Race Review: 2013 Harbison 50K Trail Race Part 1

Jan 7, 2013 by

Race Review: 2013 Harbison 50K Trail Race Part 1

Our Hero’s Race Bib

Happy New Year!  When we last left our hero he was listening to Freebird and crashing badly at the end of the Spinx Run Fest Marathon in Greenville, SC.

Given the lack of posts the past two months, it may  seem he finally came to his senses and gave up long distance running – after all,  it was around mile 22 at Spinx where the inevitable “Why do I do this?” question popped into his head.

So, did our hero abandon his Walter Mitty-esque running goals – breaking 20 minutes in a 5K, qualifying for the Boston Marathon, beating the local shirtless runner?

Of course not.  As a matter of fact, it wasn’t too many days after the Spinx Marathon, that he had what some have said was a crazy idea. “I think I am ready for the Harbison 50K”.  It made perfect sense (to a crazy runner, anyway.)  How? You say.  If you can barely finish 26.2 miles on the road.  How are you going to do 31 miles in the woods?

Easy. You see, at some point much of running is between the ears.  And with the progress he had made with heart rate training over the past year our hero felt he was ready for the next challenge – an ultra marathon.  Less than two weeks after Spinx, he had signed up for the January 5, 2013 Harbison 50K Trail Race.

The training plan was pretty simple, keep the normal weekly workouts going (4-5 workouts, mostly 45 minute to 1 hour runs) but do a couple of long (3+ hours) training runs on the  Harbison trails in November and December.  As an added bonus, a local cycle shop, Cycle Center, was putting on a half marathon trail race at Harbison three weeks before the 50K – perfect tune up.

The Actual Event Review

If you’ve read any race reviews, you may have seen that my general formula is to break my reviews into two sections.  The first section is about the race specifics – course, swag, organization.  The second is about my personal struggles and triumphs during the race.  I’ll stick to that here, but try to keep the remarks a bit shorter.

Race Administration

This is the 3rd running of the Harbison 50K and is organized by the same Dan Hartley who directs the Columbia Marathon.  If you read my review of the 2012 Columbia Marathon, you know I was impressed by how well that race went for a first time event.  I hoped he could live up to the expectations set by the road race.

Well, I’m happy to report, this was an excellent event.   Swag consisted of a nice long sleeve technical tee shirt that was a unique shade of blue.  We also had a first for me in swag – a pint glass with the race date, logo and sponsors engraved.  Finally, the current issues of Trail Runner and Ultra Running magazines were in our bag.  Our race bibs also had our first and last names.

In what I suspect is common in the trail ultra events, Dan held a pre-race briefing the night before the race at a local hotel to cover course markings and answer questions.  This was helpful.  He also held a raffle, giving out probably close to two dozen prizes.  Unfortunately, despite lots of no-shows (must be present to win!), I did not win anything. I would have liked one of the free entries into this year’s Columbia Marathon.

The Course

As the race name says, the event was held at the Harbison State Forest in Columbia, SC.  I don’t have extensive trail running experience, but I have done two half marathons there and try to get out there a few times a year to run.  Basically, Dan has created a large loop out the various trails there and we ran the loop twice.  Of course, he managed to work in the entire Spiderwoman trail, making miles 9-12 and 25-28, especially tough.

One thing I really liked about this race was the way we started.  The first mile and a quarter or so was on a wide gravel road.  This allowed the field to spread out into its natural order.  The other 2 trail races I have done had a much shorter gravel road start, and then passing in the woods during the first few miles is a real pain.  This start worked pretty well, I thought.

About the only slight complaint, I have is the finish. We appeared from the woods back at the center gazebo area and had to cross the gravel road and there was just a guy holding a medal for us in the grassy area.  I didn’t see a finish banner or anything.   There was a clock next to him, but it didn’t seem to be working, or I could have been delirious.

Aid stations

The course had three aid stations that worked out to seven stops due to the looping and routing.  They were well stocked with all kinds of goodies: Gu gels, trail mix, M&Ms, peanuts, pretzels and other stuff.  I’m not used to eating much on long runs, and had not really trained for that, but so I stuck with trail mix and M&M’s.  I had hoped to have some chicken noodle soup as advertised, but when I asked about soup at one or two of the stations, I was told all they had was chili.  That didn’t sound good on the run, so I went on.

Post race

Post race spread looked like a cookout with burgers and hotdogs.  I had a burger but really didn’t feel like eating much, so I watched a few more finishers and left.

It is getting late, and I haven’t even covered my personal struggles during the race.  I’ll work on a part two and post that later.  I will tell you I finished in 6:01:52 officially.  Good for 72nd out of 146.

For the final results click here: http://ultrasignup.com/results_event.aspx?did=17108


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