In March 2017, Todd Lewis, Ralph Smith, Elmo Snively, Janice Hartkorn, David Endress and I decided to do the Tuscarora 50K in the namesake state forest near the town of Blain, Pa. I figured instead of jump-starting my season by doing Hyner 50K, Tuscarora would give me the opportunity to get a month head start. A fat-ass race, the cost of entry was to bring an aid station item on race day. I was assigned to bring Oreos but I so bought additional Little Debbie cookies to the race.
It was a rather unseasonably warm yet cloudy day. There was a snowstorm two weeks prior but the warm spell melted most of the snow come race day.

Elmo fills up his gas tank for his sex machine.

The race started out with mildly technical running through a valley. As soon as we started running, Todd took off into the distance, leaving Elmo, Ralph and I behind until Elmo made a move and went up ahead.

Doesn’t look bad here, it turned into a bunch of cool colors since. It is late July and the bruise is still there.

I was following a guy down a wide section of singletrack when he kicked up a stick about four feet long and about three inches in diameter. The one end of the stick wads planted in the dirt while the other end jammed into my left hip flexor. I stopped dead then threw the stick to the side. Damn, that hurt! Ralph, several dozen yards behind me, saw me throw the stick in disgust and wondered where it come from and wondered what I was doing.
I ended up bruising pretty badly – the bruise turning into many shades in the weeks thereafter. (In fact, even after almost two and a half month later, the area is still blood red under the skin.) However, at that moment, all I could think of wass that I was lucky that it didn’t jab me a few inches to the right and into my crotch.
The pain from the stick would be with me for the entire race and a few days afterward. It also affected my mobility.
A few minutes after my stabbing, I had caught up to Elmo.
“Hey, Elmo, buddy, old pal! How you doing?!” I said as I gave him a high-five.
“Great! I just used that hand to pee!” He replied.
The other runners nearby all laughed.
For the next several miles, Elmo and I ran together, joking around and not taking anything seriously. We ran around flags planted near the aid stations as fit they were slaloms, cracking jokes for the amusement of the volunteers and other shenanigans.
Elmo, who had spent the past year and a half in Nashville, recently returned back to Altoona. During his stay, he completed the Vol State 500k – running across the state of Tennessee for five days in the middle of the Mississippi heat of summer. On one of his last weeks there, Elmo was hit by a truck… literally. He suffered a broken collarbone, broken ribs and another minor injures despite being hit by a Chevy at 40 miles an hour.

Along the ridge and snow drifts.

After he was able to move, he had signed up for Tuscarora and was in worse shape than anyone else. As we made our way up 500 foot hill climb at about 8 miles on the course, he mentioned how hard it was for him to go uphill. Perhaps it’s because his bones refused to set in properly… I don’t know. I don’t have a fancy medical degree. Anyhow, we finally made it to the top of the ridge. We began running a state forest road on a downhill that seemed to take forever. We then began up another ridge on the other side of the valley. We were warned prior that on the windward side of the mountain, a winter storm two weeks prior dumped 4 foot drifts onto the road. Though there was a lot of melting in the abnormally warm weather we had that week, we still had several miles of drifts of spring snow to traverse.

At the top of the mountain prior to the snow, we had caught up to Todd. As we made our way along the ridge and the waves of snow drifts, Elmo started to trail behind – his injuries catching up to him. Finally at the end of the road, we crested over the ridge and down the other side. I train on highly technical terrain as possible so when I reached the downhill, I took off with reckless abandon. I flew down the ridge, bouncing down the mountain and ended up passing a handful of more careful, sensible runners. At the bottom of the hill I reached a dirt road and made a left turn and continued down the mountain. Not wanting to lose the momentum I had gained, I ran as fast I could down the road. It was not until a few minutes later when I looked at my watch and realized I made a wrong turn. I had downloaded the GPX file of the course onto my Garmin. It was supposed to alert me when I went off course. Well, when I went off course at the road, I had also a hydration alert (which I had set to remind me to drink every ten minutes) and I had another alert go off at the same time but when I looked at my watch, I just saw the hydration alert. Gah! Alerts are only as good as long as you pay attention!

Elmo is upset for being a quit-er.

I turned around. Since I had gone down a hill and now had to go up a hill exhausted and a bit frustrated, I had to walk. Going past the place I missed the turn, I saw the words “No!” written into the dirt and ribbons going the other way. Not only did the people who I passed on the downhill had now passed me. After a bit more time running up the road, I had also caught up Todd, Ralph and Elmo who all had past me while I was off course.

For the next several miles Todd, Ralph, Elmo and I ran together – onward but not racing since we all had treated this run as a training run from the get-go. We had reached the next aid station. There, we realized we had to run up a mountain that earlier took forever to get down. We knew it was going to be a long, slow slog up the damn thing.
At first all of us continued on. But Elmo, which his injuries exasperated when climbing, and knowing there was much more ahead, decided to turn back to the aid station (from the aid station it was only a few miles and relatively flat to the finish – cutting out a 1250 foot climb and 10 more miles.) We said goodbye as Elmo flipped us off and went back to the finish.

Argh! This race is getting to me.

Ralph, Todd and I slowly made our way to the top as Ralph slowly started to inch ahead of Todd and I until he disappeared by the time we reached the top. Todd, who said he was feeling crappy that day, and I, whose grumpy quad started to hurt once again, we both decided to stick together to the end. About 3 miles to the finish, I was reduced to a run/walk with Todd noting that I had a pretty several limp going on. Not only was my quad throbbing, but my hip flexor that endured the tree stabbing had made my already bad left leg feel even worse.

I ended up finishing with a 7 hour 22 minute finish, which was my slowest 50K ever. However, despite the time, I was happy considering the issues I was dealing with, the early season and at no time I was in racing mode.

Also of note was the post-race when Elmo, myself, Danielle Diamotos, and Perry Ligon went to Al’s of Hampton (or also known as Pizza Boy Brewing) and later to Ever Grain Brewing in Enola, PA. Both places are worth the trip if you ever find yourself in the area west of Harrisburg.

My thigh was so sore, I had to grab some snow to cool it down as I ran.

Parting shot. Left to right: Blazin’ Hazen, Toddzilla, Full Nelson Jeff Nelson, Calcium Deficiency Elmo, Dave Race Never End-ress, Janice Hardcore. Ralph the Mouth and Achy Benny.