Highland Sky 40 miler

Canaan Valley, West Virginia
June 19, 2004
by Marcia Peters

[Editor's Note: Marcia Peters is primarily a Buzzard, but she is also a VHTRC member and she sent this to us also.]

Marcia Peters finishes 2004 BRRA small contingent of the LRRC Buzzards headed down to Davis, West Virginia (Canaan Valley) to take on a new race born in 2003. This 40 mile race claimed to be tough and in fact, the R.D. extended the cut offs in the race in order to make it more doable for slower runners. Of course, to me, that immediately made it interesting and decided it was time to try a new race.

The race director talked to us about the course and how it had rained more than 3 inches that very morning, so we knew we were gonna get wet! Our race packets included a tee shirt, but the nice Patagonia shirt required that we finish the race, a great incentive to get me to the finish.

We were bused to the start at 5:00 am for a 6:00 am start. We had 12 hours to finish. The day was cool and overcast, and rain was called for later on and of course, it did.

The first 20 miles were said to be very rocky with a 2,300 foot climb in the first 10 (up to 4,500+ feet in elevation). The lush forest, ferns and never ending water kept things interesting. I was hanging onto a group led by Hunt Bartine, a Delaware Traildawg going into the first aide station. We pushed that section hard (I thought) but it still took us 2 hrs 20 min to go 10 miles. The trail has one of the most technical sections I’ve ever run. Leaving the aide station with Diana Stump and Hunt, we were chatting about the fact that the course was like Escarpment, Laurel Highlands and MMT all wrapped up into one and suddenly, I found myself on the ground (this was a road section!). My hands, arm and knee were cut and I knew I had to take a few minutes to regroup. I couldn’t decide what to do, should I drop, should I go back to the aide station and see if they have first aide, or just sit down and compose myself. The air was just cold enough to make the cuts ever so painful, so once I figured out how to warm my hands up, the pain went away and I decided to just keep going. But I did seriously consider calling it a day. Over the next 5 miles, I ran alone and fell 3 more times, right smack on my hands each time (I’m thinking next time I’m wearing gloves!).

Coming into the 20 mile aide station, I ran into Hunt walking up the road. I guess he wasn’t feelin too good and Diana was nowhere in sight. That was good incentive to keep it moving! I got into the aide station and there were lots of runners and crew busy getting into drop bags, etc. I got fresh socks and shoe inserts and started down the 7.5 mile road section, which first time in my life, I was really looking forward to. It was referred to the “road to the sky” and it certainly was—low growing brush, lots of rock and gnarly pines. Parts of it kind of reminded me of Mt. Washington, where Lar, my husband and I had hiked the summer before. You had to make it to the aide station at the end of the road section by 1:30 pm in order not to be pulled from the race. I got in about 11:55am and was psyched and feeling good, ready to get back on trail.

The next section was an open rocky section, all down hill, until you got to the “BOG”! From there, we ran 5 miles of wet, mucky, smelly, black muddy BOG. It was exhausting! There were actually people in there hiking (what were they thinking???). Then I thought “what was I thinking” ??? Anyway, I just kept running, running, running. Some guy named George latched on to me (his first ultra) and that helped make the time move along.

The next section was at Canaan Ski Resort, where were running across the top of the ski area, they simply mowed a trail for us to run on and we could look out over the valley. I saw Frank Probst there and chatted with him a moment. He wasn’t feelin too hot at that point. They had a little aide station set up there and told us we had 2.7 miles to the next aide. Well that was the longest 2.7 miles. You see what happened was the R.D. marked a section where there was literally no trail, just markers running down through the woods and there had been so much rain, that the terrain was just all mud, and we just kept sliding down, down down. Oh and I didn’t mention that there was a motorcross race going on in the same area, so our wilderness bliss was interrupted by lots of noise and gas fumes.

Everything starts to run together from here as far as the trail goes, but we ended up on a short road section, about 2 miles and at the end of it, suddenly I was running down a main road and some guy drives by and says “hey you aren’t in the race, are you?” Now, I’m running down a road, with a camelbak on my back and a race number on my shorts, what do ya think??? Anyway, of course, I said yes and he proceeds to tell me I’m off course. This is 36ish miles into the race and it’s not appreciated that I’ve run more than one single step more than I must. Anyway, he showed me the way and I got back on trail. You see, in trail runs, if you’re coming to a right turn, they’ll put a double colored marker on the right side of the road/trail. In this case, they put the marker on the right, and had us turning left. So I asked him to correct it so no one else would make the same mistake. Of course, George had followed me too. Anyway, we got back on trail and before we knew it, we were on the home stretch.

I came into the finish at 9:18 and they handed me my Patagonia finishers shirt and told me I was the masters winner. Diana finished about 25 minutes ahead, as 4th woman overall!

Not sure I’ll go back, but it was definitely worth the experience of trying something new. It gives some of the other tough races we’ve done a run for their money. . .

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