Eastern States 100M, Waterville, Pennsylvania 5,5

Elevation Range: 592' - 2132'               Elevation Gain: 19,288'
August 16, 2014 - It had been with great anticipation that I was waiting to
participate in this inaugural running of the Eastern States 100.  It is a dream come 
true for me.  Years ago I had shared a dream of conducting at least a fifty-miler
on the tough and beautiful trails of this part of Pennsylvania, especially on the Black
Forest Trail, with Race Director Craig Fleming.  Forest authorities had initially been 
resistent to the idea of an athletic event here, but with persistence Craig and others
had softened them to the idea and pursued a grand design that would challenge the
best, as well as the slowest, while enjoying the unrivaled beauty of these special trails.

After six straight weekends of ultra racing in the Rocky Mountains, nursing persistent
injuries, and holding back training in order to heal, I would toe the line for this race
entirely under-prepared with nagging injuries, but mentally charged to make a good
go of it and aim for a completion and buckle.  Eastern States was the pinnacle of my
summer racing.  With no reason to hold back I aimed to be reckless if necessary to
reel in my ambitious objective.

After a quick 1700-mile drive back from Wyoming and a couple days of pure rest I was
as ready as I could be.  Nothing left but to do it.

If all ultra running was mental I would be a hero every weekend, but the body is endless
in its reminders of mortal limitation.  Sometime prior to the previous week's effort in
Wyoming I contracted some sort of lung infection while in Utah.  I got through El
Vaquero Loco with mostly walking in sunny, dry conditions. The day prior to Eastern
States I was running a slight fever and coughing fluids out of both lungs, feeling
miserable and weak.  The wise thing to do would be to withdraw in the eleventh hour.
But I was there and I wanted it, so the thought of not toeing the line was not an option.

It is very strange how the mind can usurp the body's wisdom and shine a positive light
of optimism on a bad circumstance.  It kind of reminds me of the band that kept playing
music as the Titanic sank.  I toed the line for the 0500 start with extreme optimism,
ignoring any compromise to what I aimed to achieve.

The race began gently enough for three miles of mild road and singletrack before the
first thousand-foot climb straight up the mountain set the tone of the day as a grim
introduction to Pennsylvania's anticlines and synclines.  Temps were a mild 50 degrees
but humidity was high.  A power climb so early had everyone soaked with screaming
quads by five miles, a precursor of a tough day ahead.

After six weeks in the Rockies I was relishing the climb.  Without altitude to contend
with it was all quad action with no breathing difficulty; I moved well, keeping it aerobic,
pulling a line of runners behind me as I caught those in front.  With a day of climbing
ahead I felt that I could hold my own with my quadricep strength.  My weakness would
be slow running on the level parts because of non-existent training and very deliberate 
slow descents to protect injured feet.

All seemed good.  I was comfortable and not reminded of my malaise as I found a
rhythm and rolled with others in the middle of the pack through Mile 17.5.  Keeping it
conversational I took up with a pretty young woman from Ohio for about half of that,
helping to distract from the task at hand.  The green rocks were slippery from the high
humidity, but I sustained nothing worse than one sit back all day.  Very relaxed and
feeling fit, I eased into the third aid station where Jordan Nance, there in support of
Mark Cangemi, helped me through a quick transition.  I gave a big thumbs up to RD
Craig Fleming and kudos to the young man responsible for cleaning out the trail of
brambles and nettles.

Reaching the aid station at 25 miles by my target of noon, I switched out supplies from
my drop bag and headed up the mild climb along Brown's Run that would take us up to
about the 50K point.  It was a fairly easy grade, enabing me to mostly shuffle without
much intermittent walking, but it did seem a bit longer than the advertised 5.8 miles.
From this point the course leveled off to follow grassy runway after grassy runway in
the middle of what was turning out to be a beautiful, mild but sunny day.  I was still
feeling good.

Somewhere on the flat on top, while having conversation and moving along at about a
15-minute pace, my lungs began to hurt and I started coughing fluid from them.  Perhaps
there was some grassy allergen involved.  Very suddenly the only way I could stop the
coughing was to walk.  Once the course picked up the Donut Hole Trail I would be familiar
with the rest of it until mile 78.  But I couldn't breathe evenly without coughing when
I attempted even shuffling on the flat, relegating me to a two-mile-per hour walk into
the next aid station at 36.5 miles.

I sat down and accepted a craft beer from the generous volunteers, knowing this was not
something I could overcome on this day.  While I was extremely disappointed, I did not
let it get me down.  My legs were good - even my hamstrings were working well; I just
had no leg speed, but was making good progress in the middle of the pack.  It was 
pointless to continue sick.

Catching a ride back to the start/finish I showered before driving out to pick up my drop
bags before dark.  I was able to crew Mark Cangemi when he came through Slate Run aid
station before he and Jordan headed out for the closing forty miles of the race overnight.
I saw a nice 350-pound black bear cross the road in front of me on my way back to spend
the night at the finish.  By morning my lungs were even more painful with rough coughing
so after hanging around until 0630 for Mark to finish and to pick up a final drop bag that
never came back, I opted to head home to North Carolina expeditiously to get started on
some antibiotics to kill whatever bug I had picked up.

I expected Eastern States to go well beyond the notorious difficulty of Western States.
This should have been apparent in its inaugural year to all participants.  It will in due
course become as iconic as its western compliment.  In hindsight I would have to say 
that this event may be the closest thing the East has to a Hardrock-type hundred miler,
without the altitude.  It was formidably beyond all expectation of difficulty.  The early
challenges hammered even the fittest of participants and probably rendered most more
beat up than they are used to in an event of this distance.  It leaves me wishing I had
had such an opportunity when I was younger, and makes me feel even more like a 
has-been.  Tme to exit Stage Right, I am afraid!  Well, at least REST for the next six
weeks.  Then, we'll see!