PRE-RACE
The week before the race I felt something strange below and slightly left on the outside of my left knee. It felt like I had a tendon that was moving around above my bone. There was no pain – just a slightly odd feeling. It started on the Sunday (6 days) before the race when I was on a trail run at Canoe Creek near the docks on the east side of the lake. I pulled it while I was on the pavement of all places. I was “high stepping” trying to increase my cadence when I felt a slight tug below my knee. I stuttered a couple of steps then it didn’t bother me for the rest of the run. Nor it it hurt during the week on any of my training runs. The only time it was noticeable when I was at my desk at work, in the morning during wake-up, and when I was at home walking in my bare feet on the carpet. It was very odd.
After a mass diagnosis on Facebook in which the consensus was that I shouldn’t run at all and go see a doctor, I wasn’t happy with the answers I was receiving. So I went to see my friend Nikki, a physical therapist, to take a look see. After flexing, pulling, stretching and hitting my leg trying unsuccessfully to induce pain, she said that my IT band was only slightly inflamed. When asked if I should do a 50k, she said it would be no problem. She did suggest that the problem might be from a leg and muscle imbalance and I should start strength-training and stretches. I don’t think I paid too much attention after she said it was okay to race and I was distracted by her new kitten. I like kittens!
After the slight debacle at the Megatransect race in late-September when I was running beyond my limits and thus suffered the consequences of fatigue and cramping, I decided to keep on top of my nutrition, hydration, electrolytes and not run like a crazy person. For Sinnemahone, I didn’t have a preset plan per se, but I did want to be more disciplined, run smart, listen to my body and rely on experience. I figured that I can run a moderately quick 50k by running by feel and being more aware of my body.
For this race, here are the cast of characters: Dusty Kunstenbeck, a long-time triathlete and cyclist, the last time he had a race beyond a marathon was at the JFK 50-miler about five years ago. Prior to the race we occasionally ran together and I wasn’t too concerned except for his climbing ability. He has the legs, lungs and strength to do a 50k but he was slower going up hill. According to secondhand accounts (his wife, Tina), he was not training as much as he liked and he had been seriously contemplating on downgrading to the 25k by race day.
John Weaver Jr. took Todd Lewis’s bib, who was sidelined due to an impromptu wedding (sharing other people’s joy and love is SOO overrated). Weaver was running as part as his preparation for the Mountain Masochist in Virginia in two weeks. I wasn’t worried if Weaver was going to have a good day or not. He always gets it done. The question is “how well.”

Course map - click for larger image

Course map – click for larger image

RACE MORNING
Since Dusty lives on the far end of Altoona near the campus and is equal distance from either Hollidaysburg or my parents home, I opted to sleep at my parents place for some peace and quiet in the country. I hoped to be in bed by 8pm for a 3am wake up. Again, for the third race in a row, I was not able to fall asleep. One, my parents house thermostat was set to “thermonuclear” and the waterbed I slept in was so hot that I felt like a steamed asparagus. I also had too much on my mind. My thoughts would ping from work, to the race, to other matters. I didn’t fall asleep until 1am.
I had a better morning than the last race in getting my shit together. Then I drove to Altoona via the Buckhorn, stopping at the “campus” Sheetz and getting to Dusty’s house by 4am. Dusty lives near the PSU Altoona Campus and I was surprised by the number of students milling about or on their “walk of shame” to their apartments. Getting to Dusty’s, Weaver was already there and both of them standing in the open garage. I threw my stuff into Dusty’s Subaru and we were off to Emporium but not before stopping at that same Sheetz near the campus. While I waited in the car and watched mobs of students walk in and out of the Sheetz, Dusty saw a student shoplift some pretzels. Dusty wasn’t the only person to see it, as the kid was stopped by a Sheetz employee at the door. We left before the cops showed up.

