by Andy Styer
So, I signed up for this race early on, based on the description only as ” rugged, wild and lots of big climbs”. Everything I wanted to test my training and skill set. I figured this would be a good, end of season run to explore a new place. My “A” race for the year, Laurel Highlands 70.5 miler, was done and in the books. I thought that was the hardest race of the year, but boy was I wrong! I had no idea what I was in store for.
Almost immediately after the run starts ( at 6am, in the dark), you are hit with a short road section and then a gradual climb. Don’t let this runnable section fool you, because after about a mile of easy running, you get smacked with your first climb up the Mid-State Trail. And then down. And then up. And then down. The big climbs never end, and the hard, rocky descents don’t either. And when you aren’t going up or down, you are running off camber on the rocky Mid-State Trail on moss-covered and slippery rocks. Falling and tripping is the normal here, and this course requires all of your body muscles and mental focus.
About halfway through the race, you get a little break as you come down to the village of Ramsey, where you get a short reprieve from the hills with some flat running on the Pine Creek Trail. BUT, only to get greeted with the biggest climb up, up, and up! After that you get to go back down and get another nice 2-3 mile runnable section before you then get the hardest of them all: the Torbert climb. Steep and straight up around mile 26 with mostly dead legs.
The aid stations were great, with enthusiastic volunteers who were cheering you on and making lots of noise! The PA Trail Dogs put on a great event! I was happy with my effort, finishing this in 6:56. From mile 5 to the end I was passing people and no one was passing me – a good feeling to have in the race. This ends my season for the most part, but as many people know, I have been racing this year to raise funds for pancreatic cancer research, having lost my mom to this dreaded and deadly form of cancer 15 months ago. Click on this link to check it out: https://events.lustgarten.org/fundraiser/1826394
Although Laurel Highlands was my “A” race, this was my best and hardest race. So, if you want to know what Eastern States is about, but don’t want to run it, check out its baby brother and sign up for Call of the Wilds!