Browse Category: Running/Fitness

Slate Run 25K

The Mountains of Lycoming County, PA

 

200 + 16 + 200 = A LOT OF MILES!

Is getting up at 4 AM on a Saturday (making your wife and two-year-old do so also) to drive 200 miles in order to hop out of the car and run 16 miles worth of rocky muddy trails up and down big central Pennsylvania mountains crazy?

Most people would say, “YES!”

But as you can see in the pictures below, I was accompanied by 249 equally crazy friends! I don’t know how far anyone else had to drive that morning, but it’s a safe bet that a large percentage would have done just what I did for the opportunity to run in those hills. If you are crazy enough to enjoy running on the mountains for multiple hours, riding in a car for three hours is no big deal.

This is what I did on June 1 in order to run in the Slate Run 25K trail race in Slate Run, PA.

 

The face of a crazy man about to punish himself for 16 rocky, wet, muddy miles

 

Approximate number of miles I had traveled by the halfway point of the race… also how old I felt at that point.

 

And away we go!

 

A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words, But Not Many Feet of Elevation

Photos never do justice to elevation. The mountains never appear as tall as they are in person. And photos can’t convey the burning in your thighs when you are climbing up, up, up and then finally the ground levels out at a scenic view… only to round a bend and continue up, up, up. Your thighs burn and the pictures are silent about it.

The pictures also don’t show how good it feels once you get to the top of the mountain and you can run on wonderful single track trail for a few miles. Then your thighs come alive!

 

Crossing Pine Creek in Slate Run, PA

 

Someone had too much time on their hands. (Says the guy who spent 5 hours and 8 minutes traversing trails for the fun of it.)

 

Don’t slip.

 

How did this big rock get up here?

 

Up and up and up

 

The view is worth the climb.

 

Don’t jump.

 

I bashed a shin pretty good going down these rocks.

 

Approaching Aid Station #2 around mile 8

 

So Much Water!

There was so much water after the second aid station! The trail insisted on weaving it’s way back and forth across the streams, sometimes knee-deep. That mountain water was rather chilly! By the time I crossed a road around mile 10, my feet were numb. I mentioned this to a volunteer at the road crossing. Her response? “Welcome to Pennsylvania!” She also asked if I needed water, which struck me as ironic after I just complained about. She said the next aid station was only 2 miles away. So I kept plugging along.

After the road, the trail continued uphill through more water. That’s where I hit the wall. The 200 miles of driving caught up with me. My feet hurt from the cold water. There was no end of it in sight. I was no longer running. I was stopping more often. I started counting my steps, forcing myself to do 3 sets of 10 steps before I stopped to catch my breath. I got angry at myself each time and stopped at step 8 just to be a jerk to myself. The water was roaring down the mountain. I so wanted to lie down in dry silence. Someone passed me at that point. He said, “I think we’re getting closer to the top.” I sarcastically thought, “Aren’t we constantly getting closer to the top with each step? But that doesn’t mean we are close to the top!” I don’t think I said it out loud.

Near the top, the water slowed and quieted. I stuck my hat in and splashed water all over my head. That snapped me back to reality a bit and I continued on in better spirits.

 

I should have taken more pictures of the water. This was pretty much the last of it.

 

A look across to the area we passed through in the first half of the race

 

Peaceful. Sometimes I want to stay in the woods forever.

 

I finished 164th out of 250.

 

The Course

 

Enjoy Your Ride Home! Come See Us Again!

At 5 hours and 8 minutes, I hobbled over the finish line. Spasms in my hamstrings. Spasms in my thighs. Spasms in one of my calves. I moved like an ape in running shoes. But I finished.

Then I remembered: We still had to drive 200 miles home. We were a good ways from civilization. When we got to Danville we stopped at Wendy’s and I pigged out. (I pigged out for a bunch of days actually.) The spasms hit me off and on while my wife drove. Later she said, “Maybe you should give this up. You’re in pain and you don’t look like you’re having fun now.”

This race is scheduled for June 6, 2020. As soon as I shake these spasms I think I’ll walk on over to my computer. “Hello, ultrasignup.com.”

Boulder Beast 2018: The Road to Hell is Paved

Here are some photos from the Boulder Beast trail race in Lock Haven, PA (September 22, 2018).

Traversing the boulder field was great fun and not as easy as one might expect. It’s a lot more significant in person than it appears to be from a distance. I wish I had taken more photos, especially through the middle section of the race. But that’s the section where I could only focus on moving ahead to get to the end. I was under prepared, overweight, and running with spasms in my quads most of the way, except, of course, when I was going up those long steep hills, stopping to lean on trees every 10 yards. There was no running then, only spasms.

On one of those hills between mile 11 and 16, I swore to myself this would be the one and only time I did this race. I doubled up on the swearing that night as my legs seized over and over. But as I spotted Rote Overlook high up on the mountain as I headed back to New Jersey on I-80 the next day, I recalled how stunning that view was and I began to miss that course already. Yes, it was damn hard. Yes, I was fairly miserable for long stretches. So what?

Now I have a new goal: get back to Lock Haven next September and do better!

By the way, the first 3 miles of the course are on paved roads, hence the title of this post.