The town of Emporium (photo by Carol Kleckner)

The town of Emporium (photo by Carol Kleckner)

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Race Bags courtesy of Sheetz

Despite the early hour, the three of us talked the whole way to Emporium. With the lack of traffic and police at that time of the night, we made it to Emporium in about two hours. I think we spotted 50-75 deer along the highways to Emporium. Between Saint Mary’s and Emporium, a bobcat crossed the road in front of us.
We didn’t have the driving directions to the packet pickup location but we recalled it was in the center of town at the Cameron Chamber of Commerce offices. With the lights inside their offices so dim and no cars parked along the street, we almost missed the building.
We walked inside. The Cameron Chamber of Commerce is not only the chamber office but it is also the arts center, historical offices, cultural center, a gift shop, a tourism center offices….etc. Two ladies were inside with the boxes of drop bags. The grab bag itself was really nice and would make an excellent race bag with multiple compartments, mesh holder for bottles and other items and a mesh top to prevent “stinky race bag”. Inside the bag, it was a very eclectic items with pens, pencils, a half dozen note pads, two boxes of bandages, keychains and various pamphlets and brochures. It is more like a schwag bag from a local trade show rather than a race.
While looking through the grab bag and reviewing the oversized map, one of the race directors shows up. He looked like Sam Elliot but wearing glasses and sporting a smaller mustache. I asked him some questions on the course. Several weeks ago, it was posted on social media that someone moved some of the course signs. Sam Elliot assured me that they had volunteers on the course at 4am that morning making sure the arrows and ribbons were still in place.
“We got some big time athletes doing this race. We got a Matt who finished first in the Boulder Dash a few months ago,” said Sam Elliot.

Sam Elliot had some encouraging words.

Sam Elliot had some encouraging words.

“Matt Lipsey. Yes, he is really fast. He finished first in our race a month ago,” I replied.
“We also have this athlete named Ben Mazur who’s doing the 50K.”
I gave him a strange look before I said “What? Don’t be ridiculous!” I laughed.
Weaver bites his tongue.
“I’m no athlete,” I said.
I am still not sure why they would think that.

New canopy but old Sheetz building. The race start was near the trees in the background.

New canopy but an old Sheetz building. The starting line was near the trees in the background.

The three of us got our packets and then we walked outside, down the street and around the corner, then another half block to the starting line. We had thirty-minutes before race time at sunrise. Since the temperature was in the low-40’s and still dark, we opted to go back to the chamber office/artisan center and prepare there. It seemed like everyone took our lead as many other runners decided to do the same thing. There, we ran into Matt Lipsey and Nicole Clarr, who I ran with at Mega. Her step-father’s mother new father cousin’s roommate, or something like that, was the race director.
To recap, my plan for the race was simple. I was going to try to run a solid race at a sustained effort. I would keep on top of my nutrition – eating something every half an hour. I would also sip constantly and pop in some electrolyte tablets every hour or so.
As a general rule, I have strong convictiond regarding running with friends. “Never run at someone else’s pace. Always run your own race.”
With 10 minutes until race time, we finally walked down the street around the corner, past what might be the oldest Sheetz in existence (The building resembled an old rest-stop along the PA Turnpike) and to the starting line.

Sinnemahone 50k course

Sinnemahone 50k course

THE RACE

With the blast of a mini-cannon, we started running down the West Creek Rail Trail to the edge of town. This is not the type of rail-trail you might be familiar with – a wide-graded bicycle trail packed down with crushed stone – this is an un-groomed railroad bed sans the rails. The ballast stone and cinders were never hauled away and were sometimes exposed rather than underneath the lumpy mounds of grass. It is the worse rail-trail I have been on! You could even tweak your ankle on this trail if you were not paying attention.

The climb up Wiley Trail (photo by Carol Kleckner)

The climb up Wiley Trail (photo by Carol Kleckner)

