Saturday, March 17, 2012

Ledges Trail Challenge

Dense fog lifting in the air and a crescent moon shining overhead.  A clear morning with diamond stars hanging in the sky.  An empty trail lies ahead, only to be shared by a few early rising deer.  Miles and miles before I rest, rocks and ledges and loop after loop.  Today I decided to attempt the Ledges Trail Challenge.

I woke up around 4 AM, got my gear together and headed out.  I stopped at Giant Eagle to get a gallon of Gatorade, but they were closed.  So I drove to Sheetz, picked up a 32 oz bottle and a Clif Bar.  As I turned onto the highway, I thought of something pretty important I had forgotten - a light!  I didn't feel like turning around now, so I stopped at Walmart on the way.  They had a lot of flashlights to choose from.  I was going to get a cheap one, but decided to go with a small Maglite for $30.  It's powered by 3 AAA batteries.  I was really impressed, for the size of it, the amount of light it gave off!  Without a light, I would've been doing 40 minute miles on the ledges trail and probably spraining my ankle within the first mile.

So I left Walmart and headed to the Happy Days parking lot.  I figured the Octagon lot was closed this early, so I didn't want to waste time driving there to see.  When I got out of my car, I tried out my light and saw there were about 7 deer around the parking lot, probably surprised to see me.  I got my stuff together and walked down the trail to get to the Ledges Trail loop.

I set my stuff on a bench near where the Happy Days trail runs into the ledges loop.  With me, I had 48 ounces of Gatorade, a Clif Bar and a couple pieces of pizza.  I got started at 5:20 and ran clockwise (and for all 18 loops).  The challenge is to do 18 loops around the 1.75 mile trail.  It's pretty rugged with a lot of scattered rocks and a few hills.  Brian finished the challenge last weekend and was the first to do so.

After each loop, I marked down my time on a piece of paper.  For the first 5 loops, it was like clock work.  Every time I finished a loop and looked at my cell phone for the time, it was 16 minutes.  For the later loops, my times slowed but not by too much because even though I walked more of the hills, I took the downhills harder to make up.  I was lucky that the Octagon bathrooms were open and had running water because my supply of hydration was not nearly enough.  I filled one of the 32 oz bottles twice with water.

Towards the end, you start trying to convince yourself that you've done more loops than you've actually done.  On my 14th loop, I couldn't remember if it was actually my 15th loop and I would only have 3 left when I got done with that one.  When I got back to my time sheet, I was pretty disappointed to find out I still had 4 left.  I sat down for a bit, cursed a little, then got my butt moving.  My legs were getting stiffer sitting there and the faster I got done, the sooner I could relax.

As I got closer to the end, I realized I had a good chance at breaking 6 hours.  I figured out that I could do the last loop in anything less than 37 minutes and break 6!  I finished in 5:46, only 13 minutes off my 50k PR set at YUT-C in 2009.

Literally right after I finished, my sister called me.  She didn't know I was doing this, so I told her.  She also wondered if I could sign her up for the Oil Creek 50k.  So I hurried home and got back just in time to sign her up.  The 50k filled up in about 5 minutes, so I'm glad I got her registered quickly.  I then entered myself into the 100k race.

Start time  - 5:20
1 -  5:36 - 16 min
2 - 5:52 - 16 min
3 - 6:08 - 16 min
4 - 6:24 - 16 min
5 - 6:40 - 16 min
6 - 7:03 - 23 min (bathroom break at Octagon)
7 - 7:20 - 17 min (last loop where flashlight was required)
8 - 7:44 - 24 min (bathroom/water break at Octagon)
9 - 8:01 - 17 min
25k time: 2:41 (10:22/mile)

10 - 8:21 - 20 min (pizza break)
11 - 8:38 - 17 min
12 - 8:56 - 18 min
13 - 9:17 - 21 min
14 - 9:35 - 18 min
15 - 9:59 - 24 min
16 - 10:22 - 23 min
17 - 10:43 - 21 min
18 - 11:06 - 23 min
25k time: 3:05 (11:55/mile)

Total 50k time: 5:46 (11:09/mile)
Average loop time - 19.22 min


Tony Mollica said...

Nice running Jeff! That must have been pretty tough in the dark, even with the flashlight.

Jeff said...

Thanks Tony! Yeah it was a little tricky. I was glad when the sun finally came up!