YES Endurance Series- Pittsburgh Wild Trail Half- April 2016

The YES Endurance series prides themselves on their tough courses.  Races are usually held on ski slopes out of season for maximum elevation change.  I am not a fan of trail races but this race was 30 minutes away from where I was staying for a meeting so I had to do it.

The race is held in a ski area in Boyce Park.  A 5k and 10K are held on the same day as the half.  The park is easy to get to from the highway but finding the start was difficult.  There weren’t any signs telling people where to park or how to get to the start line.  After driving around in circles and following anyone with a 13.1 sticker on the back of their car, I finally made it to the start with just a few minutes to spare.  We had a pretty weak winter this year so the weather was perfect for the race.  No jacket or gloves required and a nice dry course since there had been no recent rain or snow.  Unfortunately, even in ideal conditions, the rocky, root-filled course was still very difficult.

My biggest fear in trail races is falling.  Luckily I managed to fall during the first mile of the race.  It was nice to get it out-of-the-way early.  Even though there were runners all around me, no one stopped to ask if I was okay or to help me up.  I got up pretty quickly so it was obvious that I wasn’t hurt but still, someone could have stopped.  I should have taken this as a sign of things to come.

The first half of the course was well-marked.  There were friendly volunteers at every aid station and plenty of Gatorade and water for all runners.  Aid stations were about every 2-3 miles.  When I ran further than that and didn’t encounter an aid station, I knew I had strayed from the path.  The course was marked with yellow flags.  Gas lines were also marked out with yellow flags.  Somewhere along the way I lost the course and was running a random pattern.

I worked my way towards the road and ran along it until I picked up a path again.  I ran into a runner going the other way and asked her what mile she was at.  Her GPS had her at 6.5 and mine was at 8.5.  I hoped that I had just missed the turnaround and kept running.  I ran ahead and some how lost my way again.  So I once again ran back to a road and hopped on the path.  After about a mile I hit an aid station.  I was so happy to be back on the right track that I kicked up my pace.  This was short lived since my quads were burning from the steep hill climbs.

I walked/ran the last few miles and immediately laid in the grass after crossing the finish.  My GPS had my total mileage at 14.3.  The woman who finished after me had only run 12.5.  Like me, she had gotten lost on the course and once she was sure she was back on the path she had no intention of running any extra.  She felt guilty for about a minute and then I reminded her that the course wasn’t well-marked and there were probably going to be a lot of people over/under distance.  Our two finishes combined to equal 2x 13.1 so it worked out.

The post race was great.  Each finisher received a carved wood medal.  The food was great and there was a huge variety of snacks.  The race director had warned that awards would not be handed out until 3 hours after the half start.  Of course most of the 5 and 10K winners had left by then so there were a lot of prizes up for grabs.  The race director called out random numbers.  If you were there, you got to pick any item off the prize table.  From what I saw, almost everyone won something.  How great to be an average to back of the pack half marathon runner and end up getting a great participation prize.  I picked a great performance bike top that retailed for $65.  I saw other people get performance tops, shorts, jackets and shoes.

Great post-race, cheap registration price but you will pay for it with the tough course.  You may run anywhere from 12-14 miles.  You will be sore for a couple of days after the race but will likely look back on it as a pretty good experience overall.








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