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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What to Wear ….. Winter Running

Baby, its cold outside!!  And I don’t mean maybe!  Our long run last Saturday was a “feels like” temperature of –11.  Windy.  Cold.  Eyelash freezing kind of day.  And my girls had 14 miles on their schedule.  What to do?  Well, run, of course!! 

Its only Cold if Youre Standing Still

The key to running in the cold is all about having good gear.  And using it.  Don’t worry about looking cute or messing up your hair.  This is a safety thing.  If you go outside to run for hours in below zero temps, you must be smart.  I want you to go back home with all your fingers & toes & WITHOUT frost bite.  And always, if you don’t feel like its safe, then stay home.  It’s all up to your discretion. 

1)  Base Layers are key.  If you want to save money, look for last chance offers or clearance deals but bottom line, buy good base layers.  My favorite & an undeniably one of the best is Under Armour Cold Gear Mock Neck.  Its fitted.  Sits next to your skin & has a soft brushed fabric on the inside.  Its long.  Base layers either need to be tucked into your pants or long enough that they don’t ride up.  This top has a thin band of a rubber like substance around the bottom hem to help it “stick” to your clothes.  No exposed bellies that can get frostbitten!!  $49.99 from the Under Armour website.   Well worth the investment. If you want to save a little come, create a free account thru Ebates & get cash back for shopping online.  I’ve done it for years and its free $$ that not a lot of people know about.  Under Armour is currently giving 6% cash back if you shop thru the ebates site.  Super cool.

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2)  Pants.  Must protect your legs.  If they have a wind block, even better but I’ve had great luck with the Polartec pants from Athleta.  I pretty much only buy pants from Athleta because they offer TALL sizes.  I have the old version of the Polartec tights.  Aby has the newest ones.  Athleta is currently 2% back on ebates & they are having an Extra 20% off sale items with the code:  EXTRA20   Since most of the winter stuff is on sale now, you may be able to grab a pair for cheap, if you can find your size.  Great pants & tights for COLD weather.   I wore just the Polartec tights, without any other pants, last SAT in –11 wind chill & my legs were cold but not frozen.   Love, Love, LOVE them.

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3)  Jacket.  A good jacket that is wind & water resistant is worth its weight in gold.  I have a couple old ones that aren’t being made anymore.  However, I just bought Aby the Saucony Nomad Jacket off the clearance rack at an expo in November.  Her friends then went & found the same one on eBay.  So 3 of them have the same jacket.  It’s a good one, if you can still find it!  Its wind and water proof and she has gotten a lot of use out of it.  This is a bigger ticket item.  Expect to pay over $100 for a new item, from this year’s winter line.  Or shop the clearance rack at expos, the local run store or check out the Last Chance clearance deals at the big name running company online stores:  Saucony, Brooks, Mizuno, Nike.  Brand isn’t important, quality is the goal. 

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4)  Gloves.  Everyone is a bit picky about their gloves so you’ll need to look around and find what you like.  I personally have 4 different pair of Manzella’s.  A few of the Sprint and a couple in the Ultra line.   I have different thickness from barely there to a real lining.  Some people need mittens.  Others need gloves with the mitten flip top.  Figure out what keeps you warm throughout the season.  And if all else fails, don’t be afraid to use a pair of Hot Hands to keep you toasty warm!

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5)  Earband/Headbands, Hats, Neck Gaiters, Balaclavas & Face Masks.  So much stuff, what to wear?  Well, I pretty much own & wear all of these things.  Once the temp dips below 40, I usually wear an ear or “headband”.   This keeps my ears warm when the wind is whipping, even if the temps aren’t real low.  Its lightweight, wicks sweat & stays put.  I have one from Athleta from years gone by.  The girls have a cute one from Under Amour that was on clearance at an expo.  I also use the headband under hats (caps & beanies) to make sure my ears always stay covered.    I usually buy from a sporting good store in the Ski section cuz skiers know cold.   I’ll use a headband & beanie for most winter days. 

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Once the weather breaks into the “unspeakable cold”, you may or may not decide to stay indoors for running.  I still like to go outside.  It makes me feel tough to get out in the cold and put in a  few (or more) miles.  When people are talking about the wind-chill and how cold it is outside, they’ll also be talking about us running outside.  We need to make it back home safely so that they are talking about how crazy we are rather than our stupidity.  This is where the neck gaiter, balaclava & the face mask come into play.  Keep your skin safe!!

