Stephen, my wonderful husband of over a decade, completed the locally (Western Pennsylvania) known To Hell and Back run. He wanted to know if I’d like him to write about his day for my blog, and of course, I said, “yeah!”
To Hell and Back – Solo Trail Run Report
By Stephen Mick
On Easter Eve this year I attempted the 54ish mile challenging trail adventure known as “to hell and back” but at mile 44 had to call it quits due to running out of food, water, daylight, and energy. A couple months later it was time for redemption.
I knew it was going to be a warm day, so I woke up at 3 AM, drove to the trailhead located at the Old Stone House, and hit the trail just after 4:30 AM. I recorded the run on my phone using Strava and had my phone charging on my Kogella battery pack, which was also powering my light. Carrying all my own food and water, I was loaded up with 16 S-Cap salt tablets, two 22 oz water bottles and a 20 oz Katadyne bottle which I used to refill my water at streams twice on the way out and five times on the way back. Since I had run out of food on my previous failed attempt I filled the front and shoulder pockets of my pack with sandwiches, cookies, and trail mix and also carried a banana, sandwich, and bag of chips in one hand.
The start was dark and quiet so I listened to the Torah Portion and to music until the sun came up. At mile 10 I took off my singlet and would go shirtless the rest of the day as the day was heating up. It was already feeling like hell. It was a quiet morning as I only saw a couple trail runners on the North Country Trail before leaving Moraine State Park for the two mile road stretch that goes into McConnells Mill State Park and the most technical part of the route. There were more people on the trail for the McConnells Mill section and I pushed on as well as I could, excited to reach the half-way turnaround point. I arrived at Hell’s Hollow at mile 27 after 7 hours and 31 minutes, took a quick bathroom break, and turned around to head back to my parked vehicle.
The route back became increasingly difficult as the day wore on, with temperatures in the 80s forcing multiple water stops to top off my water bottles. I stayed hydrated, kept eating and running and was hoping to get back to my vehicle before dark, but fatigue set in and my pace slowed (although I “thought” I was going fast … I really wasn’t). About a mile before the end I made a wrong turn in the dark and ended up going the wrong direction on one of the many loop trails in Jennings. This was disappointing in hindsight as now I have to repeat the attempt again, but I also feel like I could get a much better time on a cooler day. After a full day of running I was just happy to get back to my vehicle, surviving the journey to hell and back.