Though I didn’t admit it to anyone at the time, I was psyched about the Hyner Challenge. I spent the entire week before race day looking at course maps, race results from previous years, weather, adjusting my nutrition plan, deciding what shoes and clothing I was going to wear–all of which lead to a few sleepless nights.
I wasn’t sure why I was worked up.
It wasn’t been a good winter for training–just ask any runner and you will hear about how the long and snowy winter had interfered with their training.

THE WEEKS AND DAYS PRIOR TO HYNER

When I learned Joel Noel and I were running in the three same races this year.

As soon as the weather broke, I was able to get some great 65 mile weeks, 10 hour weekends and I even got a chance to do some great adventures on a few long weekend training runs. I even got my weight down to what it is was during the summer of 2013. Two weeks before Hyner, I did a Saturday training run with Joel Noel and Elmo Snively on our Rock N’ The Knob course at Blue Knob. It was hot and there was no canopy in the early-Spring forest. I had no energy and I bonked badly. As I walked to the summit I was really worried if I was ready for Hyner let alone the Cayuga 50 on June 1st. The next day I went on another long training run on the Ironstone Loop from Shavers Creek to the Indian Steps, along the Mid-State Trail and Jackson Trail above Pine Grove Mills and back to Shavers Creek. This run went a lot better. I attributed it to having a decent sized breakfast before the run rather than running on an empty stomach. The weekend before Hyner, Joel and I embarked on the Colerain/Rainbow Trail/Mid-State Trail and Round Top Loop near Spruce Creek and Barree. This run was again much better than the Rock N’ The Knob run the week earlier due in part to eating breakfast. During those two weekends I was breaking in a new pair of shoes, Salomon Fellraisers, which had plenty of traction but I deemed were too firm for a 50k. For Hyner I decided to run in a pair of Salomon Speedcrosses which already had 400 miles on them which is about the life expectancy I have had in the past with that model.
Again, the several days before Hyner were tough since I spent a lot of nights wondering how the race was going to play out. It has been years that I have thought so much about an upcoming race. Honestly, there was no reason for it. Hyner wasn’t going to be my “A” race. I was saving myself for the Cayuga 50 in June and both Joel Noel (who was also doing both Hyner and then Cayuga) and I had no solid expectations or goals in mind for this race. We were both in the mindset of “let’s not kill ourselves and save it for Cayuga 50”. In fact for both Joel and I, Hyner would be on our “rest week” and we had two more weeks of very long back-to-back training runs immediately after Hyner. Yet I still wanted to make an honest effort at Hyner and not to completely blow it off. At the very least, I didn’t want to drop my UltraSignUp rating.

Watching my UltraSignUp rating go down.

My 50k race PR is 6 hours and 45 minutes at the Laurel Highlands 50k in 2012. Most recently I did the Sinnehahone 50k back in October 2013 in just under 7 hours–a race that I ran conservatively. Forget the PR at Hyner. Considering the more tougher terrain I would face at Hyner and my easy going mindset, I made a wild guess of 8 hours would be a respectable time. I would be elated with a 7:30 finish.
Depending who you ask, the Hyner Challenge 50k is one of the most challenging races at that length east of the Mississippi. So saying “I’m not going to race,” is rather a flippant remark. Seriously, running any 50k requires some experience and level of fitness, and running in such a challenging race as Hyner requires your utmost respect. Perhaps it was my cavalier attitude that was in conflict with the other voice in my head demanding that I better “take this shit seriously” and that was keeping me up at night. Besides, Hyner 25k was challenging enough and I was going to run that with another 25k in the middle!

