2018 How will it End?

My 2018 running season has been pretty much a blur, I came off a great winter training program that would propel me into my races for the year and honestly I think I over did it…..or did I?

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Race number one: The Tuscarora Trails 50K

I ran this race last year and struggled with lymes Disease the entire race, this year it was the snow that threw a screw into the works. I almost bailed out of the race because we got hit with a giant snow storm the week before.

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At mile 22 I had enough and was ready to call it a day. But i do not like to quit things once I start something. I managed to finish but lets just say it was a very slow finish.

Oh and I took home a pissed off right foot. Planters fasciitis started to take a home in my right foot.

Race number two: Hyner 50K

I came into Hyner feeling great. My foot was still a problem but KT tape was helping with the issues my right foot was giving me. The weather was perfect, and my Training was still right on. I managed a time 6 hours and 57 minutes. I was very happy with my race and it’s always a plus when you can walk away from a race with no new issues.

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Race number 3: Glacier Ridge 50M

Going into Glacier I was looking forward to a great race. I was well prepared for this race. With the exception of heat training. And yes it turned out to be a HOT day on the trails. The heat took its toll on me and my planters in my right foot was screaming at me.

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This was my slowest 50 mile race that I have ever run. Needless to say I was very disappointed. But this was a training run for Laurel Highlands 70 in June.

Race number 4: Laurel Highlands 70.5

Coming into Laurel I was excited to have some of my best friends there to help me in my journey. I was looking foward to a long day on the trails.

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At the start of the race I honestly felt like this was going to be the best race of my life. Amazing how one thing can change that.

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Around mile 7 I rolled my right ankle pretty bad. And yep you guessed it. The Planters acted up like never before. Every step hurt, and I mean it hurt a lot.

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The vomiting and nausa from the pain started around mile 32. I was not able to eat or drink for the next 14 miles. I dropped out of laurel. What a slap in the face. was all my training for nothing? We both know that answer. Sometimes its your day and sometimes its not. I will be back next year for sure.

Race number 5: Pacing and Crewing at Buring River 100.

I have trained with Ralph all year long, and have been looking foward to this all year. Ralph has paced and crewed for me many times and to be able to return the favor was an honor. Ben and I would crew until mile 50. At mile 50 i would pace Ralph the rest of his way to his 100 mile finsh. Ben would be his main crew at the Aidstations.

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Yeah you guessed it. Ralph crushed his first attempet at a 100 miles. he finished in 29 hours.

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The year is not over and I still have some awesome races that I am running in. But until they get here we will not know how the rest of this story will go!!

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OilCreek 100K.. oh what a day!! 

​The pressure was off of me this year. All I had to do is complete two loops at the Oil Creek 100K to receive my second buckle of the three events. I finally received my 100 mile buckle last year. My goal was to be in the Top 20 of the 100K. So I headed back to Titusville on Friday October 13th. Ralph Smith who was going to crew and pace me on my second loop this year was my copilot for the trip. We arrived midafternoon from our non-eventful trip. Packet pickup was at 5pm so we had some time to kill.  ​I took this time to set up my sleeping quarters for the night. With set up complete we made our way into the school for packet pickup. This race has the whole town behind it. The Titusville middle school gets transformed into headquarters 101. Bathrooms, showers, gym floor for sleeping a cafeteria for eating. After I was all registered and Ralph was signed into being my pacer we made our way over to the Blue Canoe for dinner. We Joined Mark Groove and his wife and meet Perry Legion and Janice there as well. After some beers pizza and some good laughs we headed back to the school so Ralph could meet up with John Weaver; He was crewing and pacing for another group and offered to let Ralph tag along on the first loop for his crewing duties.

​I awoke at 4:00am from a really good night sleep in my cross-trek. The 100 mile runners started at 5am and I wanted to see my good friend Perry off on his journey. After the 100 milers started it was time for me to get ready. I was not nervous at all the year. I was more excited than anything. I tried to go to the bathroom a couple of time, but did not have any success. At 6am I started my journey.


As the group headed down the paved road I could not help notice that I was with the front pack. Now I was not pushing very hard at all and was still hanging out up front. We ran the entire way to the trailhead. Once we made the turn onto the Gerrard Hiking trail we were split up. I wanted to run as much of this as I could to make up time because of the weather that was forecasted that afternoon.

​I was running. I was making great time when that feeling in my gut hit. Man I do not want to stop but nature was calling and calling a lot. I dash up the hill and find a nice big tree to hide behind. While this is going on I count 5 headlamps that pass. I am in chase mode now trying to get back to where I was. I was able to pass two runners but the other three were nowhere in sight. As the sun starts to come up I find myself running into aid station number one. Jeff Nelson and his family run this aid station. Not needing anything I say thanks to all the volunteers and head up the switchbacks.

