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.

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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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The Sun On My Face …..

Despite the warm up we had last week, the cold returned to the Midwest before any of us could even get used to any possible spring like conditions.  It was nice while I lasted?  Maybe.  I’m not even sure at this point.  However, I did decide to haul it up and out on Saturday morning to put in some real miles.  On the road.  Away from the safety of my treadmill.  It was  a balmy 20 something and while I wasn’t frozen, I was none to warm either BUT the sun was shining and that was a big win!  It was a glorious day and I was happy to be outdoors and running with the wind some good friends!  It was so much fun that I decided to go take a peak at the trail, hoping that the two spring like days we had last week started a massive thaw cuz I want our trails back!  Some thawing occurred, yes.  But we have a long way to go as you can see below.  That’s hard packed ice.

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I dug in the archives to get a historical perspective of trail conditions around this time over the last couple years.  Same trail, about 3 miles east on March 6, 2013 is pictured below.  That’s a fresh dusting of snow.  Runnable.  Pretty safe.  Beautiful.  I remember last year being on the trails most of the year.  I also remember calling the Village of Frankfort and the OPT committee to ask if we could get a section plowed.  I’ll spare you the details and just let you know that the trail will not be plowed.  Ever.  They are committed to leaving the trail “natural” in whatever state the conditions provide so that it can be used for seasonal activities. Respectable.

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Another section of the same trail, 1.25 miles east of the snowy black & white is pictured below on March 7, 2012.  Now that looks like it was a good winter to run.  Smile

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I know that eventually the snow and ice will melt away on the trails but as for now, I’m dreaming of springtime.  Not running in circles in a subdivision.  Not running every single mile on the treadmill.  Just long stretches of open trail that is clear and dry.  Until then, I’ll just be thankful for the sun on my face and all of those amazing runners who run outside every week,  no matter what.  I even took Aby out to join them on Sunday so that she too could get an outdoor run under her belt in prep for the upcoming track season.  It was only 11 degrees and the sun was hiding so wore our brightest outfit to make sure that traffic could see us at all times.  Hehehehe!

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** Dreaming of Spring ** Amanda – TooTallFritz **

How Bad Do We Want It?

I know all of you have been stalking the weather report trying to figure out when you will squeeze in your weekend long run.  I admit, I too have taken a peak at the weekend forecast.

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What’s even worse is that technology now tells us what the temp is really going to feel like on an hour by hour basis.  So log onto AccuWeather and  take a look for yourself.

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According to this ever so accurate chart, tomorrow mid-morning to early afternoon is the best window.  SOLD!  I’ll take it.

Honestly, that was my only option so I’m not even sure why I looked.  So I’ll be slugging out my miles tomorrow around 11am.  What are you going to do?  As I see it, if you are training for a spring race, there aren’t many options:

  1. Run outside in the elements;
  2. Run inside on the dreadmill;
  3. Run on an indoor track if you have access to one; or,
  4. Skip your long run.

So it comes down to how bad to you want it?  How bad to I want it?  How bad do WE want to get to our spring races and do the best we can possibly do on that given day?  

If Its Important

You have choices.  There is always a choice.  You may not like the options but there are always choices.  I hope that you choose to get outside this weekend and run your miles. 

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I’ll see you on the trail!

** Make It Happen ** Amanda – TooTallFritz **