RACE MORNING
I had an okay amount of sleep (4 hours) that morning even though my alarm started to blare at 3:30am. As I got dressed I noticed my skull felt like a vice squeezing the juicy grey matter of my brain! Spring allergies! It decided to hit all at once that morning! I tossed on my clothes, ate a “breakfast hoagie” and was out the door in 15 minutes. I then went to the neighborhood Sheetz to fill the car with gas, get some water and coffee, before driving to Joel’s house. We were driving separately but we caravaned it to Hyner two hours away. Joel coincidentally said that he too woke up with allergies. I told him that I hoped that the pollen might be behind several days further north and higher in elevation at Hyner.
A thin sliver orange crescent moon in the east guided the way as we crossed over Bald Eagle Mountain and into Nittany Valley and northeast to Lock Haven before winding northwest up the West Branch of the Susquehanna Valley toward Hyner. Arriving at Hyner about 50 minutes before the race, our first task was to get our race packets and bibs. The woman who was handing out packets recognized my name, stating that she really enjoyed my blog about Mega. The Megatranscent I did back in September wasn’t one of my better races but I assumed it made for a good read. Back at the car, I filled my water bottles with Tailwind: two 20-ounce bottles on the sides and a spare 20-ounce bottle I’d carry inside my pack. I also had enough time to catch up with some fellow 50k runners and some trail comrades like Chris Coulson (who I intergated about the Cayuga 50 which he did last year), as well as Thad Will and Jeff Calvert.
One hundred-fifty 50k runnners would start 2 hours before the thousand or so 25k runners at 9am. As it got closer to our start time at 7am, there still wasn’t many 25k runners to see us off. Unlike the 25k runners that started near the clubhouse on the hill, we started near Route 120. Since I wasn’t rushed pre-race, I had my shit together and calmly eased into race mode. Jeff Calvert gave me some great advice prior to the race: “Run conservatively and save your energy until after the 50k detour and atop Sledgehammer at mile 8.5.

50K Course

Across the bridge and down the road to the trailhead. Credit: John Fegyveresi

Across the bridge and down the road to the trailhead. Credit: John Fegyveresi

Craig Fleming with the race briefing. Photo credit: John Fegyveresi

Craig Fleming with the race briefing. Photo credit: John Fegyveresi

The start. I'm in blue with white cap.

The start. I’m in blue with white cap.

Race map and elevation profile part one.

Race map and elevation profile part one.

START TO JOHNSON RUN
Craig Fleming, race director, led us in a moment of silence for a fellow trailrunner who was taken far before her time. Then after a short trail trail overview he immediately said “go”! Blaring sirens from an emergency vehicle beside me startled most of the runners and unintentionally spiked my heart rate. The first mile is a short jaunt over the Susquehanna River via Hyner Bridge then on a side road until the trailhead begins above the railroad. There was no mad dash to the trailhead this year since it was just me and the 150 50k’ers and not the 1000 25k runners fighting to get ahead of the conga line at Cliffhanger.
Cliffhanger Trail hugs the cliff for about a mile until Hubble Hill. As I made it to the trailhead, I was in a cushion somewhere between the front runners and the mid-pack runners. In fact days later when I saw some of the pics, I was the 56th runner to cross the photographer at the beginning part of Cliffhanger.

Chiffhannger

Chiffhanger being chased by Racer X. It’s a long way down to the river and railroad on the left. Credit: Peter Lopes.

Climbing with my hands behind my back like Elmo said.

Climbing with my hands behind my back like Elmo said.

When I did 25k the year before, it seemed like it was a long way down to the railroad tracks below but this year I didn’t feel like I was up that high. Perhaps some of the trails I ran this spring, like Colerain, gave me some courage.

At the top, pumping my arms, like Tim Sheehan insists.

At the top, pumping my arms, like Tim Sheehan insists.

