A-100: Third Time is a Charm!!!

100 miles in 47 hours!!!

from PA North Country Trail Association

from PA North Country Trail Association: Dave Huffman in red shirt by sign

After two unsuccessful attempts at hiking 100 miles in under 50 hours I was determined more than ever to finish the A-100 this year.

On the afternoon of June 10th I traveled down to the North Country Trail head near Marienville, PA with Chris LeForce and Dave Huffman. Chris and Dave had come in the previous evening from Vermont. We were bound and determined to make our way to the NYS border near Willow Bay. Of course we weren’t the only daring souls that were intending to make it to Willow Bay. This year 113 of the 134 individuals who registered showed up to try to hike 25, 50, 75 or 100 miles in 50 hours or less.

2016 Results:

Mileage Paticipatnts Finishers
25 15 19
50 38 52
75 17 4
100 64 25

The Start Evening:

After some formalities from the 2016 chair Jeff Manelick and a group photo, the 100 milers all assembled at the trail head eager and full of excitement.

As the hounds (hikers) were released it became very obvious which hikers were going unsupported compared to those that were fully supported or self supported. The intention of the A-100 is for hikers to complete their chosen length in under 50 hours without being supported.

Let me explain the difference here.

  • Unsupported hikers carry all their food, gear and water for the entire length of their trip. To be unsupported means that you are not accepting handouts or trail magic.
  • Fully Supported is Scott Jurek and his record setting time on the Appalachian Trail last year. Scott could count on the help from his crew at each road crossing. He only needed to carry water and snacks and resupplied at toad crossings. Over the past several years I have witnessed hikers sleeping in the family minivan, on blowup beds and being handed food and water at road crossings.
  • Self-supporting your hike is done by caching food and water near road crossings. This year 6 miles into the challenge one hiker arrived at the road and blurted out to his hiking partner, “Do you need water?”. He promptly ran across the road and pulled a gallon jug of water out of the weeds.

I can hear some of you muttering this under your breath, “Hike Your Own Hike“. I completely agree with that statement, but I do not agree with claiming that you have done something that you haven’t.

Friday evening weather was perfect and we made great time passing hikers and being passed ourselves. The condition of the trail was exceptional compared to the previous two years and the miles went by quickly. As night-time approached the trail began to take on a whole new atmosphere and the hike began to feel like you are inside of a black tunnel. Negotiating terrain at night becomes a challenge and your pace begins to slow. Patience, persistence, water and calories are key to keep yourself moving forward. Tripping on roots and rocks was more of a rule than the exception throughout the evening.

At about 4:30 am we made it to a shelter for our extended rest period of approximately 2 hours. There were lifeless bodies strewn about the area and we ended up sleeping up above the shelter in a stand of trees. A quick change into dry clothes, took in some food and water and it was time for some sleep. With low humidity, sleep came much easier this year.

Start: 5:32 pm
Finish:  4:26 am
Time Duration: 10:54’02.0

Elevation Ascent: 3563 ft

Distance: about 31 miles

Saturday:

Saturday’s hike started by 7:30 am and I was anxious to start pounding out the miles. Almost three hours of sleep and fueled up I was ready to roll. I knew Saturday was an important day to pound the mileage out. I knew in the back of my mind that if I didn’t get near the 75 mile mark by the time I slept that finishing was potentially going to be out of my reach. I bolted out before the others, stopped for a nature call and transfixed my mind on the day.

Much to my surprise my feet and legs weren’t bothering me like last year. I fully expected to be sore and fatigued, but that wasn’t the case this year. I know full well that my neck surgery has left me feeling physically better than I have in years. The fact that I didn’t have any issues at this point set the tone for the rest of the challenge.

A-100 50

from Allegheny National Forest Chapter of the North Country Trail Association

The heat of the day was certainly a factor and I stopped to get water and fuel up quite often throughout the day.

At mile 50 we stopped briefly for a photo and moved on dreading the upcoming hill climb. We pushed through to Cherry Run 3.5 miles past the 50 mile mark and took an hour siesta.

At this point Chris called it a day. The hike just wasn’t enjoyable for him at this point. Dave and I decided to move on with the goal of making it to the 75 mile mark before our rest.