​I break out my trekking poles and start power hiking. In no time at all I topped the hill put my poles away and made the fast decent down the hill over to Ray Gerard’s never ending hill. I kept my poles in my vest and shortened my stride and ran the hill to the top. The rocks that are there remind me of the laurel highlands hiking trail. As I make my way down the single track I notice a familiar vest. It was Perry and he looked like he was in all kinds of pain. I asked if he was ok; I knew he was not and offered to stay with him but he wanted me to go ahead and tell his crew that he is going to be a while and that his race was over. His pain he was having in his hip was too much to handle.


​Trying to get back to the aid station to let everyone know what is going on with Perry I noticed that feeling again; Stomach cramps and the urge. Off the trail I go again to find a nice big tree to go again. This time only 4 runners pass me. As I cross the power line and head up the short hill I could feel the urge again. What the heck is going on? As I cross the dirt road the sign reads 3.6 mile to Petroleum Center. Could I hold it? Better not chance it. I turned around and hit the port a potty that was there for us to use. I could not stop. My race is being held up by my Bathroom breaks.

​Finally back on the trails I wanted to make up time. I ran hard and swift. I came into Petroleum Center at 8:45am; two hours and 45 minutes and in 12th place. Met up with my crew and switched out my efuel and refilled my picklejuicesport. In and out of the aid station in one minute I head for Heisman Hill. Once I hit the base of the hill I got out my poles and finished eating my fruit snacks and started power hiking. I hit the steps and went around a group of runners and started running. I felt great; I felt light on my feet. I hit the top of the hill put my poles away and enjoyed this section. The trail to the Boy Scout camp is very runnable and with only a couple places to power hike I got to the Boy Scout camp in no time at all.



​The decent into the bottom before you climb your way back out to Miller Farm road was fast. I was in a mix of runners who was running the 100 and the 100K. I usually dread this section of trail for some reason but today I was making good time on the climb. I used my poles to make it swift and effortless. As I make my way to Miller Farm road I see Jeff Nelson leaning against a tree taking pictures for all us runners to remember that day on the trials. He told me I was looking great; I said I am feeling great and have a half hour lead on my projected time. He told me remember you still have a long road ahead be very cautious. I really respect Jeff’s words so I backed it off once I started the climb past the spooky cemetery in the middle of the woods.


​I climbed Rockefeller’s revenge with no problem and started making my way through the valleys when I noticed my quads were starting to hurt. I figured it was from running the down hills hard and pushing the pace on the flats. I still was running good and happy with where I was on my time. I pushed on passing 100 mile runners who had their own game plans for the day. Mine was to finish and finish fast. I came out on the drake well loop and was guided by the fantastic volunteers this race has, I always hate this loop but decided I need to run the entire thing to make up time. The Sun decided to show up and it was getting warm.

​I arrived at Titusville Middle School at 12:38pm; A 6:38 50K! Geez; I was feeling good. I did drop into 17th place but did not know it at the time. I was swarmed by my awesome friends getting me everything I needed. My quads were really starting to hurt and it was getting hot. I figured the best thing is to grab my pacer and head back on to the trails. John filled my bandana with ice to help cool me down. I wrapped it around my neck and with fresh picklejuicesport and efuel ralph and I headed back out to the trails.

​Ralph said he was kind of nervous; he was afraid he would not keep up with me. Ralph just ran the Chicago Marathon less than a week earlier and was not fully recovered yet. I promised him I would take it easy while the sun was out and take my time going back to Petroleum Center. We jogged to the trail head and then proceeded to walk the hills. My quads were gone. Each step hurt. I know this feeling. It was the same feeling I had at Worldsend back in the spring. I knew I could push through the pain but all I had to do is start to run.

We finally made it up the first climb and I was able to run the flats. I would run until I felt over heated or the pain in my quads were too much to take then I would power walk. Coming into Aid station one again I needed some solid foods.


I grabbed some strawberries, potatoes and a grilled cheese for the road. We climbed the switch backs and climbed the never ending hill. 3.6 To petroleum Center and I was falling apart in my mind. Ralph assured me I was still good on time and that we were right on schedule. As I came into Petroleum center I was gassed. I arrived at 4:38pm and still in 17th place. I grabbed some food from the aid station and went and sat down. I told my crew before I want to be in and out in under a minute. Well I threw that out the window, I changed shirts and socks and shoes, thinking this would lift my spirits and would make me run better. I ate, refilled my liquids and started the climb up Heisman hill. I told Ralph that I ran this s.o.b on the first loop; hmm he said maybe that was not such a good idea.

