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19 Jun 2013

Highlands Sky 40 2013

Author: Matt Young | Filed under: race-reports

Highlands Sky 2013: 50-10-5

http://www.wvmtr.org/events/highlands-sky-40m-trail-run/

The 11th Highlands Sky is also the 50th anniversary of the camp that my granddaddy built on Red Creek, 10 years since he passed away on June 22 at the age of 92, and my fifth Highlands.


Start to Aid 1 on the road, 2.4 miles, 17:58 split. It was a perfect morning for running and I was happy to be running for the fifth time when once upon a time I could never fathom covering 40 miles in done day. Highs: A quick start, running with Harry and John, and a perfect morning. Lows- a dead GPS meant I had no data and no heart rate monitor.

The lower end of South Prong on Thursday afternoon. What would the stream crossings be like?

South Prong on Thursday: What will the crossings look like?

My Dad and I at the start

My Dad to see us off

With Harry and John at the start line

With Harry and John at the start line

AS1 to AS2- Climbing Flatrock and across Roaring Plains 8.1 miles, 2:08 total time, 1:50 split. Highs- Climbed steady, the nettles were a non-event, the guide rope across Flatrock made it easy, it wasn’t as wet and messy as I expected, and the Youngs of AS2. Between the race and trainers I’ve been over this course a dozen times and I’ve seen it worse. Lows- I lost both John and Harry. But they’re big boys and I knew they could handle it.

Open views of Roaring Plains taken May 2013

Open views of Roaring Plains.

Looking east up Red Creek towards the Sods from the Flatrock Trail head. Taken May 2013

Looking east up Red Creek to the Sods from Flatrock.

AS2 to AS3 down Boars Nest and climbing South Prong- 5.5 miles, total time 3:20, split: 1:12
There were bombers and there were plodders and I was in between. I’ve learned Boars Nest is a case of risk / reward and the risk does not outweigh the reward in my mind. Highs: Descending Boars Nest without falling, the best view of the day from the trail on Boars Nest as it drops over the top (albeit foggy) and passing some folks on the way up South Prong. Lows: none come to mind.

The view from atop Boars Nest looking towards Davis and Mt. Storm. (May 2013)

A view from atop Boars Nest towards Davis and Mt. Storm.

Crossing South Prong and runners helping runners. Photo courtesy of Nick Billock.

Runners helping runners across South Prong. Photo courtesy of Nick Billock.

AS3 to AS4- 10 Bridges to the halfway point- 3.7 miles, total time 4:03, split 43 minutes. I love the 10 bridges and I counted them out loud one by one to keep track of my progress. It was wet which meant runner beware on those wooden planked bridges. Highs: Almost to the road, runnable terrain, the big hills were behind me, and I caught up to John as I turned on FS 19. Lows: I was kicking more rocks, my legs were tired and I had 22 miles to go.

The trail between bridge 7 and 8 of 10 bridges. Trail not creek. Taken Friday morning.

The trail between bridge 7 and 8 of 10 bridges. Trail not creek. Taken Friday morning.

Half way- Aid station 4 and 19.7 miles  My dad, Dalton and Maddy (nephew and niece) were there to greet me and my dad had my drop bag ready for me. My dad has been with me for every start, Aid 4, and finish since I’ve been running. It’s always good to have him there and all of the other family and friends that show up to cheer on their runner and every other runner that comes through. John and I didn’t stay long but he left before me and I had to work to catch up. AS 4 clocked in at 4:03, matching my best first half split. A quick check and everything felt good; nothing hurt any more than anything else. I grabbed my bandana loaded with a few gels, sunglasses, ipod, Mtn Dew, and a flask of Perpeteum and unpacked it as I went down the road.

AS4 to AS5, Road Across the Sky 3.0 miles, total time 4:35, split 32 minutes. I think this split is off a few minutes. We skipped the AS5 and kept moving but did shout out our bib numbers as we passed. I hope it wasn’t rude. Highs: I was cruising and feeling good and had John with me. Low: none that I remember.

Road Across the Sky. Photo courtesy of Nick Billock.

Road Across the Sky. Photo courtesy of Nick Billock.

AS5 to AS6- Road Across the Sky, 4.3 miles, 5:11 total time, 36:07 split. I think a few minutes from the last split belong in this one. Regardless, it’s probably the best I’ve run the Road Across the Sky. Highs: Dan Todd’s aid station and his helpers Julie and Julie and my assistant coach, Nola. Watermelon, Mountain Dew and believing that 2:49 was sufficient to cover 14 miles and clock in a second under 8 hours. Lows: none that I remember.

Looking west from Dolly Sods taken Friday morning.

Looking west from Dolly Sods taken Friday morning.


AS6 to AS7, Bear Rocks to the Boulders 5.9 miles, 6:35 total, split of 1:23. It’s rocky again but it’s possible to run most of it. Walking stretches was inevitable but it has some of my favorite views on the trail. It always seems to take a long time to work through it. Highs: John and I were moving good, I ran over a snake and didn’t see it (John saw it), great views of high meadows and knowing after AS7 it was more downhill than up. Lows: my stomach started to cramp.

View from Bear Rocks. Photo courtesy of Nick Billock.

View from Bear Rocks. Photo courtesy of Nick Billock.

