I’m taking a brief break from move-in day (more like Amy-wants-to-start-drinking-at-9am day) at our new Maryland apartment to recap the race experience I had at the Half-Wit trail half marathon in Reading, Pennsylvania this weekend. Any race that starts with an oath professing your idiocy and promises beer at 2 rest stops along the way is without a doubt right up my alley!
Pre-run Half-Wit Oath; Photo by Helene Horn via Facebook
Most of my friends are familiar with me running the Superior Hiking Trail and backwoods trails in northern Minnesota, specifically the Duluth area. The Eugene Curnow Trail Marathon, the Grand Traverse, the Harder ‘n Hell Half Marathon – just to name a few – are the endeavors I (we, thanks Chad!) have spent literally hundreds of miles on throughout the years. The Half-Wit definitely stands up to those and had some technicalities that were added challenges along the way.
The weather was phenomenal – seriously, overcast with a cool breeze in August? Can’t beat it! We had rest stops right around mile 3.5, 6, 8, 10, and 11.5 but I always carry my own hydration and nutrition to be safe. Though water was available at all stations, there was only licorice and a few cookies at 2 stations so I made the right call. Those of you that have done the SHT organized hikes and races know how well they stock their aid stations (chicken noodle soup at mile 21 on the Grand Traverse!!).
A good solid downhill for the first mile was followed up with a steep, grueling uphill-single-file march, followed by a rocky, technical downhill (see below or Google “Rocksylvania”). The volunteer that greeted us at a road crossing at the bottom of the hill laughed and joked with that she’d be there to watch us fall out of the woods at the 6 mile aid station… Most of us found a good stride on the single-track through the woods after that, with rolling uphills and downhills that was easy to keep a pace through. It was easy to pick out those who had never been on a trail run in their lives and their PR for a half marathon was out the window. Then came that hill at mile 6; the only thing you could do to get down that beast was to sit down and pray as you slid, inch-by-inch toward the next tree to stop your momentum.
On any trail run, the uphills gas you and the downhills wreck you… I should have guessed with that horrendous of a downhill, its maker was right around the corner. 120 rocky, make-shift stairs up the steep cliff side I had just climbed slid down aptly dubbed the “120 steps from hell.” The lactic acid burn didn’t stop there as we continued the daunting journey up, up, and up…until the mile 8 aid station. Literally almost 2 miles of uphill battle to fight our way to some sweet, well deserved licorice. Hello, jell-o legs!
The cold beer as promised at mile 10 hit the spot! I grabbed a cup of Yeungling and high-fived other runners as one of the volunteers asked “are you going to have more than 20?” Twenty what? “Are you going to drink more than 20 beers?” WHAT?! Now you’re talking!!! But no, I wasn’t going to stick around for 20 beers; however, I could tell from his clip board that there were a half dozen or so working toward it with bib numbers and hashmarks as a tally next to them! From here it was a loop around the woods to come back through the same aid station (fresh out of beer this time) and make the sprint to the finish!
My quads were burning, my back was tight and my ankles were more than mad at me, but I kicked out a sub-12-minute-mile to kill the finish in 3 hours and 19 minutes, about 10 minutes faster than the Harder ‘n Hell on the SHT. Though we had a record number of participants, only 279 finished the race…
Overall, it’s comparable to the SHT, but the only reason I would call it more of a challenge is the technicality of the rocky PA backcountry. When my husband and I hiked part of the Appalachian Trail for our one year anniversary recently, he commented that through hikers and experienced AT hikers call PA “Rock-sylvania” and rightfully so.
I’ll be back for the Half-Wit, because as the slogan declares: “Because a mind is a terrible thing.”
Elevation Chart via my MapMyRun
3108 calories burned in 13.12 miles over 3 hours and 19 minutes with an average heart rate of 175!