After the rail-trail, the course then turns right onto State Route 120 for 150 yards where it then turns left onto State Route 155. It crosses Route 155 at the Buttonwood Hotel, a circa 1950’s roadside hotel. Dusty joked on how awesome it would be if we actually ran through a guest room and jumped out the window in the back. Behind the hotel we crossed a gate onto Wiley Trail. The Wiley Trail is used as a snowmobile route during the winter and is wide enough for a jeep. This trail goes up the mountain 935 feet in 1.8 miles as it crosses into Climax Hollow and then proceeds up the hollow until it encounters Bauer Hollow Road. Climbing this first major hill, Weaver charged ahead, I was next and Dusty dropped back. Finally catching up at the top, Dusty had caught up with me and admitted that he needed to work on his uphill climbing abilities. Before the second of two sections in this climb, we had caught up to Weaver. The trail is a wide snowmobile trail, covered entirely with wet leaves which I realized will make for an interesting descent near the end of the race. To my left, I noticed the fog in the valley below and partly cloudy skies above me. I also noticed that same mild discomfort in my left knee that had plagued me that week.
The course beared left onto the Bauer Hollow Road (hard-packed forest road and rolling terrain) for the next 1.91 miles. Weaver bolted ahead while Dusty and I stuck together at a mid-9 minute pace until we intersected Steam Mill Road and toward the first aid station. Approaching the first aid station, we saw Weaver grab something and continued pass the aid station without wasting any time. At the aid station, Dusty and I replenished our fluids. While at the aid station another runner in blue runs in, I look at him knowing I had ran with him before but couldn’t place where or when.
“I know you from somewhere,” I said.
He looks carefully at me for a few seconds before it occurred to him. “I ran with you at Hyner,” he said.
It was during a Hyner training run prior to the Hyner Challenge when Don Longstreth and Tyler Pepper took Tim Sheehan and I on a course preview back in March when we ran into the runner in blue. After a quick hello, Dusty and I left the station and back onto Steam Mill Road. Dusty and I wondered how far ahead Weaver might be. There is now a discomfort but now in my right knee and I wondered if it was from over compensating with my right left trying to match my weird left knee.
The course followed Steam Mill Road (sub 9-minute mile pace) for 0.66 miles until a left turn onto Mowray Trail (singletrack). Covered in leaves and no wider than six-inches across, Mowray Trail drops downhill 400 ft to the 25k/50k split at the intersection of Mowray/Chicago Springs/Bucktail Path just before reaching McNuff Branch creek. Earlier in the week, Dusty mentioned the possibility of dropping down to the 25k course. Running down the trail with Dusty just ahead, I never asked him earlier that day what were his intentions. Ahead of him were several other runners. Near the intersection, two volunteers stood near the split. Dusty ran past the chatting volunteers and maked a left onto the 25k course. I immediately assumed he must be doing the short course. As I get to the split, I stopped to make sure I needed to go right onto the long course. Seeing me hesitate, the volunteers yelled at me that if I am doing the 50k course I need to make a right. I turned right. I looked over to my left toward the 25k course and I saw that Dusty had also stopped and was now running toward me and the 50k course. Only then did I realized that he had decided to do the 50k course. Dusty caught up to me just as I was about to cross McNuff Branch creek and onto Chicago Springs Trail. “I am glad to have you along from the long ride,” I said as Dusty climbed the bank out of the creek.
Chicago Springs is a beautiful section of trail atop a plateau and around several hollows before entering a section of pines and wet marshes. We chugged along at a brisk 10 minute to 10:30 pace. There were also several minor creek crossings. If you ever run this section, you will get your feet wet, especially since it had been dry lately. During this section, we ran into two hunters and separate occasions, both looking a bit confused as to our presence. Looking at the trail surface, it is a very faint trail, just a slight depression through the forest with grass and moss underfoot. It doesn’t look like a lot of runners had been on the trail recently and I estimated maybe one to three people ahead. In fact, I worried if Weaver made the correct turn at the split since there seemed so little disturbance and foot tracks on the trail and worried if the volunteers might have steered some of the 50k runners onto the short course.
We made it to a forest road called Ridge Road at the 9.57 mile mark, 1 hour and 43 minutes into the run. We ran for another 1.33 miles until the next aid station. Here at mile 11/aid station 2, Dusty and I met up with Weaver who was stepping out of the porta-john as we approached the aid station. Weaver admitted he had lost a lot of time going to the bathroom. Weaver said he had overtaken the forth place runner prior to the aid station but that runner had passed him while Weaver was taking a shit. At the aid station, we joked around and talked to a great set of volunteers at the aid station. Weaver, Dusty and I left the aid station together. By this time, any discomfort in my legs were gone.

