This year I decided I wanted to shift my focus a little bit when it came to my running. I still set myself big goals to accomplish in my running, but instead of focusing on max effort I wanted to focus on enjoying the time I spend running more. For me this means taking the time to appreciate nature and more specifically taking the time to create more photography and media around my experiences in nature. This change of focus really benefited me as I struggled through some of my training and through Worlds End 50k. I found myself able to focus on the creative side of what I do and the real reason I love running, which is to put myself more in touch with the physical world and more in touch with nature.
After last year’s race it was abundantly clear that Worlds End State Park is just a supremely beautiful place to spend a day. There is just an abundance of gorgeous natural beauty here. Last year I felt that I failed to capture enough of it and this year I really wanted to capture more of it on camera. The best way to experience and see as much of this park as possible at one time is clearly to run the race. It would take days or weeks to appropriately explore this park slowly on foot, and maybe that is a project for another day. There are very few parts of the Worlds end 50K race course that is not exquisite in one way or another. Even with all of the mud it gave the park a gritty prehistoric feel.
The blessing in disguise of being unable to move at the pace that I wanted to is that I was able to/ forced to spend more time creating photography. I was able to create more photography and I was probably able to create more good photography because I was moving at a slower pace. Trying to get good quality scenic photographs in the dimly lit canopy of the forest can be tricky especially if one is on the move.
If you are someone who truly appreciates nature in all of its forms then this park has everything you could imagine. Just the simple trails leading into the forest is beautiful in its own right. You are quickly immersed in the wildness of the park. There are rocks and boulders that feature prominently in the landscape of different areas of the park. There are scenic overlooks where you can look out across the valley, typically to get to those you are traversing a steep climb that is featuring many of these afore mentioned rocks and boulders. Some of those sections are so strewn with boulders that there really is no trail and you are simply scrambling over rocks the best you can. As you descend from the high points and overlooks you delve deep into the valley that are carved out by streams that course through the forest like veins caring its life blood. There are many sections of trails where you are crossing streams or running alongside streams. These scenic areas where the water and rocks and forest combine are really what I live for as a photographer and a nature lover. These streams move through the woods following the landscape, charting its own course and creating waterfalls of various sizes. I could stand and photograph these streams through the forest and these waterfalls for hours without end, and someday I may come back and do just that. They are simply captivating.
One of the most prominent features of Worlds End State Park is the Loyalsock Creek running right down the heart of the park and carving out the valley over millennia. It is called a creek but in my estimation it is more like a small river to me. It was one of the features I wanted to make sure I took some time to soak in and photograph while I had time. We went down to the day use area the day before the race and relaxed and enjoyed the scenery. I went down by the Loyalsock Creek walked around and took some photographs. Then after the race I went down and literally soaked in the creak.
Different regions of the park have their own distinct feel that is created by that nature of the landscape that surrounds you. Being able to participate in this race the past two years has really made a lasting impression on me. I didn’t even know that this gem of a location existed only one and a half hours from where I live. I did not know what I was missing out on. Now I feel compelled to plan for a time when I can come down and visit this area and give it the proper attention it deserves and capture its beauty in full. It would be great to take my time and explore each area of the park that has its own unique feel and capture that in photographs.
So, I did something new this year. I ran two races in one weekend. I was expecting it to be a challenge, but I was not expecting the layer of challenge that nursing and injury coming into the weekend presented. I survived the first race of the weekend, Sehgahunda ok. I was tired and a little sore, but no major issues. I was still able to run. So on to Chief Wetona we went.
I met up with my friends and upon walking up the hill to the packet pickup/start finish I noticed a bit of a twinge in the area of my leg where I had been feeling discomfort. That did not make me feel hopeful. On top of everything else it was shaping up to be quite a warm day. It was nearly 70 degrees as start time approached with a high in the 80’s during the day. I do not generally do well in the heat. Between being a little banged up and the heat I was really unsure of how I would perform on this course. I had no idea what to expect given this was my first time running this race. I was prepared to spend a long, long time out on the trails. I told my wife how long I thought I could end up being out there so that she would not be worried if I was not done sooner.