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6)  Socks.  Last but certainly not least, we must have good socks.  If its below 30 degrees, I don’t want to see any ankles.  That inch of skin between our tights and “no show” socks is important too.  Move to taller socks in the cold temps.  Some with wool properties that will wick sweat & help keep you dry might be a good idea.  Warm, dry feet are HAPPY feet.  I prefer Smartwool & Injinji socks but once again, this is all about preference.  In the winter I do my cold, snowy runs in my Injinji trail socks that are a midweight mini-crew style.  Keeps my toes toasty warm!  Injinji now has a nuwwol line too that has an Outdoor Midweight Mini Crew in Nuwwol.  I just ordered a couple pair of these since Aby & I share some of these winter run items.  Its hard to keep up on the laundry! image image image

The bottom line is that you CAN run outside all winter long, if you want.  There are very few conditions, short of ice, that you can’t dress for and tolerate.  I understand that its easy to use the excuse that its too cold but let’s be honest, usually that’s just an excuse.  Bundle up.  Keep moving.  And learn to enjoy running in EVERY season, even winter.

I’ll see you on the trail!

** Amanda – TooTallFritz **

15 Miles …. in the Snow

Week 13 of Lansing Marathon training closed out with a 15 miler.  Actually, if we are going to be honest, it should have been 17 miles but I knew I was by no means ready for that so I improvised!  As with all things in life, sometimes its more important to cover your ass improvise than it is to actually follow directions.  The last three weeks have been slow due to Ragnar recovery, the flu and my bum foot.  15 miles was plenty.

As it is, my weekends tend to bear the brunt of any training and life schedule so by the time the weekend hits, I’m trying to make up for whatever I couldn’t fit into the normal work week.  This week was no different, Friday night I hit the treadmill for a short speedier run, then did some core/strengthening work that the doc ordered.  I was also trying to break in a new pair of Brooks Ravenna 3s that showed up on my door step last week.

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Then Saturday was long run day; however, hubby had to work in the morning so the run was broken up into 3 segments.  5 miles on the treadmill while screaming at the kiddos at the designated training pace (9:15ish).  Then hubby arrived home, I dried off and changed clothes to immediately head outside.  I had 5 miles on deck with a buddy, we were close to my training pace of 9:15 but I was starting to die out cuz I apparently wasn’t fueled properly so lagged the last mile.  I returned to my car to refuel only to realize I didn’t have any of my normal fuel, the AdvoCare Rehydrate Gel.  I dug into my bag of tricks to find an alternate fueling option, then took off on my own for the last 5.  By this time, I pretty much felt like crap.  The 5 on the treadmill felt okay but I could tell I was dragging a little cuz it certainly wasn’t as easy as last week, the middle 5 felt tough on the snow covered path.  Not a lot of snow but enough to screw up my already damaged foot strike. 

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And well, let’s just not talk about the last 5 or the fact that the alternate fueling option caused digestive distress which resulted in my having to abandon the trail in search for a bathroom.  By the time I returned to my car, everything hurt including my pride.  However, nothing could take away the fact that I still covered 15 miles, in the dead of winter, when I would have rather been huddled on the couch drinking beer cuddling my babies.

So it may not have been a marathon training win but it was still in the done column.

“Run”Way Fashion for a snowy day with temps in the low 20s:  Athleta Reflective Relay Tights (in Tall), Under Armour Mock compression base layer, Brooks Infiniti Hybrid Windshirt (on sale for $62), regular socks with Brooks Ravenna 3s, lightweight Manzella Sprint Gloves & Athleta Base Miles headband.

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As the temps decrease and the wind picks up, then I add more layers (pants over tights and tech shirts over base layer, possibly tall compression socks, hat in addition to headband)  but this type of gear will get your thru most cold winter runs.  Winter isn’t the time to skimp on good gear. You don’t need a lot, just a few key pieces, then wash them by hand & hang to dry for tomorrow!

Happy running, regardless of the mileage, don’t be afraid to get out and hit the trail even when the conditions aren’t perfect.  Just take it easy so you don’t slip and if its icy instead of snowy, hit the streets or stay inside.  Don’t mess with the ice or you’ll regret it for months.

** Amanda – TooTallFritz **