​As I topped the hill past the sign in box of the trail a hot flash took over my body and I knew what was next. Using my poles to keep me upright I was throwing up all that good aid station food. I was spent; Out of gas! Oh boy what did I do? Now being an ultra-runner I know you are going to have ups and downs. So I said to Ralph let me just walk for a while to see if my body will work things out. Ralph was cool as a cucumber and said sounds good to me, I am just happy to be out on the trails. I have the utmost respect for that man. He has paced me in a number of races and knows what to do when I am bonking and when I am feeling good. We did not say much to each other. I was in a deep dark place and he knew I had to get out of it by myself. I was unable to eat or Drink the rest of the evening.

​My race was over. I was in survival mode just to get to the finish line. Once I knew I could not eat or drink I just figured as long as I make it before the cutoff a finish is a finish. It was a very long night in the hundred acre woods. Being passed by all those people I passed earlier in the day was gut wrenching. Oh man defeat hurts. When we did finally make it to the bike path we got to see some friends heading back out on their journey to finish the 100 miler. As we crossed over the bridge I said to Ralph I am not running to the finish line. I am going to be the guy who walks and takes it all in. He laughed and congratulated me on making it and not giving up. Ben was standing there talking to some friends and gave me a high five and told me congratulation. As I finished Tom Jennings handed me my 2nd Oil Creek buckle and congratulated me on my finish. I told him great race as usual and I would see him next year as I come back for the 50k. I finished in a time of 16:59, 25th place over all. I am happy that I was able to finish. The top 20 was just out of reach. Thanks to all my crew and pacer. Thanks to all who stuck around to the end to see me finish! Big thank you to the people at http://www.picklepower.com for letting me be an ambassador of their product; another 62 miles cramp free, also to http://www.runhikeplay.com for all my running gear, and to http://www.xoskin.com for chafe free base layers.

 

Laurel Highlands Ultra 50k

Laurel Highlands Ultra50kThe twelfth annual 50 kilometer race will begin at 7:30 a.m. on June 10th, 2017. The start line is on Garret Rd. in Ohio Pyle, PA near the start of the 70.5 mile race. The course will follow the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail, terminating at the Trailhead near Route 31. This is a point-to-point race. We will have bus transportation available prior to the start of the race. The bus will pick up runners near the 50K finish area and transport them to the start line, before the race. There will be no transportation after the race. Since it is a point-to-point race, runners are welcome to bring a crew. There are designated parking areas at each of the checkpoint/aid stations, which must be utilized. The Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail is a state park, and we are fortunate to receive a permit to run the race. Failure to use the designated parking areas could result in a revocation of our race permit.


This is a 50 kilometer wilderness trail, traversing state parks, state forests, state game lands, and other public and private lands. This is a very scenic and challenging course. Difficult footing is the norm, as steep grades, logs, rocks, steps, mud and other obstacles abound. The trail is maintained by the state and features concrete markers at every mile. This is a feature of which few ultra-races can boast. The entire course is permanently marked with yellow blazes, which makes getting lost difficult. The majority of the trail is rugged single-track, with some meadow crossings in the Seven Springs Resort area. Stream crossings are not an issue on the course, as the park service maintains log bridges across them. However, the bridges do get slippery, especially in the morning when they are covered with dew. Please exercise caution when crossing the log bridges.

The hiking trail has now been permanently routed around Lake Tahoe in the Seven Springs Resort area. Racers will exit the woods below Lake Tahoe, climb a short grade and then run clockwise around the lake. About halfway around, the trail will cut off to the left, there is a wooden post in place that will point the way. We will add small surveyor’s flags in this area on race day to help with navigation.

Coming off of a bad day from worlds end, I thought that the Laurel highlands 50k was going to be my race. Boy oh boy was I wrong again. I and good friend Ralph Smith and his wife Monica headed to Ohio Pyle for the Laurel Highlands Ultra. This race is one of my favorites. This will be my first time running the 50k. I was excited that I would be done before dark. Joining us on this journey would be a few first time 50k runners; Mike, Brandy, and Marsha. I designed a training program for the MLPT group to follow, to get them ready for their first Ultra. We all did some training runs together and had a great time in doing so.

Race morning was another damp humid morning in Ohio Pyle. I could not resist getting up to watch the 70.5 mile race start. I have run this the past 4 years. Seeing some of my good running friends go off on their journey I wish I could have joined them. Ralph and I headed back to the hotel to get ready for our race. Funny I was not nervous at all. Dressed and ready to go I made my way over to see Mike and the girls. They were in good spirits and were excited to start the day.


While walking over to the packet pick up the rain started to fall. There is nothing like a prerace soaking to get you in the mood to run a trail race. Packet pick up was a breeze. Knowing the volunteer might have helped. Thanks Ben.

