Having experienced the toll that heat, hills and humidity can take at Hell Hath No Hurry in June, I prepare for this year's version of the MD Heat Race 25K (for one, by opting not to do the 50K) accordingly. MD Heat promises equivalent amounts of the three Hs. My preparation, as it turns out, is not quite well enough.
Friday night I pack my bag, which we will return to after 5 miles and then at the finish, by putting in an extra shirt and handkerchief to change out. Rather than fill my handheld bottle with water I opt to fill it with sports drink. A pillbox with salt tablets goes in my pocket and gels go in the pouch on the handheld.
Go Horizontal - I
(photo by E. Burki)
Race Director Nick calls everyone to the start for a pre-race briefing which includes explicit warnings related to heat stroke. He warns everyone that if you stop sweating and start to feel chills, you are not experiencing heat exhaustion, but heat stroke and to stop running, and not to try to get to the next aid station. Help will come for you.
Then Nick blurts out "Ready, set, go!" and leads the 200 runners across the field and toward the bridge to cross to the other side of the Patapsco River for the five mile lollipop part of the course.
|Early on (mile 1?)|
(photo by Kirk Masterson)
A couple of miles into our climb, Emaad says that I should look to see who is behind us. Fearing falling, I don't look but the voice is unmistakably's Don. He has decided at near the last chance to sign up, as he volunteered in 2015 (when he was injured and transferred his entry to me) and with an offer for a good entry price, has decided to run it. He asks why we are going so fast and says we are on the top half of the pack. Three possibilities come to mind: he is mistaken, the field is really slow, or we are engaged in "fly and die" pacing. We'll find out later which it is, but three miles in, there is no way to tell. He stays with us until I stop to try to take a picture, and then is gone.
Emaad and I reach the top of lollipop within sight of the park-and-ride - a short stub trail connects to it and mountain bikers are taking advantage of the free parking - and head downhill.
Approaching the tunnel we spy a family and a photographer setting up to take pictures by a stream and jokingly threaten to photo-bomb the shoot.
Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head
|On the wall (mile 5.5)|
(photo by E. Burki)
Emaad and I leave the aid station and in a half mile come to the 10 foot high wall perpendicular to the river. It may have once been part of a dam, or it may be a flood control measure, but in any case, we go to the river end of it, clamber to the top, run along it to the far end and climb back down to the trail.
Then we cross the park road and pick you the Ridge trail that more or less parallels it, but only after a medium length climb. It's an uphill so we pretty much walk it until it levels out.
In a little while the leaves sound like they are rustling, and they are, but not from the wind. A storm has moved over the park (even though it isn't even 11 a.m.) and the gentle rain gives way to larger drops and a steady rain. I put my cooling rag over my head, not to stay dry but to keep rain out of my eyes.
Emaad has stopped at Cascade Falls to take pictures as I catch up with him. The rain continues and the runners are less troubled by it than some of the many hikers and children who thought they might have a nice day in the park with a hike and a visit to the falls. Instead they are being rained upon and have runners wending around them. But they all seem in generally good spirits anyway.
|Cascade Falls (mile 7.5)|
(Photo by Nick Yates)
Go Horizontal II
From the second aid station it seems that the course does nothing but go upward. I remark that it is a sustained climb reminiscent of some that I have done in the West, as most of the eastern trails that I have run on generally top out fairly quickly . Not this.
But the rain ends and the sun makes an appearance. Of course, no rain brings back the heat and the humidity. On we go. Up we go. Finally it levels out - that it is - it becomes mostly rolling.
Near mile 12 we cross Rockburn Branch. It is a bit downhill to the stream and then uphill on the other side.
I start to get a cramp on the inside of one of my thighs. Then the other leg starts to cramp. I try leaning against a tree to stretch. Emaad pauses at the top for me. The cramping gets worse. Then I start to feel woozy, or dizzy or lightheaded. I see a fallen tree near the top and say I will sit down on it for a bit. I get there and lay on it more than sit on it. The cramps are continuing and I'm feeling poorly.
|Unplanned log stop (~mile 12)|
(photo by E. Burki)
Aid Station 3 turns out to be only about 300 yards away. (For the record, it's about mile 12.5 and we are there in 3:49.) There are chairs and I sit down while I drink and rest. Another runner is also sitting. I tell Emaad that I plan to sit for another five minutes. He heads out, telling me that he'll be walking slowly. An aid station volunteer fills my cooling rag with ice and I wrap it around my neck.
For Want of a Baggie
After the five minutes pass I get up and head out. I decide to text Emaad and let him know I'm on my way. I take my mobile from my pocket and press the button. Blank screen. Same result from the on button. The phone is dead, drowned from the rain and sweat in my shorts pocket. I had neglected to put in in a baggie partly because I didn't expect the morning shower, and partly because I simply goofed.
I go on with a number of other runners. We walk, we run, we walk some more. Other runners pass us. Most of the runners pull away from me, but I pull away from the man who was also sitting at Aid Station 3. Finally, as we cross the park road for the final 30 or 40 yards to the finish line he catches up with me. I briefly consider racing to the finish but promptly put that thought away.
Go Horizontal III
|At the end as at the beginning|
(photo by E. Burki)
After eating some kielbasa and pulled pork and downing two sodas (and half a cup of beer) Emaad and I go to catch a ride with a volunteer back to the park-and-ride. While waiting I lay down on a picnic table. Before getting in the car I grab a third soda.
I finish in 5:03:18, good for 127 of 141 overall, 77 of 85 males and 6 of 7 in my age group. Don finished in a nice 4:22 and Emaad in 4:56. And I wasn't the oldest finisher for a change as two persons in the 70+ AG finished (the oldest one being five years older and 18 minutes faster than me).
And besides the swag pictured below, I got one more piece of hardware thanks to the race: a new mobile.
|Swag: Bib, Luna bar.|