Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Horse-Shoe Trail FatAss 50k Race Report

The Horse-Shoe Trail is a 140 mile trail that runs from Valley Forge, PA (not far from Philly) west to meet up with the Appalachian Trail. The trail is marked with yellow hashes on trees with an occasional yellow horseshoe hanging from a tree or elsewhere. As with most PA trails, they are very rocky a decent amount of hills but nothing bad at all.

A group of about 50 met this past Sunday morning for the Second Annual Horse-Shoe Trail FatAss 50k. Rik and I ran it last year but only ran 20 miles of it because it wasnt long after my first ever 50k and was just to much for my legs at the time. This year had just a slightly different start but was still an out and back with a 5ish mile loop at the far end in French Creek Park.

My plan was to run the race and dedicate a mile to each person that was killed on Friday in CT in an elementary school shooting. It was a total of 20 children and 6 adults. Those kids may never run again here on earth but may they run forever free. And I planned to run just one more mile here for each of them.

We hit the road bright and early for an 8:30 start. About half way there I realized that I had forgotten my shoes. Yes. I was headed to a race and I forgot my shoes! I frantically try to text my friend Carli to see if she has an extra pair but cant find her number in  my phone so I instead text Gary who I was pretty sure was riding with them. Indeed he was and indeed they said that they had an extra pair of shoes for me. In my size! What are the chances of that! (I came to find out later that they actually turned around and went back to get the shoes for me-AWESOME people) Crisis adverted and I try to chill for the rest of the ride.

We all arrive and get ready for the race. Carli hands me a brand new pair of New Balance 101 minimal shoes. I am the opposite of minimus but figure they are better then the Birkenstocks that I wore there! But I am slightly worried about that knee that I have been so cautiously rehabbing.
Everyone getting ready at the start.
Listening to Josh tell us whats what.
We are instructed to follow the yellow marks of the HST until we get to French Creek where we will follow the orange marks (6 cent trail) for a loop and then back onto the yellow. Got it? Good. And at 8:30 we are off! The first 6 miles were uneventful as Carli, Vanessa, Amanda and I settle into a groove until we come upon this beautiful site...Hopewell Furnace National Historic site which we ran through.
How cool is that.
Some kind of tee-pee on site.
We hit our first aid station at 7 miles. Refuel and continue on. We are all running strong and having fun on the single track through here until we get to the next AS at mile 12. This AS is right at French Creek Park where we do the loop moving from following the yellow marks to following the orange marks. Just as we were coming into the AS we see Rik coming down the hill back out of French Creek already. He stopped to take a picture of us being ridiculous...
For some reason we thought that as soon as we left mile 12 AS that we would hit the orange marks marking the loop but that was not the case. We kept going and going until we were so happy to finally see those dang orange hashes! Here they are doing the happy orange hash dance...
Once we hit the loop it was the hilliest part of the race. We knew it would be but dang those hills were really though! But of course you have to put a smile on your face when someone is pointing a camera at you...
Carli smiling even though her back was hurting.
Vanessa and some dude already headed the other direction.
We finished up that loop and back down to the AS which now put us over 17 miles in. I still could not believe how good my legs and especially my knee were feeling. We then started to head back to the finish. After this point things got  a bit more tiresome. We were alternating with walking the hills and running the rest. The bottoms of my feet were definitely starting to mind those rocks jabbing through the thin soles of my shoes.

We finally hit a really nice slightly downhill section that would take us into the last AS. As I came into the AS the volunteer told me that she had bad news for us. What?! What kind of bad news?!
She said that one of us was the 10th place female (the awards went to the top 10 male and female finishers)! And I said oh no way...we will cross together for a four way tie. Ha!

I quickly refueled with some Mtn Dew and cookies and as I was standing there I could feel my knee was tight so I told the girls I was going to keep moving and they could catch up. They quickly caught up and I led us down the trail. The wrong trail! We were only off trail less then 5 minutes before I realized it so we turned around and head back to get on the right trail. They gave me a hard time for leading them astray until I reminded them that they didnt notice it either!

With less then 7 miles to go now we were ready to get this thing done. We knew there was some nice down hill towards the finish but dang you really do forget all the uphills that didnt seem so big on the way out that now we were hiking up on the return.

The closer we got to the finish the more the bottom of my feet hurt. And of course the last couple of miles were the rockiest! My feet were on fire and numb at the same time but I just kept running. Finally we could hear someone and it was Gary! He had hiked back out after he finished to see if he could find us. He said that we had less then a mile to go so he started running with us and we really picked up the pace.

Now we could hear more people and turn to see the finish line. We knew that we all had to finish together for 10th place so we grabbed hands and ran across!!! DONE!!!
Very blurry pic of us crossing the finish!
Josh just so happen to have enough awards for us all.
What a great day on the trails with a bunch of good friends (old and new). This was the first race that I ran with Vanessa and it was her second 50k with her first being only this past October. This was also only the second time that I ran with Amanda and only her second ever trail run...ever. She just ran the Harrisburg marathon in November then ran a 20 mile trail run with us at the lakes. Now ran her first 50k on the trails!

I cant believe how well my knee held up the entire time. It was stiff for about a minute but that was it. It wasnt the smartest thing to run this whole race after very little running for the past 2+ months. But I am glad that I did it and glad that I ran for those kids. It was atleast something that I felt I could do. Even better was that I inspired others to join in and run for the kids. To run because they could!

We changed clothes in our cars and walked over to the Inn for some post race food and drinks and to talk about our adventures of the day. It couldnt have been any better of a day either.

Happy Trails.


  1. That looks so awesome!! There is a 25k/50k trail run here on Long Island every year and this year maybe my first attempt at it (25k) but I am not going to lie, the one you did looks much nicer as you have to go on roads a lot for the one here. Plus I hiked the App trail a bunch of times as a kid with my mom so that would be cool. :)

    1. I think I may have heard of that race. Is it like New Years day or something? It is definitely hard running when you are switching from trails to road and back.

  2. Awesome recap! And God bless the victims if sandy hook!