stepping stones.

With apprehension that I am summoning a jinx, I have decided to unfurl the map and plot a course that leads towards running my first 50-mile event in late 2011, the Stone Mill 50 Mile Run in Damascus, Maryland. 

I've daydreamed about tackling the distance for the last 2 years but admittedly the concept hasn't evolved beyond "some day" status.  Rather than push the idea out any further, I want to approach the preparation as though the event has already started and apply the same dogged tenacity to finishing as I would on any other race day.

While I hope to take part in any number of events over the next 11 months, there are 5 key test pieces that I've picked to gauge where I'm at as Saturday, November 19 draws nearer.

I'd initially thought that I'd spend the first couple of months of 2011 simply not allowing short days and cold weather to keep me from logging miles.  Luckily, an unexpected invite appeared on my Facebook profile alerting me to the return of the Buzzards Marathon, a 26.2 mile trail run in the Clark's Valley area of Dauphin County.

The heavy snows of 2010 kept the event from being held, but on March 6th, off-road marathoners will return to a challenging course that overlaps portions of the Horseshoe and Appalachian trails.  An elevation profile of more than 4000 feet of change should provide a good early test.

In April I plan to head to Clinton County to participate in the Hyner View Trail Challenge.

I used to camp and hike regularly in an area slightly northwest of Hyner and was disappointed a few years ago when I learned that the event had happened just a week prior to my visit.  I've wanted to return ever since but haven't managed to make it happen.  I sent my registration check a few weeks ago and am not going to miss out this time around.  At 16 miles, the Hyner Challenge is the shortest of the races on this list, but may just be the most daunting.  Before reaching the 4th mile, runners will have climbed over 1400 feet and will give it almost all back in the downhill mile that follows.  There are two more similar climbs and quad-thrashing downhills to be tackled before the finish line.  The total elevation gain exceeds 4300 feet.  I'm really, really looking forward to this one but must own up to some anxiety as I intend to push as hard as I can.

With any luck my quads will have recovered enough by June 11 to allow me to enter the Laurel Highlands Ultra 50K Race in southwestern Pennsylvania.

This will be the 6th annual running of the abbreviated alternative to the esteemed 77-mile race that occurs on the same day.  I hope to someday try the full course, but for this year I'm going to be satisfied to do the 50K.  Last June I ran the first 11.6 mile leg of the 50K relay and am itching to try the full 31.1 miles on my own.  I was fairly pleased with my time at the relay but sorely disappointed in the wicked cramping that resulted from the effort.  Unless unexpectedly mild weather breaks at the Hyner Challenge, this will likely be the first 2011 race that bring the additional obstacles of heat and humidity.

On July 25th I will turn 37 and would like to celebrate with a run of that same distance.  That would mean running 10 kilometers further than I've ever run before which should serve the dual purpose of measuring my progress towards 50 miles and convincing me that I'm not yet over the hill (entirely).  I haven't decided on where to go about doing this and am very much open to suggestions.  If anyone would like to accompany me, I would consider it one whale of a birthday present.

A couple of months ago, I wrote of the Keystone Trails Association's Susquehanna Super Hike and Ultra Trail Run held in south central Pennsylvania's York and Lancaster Counties.

My employer, Backcountry Edge, served as the gold sponsor and I was thrilled to be able to serve at one of the aid stations, secure and deliver door prizes and giveaways and provide moral support to all of the runners and hikers.  It was a fantastic day, but it left me wanting to actually enter the 28.4 mile race.  On September 10, 2011, I intend to do just that.

Once I've crossed the line at the Super Hike, I hope to concentrate on simply staying fit and healthy enough to attempt 50 miles on the Seneca Creek Greenway Trail and doing so without any reservations or excuses.


  1. Very nice line up!!! I will see you at Laurel Highlands- At least you know what the hardest part of the course looks like!!! What a climb!! But when you get to the top... what a view!!! I really enjoyed the 50 mile distance, even though my journey was filled with pain- I am going for another at the GRT50 on April 9th! Happy Trails-


  2. Wow!! What an ambitious and killer year you have planned!
    In reading your post something tells me I should do a 50 miler before I run the Pine to Palm 100 :) I am signed up for Hyner this year again. Maybe we can car pull up! When you coming down for a dinner and hike anyway?" Can't wait to follow your year. You'll be livin' for sure.

  3. It does feel ambitious, but realistically ambitious if I can pace (ha!) myself. As you both know all too well, it's a tricky balance to put in the necessary work while staying fresh and avoiding injury. Sounds like our paths will cross on courses and, with a little luck, off the trail too. Looking forward to it!