As the 14 mile race began and we headed down the downhill road that lead to the trails I was determined to take it easy in the beginning and feel things out. See how I felt and make adjustments as I went along. I really tried to focus on pacing myself and not pushing too hard especially in the early stages of the event. My original plan was to photograph this event using my GoPro cameras as I ran. I have one GoPRo that I use attached to a chest mounted harness, but with the heat I decided that was not a good idea because I didn’t want to do anything else that would make me hotter. So, that left me with the hand held GoPro which works well for me. After we got a little way into the beginning of the race I decided to shoot some photographs with the GoPro. I turned it on and it began beeping at me and giving me an error message that there was no memory card in the GoPro so it could not record anything. Turns out that after Sehgahund I returned home and downloaded those photos and I forgot to put the memory card back into the GoPro. Sometimes, no matter how many times we do things we still make boneheaded mistakes. There was another option. I could use my cell phone, which in a lot of ways actually takes better photos than the GoPro does. It is just not as easy to use and handle during a run as the GoPro is. So I learned that my GoPro with its handle will fit in the zipper pouch on my vest and that I could successfully get my cell phone in and out of my pockets to take photos during the event. It actually worked out that knowing it was hot and I was banged up and would not going to be going all out on the trails so I was able to take the necessary time to make the use of my cell phone work.
I enjoyed this race much more than I expected. My leg cooperated fairly well. I had some discomfort but could run. I took it easier on some sections I would normally like to run hard down the descents but with the leg issue and the heat I did not want to push myself too hard. This course was probably my favorite course I have ever run. There were challenging climbing sections, but nothing too steep or too long that it totally sapped my strength. There were descents that were runable and not too technical. I would have loved to push myself harder down those had I been healthier. There were many great runabale relatively flat sections of trail. A feature I feel like is often missing from too many races. The amazing single track sections cut into the side of the hill were fantastic. They made for a challenge in that they were pretty narrow, especially with my large size 14 feet and the fact that I was running in Altra’s with their wide toe box. I don’t think I can adequately express how much I really liked this course and wish I was feeling 100% for the run. I took my time at aid stations and made sure to stay hydrated. I felt way better than I expected to in the heat. As I neared the end I was starting to feel fatigued and hot. As I approached the surprise 4th aide station an amazing volunteer called out to me and asked what I needed. I told him I just needed some water pour on me. He grabbed a gallon of water and came out into the road and poured the water over my head as I walked by. That was just what I needed to get me to the finish line. That volunteer was a life saver. All the volunteers were great and the race director did a great job putting on this event.
I finished in a time I was pretty pleased with all things considered. My friends and I gathered at a picnic table in the shade. We ate the great food provided to us. We enjoyed the amazing weather that most of our spring so far had been lacking. And we talked and hung out and enjoyed having time to spend together and enjoy the things we love. Friends, Food, and Trail Running. It doesn’t get much better than that.
1 weekend, 2 races, a group of friends, and infinite mud equals one hell of a good time.
We all know weekends are great. We all too often are living just to get to the weekend. Add in the ability to run in two different races on the same weekend and you can only increase the amount of enjoyment your weekend will brings. Getting to spend the weekend running a couple of races with your group of best friends and your cup surely runneth over. Add to that the fun and challenges that are present only in slip sliding muddy messes that are spring trail races after a rainy early season and it becomes one unique and fun experience.
I came into this weekend not sure what to expect. I have been battling some nagging minor tweaks and strains that haven’t stopped me from running but have slowed me down a little. I ended up running 9 miles at Sehgahunda which wasn’t what I had hoped for when I was planning for this race earlier this year, but it was more than I feared I would be able to do a week ago, so I was very hapy with that. After a 9 mile run that ended up being as challenging as the Sehganhunda run proved to be I probably would have taken a rest day on a normal week all things considered, but next up was Chief Wetona 14 miler the next day. The weather forecast was for a rather warm day. Between the weather, trail conditions, and my soreness I was fully expecting to spend a long, long time out on the trails at Chief Wetona. Thankfully everything went better than I expected.
