Slim Pickins 09 Report

Slim Pickins is annual run put on for members of the NEO Trail Club. This has been, for the last four years, a run of various distances on the Laurel Highlands Trail. Always held the weekend before Thanksgiving, it’s an eagerly anticipated FA run.

We’ve had some rather epic conditions:

in past runs. So, having no snow and rather nice temps (forecast for the fifties) it was almost too good to be true.

We had various lengths of courses that we happening. Some runners were doing the full 100K-from mile 31 to Ohiopyle. Some runners were starting at mile 31 and running the 50K to Ohiopyle and stopping. Others, like Tanya and myself, weren’t quite sure what we were running.

We also various start times of 5am, 6am, and 7am at mile 31. We met new member Cam at the trail head-he had locked his keys in his truck for an auspicious start to the day!

Tany and I decided to start down the trail and let the guys sort it all out. Dobies pulled a McGuyver, and the trio overtook us around the three mile mark.


It seemed like we were quickly at Seven Springs Ski Resort. The group slowed up and waited for me on the climb here, and I was glad, because even with Bob’s instructions through here, I may have missed the trail in the dark.

In fact, Seven Springs is the only place where I belive you can get lost. This trail is heavily overblazed with yellow blazes. You can frequently see two or three blazes at the same time.
Bob and Slim caught up to me in a few more miles, they took the 6am starting time.

I love how the fall leaves makes Slim’s pink gaiters just “pop”.

After they passed me, I was alone again, and fine with it. It was a nice day for running, I had little issues going on. My heels were developing some hot spots, but once I loosened up my shoes to the sloppy side all was well. I also kicked a rock really hard (well, it was a mean rock, and had it coming) so my attention was diverted away from the foot issues.
The Laurel Highlands Trail is a very rocky, rooty trail. There are not too many spots of smooth dirt. There are some good ups and downs, but for the most part, you are on the top of the ridge, once you get there. I’ve run this trail before, so I knew what to expect, but it was still wearing on your feet and ankles, as they landed on rocks, and twisted and turned.

As I ran, and counted down the markers (each mile on this trail is marked) I contemplated my distance. I had told Bob I would run to mile 6 and back, for 50 miles. As I got nearer to the 10 mile marker, I started to assess the situation. At mile 8, there is a 1 mile+ downhill. As a rough guestimate, I reckoned on 1.5 hours for the trek from mile 10 to 6, and then 2 hours back (cuz of the climb back the big hill.) I also thought about the guys who were doing the out and back, and I wanted to stay in front of them, for safety reasons. (I am getting more cautious in my older age.) I didn’t want the four of them to pass me and leave me the last one on the trail. I also wanted to get as much of the return miles in before dark as I could.

So I made the decision to get to the mile 10 marker and turn.
I was glad I did, since this then allowed me to come across the 50K runners who had started at 7am:
Mike Halkovich

Dan Bellinger:

Dan Kuzma, Wilma, and Mike Keller:

Mikey made my day by offering me a half-turkey sandwich. Free food on the trail? Sure!!! It was an import from NYC, and very tasty as I made a stop at the aid cache at mile 11. I topped off lunch with a few cookies, got some water, and started back toward mile 31.

It was a very uneventful run in terms of issues and situations. I felt good, I kept eating and drinking. I kept an eye on the time, as it would be full dark right about 5 pm, and I wanted to get as many miles in before this. I kept looking for and counting down the mile markers.

It was almost full dusk, I was at mile 26, and where the heck was that ski resort? I thought lights would be blazing. It was kind of nice to see, since they were not making snow, all the lights were out. I topped the peak and started down the other side, down the asphalt road, where I would pick up the trail again. I was startled to look off to my left and see “a city”. Cars, a 5 story building-I don’t remember that! But I kept going downhill. I was relieved to find a big gravelly patch that I remembered. Still, where was the trail? I glanced up to my right, and saw the trail-whew! I had almost kept running down the hill and missed the turn! Being by myself, this would not have been good.

Ok, we’re past the ski resort, it’s all downhill from here, right?

Wrong! I was amazed to find myself on a longass climb (that I didn’t remember from the morning on a downhill.) Blecch! I kept looking for mile markers-ONLY 28? It should be 29 or 30 now!!!!!

Finally, 29, and then 30. I really should have ate at Seven Springs, but I thought I was almost “done.” I was so glad to see the sign to the parking lot. What to do first, call home, rip off wet clothes, or cram my turkey sandwich in my mouth? I attempted to do all three at once.

Once I warmed up, I drove back to the hotel room, asked nicely for a key to my room, and managed to fall asleep after 1 beer. I thought the guys would be back right behind me, but then I finally put the time together and knew it would be quite a while before they returned.

Mike Dobies and Brian Musick returned to the hotel room sometime after 2 am. They had completed the full 100K, but went an extra two miles when they missed the LH trail at Seven Springs, like I had almost done. Interestingly enough, they called a bunch of people to try and help them figure out where they were, but they never called me (who had left the phone in case of problems) ha! Now they will know better.

A very good solid run for me. Slim and Bob don’t think I was challenged enough, but I am satsified with the run. Yes, I could have gone to the 50 mile distance, but I played on the side of caution. Maybe if I had been running with another person, that might have spurred me on, to go on farther.

I’m now rather interested in running the Laurel Highlands Race in June. It’s south to north, which I think is the “easier” direction. You get your big climbs out of the way early.

Big thanks to NEO Trail for the aid cache, Mike Dobies for the beer, and John DeWalt for picking up the aid cache after the runners went through! See you all for another NEO Trail Run (open to all)the annual URINEO !!

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