Simple Rules to: RUNNING DON HALKE’S TUSCARORA 50K
If you agree to everything you read on this page, please send an email, with your name, address, e-mail address, and phone number.
PLEASE LET ME KNOW IF YOU NEED TO WITHDRAW!
No discussing Politics! (This is to be safety zone from the real world)
Be nice to our volunteers and others who you might see on the trail.
No hurting any snake, bear, deer, flower, tree, and most important, Race Director. (Oh, and you might want to hurt him.)
Easier request: This is a FREE event, but we do ask for donations of specific items for the aid stations. PLEASE let me know if you register and then need to withdraw. My wife prepares delicious refreshments for the finish line. We hope you will stay for a little and enjoy our cookout. We will send you a message in an e-mail, as well as on face book, of the items you will need to bring. We do this about a week before the event.
Don’s race takes you thru some pretty amazing places during his event. It is hard not to stop and check things out.
Big Round Top Highest Point on Course
Big Round Top is 2205 feet in elevation and is the highest point on our course. This leg of the run will offer you an opportunity to reflect on your love of running, and how appreciative you are for the race director and his helpers for selecting such a unique running route for you. And you will love what we have waiting for you on top! You reach this point on the course at approximately 18 miles. Your mountain climbing is now over. After you descend the mountain, the rest of the course is relatively flat or rolling hills.
The McCaskey Graves
McCaskey Grave Site rests on the very top of Big Round Top. It is the highest point in Perry County and you will get to make the climb! John and Clara spent a lot of time in these mountains and helped play an important role in having the hemlock chosen as the Official State Tree of Pennsylvania. Both fell in love with the Conococheague Mountain. Even though the mountain is the most extreme western part of the county, it is the spot in Perry County illuminated by the first rays of the morning sun. In 1933, a team 18 state foresters and Civilian Conservation Corpsmen carried Clara’s body and her vault to the top of Big Top Mountain, up Big Round Top. 40 people attended her funeral. John McCaskey was buried beside her in 1948. As you make the climb up the trail to the graves, you can think of those 18 men taking turns carrying her body and the kind words you wish to share with me to thank me for including this trail and opportunity to pay respect to the McCaskey’s and what they helped preserve.
The Railroad Tunnel
A lot of things happened on Big Round Top, and under it, too. The Iron Horse Trail follows two abandoned rail beds: the Path Valley Railroad and the Perry Lumber Company Railroad. Originally, the Path Valley Railroad was going to be an extension for the Newport and Shermans Valley Railroad and would have run through the town of Doylesburg and end in Fannettsburg. After the grade was constructed, it was determined that the planned 2600 feet tunnel under the Conococheague could not be built because of the difficulty tunneling through the rock. As you travel on these sections of the grade, consider how they were built and all the men that labored to move those rocks and dirt. Construction began in 1893 and ended by 1900. You will most certainly notice the grade as you approach the mouth of the tunnel, just after the 21 mile point of your running adventure. Be careful as you climb the steps. They may be slippery.
On Saturday Morning March 25th 2017, myself with a few of my running friends Ralph Smith, Ben Mazur, Elmo, Dave Endress, and Janice Hartkorn. Met at a local parking lot to car pool the hour and thirty five minute drive to the Big Spring Picnic Area, approximately 6 miles west of Blain PA.
While waiting for everyone to arrive a message goes out to all. (My van has a flat tire I need picked up!!) Janice woke up to everyone’s nightmare getting a flat tire the day you need to be somewhere. After a few messages Elmo being the hero made the trip to pick up Janice and by 5:30am we were on the road.
Once we arrived I got to see some fellow Trail runners (Danny Mowers, Jeff Nelson, Patrick Krott, Neil Barnaba.) that the only time we get to chat is at races. I have had a pretty good start to the year with training, and thought I would run this race as hard as I could. The week leading up to the race my son came down with the flu bug that was going around. Well by Wednesday I could feel it trying to take up residence in my chest. With tons of vitamin c and Zicam I was able to keep it at bay. The weather in PA has been extremely insane. One day it is in the mid-60s and the next its 10 degrees with 40 mph winds. Race morning turned out to be a warm muggy day. The race director gave us a pre- race speech and warned us about the many turns and that some of the ribbons could be removed. We were told that the course ribbons would be held on by clothes pins. With a few good laughs and hearty good luck to all we were off.
As the group of runners headed down the trail everyone was trying to dodge the wet areas just trying to keep from getting wet feet. The course was typical PA trails; rocks, roots, leaves and sloppy. As I got in the Congo line I was looking for a good place to pass when all of sudden Jared Hazen passed me and the rest of the train of runners. Jared is an elite Ultra runner who was just out for a training run. That man crushed the course with a time of 4:10. Congratulations to you my friend!!
I was able to pass a group of people who were just moving to slow for me at the time. I ended up running by myself and I was ok with it. Around mile three was the first aid station, I did not stop; I gave them my name and continued on. The trail was very runnable at this point and I was feeling ok. Working my way down the trail I realized I was starting to overheat. I ended up passing a small group of runners on a small incline but had to stop and undress. I had to remove layers of clothes to keep from overheating. I was passed by the group and just tagged along to the next aid station at mile seven.
