With a little more than a month before Pittsburgh, I was getting tired of road runs so I decided to run in the Tiadaghton or now known as the Mile Run Trail Half Marathon. Normally, if I wasn’t running on the trails, I would be doing a 20 mile run in preparation for the marathon. To make up for it, I decided that running in a 13 mile trail race and then 13 on Sunday should suffice.
I would drive up myself, with trailrunning friend Matt Lindsey getting there later due to work. The drive was a lot quicker than I thought and I got there 90 minutes before the race. Waiting, it was either raining or a heavy drizzle. My first decision was trying to figure out what to wear. I settled for my water-resistant NB trail jacket and longer-cut grey shorts with calf compression sleeves. I was hoping that since it was in the mid-40’s, I wouldn’t get too hot.

My course map that I ran at Mile Run Trail Half Marathon.

I wanted to do well but since I never tried the course I wasn’t confident in going all out. Marathon training had been going very well and I had a great season thus far so I really felt I could do well. Earlier that week I had some of the fastest training runs I ever had with low 8 minute runs with some splits in the 7’s during that same week. So the plan was to give me several miles before I decided if I would run hard. According to the elevation profile, there is a 500 foot climb for the first 2 miles and then a gentle 200 foot climb for another mile and a half. It would be here that I would decide if I was “going to go for it”. The course would drop 400 feet at 4.7 miles before a 200 foot climb in less than a half mile. At mile 5.16, I would reach a high plateau with a slight elevation gain until mile 7.89 until a steep drop of 500 feet in 0.6 miles. There would then be a 350 climb from mile 8.6 to 9.5. Then again I would be on a high plateau to 10.79 then there is a 650 drop to the end of the finish. You can get a better idea via my Runkeeper log at the end of this post.

Start of the race and in the mob.

Start of the race. I am in the middle of the photo with Matt Lindsey to the right.

Matt arrived soon before the race. I am guessing I was amid 300 runners or so. I was chatting with Matt when all of the sudden the crowd began to move forward. I guess we are starting?! I was in the second quarter of the group. Immediately we started up Mile Run Road but then at a third-of-a-mile we turned left into the woods and onto some very rocky and technical single-track with the stream to my left. Lindsey took off ahead and I was in the middle of a cluster as we all tried to squeeze onto the single-track. About a half a mile in, we came a small footbridge. Looking ahead at the traffic coming to almost a complete standstill, I darted along the left edge of the crowd and made it across bridge. What I did not know was that I ended up passing Matt who got stuck behind some slow runners at the bridge. For the next 6 miles I would think that he was far in front when in fact he was chasing me down. Up the hallow, I was following a faster group of runners as we floated up a rocky and technical section of trail. It wasn’t long that I realized I forgot to take the screws out of my LaSportiva’s! The spikes are great on soft or muddy soil until I landed on a rock and the entire shoe would slip off the rock like it was ice. I had to make sure my footing was perfect or I would end up with a twisted ankle or worse!
We started up the ridge to the plateau. Here, I started to crank it up. I am not a great trail runner but I have become a damn good passer – finding enough room on the trail and then summoning enough of energy for a sudden burst of speed to pass. Luckily, I have been doing speed workouts for Pittsburgh. I might have passed a dozen or more runners in the uphill and the first plateau. I was like a jack rabbit. I made it to the downhill at around mile 3 then up again, once again overtaking several runners. There was one point I tripped on a rock, fell forward and did a complete roll back onto my feet without a loss of momentum. “Did you see that?” someone said behind me.

Matt Lindsey running through the pines at 3rd Gap Road.

We dropped down into a hallow and back out between mile 4 and 5 and I was still cranking it. At the top of the second climb and onto the plateau at mile 5, I found myself starting to get tired. Perhaps I took it too hard on the uphill or expelled too much energy on my passing sprints? I eased up a little since I knew that the next few miles were relatively flat. At 6.5 miles in, I passed the aid station at Third Gap Road then into a nice set of pines and then onto Webster Trail – a nice and new section of the course. The trail here is a little rocky at times as it follows a fenced off perimeter. I heard behind me “tag! You’re it.” At first I thought it was this kid who I would pass, then he would pass me, then I would pass him. I think I mumbled a half-laugh. But it was Matt! Somehow I passed him. He explained to me that I passed him way back near the bridge.
This section on the plateau was very nice with soft rolling terrain with enough rocks poking out of the ground to make it interesting. Matt gained some distance on me and started to talk to a girl about 20 yards ahead. What I didn’t know was that she was telling Matt that she took a nasty spill and elbowed herself in the ribs, perhaps braking a couple ribs. She was in pain. She would end up talking a trip to the hospital after the race.

