This started a few years ago. We (NEO TC) love running on the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail. We like to concentrate on the first eight miles that really get our attention.
Gate 2 8 X 2
We call it the Gate 2 8 X 2 Challenge.
Mile zero to 8 are the “big hills” on the LHHT. And if you run to mile 8, run back to zero, and then repeat it, well, it’s a good little workout.
People always whine about the almost two mile climb from six to 8, but if you are returning to Ohiopyle, the mile 5 hill and the mile 3 hill are really good climbs too.
We got started slightly after 8 am. Slim started early, and Pebble and Jeffro started late. But it was all good, it’s a FA.
If you are running the Laurel Highlands Ultra, whether it’s the 50K or the 71 miler, you start in the “middle” of Ohiopyle, on road. This will help string out the runners, when you get to this sign above, where the trail begins.
Climb up mile three
Mile 4ish overlook.
The Evergreen Tree
Our tree. This tree, an evergreen, in a clearing, is across the river. It’s viewable between mile 3 and 4. We’ve always wondered about this little clearing and tree. It seems the tree is bigger and the clearing is smaller these days.
Our tree on the far left.
On the ridge, almost to mile 8. The snow appeared. It was several inches thick, and solid. There were many spots where I could run on top of the snow. There were also patches where it was almost technical snow, where I was following footprints.
Many memories up here, on the LH. I remember one of our Slim Pickins, where the plan was to run from OP to Seven Springs, and back. The snow was deep up on the Laurel Highlands. When I got to the mile 8 area, I was post holing up to the thighs. Luckily, I was the ‘slowest’ runner out there, and the guys had broke trail for me. We all gave up at mile 15, and just ran from zero to 15 and back to OP that year.
|Mile 8 The first time
|Athena, Kimba, Allison
The nice part with an out and back is you get to see other runners. Athena was keeping pace with me up to mile 8 and down the big hill. I stopped for a bathroom break, and zoom! Athena was gone! Good running for her. This was her second time on the “Gate 2 8”. She is running the LH 50K, so this was great training for her.
Since I couldn’t catch Athena, I ran the rest of the way back to OP (after seeing Rich, Allison, Pepper, Barefoot Johnny, the Musick Bros, and a bunch of hikers) back to my Aid Station, aka the Ford Escape:
It was an 8 minute turn around. That included changing bra & shirt, eating a Nutella tortilla; grabbing new bag of calories for the road, refilling water bottle, and chatting a minute with Athena, who was sitting outside of the pub, waiting for The Professor to finish up.
Ah, the second time out. Once you make that “turn around” and get back on the trail, it’s time to focus.
Running this section, I translate the hills to the land marks usually associated with aid stations.
First it is to the first hill, at mile 3.
But first I got to run back into Kirstin, who was finishing up her 16 leg on the LHHT:
I didn’t get to share enough trail time with her, but glad she came out!
I then ran into The Professor and Allison, on their way back.
I was then on my own, until I ran into Slim and Coach Hanks, on the mile six hill.
Slim was relieved to run into me about 75% UP the hill, as he was going to turn and finish my run with me.
Slim had made the comment earlier in the run, that I was running very well, not too far behind Coach Hanks. Hey, I hope I am running well! I’ve been training all winter long!
Slim turned with me and we climbed again up to mile marker 8.
My time ended up being 9.17 out there, not 8.17, as my fogged over brain first thought! Still a PR for me, my last attempt was 9.55.
Fuel and hydration were great. I consumed about 1200 calories for the first 16 miles, and 1300 calories for the second. I felt like I was constantly eating-which I was-and this resulted in no drops in energy or low spots. I had no stomach or gi issues with my malto, gels, PB Reese Egg. I did consume a Nutella Tortilla for the first time-now that is a tasty addition to my ultra fueling!
I was very pleased with all aspects of my run-well, I drank far too much Friday night and didn’t get enough sleep, but hey, think of how I should improve the next time I do this and cut those two items!
I am going to repeat this challenge on April 6, if anyone is interested in a little hill work!