2016-08-27 - Maryland HEAT 50k

~32.2 miles @ ~18.2 min/mi

http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/MD_HEAT_50k_2016_0.jpg"DFL!" The honor of finishing Dead, uh, Last at the the Maryland H.E.A.T. = "High Endurance Adventure Test" 50k trail run is mine: 54th place of 54 finishers, in 9 hours 44 minutes. (Two 50 km runners drop out; 21 declare victory with 25k after one lap.) Best of all: I win my age group! Can you guess how many finishers were over 60 years old?

It's a great day for a trek in the woods, across streams, over boulders, and up hillsides, solo and with new friends. Near Baltimore in the Patapsco Valley State Park the H.E.A.T. race meanders along trails in the Avalon/Glen Artney/Orange Grove Area. At 0535 comrade Matt Bevan and I salute Race Director Nick Yeates and set off to check course markings before the official event begins at 7am. Matt carries a big roll of pink ribbon; I bear bright orange plastic plates and paper signs decorated with big black arrows. Orion and a last quarter Moon stand high in the sky. The grass is heavy with dew, relative humidity ~90%. Temperatures start in the 70s and rise to the low 90s as the sun rises. A startled frog hops off the path in front of us. A deer stares at us from the brush. Owls call and freight train whistles blow.
Matt knows the course well and leads the way, wielding a tree branch to brush away cobwebs. Course markings are quite good, with minimal need for additional ribbons and none for supplemental signage. The Gun Road bridge takes us over the Patapsco, and then the Grist Mill path leads us to the Vineyard Spring Trail, uphill to a four-way crossing where the course loops around segments of the Soapstone Trail, Bull Run Trail, and Bike Jumper Trail. Back at the crossroads we follow Santee Branch Trail for a couple of miles, past the ballfield where Aid Station #1 will be set up later this morning. The Charcoal Trail and then Sawmill Branch Trail takes us down steeply back to near the river. A scary scramble over big boulders then leads to the most technical climb of the course, up Buzzards Rock Trail. Thick trees block most of the view from the scenic overlook this time of year. Matt discusses the evolutionary biology of omnivorism, running speeds of various species, effects of aging on training and heat tolerance, the benefits of racewalking, and a flock of other fun technical topics.http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/MD_HEAT_50k_2016_1.jpg
http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/MD_HEAT_50k_2016_2.jpgThen the oddly-named Drugs Trail takes us back to the train tracks. Fast runners begin to pass by, dancing down the rocks. After a super-steep dirt chute we reach the paved Grist Mill hiker-biker path and thence a swaying pedestrian suspension bridge over the Patapsco. Aid Station #2 is ready here at mile 8. Matt and I refuel, thank the volunteers, and begin a series of climbs with switchbacks. The Cascade Falls Trail brings us past a nice little waterfall and then to the Ridge Trail, which eventually rises again via the Morning Choice Trail and Belmont Trail to Aid Station #3. Trails on private land outside the park boundaries, with traffic noise from I-95 highway as accompaniment, take us to the Rockburn Trail and the river once more. Now "The Wall" looms. But recent flooding has cut its height in half on the upstream side, where silt is piled six feet deep. A scramble up, a traverse, a crawl down, and a few hundred yards later we're back where we began five hours ago. Hooray! Matt's odyssey is done for the day.

I turn in surplus signs, visit the clean latrine (running water, yay!), and start loop #2. In daylight, everything looks different. After a pause to post progress on Facebook and snap selfies at the tunnel under the B&O Railroad's "Old Main Line" (OML) it's time to climb. Here for the first time I meet Kerry Shepherd, a cheerful-lovely lady from Frederick Maryland. She races ahead, I catch up and pass her, she takes the lead again, and for a while we lose sight of each other. A ham radio operator, tracking contestants at the four way intersection, asks for my bib number. "N6WX!" I tell him. It's my Amateur Radio callsign.
Aid Station #1 is closing down now, with all of the 25k club and most of the 50k gang long gone. Kerry and I pick our way over rocks along the stream at mile 22; I lead up Buzzards Rock. After a slippery-steep descent I pause for more selfies by the train tracks at the historic Ilchester Tunnel, described in [1]. More photos at the swinging suspension bridge, more fuel at mile 24 Aid Station #2. Kerry slows a bit now and accepts my offer of a mocha-caffeine energy gel. We play leap-frog in slo-mo as we ascend. Then Kerry's friends David Miller and Rachel Ridgeway join us. Fun conversation follows: we've done many of the same races together, and these folks all know the Catoctin Trail well. We concur that the H.E.A.T. course is perhaps half an hour easier than the Catoctin 50k and significantly harder than Rosaryville, but the three races are all equally charming and well-managed. David did the Cat Run this year and finished ~15 minutes ahead of me, slowed significantly by hot conditions. Today Rachel enjoyed the first 25k of H.E.A.T., took a break, then jogged a few miles upstream on the River Road to join David and Kerry and run the final 8 miles with them. "So you're doing a 40k!" I tell her.http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/MD_HEAT_50k_2016_3.jpg
http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/MD_HEAT_50k_2016_4.jpgAt Aid Station #3 who should greet me but Lucas Moten, buddy from Janet Choi's "Ran It With Janet 50k"? After posing for photos with "Wilson", a soccer ball painted like the famous character in the film "Castaway", and recovering with fresh food and drink, it's time: Excelsior! Friendly Karin Smith of Baltimore chats and runs with me; she claims DFL among 25k-ers. At "The Wall" I find a shorter route over and trot ahead to finish. A happy fist-bump from official timer Leah Kauffman and we're done! RD Nick Yeates introduces me to his young son, who identifies me as Santa Claus. Three vegan black bean burgers, a mountain of homemade quinoa salad, a cold Diet Coke, a school bus ride back to the parking lot, and then home.

A great day, with rocks, hills, heat, and humidity adding to the challenge of distance and the delights of beautiful scenery!

(trackfile) - ^z - 2016-09-22