The rain stopped and it was almost go time. While waiting to start I wished everyone good luck and got my mind set to be in for a few hours of trail running.


The race directors said go and we were off. Taking my time I made my way up thru the pack of runners. I wanted to go easier for the first 10 miles then pick it up for the remainder. As I suspected it was a conga line at the trail head. It did not last long and I was able to find my groove and stick with it. The first big climb I was able to fly up it and keep my heart rate in check. Thinking this was going to be a good day I pushed on. Mile 7 is the worst of the climbs. This year I brought my trekking poles. Man did they help. The only problem I was having was trying to stay cool. I was soaked and it really was not that bad out. As I approached the first aid station Monica and Mike’s wife Brandy were waiting to crew for all of us. I must say these two did a fantastic job for their first time crewing. With a smile they exchanged by bottles and wished my luck and I was off. I was moving at a really good pace passing people left and right. I actually looked at my watch and thought that I might finish in around 6 hours if I could keep it together.
At mile 19 aid station the girls told me I was way ahead of everyone else. I told them I felt really good and I was going to try and push harder. They wished me luck and I took off. One thing that I found strange was; during the 70 mile race mile 19 is buzzing with people all over the place, with people screaming and cheering. During the 50k it was like an aid station that is waiting for the last runner to come thru. But they had ample supplies to get you in and out. I ate some fresh fruit and drank a coke and hit the trail.


Around mile 22 I had to really pee. I have had to go from the start but just kept holding it in. This was a really bad mistake on my part. When I went blood followed in the end. OH NO!! I have been here before. I have bruised my kidneys again. When I started to run again that’s when the pain started. It started to hurt really badly! I figured since I have a really good cushion that maybe I should walk for a while and let my body relax. Long story short I never was able to run the rest of the race. I was able to walk at a brisk pace but could not run for more than a few yards. I messed up again. The hardest part was getting passed by all the people that I blew past early on in the race. The last 9 miles were the longest miles.


The trail was so inviting and easy to run; but I had to power hike it. I could not stop looking at my watch. It was heart breaking seeing my time slip further and further away. After blowing up at worlds end I really needed this race to boost my confidence back up. I did finish with a time of 7:47 39th place over all, only a few minutes ahead of my worlds end time. But instead of sitting feeling sorry for myself I stood waiting for the rest of our small group to finish. Low and behold they all came into the finish line at the same time.


Maybe I should have not pushed and should have run with the group to enjoy the day with them. Maybe I could have beaten my fastest 50k time. It is hard to second guess yourself after the race is over. I just am truly blessed to have the ability to run these races

Worldsend 50k Disaster 

The Worlds End Ultra marathon is a challenging foot race that explores the Loyalsock Trail, Loyalsock State Forest and Worlds End State Park in the Endless Mountains of Pennsylvania. The routes are largely rugged, scenic-dense single-track trails with some fairly remote sections, several waterfalls and multiple vistas of the beautiful Endless Mountains. This is not a beginner-level ultra and participation in the race should not be taken lightly. As John Young writes in Hike Pennsylvania, “If you want to do some hiking in the Worlds End region, you should know that hiking here means climbing”.Coming off of a pretty good race at Glacier Ridge, I was really looking forward to this race again. I left Altoona Friday afternoon around 4:30 pm. It’s a pretty easy drive to get to Worldsend State Park. The Trip took about two hours and twenty minutes. I arrived to pick up my race packet and to spot out a good parking spot to sleep in that night. I was going to sleep in my jeep the night before the race and then get up shower and put some miles in.


After talking with the race directors I found out that all my friends were over at the Worldsend State park campground just a few miles away. I stayed there last year so I knew where I was going and made my way. I got to see my good friends enjoying the evening sitting around the campfire. I talked for a while and then eventually headed back to the park to pick my spot for the evenings slumber. While there I realized that the park does not have public showers. Man I have to shower when I get up. It’s a ritual I have before every race. I decided that I would drive the camp ground park in the visitor’s lot and then hit the shower.

The faint sounds of the hustle and bustle of runners getting ready to take on the 100k had awoken me from my deep sleep. Wide awake it was time to start getting ready for my own journey.

After the race director gave us his pre-race words we were off.