At mile 2.1 I reached the bottom of Humble Hill and I did not hesitate before I started to climb. I kept a steady pace as I went up. Since I was with the 50k runners who I think had some prior ultra running experience, almost everyone climbed up Humble Hill at the same pace and I only remembered seeing a couple of runners stepping aside to catch their breath or passing me.
Humble Hill is a 1300 foot climb in two parts–part one a third of a mile–the second just over a half a mile–with a “shelf” in between. Both climbs gave me a chance to try a new climbing technique courtesy of Elmo Snively. Somewhere he read that European ultrarunners like to put their hands behind their back to engage the hamstring muscles rather than the quads–quad muscles which are needed later for the downhills. As soon as I put my hands back behind me, I immediately felt the hammies doing most of the work!
On the second part of the ascent I settled into a pack and I think only one person fell behind and other person advanced ahead. As I went up the final grade before the wall at Hyner Point Lookout, the guy in front of me, dressed as ‘Racer X’, (he even registered as ‘Racer X’) groaned and started showboating for the camers and the crowd to my right. Uhh, that was kind of unnecessary. But I too had got caught up in the moment and as I made it around the corner of the wall where I knew was a photographer was positioned, I also began to pump my arms and added a scowl of determination on my face.
I didn’t take the time to check out the tremendous view behind me. I passed the aid station without getting any water nor food. I guess it’s time to tell you about Tailwind… Tailwind is a nutritional supplement that you add to water like Heed or Gatorade. I learned about it listening to Trail Runner Nation podcasts. With Tailwind they claim it can replace all your nutritional requirements-–no supplements, no tablets, no food—just drink Tailwind and go. Plus as a side benefit, you save a lot of weight, spend less money and time at aid stations. For Hyner I decided to pack enough to last me the entire race—drinking 20 ounces of water per each hour of activity with each bottle containing two serving sizes of Tailwind.
After passing the aid station at Hyner Point without stopping, it was a fast downhill to the bottom of Reikert Hallow; a 700-feet, half-mile plunge down the mountain I just climbed. I bombed down the hill. Most of hill was nice and lively singletrack except for the occasional steep section where loose, flat and flaky shale made things a bit more technical. I tried to run fast enough so I was doing as little breaking with my quads. I tried both Elmo Snively’s signature “just run as fast as you can and hope your feet lands before your face” approach and Tim Stessney’s downhill slalom/leaping technique. Except for the two people who I passed, who couldn’t believe I was running that fast, I ran down the entire mountain without slowing down. (Last year when I did the 25k race I was slowed by more cautious runners and I was nearly impaled by a man with trekking poles.)
At the bottom of the hill was a lanky man from DCNR in dirty overalls.
“Up the stream!” he said.
I thanked him for volunteering which will probably be a long day for him.
After making the left turn at the bottom of the hallow I started my climb up Johnson Run–a two mile climb before the 50k turn off. At first the trail rises high above the creek before dropping down to a wide stream crossing. Here I caught up with a female runner in a blue One Run for Boston shirt. After carefully tiptoeing the first two or three stream crossings, she gives up and starts running across the stream. I crossed the creek from the get-go knowing if my feet got too wet, I could swap for a pair of dry socks I had in my pack. I am not sure how many times we crossed Johnson Run–maybe a dozen times. Thinking about the run as I went along, I had suspicions that I was running this section faster than last year even though I thought I was fast last year. At first I was concerned since I suspected that I was running faster in a race that was twice as long, that I was going to burn out before the end! But I felt really good (Tailwind?) and decided to just go with it and see what happens. After about a mile we started to approach the turn for the 50K at mile 7. Just before the split I see Jeff Calvert ahead of me. Seeing Jeff I knew I was running fast. I have ran with Jeff a few times in the past and I know he is a much faster runner than I am.

Trail map and Elevation: Part 2

Trail map and Elevation: Part 2

SLEDGEHAMMER AND THE NEW FRONTIER
We turned right and up the mountain on a long climb out of Johnson Run called Sledgehammer, a 900 foot climb in just one mile. I had caught up to Jeff and as we climbed I found myself in a group of four other runners. We all talked about other upcoming races in New York like Cayuga 50, The Escarpment, Manatoo Revenge and Virgil Crest. At the top I started to run until I immediately came to an aid station. I stopped to refill two of my bottles while the three other runners including Jeff decided to press on without stopping. After the aid station was the Pipeline Trail which offers some nice soft terrain for almost 1.5 miles along a ridge with Johnson Run on my right and Ritchie Hallow on the left. I caught up with another runner as we ran along the spine. He looked over to the left to see the valley below.
“Really cool view,” he said.
However from what I remembered from the race description, I realized that we had to run down into that valley. Finally we made it to the end of the ridge and a grand vista 1000 feet above the river appeared in front of me. Again I had no time to sightsee. We turned left at Farley Vista and descend through a winding trail into the top of Bear Pen Hollow. This trail cuts backs north as it follows an old logging trail for about a mile and a half before switching back and headed south again towards the river. The race director refers this area as the “zig-zag”. Here I was “chicked” by the girl in the One Run for Boston shirt who now decided to run with just a sport bra. Of course, I tried to keep up to her as much as I could but slowly she slipped away. Now on Bear Pen Trail, a steeper two mile downhill dropping 800 feet, I tried to run as fast as I can but the hill was too steep. My quads took a beating.
Near the end of the downhill, a guy had caught up to me from behind. He told me that he had ran the 50K race three previous years in a row and that every year this section always got the best of him. Finally in what seemed to take forever I reached the bottom at Ritchey Run. Since Farley Vista we ran 4 miles and dropped 1300 feet with most of the drop in the last 1.5 miles.

