The weather held up for the annual Slim Pickins FA…meaning it was cold and snowy. It was about 17 degrees at the start of our adventure..
Runners that braved it out L to R: Dan, Slim, Little Pebble, Kimba, Gombu, Les, Roy, Eric
This years Slim Pickins started at Ohiopyle, PA, at the zero mile marker of the Laurel Highlands Trail, and was an out and back to mile 26, which was Seven Springs Ski Resort.
Since this is a FA, you can run any distance you want to. My original plan was to go to mile 18 and then turn and run back. Second thought was to run until noon, and then around, because, depending on the weather, I did not want to be out late into the evening in the dark and cold.
Pennsylvania just got dumped on with snow on Friday, as you can see from the sign, between 6 inches and around 12 inches or so of snow. Luckily, since I am slow, the path was being beat down in front of me-thanks guys!
I have only run the Laurel Highlands Trail from mile 18 down to mile 13, and then the section Mile 70 down to 38, so this start, from mile zero to eighteen, would all be all new trail to me.
Eric, who is a new member of the NEO Trails Club filled me in on the first section of the trail, with the “grueling” uphill around mile six.
Eric was dead on. Check out the elevation chart:
Actually, check out the first six miles of trail. There is two good downhills-and the only problem with this run is it is an out-and-back. Meaning “what goes down must come back up” and I thought of this as I flew down hill. I caught up with Bob Combs, our fearless leader, walking. Bob’s walk is fast as my shuffle. Bob and I started up the big hill. It’s about 1.5 miles straight up, around 1500 feet of elevation.
Bob was right behind me. And he was very kind. He didn’t say anything, like “can’t you go any faster” or anything. I didn’t look back. I figured he was running hill repeats up and down behind me, or painting a watercolor painting, and waiting for me to get another ten feet up the hill. And I didn’t stop either. We finally get to the top and rewarded with the blustery winds now that we are on top of the ridge. I stop to put my windshirt back on, since I am completely drenched in sweat after our little climb.
The snow on the ridge, for about 1/4 mile, was deep. The guys had more or less post holed through this section, and it was tiring. My strides don’t match these taller guys. But soon the snow diminished and the trail became actually runnable again:
Bob pulled away from me as I had stopped to put my windshirt back on, and it was a very nice day running by myself. The weather was good, yet cold, the trees and woods very pretty with the snowfall.
I was getting very thirsty. I had carried two handhelds, 20 oz, and had drained those. We had aid stashed at mile 11, and 2 bottles for 11 miles is just not enough for me, not after all that sweating. So when I got to mile 11 I was relieved to see the water jugs had not frozen through. I checked my watch, and saw it was getting rather late. I decided to just run to mile 15 and then run back.
Right at mile 14 I ran into Dan and Brian coming back:
They had decided for the 50K option also. I felt better about my decision, and after a quick snapping of pics we parted.
My pics are blurry because I set my camera on a rock for a self-portrait, and it promptly slid off the rock right into a big snowdrift. You try cleaning off a camera in the cold!
This was taken by Les, who was visiting from Minnesota.
Les had been only about 1/2 mile behind me the whole time. He suggested we run together, except he wanted to go that extra 1/2 mile to make it “exactly” a 50K. What the hell, what was another 1/2 mile. We ran into Bob returning, who had gone to mile sixteen and was going back. Bob reminded me of two important things: Remember there would be three big climbs in the last 4 miles, and he would be at the microbrew pup right at the trail head after we finished.
Les and I went to the official 15.5 mile mark, where he wrote 50K with a smiley face in the snow and we turned to go back. It was very good being with Les, he is a very experienced ultra runner with years of experience. He told me about Leadville, and Pike’s Peak, and made the miles from 15 to 11 go by quickly. We stopped for aid at mile 11, and we stayed together for about 1/2 mile more. Then I stopped for a pitstop, and the wheels kind of fell off at this point.
Other than being out of shape, I don’t know what else to attribute it to. I had just ate and drank, so maybe that had not caught up yet. The trail was runnable (read shuffable here) but I couldn’t get it out of a zombie walk. So I ate some more, hoping that would help. I could not seem to catch back up to Les. I comforted myself knowing that around mile 8 or so the big downhill would start, so that would help with my time.
I got to the big downhill, and while it was not as tiring as it was going up, it was a bit more dangerous. It was still light out, but total ice in patches. Still, I made it down, and started thinking about the 3 big “climbs” I had still coming.
I was just starting to get a bit of a wheeze going, with my exercised-induced asthma, but I didn’t want to use my inhaler, because I could feel my heart rate was already sky high. When I hit the first of the big climbs, I would walk twenty paces uphill, then stop for ten breaths. This took me forever!!
FINALLY I saw mile marker 3, and then two, and then one. Man I was so happy to see that end of the trail. And even more happy to see an open brew pub right at the trailhead! I walked into warmth and friends sitting at the bar. They stared at me and told me to turn off my headlight!!!
What a joy to have hot food and a beer right after a run! Brian, Bob and I sat waiting for Slim and Roy to finish. Eric had run to the ski resort to mile 26 and had his dad pick him up there, so we knew where our remaining runners where.
All in all, another great run put on by some very cool folks! My quads are stiff today (Sunday) as I type this!