The History of Slim Pickins
Once upon a time, not so long ago, there were not that many ultra running events.
One of the oldest running events is the JFK 50 Mile Race.
The JFK 50 Mile was first held in the spring of 1963. It was one of numerous 50 mile events held around the country as part of President John F. Kennedy’s push to bring the country back to physical fitness. The JFK 50 Mile in Washington County, MD is the only original JFK 50 Mile Challenge event. The race is held the weekend before Thanksgiving.
While many, many, many runners have run the JFK for years and years, others were not that enthralled at the course/race. For years and years, if you didn’t run the JFK, there was no other choices.
Hence, “Slim Pickins” for the weekend before Thanksgiving.
That was before NEO TC. This weekend became Slim Pickins, where runners assembled over a loosely organized plan to run miles somewhere on the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail.
The first year was 2006.
First year of SP was a target of a FA 100.
Following were present:
Mike Dobies (did not run as he was sick)
Brad Compton from Indiana (who hit a deer on his way home and caused considerable damage to his vehicle)
We started at Seven Springs and went to mile marker 1, and then turned around to head back to Seven Springs for the first 50.
We all quit at that point except for John Dewalt, who was pissed that we all quit.
(Johnnie D quit too.)
Target was was a backwards run on the Laurel Highlands Trail, starting at mile 71 and running to Ohiopyle.
It was one of the good “snow years” on the LH:
Four completed the entire LHHT: Roy Heger, Tanya Cady, Jim Harris, and Brian Musick.
2008 was another snow year:
2008 was the double marathon from Ohiopyle to Seven Springs and back, which no one completed. We all bailed at the 50K.
Global warming occurred in the late 00’s, leaving us with much less epic weather for the 2009 Slim Pickins.
2009 was the 100K from Route 31 down to Ohiopyle and back. Several made the round trip: Jim Harris, Bob Combs, Cam Baker, Mike Dobies, and Brian Musick. Cam, Mike, and Brian also added some extra miles, proving you can get lost on the LHHT.
The LHHT bridge was removed in 2009, prompting a change in our Slim Pickins plan for 2010. We elected to run on the north side of the LHHT for 2010.
We had the best staging area for the 2010 Slim Pickins. This year, cabins were rented in Linn Run State Park, just a few miles from Donegal, PA. This is on the north side of the PA Turnpike.
The Pennsylvania Game Commission neglected to consult with NEO TC before they changed their hunting dates for 2010. We found ourselves in the woods on opening day of Bear Season in Pennsylvania in 2010:
All turned out well, no casualties were noted.
This year’s Slim Pickins was staged out of Ohiopyle. This is the epic Ohiopyle 50K.
The double out and back. 7400 feet of elevation gain. Sounds easy on paper, less so on those hills at mile 5 and 3.
This was the least epic weather ever for SP and also the most attendees at the starting line.
18 runners lined up at the Brown Gate in around 30 degree weather, with no snow and temperatures promised to be in the 50’s.
The mile marker three ended up being some of the runner’s turning point, since once you passed MM# 3, and went downhill, you were more of less committed. In other words, once you go down Mile 3 Hill, you might as well trudge on out to MM8 and make the turn.
We had 8 finishers of the OP50K, now known as the “Gate 2-8-X2” Challenge. All you have to do is follow the pretty simple rules: Start at the Brown Gate at the LH sign, go to mile 8, come back, and repeat. Do this in one 24 hour period. Time spent refueling in Ohiopyle counts, you can’t subtract that. Report results of time and date achieved.
Weather was good, there was still plenty of snow in the Laurel Highlands from a late fall dusting.
The training schedule was supposed to be longer on Friday, and then “ten” miles on Saturday, but I figured some extra mileage-especially at a hiking pace, with a full stomach-would be okay.
I took a leisurely walk up to the mile 2 overlook. I sat on the rock overlook there, just basked in the sun. I stretched.
After about a half hour, I could tell my legs were tightening up, so I resolved to go north on the trail until I ran into one of my NEO TC runners. At this point, there was no way I was going up the Mile Six hill again! I figured I could camp out at the Shelter Sign until someone came along.
Happily, Gombu came along as I was climbing up the mile 5 hill. Oh yeah! Now I can turn around! Gombu and I ran back to OP. So I got eight miles in for the afternoon run/hike, so I got 38 miles in on the LH Trail for the weekend.
After showering, we headed over to the Falls City Pub. It is the best pleasure in the world, to have a pub at the trail head!
Allison had texted me when she got to the mile 8 marker, so we were guestimating when she would finish. I gave her a 630 pm appearance at the pub, and she arrived at 6.27!!
