Mahoning Shadow Trail 30M, Punxsutawney, PA
Elevation: 1230'
September 29, 2011 - After three important races this year in which I did not 
finish because of injuries and physical limitation I have arrived at the opinion
that change is in order for my running challenges in the future.  I have always
loved to run, but no longer can aggressively pursue competition as in days of
yore.  Rather than write myself off as a "has been" I choose to reinvent my
approach to challenge.  This account will convey some of my evolving thinking
in this regard along with my experiences this day.

Racing has become expensive and crowded. I can still go the distance and
explore cool trails without the shortcomings of sanctioned events.  I have
enough T-shirts, buckles, and medallions, but will never have enough stories
about running adventures.  If I miss anything about organized racing events,
it will be the social draw - racing has always provided an appealing social
outlet.  Guess I'll climb mountains or backpack more often for society.

Running the complete 15-mile Shadow Trail one way and then the other has
been on my "bucket list" for awhile now.  Over the years I had already run
every part of the trail at some point, but never the entire trail at once.  So,
that was my objective.

Fall is the prettiest time of year to run trails, with the sights, the smells, and 
the sounds of autumn as it fends off the approach of the cold snowy months.
Parking midway on the trail at Cloe and having stowed fluids along the route
I first ran 11 miles to the southern terminus, through Punxsutawney, before
returning to my car and then completing the northernmost section.  Mike
Monyak met me early in my run.  He rode his mountain bike mostly, but did
do a couple of miles of running at a quicker tempo to prepare for a race on
the same trail next weekend.  It was good to have his company.

The pace was conversational.  I had enough breath to chat while continuing
a mostly 6 mph gait.  My tempo got into synch with my breathing early and
the run was enjoyable.  No rain, with temps in the high 50's.  Mike left me
to return home after I turned around at the southern terminus in Valier.  The
first 11 miles spun off quickly in one hour and 45 minutes.  

As I headed back north I attempted to maintain my tempo and stride.  The
running was effortless through twenty miles before it became apparent I
would have to work to maintain the same stride.  The tempo was consistent,
however, so that was good.  The Shadow Trail mostly follows Mahoning 
Creek, which was up over its banks slightly.  One deer crossed the trail,
stopping long enough to draw some conclusion as to what I was all about.
There were some retired people walking here and there, a couple of
bicyclists, and some young mothers with their little ones out for some
fresh air.  At around twenty miles into the run, it began to rain, chasing
everyone else off the trail.  I had the last ten miles to myself as the rain
would intermittently continue with an occasional spot of sunshine.


Running like this in a non-competitive situation enables one to focus, not
only on the effort and the surroundings, but on the moment, in general.
It is easy to lose focus in a race.  There are people with you much of the
time; you engage their company, often adjust your pace to theirs to stay
with them; at times you run faster past spectators and work at looking
better than you actually feel when you approach an aid station.  All of this
requires energy, but it gets one dis-focused.  Running like this I am left to 
my own mental machinations, uninterrupted.  There is a lot of biofeedback
that goes on in a long run.  You are constantly monitoring all systems and
looking for changes that might require adjustment.  In a non-race
challenge you can stay focused on yourself in the moment without diversion
or strain - very good for the discipline it requires to "go the distance".

I arrived back at my car at mile 22 after another hour and 49 minutes, 
close to the same time it took to do the initial 11 miles.  After grabbing a
fresh bottle of fluid I immediately headed north for about four miles, up
the mild railroad gradient to the northern terminus at Winslow Road.  My
lower back was tired and it was taking more effort to maintain the same
tempo with the same stride.  I gave in a bit to fatigue as I slowed to about
a 5 mph pace going up hill, all the while enjoying a mild rain and splashing
in the puddles and rivulets streaming down the trail.  An occaional splish-
splash in puddles is good for the soul.  I've never grown up so much that
I feel I have to go around a puddle.

Coming back down the final four miles to the finish at the car was a bit
labored, but not too much.  The tempo was the same, but my stride was
shortened.  There was a fantastic downpour for about two miles that
removed any sweat from my skin and clothing - a real soaker.  I maintained
my pace without trying to meet some time objective and covered the last
eight miles in one hour and 29 minutes, for a combined total run time of
5 hours and 3 minutes, better than the 5 hours and 30 minutes I was 
targeting for the run.

None the worse for wear, and not overly tired, I toweled off, undressed,
and got human again with some dry clothes, chowed down on some 
Harvarti cheese and garlic herb crackers, rehydrated, and headed home
satisfied with my "race" for the day.  It is important to me to do heroic
things.  I seek to be a hero to myself each day - to be the person I would
most like to be. This run affirmed my satisfaction with life and my place in it.
With dreams of the next week's adventure, I slept well and recovered 
without soreness by the morning. 

North Section of the Shadow Trail

South Section of the Shadow Trail