I am so grateful to the Eastern States Trail-Endurance Alliance and all of the volunteers who put on this amazing event. Every year I come back and it’s a little better than the year before. This year there was upgraded finishers jackets, “Wrong Way” signs on side trails, and cooler temperatures. Honestly, I’m fully expecting them to have the whole Rocksylvania thing solved for 2023.

In lieu of a generic course description, I’ll give you my two charts with oodles of numbers describing the elevation changes.

Sky Top and Dry Run are the two hardest sections.
Don’t sleep on that last hill.

After an uncharacteristic for me 6+ hours of sleep, I set off with 200ish other runners at 5am from Little Pine State Park. The first mile (paved road, mostly downhill) was a tad too fast (#typical) before I hit the single half track trail. I was last man in a conga line of about 8 runners for the first couple miles. I felt a little anxious to move quicker, but this was a good pace. The lead runner made a wrong turn and everyone followed them for a couple yards before they realized their error. Suddenly there’s open trail in front of me as we hit the first climb. I ended up passing a couple other runners on the way to the top and began thinking I’m going too fast.

Obligatory pre-race photo. Trying to look relaxed.

A quick top up of fluids at AS1 and then I was onto the first downhill on the course. I knew I had been pushing things too hard so dialed way back on the effort. As soon as a runner approached from behind, I moved over to let them pass. Again and again. I probably let 20+ runners pass me before getting into AS2.

Top of the first climb, just after first light.

I’ve never been a big mantra guy to keep me motivated during ultras, but I think I’m coming around to their usefulness. I’ve discovered over the years that the better I feel, the better I run. So “feel good, move good” has become my catchphrase in races (trademark pending). When I focus on running strongly or hitting certain paces, I tend to push myself too hard and overexert myself. By flipping this around, I conserve more energy earlier on and keep from digging too deep. More important than any performance benefits though is that this helps me enjoy the races. Like actually having fun, rather than merely surviving.

Bridge crossing Pine Creek just past AS2.

It started to heat up as I rolled into AS3. I was seven minutes up on my prior best split, yet was trying to stay within myself and not think too much about what lay ahead. Ice was now my best friend and I’d get some dumped into my bottles and in the buff around my neck at every opportunity. I would also dunk my hat into the cool streams we crossed for additional relief.

I’m pretty sure they misspelled Browns Run here.

It usually takes about 20 miles for me to find my place in the overall pack. I ended up running near a group of guys (Chad, Brian, Pat, Peter) off and on into Hyner. They would usually catch me from behind, I’d hang with them for a while, then they’d drop me heading into the next aid station. I would pass them in the aid station only to repeat the process a couple miles down the trail. Running ultras are always easier when you’re with someone and chatting with them (or even eavesdropping on their conversations) made the time just fly.

There were porta-potties at most aid stations. If you think these aren’t one of ES100’s scenic wonders, just wait till you need one.

Hyner is one of my favorite aid stations along the course. I love the vibe coming in with all the crews spread out cheering on the runners. Brad was helping out who I swept with overnight at Ironstone 100K this year. I realized here that I had fallen off pace a bit in the last couple sections. While it was supposed to be cooler this year, it did not feel that way. I was still focused on feeling good though so didn’t really concern myself too much on what my time was.

The climb up out of Hyner.

In my opinion, the next section into Dry Run is the hardest of the entire course. It’s 8 miles long, has the most elevation gain of all the sections, and you run it at the hottest part of the day. Last year I ran dry of fluids (48oz, pun intended) here so chugged several cups of water before heading out. I was completely alone for almost the entire time until Pat came roaring past me. I then saw a couple other runners as we reached Dry Run, which looked like a MASH unit (that reference probably dates me too much) as runners slumped in chairs with thousand mile stares on their faces. I’m pretty sure that’s how I looked last year.

Careful ogling this view off to the left that you don’t miss the right turn.

The section into Big Trail is fairly flat and mostly runnable. I was still feeling good (mantras for the win!) and managed to pass a couple other runners. While my conservative pacing had something to do with this, I think the bigger contributor was consistent fueling throughout the day. I ended up getting 80-90% of my calories from liquids (60/40 Perpetuem/Coke) with the remainder from whatever looked good at the various aid stations. This IV-esque drip of calories kept my energy levels even as I moved along the course.