This weekend wasn’t really about the running though. This weekend was about spending time with people that matter to me. Sehgahunda was about running trails with my friends and our running community. I was on a relay team with my best friends. My wife was able to come and watch with one of our dogs. And we had a whole group of other runners in our community participating in this event. We had a large portion of our running family down at this event all cheering each other on. We had several different relay teams from our area participating in this event comprised of our youth runners as well as adults. We also had several runners participating in the full marathon. It is always great to attend an event with your closest friends and be surrounded by your larger running community all cheering in supporting each other in a common purpose.
The next day was Chief Wetona Trail Challenge. My relay teammate and I were all participating in this event together as well. I had never participated in this event and I had such a good time. The run went better than expected. Even better was being able to hang out with my friends before and after the race, including friends that I did not even know would be there. The after party after Chief Wetona is exceptional. Piles of food and cupcakes galore and my friends and I just sat, ate, and hung out together and enjoyed one another’s company. This is what running is all about. I had a really enjoyable weekend being part of my running community.
It wasn’t too long after my induction into the trail running world and meeting a few experience folks in the trail scene that I began to hear about this mythical race called Hyner. The more people involved in the trail scene I met the more I seemed to hear about Hyner. Last year, 2018, most of the people I am friends with that run trails planned to run Hyner. I was not planning to run the race that year but I was interested in learning about it so I joined my friends on a “training run” to run essentially the entire course. Man that was a tough, cold, rainy day. But that day did spark a fire in me to take on a new challenge.
Prior to the 2019 Hyner event I had run 3 other 25K races. One event I have run twice had a similar overall elevation gain, but I don’t think any event had the same kind of climb then immediately decent that is essentially the format of the Hyner course but repeated 3 times over the 25k distance. I was very interested in how this course would challenge me in different ways. I do not love climbing. I am getting better at climbing, but I do not like doing it. What I like about climbing on a trail is reaching the top of a climb and having a nice long runnable descent. Hyner does not have that, at least not for someone at my skill level. There are just too many switchbacks on the first decent for me to navigate and too many rocks on the others. I am a Clydesdale runner and getting my momentum going and then having to hit a switchback turnaround on a decent is not what my body is made for. I have found that I like the Huff Run section of trails much more than other descents.
Leading up to the race the weather had been rainy and was predicted to be rainy on race day as well. The forecast had us all trying to figure out our best rain gear options and if and when they would be necessary. Would it be warm enough to run without rain gear at all? Possibly, the forecast was for a high in the mid 60’s leading into the race. Would you be able to start the race with a light shell on then shed it part way through? Sure, that could work. The rainy weather and continued rainy forecast also made yet another feature of the course more salient. Water Crossings. The Hyner View course features numerous water crossings. (Has anyone actually counted how many there are?) So, with all the rain, what exactly would these water crossings look like?
But guess what, mother nature threw us all a big ol curve ball. Race day arrived. No rain. No rain at the start. No rain in the forecast. Instead by the start of the 25K, the race I was running, the temperature was already in the mid 60’s. Um, can’t we have just a little rain? Please. I do not do well in the heat. I pretty much literally melt. Think of the sweatiest guy you know and then multiply it x2. I sweat a lot. I was not really thrilled with this turn of events. I personally would have been better off with 60’s and some light rain. Most people probably disagree with my preference on this. I was already sweating before the race even started. I was not excited about this turn of events.
I have literately never been part of a trail race that is this big of an event. There were nearly 800 finishers of the 25K race and 260 finishers of the 50K race. Over 1000 people will be charging down these trails in short order. The sheer number of participants in this event creates its own challenges unique to this event. Taking off from the start line with around 800 people running about a mile down a road and then reaching a trail that is essentially single track almost all at once is something to consider and strategize around. I am not a runner who is going to win a race by any stretch of the imagination but I still want to perform my best and finish with the best time possible. That means figuring out how to manage the obvious bottle neck that will occur when a street full of 800 people hit a single track trail. I planned to go out relatively fast for me and try to get as close to the front of the line as possible, but I also didn’t want to start off too fast and burn myself out before I get to what could be easily considered that most challenging part of the race and awaits less than 2 miles into the race. At that point you have to surmount Humble Hill.
