Sunday, May 18, 2014

Chief Wetonah Challenge 2014 (Race Report)

Once in awhile its nice to run a trail race without having to get up at 4:00AM and make a three hour drive before toeing the line. So we were all smiles Sunday moring. Mt Pisgah State Park, which played host to the 1st (hopefully  annual) Chief Wetona Challenge is just a short twenty mile drive from home. We left Sayre just after 9:00AM, leaving plenty of time to get checked in, chat with old and new friends, and warm up before the 10:30 start. Maria and I were joined by my older sister Ann Marie. The Chief Wetona was to be my sister's first trail race of any distance, as well as her first race longer than 5k.
Co-Race director John Johnson giving runners the "rundown" on what to expect, as well as thanking race supporters just before the start.
 The field lined up and ready to run at the boat launch next to Stephen Foster Lake

Spring in this area is wet. A long drenching rain on Thursday turned the rolling, double-track of Mt Pisgah State Park into a bog - but that’s okay. We like that sort of thing. This was one of those days when your feet get wet before you even reach the start-line. Out on the trail the shoe-sucking mud was often ankle deep. My trusty NB MT110's (and no socks, of course) respond well in such conditions. I'm going to miss them when they are no longer available.
The Chief Wetona Challenge, named for a native American significant to the area, is a two loop course. The first loop begins just below the parking area, following the lake for a few hundred yards (with the lake on your right), before ducking in into the woods and climbing back up to the level of the parking area. After crossing a small foot bridge the course climbs a short but steep, grassy hill up to the park's nature centre. The few hundred feet of elevation gained is quickly lost on a rocky, but fast and wide descent back to lake level. From there the course circumnavigates the lake on mostly rolling trail, putting runners back at the start line in under three miles.

Ann and Maria beginning their second lap

The short climb from the beginning of the race feels twice as long as it does the first time around. On the second loop I powered hiked it to conserve a little energy, and then blasted my way down the hill on the other side. About half way around the lake the 2nd loop diverges from the first, hanging a left, rather than keeping right, and ventures off into even muddier territory.

The majority of the 7 mile race's 1,000ft of climbing comes in the second loop. The trail wanders up muddy double track and grassy paths cut through open fields before climbing the "Haymaker" trail to the course's highest point at around mile 6

Once atop "Haymaker" the course follows a farm access road back down the hill, before veering to the right and sloshing its way down a drenched power line cut. I was really able to open it up in this section, the final mile, passing a couple runners on the downhill and logging my fastest mile of the day.

I crossed the finish line in 1 hour, 1 minute and change in 24th place.

I've run the trails at Mt. Pisgah many times, but this was my first opportunity to race them. I felt stronger at mile 6 and 7 than at 3 and 4. Seven miles is a little bit on the fast side, for my taste. But its always fun to stomp on the throttle and see how much you’re willing to hurt over a shorter distance.

Not all of the fun was out on the course, however, as no great Pa. trail race is complete without a post race BBQ, awards, prizes and good friends. The Chief Wetona Challenge did not disappoint.

Race Pictures: Here
Race Results: Here
Chief Wetona Challenge Facebook Group: Here
See you next year....



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