Allison was the only one who went out of her comfort zone for Slim Pickins. This was an unsupported effort, with one water/food cache at Slim’s vehicle at mile 11. She was running in the dark in the last hour or so of her 50K-on a very technical trail. She was alone for almost all of her run, and had a very successful time! Very proud of her effort on going it alone out there.
|I think she looks pretty good after finishing a 50K|
This weekend was our 8th annual Slim Pickins weekend. This was the farthest NEO Trail had traveled for a weekend SP run which occurred since we had been thrown out¹ of Linn Run, our original destination. The Professor said he would like to visit Great Seal State Park, which is the park where the “Not Yo Momma’s” 100 Mile Race takes place in Ohio.
Rich and Kimba got 7 miles on the trails at Great Seal Park on Friday, to do a bit of a recon before the others arrived the next day. It was a bit of a challenge to follow the stellar cartographers that ODNR employs to make maps for state parks in Ohio.
Really, the map was not much better than this.
We did have a nice cozy cabin, over at Scioto Trail State Park, about fifteen miles away:
For the last few years, NEO Trail has been trying to get a cabin or a hotel suite where all can gather after the run, break bread, chat, and other “fairly normal” activities that we are known for.
None of the NEO Trailers had ever been to Great Seal State Park, which made it a bit difficult to try and describe anything about it. In fact, where we parked and started was where we thought the 100 mile race started. We were in the wrong place! Tim Smith, from Middleton, parked in the correct spot but still managed to find us down trail.
We then ran over to conquer Sugarloaf Mountain.
Whew! That was a good climb up Sugarloaf!
Top of Sugarloaf
The guys ponder a cairn. We were doing our best to follow Rob Carroll, the RD of the “Yo Momma’s” Race along with the ODNR map. henceforth known as the “sucky map”. There was much stopping and starting, not listening to the Professor’s navigation tips, and playing on rocks. We did run into Rob Carroll, who helped show us where we were on the map.
When we got to our water cache, where Aid Station Two is for the YM race, it was much more runnable, and hence we did much more running.
It was soon figured out, with all our screwing around, and compensating for the slowest runner’s pace (Kimba’s) it wasn’t going to look like a second complete loop was going to happen. Kimba stopped after one loop and drove The King, The Prof, and Slim over to the farthest point south to run some more miles. Tim went on to climb Sugarloaf Mountain and head home. It was nice to share trail with a new runner-thanks Tim!
The Yo Momma’s course: this is a tough loop. We knew it would be hilly, but there are a bunch of ups and downs and several big tough climbs and descents. With the course being multiple loops, this is indeed a challenging race. We agreed this race was much harder than Mohican or Burning River.
There was also a run on Sunday morning. We woke up to first snow! We again tried to follow a ODNR map, which didn’t quite pan out, but we spotted the fire tower anyways.
We ended running almost five miles on Sunday back to the cabin, a good way to shake out the kinks and muscles for the long drives home.
The best part about Slim Pickins is saying “see you in a couple of weeks” as URINEO, our club Fat Ass at Mill Creek Park, is December 20. Another good time had by all!
¹ we weren’t actually kicked out of Linn Run. We had reservations, but the park decided to close the cabins down for cleaning and renovation.
The annual Slim Pickins Weekend was held in West Virginia, at Coopers Rock State Forest. Coopers Rock is 13 miles east of Morgantown.
Our base of operations was at the Chestnut Ridge Park Campground, on the north side of I-68.
Athena and Greg St Clair joined us for our run around Coopers Rock. We started at the day use parking lot. Since we had a *really good* map for a change,it was not needed. There are great, sturdy signs posted at all the trail heads and along the trails. This is a great improvement!
We pass the Henry Clay Iron Furnace on our way to Cheat Lake via the Mont Chateau trail.
Without the foliage, we see this great little waterfall with a skinny dipping pool. We run downhill to Cheat Lake.
The Professor mentions he wants to hike up the stream to the waterfall, so off piste we go.
Despite some slick rocks, we make it to the waterfall.
After our trek down the Mont Chateau trail, we headed to the Overlook via Rock City. Rock City did not disappoint!
FINALLY we made it to the Overlook!
The gentle giant is gone, as it was an eco-statue. The turtle has taken his place.
After a stop for our stashed water, we headed down to Ravens Rock Trail and the next overlook. The St Clairs turned here, and we thank them for their companionship on trail this morning!
Meanwhile, back at the Pine Cabin, the boyz were busy chopping wood for the wood stove to keep us warm and cozy.
The Professor learned a new word this weekend “lumbersexual” which he instantly took to heart.
The little lady was confined to cooking dinner for the he-men. She probably was barefoot too.
We decided to tour the trails on the north side of the interstate. We started down Ken’s Trail, to the Hemlock Trail, and then decided to jog up the road a bit to the Lick Run Trail.
Partway up the road, we think we found the trail but then it ended. BUT we had the map! The Professor and Slim consulted it once or twice, and BAM! we ended right up on the trail we’d been looking for.
As always, our Slim Pickins weekend was over too soon.