By: Jason Kelly
After dropping out of my first 50 miler (Bear Mountain) due to injury I wanted to find another one within the year. After waiting for my foot to heal, I signed up for the Baker Trail Ultra 50 Miler. This is a great race series, over three years the race covers the entire 150 mile Baker Trail in western PA, this years race was on the southern section of the trail. Each year the finishers get a different medal, and once you have completed all three sections the three medals fit together into one big medal.
My sister and I drove up on Friday night to camp out at the farm which is the finish line for the race. When we got there, there where about 50 tents set up and it was a very convivial scene, people hanging out laughing and joking with each other, many folks who had run at least one section of the trail in past years, everyone really friendly. The hosts of the race opened their house and barn and field to everyone.
In the morning I got up at about 4:00 am for race check in, and to catch the bus to the start line. The temperature was in the low 50’s perfect for a long day on my feet. When we got to the start our race chips where scanned and at 6:30 the race started. In the first few miles the packs were starting to sort themselves out, I had decided on a pace that would give me about a 10 hour finish time and so as we ran I hooked up with a group of runners who had all done many ultras, everyone was fantastically friendly, and we spent the first 20 miles trotting along and chatting. Around mile 4 there was a rope climb up a vertical rock wall! And after the first aide station there was a very steep 60′ descent and ascent into and out of a ravine, in several places the trail was so steep that I had to scramble up hanging on to roots and tree limbs. This is a very hilly course and the road sections where often very steep ups and downs.
The aide stations were fantastic, buckets of boiled potatoes, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, peanuts, lays potato chips, oranges, watermelon,salt and of course water and gatorade, perfect stuff for a long run. The volunteers were amazing greeting runners by name as we came in filling water bottles and just being friendly and helpful.
Over the first 20 miles the pack I was running with kept bumping into the lead group, as they repeatedly got lost and had to get back on course. When we were speaking with these runners they thought that by that point they had run an extra 6 or 8 miles, thankfully I only got off course a couple of times and only for a few minutes each time.
By Mile 30 many of the leaders had either dropped out altogether or where walking a lot because of the extra miles they had put in, and because of the heat which by this point had climbed into the 80’s. This section also had a lot of unshaded roads so hydration was critical, i was drinking about 30 ozs of liquid between aide stations.
At mile 40 I picked up a pacer (my dad drove down to surprise me for my birthday and pace me in the last 10). I was beginning to get tired by this point, the hills early on had trashed my quads and calves, and running was becoming increasingly difficult. In the last ten miles I slowed down a lot, thankfully my Dad is an old ultrarunner with a ton of experience and he set a solid run walk rhythm that kept me going through to the end. The last quarter mile involved jumping up a 2 foot embankment to climb a grassy field and then descend to the finish at the farm.
In the end I finished in 9 hours 41 minutes (11:37.2 Pace per mile), came in 7th overall, and was the 1st masters male.