Laurel Highlands 50K- ’15

This will be really quick. You know why? Because I just had about an 800 hundred word post on WordPress about hurt, pain, suffering, regret, determination, confidence, bravery, exhaustion, compassion, love, friendship, peacefulness, challenges, sharing, no nonsense, fear, cold, warm, understanding, happiness, sadness, ruthlessness, senseless, laziness, bitter sweetness, thoughtfulness, toughness, patience, grittiness, selflessness, embarrassment, strength, couragouesness, anger, exhlilaration(what am I missing ultrarunners??) about my day at the  Laurel Highlands Trail. What, you think I’m joking? Guess again.

Real quick catch up. I ran the 50K. It was a nice trail, the 50K anyway: well marked, runnable, with some rocks throughout, elevation gain exceeding 5,800 ft, and popular. It has history, 36 years of it. The LHT is 70 miles long, running north/south near Johnstown, PA. It’s a popular race around the region and has respect throughout the region.

Let’s cut to the chase. I had a tough time through the heat and humidity and the mountains. In my post I lost, it said how much of a wuss I was in humidity and mountains. Boohoo. I lost lots of fluids throughout, with 2 climbs the first 6 miles. Ringing wet sweating. Waaah.

I eventually finished after traversing the nice, scenic, well organized 50K(31 mile route).

My trail running buddies(in escense, they all are) did the following this weekend:

Ashleigh finished the 50K in more than 9 hours. She wanted to quit at mile 19. Swollen ankle. Exhausted. She showed me something that I had only heard of before….After going back to the hotel to shower, then ate, Ashleigh met up with her friend Dominic to complete his 70 miles. On a swollen ankle. I know I promised this would be real quick, but how can you explain that. Limping and tired, Ashleigh leaves mile 58 at 10 pm at night after completing a 50k that she almost quit out of in the morning, to help her friend complete his race? He finished at 2:30 am by the way. It’s grit and a focus, and nothing else.

Donald attempted his 8th LH 70 mile race and then they stopped him at mile 22 for not going fast enough. He has years of trail running races completed and is one of my running mentors. Listen locals, he’s completed hundreds of races and ultras. Any running local should commend his achievements.

Kristen was part of the relay. She started the relay at the start, then continued on throughout the whole course throughout the day. All 70.5 miles as well. I was told she was a strong runner. I’m glad I witnessed the mile 58 aid station when she was really strong.

Ethan is a new trail runner(wish I was again) who completed his miles on the LHT. I think it was his toughest run to date, but not sure?! I bet he had fun.

Anne is a great trail runner who paced Kristen the last 12 miles on the LHT. She only completed last years’ Oil Creek 100 Miler. She’s firm as steel. You can’t bend her.

Sovanna is a recreational trail runner who fought through falling/injuring his knee to complete his portion. He is Kristen’s husband and they have a son, E, who is really cool!

John is a good trail runner/hiker and Anne’s husband who completed his portion right before midnight. I wish I had his hiking skills and aeration skills.

Linda paced her friend Katie through the last 25 or so miles in the same darkness as everyone else. Katie completed the 70.5 miler. Linda has a 50K under her belt, but it was the first time she had to run in dark, single track trail at 2 am at night.

It sure was another learning, humbling, experience. For me, running evolved on the roads. My first 10 years were almost primarily on roads. I have learned so much on the trails. I can honestly say I have a trail running family now. They are the ones who can truly feel  hurt, pain, suffering, regret, determination, confidence, bravery, exhaustion, compassion, love, friendship, peacefulness, challenges, sharing, no nonsense, fear, cold, warm, understanding, happiness, sadness, ruthlessness, senseless, laziness, bitter sweetness, thoughtfulness, toughness, patience, grittiness, selflessness, embarrassment, strength, couragouesness, anger, and exhlilaration.

Relay for Life- ’15

This past weekend I participated in the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life. It is an event that was started back in 1985  that gives everyone in communities across the globe a chance to celebrate the lives of people who have battled cancer, remember loved ones lost, and fight back against the disease.

Normally it is a 24 hour event at a local track, where individuals and teams continue to circle the track to honor and raise money for the cause. For some reason, this years’ Capital City addition was cut short down to 21 hours. There was a dedication opening ceremony with cancer survivors who went onto the football field and told of the type of cancer they beat or were dealing with.