I got some mountain dew drank a pickle juice shot and grabbed a few gummy bears and continued to move on. It was very runnable and I was enjoying the morning. As the trail made its way along the stream I went to jump over a log when my foot caught a branch and stopped my foot from going where I needed it to land. I was prepared to take a dunk in the stream. But fortunately I caught my balance and avoided the disaster. The trail started to climb and my heart rate started to climb as well; really high really fast. I was sweating a lot. Thinking that I was over doing it I started to power hike. This did not help either. What the heck is going on?
Shortly after the small group I passed caught up to me and I told them that I was going to be that guy that you do not know but hangs back and pretends we are all running together. They all got a good chuckle out of my comment and introduced themselves and welcomed me to the group. We were running all about the same pace. As we made the climb up out of the bottom my heart rate would not slow down. I slowed my pace a little more and got my heart down to where it should be. As we came out onto the forest road I was told do not turn back down this way when we return, As we were running down hill and moving at a fast pace. I was told this climb sucks on the last loop. I was thinking oh man this course has some pretty good climbs. As we turned left onto the single track I was told it was all downhill to the aid station.
I had a pretty good time with the group that adopted me and we were moving forward. Once we hit the bottom we ended back at the very first aid station. This time I refilled my water bottles, ate a ton of fruit. Had some more gummy bears and then left. I was told the next few miles were the worst on the course and be prepared for a big climb. I ran until I hit the base of the hill and started walking. I noticed I was extremely tired at this point in the race, I was almost half way and I started to think that I did not think I could finish. I stopped cleaned my feet off, rung out my socks and tried to refocus. I got up and started thinking one foot in front of the other. Shortly I hear a familiar voice, Hey Toddzilla how’s it going? I turn around to see my friends Elmo and Ben. Surprised to see them I said dam your moving fast! His reply or you are moving slow! HMM maybe it was me. We all walked together for a while. I asked where Ralph was, they replied he is right behind us.
From mile 12 to 14 the remains of a snow storm that we had the week prior was still present. Needless to say a snowball battle ended up taking place. The snow was a great way to keep the body temps down. As we turned and made the descent down the mountain I was passed by eight or nine people. What was wrong with me? Why am I running so slowly? Seems I did not fend off the virus, it was trying to take over. After coming to the realization that I am not 100 percent I thought I would drop out at mile 18 and call it a day. Funny thing was it was not just me all four of us were in a funk. We did have a blast making our way back to the mile 18 aid station. With a mile left to go I shouted out who wants to quit? Who wants to go back and relax? Deep down I knew I was not going to stop, I think they all knew that as well. We arrived at the Aid station to see our buddy Perry from Harrisburg. He was the course sweeper for that section of the race; we joked around and said we were all going to stop. I asked the question how many people are behind us. The Volunteer gave a quick response 28 or so. Well that’s too many we must continue on I yelled.
As we started the power hike back up the mountain Elmo decided that 20 miles was enough for him that day. His knee was starting to bother him and this was the first time he actual ran in a very long time. Ralph climbed like a machine. Seems he was the smart one who brought his trekking poles to the race. Ralph moved swift and effortless while Ben and I were struggling to keep up. Ben fell during a run a few weeks prior and hurt his quad pretty bad. The two of us looked like we both just got done running a 100 miles. We climbed and climbed Ralph was gone Ben was up ahead and I just could not muster any effort to climb at a brisk pace. Back out onto the forest road I ended up catching back up to Ben but Ralph and his buddy Craig were gone.
Ben and I both wished we felt better; we helped keep each other moving forward. The road seemed to never end. We finally got to the 24 mile aid station and all I could think was my day is almost over. It was not that my legs hurt it was the fact that I had zero energy to move or run for that matter. I wanted just to sit and take a nap. We both ate and thanked the volunteers for taking the time out of there day to help total strangers. It was hot, I was tired and the snow worked for both of us. I stuffed it in my shirt while ben used it on his quad. We looked like two guys that had no business being out on the trails. We both decided to put this puppy to bed and started to run. I led the charge down off the mountain until we hit another fire road. My kidneys were hurting with every step. I decided to stop and go to the bath room, it was the second time I went and man what a relief. Ben was about 60 yards ahead of me and was making the gap bigger. Feeling better I picked up my pace and finally caught back up as we made the climb back to the starting line.
We would run then walk run then walk. Seems we both had the same idea to finish. I thought this was going to be my slowest 50k to date until he reminded me that we started at 8am not 7am. I was in total shock. Geez, what the heck, am I out of it that much. As Ben points out the railroad tunnel I knew we were almost done. As we made our way to the finish I could hear all the runners that finished already and it was then I knew my day was about to be over. Ben and I both finished in 7 hours and 22 minutes. Not a bad time for two guys who were ready to call it quits at mile 18. Ralph finished 6 minutes ahead of us and Dave finished long before us with a time of 5:33. Janice came in behind Ben and me with a time of 8:39.
Things happen for a reason. Enjoying the day with my friends was much more rewarding than finishing this race with a good time. I think we all ended up together at that point in the race because we all needed each other to get to the finish line. It was just one foot in front of the other for all of us…