SUMMERVILLE — More than 80 runners from the local area, from across Pennsylvania and surrounding states pounded the pavement and tripped along trails during the Baker Trail Ultra Challenge last Saturday.
The torturous 50-mile course, starting in Summerville and ending near Smicksburg, also saw an area man earning the coveted rolling pin award given to those who complete the trail’s three segments over the course of three years.
Award winner Anthony Rosario-Adams, a solo runner from Fairmount City near New Bethlehem, covered the grueling terrain within the allotted 14-hour time limit. He started with the rest of the pack at 6:30 a.m. and crossed the finish line at 5:05 p.m., putting him in 14th place overall.
Two area relay teams also completed the run with good times and in decent shape. Merely finishing the race was a source of satisfaction.
RR-4 Hicks and A Slick’s relay team was made up of Allen Clinger of New Bethlehem, Ryan Shumaker of Distant, Eric Shumaker of Petrolia, Jim Brosius of Fairmount City and John Guzak of Cheswick. The runner completing the final leg of the race arrived at the finish line at 8:02 p.m.
New Bethlehem’s I Thought This Was a 5K relay team was comprised of Mike and Declan Fricko, Jeremy Troup, Tim Irons and Angela Shirey. The final runner crossed the finish line at 3:44 p.m.
Area contestants were busy recuperating for a couple of days following the event and could not be reached for comment. Runners at two checkpoints said that it takes a day or two to find their humanity after a long event before resuming their daily lives. All final times are based on data provided by the Rachel Carson Trails Conservancy.
Miriam Fein, a 37-year-old woman from Long Island, N.Y., who provided insight into the recovery phase, said, “This is my sixth Baker Trail. I am shooting for my second rolling pin.”
Fein completed the course at 3:14 p.m., just a few minutes short of nine hours on the course, and took home her second award.
A newcomer to the event strayed off-course at the beginning of the race, adding two miles to his trek before backtracking to the official route. Reaching the midway point at Mahoning Dam shortly after 1 p.m., he was in good shape but the additional mileage took its toll. He did not finish.
All solo and team runners made the most of aid stations set up at the race’s checkpoints. Saturday was sunny and warm after a cloudy early-morning start. Runners were urged to carry at least two quarts of water with them on the course and took the opportunity to refill their personal hydration backpacks at the stations.
Along with water, the stations offered sports drinks and Coke, the full-sugar and full-calorie kind. Bananas, bread, potatoes and other high-carbohydrate foods stoked runners’ bodies for the next leg of the race.
Participants sometimes sat down for a brief rest and a stretch before resuming their pace. Muttered chants of “no cramping, no cramping” were heard between the downing of salt tablets and sips of water.
Contestants did not run constantly over the course. Many took advantage of flat paved roads to walk when possible, conserving their strength for the more arduous segments. The section between Mahoning Dam and the next aid station along the route was six miles of woodland trail requiring tactical running. This involved avoiding rocks and tree roots while running up hills and thundering down the other side.
Cell phone reception was spotty or nonexistent over most of the course. Members of the Quad County Radio Club, DuBois, and the Fort Armstrong Wireless Association, Kittanning, passed traffic between checkpoints and would have provided emergency communications in case of a medical emergency.
At the end of the day, runners and course workers who did not want to make a long drive home camped at a local farm.
Race organizers and checkpoint volunteers said that the turnout for the event was down from previous years. Despite this, and the absence of a longtime staff member, the 2018 Baker Trail Ultra Challenge was a success. Next year’s challenge will start in the Plumville area and conclude at the trail’s terminus in suburban Pittsburgh.
The Rachel Carson Trails Conservancy is a nonprofit organization caring for several trails in Western Pennsylvania. The 133-mile Baker Trail’s northern terminus is in the Allegheny National Forest in Forest County and ends at the southern terminus across the Allegheny River from Freeport, Armstrong County. The trail is divided into thirds, and each segment is the course for the Ultra Challenge every three years.
Complete data about the race is available online at www.rachelcarsontrails.org/events/ultrachallenge/uc18/splits.