I did OK getting off to a relatively fast start. Once the crowd dispersed some I was able to run the first mile around an 8 min/mile pace. Then you get to the single track and it is basically a complete log jam. The issues were made worse than I imagine it had been in the past due to the weather creating a little bit of havoc on this section of trails with some mud slides. This part of the race for me and I suspect others was a bit frustrating, but there isn’t a whole lot that can be done about it. This first section of single track is one of the nicest and most runnable parts of the entire course, I am glad I got to run it on practice runs. But on race day there is not much running, there is a lot of walking and even some standing completely still which is not really what you want if you are a runner running a race. But it is what it is and you make the best of it. I actually credit this forced delay at the beginning of the course with my better than expected performance on Humble Hill.
Next up, climb, climb, climb up Humble Hill. Humble Hill is called this for good reason. It is one long tough climb. I did not try to push hard on this climb. I just tried to maintain a steady pace and keep moving. This was a challenge at times because due to the weather and the fact that the 50K runners had already gong this way the trail was pretty chewed up and often difficult to find purchase on. Slipping, sliding, and the fear of knocking down a row of your fellow runners navigating up the hill behind you were ever present. I tried to stay as cool as possible during this initial climb. Surviving this climb in good shape held the keys to having any chance to complete the rest of the race with a strong effort. I spent most of the climb with the hat I was wearing to begin the race in my hand to let as much heat escape as possible. The more I climbed the hotter I got. I consumed fluids multiple times as I climbed the hill. I tried not to look up. I did not need to know how close or for that matter how far I was from the top. I would just trudge onward until I reached the rock wall that was situated at the summit. Finally I got to the top and was able to see my wife and friends cheering me on with a whole host of people. I would not see them again until the finish.
The decent off Humble Hill did not feel great. My quads were already beginning to feel the burn from that first climb. The zig zagging switchbacks in the beginning and then followed by some tough steep segments were not feeling good on my legs. I do best with docents where u can just let my legs go. If I have to keep the brakes on so that I can navigate that is not my strength.
Eventually you reach the swimming portion of Hyner. At least it felt that way with how high the streams were. Thanks to the trail crew for adding some log bridges to spare us a little. The biggest challenge of these stream crossings is the sheer number of them and the fact that the water is still quite cold from the winter. If not immediately then surely by the last crossing your feet will feel like ungainly blocks of ice dangling from your legs. They are not good for much other than barely plodding along. During this section I made a miscalculation that could have made for a more miserable day for me. The streams were high enough that you couldn’t really see your footing. If you wanted to cross quickly you had to plunge in with blind faith and trust your feet. At one particularly high stream that seemed to be about mid thigh high I decided to try to pass some fellow runners by scrambling up an embankment and then plugging back into the stream ahead of them. This resulted in me going essentially face first into the stream and being almost completely submerged. Good news is I was hot and it actually felt good to get thoroughly cooled of by the water. Bad news is in my rush I tweaked my ankle. Luckily it did not end up being anything major and significantly impact my race although I felt it the entire rest of the race.
By miles 7 and 8 I could feel my energy ebbing. I was clearly slowing down. Runners I had passed earlier began to pass back by me. One woman who I had passed earlier caught up to me and asked if I was OK because I had looked so strong earlier. I told her I was OK, just feeling whipped out. She noted that when she feels that way she usually takes a GU. I shared that was exactly what I had done. She wished me luck and continued on her way off into the distance. During the second climb I was so beat and beat up that I was just becoming agitated. Just the fact that people were carrying on a conversation behind me as I struggled to climb was grating on my nerves. I have never felt quite that way during a race before. Not one of my proudest moments. I finally reached the top of that climb and the second aide station and took on some fuel, hydration, and took a salt tab for the first time ever. I could just tell I was going to need more salt in my system.
After leaving that aide station I did begin to feel progressively better. That is until I got to the third and final climb. Granted by the third climb I am essentially hiking/walking up it just trying to survive but I think that comparatively the third climb at least until the last section at SOB is the least challenging. It doesn’t feel as steep as Humble Hill and it has switchbacks and it’s not as technical as the second climb where you are essentially ascending an extremely rocky stream bed as water flows down against you.