I really didn’t have any expectations in terms of how many miles I was going to go on the track. I brought a cooler filled with ice, water, gatorade, black bean burritos, pickles and also brought chips and bananas. We had a team of 12 walkers and runners in our group. Most of them are in a local running group.

The afternoon was somewhat warm and sunny, and a breeze. I had never been at that specific track, so it was new scenery for me. My plan was to run a few miles at a time, then walk a lap. After about every 6-8 miles, I’d change direction. With other participants on the track, it was easy to stop and walk and chat with people. Every hour or so, I would stop by the tent we had set up, and cooler to replenish. As the day turned to night, the illumination ceremony took place. This is where bags with candles in them are placed around the track in honor of lost cancer victims. People are able to donate money to have their loved one’s bag placed around the track. The candles would burn throughout the night and into the next day to the end. After roughly an hour, the organizers then turned the track lights on.

At some point during my running/walking, I decided I would go 31 miles the first evening, go home and get a few hours sleep, and then wake up and do another 31 miles the next morning to make it an even 100K. At the end of the first night, I felt good enough to run the last few miles at a faster pace. It felt good to change the speed of my run. I went home feeling good, but tired, since it was almost midnight.

After a restless sleep, I woke the next morning and headed to the track. Some of our group stayed overnight, with a few only resting little during that time. What determination they had!

I started where I left off the night before, but at a much slower pace. I noticed it seemed it was taking more effort than normal early on. The volunteers had made complimentary bacon and eggs for the walkers and runners. It smelled delicious, but running, bacon, and eggs just don’t mix together. So I “suffered” through the smell.

I continued to run a few miles, then walk a lap. Sometimes I’d walk with a few teammates and we’d talk about past races or anything in general. Eventually, the miles dwindled down. My right hamstring started to tighten at some point. I did some stretching and shortened my stride a bit.

The event was ending at 1:00pm and I had a few miles to go to reach 31 miles for the day. If I’d continue my pace, I’d be able to reach the goal. The monotony of the track was really starting to get to me, though. Luckily there was a walk way right outside the track fence. I went outside the fence and circled around for the last few miles. I hopped back onto the track and completed the 31 miles at 12:54pm.

I had a great time at the Relay for Life. To date this year, our team of 12 has earned $4,073.30.

World’s End 50K- ’15

World’s End State Park is located in Forksville, which is northeast of Montoursville in Sullivan County, PA. I am familiar with it because my father-in-law belongs to a camp in the neighboring town of Hillsgrove. I’ve gone up to that camp multiple times and love the area. So when I heard there was going to be an ultramarathon held close by, I jumped at the opportunity and signed up for their 50K. Most of the course is on the Loyalsock Trail. I have always wanted to run or hike on the LT and now was my chance to explore it.

Saturday morning came very early for both my wife Caryn and I. She surprised me a few weeks back by saying she would drive me up and crew and support me. The race started at 7:00am so we hopped in the jeep at 4:15am and took off. The forecast called for a warm and humid day with a chance of rain in the afternoon.

We had a briefing by the race director at 6:45am on some specifics about the course, it’s markings, and rattlesnakes. He said there could be a possibility that we’d run in to one. I have become accustomed to them now, and nonchalantly look for them on my trail runs. Unfortunately, on this race, I did not see or hear any. Here is the race director giving us some good info…..

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My trail running friend Gary was also doing the 50K. We started off on a dirt road and like main ultras, abruptly went off-road within the first half mile. Within 2 miles, we were climbing our first mountain. The first aid station was early, around mile 3. It was well placed, because once I stopped to get two orange slices, we immediately started climbing again…and this was a larger mountain. Once we crested the mountain, the trail opened up and could get some good running in. Throughout the day, I heard multiple people say how surprised they were about how runnable much of the trail is. I was expecting more rocks and less “groomed” single track.

I was somewhat concerned about the humidity, since it got to me a few weeks ago in another race and basically caused me to DNF. I made sure this time around my head was on straight and I took my time early on. That is exactly what I did. I was in no hurry with this event. With it being a brand new race, I wanted to take a step back and enjoy the beauty of it all. If I liked what I saw, I’d be back next year and “get after it”.

