by Elaine Cook
Rattling Creek 50/25/12K trail race is a new event put on by Trans-Sylvania Productions, an organization that seems to focus primarily on gravel and mountain bike events. Originally scheduled in March, it looked like a nice alternative to HAT. Held at the Haldeman tract in Weiser State Forest near Harrisburg, it’s convenient. After a second reschedule, the race ended up on August 15, a hot and humid day, but perfectly situated as a tune-up for an also rescheduled World’s End. Race description lists 2,800′ of climb.
Trans-Sylvania communicated through Facebook and email, and kept us posted on changes and their COVID plan. When I asked a question about the plan, I got an answer within a day. Reg was drive-up as we entered the parking lot. Masking was expected at the starting line and aid stations, but not while running. Racers started every 10 seconds, beginning with 50K men, then women, and progressing through the distances. I don’t want to think about getting the results after such a start, but mine were correct.
Approximately 200 runners came for the event, but only about 40 (8 women) in the 50K. Immediately the whole field missed a turn. Apparently a sign was never placed. So, we began with 4 bonus miles and some extra vert! A lot of this race–maybe 1/3–was sunny gravel roads: not my favorite, but quite runnable and scenic. The trails were gorgeous and either flowing, gentle single-track or extremely rocky. I hiked a bunch of this and had one good fall. Markings were only at the turns. This became scary after the early mistake made me distrustful, and my water supply (2 bottles,10 oz.) proved insufficient.
Aid stations were poor in my opinion. Not enough time or instruction was given to volunteers at the 5 stops. One was in the wrong location, volunteers did not know the directions or course, nearly all offerings were sweet (candy and fruit), with no gels. There was a lot of confusion over directions among the 3 distances at the first 2 aid stations. Worst by far–AS#2 was nearly out of water when I arrived and would only give me a few ounces. Many runners were behind me, and I don’t know how long it took to restock. When we returned to the same AS for the 4th stop, there was plenty of water. The finish had only Coke. The planned food was cancelled as part of COVID mitigation.
The course wrapped up with a really nice view, which we all saw twice due to the early error, and then a long runnable downhill. They had a great photographer who worked his behind off to get some great shots. Overall, the race has potential, but the Trans-Sylvania needs to make some changes to convince me to choose it again. As a tune-up for a target race, the date and location were perfect. I’m interested to hear from runners (and bikers) who try any of Trans-Sylvania’s other events.