Climbing up the third ascent is basically a survival task. Put in exactly as much effort as it takes to get to the top but not a drop more. It was slow going but by the time I got to SOB, probably the steepest climbing section of the entire race I was ready. I had enough energy to take it on and even pass a person or two. Passing people on climbs is not usually something I have to worry about but today was better than most for me. Thankfully immediately after cresting SOB there is an aide station, refuel and re-hydrate. There is also a spectacular view. These views are essentially the reason for doing this course so if you are out there take some time to soak it in.
After surmounting SOB the race is still far from over but you are, thankfully, essentially done climbing. From here on out the rest of the course is relatively flat to downhill. That is the good news. The bad news is there are still a bunch of technical trails left to cover. There are some sections of relatively smooth jeep path type sections but there are also a lot of very rocky single track sections that lay ahead. Part of what makes Hyner such a challenging race is that even the flats and descents are difficult to navigate. There are so many rocks. And it is not rocks like one might think of like loose gravely stones it is like rows and rows of narrow blades of stone sticking up vertically out of the ground in a way that you really cannot step on them and a mix of stones emerging from the ground the size of softballs and basketballs. I usually love to descend down hills but Hyner makes it difficult between how tired my legs are and the challenging terrain it is never easy. There isn’t much room for taking a mental break either as you have to constantly be aware of the rocky terrain so you don’t take a spill.
Eventually, I reached the Huff Run section of trail, which in the past has been my favorite part during two practice runs. I was beat. There was not much I could do with this section of trail. I tried to move along at the best pace I could but I had no strength or energy left. I was really not able to enjoy this section of trail like I had in the past. I don’t know if it was a combination of the weather and trying to put forth a higher intensity effort or what, but I was just beat. I had no gas left in the tank. It was a little disappointing to not feel better on this section of trail that I liked so much. Eventually I arrived at the bridge that crosses the stream so I knew I was nearing the end of the trail. I stopped and took a few photos to soak in some of the last of the gorgeous scenery before I would be finishing this race. Then it was on down the path and eventually up the last rise of the trail section and down to the road section where it all started. I was a little nervous that getting back out on this exposed pavement in the warmer weather would sap me of what little strength I had left but fortunately it was relatively breezy especially as I crossed the bridge over the river. That breeze was a life saver. It was also uplifting to have a fellow runner heading back towards me at the bridge Hi-fiving runners as we neared the finish.
Then as you near the finish line there is this one last cruel joke. Yet another climb. It was not a climb like anything else on the course in comparison but at that point in the race any climb is an unwelcome one in my book. I surmounted that last climb crossed the finish line and hugged my wife who was there waiting and cheering for me.
I have been fortunate to be at a few races where the race day might not have been ideal for racing but the conditions made for an epic experience that will not soon be forgotten and this is certainly one of them. With all the pre-race rain the trails in many or most areas were waterlogged, but somehow not really muddy. It was like running on hard packed earth with a layer of water on top. Many of these areas were also rocky and some of them the water was actually moving down the trail in opposition to you. Then there are the stream crossings that might have been more akin to river crossings in some parts. And you combine that with the fact that it was not actually raining during the race but instead it was a bit on the warm side particularly for that time of year (during the after party the temperature reached 79 degrees while the 50k runners were still on course) it was a little mind bending. I mean if everything around you is drenched you expect to be getting wet and you do not expect to be so warm.
Hyner as an event is like nothing I have every experienced as a trail runner. It is exactly that, an event, not just a race. There are people wherever people can get to to cheer you on. There are over 1000 participants in the race. There is a huge party and crowd at the finish line. Very different than most of the trail races I have been to previously. I have never been to a trail race with so many people running it or so many spectators. One of the best features is that it allowed for me to easily hang out with my wife and our friends after the race and just be around the rest of the trail community. It was just nice to see so much support for our like-minded community that cares about trails and being outside in nature. That is what really made an impact for me. I don’t know if I will be back to Hyner as a runner next year. It is such a popular event and fills up as soon as registration opens and registration opens nearly a year in advance of the race. I just really haven’t figured out what I am doing next year yet. It is definitely the kind of trail event that everyone should experience at least once and I am glad I got to be a part of it.