To Aid Station One (HIGHROCK) Two (Sones Pond) Three (Devils Garden) Four (Worldsend)

My main goal from this race was to beat last years’ time of 7:11. I took off running with Ben and Jeremy. We discussed our plans and little by little I pulled away. Knowing what laid ahead I took off. Running these 4.3 miles took no time at all. I was moving at a pretty good clip. My Heart rate was high I could feel it. I needed to push and push hard to do what I wanted to do. I ran where I walked last year and went straight on thru the aid station. When we hit the nice flat section past high rock aid station I tried to keep my pace even. I knew that I had some big climbs ahead so I was trying to bank as much as I could. This section was 6 miles long. I was drinking my tailwind and pickle juice sport every fifteen minutes, and taking in calories every half hour. Running thru the pines before Sones pond aid station I checked to see what I needed. Do I need to stop? I came into the aid station dropped my garbage and headed to Aid Station three Devils garden. The next section was 5.6 miles long. I started to slow down a bit. I was getting tired but felt ok. The Climbs that I ran last year I started to power hike. Oh boy what did I do? I was running with a small group that was keeping me moving. As I was walking up a pretty big hill I herd those familiar words “hey how’s things” Ben caught me. Now Ben was running this race conservative to prepare for Manitou on June 17th. I thought I was moving pretty good but apparently not good enough. I was being passed by lots of runners. I completely fell apart. Coming into worlds end I was thinking about dropping out of the race. I was tired. It was warm, and I frankly did not want to be there. I was not excited at all about running this race anymore. Not sure why but I was not even nervous the night before. But we all have a reason why we fall apart. Mine was I frankly just went out way to fast. I should have stopped at every aid station and ate and had some more to drink. So at worlds end aid station I ate and drank a lot. I got my drop bag filled up my pickle juice sport and decided to keep moving.


To Aid Station Five (Canyon Vista) Six (Coal Mine) and to the FINISH.

Climbing out of Worlds end Aid station I was moving very slow. And these next three miles to Canyon Vista aid station were pretty much all up hill. As I made the turn at the top of the hill I looked back to see my buddy Jeremy. I gave him a shout and he caught right up to me. He was taking it really easy because he had Laurel highlands 70.5 the following week. I myself was running the Laurel Highlands 50k. It was nice having someone to talk to. We ran, we walked we jogged and talked a lot heading to canyon vista. Now Jeremy is a lot stronger runner than me, so once we hit the aid station I thought the only way for me to keep up with him is to keep moving and let him catch me. Well guess what he did just that and what I thought was going to happen did. I could not keep up. All alone again!! I am use to this though, moving thru the trail I thought about last year running every bit of this single track heading into coal mine aid station. I heard another familiar voice say on your left as Coryn passed me moving at a pretty good clip. I heard the cheers, the bells coming from the aid station; but I could not reach it. I was thinking I should pop right out on the tram road and be at the aid station. But when you are power hiking the miles take longer to go by. As I was walking around a few boulders I saw a sign that summed up my entire day!!


After eating some bacon and drinking some coke from the Coal mine aid station I was ready to tackle the last three miles. I slowly ran down the grassy road trying to get myself excited to finish. But my legs were heavy and since I knew my time from last year was not going to be broken I did not care to push. I want to just get it done with little to no effort at all. This section is very runnable but it had just enough of a grade to mess with your mind. Finally I make the long decent back into worlds end, ran past the swimming area and crossed the finish line in 7:54. I was 45thout of 115; I am just very happy just to be able to complete these races. It’s just One foot in front of the other

Glacier Ridge 50K oh what a day!!

The GRT will offer four events to provide participants a choice of distances to match their experience, early-season fitness, and season-long goals – the 30K Trail Run, the 50K and 50 Mile Ultra marathons and the 50-Mile 5-person relay. Except for a short stretch at the start and near the end, the 30K and 50K events will be entirely on an exceptional single-track trail. In addition to the single-track, the 50 Mile course also includes a section of very runnable, yet very hilly, double-track/fire roads through beautiful hardwood forests.

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Sounds like a great time to me. And boy oh boy it was. But let me back up to the end of my last race. As you know it did not go well at all. After that race I had almost a month of sitting on the couch eating my depression away. I went to the doctors to get tested for Lyme’s disease. Well given my family history of heart disease I had to undergo a lot of testing. In the meantime the Doctor did not want me to do anything strenuous. All the testing I had done did come back negative. Extremely frustrated because I was still having the same symptoms I had at Tuscarora. I still tried to run but it was painful. While on a run I did some damage to the calf muscle on my right leg. On April 21st I felt pain in my groin, I was a dull pain but still something to I needed to check out. Low and behold I had a tick dug into my groin. By looking at it he was in there for a while. I notified my doctor and I was put on a 21 day antibiotic.tick
After the first few doses I started to feel better. No joint pain, no aching legs, and the other symptoms were going away. While I was down I rode my stationary bike at an easy pace just to keep the cardio up. I started to run again and it felt pretty good. My calf was holding up and my joints felt OK. I must say going into this race I had no idea how it was going to turn out.
Race morning was a cool dry Saturday in May. The week leading up to race day was very wet. So this could mean the trails were going to be a muddy mess. Ben and I drove separately to the race, I had to get to my boys baseball game after the race and Ben wanted to hang out. We both pulled in around 6am one behind the other. A DCNR employee guided us into the field by the start line. I started to get really nervous; will Toddzilla hold up or will he be stranded on the trail. After picking up our race packets we headed back to the cars to get things ready to go. We ran into Ralph who was also racing but he was doing the 30k. He too had personal things that he needed to do that Saturday.
Just before the start; the race Director gave us the rundown of the course and the conditions. As I was walking to the starting line I got to see some good friend that I have gotten to know thru Ultra running. Just before the gun went off I looked at Ben and said we are way up front if were being conservative. Let’s move back he said. Well let’s just stay here they can pass if they want to go around.

