World's End 100K, Forksville, PA
Elevation Gain: 12,395'; High Point: ~2100'
May 21, 2016 -  As the parking lot gradually began to fill at 0400 on race morning I had time to
reflect on my place in this sport that has come to define my lifestyle.  Headlamps bobbed as
the day's contestants checked and double-checked everything they would require for a physical
challenge that would see them still laboring to complete their objective long after the sun
would come and go.  Attention to such detail makes obessives of all of us.  Is it science or is
it art?  The longer I work diligently to refine the fine points of getting it just right, the more I
believe that which we do will always be an unrequitted expression of art that yearns to mature
through experience to be predictable science.

And what of my place in traipsing up and down rocky trails, suffering alone in the cold and dark
at night to achieve some purely arbitrary glory?  As it is only just a fleeting illusion anyway, I 
guess I have no better purpose or place to be.  Arbitrary glory may be as good as it gets.

So one more time I toed the line at zero dark early in the morning with 150 adventurous souls 
hell-bent on covering a fair amount of Pennsylvania backwoods with the aim of returning not
too much the worse of wear before the start of the next day.  There is always a certain human
vibration in the air right before the start of such an event.  Closing your eyes it is always
there, electric, exciting, ever pregnant with expectation.  It is the hope that you don't find in
everyday experience - an insecure trust that all will turn out well as we venture into dark,
unexplored country.

Beginning at World's End State Park the 100K would consist of an eastern loop on link trails
and a western loop that largely followed the Loyalsock Trail.  For my 60th birthday I invited
my brother Don to backpack its 60 miles point to point, just four years ago almost to the day.
We found it to be a very challenging adventure with wonderful overlooks and endless waterfalls.
With winter dragging it's feet in leaving Pennsylvania this year vegetation was not nearly as
profuse as when we hiked the Loyalsock. Race temperatures of 50 degrees were much preferable
to the steamy 80-degree temps we had encountered.  With a forecast for light rain all day
it would prove to be near perfect for running a long race in the woods.

I decided to take it easy from the start.  With so many people and immediate climbs on single
track trails it was pointless to jockey for position unless you were one of the top contestants.
It seemed like I was in queue for five or six miles, which really was fine by me because I cannot
see very well at the cusp of daylight anyway.  It is easier to follow when you can't see and just
bide your time.  Then too, it takes me generally seven miles to find my rhythm, so kicking back
a few gears for the first couple of hours didn't set me back with such a full day ahead.

Once the field sorted itself out a bit I caught up to Tom Kaplan who was starting very
conservatively to gauge some limiting injuries.  We were able to stay together through mile 19
before he felt good enough to proceed at a faster tempo, allowing ample time to catch up and
dream forward.  Tom would be stopped out at 50 miles later due to pain from lower extremity

In the middle of the race I caught up to George Hollerbach and kept paces for miles with a
woman named Stacy from mid-Pennsylvania.  Conversation was easy and we navigated the
undulating landscape without much duress.  With light rain there was some slippage with wet
rocks and moist soil, but I didn't fall but one time all day and that was only because I lost
my balance mid-stream and darn near ended up in the drink.  All was good for me out to mile
42.  Energy was fine and we were moving along at slightly less than a 4 mph average - all 
good for a reasonable finish time.

But the end of an ultra event is always the most challenging and unpredicatable part of the
race.  Until the aid station at mile 42 there were no warning signs; we moved along fairly easy
at slightly less than 4 mph, very acceptable given the terrain.  We were on track for a very
respectable finish.  But coming out of the aid station my stomach revolted with a side stitch
and some dry heaves, refusing to allow me to drink or eat anything.  So my energy took a dive
as I had to slow to a fat-burning shuffle over the next eight miles, taking nearly three hours to
get to mile 50.

So at this point I needed to get my stomach back in order.  Taking a ten-minute sit-down break
I was able to drink two cups of Campbell's chicken noodle soup.  That seemed to pick me up,
but my side stitch was still problematic and I was feeling the fatigue of the day's effort.  Lower
back pain crept in as night approached and I just seemed to fall apart.  Fortunately my legs 
were feeling good and my attitude had not waivered.  Realizing I had enough time to reach the
finish before the cutoff at midnight, I slowed even more and decided to just enjoy the trudge
to the finish.

Meanwhile George had caught up and we stayed together to the end.  I was not sure of a trail
choice during the final four miles, causing me a bit of doubting consternation, but as it turned 
out it had been the right choice afterall.  With midnight fast approaching we descended the
final trepidatious pitch in scary fashion.  Along with another runner that joined us toward the
end we crushed the final downclimb without much caution, nearly falling out of control, bumping
into each other and trees countless times.  For a moment it seemed like we were the Three
Stooges making a death-defying lunge for the finish.  Somehow no one got hurt and we crossed
the finish at the bottom with but fifteen minutes to spare before the cutoff.

I was sore - at least everything but my legs.  Al and Jackie Ong were there to greet and support
me at the end, along with several of the other guys that had passed me toward the end of my
effort.  With more dry heaves I was in no mood to eat or drink.  Besides, being among the
last people to make it back, the beer was long gone.  Damn.  So, without much ado I crawled off
to clean up just a bit and sleep it off in my car.  The morrow could wait.  The next day I was
fine - just hungry.  After a shower at the campground and not being able to find anyone to
join me for breakfast, I headed off for the next adventure on the Long Trail in Vermont, where I 
sit typing this account as the sun sets on another beautiful rainy day.  Will see what surprises
tomorrow's adventure brings!