Milling about waiting for the start as the sun came up. Note the boulder field on the mountain to the left.
#352 (Not sure who to give credit to. This was on the Boulder Beast Facebook page.)
A few miles into the woods
Arriving at the boulder field
Going up
Almost to the top
Photo by Michael McNeil
Photo by Michael McNeil
Photo by Michael McNeil

=> Click here to see more photos by Michael McNeil. <=

The view over Lock Haven
The view over Lock Haven
Somewhere after mile 8
The Goat Path
Looking down on the mile 11 aid station from the Goat Path
One of MANY streams. Your feet will get wet on this course!
Not sure where I was at this point
Approaching the mile 16 aid station
The fire road after the mile 16 aid station. I ate a jelly donut while walking this. It was the most amazing thing I ever tasted.
Rote Overlook around mile 19

Forcing a smile with cramps in my thighs
Somewhere near the mile 21 aid station
“The Green Mile” – the paved road at the beginning and end of the course. The boulder field is visible on the mountain.
The Course

George Washington Bridge Challenge 10K

Unicorns are REAL! They talked to us and told us many wondrous things that I’m not allowed to reveal.

My wife and I ran the George Washington Bridge Challenge 10K today. How often does anyone get the chance to run on one of the busiest bridges in the country? (One time per year, as far as I know.) That’s what made this race so appealing.

The race started in Fort Lee on the New Jersey side of the Hudson. We took a ramp up onto the bridge. Then we ran out and back over the bridge twice. Coming off the bridge we ran along Main Street in Fort Lee and then down Henry Hudson Drive to the Ross Dock Picnic Area to finish. The majority of the race was on the flat bridge and then downhill after that, hardly any uphill. A nice run!

Considering I had only run twice in the past two months, including this race, I was pleased with how my running felt and the fact that I finished in 1 hour, 7 minutes. I struggled now and then, walked when I felt like it. I went into the race with the idea of simply running according to how I felt and not worrying about my time or pace. I didn’t worry about comparing myself to anyone else. I just chugged along and enjoyed the scenery and the satisfying feeling of moving my feet. I was actually surprised that my time was as good as it turned out!

Here are some photos:

Getting started
Entering the lower level of the GWB
Looking toward Manhattan
Overlooking Palisades Park in New Jersey. If you look real close you can see the yellow arch at the finish line.
On the GWB
Under the GWB
Finishing up
Many thanks to our friend, Zach, for the cool signs and for tending to our child!

Skin in the Game

Being in the Woods = Happiness (at least at the beginning of this run)

My last run introduced a new challenge to the mix of getting ready for the Hyner race: BLISTERS. With three weeks to go until the race, the blister problem has become a Gordian Knot situation that needs to be solved ASAP.

When I first got these Saucony Perigrine shoes a few months ago I worried the heels might prove to be a problem. But I ran in them a handful of times on rail trails and then on trails at Mahlon Dickerson Reservation. Their heels weren’t as snug as I’d like but they didn’t seem to be a problem. I ran at the Delaware Water Gap a few times with snow on the trails, my distance averaging 6 miles. It wasn’t until the trails were clear and I was able to go farther that I encountered the problem of blisters on my heels.

I did a little research and decided to do a test run near home today. I slapped on multiple Band-Aids and wore two pairs of wool socks. I went over to the Dickerson Mine Preserve (not the same place as the Mahlon Dickerson Reservation, but named after the same guy).

My plan was do run 5 miles. By mile 2 my heels were on fire again. The double socks didn’t help. I ground out 3 more miles, running more than walking because I just couldn’t wait to be done. Plus, I was in a hurry to get back to the drawing board to find a different solution to this problem.

And one other thing. It snowed again today. Aren’t we like 2 weeks into Spring? What the heck?

Here are a few photos from the Preserve:

One of several easy trails here
Power lines coming through
Same lines, different part of the trail
You know you’re on a New Jersey trail when there are empties left by a tree.

Early Morning Run at the Water Gap

Leaving the house at Zero Dark Thirty

I left the house at 5:30 AM to meet my son for a 6:00 start at the Delaware Water Gap. Our goal was to run a 10 mile loop twice: up the Red Dot Trail on Mt. Tammany, along the ridge on the Tammany Fire Road, the Turquoise Trail over to the AT by Sunfish Pond, the AT back to the start. And… Finally! The trails at the Delaware Water Gap were free of snow!

The run was tough going for me. I felt slow and tired. We got to mile 7 and what I thought to be a small stone in my shoe turned out to be a blister on my heel. By the time we finished the first loop, I had blisters on the backs of both heels. I put Band-Aids on them and started up Mt. Tammany again. My heels were ON FIRE!
Halfway up the mountain I started getting spasms in my hamstrings. I had taken Endurolytes and Sports Legs to prevent spasms. But that wasn’t enough to overcome the fact that I had not run more than 7 miles in one shot in months. The second time up the mountain got me. It seemed to take forever to make it.

I knew I couldn’t make the full 20 miles. So I sat on a rock and bemoaned my miserable condition. While my son continued on the full loop, I took the Blue Dot Trail back down to the parking lot. I was done.

I made it 13 miles. But according to my crazy training plan I should have done 21. Things are not going according to plan. But here are some photos.

Looking through the Gap just before sunrise
The Moon in the Belt of Venus, halfway up Mt. Tammany
Giving it my best on Mt. Tammany
Sunshine on Mt. Minsi, the shadow of Mt. Tammany, the Delaware River, the Poconos, the Moon, the Belt of Venus… all beautiful!
A snow-free Tammany Fire Road

My son taking in the beauty of the early morning sun and the snowmelt along the Turquoise Trail
Sunfish Pond

THE END
(Once the blisters start, fuck taking any more pictures.)