Thursday, September 13, 2012

RAAoT Final Wrap-up - Part 10 (Days 71-80)

I fully expect this post to be the last post for the Run Across America on Trail. Thanks for reading.

Finally, an additional thanks to everyone who crewed for Jen, Justin, Marty, and I during the course of the Run!!!

Day 71 - 0 miles of road, 44 miles of trail
I really looked forward to reaching the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) - - since that meant five straight days of running on trail! At mile 30 another runner joined Jen and I for a bit who asked a number of questions about the Run which helped to pass the time on the trail. We finished the day literally at the end of the road south of Connellsville. There is only one road in or out to the finish location and workers were conducting some construction at the entrance to the road. We only experienced a construction delay, but one had to wonder would there be an issue the next morning getting back to the start point? For only the second time on the Run we spent a night at a home vice hotel. Retired Navy buddy Dave and Jane Gates treated us to a fantastic dinner and place to stay. Dave and Jane's unbelievable and unparalleled hospitality was greatly appreciated!!!

Day 72 - 0 miles of road, 38 miles of trail
Day 72 was planned to be 44 miles, but a huge thunderstorm hit us at mile 33 and actually froze us to the bone for a few miles - in the middle of summer no less - so we stopped at the next road crossing in Markleton a good hour after being hit by the storm. It was tough to stop early knowing that the next day would be 48 instead of 42 miles, but it was the correct decision to make. The day was a quick one as John rode my bike and muled food and water for Jen and I the first 23 miles of the day as there was just one road crossing in this long stretch trail. The lone road crossing was at the scenic tourist town of Ohiopyle which is the start location for the Laurel Highlands Trail races - the main race being the one which covers the entire length of the Laurel Highlands Trail - 70.5 miles. If you are looking for a challenging and fantastic race in PA keep the Laurel Highlands race ( in mind. This day did start with a little trepidation however. When we reached the road to our start point there was the dreaded orange "Road Closed" sign at the end of the road two miles from the trail. Well, my dad just drove past the sign and John followed. I am not sure the construction workers were too happy with us, but there were no barrier stopping us from driving on the road. At the start Jen, John (on bike) and I hit the trail not knowing if my parents would be able to drive back through the construction zone to provide aid to us later. Thankfully it was not a problem to "escape" the construction zone. At the end of the day we said our goodbyes to John with the hope of seeing him at the finish. Later that night Jen's parents Peter and Eileen Bradley arrived. It was great to meet Pete and Eileen who commenced crewing duties just hours later.

Day 73 - 0 miles of road, 48 miles of trail
Jen wrote in her blog, "Today was a really great day." I wrote, "WOW - a super day!!!" I wrote that day 14 was "probably the best day of the Run - at least for me", but day 73 was just as fantastic. Great weather - the best weather day in weeks. We both ran well - assisted by the weather of course. We ran over the 1908 foot long Salisbury Viaduct - taking in super views a hundred feet above the Casselman River Valley. A few miles later we ran over the Bollman Truss Bridge - one of the two remaining cast-iron truss bridges in North America. Another mile later we ran over the Keystone Viaduct (trestle). Pete (cycling) and Eileen (running) joined Jen and I for an eight mile section of trail starting from the Eastern Continental Divide. This scenic section of trail passed through the 3294.6 foot long Big Savage Tunnel and then crossed the Mason-Dixon Line (the Pennsylvania-Maryland border for anyone who might not know). It was great to have Pete (muling food and water for us) and Eileen join Jen and I on this section of trail! We saw a rattlesnake, and six miles later we saw a beaver-like small animal that didn't run away from us when we walked up to this most likely older animal. This animal encounter is one of the best animal encounters I have ever experienced. The GAP is one of the best trails out there!!! Puccini Hometown Grille ( was the dinner location for the night in Cumberland. This Italian food restaurant is absolutely superb! The pizza and spaghetti are absolutely delicious!

Day 74 - 0 miles of road, 45 miles of trail
Another great day, but once again the left foot was flapping at the start of the day. After running the last mile on the GAP we transitioned to the Chesapeake and Ohio (C&O) Canal Towpath in downtown Cumberland. Pete cycled 19 miles with Jen and I and Eileen ran six miles with us. We ran through the 3118 foot long Paw Paw Tunnel, the only the tunnel on the C&O Canal and the only tunnel that required use of a flashlight or torch. We finished the day in the middle of nowhere at Little Orleans, MD, but just because we finished in the middle of nowhere doesn't mean there weren't any people around. Yes, this August Saturday was one of the days of the Sturgis East Coast MotorCycle Rally ( I had no idea there was a Sturgis East - nor did I know that a motorcycle rally would be held at Little Orleans the same time we were to arrive. No issue except that our departure from the finish point back to the hotel was a little slower than it would have been. Also, that night close to the hotel quite a lengthy firewroks display was held. Some organization payed big bucks to put on that show. We ended up getting our hotel room for half off since we didn't have hot water and the fridge, microwave, and TV didn't work - and to access the internet we had to go to the hotel lobby. Not my best hotel experience.