THE THREE AMIGOS
Ahead of us was 3.67 miles of straight pipeline and the three of us agreed to chase down the forth and third place runner. The pipeline is a series of five hills and as we crested the first hill, we saw runner #4 climbing the second hill.
The chase was on!

The Pipeline (photo by race)

The Pipeline (photo by race)

With every hill, we gained about 50 to 200 yards on the forth place runner. At the top of the second hill, runner #4 just started to climb the third hill about a quarter-mile away. He looked tired. The third place runner had made it to the top of the ridge about a half mile away. There was nobody behind us. At mile 14.74 the course made a sharp left turn off the pipeline. The fourth place person was about 75 yards ahead and had somehow missed the enormous course arrow that pointed to the left. Dusty and I looked at each other wondering if we should say something but decided to yell ahead as we approached the turn. (From this point on, I will refer to Runner #4 as ‘Wrong Way Warren’.) At the turn, Dusty, Weaver, Wrong Way Warren and I passed some volunteers from the local search and rescue staff and made a right back again onto Ridge Road. Dusty, Weaver and I began to spread some distance from Wrong Way Warren who looked rather beat and worn down. We passed some impressive overlooks at Whitehead Lookout on our left.
Just over the halfway point at mile 16.3 is the next aid station and the only drop bag spot on the course. While Dusty and Weaver recharged, I opted to change shoes. From here on out, most of the course would be on singletrack with steeper uphills and downhills. Geology lesson: After the first climb, we had been atop a high and vast plateau called the Allegheny Plateau at about 2000 feet above sea level. Eons of erosion have etched deep canyons and valleys into the plateau like tree branches. After this aid station, we would begin going up and down into a couple of these canyons until the last downhill back into Emporium. I switched from my Brooks Cascadias to my Salomon Speedcross. I was taking a gamble that the more aggressive tread pattern of the Salomon would be more apt for the terrain. I also hoped that a pair of fresh socks would be a welcome change. As I sat down to change shoes and socks, I told Dusty and Weaver to go on ahead and that I hoped to catch up to them later. By the time I changed shoes and got refueled, Wrong Way Warren had appeared and left the aid station.

Bucktail Path leaving the aid station. (photo by David Johnston: http://www.flickr.com/photos/davidthehiker/10700906586/in/set-72157635430457978

Bucktail Path leaving the aid station.The trail here was very faint. (photo by David Johnston: http://www.flickr.com/photos/davidthehiker/10700906586/in/set-72157635430457978

I ran out of the aid station three hours and one minute into the race. The change of shoes felt great! Now, on the singletrack of Bucktail Path, the shoes were better suited to the trail. Though my new socks were dry, the thinner sock felt a little funny compared to the thick-cushioned Wigwam socks I wore for the first half of the race. Despite the differences, it felt like I had a new pair of legs and my mental spirits were lifted too. I ended up doing a nine-minute mile leaving the station and I was shocked that it took me only a 1/2 mile to catch up with Dusty and Weaver. Weaver explained that he and Dusty got off the course. There was a crazy dogleg turn in the trail and Dusty and Weaver ended up running onto a deer trail before realizing they were off-course. This shows how faint this trail was and it wind through the forest. With the leaves on the trail and probably only several dozen people transecting on the trail all-year, Bucktail Path is a very hard trail to follow. The green course ribbons were few and far between and we had to navigate by the orange blazes on the trees. Just a second before catching up with Weaver, I saw ahead of him was Wrong Way Warren, then Dusty and not too far ahead of Dusty was the third-placed runner. Now we had a race!

Bucktail Path - Dead ferns are a fire-orange. - photo by David Johnson http://www.flickr.com/photos/davidthehiker/10700906586/in/set-72157635430457978

Bucktail Path – Dead ferns are a fire-orange. – photo by David Johnson http://www.flickr.com/photos/davidthehiker/10700906586/in/set-72157635430457978