Ritchie Run

Ritchie Run

RITCHIE RUN TO WEST BRANCH CAMP
We took a sharp turn north and up a beautiful yet remote valley called Ritchie Run. Its a 3 mile, 1250 foot grind up to the top beginning at the bottom of a hollow with stream crossings and waterfalls around every corner. It’s a mile shorter, but just as technical and much more beautiful than Johnson Run. Also Ritchie Run has more water flowing within its banks. I soon lose the runner who had caught up on the downhill and even passed a few tired runners in this section.
About a mile or so up the hallow there was a flat stone that read ‘halfway.’ “Who would write on a rock in the middle of nowhere? Why would anyone do such a thing? What does that mean?” I asked myself. It took me a while before the gear in my head started to turn. Is it halfway up the valley or halfway in the race? If it meant halfway in the race that must mean I am far ahead of my expectations.

No, not this George Micheal…

The last half mile out of the hollow follows an old log flume to the top of the mountain. For some unknown reason, I had a bad case of earworm this entire run. All I could hear is my head were the lyrics to Wham’s “Careless Whisper”.

“I’m never gonna dance again
Guilty feet have got no rhythm
Though it’s easy to pretend
I know you’re not a fool”

I try to ignore George Michael’s words. Now at mile 17 through 19.5, I follow a bulldozer trail for a half mile out to Sugar Camp Road, then crossed the road for a few hundred more yards to the Camp Trail. Camp Trail veered off to the left and followed a single track path through the Chestnut Orchard for a few hundred yards. This trail was easy on the feet and meandered through some dense forest and to the West Branch Nature Conservancy Camp. This quintessentially rustic camp was built in the early 1930’s by the Conservation Corps. Here was a full aid station. There were several runners here and many of them looking like they were need of rest. Jeff was also here but departed not too long after I arrived. I had a two-inch square of P&J sandwich and filled both bottles. While filling the bottles, one of the aid station volunteers talked to another runner who was having a bad day. She suggested that swearing out loud can help and that she read about a study that swearing increases your tolerance for pain. I remember reading the same study and continued on. This little factoid would become critical soon. (http://scienceblogs.com/neurophilosophy/2009/07/13/swearing-increases-pain-tolerance/)

"My hand!  SON OF A...."

“My hand! SON OF A….”

CAMP TO 25K COURSE
Right after the camp, there was soft singletrack through the mountain laurel. It is an easy trail. For a minute my mind went elsewhere and the thread on my left shoe snagged on a root hidden under some leaves and I go down like a ton of bricks. Everything in slow motion, I saw my hands in front of me. My chest slams on the ground and my right hand is caught between my chest and the dirt. I feet my little finger bend in an unnatural way. I swore so loudly that I wondered if they heard me at the camp where I just left. I got up quickly and clutched my hand, wondering if I broke my finger or hand. I was able to painfully clench a fist and I assumed that I overextended it or at worse it dislocated but popped back in.
I grimaced, clutching my hand for a few hundred meters before I had other things to think about. After about a mile I came to a dirt road and had to yield to two vehicles and another stopped vehicle beside a woman reading a novel in a lawn chair–probably waiting for a friend or loved one to run by. Across from her was a informational kiosk one sees at a state park and I begin to wonder where I was and how these vehicles got on this part of the mountain. I turned left here and followed the forest road out to the top of Middle Mountain where I come across the aid station from mile 8.5. (Now at mile 21)
I said the the guy running next to me, “This is so unnecessary. We just left ad aid station!”
He agreed with me but he decided to stop at the aid station while I continued on.
I soon came across a tall guy in black Under Armor lying on the grassy trail. He gets up as soon as I approached.
“What are you doing? Are you cramping up?” I said assuming he was trying to stretch out his quads.
“No, I am fine. I’m doing pushups and crunches to work some blood into my shoulders”, he said.
“Okay. Whatever works for you, buddy,” sure that he was taking a nap.
“Just getting ready for Sledgehammer,” he replied.
Even thought I thought he was odd for doing pushups, he was right about Sledgehammer. As I went down over the edge I picked up my speed so my quads would be spared some of the punishment.
All an all, it wasn’t as bad as advertised. Nearing the switchback, I saw a woman in bright green who I have seen several times on the course, running up hill toward me. See looked sort of like my friend Merrilee so I’m going to refer to as “Mirrorlee”:
“Am I going the right way?” asked Mirrorlee.
“This way,” I said as I continued down the hill.
“Thanks, I figured someone would come along soon and let me know.”
“We are going to merge with the 25k runners as soon as we reach the bottom,” I said pointing to my left down the hill. I am surprised to see the number of hikers walking in a line up Johnson Run below.
We merged onto the 25k course.

