Laurel Highlands Ultra
Oh boy. Tomorrow is the Laurel Highlands Ultra. Last fall when I pondered my ’07 racing schedule, I had hope for LHU to be a focus race, if not THE focus race for the year. Not so much anymore. Tomorrow, I go out to finish. I will not drop out. It won’t be pretty, but I want to make it to the finish line.
Five years ago, Laurel was my first “long” ultra at 70.5 miles having run my first ultra, Horton’s Promise Land 50k, only five weeks earlier. I loved the course and have longed to return, but for the past three years Western States has kept me away.
I have a primary objective and two secondary objective tomorrow. I’ve already shared the primary goal – make it entire length of the Laurel Highlands Trail under my own power within 22 hours. My secondary objectives are very closely related. The first is to finish within the total time of daylight tomorrow in Ohiopyle, PA – 14 hours and 55 minutes. 14:55 also just happens to be the time inscribed on the 2002 LHU obelisk I have sitting three feet away on the corner of my desk. Quite serendipitous, no? If I’m only the course less time than the sun will be up tomorrow, I’ll also set my personal best on the course. Alternately, I’d like to make it by sundown. As the race starts at 5:30 and official sun up is about 20 minutes later, the goal gives me a little more time, but not much.
It will be interesting to see whether years of ultra experience will out weigh how much worse shape I am in now than when I toed the line five years ago. I do think that I’m capable of breaking 14:55:06. I had a mighty long walking stretch from mile 50 to 55 last go round and went out so conservatively that I was well over an hour slower over the first section of the course than the leaders. My plan is still to go out slowly, take good care of myself, and hope to maintain the ability to run throughout the entirety of the day. Luckily, the weather forecast has moderated greatly over the past week and today’s ridiculous heat, which was originally forecast for tomorrow, will move out in favor of a high of 75F, light winds, and low humidity. It’ll surely still be muggy under the Highlands’ thick canopy, but it could be sooo much worse.
Anyways, I’m looking forward to a daytime’s worth of running on what are some of the most beautiful, most runnable trails I’ve seen out east. It will also be nice to face finishing as a challenge once again – finishing is no done deal with my current lack of endurance. As a bonus, my sister and her husband, Jon, will be coming out to join me. They’ll be crewing for me and visiting his parents who live in nearby Latrobe.