Saturday, November 19, 2011

Slim Pickins 2011

This year I decided to join the shenanigans at Laurel Highlands for the annual NEO Trail member-only Slim Pickins event.  The event lasts from Friday night to Sunday and this year we stayed at the Yough Plaza Hotel in Ohiopyle.  The stated goal was to run a 50K from the start of the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail out to mile 8 and back twice for a total elevation gain of 7,400 ft!

On Friday, I drove up to Hudson with Brian to meet Lloyd Thomas and carpool over to PA.  We left around 3:30 and it took about 3-3.5 hours.  Some people had already arrived in Ohiopyle and planned on getting some extra miles in.  My plan was to try and run only the 50K on Saturday.  If I bailed out early, I would do some extra on Sunday.

When we got there, we parked at the Falls City Restaurant & Pub and there inside was a table full of NEO Trail members greeting us including Jim & Eric Harris, Cam Baker, Paul Lefelhocz, Kimba, Chris Kalie, and Bruce "The Moose" McMurray.  Later, Wild Bill, Tara Schweitzer and Allison Holko joined us.  The night was filled with good beer, delicious food and plenty of interesting discussions.

After eating, we all went back to our quarters and tipped back a few more.  We snapped this fairly normal photo of us at the hotel and posted to Facebook to show the world what true club companionship really is!

We ended up getting to bed after midnight.  The planned start time was at 8 o'clock.  Cam had to get done early, so he started at 6.  Jim also joined him to get a couple hours of running in before the official start.

My sister showed up about 10 minutes beforehand, as well as a few other people that didn't spend the night.  We walked down to the gate at the start of the trail, took a few group photos and were off.

Instantly within the first quarter mile, the trail heads skyward.  There are three main hills to the mile 8 marker, each with their own difficulty.  The first one isn't overly steep, but continually inclines until a little bit after 2.5.  It also has some pretty technical rocky footing.  The next hill goes from mile 3.5 to 4.5, crests, then zig zags downward on some switchbacks.  Finally, the grand finale from mile 6 to 8 climbs about 1200 ft.  This last one seems to go on forever.

I was feeling pretty good during most of the first out-and-back.  No major issues and aches which was good.  I wanted to take the first loop easy and push it the second if I had the energy.  The main goal was to finish.

After the first loop, Brian and I went to the market to grab a bite to eat.  We both got burgers and fries.  I knew it would be tough starting the second loop after this, but the extra fuel was a huge help.  After a half hour or so, we headed back out.  We saw Wild Bill, Tara and Allison at the gate.  We egged them to try for another loop, but weren't able to entice them.  We headed up the trail a few steps and saw the Moose coming at us.  He was also done.  So, Brian and I were bringing up the rear since my sister and the crew she was running with were only going three more miles out and back.

It took a little while to get back in the groove since we had the burger on our stomachs.  The sun was slowly starting to head to the western horizon.  Brian and I wanted to at least make it to the turnaround before we needed to use our headlamps.

We saw Lloyd and Rich as well as Jim and Kim on the way out.  At the overlook near mile 8, we snapped a few photos and headed back.  We had to turn on our lights with about 5 miles to go.  The darkness slowed us down quite a bit, but we had a few nice streaks of running especially when Brian had his headphones on!

The excitement grew as we continued to clip off the miles.  My legs ached a bit, but it really didn't bother me since they had been even before we started the second loop. 

Finally, we made it back to the mile 0 gate!  We gave each other high fives and walked to the pub.  As we entered, we got a round of applause.  It's always a great feeling to accomplish something you're not sure about when you first start.  This was my second 50K this first being the actual Laurel Highlands 50K race!

This year has been filled with more injury downtime than running and races, but today made the rest and cross training worthwhile! This event has me itching for more miles...

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