Sunday, March 18, 2012

Death of the Buzzards

Sunday March 11, 2012 was a beautiful day for a run.  Why not just head out the door for an easy 26 mile trail run over mountains, through creeks, watching for rocks? So I did.  But there is more than to it than just deciding to go out and run 26 random miles.  Let me go back before I can go forward…

In October 2011 I stumbled upon an odd part of a running club’s website.  I was visiting the Lancaster Road Runner’s website and saw the word “Buzzards” in the lower right corner.  I clicked on the link and discovered the world of the Buzzards Trail Marathon.  I am always looking for new races and so I continued to look for details on where this race was.  To my wonderful surprise, I discovered it was located in Dauphin County.  This “non-event” has taken place since 1998 on trails north of Harrisburg every March.  Why had I never discovered this before? By the description it looked awesome.  Various people had written race reports and posted on the website and by the descriptions, this was some tough trail.  I just had to check it out…

Later that weekend I somehow found the time and searched for the DCNR parking lot that led to this set of trails.  I found it and suddenly felt a sense of giddiness (similar to a child walking upon the Christmas tree first thing Christmas morning with all the glittering gifts under the tree).  So I broke out the description and a map and was on my way.  I made it up and over the first ridge and had a good view of the second mountain (which is actually called third mountain – sorry for the confusion).  I didn’t have a lot of time so I just considered this run a “scouting run”.  By the end I think I did about 7 miles and saw enough to be sold on these trails.  I didn’t set out on those trails again for a couple of months – mainly because of hunting season.  This area is a state game lands area.  I was able to get out on Jan. 2nd for a long run.  I did what is known as the “baby buzzard” which is a 16 mile loop that includes three large climbs and a creek crossing.  Due to making sure I was going the right way and checking things out, it took me 4 hours.  I think I may have added a mile or two to what is known as the baby buzzard.  But it was fun discovering new trails.  I went out a few more times to make sure I knew the entire course before I tackled it in March.

Fast Forward to March 2012 – I was excited to do a long trail event close to home and especially one that would cost nothing.  I wanted to do this to get ready for Hyner 50k but also because this is truly a tough course – and in my own back yard.  So early on a Sunday morning, I set out to the start of the event.  Rumors were flying that this event wasn’t happening due to the DCNR having a fit about an “organized” event.  From what I saw on the website, there is nothing organized about this.  But apparently the DCNR was serious this year about enforcing this rule.  I arrived at the parking area to basically see a few runners who all left in different groups or alone.  There might have been 15 in all – no race director from the past and from what I could figure out – not too many people who have done the Buzzards before.  So it was – the death of the Buzzards Trail Marathon.  But I, and the others, still ran it. 

I started out and felt good climbing up the first of five big climbs, started running over the other side.  Essentially I was by myself for the next few miles – didn’t see a living thing until I hit the rail trail and thought I saw the group of 4 guys that started 15 minutes ahead of me.  They looked to be a half to a mile down the trail.  Knowing that they probably would be turning soon to head up the water tank trail, I gained come confidence and set out to catch them.  I trudged my way up the water tank trail (1000ft in one mile with most of that in the second half of the climb).  I made it to the top and started running again.  Looking at my watch I was right where I wanted to be (1:45 and through 7ish miles).  Now I was on a jeep trail – good running.  I neared the turned off the jeep trail and thought I heard talking.  Voices in my head? No.  I am sure if was the group of 4 guys but I had not been able to spot them.  I made my way up the third climb (relatively small in comparison to the others but I still walked it).  Soon I hit the famous Appalachian Trail.  This portion, although having a net decline, was tough running due to the rocks.  I encountered a few hikers which I was not surprised at – at this point the sun was out and it was warming up quick.  Towards the end of the AT section – I saw them! I caught up to the “four horsemen”.  I actually passed them (only because they had stopped to look at a map).  They passed me back and for the rest of the course, I was not far from them.  We started up the other side of the Water Tank Trail and I was really feeling rough for the first time that day.  I made my way up the mountain slowly.  At the top I trudged along for a bit even though I knew it was a nice jeep road again and would make its way down the mountain.  My legs were getting heavy and the rising temps were getting to me (note the temperature at the start was 30 deg. and by noon was up to mid 50’s).  I got down the mountain and knew I was close to crossing the creek.  I had seen the four horsemen round the corner coming down the mountain but then lost them.  I entered onto the rail trail and saw a runner up ahead but he wasn’t running.  I entered into the woods again to soon cross the creek, the other runner followed behind me as he had been a bit lost.  This point in the written directions for the course state to cross the creek and then “find the trail” going up the mountain.  So this other runner followed me and we made our way through a muddy section and then when things cleared up, he took off.  Thanks for the company!! Anyway, we faced the last climb of the day and it was a straight shot up the trail so you could see up most of the way.  To my surprise I could not see the four horsemen.  I truly was trudging along and ¾ of the way up, they passed me.  Huh? How did that happen? They must have crossed the creek further up.  But they passed me and I had no gas left whatsoever.  I blame it on poor refueling.  I made my way down the other side and finished the mile.  Funny thing is three of the four horsemen took a wrong turn before the end and the fourth, after finishing, came back to find them.  In the end, clock read 6 hours on the nose.  All in all – good run, felt very drained, legs were dead, energy low.  That’s what I like. 
 Buzzards may be dead but I’ll be back on these trails – soon!

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like you had a good run regardless! What a shame to have to end such a legendary run. We plan on heading out in the coming weeks to run the course.