The Huff 50K Trail Run …. 2017 Edition

Saturday was the annual Huff 50K Trail Run.  Huff is known for bringing something new and unique each year.  The 2012 race brought epic flooding.  2016 brought 6 inches of fresh powder to the start and then added freezing rain atop the snow (and us) for the entirety of the race.  2017 will go down in history as one of the coldest years on record.  Temps at the start were below zero with wind chills, then plummeted further thru the day for an average of –13 to –15 “feels like” during the bulk of the race.  It was a long day for those who were able to finish and there was a large number of runners who had to drop out, or were not allowed to continue after the completion of the first loop, due to weather related concerns.

Huff logo

The Huff 50K offers a 1 loop “fun run” of approximately 11 miles, a 3 person 50K relay & a 50K trail run.  I’ve ran, and managed to complete, the 50K every year since 2013.  I’ve had good years & bad years.  Ones that were tough because I wasn’t up to par physically.  Ones that were brutal due to weather like 2016 & 2017.  I love this race and will continue to run it as long as I am able.  It’s a great way to end my racing season each year.  Its close to home.  And  love that we can pick up our packets the morning of the race!  Win, win, win!

This year, due to the cold temps, I left my phone in my check bag.  My iPhone has a very short battery life & the cold kills it almost instantly.  None of the photos you see in this post are mine.  Thanks to Tadd B, Stacey H & Sara P for sharing their photos so I could add something visual to this write-up!.

Pre-race with Tadd B & Pat H.  I’m the one in bright orange. 

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The race started at 8am for the 1 loop runners.  At 8:20 for the 50K runners.  The course is different for each race.  For the 50K race, there are 3 aid stations on each loop.  Located at miles 4, 8 & 14.  Then the warming tent at the start/finish which is also the half way point of the 50K can be used as an aid station.  Other than the aid stations, there are only a few road crossings.  This is not a race that you can cut short in very many places if an injury, illness or other issues result.  I heard some criticism from some who were not allowed to go out for a second loop of the 50K due to time & weather issues.  I can say from a safety standpoint, it was imperative to have runners off the trail by dark.  Then if we add in the weather concerns, the second loop of the 50K was cold. Really cold.  Plus the trails were drifting from the blowing wind & snow.  It was a bit of a challenge.   I had to have my face covered almost the entirety of that loop to avoid frostbite. Our bodies were burning extra energy to try to keep warm, in addition to the running, so fueling was a huge issue.  And the volunteers at the aid stations were FREEZING trying to support us.  More respect needs to be given to the race officials and volunteers for these races.  Nobody wants to cancel or shorten a race.  Its bad publicity, especially in this age of social media.  However, they are liable for each and every runner.  They have to do what they think is best for everyone, runners & volunteers included.

We had about 3” of snow on the ground.  Flurries during the race. Roads were iced over with a little snow on top.  It was a much better situation running wise than the deeper snow and freezing rain of 2016.  However, it was still a tough race.  Tough but beautiful.IMG_5751

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Lots of hills.  Lots of slipping and sliding.  Running for most of us was slow going.  I was amazed by the varying degrees of dress.  I was focused on keeping my face covered to avoid frost bite, yet there were people running in shorts, or less.  The conditions were dangerous.  I wouldn’t recommend running with exposed skin when the temps are below zero. 

Sara & I in the pines on loop 1.  One of my favorite areas. 

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Pure joy as we cross the half way mat (after I stopped to put on my yaktrax). 

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And then the wind hit us.  Cold.  Strong.  Blowing us around.  Trying to cover the tracks of those before us.  Time to put our heads down and just run.  The yaktrax were a welcome addition to loop 2.  They helped A LOT in the areas that were packed down and in the slippery areas.  I wish I had worn them for the first loop but thought the snow was probably too deep for them to do much good.  I’ll definitely wear them for all snowy trail runs going forward.  My footing was a lot better after I put them on. 

The wind made the temperature drop further but I was warm.  My clothing was perfect:  Athleta Polartec tights, Injinji over the calf compression socks, thin Under Armour Long Sleeve Infrared tech shirt, Nike Pro Hyper Warm Fleece Lined 1/2 Zip, Saucony Vita Run Vizipro jacket, ear band, hat, balaclava, lined gloves with a an extra pair of throw away gloves that had hand warmers inside.  I used the throw away gloves with hand warmers at the start for a several miles, then again on loop 2 after a lengthy stop at an aid station.  Only difference between loop 1 & loop 2 was that I had to keep my face covered the majority of the second loop due to the added wind. 

Best Aid Station Ever at Dock Lake.  Team Tritanium ran the aid station again with the Huff Couch.  Two fires were burning.  Smores, gluten free chicken noodle soup, homemade sweet bread, plus the usual ultra fare. 

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But really the best part is always the finish.  My 5th Huff 50K is in the done column.  I hope to be back for #6 in 2018.  See the finishers medal and cool handmade soup mug below.  Lots of fun. 

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Finisher stats:  50K – 118 Finishers, 57 DNFs; 1 Loop Fun Run:  139 Finishers, 5 DNFs.  Relay – 24 Finishing teams, 5  DNFs, 3 DQs. 

As always, a great race.  If you are going to run in the winter, I’d recommend layering up and minimizing exposed skin.  There will always be people running with very little on but honestly, that’s just not safe. Be smart & enjoy the beauty of the season.  Running is a great way to get out and enjoy the winter months and keep those Winter Blues away!

** Happy Running ** Amanda – TooTallFritz

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6 thoughts on “The Huff 50K Trail Run …. 2017 Edition

  1. Congrats! I was whining about my 4 mile run that morning and you inspired me to suck it up and go.

    I didn’t realize there was a one loop option! I would totally be all over that. I”ll have to consider it for next year.

  2. Kudos to you…one tough runnah you be can endure 50k race distance/duration in that kind of winter! I know I don’t fare well in cold..especially after 2-hrs….so I know it would be insane for me to even consider that Huff 50k and would have to do it earlier in fall or later in early spring. Yes…glad you recognize should have used the Yak-Trax right from the get go. And yes…not clear to me why some try to go with the “bad-ass-look” in shorts and one dude look like no or minimally a tank top shirt….that’s insane in those conditions. If I were a race official…wouldn’t let anyone out there in that kind of gear…period…no matter how good they be or how tough they think they are and even if they were only doing the 11-mi single loop. No way….to dangerous in those Wx conditions and noting the aid stations and places to get help…sparingly spaced! If I were a race official for that race….I would have made sure their were aid “rovers” monitoring the loop course constantly…maybe on an ATV…snowmobile…or something that should someone get in trouble from cold…they could get them back to aid or to nearest crossroad and picked up by para-medics or race officials in vehicles with the training to handle hypothermia and frostbite and be able to transport to nearest hospital. But…I am not one in charge of that race….so if minimally they were pulling out runners from continuing based on clock time and Wx conditions and how participant looked/responded to questioning….then by all means that is the protocol to use and it needs to be respected. Loss of life pursuing something…yes maybe supposed to be fun…and yes the distance/duration always a challenge…but no one should become a casualty due to severe Wx conditions. Remain impressed with your capacity to endure and finish these tough trail races. But I never concerned about you…even in severe conditions….cause I know you have the skill and knowledge base to do it correctly relative to the conditions….or know where the drop-out points and take whatever appropriate actions to stay safe. Again…Kudos to ya!

    • I run outdoors year round. The only thing that keeps me inside is ice and blizzard like conditions when the snow plows are out & visibility is low. Safety is a priority. Most of my runs are above zero, but each year is we have a number of runs subzero. Dressing appropriately is key.

      Sent from my iPhone

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