Running at the top of the plateau.

Matt Lindsey closing the gap on me at the top.

Along the fence that the top of the plateau. I am in the middle with Matt Lindsey (top in white) gaining on me.

Matt was having trouble with his shoe un-tieing throughout the race. Before the downhill, he exited the trail to retie his shoe for the third time and told me to continue ahead. I was following an older gentleman as we started downhill at mile 8. Suddenly he stopped at a grove of pines and said, ” you first”. I passed him wondering what was all that about when and found myself going straight down a very steep, maybe a 45-degree downhill! It was like going down a log flume ride at the amusement park.
I have learned a long time ago that a successful trail race is a game of feet and courage. If you can climb a hill a few feet farther than the other guy and if you are just a little braver than the other guy on the downhill, you will find yourself closing the distance quite easy. I just opened it up and flew down the hill reckless abandon.

Straight up the mountain on Red Tongue Trail.

Next I found myself going up a rocky hallow with three other runners and then straight up the mountain on Red Tongue Trail and finally onto a logging road which offered a slight climb but was long and steady. I was spent and felt like the running dead! I did not have it in me to pass anyone at this point. Finally came the downhill to the finish and I decided to go it a little braver than the other guy and started to pass. I ended up taking a second spill but recovered quickly. I did bruise up my wrists and got a nasty contusion on my right thigh. As I continued down the hill, it got more rocky and technical the further I went. I had to use every bit of mental power to guide my feet between the rocks. My feet were all over the place, slipping and sliding on the rocks! I started to have flashbacks of Detwiller Trail near Alan Seeger Natural Area, when back in Memorial Day last year, took me out of running for a month and missing The Rothrock Challenge. I was very concerned and worried. I was even passed by a couple of runners with better choices in footwear at this point.
I got to the bridge, the same footbridge at the beginning of the race and I see yellow caution tape across it. Behind me, I hear “no this way!”. “You got to be fucking kidding me”, I said. The trail takes a detour up the face of a rocky boulder field! These were not the “nice boulders” like the Mega. This was a messy field up the side of the mountain with very angry looking, sharp, pointy, loose and rugged crags that even the glaciers from the ice age didn’t want anything to do with them. Several runners and I clambered to the top of the trail and then across the mountain, and back down. My shoes made a clinking sound with every step. “Who’s the idiot with spikes?” someone said. I had to admit it was me.
Going down the side of the rock field, I fell for the third time. Just by dumb luck, I fell on the only soft section of the trail. What an idiotic section!! What a dumb way to ruin a great course?!!

A couple of runners trying to navigate the rock field near the end of the course.

I ran down the last section of trail, then entered into a culvert where Mile Run crosses under the interstate. The water was cold and about up to my lower calves. The weird thing was that with the tunnel and water rushing underneath me played with my perception and I think I was a little wobbly going through it. The course then hooks back and up on a road that goes under the interstate and up a hill to the finish.

My time: 2 hour 20 minutes and 31 seconds to finish 20th in my age group. Matt, who was so frustrated with his shoes, had took the remaining course easy, finished in 2 hours 26 minutes and 26 seconds and 22nd in the same age group.
I was very happy with my finish and made a great effort. However, I paid a small price. I never did take that 13 mile run the next day and it took me several days to week get back to where I was prior to the race. I had a pretty bad muscle bruise on my right thigh from the second fall it it took a week before the swelling would go away. My LaSportiva’s did not fair so well. The sharp rocks ended up ripping the sides of my shoes for the second time in under 150 miles. I really like the shoe but having them rip to shreds on such a few miles isn’t worth it asking for a replacement pair.
Except for that damn rock field at the end, I had a great time. Lindsey and I drove to State College to Otto’s and also reconnected with a friend who just happened to be in town that week.

My Runkeeper Stats and Map from the race.