The Dam Half and Dam Full courses are all situated within Bald Eagle State Forest, and you really get the feeling of being far removed from civilization when doing this course! Mostly narrow single track trails with some jeep trails and a little bit of dirt road mixed in to relax your legs (but not too much). The Dam Half has a total elevation gain of 2,500 feet, while the Dam Full has a total elevation gain of 4,600 feet. The courses have several climbs with a few boulder fields mixed in to test your legs (and wits)! In between the climbs though, there are some nice flat and rolling sections winding through beautiful hemlock and pine forests with some stream crossings here and there. Both courses have the toughest climb of the event near the end, the dreaded Stairway to Heaven. Stairway to Heaven is a brutal single track climb with 700 feet of elevation gain within a half mile straight up the side of Naked Mountain. But once you summit, it’s 1.5 miles all downhill to the finish!!!
I had picked up my packet the night before. Running with me would be my husband, sister-in-law, and a couple other running acquaintances. I was ready to go!
Amazingly, I caught back up to Aaron when he eventually pulled off to the side to take off his long sleeve t-shirt. (I tried to tell him he would regret wearing long sleeves.) I figured he would fall in line behind me, so I kept going. A little while later I passed one of my runner acquaintances and was pretty pleased about that. She is a very buff, fitness instructor and runner, so it felt good to catch her. She had done the course before and was hoping to come in under 2:30. She stayed hot on my heels until we got to the last boulder field after the final climb where she then passed me and vanished down the hill. How she took that descent so quickly I will never know. I hope she accomplished her goal!
The trail was very tricky. The elevation was exactly what I expected and I felt prepared for that. I was not prepared for quite so many rocks. We got so few breaks from them! I nearly face-planted on several occasions. And the boulder fields mentioned in the course description above??? They are aptly named. How some runners managed a 7:40/pace on this course is something I will never understand! Those folks must be part mountain goat! Literally, it was fields of rocks and boulders. And some giant boulders that you think will never move when you step on them in fact do shift when stepped on! Very tricky!
I hiked up the dreaded Stairway to Heaven, feeling like it would never end. Once to the top you are "rewarded" with a boulder field before you can begin your rocky, steep descent. I had made a new friend from a State College running store. We chatted quite a bit and he encouraged me to go ahead and get the trail shoes I've been wanting. I had confessed to him how my feet were killing me in my non-trail shoes. I always just wear the oldest sneakers in my possession for these things.
Brooks Cascadia- Come to Mama!!!
Once Aaron felt up to it we went to get something for him to eat. I had already downed three slices of pizza from Larry's Pizza so I was good, but I stood in the chicken line with him anyway. We ran into one of Aaron's coworkers (who had ibuprofen- yay!) and sat down to eat with him as well as one of the full marathoners. I would run this race again in a heartbeat! It was a fabulous day! Mid Penn Trailblazers really know how to put on a great event! I've done one other trail race put on by this group (Smith's Knob Scramble) and it too was fantastic! Check them out if you're looking into trying out trail races! http://www.midpenntrailblazers.com/index.htm
This is how I felt later!