A little background: this year’s racing schedule was going to be Phunt 50k in January, HAT 50k in March, Coopers Rock 50k in April, and Worlds End 100k in May. With that agenda, lots of training miles and vertical gain would need to be sandwiched in there.
I first bagged Phunt and went to Mexico instead–no complaints there! I ran a 50k at Blue Marsh in February as my replacement run.
HAT 50k was canceled, so I ran a 50k that day anyway on the Horse-Shoe Trail.
Coopers Rock was postponed, so on April 25th, I put together a route which involved a 3 mountain tour (Mt. Penn, Neversink, and Guldin’s Hill aka Copperhear Hill). Having grown up in St Lawrence, I was up on Neversink and Guldin’s all the time, so these places are like home to me. There are several road connectors, so it’s about 85% trail, 15% road. This course boasts over 5000′ of vertical gain and more turns than can be explained. As I told my friend Kyle Benjamin, who ran the majority with me, the course map is up here in my 47-year-old brain, which is scary in itself.
So, with Worlds End 100k being postponed, you can guess what I’ll be doing that day anyway 🙂
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!