HAT Run 50k Race Report – 2008

For many D.C. area residents the annual blossoming of the cherry trees signals the start of spring. For other locals, opening day of the baseball season has marked spring’s return since the Washington Nationals came to town. For me, it’s not spring until there’s bloodroot, bluebells, and the HAT Run 50k.

The start of the 2008 HAT Run 50k – I’m in the yellow shirt.
(photo by Jeff Hinte … I think)

You see, for each of the previous five years, I’ve run the Hinte-Anderson Trail Run – more commonly known as the HAT Run or simply HAT. During those five years there have been hot years and cold years, dry years and sickly muddy years, but throughout that time the course has stayed almost exactly the same. During that period, runners would head out for a warm up mile on the pavement before embarking on two laps of a 15 mile loop. This year, the course underwent significant changes. The course now consists of the following four loops, each of which brings you back to the finish line (For the record, the start is in a field 100 meters from the finish.):

  1. Loop1 is 1.5 miles on the road – mostly as an out-and-back on the entrance road to the Steppingstone Museum;
  2. Loop 2 is 2.1 miles on the trail and then road. After running the first mile or so of single track on the “big loop” (see below) you climb a big hill rather than cross Rock Run, as you do later in the race. After maybe a quarter mile of trail that’s not run during other stages of the race, you join up with end of the big loop for just under a mile.
  3. Loop 3 is 13 to 13.5 miles primarily on single track with about 2 miles total of road running. I break each “big loop” up into the stretches between aid stations, which range from 4-5 miles apart.
    1. Stretch 1 is 4.25 miles of mostly single track with some minor hills as well as some meadow running.
    2. Stretch 2 is only 4.1 miles that includes most of the road running in the race, including a tour of the campgrounds followed by a long downhill and flat road stretch into the next aid station.
    3. Stretch 3 (~5 miles) begins with what is both my favorite and most reviled stretch of the course – the roller coaster. It’s beautiful packed dirt single track up and down and around the palisades along the south side of the Susquehanna River. Sweet. After the roller coaster, you pop up into some meadows before a short road section that takes you back onto some single track. Shortly after hitting the single track you join back up with the trail that you ran on Loop 2 before arriving back to the finish pavilion via the road.
  4. Repeat big loop.
2008 HAT Run elevation profile
(click chart to enlarge)

For once, I’ll save y’all from a blow-by-blow of the race. Here’s the summary:

  • Loop 1 was fun – got to chat with some old friends
  • Enjoyed some nice conga line running in Loop 2 after warming up (It was chilly at the start)
  • Loop 3, Section 1. Wee… trail running is fun. Bloodroot is pretty. It’s a beautiful day to be alive.
  • Loop 3, Section 2. I hate trail running. Stupid flowers. Where’s a bridge or tall building when you need one?
  • Loop 3, Section 3. Take magic bullet (400 mg ibuprofen/caffeine) – will it work? Everyone, their moms, and the kitchen sink pass me…. as…. I…. walk…. slowly…. onward.
  • Loop 4, Section 1. Wee… trail running is fun! Where is the bloodroot again? Blah, blah, blah. Words, words, words.
  • Loop 4, Section 2. Go, go, gadget rocket pack.
  • Loop 4, Section 3. I say hello to your mom and the kitchen sink as I pass them back. I takes six fewer minutes on this section than last lap.

If the bullet points don’t paint a clear enough picture, my heart rate data tells the tale. My HR fell drastically around mile 10 and stayed down through mile 17. It was back up for the final loop, which I ran 2 or 3 minutes faster than the first time around.

My 2008 HAT Run heart rate profile
(click chart to enlarge)

Notes from the course:

  • The bluebells were out, but not yet in bloom.
  • This was by far my slowest HAT (4:42:43) and was also my worst placing (T-15).
  • Pharmaceuticals in the DC drinking water – not a threat
  • My Garmin registered me as not moving for only 4 seconds the entire run.
  • Arts and Crafts style furniture played out or not? Discuss.
  • The new course adds 1-1.5 miles, 200′ of climb, and (for the leaders) 15 minutes to course. Go figure.

Any one else who ran this year’s HAT want to share how it went? What they thought of the new course? I, for one, like the new course even better than the old course… and that’s saying something because the old course brought me back to the starting line 5 times.

Bloodroot (sanguinaria canadensis L)
Jennifer Anderson @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database

There are 8 comments

  1. KC

    Congrats on your race. I only ran one loop last year for my first HAT outing, but this year's course seemed harder to me. It really didn't seem that different from last year hill-wise, but it was a hard-won finish for me. I will definitely be back next year, they do such a great job. The new road section was a surprise and even though it was all downhill and fun, it killed my quads. I also liked that you only had a short way to the pavilion once you hit the un-manned aide station, I believe the former course had you running another ~3 miles (Phil's Forest) before you're back at the start/finish. And I agree with you, the best part (worst??) is the rollercoaster section after the aide station. So pretty. I was cursing those water bars though.

