It has been a couple of weeks since our first trail race as one of the race directors. I really do not know where to begin. This had been a seven month long endeavor and we have made a lot of memories. Instead of trying to put together a chronological list of what happened, here is a list of items point by point.

The Park

It has been a pleasure working with the park officials like Steve Volgastdt. I really did not have much direct communication with the park – most of those relations between our group and the park was through Ethan Imhoff. Yes, we had to cross all the T’s and dot the I’s and made sure we had what we needed like emergency plans, course approval and permits with the state as well as having our insurance in place. At first, the park officials were a little nervous about the race. That uneasiness seemed to escalate as we got closer to the race when the park started to have some second thoughts about the course we chose even though it had been approved months in advance. But then on race day, park officials, watching how well we organized the race, seemed satisfied and was at ease.

Adam working on Hartman Trail as part of our erosion efforts.

A lot of good came out of the race. Before issuing the permit, we had a choice to pay a fee for allowing us to use the park or we could volunteer our time toward the maintenance of the park and its trails. Even though the fee was small, we chose to volunteer. Our biggest project was the trail improvement at Hartman Trail as it climbs above the quarry. For years, other volunteers for the park pushed for moving the trail away from the edge of the cliff and it wasn’t until our race that the officials finally decided it was time. Even the other race directors including myself were worried that if we had wet conditions on race day, the slick clay on that hill might cause someone to end up sliding off the mountain. So, one morning about a week before the race, several volunteers from our group as well as representatives from Sheetz and REI offered their time to move the trail away from the edge as well as installing more than a dozen ties across the trail to combat water erosion.

The Course

We wanted to have a course that would be both a great experience for the first-time or novice trail runner yet be challenging enough for a seasoned veteran. So we came up with two loops around the lake with each loop at the appropriate level of difficulty. All runners will do the first loop up Moore’s Hill and down the other side and then around the lake. The second loop for the more experienced runners would take them up Smith Hill then back down, up Moore’s Hill but on a much steeper Hartman Trail, then down, and then back up the hill again on Mattern Trail and then finally around the lake again.
It had been ‘the winter without a winter’ and in the weeks leading up to the race, the trails were much more drier than what they would normally would be for early April. The dry course made for a very fast course. I think the pace set by the leaders in this years race will not be broken for many years.

Mary Kowalski taking on the first stream crossing. Many were excited about the stream crossings.

I did a very unscientific poll at the race and everyone seem to enjoy the course. I talked to some runners I recognized from other races like the Tiadaghton, Dam Half/Full and the Dam Scramble. They agreed that we did a good job with the course description and we accurately described the greater degree of difficultly in the second loop. The experienced runners also enjoyed that this was a runnable course without some of the rocky nonsense that some races further north have been doing lately.
When the winner of the 12-mile run came through the finish line, he said that he threw up three times on some of the steeper hills like Hartman. Perhaps he was running it too fast but as a race director, it was a cool thing to hear. Despite tossing the cookies, he too enjoyed the route.

Marking the trail before the event. Todd Lewis in black and Ethan Imhoff in red.

I think the only complaint I did heard was the lack of flags on the 12 mile course. Well, let me explain: the morning of the race we started flagging the course at 9:30am. We estimated we would be done a little after lunch. I left to meet a friend for lunch at 1:30, which at that time we made it to the dam breast on the first loop. During lunch I got a call from Ethan and Adam that they had used all 600 flags and I had to get more. As it got later and later in the day, we realized we are going to run out of daylight! So we began setting flags at longer and longer intervals. Now, there was no way anyone would have gotten lost. The areas were flags were sparse was where it would be almost impossible to run off the trail. But since we had flag at almost every 15 feet for the first loop, it kind of gave runners a false sense of security. Noted.
There was also the incident where I was closing off a section of trail with some tape when I slipped and dropped the roll to the ground. The roll of tape immediately rolled down the mountainside, across the trail twice and into the valley below. My heart sank as the roll unfurled down to the bottom, leaving a trail of about 200 feet of tape down the mountainside.

Photos and Video

One of the things we wanted was to have a lot of race photos and video. I think it is always nice to see yourself in photos. Jessica Meck was stationed at the kilns, Adam and Kelly McGinnis was at the first stream crossing, James Gerraughty was on video at the eastern shore, and Jonathan Singel was at the second crossing. Each have put together an amazing set a photos and video of the event – probably more than 1000 photos. Here are the links:

Video of the Start

Dirty Kiln Photos at the Limestone Kiln

First Stream Crossing

Various Dirty Kiln Photos

Dirty Kiln Leaders – Pavilion 3

Easter Shore Footage

We also had some other people take some great photos and videos of the event, including my favorite photo, taken by Bethany Beck at the starting line which is seen below. Thank you!

