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HAT 50k – 5:49:24

DailyMilers ready for the HAT!

DailyMilers ready for the HAT!

The photo above shows an anxious bunch (Jeanne B, Thomas N, Steve S, and me) awaiting the start to what would be the toughest and maybe most memorable race of our lives (OK, Steve’s 2009 Cayman Islands Marathon win is on the top of his most memorable list, and rightfully so!).  The HAT Run is a trail 50k race in and around Susquehanna State Park, Maryland. It has nearly 9,800′ of climbing, including 4 stream crossings. The course starts with a 3.6 mi. loop, followed by two 13.7 mi. loops. None of us have attempted a race of this difficulty, but we all had a blast at the event, regardless of finishing times. NOTE: I was a little hard on myself about my race, but quickly realized that just finishing it and hanging out with friends was some great reward!


After a stop at Panera Bread for a scone and coffee, I arrived in the race parking lot and immediately saw Thomas N. near his Westy. I went over and met him, and also saw and greeted Steve S. too. We all got there with plenty of time to spare before the race start. Thomas and Steve got to see me out-of-costume, as I had yet to put on my race gear, including my signature do rag. After a quick packet pickup, I headed back to the van to slowly transform into racetime Andy. While I was shirtless and putting on dot bandaids on my nipples, a lady behind me ask me if I had ran this race before. I turned around with my hands over my boobs, jokingly suggesting to her that I wasn’t really ready for her question. 😛 We had a good laugh. I offered my bandaids to her, but she indicated that she was good to go. 😛

I had told other DailyMilers to simply look for a dork in a do rag, before and/or after the race.  Sure enough, Adam P spotted me, while Thomas, Steve, and I were about to head to the main pavilion near the start area. After waiting a little bit in the pavilion, Jeanne finally showed up and we took some pictures and videos, and got ready for the race.

Thomas and Jeanne before the HAT 50k from Andy O’Brien on Vimeo.

Jeanne and me

Jeanne and me


You ever been to a race where the starting line was 100 people wide and 4 people deep?  I have at the HAT!  Think Braveheart.  At the start area, a lady came up to me and asked where the starting line was, and I was like “I don’t know.  I’d like to know too.”  Then, I asked a guy next to me, who was wearing an older Brooks ID singlet, and he indicated it was right here and everyone just runs to the corner, following a couple guys on mountain bikes.  Neat.  BTW, that guy was last year’s and this year’s 2nd place finisher.  He ran the races in 4:03 and 4:23, respectively.  This year, 70+ degree temps. made everyone slower.

Steve and I started and ran together for about 4 to 5 miles.  It was an easy start, but maybe our pace was a little too fast considering we had another marathon distance and much more brutal hills to go.  After Steve took off, I was still going at a good pace, but probably still too fast for that first 13.7 mile loop.  I ended up chatting with another runner for about a mile, before eventually hitting the first aid station in that big loop.  There, I grabbed a cup of Heed and with a few drops left in it, I chucked the cup to my side and I guess some of it sprinkled on a runner behind me.  Oops.  At the 2nd aid station, I was a little more careful and actually walked to drink and also picked up 2 Fig Newtons from the snack table.  I was able to finish one of the cookies, but tossed the other one along the trail, while heading to the end of the first big loop.

Back at the pavilion after that first 13.7 mile loop, which overall was around the 17 mile mark, my time was 2:33:**.  I was in 18th place.  Also, my feet were pretty sore.  During that first loop, I was growing tired of the longer than desired road sections, especially since I was wearing trail shoes with knobby tread that didn’t mix well with the hard surface of the roads.  So, I decided to change my socks and shoes, as I had my bag of extras at the pavilion.  After finishing the gear change, I met another DailyMiler, Jason P, and he was looking strong then. We ran a tiny bit together, but he was well on his way to a good performance as he left me in the dust.

