Saturday, April 16, 2011

Hyner Mountain Kicked My Butt (and Meira crushed my soul)

The Hyner View Trail Challenge is approximately 16.25 miles of beauty and brutality. Today, mix in 42 degree temps, rain and sustained winds over 20mph to make it an interesting day. This was my first attempt at Hyner, and after pulling a hamstring earlier in the week, I was just hoping to survive. The Meira that I refer to in the title is Meira Minard, an excellent local runner who won the women's overall last year at Hyner. I had been trash talking her recently (our road race times are fairly close) so this race was a showdown (although I knew she would kick my butt).

I spied Meira through a crowd of runners at the starting line and waved congenially, while secretly plotting to take her down. The first 1/4 mile was downhill and I ran gingerly until we got to the flat road, after which I caught up with Meira. We exchanged pleasantries as we passed runners for the next mile and a half until we hit the single track and the climbing began. Now it was on.

I was hoping to at least keep up with her on that first climb, and for the most part succeeded. She did get about 50 yards on me towards the top. The view from the top is amazing. If you haven't been to Hyner View, you should check it out someday. I turned around at the top and just stood there and enjoyed the view for a few seconds, before turning around and starting the almost immediate descent.

I run down mountains scared, especially when it is muddy. People blow by me. I lost site of Meira quickly and just worried about my own footing and not getting run over. Near the bottom of this first descent, the eventual female winner blew by me and I knew Meira was going to have a race of it. I did catch site of Meira as we started to ascend again and yelled "Minard, I'm going to get you" after which she started running again and that was pretty much the last I saw of her.

The next climb highlighted Hyner's foot-soaking features. The trail followed a stream up the mountain and must have crossed from one side to the other 20 times. At the first crossing, the guy in front of me went upstream looking for a log to cross on and I decided to just get me feet wet. Within a couple hundred yards I realized this was the correct decision, as cold as it was, because it was inevitable. Then, I just had to laugh. After awhile, instead of criss-crossing the stream, the designers of the trail decided the heck with it and literally just made the stream the trail. We were just running up the stream, and this was not the only time.

The last ascent was again steep but utilized switchbacks until the trail crossed a gas line cut towards the top of the mountain. I took a switchback across the cut and couldn't find the trail until I looked behind me and straight up the cut. There it was, straight up. I started up and was actually worried about falling off the mountain at this point because it was so steep. Once on top, the trail followed the ridge for a few miles and it was relatively flat. My legs were too trashed by this point to take advantage. To add to the misery, it started raining harder at this point.

Not bad for a Pennsylvania race.
A final cautious descent got me back on the road across the west branch of the Susquehanna. Their was a fierce head wind across the bridge, but then it wasn't long to the finish line.

I finished in 2:55 and I imagine Meira was at least 10 minutes in front of me. I haven't seen the results yet. I have learned my lesson. Don't trash talk Meira about trail races. I might be able to keep close on the roads, but there is no chance of that happening on a course with that kind of elevation change.

All in all, it was a fun run and I'd highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys running in the woods. There are over 1000 runners/hikers for this thing. Hopefully the weather will be better next year, because this year's weather did admittedly add some misery to the morning.

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