Race Map and Elevation Part 3

Race Map and Elevation Part 3

25 COURSE TO POST-DRAFT
I soon lose Mirrorlee amid the crowds. As I climbed up Johnson run, I was constantly passing two to five runners at a time before the trail narrowed that I was unable to pass a runner or the hiker ahead who did not hear me approach from behind.

“Excuse me! 50k’er on your left.”

As I was about to pass a group when one of them said “let’s tie a bungee cord to the next 50k runner we see!”
I looked toward him with my finger to my mouth and said “quiet you!” and continued ahead.
As I continued up Johnson Run, I kept yelling ahead: “on our right”‘ or “on your left” so often that I was almost getting hoarse. As I approached the Psycho Steps Trail, it become more and more difficult to pass. Later, Jeff Calvert theorized that the earlier start of the 50k meant we merged with slower runners/hikers further behind on the course.
I was getting concerned. I was leapfrogging runners rather than running at a constant pace and I worried that I was expelling way too much energy. At the steepest part of the steps, I settled in with the crowd and hoped that I didn’t push too hard fighting my way to this point. It did give me some time to think about my pace. Nearing the top of the Psycho Steps I estimated that I had another six miles to go. Unless things went horribly wrong, I knew I had a sub-7 hour run in the bag.
The trail started to level out just prior to the Black Forest and I again began to pass.
“On your left,” I said to a woman in front of me.
She looked back and almost tripped into a tree.
“Always keep your eyes ahead and never ever look back,” I said.
After the Black Forest, I made it to the aid station it was so crowded it was like Grand Central Station but everyone is sweaty and wearing running shorts. I ran into Jeff Calvert again and we both talked about the previous section leap-frogging past the 25k runners. Jeff’s friend, who I seen a couple of times on the trail, looks at this watch. “I’m going for it!” he said. “I’m going for a 6:30.”
Jeff looked at his watch shook his head. Jeff tore a quad muscle last year which he thought was healed until today.
I left the aid station before Jeff and his friend.
Next is Post Draft.

POST-DRAFT TO S.O.B.

Unsuspecting 25k runner on Post-Draft looking at the scenery until we come by…

Post Draft is just BAD. As it descends 1100 feet in 1.3 miles down a dry hallow. Imagine running with reckless abandon down a log flume ride at Kennywood but instead of water it is filled with rocks and loose shale. As I approached the top of Post Draft, I ended up following a guy in an Anadorko shirt as he “plowed the road”. Jeff had caught up and was right behind me. As we bombed the hill, the guy in front of me yells “on the left” which caused the slower hikers to yield but then the unsuspecting 25k’er would step back onto the trail in front of me! Some places the trail was so narrow I was teetering on a mound of loose rock and a precipice. One woman, as we tried to pass, and who was in hysterics since the trail was “over her head”, just threw her arms up and yelled “I don’t know where to go!”
Frustrated, I try to yell to the guy in front of me to to say something like “three passing on the left” but he didn’t hear my plea. So I gave him a nickname: Anadorko Dorko.
With runners darting back onto the course in front of me, Anadorko Dorko began to pull away from us. I started to breath easy when a clear section void of hikers appeared in front of me. My focus drifted for just a second from what was directly in front of me to farther down the trail when a rock stopped my left foot and I go down hard. In the instant that I fell, my body instantly tensed up and both of my legs cramped. I couldn’t get up and I quickly asked for Jeff to give me a hand to get back on my feet before the 12 to 15 runners that I passed on the way down would see me on my back like a turtle on its shell–their secret wishes that something awful would happen to me came true.
As soon as I got up and started running the leg cramps disappeared.
“The traffic is brutal” said Jeff.

