The word is supposed to refer to a lengthy, narrative poem such as “Beowulf,” the “Iliad,” or the “Odyssey.” Not anymore. It’s “the most overused word ever, next to fail,” says the ever sagacious Urban Dictionary. “Everything is e*** now. E*** car. E*** haircut. E*** movie. E*** album.”
I’ll admit there were moments this past weekend when “e***” escaped my lips. I mean, if there was ever a time to write long, long, long poems about my life it would be after finishing one of the toughest 25Ks I think I’ll ever see, right?
*pause to let the laughter die down*
Why the focus on “e***”? Over the years, I’ve run a variety of races, from 5Ks and 10Ks to half and full marathon distance. Off road, I’ve competed in a medium distance trail race and racked up who knows how many trail miles.
I’ll say this unequivocally: the Hyner View Trail Challenge was the best destination race experience I’ve ever had.
But perhaps I should have known it would be when Mapquest stubbornly insisted on changing the Eagle’s Nest Tavern to the Fraternal Order of Eagles.
What made it great?
The Fraternal Order of Eagles aside, it was actually fairly easy to find because, well, because there’s literally one road to get there. If you find the road, you’re golden.
Interstate 80 through central Pennsylvania is already remote – for an interstate. When we turned off toward Lock Haven and headed for the hills, there was a beat of silence and then S said, “I think we’re definitely in the middle of nowhere.”
(Which is really funny, considering we both already live in the middle of nowhere.)
Hyner is a winding 20 miles outside of Lock Haven. We drove all of it behind a slow semi truck. That was fun … but it gave us a lot of time to enjoy the Susquehanna River, which parallels the road the whole way.
I’ve had a gamut of experiences with race registrations, so we purposely arrived as close to the beginning of registration on Friday as possible. It also gave us a lot of time to relax, check out the area and set up our tent.
Because we almost missed the registration location.
I’m not entirely sure how this building is a tavern.
There was no sign. No identification at all. Fortunately, there was a large “Hyner Challenge” sign near the road. The Hyner View summit (part of the course) towered over the area, as you can see from the next photo. No pressure. No pressure at all.
I love it. Especially when I’m trying to save a lot of money. It was $20! Twenty dollars!
For that, we could have camped from Friday evening through the weekend and we got a pizza dinner Friday, continental breakfast Saturday and access to showers (they were supposed to be hot … more like lukewarm … but I’ll take it).
We were literally at the starting/finish line at the Western Clinton Sportsmen Association. Which leads me to the best part.
S and I laughed every time we walked past the pavilion. The sheer number of shell casings jingled so loud it sounded like we were in a Western flick, wearing roweled spurs, walking bow-legged and bellying up to the bar for a cold one.
So, beautiful scenery. Camping on a shooting range.
What about the race?
It says something when the director’s message specifically seeks to deter “recreational”/untrained runners.
This is not an easy 25K – with 4,223 feet in elevation gain, I didn’t expect it to be. I’m a bit of a masochist anyway. But I found the race’s course descriptions and elevation charts so helpful.
For a full account of the race experience, click here.
The Challenge was already memorable. But the incredible staff and volunteers, the well-stocked swag bag and other perks completely sealed it.
Each fueling station was – wait for it – in the middle of nowhere. But each was manned by a lot of volunteers and other people cheering the runners on. The stations themselves were well-stocked.
A SHEETZ TRUCK?!?! Giving away FREE drinks?!?!
When I finished the Pittsburgh Marathon, they gave me a bagel.
When I finished the Hyner View Trail Challenge, I got a free frozen latte, hot dog, Powerade and my pick of a table full of homemade desserts – I chose a double chocolate cupcake.
I could have also gotten free barbecue chicken with baked beans and potato salad and free locally brewed beer if I’d wanted. The other food did the trick though, and I figured I shouldn’t push my luck.
(I exaggerate a little about the bagel, but it wasn’t far from the truth …)
Remember another of perk of camping?
We indulged in that too.
Now, not to harp too much on the Pittsburgh Marathon, but another thing I’ll never forget is how they didn’t seem to be prepared for all of the runners.
I don’t need a lot of swag, but what annoyed me was the fact that even though I’d arrived at registration well within the time period, I didn’t get much of anything – by then they had even run out of the marathon logo string bags.
This was after I’d registered four months earlier.
No such problem with this race. There was a variety of items (some pictured below) useful for someone who was going to run more than 16 or 32 miles through the wild. Their tech shirt was a good quality, and it was the right size – two things you don’t always find with race shirts.