What The Hill? Plus, A #40Years40Races Update

Another weekend, another race, another finishers medal!

This one was earned at What The Hill?, a 5-ish mile trail race in Rochester Hills, Michigan. (They actually use “5-ish miles” to promote the event!) It was an extraordinarily difficult event – by far the hardest trail race I’ve ever done. (Which isn’t saying a lot, because this is only my fourth.)

Why was it so hard? Because of the hills. There’s a reason it’s called What The Hill! The course didn’t traverse over many hills. There was just one, and it was huge, and we ran up and down it countless times, on a variety of trails, and even some steps!

The event took place at Bloomer Park, which I explored with my dad last summer, because of the stairs there.

Here’s the route we ran during the race, according to my Garmin watch:

The river at the top of the map was at the bottom of the hill, and, basically, the heavily wooded hill sloped up, away from the river. So we went up that hill 10 times, roughly.

Five of those uphills were on the sledding hill, where we basically ran five hill repeats, up and down, on the part of the hill where kids sled in the winter. Here’s what that looks like on GPS:

The park also has mountain bike trails, which we ran, which have big graceful switchback curves.

They promoted the race as having 1,000 feet of elevation. My watch measured an elevation gain of 718 feet. It also measured an elevation loss of 666 feet. (Spooky!) I suppose that adds up to more than 1,000… but I’m a little fuzzy on their math.

It was brutally tough. The trails were covered in trip hazards: roots, rocks, muddy patches, little ravines. And apart from a few flat breathers, we were always running up or down, on trails just wide enough for one person. This race wore me out.

I was proud that I never stopped and never walked – although on a couple of the steepest hills, my run converted to a brisk hike. People passed me on the flat sections, but I passed lots of people on the uphills. All my stair experience prepared me!

The last element in the course was… stairs! A 144-step stairway. I had run up those stairs as a warm-up, and snapped this pic before the race.

Pulling my shirt up to show off my bib – good ol’ lucky number 41.

I passed six people on the stairs, and finished strong across the finish line. Their “5-ish miles” estimate was 5.53 miles on my GPS, which I ran in 1:18:10. My heart rate averaged 152 during that time, and peaked at 173.

This was race #26 in my quest to complete 40 races in 2019 – a quest I’m calling the #40years40races challenge. It was my sixth race in June. And I am beat. This challenge is kicking my ass, and I’m now at the point where I can’t wait for it to be over.

I’ve averaged one race a weekend so far in 2019, because I was determined to front-load this challenge. I didn’t want to get to November and December and have a bunch of races left, as it gets colder and the race options start to dwindle.

So I’ve worked hard to put myself in the position where, moving forward, I only have to do two races a month, and pick up the final two races somewhere along the way. Totally doable. I may end up crushing this challenge and doing way more than 40, but, based on how I’m feeling right now, I’m not banking on that.

Despite my race fatigue, I will say it feels great to realize the year is half over, but I’m way over halfway done with the challenge. I’m going to enjoy the next two weekends, where I have no races scheduled and will be going on a family vacation, and then I get to start plotting my upcoming race plans!

There’s more finish lines in my future!

UPDATE! I finished 61st, out of 168, during What The Hill. They didn’t separate into age groups or gender, but I finished in roughly the top third!

Keep it up, David!

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4 Responses to What The Hill? Plus, A #40Years40Races Update

  1. Karen Geninatti says:

    Awesome DAVID! Stay strong!
    Wish I could have done this one with you!

  2. Sarah Van Houten says:

    Good Job David!

  3. Jeff Dinkin says:

    You’ve done a great job building up a nice “pad” in this challenge. I think your bib # for “What the Hill” is going to be your final tally for the challenge.

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