On December 28th, 2013 I completed the Huff 50K trail run in Albion, Indiana. Here is how my adventure went.
A few months back I had a bright idea. Ok, a Corn Fed Spartan friend of mine actually had the bright idea…..he sent me a Facebook event invite to the Huff 50K trail run. (Side note, you ever want me to do something, Facebook invite is the fastest way to get my attention….I’m a sucker for the Facebook event invite.)
I have never run anything longer then a Spartan Beast (about 14 miles). So when I saw it was 31 miles and that friends of mine would be doing it, my reaction was the equivalent of the “Ooooooh…..shiny” response. I’d never done anything like this so I, of course, had to try it. Thus began one of the most absurd undertakings I’ve engaged in, well, ever.
I would love to say that I spent the next month and a half training very hard, but that would be a big fat lie. I ran here and there. Did some strength training. Took bubble baths. It was grueling. Before I knew it, it was December 27th and I had to start getting ready. Sometime during the course of this day, I also decided that I would carry a ruck with a few bricks in it. I packed up all my gear and went to bed early, knowing that my 430am rise and shine time was going to come early.
I arrived at the venue (Chain O’ Lakes Park) about forty five minutes before the published start time. Parking was ample but the directions were a little lacking. There were no signs directing you to where to go after parking, but there were plenty of friendly fellow racers to point you in the right direction.
After a short jump to the start area, you arrived at a wonderfully set up venue. Made up of a HUGE collection of heated tents, there was plenty of waiting room, along with beverages and snacks. Packet pick up had been available the night before so even if you had to pick up day of, it was smooth and efficient. A t-shirt, lunch bag, cool key chain, timer bib, and course map were nicely packaged for you.
Bag check was free and was in the same tent area. You zip tied your claim check (From the bottom of your bib) to your bag and gave it to the volunteer. This is also where you could leave any drop gear or supplies as this tent also served as the half way mark of the race.
The race got started a tad bit later then scheduled, but it was no big deal. The race had several options for completing it, including a relay, a 10K loop and the main show, the 50K. They sent off the relay and the 10K first and then the party started for us 50K’ers.
The course was two loops of a little over 15.5 each loop. It was mostly trail with a few areas where you ran on the road. There were a few minor hills and only one water crossing which was easily crossed over by leaping rocks – no wet feet required.
When we kicked off the race, it was chilly. High 20’s. It warmed up to about 45 degrees during the day. This meant during my first loop the ground was frozen solid and on the second loop it was a muddy mess. Lots of people played slip and slide on the course. Almost all of the course was under the cover of trees.
About every four miles they had the most wonderful aid stations that I have ever experienced. I am talking hamburgers, grilled cheese sandwiches, chocolate turtles, coffee, soda (pop), the list just goes on and on and on. The volunteers manning the station were wonderful. They were so friendly and attentive. These aid stations made the registration fee worth every penny. A runner could have run completely unsupported and probably still have been OK with the help of these stations. I should also note that I took a LOOOOONNNNNGGGG time on this course. I was in the last 15-20 people to finish the course. Even on my second loop, there was plenty of food and supplies.
Now on to my performance. As previously mentioned, for some reason I thought “I am going to carry a bag of bricks on my back.” DUMB!!!! By mile twelve I wanted to curl up on the ground and cry. I went slow. Very very slow. I stuck with friends for some of the time but I was going so slow that I did most of the course by myself. I officially knew I was going slow when I was lapped by the winners of the race. Lap one took me almost four and a half hours.
When I hit the half way point, I left that God forsaken ruck at bag check. Things got much better from there. Without all the weight on my back I moved much faster. I ended up jogging a good part of lap two, stopping only because my back and feet were still groaning from lap one. I was able to catch up with a number of my friends and spent much more time on lap two in the company of other human beings. Yeah! About a mile from the finish I decided that I wanted to finish strong. I tipped my hat to the company I was keeping (in case you are reading this Lacey – that’s is NOT what she said) and took off. The sun was starting it’s descent and it was quiet and peaceful. As I rounded the final quarter mile, I heard some of my already finished team mates cheering me on (which was AWESOME) and I did my aching leg version of a sprint across the finish line.
Volunteers were there cheering and holding out the mana of the finish line – bananas and water. One person gingerly walked up to me with an expression on his face that lead me to believe that I was about to be told that I was disqualified, or worse, had to go run another lap. Turns out it was just to tell me they were out of finishers medals. I think he thought I was going to yell. Little did he know that I really didn’t care at that moment, I was trying my damnedest to not cry…..I could not believe that I had finished. He took my name and address and promised a medal would be shipped to me. He then thanked me for not yelling and congratulated me on finishing. By that time several of my teammates had wandered over and one let me borrow a medal to take the classic finish line photo. The medals are awesome gold belt bucklets. Sooooo sweet!
I hobbled into the finishers tent and ate some delicious soup. I then hobbled back out to cheer on the remaining members of my teams as they crossed the finish line. I vaguely remember hobbling towards my car, being picked up by the Legend Borne team and driven the rest of the way to my car. (Thanks guys!!!). I then drove home, hobbled up the two flights of stairs and passed out on the lazy boy. Yes – in all my race gear. I am gross.
The Huff was amazing. Beautiful course and top notch organization. I would recommend it to ANYONE interested in doing an ultra marathon. I would also recommend that you train more then I did. (You know, like train. Period.) Lesson learned.
What made this race special though were two things: 1) I got to be out there with my friends and team mates (one in the same). I got to meet new people. A loved one that couldn’t be there with me sent encouraging messages during the whole day and without even knowing it kept me from quitting even when I was feeling like a run over squirrel. People are why I race. This race captured this beautifully. 2) I did something I never ever thought I could do. I accomplished something new and different and crazy and it was awesome. The feeling is indescribable and wonderful. I challenged myself and I succeed. It was slow, it was ugly, but it got done.
The Huff will long serve as a reminder that I can do anything I set my mind to. I am going to go ice my feet now.