Photo Credits (P. Lopes, seePArun.com)
Along the "Cliffhanger" Trail (mile 1.5)
For a third year in a row, I again found myself climbing and descending the steep and rocky hillsides deep within the region of the Appalachian Plateau, near Hyner, PA. It seems that I just can't stay away from the wonderful little gem of a race, known as the "Hyner View Challenge", tucked away in the remote north-central part of the state. There's something about this event that always brings me back. I guess you could say it's a lot of things....ranging from the great course, to the wicked-fun climbs, to the technical trail-tread, to the outstanding after-party. Simply put, everything about this race really is quite a treat. The volunteers are great, the race director is top notch, and even the swag bag came replete with merino wool socks! The registration fee is incredibly reasonable as well, considering the course you get spoiled with.
A few years ago when I signed up for this race, I had just sort of figured it'd be good to do being that it was somewhat "local". In the end, despite the great course, I had somewhat of a mediocre day. I was still incredibly sore from the Barkley and simply went out too hard. I have a tendency to mis-judge my effort level for 50k's (it's always been somewhat of an awkward distance for me - would much rather do a 50m or 100m). I finished fairly well (6:05ish), but wasn't sure I would ever go back, or do another 50k for that matter. But one year later, I did decide to give it another go, and last year I showed up to see if I could get out of the running funk I had found myself in. I ended up having a wonderful time on the course, and a much needed re-awakining with my love of the trails. It was in a sense therapeutic, and I had a great finish time to boot (5:44ish).
Going into the race this year, I knew I wasn't quite as trained as I'd like. I took a lot of time off after Barkley these past 4 weeks and simply wasn't in top Hyner shape. I made a promise to myself that I wouldn't be going after any records this year....but rather just going out to enjoy the beautiful course. I wanted to come away from the race smiling, and in good enough shape that I wouldn't be sore for a week. To me, there was no point in racing full steam. I really just wanted to especially take note of the scenery this year as well, as I often have forgotten to really look around on this course. Some of the vistas are simply spectacular (particularly from the escarpment on first climb).
The race began an hour earlier than usual this year. The idea behind this was to hopefully help curb some of the "traffic jamming" that has traditionally occurred when the 50k runners come back into the course and back-up against some of the 25k crowds. It's never been a problem for me, as any 25k runners I've come up on in the past have always been incredibly gracious and accommodating, making sure to give me plenty of room to pass. Still, the race director thought it might smooth things out bit. This did mean a 7:00 am start though.
About 150+ of us lined up on the road and after a few words from the director, we were off. The first mile takes us along a road and allows for the crowd to spread out a bit. Once the single track starts, it's much harder to pass as the first section of trail is very narrow. I was pretty happy to be running in my first ultra since the Barkley. It felt great to know I'd be playing on some fantastic single-track for the next 6+ hours too, so I was quite content regardless of my position entering the single-track.
Lining up for the start, getting some instructions from the RD
...and we're off!
The entire field heading out over the bridge towards the single track
I very quickly found myself in a decent position in the pack. I was more concerned about just having some room to stretch my arms and legs, than where I was place-wise. It can get pretty crowded at Hyner, and I did get stuck in moderate conga line on the first big climb up to the View. I knew once at the top though, things would spread out, so I didn't sweat it. Instead, I just tried to chat it up with my fellow runners and keep everyone smiling. It helped to make the 1500'+ climb go much faster. This year I also was spoiled in that my partner-in-crime and other-half had come to cheer me on, and was waiting at the View. It always a wonderful treat to come around a corner, or top out on a climb and see her...so I was quite thrilled once I reached the the top.
Looking down from "Hyner View" to the highway bridge (and start line)
my "pack" topping out at Hyner View after a blood-pumping 1500'+ climb
relaxing in the "pack"
All right...time to RUN some downhill!
Starting the descent back down from the top
The day went as smooth as I could have hoped. I ran solid through all of the descents, being careful not to fully "open up". I didn't want my quads destroyed, so I kept my internal speed-governor turned on. Several runners would pass me on those descents, but I pushed steadily on my climbs, often re-passing them, and never really ceasing; even running some of the climbs on occasion. I made sure to fully enjoy the aid stations this year too and chat with the volunteers. I wasn't in any particular hurry, so I took a minute or two to simply make some conversation with them. Some of those stations are pretty remote, and I know it's quite a pain to get food and supplies out there. I tried to at least let them know that I was appreciative and thankful.
