Tuesday, July 23, 2019

The Pine Creek Gorge West Rim Trail

I first learned about the Pine Creek Gorge West Rim Trail from Phil Maynard last year after he hiked it with his son over two days. He described it as smooth and fairly fast, unlike most of the technical, rock-strewn singletrack that winds its way through the Pennsylvania Wilds. Phil ran a south to north  FKT on the West Rim earlier this year, which re-piqued my interested in making this adventure run happen.

I'd only been down to the PA Wilds area once, when I ran the Eastern States 100 in 2017. That race covers only a few miles of the West Rim Trail, near the trail's southern end. My friend Amelia and I decided to head down on a weekday to run the trail end-to-end, an impromptu 50k. We drove to Pine Creek Oufitters, an outdoor gear and rental store in Wellsboro near the West Rim's north end. The store offers shuttle rides to the opposite end of the trail (or other drop off points on this and other trails). For us it was $40 for the 30-minute ride. They let us park the car at the north terminus parking lot on Colton Road instead of having us leave the car at the store. This way we didn't have to run an extra mile on asphalt at the end to get back to the store. Other possible transportation arrangements include parking a car at each end, or for the more adventurous and multi-sport inclined,

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Things I'd Do For a Pint Glass: The MMT 100

On paper the Massanutten Mountain Trail 100 didn't look all that intimidating. The 18,500 feet of elevation gain, while significant, isn't all that monstrous over the 100-mile distance. The race website, however, fails to reiterate just how many large rocks have been tossed across the trails in the George Washington National Forest.

By all accounts, Massanutten is a somewhat easier course than the Eastern States 100—less technical with a several K feet fewer in elevation change, and without the switchback-less, scree-laden, 1,000-foot climbs. Training had been going well. In fact, it was the best training block I've ever had for a 100-miler, as detailed on a previous post

The MMT course is essentially a 100-kilometer loop around the ridge surrounding the George Washington National Forest, followed by a marathon-distance loop to the south, then a few miles down a road to bring it all back home. The course makes frequent drops down the ridge to aid stations at road crossings; this is where most of the elevation change comes in. There are a few sections with two to five miles of dirt road at a time, but otherwise it's all singletrack. 2019 marked the 25th straight year of the Virginia Happy Trails Running Club's marquee event.

MMT welcome sign. 

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I arrived to the starting line at Caroline Furnace Lutheran Camp already in a handicapped state.

The afternoon before the race, I attended Hayley's grandmother's funeral, then drove seven hours straight down to northern Virginia to arrive around 9:00 p.m. I missed the expo, pre-race briefing, etc., but was able to get my bib and mug shot that night. The drop-bag drop-off deadline had already passed, but I'd made special arrangements with the Race Director and his drop-bag coordinator to leave my three bags in a bin behind the drop-bag transportation truck. (RD Kevin Sayers was very accommodating when I explained my predicament in an email a week earlier. More on this later.)

Pre-race mug shot. PC: Raj Bhanot
I then made my way to a stuffy bunk bed cabin shared with a dozen other runners. The lights were already out and I fumbled my way onto a top bunk, trying not to wake anyone although I doubt there was much slumbering anyway. Snoring, lack of fresh air,