Some days are just really good days. My day at the 2017 Hell Hath No Hurry (HHNH) 50 Miler was one of those days. There were all the things that you would want out of a good day on the trails for an ultra - a fun runnable course, great people, great organization, perfect weather, and just enough slop (mud) on the course to add a healthy sense of adventure to your run. Throw in a solid day of running where nothing really went wrong, and you can't ask for much more. Final result: 49.25 miles, 6k of gain, 10:29:57, and third place overall.
I came to HHNH in my search for a "training 50" in preparation for my first hundred miler at the North Downs Way 100 in August. My first choices were the Midnight Boogie or the OSS/CIA which would have been 8 weeks out. But alas life got in the way of those plans. As fate would have it, a planned trip up to Pittsburgh to see my in-laws coincided with HHNH.
HHNH is a multi-event trail race put on in Settler's Cabin Park in Pittsburgh, PA. It consists of a 50 mile, 50 mile relay, 50k, 30k, and 10k. Races are staggered throughout the day with the intention of everyone finishing in the same window of time. I was worried that the trails might be too crowded but was pleasantly surprised at how other than some extra mud-prints on the trails, I hardly noticed. The course is a single 10k loop with about 750 feet of gain per loop, and a very well stocked and enthusiastic aid station at about 3 miles. Even on a muddy day the course felt fast for a trail race. The best way to describe the course is that each half of the course consists of about 2.5 miles of downhill and flat running, followed by about a half mile of climbs. The final 200 meters or so is a nice and easy downhill that makes you feel strong and look good as you come across the timing mat to finish your lap.
Race Notes and Comments
- Being that this was an 8 lap race, I took a throwback to my track days and envisoned my run as a 3200m run. The goal was to run as easy as possible for the first 2 laps, hold pace for laps 3 and 4, grind for laps 5-7, and let the barn take me home for the final lap.
- It was weird coming into a 50 miler and it not being an "A" race. My previous 2 50s were at the JFK50 and were goal races. It's more than a little surreal to drop in a 50 mile effort with no taper whatsoever as part of a training block. Using ultra-logic I'm told I can double that distance to run a 100 miler in 6 weeks. We'll see.
- I feel really good about how even my effort was at HHNH. Out of 49+ miles, I'd say I ran 40 miles - and 8 of those other miles were hills. Even though I gave the race a complete effort, I felt like there was another level deep inside me that I could have tapped into if I wanted to dig deep. To be clear, I had no desire to go there this weekend - but there is something invigorating about catching a glimpse of what you might be capable of achieving.
- A big thanks to Kirsten for the great company and conversation on the trail. You were super positive out there. But I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the cold sponge! It was glorious!
- A huge shout out to Meg - the eventual Women's winner (aka the Queen). I would venture to say that Meg and I ran less than a mile together the entire race, yet we were never further than a couple of minutes from each other. I would pull away from her on the flats and she would reel me back in on the descents. It got to the point where I was sure she was just stalking me to blow past me in the final lap. Turns out, keeping me in sight kept her motivated and her lurking behind me kept driving me forward. I enjoyed the competitive rhythm we fell into and appreciate the heck out of your effort. I'm not at all convinced my performance would have been as strong without you pushing me from behind.
- Any well put together ultra doesn't get accolades without the organization and efforts of a great race director and volunteers. The aid station spreads were wonderful, but the energy of everyone supporting the runners mad it an all around great day.