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Harder 'n Hell Half Marathon - Run

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Duluth, Minnesota
United States
Adventure Running
43F / 6C
Total Time = 2h 50m
Overall Rank = /
Age Group =
Age Group Rank = 0/
Pre-race routine:

Due to the 50k and 100k races, this one didn't start until 9:30, which felt like it may have well been lunchtime! Plenty of time to sleep in, eat, eat again, drink coffee, use the bathroom 7 times and then walk to the race start. Cold though, so I got to the finish area and quickly hopped on the warm bus to the start line. Then stayed in the bus once we arrived at the start line until about 10 minutes prior to the start. Gotta love these small trail races. 175 racers, no chip timing necessary, wait until 10 minutes prior to line up, then put my sweats bag into the race director's van parked next to the start line!
Event warmup:

Ran a quarter mile down the road to find a place to pee in the woods, then ran back and got back on the warm bus.
  • 2h 50m
  • 13.1 miles
  • 12m 59s  min/mile

Wow, what a fun race! I only wish I could have done either the 50 or 100k, but seeing as NYC Marathon is in 14 days I opted to stay with the half marathon. Turns out I ended up running darn near 50k anyways, but more on that later. The race started in the parking lot of the ski area, crossed the parking lot then immediately jumped on the hiking trail, which at this point is single track and a very steep, technical descent. I guess I didn't really realize what this meant and I started way too far towards the back, hence I got stuck behind all kinds of yahoos that can't run downhill and can hardly walk down anything close to technical. Alas mile one, which should have taken me 9 minutes ended up being an 18 minute conga line. A little ways into mile 2 I decided that was enough so I pulled off some serious ninja skills and passed the 5 slow people in front of me in about 3 strides, choosing to leap down a short rocky drop instead of the hands and knees BS these clowns were doing. I think they were pissed and yelled something at me, but I was flying down the rest of that descent so fast I didn't clearly hear anything they said. Once I got moving at a decent pace I was having a fricken blast! Another 1.5 miles of single track downhill where I channeled my inner Killian and blasted through it. After that it was getting down to business as we started the first of many climbs, think rock/boulder staircase much steeper than your house with awful consequences if you fell. For a quarter mile...
Overall though, this was a ton of fun and a great day of fall colors and trail running. There were two aid stations, or as my 7 year old calls them Snack Tables, but I didn't feel the need to linger much since this was such a short race. The section after the first aid station, from mile 4.5-10, was one of my favorites. Mostly traversing a ridgeline with few climbs that you couldn't run, otherwise really nice trail in the woods that was very runnable. At least if you're only going 13 miles. Miles 10.5-12.25 were super fun as well, the last section in the woods on the trail before pavement, it was a 600 foot over drop over that mile and a half and I was able to fly, along with three other runners. Then there was a total buzzkill of the last 3/4 mile on pavement to the finish line, but that was a small price to pay for the other 12.5 miles of awesomeness!
What would you do differently?:

Start towards the front instead. I'm by far not the fastest trail runner there, but since my strengths are in those technical descents I should have positioned myself further up to not get stuck in the long conga line. That probably cost me 10 minutes off my final time.
Post race
Warm down:

Here's the funny part, and the continuation of my comments towards the beginning. My wife was running the 100k, doing really well, but fading and falling apart fast over the last 15 miles. Pacers were allowed, but we never arranged anything ahead of time. Alas I offered to meet up with her and help her along if I could, so I met her at the mile 48 aid station and ran the last 14 miles (which are one mile I hadn't done yet, then the half marathon course in it's entirety) to the finish. So much for an easy taper run, ended up being a 27+ mile day. Oh yeah, it was cold and dark at this point. And all I had for a light was her morning headlamp which was in the mile 54 drop bag. And a small keychain led light. Then her main headlamp battery died so I gave her the morning headlamp and resumed the rest of the course with the keychain single led light. Funny thing is, all morning during the half marathon I was like a child playing in the mud, always searching for the way to get dirty and make a mess of running shoes. That night, all I wanted was to stay dry and warm, but I kept hitting all the mud and water, making the night even more epic! But "epic" has been the name of the game for me lately, the more the better. In the end it was all worth it, she finished strong and won her age group!

Event comments:

Keep in mind, my above answers are relative to other trail races and ultras in general. Yes, plenty of aid stations, which means 4-7 miles apart. Plenty of volunteers, fun aid stations, good warm soup and food at the finish. Very hard, technical course. Considered one of the hardest 50/100k's in the midwest. But so very fun. I strongly recommend this race if you're looking for a fun, challenging, fall race.

Profile Album

Last updated: 2013-10-20 12:00 AM
02:50:00 | 13.1 miles | 12m 59s  min/mile
Age Group: 0/
Overall: 0/
Performance: Good
Course: Point to point, started at the Spirit Mtn parking lot followed the Superior Hiking Trail down to Bayfront Park in downtown Duluth. Super steep climbs/descents, rocky, muddy, scary, stream crossings and downright treacherous at times. In other words, awesome!
Keeping cool Good Drinking Just right
Post race
Weight change: %
Overall: Good
Mental exertion [1-5] 4
Physical exertion [1-5] 5
Good race? Yes
Course challenge Just right
Organized? Yes
Events on-time? Yes
Lots of volunteers? Yes
Plenty of drinks? Yes
Post race activities: Average
Race evaluation [1-5] 5

2013-10-20 8:43 PM

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Alexandria, MN
Subject: Harder 'n Hell Half Marathon
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date : May 24, 2010
author : Coach AJ
comments : 0
My question is am I playing with fire entering the half marathon this close to my primary goal for this season which is the HIM?
date : June 15, 2009
author : Ali Winslow
comments : 0
I just ran the Boston Marathon under nine minute miles, can I run eight minute miles for my half Ironman training runs? Or should I go slower?
date : November 17, 2008
author : mat steinmetz
comments : 7
I just started doing tris this summer and I have two under my belt, both sprints. Is it reasonable to build up for a Oly in early ‘09, with a HIM in Oct of ‘09
date : June 10, 2008
author : kns57
comments : 0
Steady is our walk. Ignoring the pain that is radiating from my feet, I continue to place one foot in front of the other. Again I wonder, “Why am I doing this?”
date : July 10, 2007
author : Ontherun
comments : 0
Having three seasons under my belt I thought I knew what I was doing. That all changed with a few new challenges and a bunch of new friends.
date : October 24, 2005
author : mikericci
comments : 0
This program should be used for an athlete whose goal is to run a marathon in the 1:30-2:30 range and has a good running base in the past 8-12 weeks.
date : October 2, 2005
author : smeeko
comments : 2
I will assume you have not run consistently more than 6 miles and have never completed a half-marathon. I believe running your first half-marathon is a big task which requires dedication and work.
date : January 10, 2005
author : ewkfit
comments : 0
My training was taking off. I had never felt stronger. I was making bigger strides than I ever had. I was stronger and faster than I had imagined myself ever being.