2016-07-16 - Catoctin 50k Trail Run

~33.3 miles @ ~16.4 min/mi

http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/Catoctin_50k_2016_zimmermann.jpg"When I fell my chin hit a rock, but fortunately the beard protected it and it wasn't broken - the rock, that is!" Two major stumbles, at miles 21 and 31, punctuate this year's Catoctin 50k trail race. Thankfully damage is limited to minor scrapes and dirt and bruises. As always the course is beautiful, with daunting hills, brutal heat, jagged rocks, and gnarly roots. What's not to love? And after a fifth finish, next year's entry is free. Woot!

Best of all: people met along the way. Paul Sherlock discusses New Zealand, his homeland of kiwis and ferns. ("3 million humans, 30 million sheep!") Trey Williams sets a perfect pace to Hamburg Road where we make a critical cutoff with scant minutes to spare. Faye Weaver gives guidance at tricky trail turns in final miles. Tattooed Tom Mitchell goes off course and adds bonus distance on his last long training trek before a 200 miler at Mt Shasta. Before the start I chase Pokémon and pose for photos with fast Adeline Ntam and ultra-legends Paul Crickard, Tom Green, Gary Knipling, and Race Director Kevin Sayers. Near mile 16 Paul Encarnación and others stop to take care of Judith Weber when she breaks her wrist. Kindness beats competition!

This year's Cat Run is pleasantly peaceful and low-stress despite warm weather. Stepping stones make stream crossings safely passable, and a luxurious mid-course latrine has real toilet paper and running water. Countless cheery volunteers are enthusiastic and encouraging. Hyper-helpful also are ~18 salt capsules, quarts of Gatorade, multiple watermelon slices, and a dozen mini Heath Bars consumed en route.

Extra friskiness and thermal control comes from a new tactic: carry a washcloth and, at every aid station, wrap a big handful of ice inside it - then alternate chewing ice and squeezing cold water onto the old noggin. It helps! (And there's ice to donate for Judith's broken wrist.)

Bottom line: the fellowship of ultrarunning is ultra-inspiring. We're all in this together, not racing against each other. Stephanie Fonda's daughter witnesses it at the finish area, and on the way home asks, "Ima, when can I run my first 50k?"

(cf. GPS trackfile; photo thanks to Jenny Hallberg; prior Cat Run reports at Catoctin 50k 2008, 2009-08-01 - Catoctin 50k Trail Run, 2010-07-31 - Catoctin 42k, 2011-07-30 - Catoctin 50k Trail Run 2011, 2013-07-27 - Catoctin 50k Trail Race 2013, 2014-07-27 - Catoctin 50k Trail Race) - ^z - 2016-08-06