Tuesday, April 18, 2017

High Water, Hills, Deep Mud & A Thousand Diapers. - My Dirty Kiln Trail Race Report

April 8, 2017

Fun Run At Canoe Creek State Park
*Photo Taken By Mike McNeil

Out of the blue one afternoon I received a Facebook message from Todd Lewis, an ultra running friend from Altoona Pennsylvania. He told me I needed to come run his club's race, The Dirty Kiln Trail Half Marathon; he was sure I'd love it. He even offered me a coupon code to use when registering. I should probably pause and explain something about Toddzilla (as he's known).

Toddzilla, Mr. Picklepower Himself

Over time, Todd and some of the other guys who are Allegheny Trail Runners have become friends. We've had some pretty good times together. Probably more importantly in the world of ultra running, we've been through some pretty tough times too. Those challenging experiences or rough patches during ultras have a magical ability to draw people together. This was just a thirteen mile race, but heck if Todd was going to go out of his way to invite me; I was going to run his race. I don't have anything scheduled until the C&O Canal 100 at the end of the month, so as long as I can get through it uninjured, it'll be a fun training run with friends.

Somehow Janice and I thought it was be a good idea to go to the Harrisburg Senators' home opener Friday night before the race. It was barely 39͒ and the winds were howling around our left field seats. Yeah, it was bitter cold for baseball. We were freezing so we only made it through the 5th inning and the Senators got clobbered [Ironically they were playing the Pittsburgh Pirates affiliate Altoona Curve]. I was starving when we got home so I had the brilliant idea of eating an entire frozen pizza in hopes of dumping some carbs into me before bed. It probably wasn't a great idea because after a night of tossing and turning, 4:30am came pretty quickly.

The scenic two hour drive to Canoe Creek State Park went quickly. I was pretty psyched to see the place, as neither of us had ever been to the park before. I was barely out of the Jeep and heading to pick up my bib number and I ran into Todd. As a race director, he was busy of course so after a warm welcome and a big hug; I got out of his way. Heading to the registration table I ran into the ATR's Chief Entertainment Officer and Vol State Crazy, Elmo Snively 😎. He was working the event as well and sent me off with an, "enjoy the hills". Previously Todd had told me to bring my poles and now, "enjoy the hills", I was now wondering what hills were waiting for me. Heading back to the Jeep I saw one of the day's Life Guards, Ralph Smith driving a van with Elmo and Todd heading out to their positions on the course. Ralph of course said something like, "____ this, we're going for a beer"...honestly it sounded much better than running up hills.

Ralph "Budman" - Skilled At Making Arm Warmers Into Leg warmers.

Janice and I were both out of our element here, we're both used to much longer events. In fact, when I told her I had signed up for a half marathon, she laughed at me. She wondered why I would drive two hours to run just 13 miles. She understood when I told her who's event it was. Janice asked if there was a map of the course and we couldn't even find a map of the park. It was April and the park's busy season hadn't yet begun, so most of the facilities were still locked up for the winter. The majority of those in attendance didn't need a map, they're from the area and quite familiar with the park. Janice was just looking to maybe see me along the course somewhere. I only ever ran one trail half marathon and I really didn't even know how to prepare for this distance. I'm used to planning nutrition, hydration and gear needs over a period of many hours. I ate my normal breakfast (a banana and a couple of ClifBar Organic Breakfast Meals), but that was probably just out of habit. Just before the start I gobbled down a ClifBar Gel and sucked on a salt tablet and I was carrying a bottle full of Tailwind so I figured I was good to go. I had trekking poles with me and Adam McGinnis, another of my adopted ATR Brothers, helped me to find a place to stash them so I could pick them up for the second/hilly lap. Ben Mazur was standing near the start line with his megaphone at the ready and after a few thank-yous and Ben-like remarks we were off.

