Tiadaghton Trail Challenge 20K, Mile Run, PA 5,4

Elevation Gain: 5180'; High Point: 2358'

March 27, 2010 - This event was a tune-up event for a full slate of spring racing to come. I was feeling quite healthy, except for the occasional twinge from my left Achilles, and prepared to have a good day. Tiadaghton is a new event, so gave me an opportunity to explore some new country and trails in the Tiadaghton State Forest off I-80 at mile marker 199.

The day was comfortable for March as about 150 of us headed out from the DCNR parking lot up Mile Run Road for a quarter mile before cutting left onto single track across a small stream. The trail was quite rocky and required deliberate attention to footing, but I floated to the top without strain and comfortably passed through the first aid station there. From here the trail offered opportunity to speed ahead of competitors throughout the balance of the course. I had no problem collecting other runners, running well within my aerobic capacity. Rolling over a couple stiff hills, I stopped once to shake the gravel out of my shoes before re-catching and passing those who had passed me.

After ten miles I started down the long mild grade to the finish in about 15th place with an anticipated finish time just over two hours. Not too fast, but not laboring either. A half mile past the final aid station, while cruising along easily, my left Achilles exploded in pain with a loud pop, out of nowhere - without any warning whatsoever. I crashed to the rocky trail and rolled to a sitting position in great pain from the recognizable serious injury. Having broken my left leg twice I knew I hadn't broken anything. Upon standing I knew immediately my Achilles tendon had ruptured and I was in trouble. I could put no weight on my left foot without searing pain.

Nonetheless, I proceeded to hobble forward down the trail, grimacing all the while, recognizing that I had about a mile and a half to reach the finish and no help was possible. The aid station I had passed a half mile earlier was not an option for returning, so I continued toward the finish, accepting my circumstance. Many runners passed me, most offering words of concern or support. The generosity of most of the runners who passed me was encouraging in the sense that I was surrounded by good people and happy to be there rather than somewhere else. There was nothing anyone could do, but their caring moved me and gave me strength.

Stopping to pause, but not sitting down, I kept at it. To stop and rest entirely would have resulted in swelling such that I could not have continued under my own power. Needless to say, it was a humbling experience. The paramedics at the finish had been advised of my condition and offered a ride down the road before the finish, but I walked it in anyway, after crossing the cold stream - which felt good on my swollen foot.

I walked across the finish line after stopping to chat with the paramedics and showing them my foot. Still, I arrived in 71st place of most of 150 contestants in a time of 2:48:02. It took me an extra 45 minutes to hobble down the trail over the time I would have run in. Nothing to brag about, but it was a testament to my tenacity and persistence to deal with the crisis at hand. I didn't stick around to socialize, but hopped into the car (glad I didn't bring the truck with its clutch) and headed home, finally sitting down to rest while my ankle could be immobilized and swell.

Tiadaghton is a classic Pennsylvania trail event, with everything any trail lover could ask for. Nice people and good organization. I enjoyed the day very much until my injury. Can't say when I will return though.