Caryn welcomed us at Aid Station 2 (AS2), which was along Sones Pond. It was very nice through there. We ran on soft pine needles. Can’t beat that. Here are Gary and I approaching the aid station(My wife could be a professional photographer. Trust me, I know. She’s taken thousands of action shots of me throughout my marathons I’ve run and they’re great.)……

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My wife Caryn told me at the AS that someone on a bike had seen a bear not to far away from the AS. Thank goodness when we left, we were heading in the opposite direction!

Gary and I separated multiple times throughout the first half of the race, and that was fine. We made no plans of running with each other. We run our own runs. We decide how little or how much to get out of it. I always tell myself in any type of race to run within myself. Don’t let anyone dictate or control my pace or feelings during it.

At around mile 13 or so, I had a bit of a tough spot. I was losing lots of fluids, which is what I was expecting since it was humid. It wasn’t nearly as bad as my DNF weekend though. This day had a constant nice breeze that kept me somewhat cool at times. I dug deep, kept a level head, and most importantly, continued to fuel up on calories and fluids. At Rt. 154, I saw Caryn again, which also gave me a boost. I think it was also around this time where I knew the race was mine for the taking if I wanted to push a little harder. Here I am around that time…

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Unfortunately, it was also around that time that Caryn told me that Gary was starting to cramp up. It was early for one to start cramping with half the race left to go. I had a decision to make. Should I run my own race, and possibly have that great feeling of finishing strong(Minqua-like stealth action) or should I help a friend out and stick with them to pull them through. I decided that if I caught back up to Gary, I’d stick with him to the end. This was a beautiful day, with beautiful views, excellent trails(by the way it reminded me entirely of the A.T. runs in PA last year), vistas, and was a new course. I thought holding back and enjoying it a little bit with a trail running friend would be the best choice.

I eventually caught up to Gary. We logged some good miles together and eventually got to AS4. Caryn was there and she had pickles, watermelon, and chips ready for me. They are my main 3 “go to” foods at AS’s….oh, and Coke, but we didn’t have any at the time. The actual AS4 did have Pepsi and Ginger Ale, so I took advantage of that also. Here we are approaching the AS…..

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I’m glad I fueled up, because we had an immediate climb up a mountain after that. We ran into Gary’s trail running friends Mike and Laura, who have lots of runs and experiences under their belts. At the top of the climb, and around mile 22, we came to the Canyon Vista, and another AS. Here I am enjoying the day so far…..

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We continued running when possible, and hiking when there were inclines. Rocks and boulders were also scattered throughout the entire park. Like I said, it reminded me of the A.T. runs we ran in PA last year. As a matter of fact, while I was running this race, I couldn’t help but think back about last summer’s A.T. adventures. On multiple occasions, a climb over a boulder, or a smell of a fern, or a little stream crossing, took me back to the fun I shared on the A.T. last summer. The WE 50K was turning into one of our P.A.T. runs….and I was having a blast!

The miles, like Gary and I, continued on. The last AS was roughly 4 miles from the finish. We hovered around there for a good 5 minutes, and then went on our merry ways. On multiple occasions, Gary was telling me to take off and quit holding back. I stuck with him. I know what it’s like when it gets tough. We ran when we could and hiked when we couldn’t. We got back on the World’s End Trail for the final mile down the mountain. We were glad to see the bottom of that mountain and parking area.

Caryn welcomed us as we approached the finish. Of course Gary wanted me to finish beside him, and I probably should have. But he deserved to finish before me. He fought and struggled and earned every bit of it. Here we are shortly after finishing…

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I can’t and won’t say enough about the World’s End 50K. Part of me didn’t even want to post this because I want this race to be a “best kept secret”. The director knows what he’s doing and the post race food was phenominal. I don’t want others to know how nice, and challenging, and runnable, and beautiful, and diverse this race truly is. I know, it sounds completely rude. How could be so selfish of my own kind?! I just don’t want it to sell out in minutes in future years like I know it is going to. And, I don’t know, I may have been sold on it even before it started because of it near a cabin I’ve had some enjoyable times at. But after the race, it was pretty obvious. I really can’t wait to do it again next year!