Thursday, June 17, 2010

A month later... Laurel Highlands

I finally logged into my blog this afternoon and saw that an entire month has passed since my last post. Somehow, life has gotten in the way of blogging... and that is a very good thing. I would much rather be outside playing on the trails, climbing mountains, going to yoga class, reading books, and drinking good coffee than spending time plugged in to this other, time-consuming virtual world.

My buddy Al came out Memorial Day week, and the three of us made a little dent in the Sierra Club's Hundred Peak list, climbing Mts. Haddock, Pinos, Grouse, Sawmill, Baldy, Thunder, Telegraph, and Timber. Having admitted obsessive-compulsive tendencies, I'm a bit wary of getting too committed to this peak list. After all, this is the same woman who eventually climbed all 48 of New Hampshire's 4000 footers in every month of the year. What can I say? I like lists. The original plan was to backpack 100 or so miles of the Pacific Crest Trail, but with a major upcoming road trip this summer, Chris and I just had too much stuff going on at home that required our attention.

Currently we are in Washington DC for work but flew out a few days early in order to once again run one of the best and oldest ultras in the country--not just the East Coast--the 31st continuous running of Laurel Highlands. This was my 3rd time and Chris’s 10th or 11th! In a blog post after last year’s run, I sang the praises of this stellar, low-key, never-sold-out ultra, waxing on about the lovely ferns, the songbirds, and the gorgeous singletrack. This year’s race had all of those things, plus mountain laurel in full bloom (breathtaking!) and--due to the Pennsylvania Turnpike’s footbridge being out of commission--an extra 7 road miles in case one has forgotten how much one loves and prefers the forgiving surface of trails. Yes, this year’s race was the entire Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail, plus the road section, for a grand total of 77 miles. Gulp. I had not done a race of that length in almost 4 years.
Since we were both running this year, we didn’t have the benefit of sleeping in at the start but rather awoke at 2am (yes, 2 o’clock in the morning… no, this is not the Vermont 100) in order to meet the bus at the finish line which took us to the start line in Ohiopyle. The ride was unremarkable save for the big mouth sitting behind us who, although given very little encouragement by his seatmate, would NOT SHUT UP and digressed to a LOUD play-by-play of his entire race and injury history. Good grief. I remarked to Chris how some ultrarunners are the most tedious bores, but admittedly I was grumpy because I’d hoped to catch a few more Z’s on the bus.
The first few miles passed happily but damply.  It was hot--I heard 89 degrees--and extremely humid. From the first mile I was drenched in sweat only to remain in that icky, drippy state for another 18 hours. My friend Diana and I ran together on and off as I tried to stay with her. Alas, after the marathon point she was gone and I never saw her again. She had a great race, finishing second woman. I had merely a good race, with a low point about 2/3 of the way through, the thought of moving for 25 more miles being both overwhelming and repulsive. Upon seeing Chris--who, along with exactly 50% of the entrants had wisely dropped out--at the next aid station, I got weak and whiny but then put on the Big Girl Pants and got down to business. The next section is my favorite (run it next year and find out why!), and it helped that Chris joined me for the last 13 miles. It didn’t help that those miles were entirely in the dark due to this year’s extra mileage and my slower legs, but those slow legs were energized by passing two women in the last third of the race.

Out of 117 starters attempting to go the whole distance (there was a concurrent relay race as well as a 50k) I finished 14th overall and 3rd woman and received a very special finishers award. The LHHT has mile markers every mile, and normally finishers receive a wooden “trail marker” with a 70 engraved. This year’s trophies were appropriately engraved with 77. Way cool.

Finally, in light of the depressing catastrophe in the Gulf right now, I wanted to pass along a bit of good news for lovers of mountains and the outdoors.  Check it out here.  Now get offline, go outside, and PLAY!!


Olga said...

Of course we'd rather play too! But when choosing work or checking out blogs, blogs win at least because they are about that very play!
Good job on LH, I keep hearing about it, may be I'll put it on the list too.
Got email from Chris for the Moab fun. Middle of the week=no vacation days left. 9-5 life sucks...

RunSueRun said...

Wish you could make it to the Moab party, Olga. We have some great routes picked, and Garbonzo even found a bowling alley. Woo hoo!