It hurts to move. The Mega Transect took place two days ago and I’m still crippled. My heels hurt, my quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, anything to do with my legs hurts. If there is a good kind of crippled this is definitely it.
The Mega Transect is a marathon-length trail race held in Lock Haven PA each year cutting across Bald Eagle State Park. I wouldn’t say it’s a cross-country race, more like a cross-mountain race. It’s a transect.
Sign up for this event was on January 1st and I have been prepping for it all year. Having never run a marathon distance (road or trail) I was pretty nervous but feeling good. I took my Goruck Radio Ruck, various gels and food, a 2 liter camel-bak and that was about it.
The morning-of I was well hydrated having been drinking water since the day before. I stuffed myself at the hotel buffet, pancakes, pastries, eggs, sausage, O.J., the works. Then I went back two more times and ate some more.
Unlike other events I’ve been to we started out promptly at 7AM on the button. The first 3 miles were an easy paced jog on flat roads alongside beautiful Pennsylvania corn fields. Residents of Lock Haven were out in deck-chairs watching us as we went. I threw a cheery “hello” to one family only to hear the lady of the house murmur “we’ll see how he looks on the way back”.
We turned into the forest and things slowed down immediately on some steep single-file trail. I tried a bit of a jog up the hill and passed Race Director Dave Hunter. He immediately yelled out “joggers on the left, we got some newbies here. Take note, grey shirts, we’ll see you later”. What he knew that I didn’t was that we were only getting started. We had no clue what were were in for.
I was running with my brothers in law Brad Linder, Chris Gazzo and Michael Gazzo. We hit the boulder field, a massive uphill section of limestone laid at a 30-50degree angle up the mountain. This is the flagship obstacle on the trail. Almost every photo you’ll see of the ultrahike features folks clamoring up this thing. I took some video and got into it. The boulders were actually not to bad at this point but they went on for a good long stretch. Probably about 40minutes if not more.
After that we headed into the woods and got down to business. I got separated from my brothers-in-law and before long I was running on my own with no one in front or behind me. This was weird and lasted a good few miles.
I got into the 10mile checkpoint and was filling my camel-bak when the leader rushed in. “Fill this up quick” he said “I’m first”. I stupidly asked one of the volunteers “does that mean I’m second?” to which he replied with a look of utmost pity on his face “No…no it doesn’t”. I had forgotten the 10 mile aid station was also the 17 mile aid station and the leader had just completed 17 miles and was heading into the 18th. I was just starting mile 10. Clearly the trail was starting to wear my critical thinking down.
I left the aid station and headed off on the 7 mile loop. Somewhere in here I took a wrong turn across a river and missed the 14 mile aid station. I doubled back without going too far and got back on track but this meant my feet were completely soaked. It felt good in the river but after 2 minutes this was no bueno. Tip: If you can, try to keep your feet dry.
After the 17mile aid station I managed to catch up to Brian Newcomer, an awesome dude with an amazing story (https://ultrahike.com/3rd_Best_Day_of_My_Life.html). He was responsible for planning and creating a lot of the trails we were running on and it was a real treat to run with him. Seemed like he floated along whilst I tried to keep my shuffle going. We got to the Rote Overlook and he disappeared down the trail.
I got into the 22 mile aid station with about 6:30 on the clock. 4miles to go I thought maybe a sub-7 hour finish was possible. Not a chance. I had no idea but the Raw Trail was waiting for me. A vertical rock climb which had to be 1/4 mile or more straight up over unrunnable boulder, much worse than the initial boulder field. This stopped me dead a few times and it took everything I had mentally to just keep driving up that hill. I drew a lot of strength from my father and what he’s been through the past few months. The less said the better but this was an amazing experience for many reasons, good and bad.
Over the course of this race my mantra was to run the pieces that were run-able and although there were some straight-up climbs, I’m happy to say there was a lot of it very run-able. Here’s a bit that wasn’t.
There’s a reason the Mega Transect sells out in 90minutes every year and it’s simply because it is a really well organized event run by people who don’t care about the numbers and just want to host the best event possible. The rest-stops were populated with awesome volunteers handing out free food water and even Aleve. We had free water, hot dogs, beer, pulled pork sandwiches, chicken, smoothies, massages and much more. It seemed like everyone who was there wanted to be there and that the whole town was pitching in to make this a great time.
I’ve now completed a Tough Mudder (no longer recommending this one), 2 Gorucks (recommended) and now this. Above all these this was by far and away the toughest, most physically and mentally demanding event I’ve ever done. Goruck set me up for this mentally but physically this was a huge wake up call.
I drank over 6 liters of water, never pee’d once. My Polar RCX5 says I burned 6100 calories (https://www.polarpersonaltrainer.com/shared/exercise.ftl?shareTag=2a558e4136be1f24402bc012332482bd) with an average heart rate of 151bpm for almost 8 hours!!!
The Mega is so fun, I wish everyone could experience it. Sadly it’s not for everyone and I would caution you to only sign up if you’re willing to put in some serious dedication to this thing. It will chew you up and spit you out.
I finished my first in 7hrs 45mins, 175/750 and left everything I had on the mountain. Below is video of my journey which I hope will give you a little taste of the awesome goodLivin’ that is “the Mega Transect.”