Jeff isn’t happy with his commute.

I continued running down the trail and near the bottom–maybe 500 yards from where I first tripped–I fall again! Boom!!! This time my right foot swung wide to the side of the bank and I hit the edge where a rock was lying in wait.
Again I fall and needed Jeff’s assistance in getting me up. My legs had cramped again but this time it took a few more yards to loosen them up.
Finally Jeff and I make it to the end of the downhill and now was the brutal climb out of Cleveland Hallow on Garby Trail. Until then, I never experienced “blown out quads”. I shuffled forward with flatten tires. My legs have had it! However I had plenty of energy–above the waist. I felt like one of those horror movie monster sewn together at the torso.
Only having ran Hyner once before the previous year, I knew I was taking this next climb slower than I did last year. I began to be alarmed when my left foot started to become numb! Perhaps my shoes was too tight or/and my foot had swelled. Later, Elmo theorized that sometimes on ultras that so much blood is forced into your muscles that it begins to squeeze the nerve endings, giving the sensation of numbness. Never before experiencing this, I became to worry and I was unsure if I was going to be able to make it up and over S.O.B.. As we climbed up Cleveland Hallow, I got behind some other 50k’ers with Jeff behind me.
“So do you think we’ll make it under seven hours?” I asked.
“I think so. We only have 5 miles to go,” said one of the runners in front of me.

Up S.O.B. Photo by Brian Newcomer.

Up S.O.B. Photo by Brian Newcomer.

The question was more for me than for them.The climb out of Cleveland Hallow then S.O.B. is about 3/4 of a mile with a climb of 900 feet. “Forward” I chanted to myself (with some Careless Whisper again for added torture) as we snaked our way through the switchbacks toward the dreaded S.O.B–a 40% grade pipeline up to the top.
The first third of S.O.B. was awful! Frick’n AWFUL! I had “no go” and took baby steps up the powerline until about halfway up S.O.B. for some reason the numbness in my legs and feet dissipated and I was able to march up to the top to the aid station. At the top and walking on flat ground, my legs began to feel surprisingly normal and after a quick bottle refill, I started out on the final stretch home. Jeff, who was with me that entire section up Garby and S.O.B. remained behind but I was sure he would catch up.

THE DASH TO THE FINISH

“How are you feeling? Oh! Never mind!”

After seeing some runners on the side of the trail this year (and last) with legs seizing up in agonizing pain, I decided to take it easy until I was sure that the mysterious numbness in my feet was completely gone and I could pick up the pace. This section of rolling fire road always separated those who trained and those who did not. Here, I was plodding along when I heard my name as I passed a group of runners.
“Hey, Frisco! How are you doing?” I said look at Frisco as I passed. Frisco is a few Allegheny Trailrunner.
“Shitty! Cramps!” he said.
“Oh!” I continued running, leaving Frisco behind.
As I made it to another pipeline before making a hard right into the forest of mountain laurel onto Spring Trail, Mirrorlee came out of nowhere and chicked me. The trail here begins–slowly at first–to go downhill. Its more rocky and technical than I remembered as Mirrorlee and I had caught up to Anadorko Dorko. We have just made the first few steps of what will be a 1500 foot drop in two miles.
“I am not that great downhill,” said Mirrorlee as we approached Hyner Road toward the final descent into Huff Run. At Hyner Road, I was passed by

Mirrorlee, me and Anadorko Dorko beginning down Huff Run

Mirrorlee, me and Anadorko Dorko beginning down Huff Run

Jeff’s friend who he was talking to at the Black Forest aid station, who was shooting for a 6 hour, 30 minutes finish, passes us. “Go guy, go! You got this!” as I looked at my watch. I wasn’t sure if we started exactly at 7am but I realized only then that not only was I under seven hours, but I was doing to finish pretty close to 6 hours and 30 minutes!
We crossed the hard road and started down into Huff Run. Comparing to last year, my legs felt a lot better this day than the previously year. Mirrorlee, I, and lastly Anadorko Dorko started to barrel down the trail together like cars on a runaway train, passing about a dozen runners in the meantime. As we approached the bridge crossing the brook about 2/3rd of the way down the mountain, Mirrorlee bolted ahead.
“I thought she said she wasn’t that fast on the downhills,” said Anadorko Dorko.
“I think we’ve been duped,” I laughed.