Day 75 - 1 mile or road, 42 miles of trail
For the seventh and last time on the Run we finished at our hotel following a mile of road to end the day. It was another good day on nice towpath trail. We passed a number of historical spots to include Fort Frederick (​fortfrederick.asp) and McCoy's Ferry/McCoy's Landing (​mccoy's_​ferry.htm). We ran past more canal locks which I still enjoy seeing even after running and cycling past hundreds of canal locks in the past 14 months. Trees once again provided nice shade for many miles. Pete cycled with Jen and I for the last time on the Run - 13 miles - since this was the end of the trail except for the last mile at the Atlantic. Eileen also ran with us for three miles.

Day 76 - 46 miles of road, 0 miles of trail
This was a better day than expected. There were some miles with high traffic volume, but it could have been worse. We were treated to a good amount of cloud cover early in the morning, and then we were treated to some shade when running through the Catoctin Mountain Park ( I enjoyed crossing the Appalachian Trail. I have often thought about doing an Appalachian Trail (AT) thru hike, but that won't happen unless I hire someone to be my crew for the 60 days or so an AT thru hike would take. Eileen continued her streak as she ran with Jen and I for four miles near the end of the day.

Day 77 - 40 miles of road, 0 miles of trail
The day started in light rain and shortly after we commenced running the rain intensified and we were quickly soaked. The rain ended in an hour or so and we were blessed with cloud cover for another  three hours or so before the heat started to be felt. There were plenty of turns on day 77 as we transitioned from back-roads to highways several times. Miles 24-27 were run on a hilly rural road (Blue Mountain Rd) just east of Gunpowder Falls State Park. That was the second nicest stretch of road to run that day - although the hills took their toll on our legs. The best miles of the day were run through Rocks State Park ( at the end of the day which included about another mile of gravel road (oops - I previously reported that the last miles of gravel road were on day 69 - error). The day ended with a great Mexican Food meal with Will Campbell who has been involved with TRANSAMs since 1992. Later that night Margaret returned to the Run to continue with us to the finish!

Day 78 - 39 miles of road, 0 miles of trail
As you know there are only so many bridges that span the hundreds of rivers that run through the United States. With that in mind it is not a surprise that there is a limited number of bridges that cross the Susquehanna River - the I-95 bridge, the US-40 bridge, the US-1 route over the Conowingo Dam, and the PA-372/Holtwood Rd route up in Pennsylvania. The US-40 and I-95 bridges over the Susquehanna River aren't an option for cyclists or pedestrians. The US-1 route over the Conowingo Dam is actually part of a signed bike route, but the "shoulder" of the road is only about 18 inches wide at most which buts up against a five foot high concrete barrier. Bottom line, the US-1 route isn't a desirable place to run. The PA-372 bridge has a slightly wider shoulder - definitely a good thing. Two choices then for the Run route - run the PA-372 bridge and seven miles to the Run route, or run the US-1 route and run seven less miles. The original plan was to run the longer route, but when the Run dropped down to two and Jen and I ran similar paces it made sense to run the shorter route with the undesirable shoulder. So Jen and I are running towards the dam - which is about mile 14 of the day - when we receive word that there is construction on the dam with flagmen allowing only one direction of traffic to pass at a time. Great?! After worrying about the work zone for a few mile we arrive at the dam and the shoulder looks awfully small (ouch). There isn't much choice - we run the dam, or we run a whole lot more miles than planned. We start running the bridge heading east facing traffic when the flagman motions us to move to the other side of the bridge and run with the traffic. Bottom line, the flagman lets us past and we are headed to the eastern side of the bridge - success! However, less than two miles later a turn mileage point was wrong on the route directions combined with a road sign that didn't correlate with the route directions caused us to run an additional hilly up and down mile to the route. (I note that googlemaps shows the road name used on the route directions, but mapquest shows the road named as actually signed - interesting.) Well, as one might expect, the adding the additional mile to the route didn't improve our outlook on the day, but continue we did. Eileen once again ran about five miles with us.

Day 79 - 38 miles of road, 0 miles of trail
The final state - Delaware - was reached shortly before mile 9! No welcome sign to greet us, but that is the way it goes. Once again I changed the route for days 79 and 80 from the original plan. The original route kept us away from the four lane roads of US-13 on day 70 and US-1 on day 80 but was six miles longer than the route used which included a number of miles on US-13 and US-1. The only remarkable comment to make about day 79 is that the route was flat. Heidi and my sister Karla Loser arrived at our hotel for the night just a minute before my parents, Margaret and myself. It was great to see them - my crew for the final day of the Run!

Day 80 - 39 miles of road, 1 mile of trail
The day commenced with pictures and then Jen and I started our watches one last time. We ran five miles of two lane road before turning onto US-1 for 26 miles. US-1 isn't the best road for runners - in fact twice it appeared like we were running onto controlled access highway sections which included running a not-so-great bridge for runners or cyclists - but we continued on down the highway. Before we knew it we were at Cape Henlopen State Park and the last mile of bike path. Minutes later we finished at the eastern terminus of the American Discovery Trail with family and friends rooting us on those last 100 yards with noise makers, posters, and banners!!!
Frank Dembia (with wife Elvire) and John Price returned to the Run to witness the finish along with everyone who was already there: Heidi, parents Carl/Pat and Peter/Eileen, Margaret, and Karla.
After the emotional finish and walk to the Atlantic Ocean it was off to Da Vinci's Pizzeria and Italian Restaurant for an outstanding celebratory dinner. I especially like picture 97 of 97 of the Smilebox album Heidi put together at
If you give the smilebox a minute to load you can then easily hit the back button to see picture 97.

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