We were now running atop a finger-like ridge. Weaver, just feet in front of me, started to play mind games with Wrong Way Warren by literally clipping at his heals until Warren had enough and yielded off the trail to let us pass. We then had caught up to Dusty. Dusty was third, Weaver was fourth and I was fifth as we ran in a pack toward the third place runner as we approached the first major downhill at mile 17.7 called Park Hallow.
Park Hallow is a 1,000 foot drop in 1.24 miles. At the top of the hill we jockeyed positions according to who was more suited to downhill running. Weaver would go first, I would be second and Dusty in back. The third place runner was about 25 to 50 yards ahead. It is a harrowing and narrow singletrack. The grade and the surrounding terrain (but sans rocks) reminded me of Post Draft at Hyner. About half way down the hill, the third place runner fell and Weaver quickly passed. Weaver was now in third place. About 3/4 of the way down, I hit my left foot on a hidden stump at a passage way through a thicket of mountain laurel. I landed on my left side and literally bounced off the ground as I rolled completely over and back onto my feet. Dusty admitted later that my acrobatics looked rather graceful. Though it didn’t hurt too much when I fell, I think I bruised my ribs in that fall. Even after 11 days after the fall, my ribs still hurt.

Finally we reached the bottom of the mountain, crossed Whitehead Run and then ran upstream along the creek. Weaver let the third place runner go on ahead but still kept him within a couple dozen yards in front as Weaver and I waited for Dusty to catch up. At the bottom the trail, the orange blazes got very hard to see along Whitehead Run. We switched positions again with me going first since I was better seeing the blazes and following the trail. Ahead I can see the third place runner looking tired and weaving on the trail. Then he turned to the right as the trail zagged to the left. We called out to him to get back onto the course. That kid – the third place runner – his name was Kevin. He was a student from Penn State and on his first ultramarathon. Now, it was the four of us and soon we had made it to aid station #4 at mile 19.45. The clock was at 3 hours and 33 minutes.
Like the other aid stations, they had a great set of volunteers who really enjoyed being there as we joked with them about our thoughts on the race. Here, we had a cup full of piping hot chicken broth which really hit the spot.

Climb along Rock Run (photo by race)

Climb along Rock Run (photo by race)

Leaving the aid station, next on deck was an ascent back up the plateau, a 1,000 foot climb up and along Rock Run in 3.4 miles. I was first, Weaver was behind me, then Dusty and finally Kevin was in the back. The climb was rocky and tough, varying from boulders to mountain laurel with ankle grabbing roots. Though rocky and steep at first, the grade slowly eased as we climbed toward the top. It was the most scenic section of the race as Rock Run drops over several waterfalls.

Rock Run Falls

Rock Run Falls

Dusty, pointing at the falls, Kevin said “whoa, man! That is like so.. beautiful, man!”
As we approached the top of the plateau, for me the mind games began. Legs, tired from the climb, and from not looking at the course map very closely prior to the race, I was hoping, expecting a road or maybe an aid station at the top of the hill. However we climbed one false ridge after another. Even after the trail flattened out, I expected something to be around each turn. When I turned the corner, the trail continue as far as I could see.
Again. And again.
One time rounding a turn only to see more trail ahead, I yelled “God, damn it!” Weaver replied with a dispirited grunt. Even though we were at the top of the plateau and the terrain was flat, it was very difficult to run. We could only jog for about 25 years before rocks or knee-high bushes made it difficult to see what was hidden under the brush.

Trying to see the trail among the mountain laurel.

Trying to see the trail among the mountain laurel.

It reminded me of the movie “Laurence of Arabia” when Laurence crossed the Nefud Desert. In the movie, Laurence and his two loyal servants decided to cross the Nefud Desert, considered impassable even by the Bedouins, by traveling day and night on the last stage to reach water. One of his servants succumbs to fatigue and falls off his camel unnoticed during the night. At the end of the section, now approaching another downhill, I turned around and noticed Kevin was gone. Dusty said he was sweating a lot and was a bit wobbly. Soon afterward, Dusty turned around and Kevin was gone. Unlike

At the top of Moore's Draft (photo by David Johnson http://www.flickr.com/photos/davidthehiker/10700906586/in/set-72157635430457978

At the top of Moore’s Draft (photo by David Johnson http://www.flickr.com/photos/davidthehiker/10700906586/in/set-72157635430457978

Laurence who went back for his servant, I adhered to the motto: “It’s every man for himself.” I gave Kevin a silent prayer and then we marched onward.
At the top of the downhill, realizing we might finish together, I told Weaver and Dusty that Weaver should go through the finish line first so he can get more UltraSignup points. Weaver was on the cusp of getting an entry into Eastern States and several points would help him get there.

