D-Day: Megatransect

“He makes me as surefooted as a deer, leading me safely along the mountain heights.”

Psalms 18:33

Today’s Scripture meditation: I admit that I didn’t come up with this on my own and it wasn’t random or a scripture from any readings like Morning or Evening Prayer or the Mass. I did an Internet search and came up with it on one of those online Bible concordances. I thought this was the most appropriate Scripture since yesterday, while I might not have been as surefooted as the deer, especially along, well, too many sections of the Megatransect — I can’t count how many times I stubbed my toes on rocks or tree roots, or tripped and fell –He definitely led me safely along the mountain heights and for that, I am grateful, especially considering that I have no health insurance.

Yesterday’s endurance hike/trail run: Where do I begin to describe something like this? I really don’t know. There is so much, from the organizers to the volunteers to the participants with whom I shared this experience (meaning, for the most part, those farther in the back — oh, parenthetical remarks and side notes, there will be plenty of in this post), all of whom were amazing. It’s so hard to know where to start or even how to organize this by photos. However, I guess the best way to do this is chronologically and when I get to the course, by section, and then by slideshow at the end, so as not to make this any longer than it already will be.

I’ll begin on Friday night. My wife Kim (my rock, throughout this and my life for the last 11 years) and I drove to Lock Haven, first to go to the Castanea Fire Co. Picnic Grounds and then to our hotel, which I will leave unnamed, not because it wasn’t a nice place, but because I don’t want this to turn into too much of a commercial. First thing was finding the picnic grounds; the directions were a little confusing, but finally after a few minutes, we found it, getting there about 7:45 p.m.

Once there, I checked in — didn’t need my form from Active.com — and got my goodie bag, complete with technical long sleeve shirt, Woolrich socks — Woolrich is right nearby, so not a commercial, in my opinion (but hey, I won’t provide a link; I’ll let you do the research) — a gel, I think, and assorted brochures and an entry form for the 2007 Hyner View Trail Challenge. We then went to the picnic area, where about 50 or so people were gathered, snacking on “munchies” provided. Also set up was a GIS flyover map, zooming through the course with a topographic map, which I must say was very cool. I ended up talking with a young man who had done the race for the first time last year. We talked about starting out too quickly on the road section and also saving enough energy after the Chilkoot to finish. My wife and I also talked to another runner (truly in every sense of the word) who ran it last year and was looking to finish it under five hours this year.

Afterwards, we went to the hotel, where I was in bed by 9:15, but probably didn’t get to sleep until about 10:30 as my mind raced.

I had my running clothes laid out on a chair next to the bed so when I got up, I’d be ready to go. We set the alarm for 4:30, because breakfast began at 5:15 and that was also when we could get the racing chip.

Race Day: I was awake by 4:15 a.m. and at about 4:45 a.m., we left for the picnic grounds.
First thing: chip. Second thing: breakfast. Third thing: bathroom. While skipping the obvious first and third things, I will say that the second thing was decent. Among the offerings: bagels, peanut butter (a staple of the race), jelly, orange juice, apple juice, scrambled eggs, oatmeal (which I decided to skip because well, I didn’t want it to stay too long past the third thing and into the race). I had everything else except for the oatmeal.

Half an hour to race time and we met up with Denny Colegrove, of whom I have written before and will so again, and his girlfriend, Victoria Niditch. She was there with her daughters’ high school cross country team, who were helping with the race. Denny, of course, was there to kick the course’s butt (which he later did).

Before the race began, the man announcing the race (sorry, I don’t know your name; I can add in later, if you’d like credit, and especially, if you’re one of the race organizers, you deserve credit) asked how many people were doing this race for the fifth time, with this year being the fifth anniversary of the race. About a quarter of the hands of the hundreds of people around me shot up. When he asked how many people were doing the race for the first time, about three quarters of the hands shot up. As we say at SparkPeople: Woo hoo! In all, about 500 runners were signed up for the race; I don’t know how many actually finished it. I do know Kim said that she saw several people, including some young guys, that just gave up (I don’t blame them at all, really), plus I don’t know the count on how many didn’t actually make it to race day for one reason or another.