The Bens Ready To Get Us On The Trail
I was immediately awoken from my ultra runner trance, as I mozied through the tall grass I quickly realized how fast everyone else was starting out. I noticed that Matt Lipsey(Matthias Lipshitz - the eventual race winner) was up ahead and had already separated himself from the pack.No one was near him and we really weren't even out of the start area yet. I tried to step up my pace and I immediately felt like crap. My breathing was ragged and my legs felt heavy, I looked at my watch and my heart rate was pegging. What the heck? Man was I in the wrong place, what had Todd gotten me into? I'm hardly ever in a hurry, much less run fast; now what? I never even warm up before a race, I usually have all day for that; not today.

Janice Got A Shot Of Me Still In The Same Frame As Matt

I backed off my pace and even walked a couple of strides on a little hill until my breathing and heart rate felt normal again. Before I knew it we were queuing up to cross a stream. There were two stream crossings on this course which meant if you chose to run the half marathon (there was also a 5 mile race option) you crossed each one twice. I over heard a Park Ranger watching the waders say, "this is the highest I've seen it for this event". Thursday prior to the race, most of Pennsylvania had gotten dumped on by a major rain storm. This stream was high and it was flowing quickly, but it wasn't very wide so we were through it quickly.

The course went around the lake at Canoe Creek State Park and the first lap was just over five miles, so if you were running the 5 mile event; after one lap you were done. There was really only one climb on that first lap. For the half marathon the second lap repeated the first four miles until being diverted to a different section of the park for the remaining mileage. This year the race was being called the Dirt(ier) Kiln Trail Race as the majority of the course was mud. Some of it was that deep sucking mud that will pull your shoes right off your feet. I learned my lesson at the Algonquin 50K and my shoes were tied nice and tight. There was an aid station just before the second water crossing and Elmo and another volunteer were at the ready with runner's needs. I was surprised there was an aid station in such a short run, but if there wasn't; who knows what Elmo may have been up to otherwise? The second water crossing was where Ralph was stationed standing in the water at the ready if anyone fell or got into trouble crossing the creek. [Even after seeing photos, I'm still not sure what Ralph was wearing to stay warm as the water was quite chilly.] Todd was there too, directing traffic so the turn wasn't missed.

The Second Stream Crossing
*Photo Taken By Bradley Pike

The first lap was fun, and as I entered the start/finish area I looked for my poles and my other water bottle. Janice told me she hadn't seen anyone else using poles so I ditched them and took off to start the second lap. I was feeling good, but I was still running conservatively as I knew there were climbs here somewhere. I splashed through the first stream, asked Elmo for a cold IPA, his aid station was all out, and then I got to the second stream crossing. To that point I had been running behind two young guys and passed them when it seemed they stopped to place their lunch order with Elmo.

Adam Making A Splash
*Photo Taken By Bradley Pike

Lifeguard Ralph greeted me again and said, "it's all hills from here Perry, right in your wheelhouse", honestly I thought he knew me better than that. Hills? Can't stand hills! The second time through, there was no Todd telling us to turn, in fact we went straight leading right to the first climb.

Playing In The Water With Ralph
*Photo Taken By Liam Clarke
I knew I only had about four miles to go so I decided to have some fun. I had left those two guys at the aid station drive through window and I looked over my shoulder to see they weren't chasing. I looked ahead and saw a guy in a red shirt and decided to see if I could catch him. I passed him and the game was on. The following hills provided quite a few others for me to try to chase. There was one runner who changed my private little game though. I passed him on a climb and shortly thereafter he passed me on the following descent. This was not in my plans. That happened at least one more time with him before I finally passed him for the last time. I caught a few others and I was surprised how some were really struggling on these hills. Don't get me wrong, some were pretty steep, but I also believe some of these folks had gone out way too fast and hadn't saved anything for these climbs.