A view from the Sods courtesy of Nick Billock.

A view from the Sods courtesy of Nick Billock.

view from bear rocks 2

View from Bear Rocks. Photo courtesy of Nick Billock.

View from Bear Rocks. Photo courtesy of Nick Billock.

AS7 to AS8, Timberline to Freeman Road 4.0 miles, total time 7:12, split 37:18. Leaving AS7 John asked me how we were doing on time. It was still possible but it was going to be tough. I knew the ski slopes were looming ahead and they are a buzz kill.  The butt slide wasn’t going to be a factor due to a course change but I THOUGHT we still had a ski slope to run up.  John took the lead and we went. Highs: Popping out of the woods to the ski slope and seeing a yellow ribbon on the uphill side! It was the  best high of the day. Somehow I missed the fact that we didn’t have to go UP the slope. Instead, I was running downhill. Hallelujah! Low: John was gone and I couldn’t keep up. My stomach was cramping bad and no amount of stretching high, bending low, changing breathing patterns, pulling my stomach, or anything else helped. I was going to have to live with it the last 6-7 miles.

From the boulders looking down on Canaan Valley. Photo courtesy of Nick Billock

From the boulders looking down on Canaan Valley. Photo courtesy of Nick Billock

Coming in to AS8.  Courtesy of Sarah Bee.

Coming in to AS8

AS8 to Finish, 4.1 miles, total time 7:58:40, split 46 something. It was painful now. The stomach cramps were bad and it was hard to run steady without walking for relief. It didn’t hurt when I walked. But I had 48 minutes to cover 4 miles and those 4 miles had some walking in it. Last year I ran a good pace over this stretch with one mile split @8:40. Not happening today. So I kept going and ran when I could and walked when I needed. Highs: Knowing I was closing in, seeing the one mile go to sign and knowing I had enough time to get there. Lows: My stomach hurt. I ran mostly with one hand clinching my side when except when I had both hands clinching my sides. But who doesn’t expect a little discomfort at this point.

The long stretch of Freeman Road

The long stretch of Freeman Road

I’ll write about the finish but I can’t get in words how I felt. I always cry if that helps. Caroline doesn’t understand why I cry and I’m still trying to explain it to a 5 year old so she can understand. I came out of the woods to see Caroline and my dad waiting for me so they could tell everyone I was coming. My whole family was waiting on me. Caroline and I had been talking for weeks about crossing the line together and this year Charlie would cross with us. No runners were right behind me so I took my time down the hill, took Caroline by the hand and spotted Ann Marie and Charlie. With Caroline in hand, Charlie in one arm and Ann Marie by my side we crossed the finish line together. The cast of family included my mom and dad, bother Jonathan and his wife Wendy, their kids Dalton and Maddy, my sister Liz, and brother in law, Matthew. It was great to have everyone there for the 50,10, 5 event.
I gladly received my finisher shirt from Dan and my blue hat for my 5x finish. 205 miles for a blue hat and I’d gladly do it again. John finished 10 minutes ahead of me.

Crossing the line with Caroline and Charlie

Crossing the line with Caroline and Charlie

I'd been waiting for this all day

I’d been waiting for this all day

By the numbers 41 miles in 7:58:17 for an average pace around 11:40. First half split, 4:03 and second half split 3:55.  200+ registered, 167 finishers, 23rd overall, 15th among men 39 and under. Without my gps and heart rate monitor those are the only numbers I have.  Those splits matched my two previous best splits and added up for my best finishing time. Check out course details here: 
Finisher Nick Billock took some outstanding pictures along the course and they’re posted on the Highlands site.


Thanks to Dan Lehman and his family that put so much in to this race. Thank you to the volunteers that give up their day so the rest of us can run. The entire weekend, starting with the pre-race dinner and briefing is a ton of fun.


I can’t ever finish without being grateful for a healthy body, the strength to train and race, protection from injury on the course and the gift that is running. I’m thankful for my family and the heritage my granddaddy began 50 years ago. My dad comments each year that granddaddy would get a kick out of me running this race.


This course is full of the thumbprints of our creator which makes me ever mindful of the most precious gift of all in salvation through Jesus Christ. I run for a lot of reasons and for some reason running long distance is fun for me but most of all I live and run to glorify God who makes all things possible. II Timothy 4:7

Celebratory ice cream after pizza

Celebratory ice cream after pizza

The whole gang

The whole gang

  1. Jay posted the following on June 19, 2013 at 6:00 pm.

    Congrats on a strong finish coach. I really enjoy your race reports. Cant wait till I can run this one!

  2. Jim Stemple posted the following on June 20, 2013 at 12:40 pm.

    Hey Matt
    Some good running there. I didn’t see you at AS2 when you went through. Danielle and I were waiting to sweep and just trying to help out. We’re planning a father/daughter effort for HS12.

    I remain grateful to you for all of your words of wisdom & moral support prior to my first HS in 2012. see you at Trilogy? /jim

  3. Matt Young posted the following on June 20, 2013 at 1:43 pm.

    Thanks, Jim. Sorry I missed you at AS2… I was trying not to stay too long the “rest stations”. Next year you run…

  4. Matt Young posted the following on June 20, 2013 at 1:44 pm.

    Thanks, Jay. Keep running and you can do it.


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