Early in the last loop I felt like a fork was in me. I was done. I wasn’t just walking the inclines, but a lot of the flats and downhills too. Shortly after the first aid station on the loop, I remember walking for at least a mile, non-stop. I remember seeing a 20:** mile split on my Garmin. Ouch. I wasn’t hurt really. My legs did feel like stones on the downhills, but they weren’t cramping. I was just done. I had used up too much energy on the first lap, and left little for the last lap. I hadn’t bonked like I did at the MCM back in October. I was plenty hydrated and fueled, I believed. I just wasn’t prepared for all those up-and-downs and long downhill road stretches. I got sick of the road, and couldn’t wait to get back on the trail… so I could walk again. :-/

In the last lap, I got passed by 56 people, including other DailyMilers, Steve Z, Adam P, Matt F, and probably others. I mostly got passed while I was walking. I got in a routine of stepping to the side as smarter trail runners cruised passed me and asked if I was OK. I was in no danger of DNF-ing, but if the race were stopped then because of some natural disaster or such, I would’ve been very happy. I didn’t run the race to be passed by so many people. It was very dejecting. Yeah, I was a trail running n00b, but I could’ve been a little more quiet in my attire. I felt like most were probably thinking “that clown deserved it!”. 😛

When I got to the beginning of the final field to the finish line, a young dude was right behind me coming out of the woods. I told him to go ahead, that he was in much stronger shape than I was. I wasn’t about to try and race someone and end up looking more like a fool than I had already been. Luckily, he took off and gave me some breathing room to take it easy to the finish. And, running up through those final fields, Steve S. had his Flip HD camcorder rolling. I gave him the thumbs down and choking gesture, and also apologized for being late (since he left his beers in my van, thus waiting for my late return).

HAT Run 50K from steve speirs on Vimeo.

HAT Run 50k from steve speirs on Vimeo.


After receiving my HAT 50k stein and Brooks HAT 50k cap, right when I crossed the finish line, I slowly began regrouping. Steve was there to cheer me up. I was a little pissed off, but that eventually got erased after meeting up with friends and just hanging out. Good friends, good beers. What could be better?

The HAT 50k is top-notch. It’s well run and if you ever decide to run it, you won’t be disappointed. The people there were tremendous. And, we were lucky to be blessed with good weather. Oh, it was overly sunny near the end, especially if you were slowly walking during the final lap, but it wasn’t horrendous. Would I run the HAT again? You betcha. Would I run the HAT next year? Tempting, VERY tempting! 😛

Other HAT race reports you MUST check out:

Jeanne B’s
Thomas N’s
Steve S’s
Matt F’s

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  1. Jeanne B
    March 25th, 2010 at 13:27 | #1

    Well I guess the hour that you had to wait for me to finish was enough time with Steve to cheer you up. I never would have known you were that bummed about the second loop. Way to rally and enjoy that fact that you completed an ULTRA! Not many people can do that. Great day 🙂 See you next year!

  2. March 25th, 2010 at 13:42 | #2

    We all have different expectations, from where I stand you were awesome! You are an inspiration for me. A strong runner, strong stlye, and fun. You guys made this race for me. -T

  3. March 25th, 2010 at 13:52 | #3

    Fantastic write-up! Yeah, it didn’t take long to transform you from this http://twitpic.com/1auy6o to http://twitpic.com/1auyv2

    Thanks again for scouting out the event.

    See you next year?!

  4. Susan Schweers
    March 30th, 2010 at 11:47 | #4

    That was an awesome write up…and you guys were actually parked behind me in the parking lot:) In fact…we left at the same time too! Great job on the race..it was my first 50k!!

  5. March 30th, 2010 at 11:55 | #5

    @Susan Schweers Very cool, Susan. It was my first 50k too! We picked a good (but tough) one! I’m sure most of us will be back next year. If you make it back, see you then!

  6. Susan Schweers
    March 31st, 2010 at 15:04 | #6

    Thanks Andy! It was a tough one for sure..my quads were thanking me all week:) And I actually think I caught the bug…I signed up for Northface 50k on June 5th!
    I am from Maryland so I hope to see you next year too..if not maybe at some other race!

  1. March 25th, 2010 at 13:29 | #1
  2. March 26th, 2010 at 20:52 | #2