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pre race
Photos by Ralph Smith

Start to Mt. Union Road Aid Station (Mile 4.7)
The 50K trail race will start near Pavilion #7 at the McDaniel’s boat launch. Run west a short distance and turn right onto the crushed limestone bike path. Follow the crushed limestone bike path to the bike rental shop. Proceed along the right side of the parking area to the start of the asphalt paved bike path. Follow the bike path to where it crosses the blue-blazed North Country/Glacier Ridge Trail and turn left off of the pavement. After a few hundred yards, the trail crosses North Shore Drive. From North Shore Drive, continue to follow single-track to an unmanned fluids-only aid station at Mt. Union Road.

One mile in and I look at my watch; 8:50 average pace yikes!! Ben we better slow down I am going way to fast. I am too said Ben. As we made our way down the bike path we both noticed that the front runners are just up ahead and then there was us. But no one was in chase. Very odd we both agreed. After crossing North Shore Drive Ben had to stop and use a tree. I pressed on down the single track feeling fantastic. I was running well. I was running the climbs and feeling good on the flats. On the first big climb I passed (the second place Female) and was gaining ground on the next female runner (the overall female winner). As I got behind Tami I told her I think I am running a little too fast but wanted to see how long I could hold on. We both actually ended up running a lot of this section together. She would catch me on the downs and I would catch her on the climbs. We chatted about how the course is in great shape and baseball. Yeah baseball, both of our children were playing that day and we both needed to finish and get home. Time flew and next thing I knew it I crossed Mt. Union road, passed the water station and pressed on.

Mt. Union Road to Rt. 528 Aid Station (Mile 10.0)
From Mt. Union Road, stay on single track around a small pond. Shortly after passing by the pond, bear left onto white blazed connector trail. Follow white trail uphill, across a flat ridge, and then a long downhill followed by turning left to re-join the blue GRT. Continue on blue 1.9 miles to a trail junction and sign for “Rt. 528 Bridge”. Go straight, toward the Rt. 528 Bridge, on white blazed trail. After about 0.7 mile on the white trail, the course turns abruptly left and begins a climb away from the lake. After the climb, a flat, but very rocky section leads to a junction with the blue blazed GRT. Bear right and follow the GRT to the Rt. 528 aid station.
As we were making our way down one of the descents I hear a familiar voice. One you left get out of my way….oh crap I must have run to fast that I caught you guys. Yep it was Ben. He was flying down the hill. Tami and I both got passed by Ben and another runner. They were flying. I told Tami she was going to lose me. Nature was calling and I needed to stop. I thought I could make it another 3 miles to the aid station but nope I had to stop. Not wanting to lose my place I did what I needed and took off. I was in chase mode. Man was the course beautiful. As I approached the climb I gave myself a once over and said let’s do this. Normally I would power hike this kind of hill but today I wanted it. I started running the hill. My heart started racing, my breathing got heavy, and I loved every minute of it. As I came to the top of the hill I was still all by myself. Those guys were gone. One nice thing about the section of trail that takes you into Rt. 528 aid station is its all downhill. I have been on top of my nutrition. I have been drinking Pickle juice sport and tailwind every 15 minutes and eating every 45. So I thought why stop; I have enough fluids and food to get me to the next aid station. The cheers of the Aid Station were a welcoming sound. I gave them my bib number and cruse right on thru.

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Photos by Mike McNeil

Rt. 528 to Jennings Center Aid Station (Mile 15.2)
Shortly after crossing Rt. 528, you will come to a trail intersection, GO TO THE LEFT and continue on blue-blazed trail. At the edge of Jennings Environmental Education Center area, turn right on the white-blazed Ridge Trail. Note: Runners leaving the trail within the Jennings Center will be subject to disqualification. There are many intersecting trails in this part of the course, pay attention to the blue race course markings. You will pass in front of the Jennings Environmental Center building and then cross Rt. 528. After crossing Rt. 528, go through the gate on your left, through a gravel parking lot and onto a short trail section to the Jennings Center aid station.

