“Gary, do you hear jingle bells?” I asked this of my pacer Gary Twoey as we ran deep within the pitch-black woods of north-central PA during the inaugural Eastern States 100. I signed up for this grueling event just under a year before I actually ran it, so it was a long time coming. Perhaps foolishly, I chose this race as my first 100 miler. I had heard stories of people becoming disoriented and delusional in hundreds, but I figured I would probably be fine. Well, just so long as you call phantom jingle bells resonating in your ear canals while running in the woods in the dark just fine. Considering the course I faced, it could have been a whole lot worse.
Rock….rock….rock….rock…ooh, pure dirt!….rock…rock….is that a snake?….that’s a stick…rock…….
That was at least 2/3 of the race for me and pretty well summarizes the Rothrock Challenge. In a TrailRunner article from last year, Jordan McDougal described the race as “the most technically demanding course I’ve ever run,” which I think is a pretty apt description. They could have also called it the “Head Down Race.” Not because runners tuck their heads in as they speed along the trails, but because if you try to keep moving without staring at your feet, you’ll likely end up catching a toe on a rock or root and end up somersaulting across the extended rock garden that is much of the course. Trust me, that happened to me twice on a training run several weeks ago. A more recent TrailRunner article profiling this year’s race was titled “Rothrock: Where the Crazy People Go.” I don’t know about “crazy,” but this certainly isn’t your neighborhood 5K or local Color Run. I survived the race with no injuries, but I did see a great photo on the Pa Runners Facebook page of a man with blood dripping from both knees, still with a rock-eating grin on his face.
Photo credit – James Clapper
This will be pretty short. Mainly because it is a road race and nothing very interesting happened. Also because me describing the course wouldn’t be very useful:
We started on a road. There was gravel. Then there was an uphill. Then there was less gravel. Then there was more gravel. Repeat, with some variations. Ok, that is a bit of hyperbole, but I think you get my drift.
Basically looked like this. Even though this is Vermont. I don’t have any pictures of Rothrock roads. Source – link
I have had about two and a half seasons of trail races now, but I have only raced Hyner (or more properly, the Hyner View Trail Challenge) once. This race is bigger and more “momentous” than Mile Run or Dirty Kiln, so I was more excited. 1200 25K + 150 50K runners makes the Hyner View Challenge a sizable trail race. And hills are fun.
We went in search of mud at our second race of the year, the Dirty Kiln trail race. Well, maybe we weren’t actually actively searching it out, but that is what we received (plus just a wee bit of water). We ran this race last year and decided to give it another go this year. The course was fairly muddy last year and given the rain that had fallen the week before the race, I figured it would be at least as muddy this year. The Dirty Kiln trail race is outside of the group of races that make up the Central PA trophy series (info on that series here) and is put on by Allegheny Trailrunners, but it is still part of the overall Trailrunner Trophy Series (info here). They have two options, a 5 mile and a half marathon. Each race runs the same 5 mile loop and the half marathon makes up the rest of the distance with another loop that runs a bunch of the same route, but adds a longer section in the hilly area, plus a little detour at the end (see map below). In my hasty pre-race prep looking at the maps and elevation profiles in the car and worrying about making it to the start in time, I didn’t have time to notice the little jaunt for the second loop at the very end. I obviously didn’t remember this little nugget of information from last year, but I think it will stick with me now. Both of the loops circle the lake. The first loop really only has one hill, which you get out of the way at the beginning. The second loop adds a bit more elevation change and then ends up back on the 5 mile loop.