Race Report: 5th Annual Harbison 50K ~Keith Hanson

Mar 21, 2015

5th Annual Harbison 50K – Harbison State Forest, Columbia, SC – January 3rd, 2015.

On a day where the sun just refused to come out, the Harbison 50km (31-mile) trail race was wet, misty, muddy, sloppy, rainy and FUN!  While people everywhere (and probably some of the racers) were still nursing their hangovers from New Years, over 150 people toed the line for this ultra marathon in Columbia, SC.

My amazing girlfriend and I woke up at 3:30AM in Charleston so we could get to the race by 6-630 in order to pay, get organized and get ready for me to race.  The drive was easy, and there was very little traffic on the road (as I’m sure you could imagine at 4AM on the Saturday, 2 days after New Year’s).  I let Laura sleep while I drove and sipped coffee. Mmmmm, the coffee was so good.  I always taper myself off of all caffeine, including coffee, about 7-10 days before a big, long race, so that first cup was amazing!

harbison_prerace harbison_action_lightning3

Photos. Left: Pre-race. Right: Mile 16ish, feeling so fast… like lightning!

We arrived right on time, a few minutes after 6AM and found perfect parking.  I paid for my registration, parking pass and was all set.  Then came the pre-race jitters (butterflies in the tummy, etc.).  There was a lot more nervousness here than at the KIGR marathon, and this was for a few reasons: 1.) I had not run an ultra marathon in over 7 months, 2.) 50K is an odd distance, and the last 50K I ran was in October of 2013,  3.) I was totally unfamiliar with the course, 4.) I had trained very little since the KIGR marathon, and like most runners, I find confidence in my training and running schedule – feeling more confident the more I train, and 5.) the conditions were pretty rough – It had rained a lot the night before, and was still misty and sprinkling on the morning of the race.

The first mile or so of the 15.5 mile loop (you run it twice) is on a fire/gravel road and everyone came out sprinting!  I was near the front, but in no way was going to try to keep up with the few guys running sub 6-minute pace.  I just kind of hung back and ran comfortably until we peeled off onto the trail.  The trails were not too technical, but were definitely made more difficult by the rain; it was a sloppy mud fest!  Anyway, I ran the next many miles within myself, trying to run my own race, and ended up catching and passing a few people.  I then caught up to a dude, who I ran with for about 5 or so miles until the halfway point.  It turns out that he also ran the KIGR marathon… and came in 3rd overall! Wow!

I was wearing my Ultimate Direction AK race vest, so did not stop at the halfway-point aid station, so this is where I parted from the 3rd place KIGR marathon dude.  I did get to see Laura and the aid station, which was great! She was smiling and cheering… always inspirational!  Well, I decided to “bomb” it down the road just like everyone did at the start of the race to try to put a gap between me and anyone behind me.  I totally did it… and totally paid for it around mile 17.  From about mile 17 to 22, I felt really crappy, like a fish out of water.  I had not walked or hiked at all during the first loop, but during these grueling 5 miles, I was power hiking a lot of the uphill sections.  During this period, 2 or 3 runners past me and that did NOT make me feel any better.  But I kept trudging, kept taking steps forward and started slow jogging, then medium jogging, then… possibly… running again!  I could feel A LOT of tightness in my quads and hamstrings and was just grinding through.  I somehow just kept my head down and kept running after mile 22 and only tripped like 10 or 20 times, but never completely fell down!  When the legs get heavy and tired, and you’re running on slick, muddy trails with a lot of rocks, you trip… A LOT!

CrappiePhoto: I felt really “crappy,” like a fish out of water!

Anyway, since I was passed by a few guys between mile 17-22, I really didn’t know what place I was in.  I figured I was running in 3rd-6th for most of the race.  But as I kept my head down and just kept moving, I caught one of the guys who had hit a wall.  Then, at the last aid station of the race, around mile 26.5, I caught another runner who was standing at the aid station, eating and drinking, and not looking like he was in the mood to run anywhere.  This gave me a little extra motivation, so I just kept jitter-bugging my feet and kept moving forward!


Photos. Left: Medal “ceremony.”             Middle: Last 100  meters.                 Right: The men’s podium!

   When I finally broke through the woods into the open near the finish line, I was so happy and relieved – I was also in a lot of pain at this point.  I stopped at the tent and was so happy.  BUT THEN… I realized that the tent was NOT the finish line.  So, after some guidance from some nice strangers, I ran my way an extra 100 meters or so across a field and through the finish line!  I had somehow persevered and finished in 3rd place!  It was by far my best individual finish, as I made it onto the “podium” (there wasn’t an actual podium, but it still felt great)!  I finished in 4:36:38, and was only a little less than 6 minutes off the 2nd place runner (one of the dudes who blazed out of the starting gate).

In typical fashion, I spent the next 20-30 minutes moaning, trying to sit, then trying to stand, all while shivering because it was still rainy and 40ish degrees.  Laura helped me tremendously by covering me with blankets and finding me hot broth!  The first place winner, John, also gave me a beer… since we forgot our beers in Charleston (worst mistake ever)!  Afterwards, we found the nearest Chipotle (mmm I love Mex-style food – taco bell, chipotle, etc…. YUMMM!), where I ordered what can only be described as an “incredible” amount of food, and headed back to Charleston!  Laura napped again while I drove 🙂




Bottom: Skins A400 men’s power shorts & Brooks shorts

Top: Skins A200 men’s short sleeve compression top

Nutrition: Pacific Health Laboratories, Inc. – Accel Gels: Key Lime, Chocolate and Vanilla, 2nd Surge Pina Colada and Body Glove Surge

Socks: FITS Socks Pro Trail Performance Quarter

Shoes: Salomon S-Lab Sense 2 Ultra

Hydration: Ultimate Direction AK Race Vest 1.0

Other: 110% Play Harder Bandit and Half AK UV Buff – Garmin Forerunner 210


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