Dirty Kiln Elevation Profile
Business In The Front/Party In The Back
I passed another guy who also passed me going downhill. What the heck, was I being a wuss going downhill? I passed him on the next climb and he followed me through some rocky stuff where I saw Todd standing. I think he was there to mark coordinates in case anyone fell off the mountain here. We were up in the air and the view was amazing. Todd asked me how I liked their little mountain, I think he could tell I was loving it. On the next downhill that guy was still with me and I decided to run him off my heels and keep him behind me and gap him more on the climb I could see coming. It worked and he fell off my pace and now I could see my next and final target. There was a young woman ahead of me and I passed her on the climb. I'll be damned if she didn't pass me right away going down the next hill. I worked to hang with her pace and I passed easily on the next climb. I looked at my watch and recognized some terrain so I knew we had to be near the finish so I decided to run away from her too and soon I found the finish line alone. I know the folks I passed had no clue I was playing a little game in my head, but I sure had a blast using them as incentive to push myself on those climbs.

The Hills Behind Me & The Finish Line In Sight

A Dirty Kiln

Surviving the finish without injury, Janice and I decided to look around the park. I told her about the amazing kilns we had seen on the course and said she needed to see them. I sort of knew the direction to go to find them and she had eventually found a park map. Canoe Creek State Park is laced with limestone which was dug up and reduced to Lime for use in the booming iron and steel industries of Pennsylvania. The ruins of two 1900's era lime kilns are still in the park. The kilns we visited had been operated by the Blair Limestone Company between 1891 and 1916 and are still quite intact. These particular kilns produced Lime for Jones & Laughlin Steel. The quarries that produced the Limestone were behind these kilns and up the hill. We didn't go to the quarries, I wasn't real interested in going uphill anymore that day. Looking at the map though, it seems we ran very near them during the race.

Pretty Cool Things To Run Past In A Race

Kilns Viewed From Above

We also couldn't site see too long as we had a very important date after the race. A surprise diaper party was being thrown for Elmo at a nearby restaurant. Elmo and Mikalee (recently Sainted) are expecting a baby girl in May. Ben Mazur had tipped me off to the party and Janice went to work Friday night making a diaper cake for the occasion. We made our way to Marzoni's and found a pretty good sized group of jovial trail runners yucking it up with everyone's favorite Tennessee road-side sleeper Elmo.
Proper Diaper Party Attire
Elmo And 1000 Diapers

Matt Lipsey brought an adult diaper for Elmo to wear, it was a diaper party after all. I was starving, so Nachos, a Jalapeno Popper Bacon Burger and Marzoni's Avalanche IPA satisfied that need. We seemingly overwhelmed the pie-eyed waiter (I blame the Bens - yes there were two), but we survived his inattentiveness and had a good time anyway. It was tough to part company with these nuts, but we had to head back to Harrisburg and besides, I'm sure I'll see them on the trail soon enough.

While the Allegheny Trail Runners I call friends run ultras, it looks like their real skill is putting on awesome events. The Dirty Kiln Trail Races kicks off their year, The Rock'N The Knob Trail Challenge is in September, Sweat For Vets Powerclimb 5K/10K is in November and they have group runs throughout the year. They're focused on fun and quality events and they're good runners too. Check out their website http://www.alleghenytrailrunners.com/ and go run their events!

At the time of writing this, I'm nursing a strained right calf. Out for a routine lunch run, I ran behind a car waiting for traffic to clear, it drifted backwards and I took a terribly awkward step to avoid being hit. That clumsy landing brought a shooting pain up the outside of my right calf muscle and I spent much of that run's remaining three miles walking. Yes I'm running a hundred in just a few days so it's rest, ice, ibuprofen, Arnika cream and compression socks for me. I will rehab, I will be at that start line. See you all after the C&O Canal 100.

Hey look! Bonus stuff!

Check out Ben & Elmo's Brew2Brew 100K Adventure:

Elmo's Blog Post - https://elmosendurance.wordpress.com/2017/04/17/brew2brew100k/
Ben's Blog Post - https://bendivertsthenorm.wordpress.com/


  1. Thanks for the shout out Perry, great read and Yes It's all about the Benjamins.

    1. Hey thanks! I'm sure I'll see you Benjamins on a trail somewhere soon! :-)