The climbs and descents rolled on, and my energy level kept fairly steady. I was vigilant about my gel and salt intake, and I never ran into any trouble. It did start getting a bit hot as it got closer to noon and the sun came out, but it was nothing a little water over the head couldn't solve. Miles ticked by and I honestly didn't really care. I was truly enjoying myself and again Hyner was helping to bring out that inner kid in me. I was having a blast considering the monumental amount of climbing and descending. The 50k deals up a whopping 7500+ feet of total ascent...and you definitely feel it.
Google Earth track of course
mmmm....7500 glorious feet of ascent. Good times.
Eventually, after making the extended loop of the 50k course, I did re-connect back in with the 25k course and with the 25k runners. For me, and where I was in the course, the 7:00 am start actually meant that I hit larger number of runners...although they were moving generally faster than the runners I would have hit last year. In the end though, the time difference was probably a wash as it took me longer to pass the larger crowds this year.
By the time I made it to the Post Draft descent, I was starting to get fatigued. I still had the one last gnarly climb up Cleveland Hollow and the SOB, but after that I knew it would be smooth sailing. I sort of tucked in behind a large group of 25kers and was content to just stay put. I had no overwhelming desire to try and pass the 30 or so people in front of me, so I just stayed with them until we all topped out after the SOB. Once there, I fueled up for one last time and took off around the horseshoe and down the final screaming descent along Huff Run back to the road. I was pushing out some quick miles at this point just anxious to get to the great food and drink at the post-race party. I had had a fantastic day, but was ready to cross that line and enjoy a well-deserved rest. Thankfully though, and just as planned, I was still smiling as I crossed the highway bridge...although most certainly out of gas as I headed up the final small climb to the finish stanchion. As I came around the corner I noted my watch time was a sliver under 6 hours so I jogged up to the finish so that I would stills squeak in under the mark. As I crossed the line, the finish clock read 5:59:52 (my watch read 5:59:24). I was quite thrilled with this time considering my goals this year. I had no intention of setting any speed records and simply wanted to take it easy. The fact that I still managed a sub-6 hour finish is just gravy on top! After the race I caught up with many of my fellow runners and friends and enjoyed copious amounts of fantastic food and drink. I can easily say again without hesitation that the Hyner post-race party is the best I've ever found. The race registration is worth it alone just for the food and party! I think I managed to finish in the top 20 overall, but honestly the fact that I was still moving fairly well and smiling at the finish...and am sitting here 24 hours later not really sore at all, means that I accomplished all of my goals for race day. If I'm still in PA next year, you can be sure I'll be running Hyner again. I can proudly say that I've run every 50k since its inception at this event (the 50k began in 2012, so I'm 3 for 3!).
Good times for sure this year.
hike on my friends,
Squeaking in under 6 hours (5:59:52)
Time to eat some barbecue chicken and home-made brownies!
Garmin Stats: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/488246167
On a side, "gear-head", note....I again went with a new pair of trail running shoes for this event. I had started running my Rothrock training runs in La Sportiva Ultra Raptors and found that they work fantastic for very technical trails. I even used them at Barkley for 2 of my loops this year. The only downside is they are a bit heavy. After chatting with another fellow Barker this year, I decided to give the new Bushido a try, and so far I've been extremely happy with them. I ran the race in these babies and my feet held up great. The grip was good, and no matter what sort of sharp rock I was running over, I never felt a thing. The best way I can describe them is that they feel like the Raptors, only lighter. Plus...they are bright yellow....which is always fun!!
Last year I ran Hyner in the Sportiva Helios which were also fantastic, however they are somewhat fragile and just don't hold up very well to the technical trails. For the $115 dollars you'll drop on them, it just doesn't seem worth it to me. I've since worn the Helios as my "everyday" shoes and find that they are incredibly comfortable in that function.
Sporting my new Sportiva Bushidos