According to my cheap Chinese watch purchased at Wal-Mart the day before, the race began at 6:59 a.m. Right before I headed off, I grabbed a Red Bull (which they had along with waters and sodas). I figured I was going to need all the energy I could get. I don’t normally drink such drinks before runs, but this time I figured was a good time to make an exception. As in previous entries about the race, I will break down the sections roughly as given by Trail Guy Jr. on the Hyner View Trail Challenge forum:

Mile 0-3.5: Road section: While I didn’t start out as quickly as some, for me, I did start out too quickly, especially considering what was to come. Even though I didn’t have to do so, I stayed with Denny for the road section, right up to the Jump Up, where I bid him farewell, because I knew I wouldn’t see him until the end (and I didn’t). Perhaps the most interesting thing I saw on this section of the course were two women who stood on the side of the road in Castanea, with signs and pom poms. It was also at this point that I realized I had forgotten my list with my dedications. I just hoped I could remember them all as I went along.

Mile 3.5-6: Jump Up: I did remember that I had dedicated this to Kim. Unfortunately, just because you dedicate a portion of a race to somebody doesn’t make it any easier than any other section. The path was basically a single-track lane to start and several times, I got over to the side to let people by me. It is called the Jump Up for a reason. The climb “jumps up” close to a 1,000 feet in less than a quarter mile, and while after that, it does wind down about 200 to 300 feet, it is only for a short while before you get ready to climb back up and then you get to…

Mile 6-6.5: The Boulder Field: At this point, it was about 8:30, and a group of people were gathered at the bottom of the field. Many were getting water or a snack or a gel, preparing themselves for what was to come. Since I had trained once on it, I knew what was to come, and took a long sip of water and ate a granola bar before getting ready to tackle it.

Unlike when Denny and I had hiked up it in August, this time there were flags along the field. I pretty much stuck to the flags. Pictures of the boulder field don’t do it justice. I have heard, and would believe, to finish in under four hours (!) that some actually run through it, but I could not imagine it as, at times, I crawled over the rocks to get to the top. At the top, I took another swig of water, checked my watch, about half an hour (not bad when compared to what I think was more like 40 minutes, maybe an hour, when did in August) and then got ready for the next section…

Mile 6.5-7: The Crossover: I think this might be mentally one of the more deceptive areas of the course. You’ve just tackled the Boulder Field and may think it only has to get easier from here on out, right? Wrong. The course drops about 200 feet, and very steeply. Watch your footing here. It will get better on…

Kammerdiner Trail: I believe it was along here that I met up with Sean, a student from Penn State University. We had met him and a friend of his, Tonya, the night before at the picnic grounds. He said something then about there not being a lot of hills, right? Because he had practiced on downhills. I later learned he was belying his expertise. As we ran together for a short while, usually with me behind him, he told me about running 6-minute miles downhill! I clearly wasn’t in his league, but was glad for the opportunity to keep pace with him, even if just for a little while. I lost him about as we got to…

Zindel Park: 10.2 miles in: Here was the first checkpoint, complete with porta-potties and water, Gatorade and Heed. Good sign: I stopped at the porta-potty, meaning in my estimation I was getting enough water. On to the next section…

The Goat Path/The Lightning Bolt: As I started up the Goat Path, with the sun beating down on me, I realized that I hadn’t put on sunscreen. Too late now. It was on this section that “an older man” passed me as if I was standing still. He had no poles and commented that the people with whom he had seen poles didn’t seem to be using them right. I guess I must have been one, as he gave me a lesson about it. He was probably right, but I figured having the poles, at least for this first time around and probably many more times to come, it would be worth having, and they were. As I was coming down, I passed a few people, most of whom would pass me later…as one of the people I met yesterday commented, it was like we were playing leap frog. He wasn’t that far off. At one point, coming down off the Lightning Bolt, I felt a muscle pull in my left leg. I slowed up a little, but then ran a little more as I headed to the…

