Friday, September 1, 2017

Eastern States 100: The Call Of The Pennsylvania Wilds

[This is Part II of my Eastern States experience. Part I is about the injury and recovery leading up to it and can is found here.

There is an ecstasy that marks the summit of life, and beyond which life cannot rise. And such is the paradox of living, this ecstasy comes when one is most alive, and it comes as a complete forgetfulness that one is alive. This ecstasy, this forgetfulness of living, comes to the artists, caught up and out of himself in a sheet of flame; it comes to the soldier, war-mad on a stricken field and refusing quarter. - Jack London, Call of the Wild. 

It was way back in January that I heeded the call of The Wilds and pulled the trigger on Eastern States 100. I could hear those mountains howling my name, taunting me, daring me to commit to this monster of a trail race with 20,000 feet of gain and loss over the steep and rocky trails, historically horrendous weather, and a three-year average finishing rate of something like 33 percent. Upon reading the course description for the umpteenth time, I defiantly left-clicked the mouse, not without an air of bravado, bringing a sense of finality to the question "Am I really stupid enough to pay for an entire weekend of mid-August masochism?" I imagine Jack London was rolling in his grave at that very moment, as his protagonists fared worse than this daily just to survive. Two days later, Eastern States 100 was sold out.

Eastern States has no official affiliation with the Western States 100 other than serving as one of the latter's qualifying races. The top man and top woman each receive an engraved, fully functional wood axe as a prize. 2017 was the fourth year of the race, and interest in the event has been growing annually. I think it's the single-loop format and the overall rugged nature of the course that have made it a hit with ultrarunners. The 103-mile loop traverses the rough and rocky terrain of the PA Wilds—a conglomerate of state-managed parks, forests, and game lands in