I guess we were just lucky last year for the inaugural running of the Highlands Sky; the event went off without a hitch. So I suppose it is fair to expect that this year something had to go wrong. While flagging the course two days before the start, I came across some new markings utilizing part of our course. The owner of the tract told me months earlier that another event, a motorcycle motocross, was going to be using some of the property on the same day as our race. We had adjusted our course accordingly to be away from the mountainside the motorcycles were using. I thought we had everything decided. Well things changed and they had moved into our area and were not going to budge. Only 6 hours before runners were due to arrive on Friday, in the middle of a 3-inch downpour, 1.5 miles of course had to be cut through steep, dense woods, over boulders and down mudslides. With that fiasco behind everything was looking up.
Runners arrived Friday evening at the Canaan Valley Resort to enjoy the amenities offered by the venue. Steve Bowles commented, “Geez, the race is at a resort. The trails are probably all walking paths. How tough could it be?” But the comforts of the facility lie in stark contrast to the challenging 40 mile Highlands Sky course across Dolly Sods.
In the men’s race Bill Young took an early lead over Derrick Carr and pulled in to AS #2 with a three minute lead. Young extended his lead to 6 minutes at the half, but Carr pulled up toward the end to finish only 2:35 behind the leader. This was Bill’s first ultra win with a 7:08:00. He remarked how stressful it was being in front.
In the women’s race Katherine Franco, Sarah Almodovar, and Sophie Speidel took the lead. At half way point AS #4 Almodovar led Speidel by two minutes going into the road section. By the end of the 7.3 mile “road across the sky” Speidel had pulled ahead by three minutes. Sophie Speidel maintained the lead to take home her first ultra win with a time of 8:06:51.
After all the planning and preparation for the Highlands, the sharing in the excitement and joy of the runners, there is a little bit of an empty spot when it’s all over….till the next time we get together to hit the trail.
Congratulations to all the runners. After what seemed like a bad start, the weekend turned out to be a winner. Thank you to all you volunteers who did such a fine job. And many thanks to all our fine sponsors; Montrail, Canaan Valley Resort, Tygart Valley Orthopedics & Sports Medicine, Hammergel, Patagonia, Fuelbelt, Timberline 4 Seasons Resort, Tucker County Convention & Visitors Bureau, Alldredge Academy, and the US Forest Service Monongahela National Forest.
See you next year.