I crossed the road; saw the sign to go left and made my way up the hill to the single track. I look up ahead and see Tami. OK I thought; I am back on pace with the group. I stayed back for a while holding onto my 11:21 average pace. I eventually caught back up to her and asked how far ahead the other two were. She was uncertain she said she has been running by herself for quite some time. The 50 mile runners were starting to make their way back to the 528 aid station; boy did that bring back a lot of memories from when I did the 50 mile race. As we made our way into the Jennings Center Aid Station I notice the orange shirt standing in the pavilion. It was Ben. I caught back up to him. I drank some coke, I filled my water bottles and we all took off.

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photo by Tom Baumgarner

Jennings Center Aid Station to Rt. 528 (Mile 21.0)
From the pavilion, turn right and follow the blue race course markings. There are many intersecting trails in this part of the course, pay attention to the blue race course markings. Once back on the blue-blazed GRT, trace your steps back to the Rt. 528 aid station.

This is where I planned on making my move for the day. I told Ben the night before at dinner that if I feel good I am taking off. Well I felt great and I took off. I left Tami and Ben behind. I was running as much as I could at an 11:00 minute average pace. On the way back to Route 528 aid station I passed runners of the 50k heading out to Jennings. I looked at my pace chart and figured If I can hold this I could run this 50k in a time around 6 hours even. The Sun was starting to shine and it was making the day even better. Honestly with all the issues I had leading up to this race it is truly amazing I was running as well as I was. When I arrived at the aid station I filled my water bottle and grabbed a banana and a quick drink of mt. dew; said thanks for everything and left.

Rt. 528 to Mount Union Road mile 26.3. then the finish.
Once leaving the aid station proceed back to the finish at the McDaniel’s boat launch.

As I left 528, slower 30k runners were coming down the hill into the aid station. This was a good opportunity for me to eat and catch my breath; man that climb was longer than I remembered. I drank down a pickle juice shot and pushed on. I finally hit the top of the hill and picked up the pace. The trail was a bit muddier than before and it took a little more effort than going out. I run the hill back to the lake and notice a runner up ahead. I tried to pick up the pace but he was moving faster than I could go to catch up. My time was starting to go the wrong direction. I should have stopped and ate at the 528 aid station but too late now. I got into my pack and dug out my sport beans and the remaining cliff shots. I chewed them up and pressed on. Trudging along I was passed by Tami. I tried to stick with her to pull me along but once we hit the hills out of the last aid station on union road she was gone. I hit the wall climbing out of this aid station. I ate everything in my pack. I had my tailwind to give me calories but I like solid foods. I kept telling myself; almost done. Finally I end up back on the bike path that takes you to the finish. I try to run fast but my legs were not going to go any faster. I got passed by the second place female and the other runner that I caught. Funny thing is I did not care I was still going to finish in a good time. I was happy to run this race with everything that took place just weeks ago. As I make my way to the finish I look at my watch and cross the finish line in 6:33. Heck yeah I will take that any day of the week. I actually placed 17th out of 57 people and in second place in the 40-49 age group. Ben was not that far behind and finished 19th out of 57 people and took third in the 40-49 age group. Ralph who ran the 30k came in 22nd place out of 96. And a big shout out to personal friends who both won the 50k, and the 30k. Jeff Nelson won the 50k in 5:00 hours flat and Speedster Matt Lipsey won the 30k in a time of 2:31. I have to give a big congratulation to everybody who toed the line and finished. As for me I am happy with my race. I will use this positive energy for world’s end 50k in June.

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RUNNING DON HALKE’S TUSCARORA 50K

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 littering!

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

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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

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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

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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…

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StoneMill 50 mile race report

What the hell was I thinking? 

A 50 mile race just weeks from my first 100 mile finish.

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Ralph Smith and I headed to Maryland to run The Stone Mill 50 Mile. It is a 50 mile trail run on the Seneca Green-way and Muddy Branch trails in Montgomery County Md. The course traverses forested, rolling terrain. The course is primarily on single track dirt. There are small stream crossings. Most of the course drains well, but parts can be muddy in wet weather. I have run this race before and for the price it is a good bargain.

We left Altoona at 2:30am and made the trip a one day event. Not sure that was such a good Idea or not but we made the best of it. We arrived just as the race director was starting to set up for the event. We asked if it was ok to park at the start finish line instead of out on Steadwick road. He gave us permission since we were the first ones to arrive. We pulled into a spot that was pretty dark and tried to take a quick power nap before registration opened.

