By Linda Wack
(Photos by the author except for shot of Second Mountain by Anstr Davidson)
The Buzzards Marathon was NOT held on the lovely trails outside of Harrisburg, PA on March 6. Event Director Harry Smith was completely surprised to see runners in the parking lot, but told us that since we were there, we should just go out and run. But if we got caught, we should not mention his name. In fact, he told us that if anyone official asked us who organized the run, and especially the party, we should tell them ‘Joe Clapper’ (that’s C-L-A-P-P-E-R, Ociffer). Of course, since he left, we’ve been routinely telling law enforcement that Chris Scott organizes all illegal parking lot parties, but he ruined our plan by showing up for Buzzards. It’s more fun to pick on someone who isn’t there.
Yeah, so we knew there would be snow. And we came anyway! The snow-slogging is underway. We quickly break into a walk on the first hill, but once on top of Second Mountain, with a wide expanse of snowy trail ahead, it is time to pick up some speed. You could almost ski down, taking big sliding steps and the trail was beaten down just enough that it is a blast charging the descent. Way fun!
There is a new stretch of course just a few miles in, as we detoured around the wobbly cable bridge, which is now just a memory. Is it just me, or did it seem like the detour was 10 miles long? Over soft snow, about 7 inches deep. Gary, Brian McNeill and I run like we’d had Knob Creek for breakfast, staggering right and left trying to maintain footing, and using lots of energy to make forward progress. It is starting to look like a very long day, indeed. But hey, what’s a little staggering among friends. We continue on, and eventually find ourselves starting up the blue trail.
The snow is hard packed and even melted a bit in places. Up and up, yeah, they like their hills in this part of the country. But the footing is better, it is warming up, and life is looking good. Lovely, snow-blasting descents, chilly snow-slogging on the soft flat trails, and challenging climbs are the order of the day.
The AT section is soooo much better than last year. The rocks are all buried, what a fabulous idea, Harry! Please do it again next year. In fact, who do I write to about requesting snow-making equipment for this part of the trail for those lean-snow years? Slip-sliding all the way down the trail in the soft, deep snow. There is at least a foot here, and this is where the fast people are punished by having to mash down the trail for the rest of us. They were a bit haphazard at the beginning, but finally got the drill down by halfway, realizing that single file was the way to go rather than leaving random footprints along the trail. Thanks, y’all.
The fourth climb is just wicked. Steep, and then steeper. And the snow piling up again. Listening to the guys behind me, wondering how they can talk. Then they get real quiet, with only the occasional burst of conversation. I’m sure they were cussing out Harry. I hate to complain about an RD, but I think he forgot to shovel this hill. Finally I crest the top, ready to plant a flag or something. But instead I simply check to make sure that my heart hasn’t burst or anything else that might make it inconvenient to finish. Nope, everything in working order for that nice blast downhill to the icebath.
Now did anyone believe that lame story about Hurricane Ivan? You know that Harry dismantled the cable bridge just to make us wade across the snow-fed creek. And damn cold it is, with the water level being high enough that my quads should be thanking me for the dip. But woohoo, just one more hill.
The notorious Second Mountain, a straight shot up, which you are forced to contemplate in its entirety. Don’t you think we should take up a collection for the poor Buzzards and buy them some switchbacks? I’m sure if we looked on Ebay we could find someone selling switchbacks along with the tortillas that resemble the Virgin Mary. But I gotta say, as much as I gritted my teeth crossing the creek, my legs feel so much better on that last climb. Up and over and one last blissful snow-covered descent.
No one was having fun in the parking lot at all. Really. The Honey Licorice Porter that was not consumed there was quite tasty. The Buzzards can be counted on for great homebrews. I guess the switchback money was diverted to brewing equipment. Not a bad trade, now that I think about it.