Thursday, September 7, 2017

Race Report: 2017 MD Heat Race 50K - Third Time's A Charm!

This past August, I participated in my third MD Heat Race located in Patapsco Park, just outside of Baltimore. I was hoping to use the confidence gained on the course last year (I took 68 minutes of my previous year's time), as well as a solid block of training to finish top-three and under five hours. Fortunately, despite a rough start, I was able to accomplish both goals, with the added cherry on top of securing my first overall win! Below is a SUPER quick recap!

Quick Stats:
Total Time: 4:51:50
Total Distance: 31 miles (50K)
Place: 1st Place Overall

Shoes:Nike Kiger 3
Shorts: Rabbit Quadzilla
Shirt: RAD Rabbit Technical
Socks: Random Bargain Bin Socks
Nutrition: Tailwind, vFuel, Coke, Water, Ice

Pre-Race, Start, and First Lap
As soon as I woke up, my tummy was already yelling at me. I knew this was a bad sign - I often have stomach issues during ultras, so the fact that this was starting before I left the house wasn't great. Woof. I did my best to settle my stomach and try and hit the bathroom, remain calm, and just hope it would get better. Unfortunately, it zapped my focus and excitement, and I quickly switched my mindset to one of "I just want to get this thing over with."

After one last pit stop, I headed to the open field where the race starts. When the clock hit 7AM, the RD lead us around a field (to thin out the crowd), and then onto the start of the single track, about a quarter of a mile after the start. I did my best to stay up with him so I didn't get stuck behind a conga line, which I was able to do. I broke ahead with another runner, and tried to keep gaining distance in front of the chase pack, while at the same time not moving too fast.

Chasing Nick the RD!
This was OK for a while, but then my stomach was just really making me uncomfortable. Rather than panic, I reminded myself that racing doesn't f-ing matter, and that if I slowed down, I'd feel better, and would still have fun. So, that's what I did for the first 11 or so miles, until I had to make another emergency pit stop. I thought that was either a sign that I was going to be doing that all day, or the last wave of whatever was going on was over. Thankfully, it was the latter - I felt AWESOME after my pit stop, and came into the start/finish at mile 16 with a big smile and excitement to crush the second half!

Second Lap
The pit stop put me in second place, but after about 20 minutes or so of controlled running, I caught back up to 1st, and we ran together for a while. It wasn't a crazy pace, which was fine because I was still on target for a sub-5 finish, and was thinking more about when to strategically make a move. I was doing fairly well overall, but the heat was starting to get to me (not nearly as bad as last year, but still 78-80 with a ton of humidity). Oh, and the miles of rocky, rooty terrain were starting to beat up my legs.

I kept pushing together with the other runner, and eventually he started to fall back a bit. For a few miles I thought he was just a few feet behind me, so I kept pushing, all with a big smile on my face, and a deep, deep desire to be at the finish line! I blew through the final aid station on the way back, and kept focused on keeping a decent pace until the end!

So happy!
It was so exciting to cross as the first finisher, which of course was made even better by the awesome spread of food and wide-selection of beers at the end.

The Course
For anyone considering this race, it's a great, challenging race that is well supported with amazing air and wonderful volunteers. There's about 4K of vert for the 50K, but that's over a lot of technical terrain. I always feel like if this course were just a little smoother, I could run 30-40 minutes faster. There are just too many sections where you're kicking your way through fields of rocks that really slow you down. The same is true for several descents - there's a strong desire to bomb down hills, but you end up being slowed by the technical terrain.

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