After our Cherry Run siesta we made great time and I was feeling confident that we could reach our goal mileage. But as the miles continued it was obvious that my legs were tiring and my feet were beginning to blister. I had changed my shoes out with another pair I was carrying, but I neglected to tend to a couple hot spots. The blisters that were forming weren’t slowing me down but I knew that there was a chance they could be an issue.

As we walked into darkness my lazy, fatigued legs were causing me to stub my toes on the rocks. In PA there are Rock Gnomes that come out in the evenings to sharpen the rocks to try to screw with you.

About 10:30 pm we were treated with the most unexpected kind of trail magic, not food or drinks as you would expect. As we came up on a road crossing around mile 65, Anne and Chris were by the road greeting us with words of support.  Heck, we only had 35 miles left! We can do this!!! What a great boost and surprise!

After a short visit we pushed on and blew out some more miles before Dave mentioned that getting to 70 would be a pretty good goal. It was getting late and we had been hiking for 14+ hours. Hey, a 40 mile day isn’t that bad. Our pace had slowed and we were tired. Was it really worth pushing on the extra 5 miles if I got hurt? NO! I am hard headed and would have pushed on and probably hurt myself in the process. I was physically fatigued and careless on a rocky trail and twisting my ankle was a certainty. I need to thank Dave for the suggestion.  Thanks DAVE!

Just past the 70 mile mark we made our camp. Making camp entailed stumbling off the trail several feet and sleeping. A quick change of clothing and I was ready to sleep. My sleep was not what I wanted. My chosen spot under a hemlock was littered with roots and I was too tired to move to a better spot. At some point I awoke from my slumber and ate a few thousand calories and slugged down a liter of water.

06/11/2016

Start: 07:39 am
Finish:  1:34 am
Time Duration: 17:55’46.1

Elevation Ascent: 4800 ft
Distance: about 40
Sunday:
After a long 4-5 hour rest it was time to push on to the finish. Our sleep break was much longer than most people who finished and we were passed as we slept alongside the trail. Being passed was of no concern because my objective was to finish 100 miles in under 50 hours. I was less concerned about being number 1 to finish.
As I packed up my gear I was excited with the thought that the finish line was within my reach. My excitement changed to frustration quickly. I left Dave as he was still getting packed. To his credit, I think that he only repacked a couple of time before he hit the trail. Back to the frustration! I could not get into my hiking groove. I tried music, swearing, eating, changing my music, more swearing, but nothing worked. Finally just accepted that today was one of those days that I would need to will myself along.
During the day it was apparent just how tired my body was becoming. Breaks became shorter and shorter as the day progressed. The longer I stopped the harder it was to get moving again. So lots of short breaks and trying to keep a consistent pace was key to my success.
With 10 miles left we hit a section of trail that is the point of no return.  There are no points that you can bail if you decided to quit or get hurt. There are no roads and you are fully committed to finishing the trail. With about 4 miles left we crossed paths with a hiker who cheered us on for completing the 100. This gave me a big boost of energy and confidence. Wow, I am really going to finish this year!!! We were in reach of our goal and had pushed hard to get here. As the finish got closer we could hear the road and knew that this was the end. Just before the last trail register we could see and hear people along the road waiting for the finishers.
Hiking the last few hundred yards of the trail, we were able to see Chris, Anne and our friend Kirk waiting by the truck cheering us on. As we walked the last few hundred yards we were cheered on by friends, hikers and bystanders all acknowledging the feat we had just accomplished. Drinks, food and comradery abound as we reveled in the achievement.
06/12/2016
Start: 06:16 am
Finish: 5:00 pm
Time Duration:   10:44
Elevation:  3593+ ft
Distance: about 29

Overall the hike was an amazing experience. The ability to push through pain and fatigue is at times difficult, but a necessity to finish. Success of the A-100 challenge is different for each person. Whether you hike 25 or 100, being part of the challenge and pushing yourself is admirable. Congrats to all that reached their goals.

IMG_1872

Dave and Chris enjoy a short break in the heat of the day.

 

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3 thoughts on “A-100: Third Time is a Charm!!!

  1. Congrats on completing the A-100 and thanks for sharing your thoughts on the experience. I just started looking into the event and am excited about it. I’m assuming (dangerous I know) that it starts on a Friday evening and runs into Sunday. Is that correct?

    Also, do you know of any other similar events? I’ve been looking, but outside of the Rachel Carson Challenge, everything that I find is ultra marathons for runners, and I’m much more interesting in a hiking event. Thanks and have a great day.

    Like

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