Trail running jubilantly returned to the Northeastern Pennsylvania region again this weekend, when the Xterra Pocono Series fired back up and resumed it's 2012 schedule with a real lively dash through the woods. The Seven Tubs Nature Area, located in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, showed to be a most worthy venue in raising the degree of difficulty, for this second race out of five in the planned series.
With exceptionally outstanding weather gracing the larger field of entrants amassed at the starting line, spirits were obviously high in anticipation of what obstacles and hurdles awaited ahead for all the runners gathered. Several familiar faces seen from the first race two weeks prior, held at the Big Pocono State Park, were spotted in the crowd amongst many new ones coming out for their first time in this years exciting, and evolving series. With the start just minutes away, race director and official participant himself, Richard Pais took the reins of the excited, and anxious bunch of what felt like school students upon arrival for a most important exam. Friendly chatter soon gave way to hush when specific class detail, was given in the form of course description by the professor, in a most straight forward and easily understandable way. With the directional information given and applied to each runners own abilities, the official time clock began quickly with the firing sound of the starting pistol.
This race featured a start which saw participants run down a flat lengthened hill first, before making a left hand turn that would swiftly take competitors off road and upwards. The run down the macadamized road, was at least for me, a great way to warm up my cardiovascular engine and gradually build expanding momentum, which would be expected to propel me forward and through the entire course waiting ahead. Ascending single track, atop dry trail strewn about with plenty of rocks and roots, essentially being the only road of travel in the first portion of the 5 kilometer trail race. With route of travel marked out exceptionally well with clearly defined markers, trail runners scurried through the dense woods in an exuberant, yet direct and hurried manner. Definitely from my advantage point, those indeed taking part were seriously having a splendidly fun time throughout the event, as was I. Personally, I find it very rewarding to see such positive effects brought out from competition such as this, when shown by others! What goes up...must come down...spinning leg's...got to go round.
Down we came onto what I felt, had to be one of the most favored sections of the entire course. Alongside a generously flowing stream, runners ran over and through some pretty awesome terrain. The trail, weaving in and out through the tall shading of trees, was made up by many different types of surface condition. Soft level material, varying sections of rock, and rolling sections gaining and dropping in small hilly amounts, kept ones own attention focused amidst keen conditions. Endless amounts of tree roots, many in various shapes and sizes, and all out stretched over the entire trail in every which way and angle, reminded me so of the life profusing arteries, veins, and capillaries that comprise and fill our very own human bodies. Each, having to be carefully stepped through or swiftly leaped over while maintaing speed.
Several cascading falls of water roared mighty in a few of the lower sections, providing the most incredible and accompanying sound, to the concerto of individual athletic performance taking place in this natural outdoor amphitheatre. Several more meters run, and competitors would arrive at the namesake of said natural area. The Seven Tubs, created by the forceful flow of melting glacial water several thousand years ago, now had to be crossed. Right were the water met the flowing stream, and to the right and on top of a concrete water flow, runners ran through a section of water that would certainly cool, and drench the lower extremities. Depending on where you specifically ran through here, foot placement was crucial as the bottom offered an uneasy surface to navigate, as seen in the underwater photos depicted below.
Once emerged from the water, the course then resumed back to climbing with a short scamper up some wooden steps, and then out and onto a steep quad busting section that would surely test just how much mettle you had left in your system by that time. A continued run through the woods, would eventually dump runners back out and onto the same paved roadway that saw everyone start on, except at a much higher elevation than what was originally started on. Just as the beginning of the race saw, runners quickly descended downhill with the exception this time of running straight through the timing chute, to finish off what in my own personal opinion was one hell of an exciting and fun race to attend.