Thanks, Sam Elliot.

Thanks, Sam Elliot.

We ran down into Moore’s Draft – a 700 foot drop in just over a mile. It was a very beautiful yet the most technical downhill of the race. Finally we ended up at a camp with several volunteers milling about and Sam Elliot waiting for us runners. I was the first down the mountain so I chatted with Mr. Elliot as I waited for Weaver and Dusty. Sam Elliot asked about if we were yelled at by a land owner along the pipeline. I said no and he explained that someone yelled at a few of the lead runners before calling DCNR and being told that there was a race today. Sam Elliot also said there was a course change at end. Instead of running down the creek bed near the finish, we would be directed through town the way we came. While talking to Sam Elliot, I looked around and noticed there was no aid station table. Watching me with a confused look on my face, Sam said we still had to continue past the road before the next aid station.
“Faked out! Well-played, sir,” I said. “Well played.”
Now that Dusty and Weaver had caught up, Dusty told Sam to keep an eye out for Kevin. We would learn after the race than Kevin DNF’ed – when Kevin reached the cabin, we had all the signs and symptoms of hypothermia.
Leaving the cabin, we ran down the access road, across the main road into the woods again and to Hunts Run. Dusty grew concerned, thinking the aid station would be right at the road. I reassured him that we had to run further up the creek to the aid station. After about 200 yards up the creek, we made it to the aid station. Here, we took our time – more time than we should have – joking with the volunteers and having a blast, talking to another set of great volunteers.

THE FINAL PUSH

The footbridge at aid station at the bottom of McNuff Branch (photo by Matt Teeter)

The footbridge at aid station at the bottom of McNuff Branch (photo by Matt Teeter)

As we bullshitted, I looked down the trail behind us, expecting to see Kevin stumbling into the aid station.
“Shit! It’s that guy!” said Weaver when we realized it was Wrong Way Warren.
“Go! Go! Go!” urged Dusty.
Weaver pointed at the volunteers. “Stall him!” The volunteers laughed.

A big rock along McNuff Ruff run. (photo by Carol Kleckner)

A big rock along McNuff Ruff run. (photo by Carol Kleckner)

We were so caught off guard that when we left the aid station, it looked like a Three Stooges routine as we tried to cross the creek on a foot bridge at one time. “Move along, numbskulls,” I thought.
The next 2.3 miles and 650 feet climb along McNuff Branch was a blur. It was one of the first times in ultrarunning where I got a giant shot of adrenalene knowing that we were being chased. We laid the hammer down, running as hard as we could up the off-camber trail along the creek. Along the way was the occasional beaver dam and gnawed trees. It was a wet climb with lots of springs seeping along the course and one short yet deep creek crossing. Finally, we made it to the split at the 25k / 50k and made a sharp left on Mowray Trail out of the hallow to Steam Mill Road. Immediately my feet realized my shoes where not happy on the now hard-packed forest road. It was here that fatigue began to set in. Another 0.4 miles and we made it to the last aid station at mile 27.8 miles.
At the aid station, we told Weaver to keep doing so he could earn that third place finish. Even though we were confident that we lost Wrong Way Warren, we said we would play interference if he did show up behind us.
Dusty and I left the aid station about a minute or so after Weaver left. On Bauer Hallow Road, we ran down the rolling and hard-packed forest road for almost two miles before the right turn onto Wiley Trail and the final downhill into Emporium. I recalled looking at my watching thinking we had 30 minutes to make it across the finish in under seven hours. Dusty and I took the downhill at an easy 10-minute pace. Weaver, minutes before, bombed down the hill to about an 8-minute mile.

Weaver running toward the finish line.

Weaver running toward the finish line.

Though a 50k, the true mileage according to the race directors (and my GPS) was just over 33 miles. The last mile and a half was through town was on the same course where we began the race. However, two hours prior that was not the case.

