. I suspect all of the roughly 30 runners got lost at some point due to the challenging nature of the course.
This was my first run exceeding 26.2 miles. My intention was to treat it as a training run and help me work on pacing by running more relaxed in the early and middle stages of the event. Other than my last marathon, I have demonstrated that I have real problems with pacing. I tend to go out to hard and have little left in the tank by the middle and end of the race. For this race, I wanted to run with even effort up until the last few miles. I fully intended to be depleted of energy by the end of the race. Otherwise, it would indicate that I did not give it my best effort!
My training has been very spotty since my last marathon on March 26th. I have been battling shin splints, a neuroma and lower back pain (whine whine whine). My weekly mileage since the last race has been 10-40 MPW, a reduction by almost 70 % from pre-marathon training. My longest post marathon run has only been run has 13.1 miles. I did not taper, carbo load or adequately address my injuries. Despite all this, I felt confident that I was well prepared. (Teheehehhee).
So, in a nutshell, my goals were to;
- Finish exhausted
- Race 95 % of the race in a non-exhausted state
- No new injuries
Time did not matter as long as I got in before dusk and I came back mentally and physically drained. It has been a long time since I felt this way after a race and I was looking forward to it.
As with other TrailDawg events that I have participated in, the race was extremely well organized. We all received turn by turn maps of the course and the trails were marked reasonably well. This was a race where you get far more than you pay for. The cost is $0.00 (although you are encouraged to pitch in by volunteering your time or making a donation of food and/or money).
About 30 folks started at about 7:15 for a 7:00 start. It was a very warm day with temperatures starting at 73 F and rising to 85 F during the race. There was ample tree cover during the race which really helped minimize the effects of the sun.
Mile 1 to 8.
This was the easy part of the course and did not exhibit many steep climbs, trees to swing from or walls to scale. During these miles, there were three packs, a faster pack (5 people), a medium pack (7 people) and a slower pack which included the remaining runners. I was in the middle pack at this point. None of us knew the course well as indicated by a couple of wrong turns we had made. At one point we all stopped to look at the map to try and figure out where we had gone wrong. At this point we saw the lead pack come up from behind us looking rather perplexed to see us. I guess they were lost too because none of us remembered passing them. About 1 minute after that, the slower pack came up from behind us. All had large grins on their faces. I guess they knew we were lost. Fortunately, the slower pack knew the course very well in that area and helped the other two packs along. For about two miles, the entire field of participants ran together. It was actually the first time I have ever seen that happen and it was kind of neat.
Mile 8 to 13
The groups began to separate at during these miles. I stayed with my group as we were very well navigated by the lone female in our group. It seemed as though whenever one of us men took the lead, we would inevitably take a wrong turn. All of us seemed a bit too proud to ask for directions. Hmmmm.
Mile 13 to 23
During these miles, the group asked me to separate because of my constant whining. "My foot hurts, I need water, this course is hard, I have a headache, deep sighs" all were in my whining arsenal. So I took off ahead and was joined by one other person who had something in common. We were both running with neuromas, and the 10 miles of running together allowed us to recount our experiences. It was a real whinefest in clear violation of the race policy, "No Fee, No Frills, No Wimps, No Whining!"
Mile 23 to 27
The whining continued after the mile 23 aid station, where I filled up with Gatorade, fig newtons, chocolate chip cookies and trail mix. At this point, my running buddy could no longer take the whining anymore. He had pulled away from me at this point and did not look back. I believe he really must have had enough because the course was new to him and he was not much for reading maps. I think he kept me around as long as he did because I kept a watchful eye for the trail marks. But, my whining had defeated him and he pulled away.We would not see each other again until the finish.
I actually felt very strong at this point. I had passed 2 of the leaders in these miles and was hardly winded. I took the hills slowly and conserved energy on the downhills. If I was not climbing walls, trudging through thick brush, climbing over downed maple trees, crossing creeks or swinging from Tarzan limbs, I was running. The whole thing! It felt great. At the mile 27 marker, I finally looked down at my watch. It read 04:38. I was shocked at how quickly time was flying. I must have really been having fun.
Mile 27 to 30
I met up with one of the leaders who I had passed a few miles back. He was a hard core ultra runner who also seemed to be a bit more fresh than I was at this point. He looked like he could do the course again w/o any problems. We ran together for about a mile until he could not take my company anymore. He lost me in the most challenging portion of the course. From mile 27-30, the terrain was extremely difficult (tactically) for me. There were many trees to climb over and tall grasses to run though. It seemed like I was running in the middle of a steep cliff for a while. It really would have helped if one of my legs was longer than the other. When the ground began to flatten, it took my legs a bit of time to get used to running on flat terrain. I felt bo-legged. Perhaps this is how West Virginians feel when leaving the state for a while.
The course then required you to cross a highway, although it took me some time to figure that out. I did not remember that from the course map and was spent time looking for a trail that never was there. I found myself stopping in some tall marshy grass which immediately caused my shins to burn. It felt like there were a million tiny little insects chomping on my shins. The irritating feeling lasted for another 12 hours. I am not sure what it was, but my legs are all red. No more pain though.
Mile 30 : Finish
All the intermittent walking in the last few miles allowed me to rest up a bit for the remaining part of the course. I did not want to walk any of those difficult miles, but the terrain required it. I wanted to finish strong, especially since I still had something left in the tank. The last few miles were likely stronger than my first few and I felt good about that. Finally, I crossed the finish line which consisted of two orange ones spread about 6 feet apart with a chalk line between them. I was done. Put a fork in me.
Post Race :
I met up with the two guys who I ran parts of the last half of the race and we shared some stories together over a tasty burger. I think I was the only one who ate the burger though. My final time was just over 6:12, but it did not matter. I cannot recall the last time I had that much fun running and whining. I also feel pretty darn good one day later. I managed to finish without any additional injuries while running the entire runnable course. Great day, great feeling!
I stayed for about 30 minutes and then had to drive upstate to PA for a family function. I would have liked to stay longer to share stories with the other folks finishing. Welp, next time! There will definitely be one for me.
Thanks for reading and sorry about the stream of conscious nature of the report. I am trying to fit this in today so that I can enjoy the beautiful weather here in PA.
PS : bimp promised to bring me some cheese and crackers. He showed up and volunteered at a few of the aid stations, but did not provide any crackers or cheese. He has no credibility with me anymore. It is a shame because they would have went well with my whine. That would have made everything perfect. Or perhaps, I should leave my whine at home next time. I suspect I will try that.