Good morning all!! Yes, those of us that traveled to the Hyner Trail Challenge 25k/50k are still alive. Barely, but we are all still alive.
To start off, we had a beautiful morning for the race. It was a combo of slightly sunny/cloudy and slightly humid. As usual, there was a great turnout for the race. I am going to take a guess and say that there were between 125 to 150 for the 50k and probably at least 850 for the 25k.
At 8am, the 50k was off. We started from a different location, well across the road, from where the 25k starts. We had the entire course to ourselves from the start. The 25k did not start until 9am.
I met up with a few of my friends from eastern PA and we were off at the start. My friend Jim Bahner and I started out together and planned on running the entire race together. Jim and I ran the course in Decemeber.
Once we got off of the blacktop and onto Cliffhanger, the trail was relatively empty. The trail was in great condition, but very dry. We pounded out to the start of Humble Hill. I had said that before we started that I wanted to be to the top of the view in under an hour. We crested the view in about 48 minutes. Already 12 minutes ahead of schedule. From the top of the view, Jim and I ran with another runner until the bottom of the Hyner Challenge Trail. We caught up with Kelly Agnew at the bottom and on the start of the goat path trail. The four of us ran together until we hit Sledgehammer. We hit the base of Sledgehammer at the 7.5 mile mark in just over 1:20. Jim and I pulled ahead on Sledgehammer, but I started to notice hot spots on the back of my heels climbing up the mile or so long hill. Once at the top, we hit the aid station and fueled up. The next 4 miles or so are fireroad and jeep trails. This is some fast running. We worked our way to the singletrack downhill into Ritchey Run. Very dry and dusty conditions here as well. Once we started to climb Ritchey, I was really feeling the hot spots and started to have some pain coming with them. I knew at this point that I had severe blisters and things were not looking and feeling good on the climbs. When we got to the top of Ritchey, I told Jim to go ahead because I was in a lot of pain from the blisters on the climbs. Once out of Ritchey, we hit some more fireroads and I slogged along trying to get the blisters to pop.
I hit the aid station at the Nature Conservancy camp, and refueled. I was struggling a little bit here with nutrition because there was about an 8 mile gap between the aid stations. I ate like I was at the Gourmet Buffet and felt much better. Off for the next mile and a half to the top of Sledgehammer. I pounded down Sledgehammer and back into Johnson Run. Climbed up Johnson to the end and got onto some technical singletrack. At somepoint, the blister on my left foot popped and relieved a lot of the pain in that foot. Now if only the right foot would pop!!!
I made it to Post draft which is normally a pretty fast and technical/rocky singletrack downhill. I was encountering a lot of the hikers/runners from the 25k and had to slow down to pass them. The hikers/runners were very polite and moved right off of the trail for us. Did get a chance to have some great conversations with the hikers/runners and laughed a lot. At some point during the downhill, the blister on my right foot popped and it was back to running stronger again.
I got to the bottom of Post Draft and started the climb up Cleveland. This is a fireroad that leads to the switchbacks that take you to the SOB. After pushing through this section, I climbed up SOB. SOB is a straight up the pipe line climb. This was very dry and very loose. I pushed through this and got to the top to the fire roads. Refueled again at the aid station and took off for the last 4.5 miles to the finish.
On the fire roads, I ran with another 50k runner and we laughed and carried on. We hit Huff Run and powered down the downhill. I caught up with a hiker that only had one leg. He was an older guy with a left prosthetic limb. We talked for a few minutes and I told him that he totally impressed me for taking on the 25k. He returned the favor and said that he didn't know how we could do the 50k. It was a rather enlightening exchange. Once at the bottom of Huff Run, I hit the blacktop and powered back to the Sportsman Association. As I came out of the woods towards the finish, I could hear Adam yelling "Matt!" Really made for a nice finish. The crowd was incredible and as usualy, they were very supportive and cheering for everyone. I claimed my 50k medal and grabbed some grub.
I finished the 50k in 7 hours and 30 minutes. I had planned to stay around 8 hours, but came in faster. I knew that I wouldn't PR at Hyner, but I will definately take a 7:30 for that course, and 43rd overall.
Adam finished in 3:32. John Weaver finished in 3:27. They both ran the 25k and did very well. I believe that they both finished in the top 100. The winning time for the 25k was 2:18.
Danny Mowers from Chambersburg rode up with John and I. Danny crushed the 50k and took 7th overall with a time of 5:42. The winning time for the 50k was 5 hours flat.
Hyner is definately a challenge regardless of whether you do the 25k or the 50k. I would have to say that the 50k is probably the hardest race that I have done. The 31 miles were miles of pure pain, climbing, downhills, and sometimes Hell!!!
For those of you considering doing Hyner next year, get in early, and try the 25k first.