Cook Forest 25K - Cooksburg, Pennsylvania
Elevation Gain: 3600'
June 23, 2018 - It was nice to roll out of my own bed at a reasonable time in the morning and drive only a short distance to toe the line for a trail race. It didn't matter that the forecast was for rain and thundershowers. While still a bit tired from the prior weekend's event at Highlands Sky I was excited to see some new trails I had never run on in my own backyard.
Arriving right after 0700 at Henry's Run Picnic Area right up the Clarion River from the Pale Whale canoe livery, I was guaranteed close in parking so that I could bolt immediately after the race, and there was plenty of time to take a warm up run before race time. The rain poured as soon as I arrived, but donning a rain jacket I headed up the river road for at least three and a half miles to add to the race distance of 16.5 miles to make it a twenty-mile day. If I was going to get wet, it didn't matter if I was soaked before the start.
Right at 0900 most of 400 of us followed the river road back to cross Route 36 before getting into queue to make the initial walking climb up to the Fire Tower on the Seneca Trail. I had run up this climb many times and was satisfied to walk it with so many people in the race. It was crowded going up and over the top and back down to the river again on narrow singletrack trails. I felt little need to be impatient, so just bided my time for the first couple miles until we started to climb up out of the river. Even having a weary old race-worn body I could still climb better than most of those that started ahead of me.
Afer intermittent running and walking I made it back to the plateau for a long period of classic woods running to zig and zag through Cook Forest to reach the campground before descending gradually back down to Tom's Run. All this was familiar terrain. The rain held off for most of the race, but the trails were quite muddy. Tying my rain jacket behind me I was comfortable in the warm humid air of the forest.
People passed me on the flat as I maintained a five to five-and-a-half minute per mile tempo, slowing on the descents to protect my sore left knee. This run was not an important challenge on my schedule, so I was not racing it. Running well within myself I never stumbled or fell. That is always a good day in my book.
After reaching the half-way point we branched off onto new trails for me - Deer Meadow and Cook Trails with connectors. After eating some gels I finally found some rhythm and began to move with more intent. From this point I was in charge and pulled back person after person right to the finish with a lot left in the tank. I have been racing enough of late that my body is used to pushing when it is tired. Less experienced runners around me could not maintain my aggressive assault on the flats, or the downhills, and certainly not on the climbs. So it was a good outing, finishing in 3:15:15. The sun came out a few times and we finally got a downpour before the finish, but by and large it was a most pleasant day to chase trails with other runners in the forest. RESULTS
Grabbing a plate of food I headed out to clean up and meet family for a theatrical performance at the Sawmill Theater in Cook Forest at 2 pm. With a couple weeks of shorter climbing races ahead I hope my legs will get a reprieve and be rested for the next tough event in three weeks in Wisconsin.