Why are you walking? The end is just ahead!

At the bottom of the mountain, it was a mile and a third sprint on asphalt to the finish line on the other side of the river. Admittedly it was weird running on the road but I was able to crank it up a little. I know this is going to sound a little arrogant but I don’t understand how some runners just “give up” in this section and start walking at this point. With the finish being so close, I assume adrenaline would kick in at this point and carry you to the finish. Anyhow, more than half of the dozen or so runners I was with at the end of the trailhead either started to walk or jog by the time they hit the halfway point on the bridge. Perhaps I had ran in enough tough races to know its going to hurt… but that’s okay… any pain will pass.
At the end of the bridge I made a right down a dirt road toward the sportsmen’s club house. The course detours to the left at the bottom of the hill and goes up a short yet sadistic hill that was put in just for good measure. Last year as soon as I hit the hill, my legs cramped up immediately. When I saw the sign pointing to the left, I anticipated for the worse but hoped for the best. Halfway up the hill, I realized I had done it without the cramps nor my body going into a meltdown. Out of the woods, literally and figuratively, I ran through the finish chute and gazed at the clock. I crossed the line at 6 hours and 32 minutes–the 40th runner to finish the 50k runner out of 150.
“What the hell was that?!” I said as I finished.

Crossing the finish.

Crossing the finish.

I PR’ed? What?!

Not only did I ran almost NINETY minutes faster than I anticipated, but (I learned many days later) that I had P.R.’ed for a 50k race, previously held at the Laurel Highlands 50k in 2012 by 13 minutes.
At the finish line, I was first greeted by Tim Stessney who did the 25k. I was a bit dazed, trying to figure out why and how I ran so well. After taking a bit to ponder, I walked over to the pavilion and was greeted by Elmo Snively and Hope Thompson (who did not run but was was there to cheer) Craig Thompson, Randall Bowmaster, and later by Tim Stessney and Gary Frisco. Craig, Randall and Tim were happy with their races. Tim thought he did well and Gary said it could have gone better if it wasn’t for a cramping stomach. They all did the 25k. Joel Noel who did the 50k–who like me had a “not gonna race it” attitude–came away with a fourth place finish!! Another friend, Todd Dishong who did the 50k also had a satisfying race, finishing ahead of me.

After the second handshake…

After getting some pizza and some well-deserved beers, I was there for a couple of hours at the post-race celebration talking to old and new trail running friends. When saying hello, each person would shake my damaged hand and I would just smile with my best poker face. Later that day, in State College, visiting old friends that just happened to be in town, Brian Beiler shook my hand as we departed ways. I could not hide the pain I felt in my hand and yelled “goddamn son-of-a-bitch!” so loud that I’m sure they heard it at Hyner 40 miles away.

POST-RACE
I took a couple days off for my aching muscles to heal but my legs recovered fast after the run. I know I have said this many times but the more races I run the faster the recovery time. I was worried when I ran so well that I might have “left it all on the trail” and thus sabotaged my training for Cayuga but a weekend later I amassed two long quality runs on the Laurel Highlands Trail–both over 5 hours–and I felt great.

“No bread sticks for you for a week!”

I think I might have bruised a rib and damaged my hand in that fall on the 50k course. My ribs on my right side didn’t hurt until two days after the race but grew very painful later in the week. One evening, biting into a dry bread stick, I coughed and the pain was so bad, restaurant patrons thought I was having a heart attack or choking. My right hand also didn’t turn blue until that Tuesday. I would have went to the doctor if I wasn’t so stubborn and when I began to feel better within a week. Two weeks out and it is getting better.
My Salomon Speedcross trail shoes held up well but then succumbed to Rocksylvaniatius. A sharp rock or rocks somewhere on the trail had a ripped a hole on the inner side of my right shoe. You might be surprised I got 400 miles on them but that is far more than the 100 miles in LaSportivas or my friends who have Altra. I think most trail shoes are not designed for the rocks and stones here on the right course.
So I am pretty arrogant and cocky since Hyner. Let’s see if the Cayuga Trails 50 in the Finger Lakes of New York will knock me down a few pegs.