The Harbison 50K website looked promising and a warm recommendation by Greg Walker, Fletcher Parks and Recreation Director, convinced us we had found our event.
The Harbison 50K takes places in Harbison State Forest which consist of over 2,000 acres of forested woodlands, located just a few miles southwest of downtown Columbia, South Carolina. The course description and map indicated a rolling course without the steep sustained climbs or descents we are accustomed to in the Asheville area. However, the map also indicated a lot of twists, bends and turns throughout the 15 plus mile loop that we would navigate twice.
Thanksgiving weekend gave us an opportunity to check out the course, or at least as much as time would allow. So, we decided to run the section of the course what was noted in the course description as the "most difficult" in the loop. It was aptly named "Spider Woman", and we believe it got the name because for every 0.25 mile of trail, "Spider Woman" had you turning in at least 8 different directions.
For race weekend, we found excellent accommodations at the Hampton Inn located only 2 miles from the state park. The Hampton Inn was also dog friendly and situated right next to Harbison Lake which has a walking path around it, so Shadow had a great time as well.
|Hampton Inn. I wonder what the heck this big red thing is?|
|Wildlife at Harbison Lake|
Race day dawned overcast and 27 degrees and thankfully no wind to intensify the chill of the cool air which was with us the entire day.
|Can't wait to get started!|
Jim, Bart, Erinna, and Melissa
Race Start instuctions sound like blah blah blah... turn here,
turn there, make a turn everywhere...
Eve and I got off to an easy, conservative start with the plan to run the first 15 + mile loop together. All was going well; we hit the first aid station at 6 miles feeling relaxed, warm and having fun. About one rolling mile past this aid station, we came to a sharp downhill, left hand bend in the trail. Suddenly I heard Eve scream, and over my shoulder, caught sight of her limping and hobbling on one leg and then sitting down quickly to take the weight off of a painfully turned right ankle. After several minutes, we determined nothing was torn, but she definitely was not running any further that day. She was able to walk back to the aid station that was thankfully located, via a short cut, not far from where our van was parked. Eve told me to go on, and she would call me (we both had our cell phones) as soon as she got back to our vehicle.
It was not fun going on by myself with the worry of Eve in the back of my mind even though we convinced each other she would be fine. Thus my ability to focus on what I was doing was poor at best. This lack of focus eventually resulted in a twisting, rolling, seemingly slow-motion face plant 2 miles further down the trail. Two other runners were immediately helping me to my feet and asking the usual questions, while the three of us collectively checked me for new orifices where they shouldn't be, and for a finger, nose or tooth pointing in an odd humorous direction. Fortunately, none of the above were present. So, off I went with my "helpers" and we clicked off the miles along a pleasant section of Stewardship Trail that would eventually lead us to aid station #2 at Midlands Mountain trail head. In the mean time, Eve had called to me know she was at the van, warm and comfortable, and she would be meet me at mile 16 where the course crosses a forest service road that was open for traffic. Her cell call was a motivational "shot in the arm" that carried me through the next 8 miles and through the Spider Woman trail section. I was very thankful that Eve and I had run this section during our Thanksgiving weekend "reconnaissance".
|Broad River at approx mile 12 and 27|
I was running and power hiking the first lap conservatively, so I was surprised to find myself catching other runners long before the completion of the first loop. I began to second guess myself that maybe I had started too conservatively? Well, maybe so, but after the series injuries I suffered in 2013, I wasn't willing to risk it. This proved to be a sound decision.
At the road crossing, I was thrilled to see Eve looking happy and Shadow in fully elated tail wag mode. After several hugs, answering the normal questions regarding physical status and many tail wags later, I continued on re-charged. I was relieved to see Eve on her feet and walking. It was a painful sprain but apparently no major damage done. We said our goodbyes, and I headed off towards aid station #4 at Lost Creek Trail head and what I considered the beginning of the second 15 + mile loop.
Into the Lost Creek Trail section I went, hoping this portion would get some flow going. I was moving nicely but definitely feeling a little bit fatigue with still a long ways to go. Thankfully the course marshaling and marking of the course was excellent as there many intersecting trails and roads. One trail had evidently seen little foot traffic during the falls months as it was well covered with leaves and entry onto this particular trail required a sharp right turn. Just as I was about to blaze right by it, a course marshal was standing in place and directed me in the correct direction. That was a close call! Other than this, the second lap went by uneventfully, the rhythm of running and focus on the trail broken occasionally by the greeting to other runners as I continued to pass people who were either just slowing down or having difficulties. In either case it was always the exchange of pleasantries of "Howyadoin" , "OK", "Hang in there", "Good Going", "Wanna Cookie" (that was a first, and a very kind gesture), "Lookin' Good" (in some cases not completely true), and "Let's wrap this up!".
One particular bright spot of the second loop was finding my gloves I had accidentally dropped on the first lap when I stopped for a nature break. I gathered my gloves, took a celebratory shot of EFS and thought, "Legs! Carry me home!".
Nutritionally and hydration wise, I was having a perfect day and thoroughly enjoying myself. No cramping, no bonking. The First Endurance products I had switch to 8 months prior were working superbly as they had during the entire build up for the event. After all the pain and injuries of 2013, I was immensely thankful to be cruising through the forest with a seemingly endless supply of energy. The aid stations were quick in and out events, extremely well stocked and well staffed by encouraging "jubilation committees" that were very helpful and attentive to anything I asked for. In short, the aid stations were flat-out awesome.
7 hours 7 minutes after beginning this Harbison odyssey, Race Director David Nance placed a beautiful and, what turned out be, very practical* finishers medal around my neck. Most importantly there was Eve with her bright beautiful smile which for me was the best finishers reward of all.
|Hooray for the Bartman!|
"Why thank you very much!"
*Incorporated into the design the finishers medal was a bottle opener. Later that evening with the finishers medal in one hand and a Guinness Kaliber in the other, we confirmed for ourselves that it worked!
|Bottle opener works!|
|Grill masters cooking up some post race yummy stuff!|
Bartman & Evie Ree