Race InfoLocation: Worlds End State Park, Pennsylvania
Date: May 21st 2016
Distances: 100k, 50k
Overview of the Area
I spent a few days hiking in the area with my dog and boyfriend. I stayed off any trails that I would run during the race to keep some of the excitement for race day. One day I did a quick 1.86 mile hike to see 7 waterfalls posted by one of the race photographers. The other days we drove to various vistas and just wandered around the area for a few miles before heading back to the car. All of the trails were fairly technical and it seemed as if you were always either going up or down. There weren't many flat or rolling sections, and if there were, they were short. I held out hope that the course trails might be slightly less technical. (Disclaimer: they weren't!)
Ok, I was nervous. I had been avoiding my thoughts the months leading up to the race but suddenly they hit me. I had only finished 2 races of longer distance (50 miler and 60k) and Worlds End was going to be by far the hardest 50k I've ever done, as all of my ultras have taken place in Ohio.
My opinion was that these were the most technical miles of the entire course. It helped to make sure I did not go out too fast but also worried me about what the rest of the course would be like. You climbed up to High Rock Vista which had a nice view of the visitors center below and then continued to climb to the first aid station. When I made it to the aid station I wasn't hungry enough yet for anything to look appetizing so I grabbed a few things for calories and kept going. I always have plenty of gel/fuel on me in case I need to fill the gap between aid stations.
The runners were still bunched together in this section and it was fairly flat between AS1 and AS2 which was a much needed change of pace. This section seemed swamp-like at times with moss covering the ground and plenty of wet patches.
From AS2, there was a nice long overall downhill. Here I got into a groove and was feeling good. Then you hit a bottom where you had to head back up to get to the next aid station. I stood at this aid station for 3 minutes just eating fruit and goldfish while one of the volunteers was frantically trying to cut strawberries faster than one other runner and myself were eating them. Thank goodness for volunteers.
This section took a toll on me mentally and was my roughest point during the race. The terrain was very new to me and since I did not have a GPS watch I had no idea where I was on the course. At some point right before AS4 there was a spectator who mentioned something about making it to mile 19. What? Oh THAT'S how far I've gone? Instantly, my mood lifted. Wow that means I only have 10 miles left to go! looks down at time on watch I could walk the remaining 10 and still finish under the cut off! (It's always a highlight when I do the remaining math of the course and realize I would finish if I walked the remainder.) I made it to AS4 and fueled up quickly because the next AS was only a few miles away, however, I knew there would be a nice climb to get there.
Miles 19.3-22.2 I'll admit it, I was zoning out HARD in this section, so much so that I missed a left turn… It wasn't until a noticed a runner coming towards me that I found this out. As he was running towards me I thought maybe he was returning to the last aid station to drop. It didn't even occur to me that I may have been going the wrong way. He told me that he thought he missed a turn at which point I said, "No there was another guy ahead of me in a grey shirt!" Then I realized I hadn't seen him a while and I must have also missed a turn. We ran together for a while after while he was complaining about his knees which had been bothering him. My knees hurt too from all the downhill and I wasn't even having issues prior to the race!
Aside: I've been having lingering knee pain a few weeks post race. Nothing major, just trying to stay on top of it with the icing.
It was drizzling enough that the rocks were wet at this point and I was trying to be careful. I wanted to finish this race so badly that the last thing I wanted to do was trip or slip and find myself out of commission. There was a nice climb up to Loyalsock Vista where the next aid station was located. Here I found bacon. Mmmm. I should not have taken 4 pieces though, because my stomach was not happy for the following couple of miles. But, bacon…
Upon leaving AS5, I was alone for quite some time. I saw an ambulance going up the road to the AS. "Ok, it could be worse," I thought. It was still drizzling. At some point I missed ANOTHER turn. You turned out onto a road and then took a quick right, but there was a branch covering the orange tape and I ran right past it. Luckily both times I went off course I did not get too lost- maybe in total 20-30 minutes. ~10 minutes for my tired self to realize I hadn't seen tape in a while and then the run back. This course WAS very well marked though. I learned at this race that I like to look at the ground and zone out. Duly noted that I need to work on that.
If I've ever needed a moral boost, it was at this point in the race. I knew I'd finish but after getting lost for a second time my positive thoughts had vanished. These guys and gals from the next aid station were screaming their heads of making animal noises, cheering runners on, and lifting beaten down spirits. I could hear them over a mile away which made me think I was closer than I actually was. Finally, I hit AS 6. I was basically told, "congrats, you're almost done, now get out of here because there's food at the finish, and it's all downhill from here." No time for dilly-dallying. Keep moving.
The energy from the last aid station pulled me through the last 4 miles. It was mostly downhill which also put me in a better mood. The final downhill was steep enough that I actually slowed down on it. I used to think I was good at running downhills but out here the local mountain runners flew by me. I had nothing that steep or technical to train on in Ohio so I struggled. When it flattened out I knew it was over. I didn't run with a GPS watch and had no idea how long I had been out so when the finish clock came into sight, I was pleasantly surprised to see 7:44. Unfortunately, my self predicted finish time was 9-10 hours and with no cell phone service I had no way to let my ride know I got done early. I filled myself with the AMAZING food at the finish and talked to some other runners. I tried to stretch my legs out and waste time asking people if they had seen a dog who was likely with my boyfriend. Turns out, I barely missed them and they got to the finish area an hour early (around the time I actually finished) and hiked the first 3 miles of the course and came back to watch me finish after their 6 mile hike. He made sure to let me know how hard and awful that the hike was and he had no idea how I did the remaining 28 miles of the course.
- Burnt or shadow covered stumps look very similar to black bears when you get tired.
- When the trail gets technical don't follow me as I don't look up often enough and miss important turns.
- I need to get over my fear of heights.