The training plan Brian and I are following called for a 31 mile run. We knew it would be much easier mentally to do a 50K event than it would to try to run 31 miles on our own. Hashawha Hills 50k fit in almost perfectly. I was a little worried about this particular race because they use a lottery system to determine who gets in, and the weather on race day in previous years has been terrible. There seemed to always be snow and/or ice on the ground. Other than those two minor things, the race sounded great to me. I would’ve been disappointed if we didn’t get in.
Fortunately we both ended up making it in. Fourteen hopeful runners were not so lucky. And we lucked out with the weather, too. Sort of.
In 2010 and 2011 the race fee was $20. Since then, it has been reduced by 10¢ each year. The 2017 price was $19.35. That is an insane bargain.
The start and finish were at the Hashawha Environmental Center.
Bib pick-up and the pre-race briefing were held indoors. Hot coffee was available and runners had the luxury of flush toilets and running water. There were only two stalls in the women’s room, but the line was never very long.
After the briefing (where we were told to follow pink ribbons, never to cross red ones, that there was an out-and-back section we’d be running twice and that we needed to pick up a fat rubber band on our first loop and a skinny one on our second loop and that we would be getting our feet wet) we all headed down to the start/finish. There was a covered picnic pavilion where we could leave a drop bag. The course is two 15.5 mile loops, so we would have access to our bags after our first loop and at the finish.
I didn’t even hear anyone say “go.”People just started running, so I followed along. There was a short section on the road before we headed into the woods. The website described the course as having “never-ending small hills to wear you down with a few bigger hills thrown in just for fun.” After finishing the race, I would agree with that assessment. I was feeling pretty good at the beginning though, and while hilly, the course wasn’t mountainous. All of our training in the mountains made the hills feel very runnable. But this was just supposed to be a training run and I was determined to treat it that way, so I walked the hills when the people in front of me did and I didn’t even feel too impatient with the slow walking pace!
The out and back section was downhill on the way out and uphill on the way back. There were a lot of people ahead of us, so we were constantly having to get over to the side to let people by. Most everyone was very friendly. There were a lot of calls of “good job!” from the faster runners.
We picked up our fat rubber bands and headed back up the hill. A runner on his way down asked if we’d sell him one of our rubber bands.
The temperature had climbed into the seventies and it was humid. The liner on my shorts was starting to irritate me. The liner had lost all elasticity quite a while ago, but it hadn’t been an issue. Until now. I’d been carrying a little jar of Vaseline in my pack on long runs because my sports bras and arm often chafe. But for whatever reason, I hadn’t put it in my pack for this run.
It felt good to finally reach the first aid station a little after mile eight. Lube!! They also had a large selection of food and drink. I took some Gatorade and a homemade oatmeal chocolate chip cookie. I commented about how good the cookie was and the volunteer told me “we call them better than sex cookies or, that’s what Gary Knipling calls them anyway.”
Of course he does. He’s the runner who pulled out the orange bikini bottoms and asked me if I’d ever heard of “Trail Cinderella” at the Thomas Jefferson 100K.
We had a little over two-mile loop to do before we were back at the same aid station. I grabbed another cookie and a different volunteer told me, “we call those better than sex cookies.” I smiled and grabbed another. I was thinking about filling my hydration bladder, but Brian was heading out of the aid station and for some reason I didn’t want him to get too far ahead of me. I spent most of this section trying to keep up with him. He was passing everyone. I should’ve filled my bladder. It wasn’t long before I ran out. I thought I had about three miles before I’d be at the next aid station and halfway point. I was very pleasantly surprised to get there less than two miles later. My Garmin only said 14.5. It should have been 15.5.
I was so focused on refilling my water and guzzling Gatorade that I forgot to apply Vaseline. It was a painful 7+ miles to the next aid station as my shorts liner rubbed the tops of my thighs (and other more sensitive bits) raw.
The weather forecast was calling for afternoon thunderstorms. For most of the second loop I felt like I was racing the storm. The last 5 miles of each loop seemed to contain the steepest and longest climbs. In this section, we caught up to a loquacious lady who helped the miles pass more quickly. With about two miles left to go, the storms finally caught up with us. A loud clap of thunder and nearly simultaneous lightning flash made me scream out loud. Then the torrential downpour started. I haven’t been out in rain like that since my AT though-hike. It washed 27+ miles of sweat, salt and grime from my body and felt absolutely wonderful. I was feeling pretty good, but our new friend seemed to be tired on the hills and Brian was battling a bout of nausea, so we were moving pretty slowly. Although I had decent energy, my hips and back were aching and my legs were tired. The pace didn’t bother me.
With about a quarter-mile to go, our friend pulled ahead.
I was happy to cross the finish line and receive my awesome handmade finisher’s mug.
Although this was my fourth ultra (I’ve finished a 40 Miler, 50 Miler and 100K), it was my first 50K.
There was hot chili (veggie and meat) for the runners back in the Environmental Center. It was perfect. I was craving anything meal-like and not sweet.
This was a fantastic race and the bargain is ridiculous! If I lived closer, I’d want to run this race every year.
You can read the official race recap and see results here.