Mile 13-14: Gorge Trail: Here I knew I was getting close to Fleming Way, so I did a combination of running and walking. I sprinted in sections, because I knew when I got to Fleming Way, there would be no sprinting. I also remember it was getting close to noon and I wanted to try to make it to the bottom of Fleming Way by noon (or maybe it was 12:30, I can’t remember at this point), but regardless, whatever my goal was, I made it…and onward and upward to…

Fleming Way: Here like the Boulder Field, people stopped at the bottom to catch their breath, refill with water and take food. As at the Jump Up, I had many people who passed me here, but I wasn’t real concerned about it as I knew they would. On the way up the start of this section, I met one man who had a knee brace on his right knee. He told me he was getting his second MRI this week and that he already had knee injury. He said he already had paid for the race, so he wasn’t not going to do it. He wasn’t the first such person I had met or would meet along the course. I met many people with taped-up ankles and knee braces and the such, but they were still going. Along Fleming Way I kept my teammates at SparkPeople in mind, and I believe it helped me get to…

Mile 15-17: Logging road, Lost Trail: The Dug Road, and the last part of Kammerdiner Trail from miles 17 to 20.5, are the most boring sections of the course, in my estimation. And it seems liike it will never end. Maybe it’s because you’ve just endured Fleming Way and your slowing down. Whatever it is, I hate this section. Lost Trail, however, is fun as you’re picking up speed going down along this trail. Here, along these two sections, I believe is where I met up with a woman named Tammy, with whom I talked for a little bit before she ran on ahead of me. As nice as it was to talk to her, it didn’t help break up any of the monotony of…

Kammerdiner Trail to the Chilkoot: The only thing that did break up the monotony a little was Checkpoint 2, which was at 18.1 miles into the course. A Boy Scout troop was at the checkpoint and while they didn’t have any peanut butter sandwiches left (as advertised), they did have chocolate chip cookies sandwiched with peanut butter, which to me was just as good. I woofed down more than a few of them, since I knew I still had another 6.8 miles to go and the dreaded Chilkoot. As I got closer to the Chilkoot, I decided maybe ill-advisedly to jog, but I figured this might be one of the last sections I could before it. So I jogged a little bit and then there it was….the…

Mile 20.5-22: Chilkoot: Another checkpoint was set up right before the last section of hell, and, I do mean, hell. I grabbed some water there, and then got underway. As I rounded a corner, suddenly the trail went up sharply to the right. In front of me was a rope up the side of the hill. I stopped, ostensibly to take photos, but realistically I was catching my breath. I let several more people go by me here, including many whom I had jogged past. I specifically recall the man who said he was going in for another MRI this week getting there and just looking up and saying: “This isn’t funny.” Even though I was coming at it from a different angle than he was, I agreed with him.

I had to wait for the guy ahead of me to get up the rope, because he had the rope between his legs. I didn’t think he’d appreciate me pulling on the rope while he was trying to climb up.

On this section, I met four people, to whom I have to give special recognition. The first two people are the two young men, who were serenading hikers, as I got past the rope section. One was strumming on a guitar, the other was singing. I hate to say it, but I can’t remember their names, even though I asked them twice. I think one’s was Dan and the other might have been Sean too, but I’m not positive of that. I learned from talking to them that they are students at nearby Lock Haven University and were part of a fraternity that had volunteered for the day. I thanked them for being there to cheer us on. As each hiker went by, the one would sing a song about that hiker by number. For example, with me, it was something, “No. 379, all in blue, I like blue” or something to that effect. It was just the needed boost we needed at that point.

The second two people are Sue and Maureen. As other hikers and I were “leap frogging” each other up the hill along the telephone lines, where there was a miniature boulder field, this one woman stopped me and said: “Hey, you’re that blogger guy!” She and her friend said the had read my blog (I think the entry I had written about my training on part of the Megatransect) and how it had been funny. I told them something to the effect that I wasn’t doing as well as I wanted, but they said that at least I was out there.

