Friday, September 14, 2012

The Trail of Terror

Snakes....Why did it have to be snakes????? 

Just call me Indie ;-D
Channeling my inner Indiana Jones, I ran (officially) a 24.35 mile trail race through the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon the last weekend of August (I know....I am a delinquent blogger).  It was a last minute thing...happened upon an ad for the race in my works' internal weekly newsletter and thought 3 things:

1. That 24 miles wasn't much
2. I was due for a long run that convenient
3. It's close by
and most importantly....
4. I bet I can convince trail buddy to run it with me.

So, in an whirlwind of psychotic enthusiasm we sent in our race entries the Monday of the race. 

What a mistake that was.

It was like Twilight Zone met Wild Kingdom.....I kid you not.

We show up to the race early due to race day packet pickup, not wanting to get caught up in lines. We are the first ones there.  I suspect something is up when my race number is '3'.  It turns out that the race is a field of 4.  Really.  Now I wonder if they are actually going to go through with the race or cancel it, but the race organizers are super excited and really want to carry on...even if it's a learning experience for next year.  Okay.  Then she personally highlights the route on a map, making note of the 'bushwacking' areas (wtf?) for each pair of participants (turns out it was Trail Buddy & I versus 2 guys power hiking). I am a little scared but already Trail Buddy and I are laughing and ready to 'lead the field' ;-D
Trail buddy showing off her mad walking stick skills!

This is a 'trail'???
And we are off.  The first 1.5 miles were ok, then we hit a rocky logging road with about a 1000% grade that we could barely walk up, let alone run.  It went straight up for over a mile.  The first aid station was around 3.5 miles and we were happy to just be able to run again.  Unfortunately, a ton of the terrain was un-runable.  It was very frustrating. There were a few nice patches, but rarely more than a mile or 2 before you had to stop to walk because the grade was so steep or it was just plain unsafe underfoot to run.  We had several areas where there wasn't even a trail and we were fighting our way through the forest & scrounging for walking sticks to help us up the hills.  It was sad.  

Then there were the bears.  That's right, bears, as in plural.

The first we heard it up ahead of us.  Pro's that we are, we started yelling our conversation really loudly and it took off.  We did not see this one, but it sure sounded huge! The next one was smaller and up ahead of us crossing our trail. Scared this one off too.  Most likely they were thinking "we better get out of here, only crazies run in these woods!"

Then we got lost. Yes, lost.  Completely lost the trail.  Went back a couple miles and still couldn't find the markers.  We ended up orienteering out of the woods, across a stream & up a cliff to get to an access road to catch the trail again....all on the last 10% of my iphone battery.  We were pretty scared for a while.  We figure we added 2-3 extra miles on the course.  By the time we got to the next aid station, the power hikers had caught up to us....claiming (& smirking!) that they didn't get lost.  We are convinced they were lying.  I was pretty thankful to be out of 'bushwacking' territory.

And then it gets better....

Yes, this is real!
More awesome 'trail' along a cliff
                                        down a logging road, 22 miles in, within 4 or  5 miles of the finish I almost freaking run on a freaking rattlesnake! I hate snakes. You know I hate snakes.  This guy was 4 feet long and as thick as my forearm...and it was stretched out across the road looking and hissing at us.  There was no going back.  22 miles in, folks.  We were tired. It had taken MUCH longer than either of us anticipated.  We had NO cell service and no way of letting our husbands know we were going to be late....and now a rattlesnake?!?  Well, it took about 10 minutes of strategizing & freaking out before we mustered the courage to throw a big branch between us and the snake and run like hell past it.  I had no idea if one can outrun a rattlesnake, but luckily it did not follow.
Entrance to the PA Grand Canyon

We get to the last aid station and tell the guy about our close encounter & he says 'cool', leaves us there and jumps in his truck to see if it's still there so he can take a picture of it!  We then are a little freaked about what might be underfoot as we head into another bushwacking section on the way to the finish.  We finally finish, me just a couple minutes ahead of Trail Buddy & here is my claim to fame:

Yup, 1st overall.  See, I knew I'd entered the Twilight Zone ;-D

But, it was for a great cause, to raise money for a very sick little I'm still glad I went. But I will never, ever run in the PA Grand Canyon again. 

Next's Tri Time!!!!! Yup, tomorrow I am re-entering the realm of the triathlon. I'm hopeful there are no snakes.


Christy @ My Dirt Road Anthem: A Runner's Blog said...

Wow sounds like quite an adventure, getting lost, bears, snakes! That is one for the story books!

Michael said...

Holy moly!! I can't even imagine! I might have had a heart attack when I saw the bears, but then I would have died when I saw the freaking huge rattlesnake!

But a first place finish,..well that makes it all worth it right??

Ransick said...

Wow, quite the adventure! I shriek like a little girl when I run into garner snakes let alone rattlesnakes and bears :-). Guess I need to turn in my man card :-).

Congrats on the over all win! Very cool.

Frickin' Fabulous at 40 said...

What, are you looking to encounter a shark next?

Jamie said...

I hope your triathlon went well!

Anonymous said...

Wow, what a race!! COngrats on winning!! :)