Facebook memories reminded me that nine years ago 3/27/2010 I had my first pieces of artwork on display in an art gallery. That was the opening of a door to things I never imagined. Those photographs would be on display in the Artisan’s Shoppe in Wellsboro, PA. It is quite amazing that on that same day nine days later another door would open to me and an opportunity to take on something else totally new in my life would arise. Nine years after my first photographs went on exhibit I am back in Wellsboro, PA meeting with the fine folks at the Tyoga Running Club. I had been having this idea developing in my mind now about a project I would like to embark on. I finally got up the nerve to approach them about it via email and they invited me to attend a meeting and discuss my idea with them.
Leonard Harrison State Park, PA
I have really have been learning that the hardest part of the creative process is the ask. Reaching out to people to ask for support and or collaboration just fills me with anxiety and trepidation. It is the one thing that holds me back more than anything else. As the day went on I became increasingly nervous about this meeting. I do not enjoy speaking in front of groups of people. One on one I can talk your ear of, and some would say quite loudly, but group speeches are not my thing. As I sat in the meeting room with the Tyoga Running Club and they discussed their preliminary business before turning their attention to me. My hands were sweating profusely, and I continuously tried to dry them on my pants. I sat off to the side seriously reconsidering having passed on a beer from the bar. Thankfully when they turned their attention to my idea my brain and my mouth seemed to function relatively normal and for the most part I was able to express myself fairly clearly I think. I enjoyed sharing my ideas with them and talking with them.
Hills Creek State Park, PA
If you have been following me here you’ve seen that my running has progressed to longer and longer distances and as I have explored different running challenges I have been in search of ways to document my adventures and share them with the community. I am always open to taking on challenges especially in the form of new creative ideas in my photography and new physical challenges through my running. I am always looking for ways to combine those two aspects of my life and do new things. As I planned for 2019 I knew I wanted to do a couple of big races. I wanted to run Worlds End 50k again because I loved that race last year. Then I wanted to use that training and race to propel myself forward into my first 50 mile experience at Finger Lakes 50’s 50 mile race. Despite those two huge goals for this year there was just this niggling in the back of my head that kept thinking “What about more?
I kept returning this idea of running 100 miles. 100 miles is pretty much the standard high water mark in ultra running for now. In all the challenges I have undertaken while I knew they would be and will be difficult and challenging but I have been pretty confident and remain pretty confident tht I can at least finish the race. 100 miles is a totally different story. I have no idea if I can actually run 100 miles and there really is no way to test it other than to do it. As a writer and photographer I want to turn any new adventure into a creative project, so that is what I sought to do.
Ives Run, PA
I don’t really like to travel and I knew there was a 100 mile race nearby in my area. That race is the Pine Creek Challenge hosted by the Tyoga Running Club. I have been to their events in the past and they always do a great job. This made sense to be the event that I would try to run. The Pine Creek Challenge takes place in the Wellsboro, PA area. The course follows a section of the Pine Creek Rail Trail. Not only does the running fit perfectly into what I like to do, the experience overall fits right into my wheelhouse. I have been to the Wellsboro area multiple times most of which involve exploring the natural landscape, trail running, or photography or some combination of those things. This is a beautiful region. I have seen some of it but not as much as I would like and I have not spent time on the Pine Creek Rail Trail despite frequently thinking about doing so. This would give me a reason to do it.
Leonard Harrison State Park, PA
One of the goals of my photography is to show off and generate support for our natural areas, our local communities, and our local organizations/businesses. I really wanted to collaborate with the Tyoga Running Club to show off their event and the amazing natural area it showcases and the community that supports it. I am really excited and grateful to have their support as I embark on this project.
The goal of this project is to create content about the natural area where this event takes place and about my experience competing in and training for this event. This will include trips to the area to photograph the scenery and probably writing about it. I would like to go down and do some running there. I plan to photograph the event as I participate in it. I will also shoot some video of the event. When I shoot video it is not usually centered on myself. It usually focuses on the scenery. On occasion I will film myself running. And even more rarely when filming myself I will speak to the camera. I know after reading this much verbiage from me it doesn’t seem like it but I’m shy and I don’t like to be recorded or speak on camera. But I think recording some of my thoughts as I am going through the actual experience of this race would be valuable in completing the project and be compelling, I hope.
