Thursday, June 25, 2009

Smith Sisters Take on the Laurel Highlands

You just can't keep those Smith Sisters still for very long. Not long after running the recent Pittsburgh Marathon together, Mary again ventured down to Pa. recently to run a leg on a relay team with Sister Clare and had a great time. (It just happened to be the weekend the Penguins won the Cup, too, so all the better!). Here's Clare's report:

Our team "This Was Her Idea!" ran a very respectable 13:10 at the 2009 Laurel Highlands Ultra Relay. Bill started us off with leg 1 - 19 miles with 1500 ft elevation gain. It's 1 mile of flat, followed by 7 miles of hills, and then just blood and guts until you get to mile 18, where you know you climb up a rock face with stairs cut into it, to meet your 2nd runner.

Mary ran leg 2 - 13 miles. It's pretty level and run-able. She did it in 2:10, which is blazing fast for the course, I think she passed 25-30 runners, some relay teams and some 70 milers. She passed my friend Joe who had never met her, but knew it was her by the similar appearance to myself. The story is: all he saw was a woosh of pink and felt the breeze go by...

I ran leg 3 - 14 miles of rocks, rhododendrons, and roots, arguably the most technical part of the trail. I fell twice, first landing on a rock bigger than me and the second time on some thorns where I mysteriously punctured my hand and looked like I had been crucified by the time I finished.

Keri ran leg 4 - ~11 miles. She had some rocks, roots, and hills, but a nice leg. She was our trail running novice and did great!!

Dave ran the 5th and final leg - 14 miles. Fairly flat with the last 2 miles being down hill. He ran it about 45 minutes faster than he had anticipated, so he ran a great race and was really pumped. We were waiting for him at the finish and he popped out smiling and on cloud 9.

We were happy to have Mary agree to such an adventure, she only knew me going into this and was the only one of us who had never run this trail. She only got a 15 minute crash course on it's terrain and markings while we waited for Bill at the first exchange zone.

The race is extremely well run and supported, there are aid stations at least every 10-15 miles, usually less, pretty impressive when you realize it is literally through the middle of nowhere. The trail runs 70 miles along the Laurel Ridge in Western PA, covering 4, maybe 5 counties. Any and all NETTers are welcome to come down for the relay, 50K, or 70 mile adventure. I'd be happy to put people up in my home."

Oh, I think Clare will live to regret that invitation!

Sister Mary adds:

"Our team ran really well (I think we were the 5th team out of 21)...which is good considering that the women ran as fast as the men on the team. The trail was very technical & you constantly had to look down at the terrain (ranging from rock beds, over grown mountain laurel, between rock faces, & the usual rocks, mud, & roots) and then look up for the rectangular yellow trail markers. I'd say the whole trail was comparable to the more technical parts of the Blue Hills. I can't believe that people ran the entire 70 miles and it turned my stomach to see what the ultra runners were eating (I think the Boost mixed with Coke was the worst combination).

We were a team of 5 - Bill, Me, Clare, Carrie, & Dave (3 of which I had never met before), so when I finished my leg & looked around I had to assume that my teammate was with the guy who had been standing by Clare (as she waited for me to finish). So I finished my 13+ mile leg, told Clare good luck & then got to feast on the impressive spread set up at the check points (impressive because it was off a dirt path, in the middle of nowhere!!)

I waited around to see Clare finish her 14 miles (bloody hand and all - she was bleeding on her hand, but wasn't really sure why)."

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