As registration opened I told Ralph to hit the bathrooms early, single bathrooms with 200 plus runners is not a good thing. Once the line starts to form it never gets shorter. With all the pre race stuff out-of-the-way it was go time. The course started out on paved road that takes you to the trail head. It was a cold brisk morning. I wanted to be conservative in the beginning and pour it on as the day unfolded. With Ralph on my tail we made the miles disappear. We had a pretty good pace going and we both felt really good. We talked it up about previous years running Stone mill. I gave him a run down on what to expect and explained the entire course is very run able.

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Disaster strikes. This year’s course was changed to include a loop around Clappers Lake. Well the train that Ralph and I were in ran right past the turn at or around mile 8. Now I have been running tails for a long time and this was the first time in my life that I missed a turn. We ended up at the aid station way before the leaders. The Aid Station volunteers told us to keep going and make the loop up on the way back thru. Now trial running rules stats that you must enter the trail where you went off course. Not wanting to start an argument with a volunteer the group of 15 or so kept moving forward. Not even a half a mile later the entire group was off the course again. The problem was its fall the leaves are RED orange brown. DO NOT USE red ribbon to mark the course, use a nice bright pink or a lime or even bright orange.

I was ready to quit. I had enough. Being a race director myself and one who marks the course for our races I was pissed that it was piss poorly done. But since this was my third time running I knew which way we had to go to get to the Penny Lock Aid Station. With Ralph on my heels we made up time on some of the course.  Little by little the leaders started to catch us. Some were pissed some were ok with it. They all stated that it’s easy to get off course. Some areas had one flag every half mile and some had flags every 10 feet.

At one point I was talking to Ralph and did not get a response, I turned and found out Ralph had fallen back a little. He yelled to keep moving don’t wait for me I want to slow down a little. As we said our good-bye that is when I noticed I was running really well. At each aid station it was the honor system to tell them that you missed the lake loop. At The Stone mill aid station runners who did not make the loop needed to go thru a busted down building and come out the other side so your number could be recorded. This is where I saw some runners who I was with skip this and head straight to the aid station. Really are you kidding me? You’re going to cheat yourself.

My Sunnto watch beeps every 15 minutes to remind me to drink some tailwind or take a drink of my http://www.picklepower.com/  As I looked at my watch I noticed I was at mile 31.4 in 5:49. Thinking that my race was going to be even better than I thought I tried to push the pace a little harder. Not sure it was a good move or not but I was feeling good. Around mile 39 I started to cough badly. With ever deep breath I took I coughed. The cold air was starting to hurt. I pulled my Worldsend Buff over my face just leaving my eyes open to try to warm the air as I inhale.

Stone Mill 50M, 2016 - Photo by Dan Reichmann, MCRRC
Stone Mill 50M, 2016 – Photo by Dan Reichmann, MCRRC
Around Mile 41 I make the turn to go around the lake. I felt like a rookie trial runner. But hey I am an honest guy and need to do what was right. Funny thing is I never saw another runner on this section. As I am making my way wound the lake the ribbons were far and few between. At one point I got really nervous I was off course until a family told me ribbons were just ahead. I could not make up any time on this loop. I came out to a parking lot and I had no idea where to go. The flags were gone.  Seems people like to remove flags to be funny. As I was wondering around I saw a runner approaching me. He asked which way do we go. I said I was looking for the main trail myself. He explained that he thought he had to go around the lake a second time.  We both headed back where he came from and got back on the trail to head to the finish.

I was cold and very tired. I had zero energy left in the tank. Again I was ready for it to be over. My 100 mile race was still in my legs. They were heavy sore and my I T band really started to act up. I was moving very slow. My 9 minute miles were turning into 13 minutes miles. I knew where I was at on the trail and what I had to do to finish.  I left the last Aid station just wanting to break dark. I was curious where Ralph might be. I am thinking he is going to pass me at the last-minute. As I came back out to the paved road and sidewalk I was done. I walked and walked and walked. As I approached the finish line I heard my name. Come on Toddzilla finish strong. As I looked up I could see Ralph and my friend Perry. What the hell. Did they not do the lake loop? Did I go that far off course? What was going on?

As I get passed by an older gentlemen I put my arms up in disbelief that ass just passed me in the last 10 feet.  Not a true trail runner no doubt about it. Well I beat the dark and ran a 10:57:50 50 mile. If you told me that was going to be my time around mile 31 I would have laughed at you. I was congratulated by Ralph and Perry on my finish. Seem they did not have the kind of day they wanted. Shortly after Ralph and I split he took a hard fall and smacked his knee pretty bad. He made the right choice and dropped. This was his first DNF. As for Perry his day started out bad from the get go. He thought the race started later and while making up time he to fell. But Perry hit his head pretty hard and had to go get it checked.

I had an OK day I am sure I will run it again. Maybe just maybe they will take advice from people and mark the course a little better. The Aid stations are top-notch and the volunteers are amazing!