Colton Point State Park, PA
And to top it all off I will write an article about my experience that includes my photography as well that will be published on my website and potentially in a local or regional publication. (If you are a publisher and this sounds interesting to you or you know someone who is please reach out to me.) I will share a lot of this work and my process on my website and social media as well as in conjunction with Tyoga Running Club.
If you like the concept of this project and would like to see more work like this please support me on my Patreon page, KRNaturalPhoto, for as little as $1 a month. It helps me to be able to do this work.
In 2018 a group of my friends were all registered for the Hyner Trail Challenge in PA. I was not registered for the race, but had heard my friends talk about it. I was interested in the event and I wanted to see what the hype was all about. So I joined them for a group training run at Hyner to run 14 miles of the 16 mile course. It was really not the best day for a long hard run and certainly not the best day to be encountering the challenges of Hyner for the first time.
Now this year I am registered for the Hyner Trail Challenge. Once again myself and a couple of friends are making the trip down to PA for a training rung on 14 miles of the Hyner Course. It was a fairly typical cold winter day for our region, but it was made to feel even more frigid after enjoying multiple days of warmer weather including two days of 60 degree weather the previous two days. Then the floor dropped out of those temps and 24 hours later we were back to subzero temps in the morning with a high of mid 30’s. Luckily at least we had sunshine today.
Climbing up Humble Hill is no joke. The exertion level is high no matter what pace you are going. Despite the exertion raising body temps and the nice sun shining above the wind combined with the chilling temps to make it feel quite cold especially on the last quarter of the climb. It is cold and difficult but the view from the top makes it all worth it. It was still pretty windy and cold at the lookout point so it is not easy to stick around too long, but I hung out long enough to capture a few photos.
After that climb you switchback down the side of the mountain into the valley and you encounter the first of what will be many stream crossings. We stopped here to eat something quickly and drink some water. It was also a great spot to take some photos. I had brought my small Nikon camera with me and decided to get that out again and immediately proceeded to drop it on the rocks damaging the lens. Now that camera was out of commission for the rest of the trip after only about 3 miles. Not what I had in mind.
The next section is relatively flat but littered with so many stream crossings that you cannot really keep track. The freezing cold water from the snow melt doesn’t help either. Being that it was a training run and not a race we decided to pick out way across the streams and try to keep our feet dry-ish as much as possible, but this is simply is not possible in places. You have to take on that freezing cold water. By the end of the stream crossings your feet are numb.
After the stream crossings you start another ascent. If you thought climbing meant no more water, you’d be wrong. On this climb you essentially climb up a stream bed as the water pours down the hillside and over your feet. After another descent you climb again and eventually reach SOB and whose name is well deserved. Then you reach the most moderate section of the entire course. There is some times spent at a relatively flat section on top of the mountain and then you have a long not too steep decent back into the valley.
The most interesting aspect of this training run was the snow. Last year we ran in February. No snow. This year we are running in mid-march, nearing spring and there was quite a significant amount of snow especially on the second half of the course. I was hoping the snow would be melted. I am really hoping that the snow is melted by race day. It made the course interesting and was great for photos, but it did make for some slower going if for no other reason that just to be careful and make sure you had good footing.
Like many runners I use Strava to track my runs. One of the features I do really enjoy on Strava is the segments. When you run in an area where there are a lot of segments that have been created it allows you to pretty easily see how your performance has changed, hopefully for the better from run to run. There are a lot of segments that have been created for Hyner. I was happy to see that Strava had notified me of 12 achievements. Many of these achievements were 2nd best times on a segment which in this case doesn’t mean anything since it was only the second time I have run here. But there were several segments where I had PRs meaning that I ran better than last year. This was really good news to me because we really felt like we were taking it easier and not pushing too hard on this training run. So the fact that our perceived effort level was lower but we were actually faster on a lot of segments indicates to me that our physical conditioning has improved from our training over the past year. Hopefully this will translate to a nice strong run at the race in just over a month.