On the way down the Chilkoot, coming behind me was Todd Heggenstaller, who I knew from the Asaph Trail Club. He told me how he hated this part of the course, that coming down was worse than going up, because it was so easy to slip and fall. I have to say I didn’t disagree with him as I slipped a few times and almost fell and so did several other people that I saw. I let him past me, but at the bottom, I jogged to catch up with him, figuring that it would be good to have someone with whom to finish the race. So finally came…

Mile 22-Finish: This was a road section and while part of me wanted to at least jog in, another part of me didn’t, plus I was enjoying talking to Todd. Last year, he finished in 10 hours and 45 minutes. He said his goal was 9 hours and 45 minutes this year. I told him I thought we could get there by 9:30. Although we cut it close, that is exactly what we did, as we both came in at about 9 hours and 45 minutes. I have to thank Todd for making that last section semi-enjoyable. Why I say is semi-enjoyable is because now I was extremely tired and sore and just wanted it to be over.

At the end, Kim was waiting with Victoria and Denny, who had a bottle of Troeg’s beer in his hand. Kim got my picture as I crossed the finish line (I’ll add it later since she has her camera cord at work – darn it) and put the medal around my neck. I don’t think I was smiling as I crossed the finish line, but afterwards, I did smile — especially after I was able to get a shower.

As Kim told me after I crossed the finish line: “Now it’s over.” Now to prepare for next year…:)

Where others of those of whom I wrote in this blog entry finished:

  • Denny: 7 hours, 25 minutes.
  • That runner of whom I talked about in the beginning: the one who wanted to finish under 5 hours? He finished in fourth overall.
  • Sean and Tanya: Sean finished ahead of me in 7 hours, 45 minutes, Tanya behind me.
  • Tammy: I think she ended up ahead of me.
  • The man who was having an MRI this week: ahead of me.
  • Sue and Maureen, ahead of me.


Footnote: Found out today that I have a blister on my right heel. Pretty nice, open cut. I thought I felt something yesterday…I had problems with the shoes I’m wearing earlier, but thought I had it resolved with wool socks. I guess not. Or maybe I guess not when you go 24.9 miles.

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11 responses to “D-Day: Megatransect

  1. Bryan, you did it in fantastic time! I told everyone I know about this guy who’s doing this crazy race and they were all suitably impressed. This is something you will remember for the rest of your life. The photos are beautiful and you should be very, very proud of yourself. Enjoy that beer! You so deserve it!

  2. Absolutely amazing! Thanks so much for posting photos – it makes it so real!

  3. Bryan!!!! Wow! That is so inspiring! The photos are awesome. Now I want to do something like that some day.

  4. Congratulations Bryan!!! Great pictures and a great time. You have a lot to be proud of!!

  5. I love this part….My wife Kim (my rock, throughout this and my life for the last 11 years)…boo-hoo-hoo! I’m crying! OK. Must read the rest…Sorry, had to quickly type that.

  6. I am sooooo proud of you! I sat here and read the whole thing (when I should have been working..oh well!, it was worth it!). Now what will you conquer? I can’t wait to read more of the journey!
    (By the way people, this is my brother. Brag, brag, brag!)

  7. Nice report! I’m so impressed by anybody who can finish this crazy thing. I could barely drag myself across the finish line.

    I finally posted my saga on my blog — it’s super long but if you read it you’ll get to experience the race from the very very back!

  8. What can I say that hasn’t been said? I’m so proud of you. As I told another poster who wrote about their experience, I’m in awe. Thank you for sharing your experience.
    ~p.

  9. Bryan..I am absolutely ASTOUNDED that anyone could do this..it is utterly amazing and beyond my comprehension. What a feat of endurance, commitment and outright courage. You should be so proud 🙂 Thank you for sharing…my mouth is still wide open in astonishment..(I am not often left speechless) Denise

  10. Pingback: Motivation Monday: Assessing where I am « An unfinished person (in this unfinished universe)

  11. Pingback: Blackened « an unfinished person (in this unfinished universe)

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