Hyner View Trail Challenge 50K, Hyner, PA  5,5
Elevation Gain: 7500'; High Point: 2100'
April 21, 2012 - My fourth trip to Hyner was something I looked forward to.
It's one of the toughest trail runs anywhere in the East, and as a social
venue ranks above any other race I've been to in recent years.  Despite
the threat of bad weather, the 25K and 50K together drew over a thousand
hardy souls, prepared for whatever the day would throw at them.

I camped in my car the night before at the trailhead of the Chuck Keiper
Trail on Route 144.  After listening to a lone whippoorwill singing its heart out
under a bright shining Venus I awoke to the dawn call of a gobbler behind
the ridge.  The skies were almost sunny at the break of day, but looming
cloud cover to the west would prevail for the balance of the day's effort.

Any race where you check in with someone you know with a welcome smile
is a good race.  Jen Fleming was just the ticket to set the tone for this great
event.  She and Craig have made a growing race continue to feel small and
friendly.  With the preliminaries out of the way I had an hour and a half to
settle on what to wear.  Being generally susceptible to hypothermia I chose
to start in two layers, despite most everyone else dressing in less.  A
layer can always be removed and put back on when it gets chilly.  My plan
worked and I was comfortable as I adjusted with conditions.

After a low-key start we headed across the Susquehanna River for a mile
before finally reaching the trail cut along the hillside overlooking the river.
The first two to three miles is ample time to let the body ease into racing
and get the breathing down before heading straight up the hill to Hyner
View by mile 4.  Humble Hill is over a thousand-foot ascent in about a mile,
in two stages.  No one runs this - everyone gets into queue and bides their
time following someone else up the hill.  Maybe the leaders do this climb
at a shuffle, but for most it is an exhausting effort at a walk.  
 Along Cliffhanger                       Climbing Humble Hill

By the top I had walked past perhaps a dozen others who started faster.
My legs are still in good shape for climbing at a quick tempo.  No one gets
to the top by passing me, still.  After a couple appreciative glances back
down to the river I rolled through the water stop and began a careful
descent through switchbacks and buttslides back to the bottom of
Reichert Hollow, where I took some refreshment and a gel before
beginning the gradual rocky ascent back and forth up Johnson Run.

Two looks back down to the river from Hyner View

Without exerting any special effort I was starting to bring back people,
one at a time.  I've always played a sort of Red Baron/Snoopy game when
reeling in other runners during a race.  I spot someone ahead as far as I
can see, then target that person as my next race victim.  It's a healthy sort
of competitive distraction that I've used since high school.  One after another,
good, younger runners succumbed to my finesse at being able to dance
with the rocks better than they.

Part way up the stream we were redirected away from the standard 25K 
course to follow the new loop that would add enough distance to make it a
50K.  Until this point I had run the rest of the course before.  This was all
new real estate, so the novelty held my attention as I started up Sledge-
hammer, a long climb that required a considerable amount of walking before
reaching another aid station at the top.  Walking was a good time to socialize
and kick back to enjoy the scenery.  Too much focus on the race can be
exhausting.  It was nice to take stock of the progress of the spring leaves
and stop to check out flowers that I didn't readily recognize.

From the aid station the course follows a fire trail that winds down a couple
of miles into Bear Pen Hollow before taking a steep drop into Ritchie Run.
This was a good time to let the legs go and relax before climbing again.  A
couple people rolled past me, but I held back so as not to hammer my quads
with so many miles remaining.  All those who hammered past me here and
left me in the dust were passed later when they paid the price for their
indiscretions.  Despite a controlled descent I still managed to catch a tip and 
wind up on the ground after a complete somersault.  No harm done; no blood.

Ritchey Run was a two-and-a-half mile climb out of the hollow - essentially
running in or along the stream the whole way - very tough on the feets.  My
legs were good, so I ran when it was safe and walked when stumbling was
not an option, continuing to catch and pass other runners.  After conquering
this technical section the trail leveled off along an old log flume and some
dozer trails for some easy running to a full aid station at the West Branch 
Nature Conservancy Camp, built in the 1930's by the CCC boys, at mile 19.5.

After some refreshment and quick exchange I rolled out ot there leaving at
least a half dozen other runners who had been ahead of me, never to see
them again.  They must have thought this was a rest area.  I rolled up and
down on dozer and fire roads for a couple miles past another aid station
before starting the long descent down Sledgehammer, again passing casualties
with cramped quads.  I was feeling no pain and moved into the last third of
the race with good energy and momentum.

As I blended back into the 25K course to finish the last nine miles of the race
I found myself weaving my way through hundreds (not an exaggeration) of
25K participants walking their way through the course.  Most were generous
in stepping off the trail to let you pass, so in thanking each one there was
ample social opportunity to mix it up with some of them and have some fun.

The course continued up Johnson Run to the top in the Black Forest before
heading back down Post Draft to Cleveland Hollow.  Running down this
draft is another major insult to tender feet and sore quads.  Feeling good
I blasted down through the draft, carefully passing dozens of hikers and 
a couple guys running the 50K.  Despite the technical degree of difficulty
I still find it easier to glide over the rocks than to fight gravity.  As long as
my knees are good and my spirit young I can fly when I get the urge.

Heading up out of the Hollow one is faced with a series of steep switchbacks
before reaching the pinnacle of racing distress on this course - the hill straight
up a powerline called, appropriately, S.O.B.  It didn't slow me down as much
as in previous races - guess I am used to it.  I collected some aid at the
top and began to motor on the flat knowing that the rest of the race is
essentially all down hill from here.

The view looking up and back down SOB

Following the Spring Trail on top of the mountain for a couple miles through
nice woods was comfortable until my left psoas and adductor muscles
started cramping like never before.  It hurt to walk; it hurt to run; so I
chose to run until the pain subsided.  Major ouch!  Don't know why this
happened - was drinking lots of fluids and taking e-caps every hour.  After
I started down Huff Run for the last descent they were fine again.  Curious!

Letting gravity be my best friend I descended with control and agility as
I continued to dance a pas de deux with 25K contestants on narrow trail
sections.  Nearly reaching the bottom I stopped for a big hug from Sally 
Villella who noticed me or I would have blown by her.  After a quick 
exchange I realized I had lost contact with two guys I had been back and
forth with over much of the second half of the race.  They were way ahead
of me as I made the turn back onto the bridge across the river.

Without feeling like I had run a race I strode it out across the river and hit
the last hill up to the finish feeling good about the day's effort.  I crossed
the finish line for my medallion and a big hug from a volunteer in 6:59:40
for 27th place of 98 finishers.  Not the hardest 50K I've ever done, but right
up there.  I hung for a couple hours enjoying seeing some friends and 
meeting some new people.  After three tasty micro-brews I hit the road
for home only moments before it began to rain.  Good timing, I'd say, at
least for those who had finished!
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