Clarion / Little Toby Creek Rail Trail 36M, Brockway, PA
Elevation: 1499'
October 23, 2011 - One of the advantages of doing your own
solo events is that you can never really sleep too late and 
miss the start.  Due to weather and life's circumstances I had
been delaying running the Clarion / Little Toby Trail for ten
days, waiting for a sunny day when I was rested and 
enthusiastic about going for "a long one".  It was nice to lay
in bed and literally sleep in, thinking about running, without
any urgency to get up and go.  It was 9:30 before I headed
out the door, allowing the temperature to heat up to a mild
39 degrees on what was to be a pleasant day.

Dropping off a fluid bottle at each end of this 18-mile rail trail
first, I parked nearly midway on the route at MM 7.8 at the
Carman Siding access area.  Back in the days when the trains
were still rolling along Little Toby Creek this siding was an area
where trains would pull over to allow an oncoming train to pass.
After getting geared up I headed south on the trail in the sun
shine toward the southern terminus in Brockway at MM18.

The running was labored at first, so I eased back on the throttle
and decided to just enjoy the effort.  I felt no hurry, but was
open to going as far as I felt comfortable, up to a total distance of
100K if I still felt good when the sun went down.  The trail consists
of hard-packed limestone, always level with not a single hole on
the entire route - very well maintained.  Though covered in leaves
I didn't have to watch my step, allowing me to look around at the
scenery and enjoy the autumn beauty and the easy moving
creek to my right.


The rail trail passes five ghost towns - Grove, Shorts Mill, Blue
Rock, Vineyard, and Carrier -  communities that had thrived
during the early part of the 20th century, probably making their
living from lumbering, quarrying, and perhaps mining - the 
extractive industries.  The most that remained were some cement
and rock foundations with some rotting iron works.  Some modern
homes and camps still thrive at the old town of Carrier, the closest
town to Brockway.  

There were five wooden bridges across streams - Laurel Run, 
Coward Run, Vineyard Run, Jenkins Run, and Baghdad Run, names
that left me wondering about their derivation.  Who were the people
that lived here?  And what were their lives like?  Lots of things to
think about during "a long run".  The converted rail trail also passes
by an old CCC Camp from after WWII and notes the site of a rail
accident between two coal trains back in 1932.  Lots of stories and
history must remain in these hollows.

My tempo evolved into an even pace of ten-minute miles as I made my
way south for about ten miles to the first turn-around where I would
retrieve my first replacement bottle of go juice.  The sun warmed the
air to somewhere in the mid forties by early afternoon, so I was
drinking everything I could to balance my copious sweating.  I made the
turn at MM18 in 1H 40M and kept up my pace north as I passed quite a
few Sunday hikers and bicylclists out for some casual exercise.  It is
a great time of year to enjoy the trail.  It was nice to see so many people
appreciating all the hard work that went into making this rail trail.

I arrived back at the truck at 20.4M in 3H 23M, holding to a 6mph pace and
feeling comfortable.  After resupplying at the truck I continued north,
passing under highway 949, along the Clarion River as the trail heads 
toward Ridgway where the trail begins.  For the first couple of miles the
trail follows an existing rail line before ducking back into the woods and
paralleling it. 


Even more people seemed to be using the trail, starting in Ridgway,
as the afternoon wound down.  The temps never really quite reached
50 degrees, but it was warm enough to soak me to the skin.  By the
turn-around at MM0, where I retrieved my other bottle, I hit 28.3M in
285 minutes, showing that my pace had not been compromised with
the distance.  I then hit 30M in 5 hours and 3 minutes, the exact time for
my 30M run on the Shadow Trail earlier in the month.  Talk about 
consistency!  I was starting to get cold, though, and my feet were
getting sore.  Perhaps it was the Brooks Cascadia shoes I was wearing,
or maybe the limestone path was harder than I had figured on, but
my feet were definitely howling pups. 

As I returned to the truck to wrap up 36 miles in 6 hours and 8 minutes
I abandoned any notion of continuing on to chase 100K, given my sore
feet and inclination toward hypothermia.  It was a good day with a
good pace and I was satisfied with the effort.  And I was able to check
off one more objective on my running bucket list.  After changing out
of my wet clothing, rehydrating, and eating some carbs I felt pretty
good, even though my left leg was cramping a bit whenever I had to
depress the clutch on the truck.  After just a day off I was able to go
out for a quick seven, without any residual soreness from the long run.
Overall I feel like I am in as good of condition as I could hope for.  I
don't miss racing and I look forward to chasing down some more trails
on my own.  Pure pleasure.