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.
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.):
- Loop1 is 1.5 miles on the road – mostly as an out-and-back on the entrance road to the Steppingstone Museum;
- 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.
- 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.
- Stretch 1 is 4.25 miles of mostly single track with some minor hills as well as some meadow running.
- 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.
- 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.
- Repeat big loop.
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.
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.