Almost Heaven

I drove down to West Virginia to work an Aid Station for the Highlands Sky Race, June 18.

Highlands Sky is a 40 mile race that runs like a 50 miler.

The West Virginia Mountain Trail Runners is pleased to offer the 9th annual Highlands Sky Trail Run, the ultimate ultrarun in the Mountain State. The event is centered at Canaan Valley Resort State Park while most of the course is in the surrounding Monongahela National Forest.
The course traverses Roaring Plains and Dolly Sods Wilderness through some of the most rugged and beautiful terrain in West Virginia. Dolly Sods is an area of high elevation, windswept plains ranging from 2500 to 4700 feet elevation. Trail terrain varies from woodland paths, rock and boulder, to upland bogs, through northern hardwoods at lower elevations, to Red Spruce and heath barrens above 4000 feet. Canaan is the highest large valley east of the Mississippi. The Valley creates the headwaters of the Blackwater River and has a unique environment composed of wetlands and uplands with vegetation characteristic of more northern latitudes.

I had been having a stressful work week, but as I entered West Virginia for the second time, and departed south of Morgantown, I started to decompress. It didn’t hurt that I had to traverse switchbacks over two mountains until I got into the Canaan Valley area.

Our Aid Station is the last one, Aid Station #8. The runners only have 4.1 miles to go to the finish. But they have also ran 36 miles to get to our Aid Station.  And a good amount of runners have gone off course due to course vandalism-the trail markings have been removed.

The Virginia Happy Trails Club had a good showing with Aaron Schwartzbard and Eva Pastalkova taking the wins respectively.  Aaron ran by our Aid Station at 1130, looking fresh, like he had just started his run. Eva was not too far behind. When she came through our Aid Station, she was #6 overall.  She stopped to congratulated ME on MMT.  I believe she may have finished #5 overall.

It was slow going at the Aid Station. Runners were coming through singly,then a few in groups, then more in groups. Most all seemed to have gone off course, and were gracious about it. They weren’t eating much at the last Aid Station. Most wanted ice water,Mountain Dew or Coke, and then were off to the finish line.

As time wore on, we were cognizant of the time. The race ended at 6 pm. There was no cut off at our Aid Station, as we were only 4 miles from the finish. 

One of the last runners, a female, came through about 5 minutes to 5pm. She took the last of the sweet tea, and we urged her to hustle these last 4 miles. (She did end up finishing.)

Before long, the last two runners, a couple, showed up, with our sweeps, Greg and Paula Smith.

What is a sweep? In well managed trail races,the Race  Director will have people out sweeping the course. They will follow the last runner, and usually pick up trail markers and trash also. It’s a safety measure, to make sure all runners are accounted for.

For our Aid Station, this meant we were free to go. We quickly broke down the rest of the food and drink, and packed vehicles. Time for us to head to the finish line and get some food!

It was a good day to work an Aid Station. The skies were overcast and we had a breeze. We had good humored and gracious runners. All were polite to me, Kenny, and Manon.

If you are an ultra runner and have never been on the “other side of the table” I highly recommend you work an aid station. One,  you give back. Two, as an ultra runner, you know what these folks are going through. Some people I handed a cup of ice water without them asking. Several I handed the icy cold sponge we had handy to squeeze over their head. We kicked several chatty runners out when they wanted to linger a bit.

Another successful run put on by the  West Virginia Mountain Trail Runners!

P.S. I am looking for some folks to work my Aid Station for the Cheat Mountain Moonshine Madness 50 mile Run August 26!




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