Nelson Chicks the Field at Holy Cowan's Gap 50km
Report by Alisa Springman, Co-RD
The course this year was shorter but tougher. Garmin watches measured the course between 31.25 and 31.45 miles, so this is an honest 50k now. We'll remove the ++.
Early morning fog and haze gave way to great views of the valley for those willing to endure the steep vertical climbs that are a hallmark of Pennsylvania trails. Seven aid stations and numerous generous volunteers kept runners well fed and hydrated for the adventure.
Though the race directors made every effort to mark the course clearly, a critical turn was sabotaged, but most runners were able to get back on course quickly. The "redirection" allowed some racers to enjoy native PA wildlife in the form of rattlesnakes.
Congratulations to our overall winner and 1st female, Martha Nelson with a stunning victory in 6:11. Clearly her marathon talent translates well to tough, technical ultras. Keith Knipling was 2nd overall and 1st male in 6:15 -- not too shabby for only planning to run half the course after a two week stretch including MMT100 and Kerry's Death March.
Ryan Henry stayed with Martha and Keith for much of the race, but fell off the pace in the north loop and finished 3rd overall, 2nd male in 7:37. Despite stomach issues, Michaele Rayburn finished as 2nd woman in 7:39 and looked just as fresh at the finish as she did at the start.
Sue and I would like to thank all the volunteers who came out to make the day a success. We could not have done it without your help. I hope that more VHTRC members will consider joining us next year when we alternate the course direction and begin the race with the now infamous north loop.
Special congratulations to Ed Walsh who completed his first ultra on Sunday. Sincere thanks to the VHTRC for underwriting the event and allowing us to work with the Buchanan State Forest and Cowan's Gap State Park to make the event happen.