This past Saturday, I ran/hiked my first Hyner Challenge. I had been first told about the event a few years ago by a running buddy of mine. He said that I should do it and it would be a lot of fun. He also mentioned the good food and beer they have at the end. I originally had an Appalachian Trail run scheduled for this date, but that fell through, so I nonchalantly signed up for the Hyner 50k.
As the race grew nearer, I continued to hear about Hyner. It would be a 31 mile trek with elevation gain exceeding 7,600 feet and would be a big challenge. That’s a lot of elevation gain for around these parts and especially for me, considering climbing isn’t one of my strong points. I’d much rather run down steep terrain rather than hike up it.
The following descriptions of mountains, stream crossings, aches and pains, may not be in the correct order. It’s what I remember. And at some points, my recollection of certain things are a little more hazy than others.
Race morning was foggy. On a clear day, they said, you could look up and see Hyner View(about 3 miles from the start). All of the following pictures are from other people either from years past or later race morning. Here is the top on a clear day….
We started on a road, crossing a bridge and continuing on a road for the first mile. We then entered the woods and started the climb up. Here is a picture of part of the climb…..
Keep in mind, this is only part of the first climb. The first of 5 climbs….Yeah, straight up. The top is about 3-4 miles from the start. Here’s another picture approaching the top….
When I reached the top, I remember thinking it just felt like I ran a half marathon. Except I wasn’t even running. It was mostly hiking. This is me cresting the top with the fog almost 2,000 feet below me……
We descended most of the mountain then started to do this “dance” with a stream. The trail literally crossed over this stream about 10 different times. There was no way you could avoid getting your feet wet. Around mile 6-7, with my feet wet and my legs feeling heavy, I remember thinking this could be a very long day. I knew there were 4 more major climbs ahead of me.
The second major climb was around mile 8 and was a type of logging road that just continued up and up. Eventually we crested the top and continued on our way. After a few more miles on rolling single track trail, we started another climb that involved another stream. Some of the trail was literally in the stream as shown below on a previous day…
The weather was a little on the warm side for this time of year. I believe it got to be in the mid to high 70’s. If you’ve never crossed creeks or streams while running, it definitely adds a different feel to your run. I welcome it because I normally don’t get bad blisters. If my legs are sore and have been going for a while, a cold steam refreshes the legs. As the day went on at Hyner, I definitely welcomed the stream.
The middle miles are somewhat of a blur to me. All I know is that there was another stream and another climb and some more rolling hills.
After cresting the 4th climb(I think), we ran a few more miles on a dirt road. This is me around mile 24….
At this point I was feeling pretty worn down. Not from the running, but from the climbing. I could still run the flats and down hills normally, but it took some real good effort from mile 24 on to climb a hill, let alone mountains.
Speaking of mountains, I knew there was at least one more big climb left, called S.O.B. The name is fitting.
Cramping was also becoming an issue. I was taking salt tablets and S-caps each hour, and drinking lots of water. Around mile 26, the climb up Hyner mountain began….and somewhere close to the base of it, I stopped in my tracks. Both of my quads started to cramp at the same time. This picture is right around the area where I cramped and wondered how I would finish….
….the picture is of it down hill. At this point, we were heading uphill. I took two salt tablets and started to hike again. After what seemed like an eternity of climbing up the mountain, the dreaded S.O.B. sign appeared that pointed straight up…
As I started up the steep ascend, the cramping started again. I stopped every few yards to rest and stretch. Eventually, I crested that S.O.B. with an awesome aid station at the top….
After about two more miles of a running/hiking on a logging road atop the mountain, the descend started. I could finally stretch the legs out and run more. This descend seemed to take forever, though. Finally after about 30 minutes of running downhill over a stream and some rocky sections, I finally hit the road where we started.
But instead of finishing where we started, the race director wanted to add one more climb to the finish. The climb was merely about a 50 footer…basically a little bump. But sure enough half way up it, both of my legs cramped. I stood there motionless like I had done on a few other occasions trying to figure out what to do next. I was about 40 yards from the finish. I decided to walk up it backwards. It worked , turned around and ran up to the finish line. Other than the Oil Creek 100K I had accomplished last fall, I had never felt so exhausted after an event.
And finally, something odd about my finishing time. My finishing goal time leading into the event was to finish in under 7 hours. Looking at results from previous years and runners, I felt under 7 hours would be a good personal challenge for me. The odd thing was, throughout the entire race, all I could think of in terms of time was 7:22. I had no idea why I was thinking it, but it was in my brain the entire way. I was still on pace for a 7:00 hour finish , even around mile 25. But it was 7:22, 7:22, etc. I even said it out loud at one point! Extremely odd. So, take into account all of the stops along the route, including aid stations, a bathroom break, exhaustion stops, and cramping stops. With all of that, I don’t have to tell you what time I finished in. I think you’ve figured it out on your own!
I like to think I am so in tune with my body and my run, that I can even predict my finish time! 🙂
Run on, friends.