The Sponsors

We were very lucky to have a set of sponsors who really believed in us and what we were doing. When we started planning for the race, we thought we would be lucky to have three or four sponsors. We ended with more than a dozen. Most notably, our top sponsor, Stuckey Subaru, was very enthusiastic about the event. So much so, they printed some awesome bags for the race, offered an iPad as a door prize, and special “Dirty Kiln” pricing on a Subaru Impreza. They also sent a lot of staff and friends to enjoy the race. Secondly, Atlantic Broadband offered an awesome deal by promoting the event by utilizing some of their cable media buy in the Altoona, Johnstown, Uniontown and Cumberland, MD markets toward the race. We even got some last minute sponsors from Monster Engery, Furrer Beverage, Maverick Graphics, and The Iron House Cafe. Last but not least, REI and Salomon gave us some cool race director supplies and awesome prizes for the race.

Registration, Timing and Finish Line

If there is one major point that I have to criticize, it was the registration, timing and finish line issues. First, registration was done through Active.com. We decided to go entirely with online registration to eliminate some of the hassle of entering paper registrations by hand. With Active, there was no way to change a registration in the database, which for the few who wanted to change the race in which they wanted to run in, caused some last minute hassles. But more interestingly, we encountered another problem. Sponsors had some comped entries that we entered into the system manually. Somehow, for reasons I still do not know why, some of these registrations went missing between the downloading of the data and the results that were recorded by the timing company. Not all, but some of the names that we entered manually, did not show up in the final results even though they did get a bib number. I still don’t know what happened.

We also had a flood of people begging to be signed up for the event after the due date was expired. Next year, we may push back the registration date a couple of days to review the database more carefully and have a “no-tolerance policy” on those trying to register after the race.

Next, check-in could be greatly improved. Everyone showed up at once and there was one point that one person from the timing company almost had a meltdown. It wasn’t until some of our volunteers stepped in, split the chips and bids into two lines, that we were able to get on top of the rush. Next time, we have assigned (thank you, Nikki) as ‘check-in and registration czar’ to control the process and divide the check-in into two groups and divide some of the tasks accordingly.

Don Longstreth charging out of the second stream crossing.

Lastly, we had an unexpected surprise with the finish line area. The timing company had a second mat to record the first lap split. Runners who were doing the second loop had to cross over the mat. This caused runners to run through a congested area near the pavilion and across a busy pedestrian walkway instead of having the runners either veer off before the finish line, then up the hill and to the second lap, or down the hill toward the lake.

Food

Something we need to do better was food. I think initially we had several big boxes of pizza. It wasn’t until a couple of days before the race when we realized we were very, very short. Ethan then called a friend at Best Way to get some more pizza and Matt got some more goodies. The biggest savior was Ethan’s wife, Nikki, who on the day before the event, went from store to store begging for donated food items. For the most part we made it out in the end but it was so last minute and not at all planned. This is something we need to plan better for next year.

The Surprises

We decided to add in some surprises. First, we wanted some good stuff in the goodie bags. We were able to get hooked up with some cool stuff again from our great sponsors. I even found a blog from someone who wrote that the cool stuff might be a sign that the economy improving. They said it was one of the best goodie bags they seen in a long time.

A happy award winner.

Secondly, the awards. We wanted something unique and something that captured the spirit and essence of the race. After toying around with some ideas, I was at my parents one weekend where I took some aluminum flash, pounded the name of the race with a die set, and glued it to a rock. I admit it looked rugged and awesome. But, we never realized the work involved. It took four people two nights to pound all the plates and adhere them the rocks. First we had some issues with the plates not sticking to the rock but sanding them lightly and then formfitting the plate to the rock to allow more surface area to adhere between the two worked for the most part. There were some that the glue did not hold. However the runners that had a bad rock where still happy with it and said they would go home and get a glue gun and try again.

Third, we wanted some cool prizes. Luckily, we had Salomon Running and REI that provided some cool gear, shoes, and more for the top finishers and for door prizes.

Tim Gatehouse on bagpipes at the Limestone Kiln

Four – Probably the biggest thing that brought more smiles to the faces of more runners was the bagpiper and the African drumming ensemble along the course. We kept this secret until race day. After the race, there was plenty of positive comments on our Facebook page about both and they felt it was a quirky surprise and great motivator.

Next Year….

It is going to be hard to top what we did. Plus, I am afraid that some of the new trailrunners will begin to expect that most other trail races are like the one we did. Trail races are usually low-key, no-frills events. But before we think about next year, we got another race to plan. It’s Blue Knob in the Fall.