Monday, June 14, 2010

Laurel Highlands 77 Mile Trail Race

Thursday June 8th I loaded up with 5 other warped individuals to do something that at one time I'd have sworn I would never attempt in my life. We were headed north for a long and grueling trail race. Luckily... Mark had rented us a pimped out minivan to make travel more comfortable.
(our pimped out minivan)
We rolled into Ohiopyle Pennsylvania that night and tucked ourselves into bed for a good night's rest. The next morning we checked out the small town and found the trail head in which the race would start.

(us standing in front of the Youghiogheny River)

Little did we know this was one of the easiest segments. That afternoon we headed to the packet pick-up and pre-race dinner.

(Sarah at the beginning of the trail)

Sooo... you know you are crazy when you ride all the way up to Pennsylvania for a 77 mile trail race. AND... you know you are amongst even crazier people than yourself when you see folks at the pre-race dinner wearing Western States 100 belt buckles and Copper Canyon Race Shirts. These people meant business... What had I gotten myself into?!! What was I in store for the next day?

The next morning we awoke at 4:00am and checked ourselves over and over again to make sure we had everything we needed for the long day and night ahead. We placed our drop bags at the Mile 44 pile

and then waited around for the start of the race. And before long.... we were off!!!

I started with arm warmers and after about 20 minutes pushed them down. Warming up took far less time than I had imagined. Sarah and I ran together for quite a while until she had to take a series of bathroom breaks along the trail. Later she would pass me. Sal and Tyler were way ahead and moving along at top speeds (as usual). Mark was behind us. The miles went by slowly and I tried not to pay

(mile marker #1 of 77)

attention to the mile markers on the trail. Sometimes it's just better not to know where you are!

The day became very hot and humid as the sun shone through the trees. This made for miserable running conditions when paired with the rocky and technical terrain on the trail. I managed to do very well with my hydration and nutrition and only found myself to suffer more from just being plain tired more towards the end of the race.

At around mile 30 something I picked up Sal. He was in real bad shape. I told him to stick with me and we'd get his hydration and nutrition in check. He managed to run a ways, but eventually fell to pieces and would sit at the next aid station for quite some time after I left him. Carl was crewing for all of us and had refilled our water between the aid stations before mile 44. I honestly don't know what we would have done without his support out there. From here... I ran a ways with Mark, but he stopped for a restroom break and I powered on not seeing him again until the next aid station as I was taking off. He looked bad... said he couldn't make it. I told him to sit down and rest for a bit and then give it another go. Between this aid station and mile 64 there were 12 lonely miles ahead of me. It seemed like FOREVER. This segment was covered by a sea of ferns that were above waist high which made visibility of the trail more difficult. I ran in the dark by myself and that was just creepy!!! Before it had turned dark... I swore I saw a bear in a tree. This didn't help the creepy factor at all either! Boy was I ever glad to see that next aid station!

After heading out of the mile 64 aid station I ran up on two guys and decided that I would stick with them the rest of the way. The company was nice and I didn't wanna be alone in the dark by my lonesome anymore. When we hit the last aid station we picked up another guy who ran the rest of the way in with us. On this segment we would see a porcupine and a skunk. I was really thankful to have some company here!

(me standing with the 3 guys I finished with)

Finally we saw headlamps and knew we were close to the finish line.... then... I heard Carl yelling for me. I took off running as fast as my tired body would go until I crossed that line! Man... was I ever so glad to be done with that!!! 77 miles... who would have ever thought?! It was also very nice to see Sarah and Tyler at the finish line in good shape as well. Sal didn't fair out so well and was pulled from the race due to being dehydrated and is body was a total wreck. We found out later that 118 started the race and only 58 finished. If you do the math... that's a 50% finish rate. That's some serious stuff! I feel lucky to have finished such a grueling race against these odds! This race taught me much about my body, how it reacts to longer mileage and what it feels like to run through the night and into the early morning hours.

Congrats to Sarah, Tyler and Mark for finishing the longest trail race to date!!! It was fun in a sick and twisted way! I am lucky to have such good friends to share misery and happiness with on the trail!

(finisher's award)