Saturday August 25th, 2018
I finished up work early Friday and hit the road. It was a beautiful day and the ride across the state from Pittsburgh to just north of Lock Haven was enjoyable. I had seen pictures from various races here for years and now had the chance, thanks to the persistence of my friend Vicki, to run these magnificent trails for the 3rd annual Hyner Half.
Arriving I set up my hammock by Hyner Run, the stream at the back of our campsite, and took a spin on the Solowheel around the campground. I was happy to find the start/finish area was less than 150 yards from my hammock. I had time until the rest of the gang would arrive so I took a short out and back run of the last mile on the course. That final mile would have over 300 feet of loss. A nice downhill finish. The rest of the evening would be filled with friends around the campfire.
The race starts and ends in Hyner State Park. It runs along some of the trails on the Eastern States 100 course in Sproul State Forest. The mile 43 Aid Station is, in fact, located right in the park where the starting area was. Afterwards I would think back and look at the ES100 course elevation profile and realize just what a task that race must be. It is a race I’ve been considering signing up for in 2019. Now I have a better understanding just how much training I’ll need to do….
I hadn’t slept well, but felt good nonetheless. Falling asleep and waking to the sound of the stream ambling by was a real treat and I was content to lay in my hammock listening to it’s endless tales.
After a short meditation I got up and went through some race day routines; bathroom stops, gear checks, and finally packet pickup, of which I was one of the first. The race giveaways are really nice. A long sleeve tech shirt and an embroidered performance hat awaited me with my bib. Heading back to camp I pinned my bib on and got dressed. Vicki was up now and had gone to packet pickup. Everyone else was still asleep.
I shook Cam’s hammock.
“30 minutes until race start”
He bolted upright and was soon out and preparing. Vicki, ever the thoughtful one, had grabbed everyone’s packets and brought them back mentioning how another great thing about trail races is the lack of formality for picking up other’s race items.
Dave took a group photo and we began walking over. It was 6 minutes until race start! I had an Orange Mud handheld with Heed and Endurolytes Extreme powder mixed with water along with extra Endurolytes Extreme capsules in my RooSport. With three Aid Stations and a goal of under 3 hours I figured I’d be in great shape between aid areas.
The RD, Craig Fleming, gave race instructions and following we all walked down the road to the starting point. We would have roughly 1/2 mile of slightly ascending gravel road to space out before hitting the singletrack. The “Go!” was given and soon we were at the singletrack. The ascent was steep and relentless. In under a mile we gained over 900 feet of elevation! There were no switchbacks, very little areas of easier grade. I dug in and kept moving not stopping until on the ridgeline. I felt wrecked. 1.4 miles in and my body was already thoroughly displeased with my treatment of it.
Continuing on I fell into a relaxed pace to recover from the climb and found myself walking on some of the very slight hills even. The trail here was stunning. Very runnable and aesthetically pleasing singletrack dominated the areas of the course that did not have crushing ascents. I passed through a deer fence and came to a mostly flat and gradually descending track until passing the deer fence on the other side. A local and I chatted about the course. He said, “Soon we’ll come to the V. It’s not runnable. At least for me it’s not.”
A slight descent and short steep climb came next. I ran most of it and walked the last few steps at the top and thought to myself this can’t be what he was talking about. It wasn’t. Not even close. It wasn’t much further until I came to the V. As you may have already guessed the V drops straight down a stream valley and goes straight up the other side. No switchbacks, no playing around. And it is STEEP. A runner in front of me stopped at the top to snap a picture. Hearing me he moved aside and I slowly started down the slippery treacherous descent. “ooph!” I heard a noise and looking back the guy who let me pass was tumbling head first down the V. I tried to slow him as his head was coming straight down and rocks were abundant. I soon went down and we were slipping, sliding trying to gain control. And we both eventually did come to a stop. The whole time another runner at the top was screaming bloody murder. We assured her everything was okay and we all continued down. The ascent proved to have better footing, but without gravity as my ally I found myself very slowly, yet steadily making my way up. I allowed a few faster moving people to pass and felt relief reaching the top.
The toughest spots were now all behind me. Well…sort of. We’ll get to that later though. The flora of the mountains here was beautiful and the running easy. I enjoyed the sights in the more open areas and as I came into the canopy of evergreens the trail dropped on switchbacks through this stunning spot of forest. Far below I could here the sound all trail runners long to hear. Cowbell. And it got louder as I descended.
I’m slower on ascents, something I need to work on for my race goals next year. However, when it comes to downhills my legs stretch out behind me in joy, feet bounding over and between obstacles, and mental focus at it’s highest. If you’ve run trail with me you know the childlike enthusiasm I have for a good long runnable downhill. Coming in to the last drop to the aid station I rounded a corner and saw the steepness and the soil color indicative of moist organic that certainly would be a bit slick. Slowing I carefully made the last descent to the first aid station.
Only a bit over 4 miles in and I was astounded just what a beating I took. The AS was top notch. This looked more like a mile 40 AS than a mile 4 stop. Choices for food and drinks were abundant. I popped a Hammer Fizz tab in my bottle and a volunteer filled me on water. I didn’t feel like I needed anything else yet and soon was back on the trail climbing up the mountain. Maybe halfway up or so I laughed. Ok, I laughed on the inside. It was a big hill climb!
I clearly heard the words, “Heeeey youuu guyyyys!” You’ve seen Goonies, right? I knew Cam was coming in to the aid station. That meant that everyone was close behind or he had set off on his own. Either way I likely would see friends soon.
It turns out after the Abe’s Fork Aid Station Cam set off on his own to catch me. It didn’t take him long. He came upon me around the 10k point of the race and ran, walked, crawled it in with me.
We chatted and clicked off some slow miles. The terrain here was very favorable for running, but I just couldn’t seem to get my legs going at more than a crawl. The company was good and that was enough for me.
Nearing the next Aid Station the trail was lined with American flags. Team RWB Lock Haven was enthusiastically manning this station. I was a bit lightheaded and looked at the offerings for calories. I ate a little, popped a Hammer Fizz in my topped off bottle and Cam and I headed out for a easy stretch of descending grassy trail. I felt like I was 50 miles into something, not just the hair over 8 miles we were really at.
Our path here would close off the loop to the “lollipop”, as local runners referred to it, and put us back on the trail to Abe’s Fork again for one final stop before the final stretch. The uphills were torturously slow. The downhills went fairly well though and made up some of the lost time.
Back at Abe’s Fork AS we only had around 4 miles left to cover. Topped off on water I had a small cup of coke and pringles hoping some calories would make a difference. They did not. At least not in any positive way.
The initial climb on the return from Abe’s Fork is fairly steep. I found myself having big issues. I’d take a few steps and my heart would be ready to beat through my chest. Tunnel vision closing in as I stopped and leaned against a tree. Take a few more steps. Heart rate up, lean on tree. Repeat until up the hill. At one point I crouched down on the ground fearing I might pass out and wanted to be in a better position if that happened.
Cam kept moving ahead and waiting at intervals and checking on me. Once up the hill we walked a bit and ran a bit until we came to the last 2 miles, a nice downhill taking us in to the finish. We ran it in and crossed the finish in 3:48:42.
Though it was roughly a full hour slower than I intended I was still content to have camped out and run beautiful trails with friends. This is one that I’ll try and make a tradition.
If you are looking for a challenge, a no-frills race to test your mettle, and good people to enjoy the challenge with then look no further and get this on your 2019 race calendar.