“Maybe I should crawl.”
“Yea, crawl! That’s a great idea.”
“I feel like an awkwardly proportioned child”
“Oh gosh, what if I put my hand on a snake or a spider.”
“No more crawling.”
This would be my conversation with myself come mile 24 of this grueling “marathon.”
The Call of the Wilds Marathon was put on in accordance with the first annual Easter States 100 miler. They started 2 hours apart at the beautiful Little Pine State Park in Pine Creek, PA and followed the same ~17 miles at the beginning of each. The race was hosted by the insane Central PA TrailDawgs, and offered the same great atmosphere, goodie bags, and trails that have come to be associated with this group of race directors.
The night before the race, the runners were allowed to camp at Little Pine free of charge, so we took advantage of this. However, being in the middle of no where, there was absolutely no cell phone service, and me being the “never on time” person that I am got there late Friday night, and could not find my camping mates for a good 2 hours. There I was, night before a race, stumbling around the campground with a headlamp, sleeping bag, and 3 duffle bags in hand, trying to whisper “Jo” to the surrounding dark tents, with hopes of finding her and not waking any of the runners who had already turned in for the night. After deciding that I would be better off sleeping in my car than continuing to tramp through the camp, I found her putting a tent up in the dark, in a restricted zone, and laughingly assisted her with the not so easy task of moving the tent and rebuilding it in the dark. We were in the wild, ‘twas a perfect start for a weekend in the woods.
That’s what I had hoped. However, my back is not as big of a fan of the grand outdoors (aka the rocky ground) as I am, so I woke up at 4:30 am feeling like there was no way I was going to be able to sit up, let alone run. Needless to say, I made it to the start, after a cup o’ coffee from McConnesls Country Store (who opened wayyy early for us crazy runners, thank you!) and a couple bananas, I was good to go!
The race started on the road, and we took off at a pretty speedy clip for the first mile. I wanted to make sure I was ahead of a majority of the field in the beginning just because of the difficulty of passing on a single-track trail. After the first mile, the next 3 miles blew by pretty quickly, and then it was hill number one. Let the hiking commence.
I got passed by a beast of a woman hiking up that hill, whose name I now know as Sheryl Wheeler, with her yelling back “You’ll catch me in a little, you’re younger than I am!” I am probably the youngest in the field, so I take her word for it, and carry on up the hill. The top of this hill had an incredible view, covered in fog it looked like we were on top of the world (photo taken from Call of the Wilds Facebook page).
The course was like this for the most part. A slightly slanted, very runnable section for a couple of miles, a beast of a hill, a deceivingly short runnable section at the top, and a beast of a down hill.
The aid stations were great. The people were so very supportive and extremely enthusiastic. I loved it. At the 3rd aid station I saw an old athletic trainer from high school who asked me how I felt, and how my ankles had been holding up since high school (I was always the girl in the ankle brace). I had to unfortunately admit to spraining my ankle on the trail only a couple miles before that aid station. To which he merely snickered and looked at me sympathetically. I was fine, I carried on.
The course was pretty technical and difficult to this point, but nothing some mindless banter with other runners couldn’t stifle. However, come mile 22, where there was supposed to be the worst hill of the course, everyone was getting antsy waiting for it to show its face. It didn’t come until mile 24, right after the final aid station. Let me tell you, it was not worth the wait.
No one chatted on this hill, no one was smiling. It was roughly .8 miles of over 1200 feet of climbing, and was a rocky road/trail that went straight up the mountain. Aka: You could see everyone struggling above you, and realize that you have WAY more to go. This was where I decided to crawl. It definitely was one of my better decisions, the steepness and length of the hill, made climbing very tiresome, and the crawling, although I looked like an awkwardly lanky baby, was extremely helpful and relieved my overworked muscles for a couple of seconds. I wish I could say I I looked as cute as this baby does crawling..
After this hill, which honestly took a very long time, it was a pretty runnable course until the finish. The final down hills were more painful at this point than the up hills due to my beaten up toes, but I was able to maintain a quick, bounding type run down them. I avoided the giant pile of rattlesnakes near the end thanks to the wonderful volunteer who was guarding them and secretly taking their picture, and used this burst of scaredy-cat adrenaline to sprint it in to the finish. (picture courtesy of Call of the Wilds Facebook page) However, I wasn't too graceful, because as I was coming down the last downhill which was a nice loose dirt path (maybe .1 miles from the finish) I fell.. What else is new? I have never gone an entire race without falling, and I apparently am not starting anytime soon. I came out of the woods, after the lady directing people publically announced my fall to the spectators on the street, to find my dad standing there laughing, knowing it had to be me.
I don’t remember what I was staring at when I crossed the finish. But it must have been interesting enough to make me forget to smile. Rule #1: make sure to pose and look good for your finishing photo (said none ever).
I finished in 5 hours and 48 minutes. Much longer than I had thought the “marathon” (around 29 miles) would take me. I snagged 6th place overall, and 1st place female. Most importantly, I earned the winner’s axe. A nifty engraved axe given to the winners of both races. My mom commented on the goofiness of the prize, I just laughed, she doesn’t understand. This prize is awesome. But I don’t expect her to understand since I don’t quite understand why I choose to do this stuff sometimes either.
The race was incredible. Aside from making my feet look a little more beat up than usual, and taking my dignity as I crawled up that final ascent, this race was awesome, with amazing volunteers , and great chatters. I recommend this to anyone who wants a real test of trail running, mental perserverance, and breathtaking scenery.
Thank you to my sponsor and co-host of the race, La Sportiva, for the awesome Vertical K trail shoes, and racing tank. Those shoes never fail to amaze me.
Till my next adventure, keep to the trails folks, maybe you'll find them as enticing as I do. :)