When the lead runner of the 25k, Matt Lipsey, came to the Buttonwood Hotel, he crossed Route 155 and turned left along the highway for about 100 yards then turned right until through the Little League baseball complex and straight into Portage Creek, a branch of the Sinnemahoning Creek. Then the course FOLLOWS the creek WITHIN its banks for 200 yards where the course turned right to exit the stream. Lipsey found himself up to his waist in swift moving water. Immediately seeing a problem, quick-thinking volunteers made an impromptu course change. The course was rerouted to cross the creek instead of the 200 yard transverse. Then, after a few more runners went through, it occurred to the race directors that the stream is still too fast for some of the shorter and/or lighter weight runners. The course was immediately changed to run back the way we came – in reverse from the course we took through town at the beginning of the race. I have to admit that running down a swift creek for 200 yards at the end of a seven hour run would have really pissed me off.
Running the way we came, Dusty and I picked up the pace in the last mile and a half through town, and onto the awful “rail-trail”. I know a lot of people who do not like the Megatransect’s final “Green Mile”. This is worse. Though only eight-tenths of a mile, the rocky railroad ballast stone either just under the surface or exposed, wreaked havoc on my ankles. Still, I managed to pump out an 9-minute mile. I finished at 6 hours, 59 minutes and 46 seconds – 14 seconds before the seventh hour – and in fifth-place. Dusty was 13 seconds ahead at 6:59:33 which earned him fourth overall place and first place in his age group. Weaver crushed it with a third-place finish at 6:50:11.

Running toward the finish line.

Dusty and I running on the "rail-trail" to the finish.
Dusty and I running toward the finish.
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Dusty getting his age group award.

POST-RACE
We stuck around for about a ninety-minutes or so after the race. We got a slice of pizza from perhaps the only pizzamaker / beekeeper in the country who happened to also be a world-renowned pizza tosser. He said he was preparing for a trip to Japan to “teach them how to toss.” We also walked back-and-forth from the chamber offices amid the festival crowds and vendor booths that were gathering in Emporium that day for an autumn celebration. Emporium is in the middle of nowhere, and that remoteness from the rest of the world shows. This sounds harsh but I never seen such ugly-looking people in my entire life. (But I am sure they have hearts of gold.) Despite knowing about the race, they could not help to look and stare at these strange long-distance runners that had gathered in town that afternoon. I am not sure but the ultra-marathon was one of the biggest thing to happen in Emporium lately. One of the odd things that struck me was that the trees along the main street in town were wrapped in crocheted blankets. I am still not sure what that was all about. Near the race, some residents stood nonchalantly around some dog poop that was on the sidewalk, waiting for some unsuspecting pedestrian to step in it. Dusty didn’t see it as the residents chuckled at the outsider who stepped in it. This is primetime entertainment in Emporium.
It was mid-afternoon and even though we were asked by race-officials and townsfolk to stay for the duck derby along the creek and the award ceremony at 6pm, we had to leave due to other obligations back home. After getting our picture taken and Dusty getting his picture with his age group award, it just started to rain. It was our cue to head out of town.

All in all it was a very successful day. The course was extremely beautiful. The course wasn’t extremely challenging, you do need to give it the respect it deserves. The best part of the race was the wonderful volunteers. Being a inaugural race, it was top-notch! As for my performance, it was one of my most solid outings as I was always on top of my output and nutrition. Except for the bruised rib, I never left an ultramarathon feeling as good as I did here. That day was made even better in that I was able to race with friends and share the experience. Yes, I know about my mantra and that I always say that you need to “run your own race”. However, on this day, everything aligned for the three of us – our health and paces were well matched and because of that, it turned out to be one of the funnest races I ever been in. There’s nothing like having company while on a seven hour run through the woods.

Dusty, me, and Weaver at the end of the race. As noted on the race's Facebook site: "The best part of this event the friendships and watching how the trail runners interact and support each other!"

Dusty, me, and Weaver at the end of the race. As noted on the race’s Facebook site: “The best part of this event the friendships and watching how the trail runners interact and support each other!”

Parting words.

Parting words.

NEXT: Stone Mill 50-Miler on November, 16 at Gaithersburg, MD as I try to recoup my performance from last year when the “wheels came off” in the last 15 minutes.