  2. AnthonyP

    Great job and, of course, great write-up. The elevation profile looks like one of my EKGs when I run. Great to see you are having a blast out there.

  3. Bedrock

    Good job and as usual a great write up. Just curious as to what software you use to plot your data. I recently got a Polar heart rate monitor with a GPS but have yet to figure out how to plot data. Then again I am a bit of a techno moron. See you at MMT.Bedford

  4. Ed Hanna

    This was my first and HAT and first ultra. I had a great time. I beat my predicted time of 5:30 by a whopping 3 minutes. I accidentally spent 25 minutes at the aid stations. I need to learn to contain mt excitement at all the food. Can't wait for next year. Now, I need to find some more of these things.Excellent write-up.Peace

  5. jayavitable

    Nice report. This was my first HAT, 3rd 50K (Promise Land & Holiday Lake in 2006). I ran with friends from CT who ran HAT last year, and 2 ultra-virgins. I was a late entry, undertrained and injured, and was VERY happy to get in under 5 hours (4:56). All in my group got the job done, and all proclaimed it an excellent race. The veterans of my group pitched the race to the rest of us as a "pleasant 50K", assumedly to avoid scaring us. Of course, it was "pleasant", but it wasn't "easy". 10K feet of gain is not easy. I will say that the weather was perfect, footing was ideal, and the support was excellent (although I apparently missed 2 aid stations). An all around great day.PS: Somehow, the promise of french fries at the last aid station turned out better in theory than in practice, but they were a GREAT motivator to get there.

  6. Trail Goat

    KC,I agree with the new course being harder in addition to being longer. Sometimes a change in the layout of a course can can have a major effect on time even if the elevation change is relatively unaffected. It can just mess with the "flow." Elsewhere Jesse Leitner pointed out that even if the same streams were crossed at the same places as last year, they were slower to cross due to deadwood. Good riddance to Phil's Woods! They were a beast AND you could tell you were trampling some pretty pristine wetland habitat at times. Those water bars ARE a killer… especially where you climb after stream and road crossing before descending back to an old building and the road. Ugh!Tony, You need to come run HAT one of these years! It's not too far and it is a perfect spring race. A little walking, a couple hills, only 50k. Come on down!Bedford, Have you been talking with Mason?! ;-) I'm a Garmin guy, not a polar guy (unless someone convinces me otherwise). The pretty graphs you see are from Motionbased.com to which I upload my GPS/HR data for free. Ed, Congrats on finishing your first ultra and with a solid time at that! Over time you will learn to carry less gear and spend less time at aid stations. On Saturday, I carried one handheld bottle with gels in the handheld strap's pouch. Other than that all I had was a baggies with S caps, caffeine, and ibuprofen in my back pocket. I also didn't stop at any aid stations except to pick up a bottle twice at the start/finish area. There are plenty of ultras out there. I'd be happy to suggest others or point you in the direction of resources if I knew a little more about what you are looking to run.Jay,Glad you had a "pleasant" time at HAT. ;-) As far as trail 50ks go, it doesn't get much easier. HAT is without a doubt easier than Promised Land (much hillier) or Holiday Lake (much more runnable and much longer). Also, the 10k of gain number people were handing out is bunk. GPS data from various sources put the gain right around 5,000'.. which would give 10,000' of "elevation CHANGE." If Horton pegs Promised Land at around 8,000' of elevation gain, ask yourself whether HAT felt closer to 2,000' more gain or less gain than PL. :-)In my 6 runnings of HAT, I've never seen better trail and weather conditions. I agree that the one improvement that could be made in course marking is to the first aid station in the big loop. Am I correct that this is where you missed the aid station? I had no clue whether I had to go down to the tables or I could keep going through to the right.Everyone, thanks for sharing your thoughts on the 2008 HAT Run… keep 'am coming!

  7. Bedrock

    Yep, Mason helped sell me on the Polar but I really do like it. Looks like motionbased is only for Garmin products. Oh well, the search continues. See you soon and congrats on HAT.

  8. Jesse

    Yeah, I think I liked the new course a little bitbetter, but I hardly noticed the differencein difficulty until late in the race. No doubtthat aside from the failrly consistent 5k elevation gain measurements made by severalGPS receivers, as you said, there's no way theelevation gain even comes close to PromiseLand and, in fact, 10k of gain would be morethan Mountain Masochist – we know that ain'tthe case! Nonetheless, it's still a great race andone of the best deals of shwag you'd find anywhere!

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