Hey, look! I made to Big Trail in time for the view.

I rolled into Slate Run high as a kite. Felt just incredible. I checked the time and noticed I was now 10 minutes up on last year’s split and did a little mental flex (OK, maybe it wasn’t mental). This was my longest stop on the course as I had a lot I needed to accomplish: change into long sleeve shirt, swap headlamps, grab gloves, grab fluids/fuel. Unfortunately, I partially botched the execution of things and forgot to pack a bag of Perpetuem for the next section. I have a tendency to rush through aid stations. I’m not the fastest runner (see getting passed continually above) so save time by not stopping for long at aid stations. I had already made this mistake once earlier in the day by leaving my bag of salt caps at Little Pine, which didn’t turn out too bad as I was able to replenish at the next aid station. My hack to avoid forgetting things is to have written directions in each drop bag of what I need to accomplish. The problem is I read them when I get into the aid station and then forget things in the hustle and bustle. Going forward, I’ll need to read these as I’m literally walking out of aid stations to keep from forgetting stuff.

Dry conditions this year curtailed many of the course’s water features.

The gaffe didn’t cost me over the next two sections, but it interrupted my caloric IV heading into Blackwell. This is arguably the easiest section on the course, however I always seem to have one issue or another whether it’s epic hot spots on my feet (2016), blisters (2017), broken pole (2019), and now a mild bonk (2022). Last year was the only time I made decent time, but was hardly lighting the course on fire.

Adding a guardrail would definitely make me feel safer heading down into Blackwell.

I spent a couple extra minutes at Blackwell to make sure I had everything I needed. Fool me once and all (twice, whatever). There were a couple runners ahead of me heading up to Gillespie Point who slowly pulled away as I attempted to regroup. I still felt halfway decent and was laser focused on feeling good. The more I thought I was feeling good, the better I would feel (aka fake it until you make it). I was chugging Coke and Perpetuem to get back as many calories as I could manage. Eventually after the large climb and equally massive decent, I started getting my hop back on the final grind up to Sky Top. There’s a solid argument to be made that this is the toughest section on the course mile for mile. Thankfully it’s only 4.5 miles long.

Nate, who I met at Greenbrier, was greeting runners about 300 yards outside the aid station. He looked very comfortable bundled up in his chair, but I quickly moved on once I thanked him for helping out. I topped up my fluids and was starting to walk out of the aid station when I heard the magic words: “Would you like some pancakes?”. I had been looking forward to pancakes at Sky Top for about 70 miles, but didn’t really want anything solid to eat. I took another step and then the volunteer broke me with “We have blueberry pancakes.” Fine. You win. And then I won as I munched on one heading down the trail.

I had been doing ultra math on finishing times (always dicey this late in a race). I guessed that I had maxed out up about 25 minutes to last year’s time at Long Branch. This dropped about six minutes heading into Blackwell and another nine minutes on this last section. A younger me would be stressing about losing the rest of this buffer, however the new, more mature me (stop laughing, wife!) was totally Zen. Feeling good, moving good was still in full effect and time didn’t really matter.

The sun finally came up about a mile outside of the aid station. I didn’t get much of a boost as I was honestly still feeling good. Typically, I’ll get a little tired overnight at some point, however I was lucky to avoid that in this race. I managed to pick up the pace the last couple miles (this is a loooong section) and now had about 20 minutes buffer as I got into Barrens.

I had an amusing hallucination a ways after leaving the AS. I looked to my right and saw an RV through the trees. I did a double take because it was huge. Wait, that’s got to be a building instead. No, those definitely look like wheels. Did someone abandon it out here? Eventually my ultra-addled brain was able to determine it was the sun shining on a rock-strewn hillside. Keep it together, Perkins, I thought to myself.

It always feels like an eternity until I hit the final run stretch to Hacketts.

A lot of the trails into Hacketts did not look familiar, but they were well marked so I just tried to not worry about it. It was starting to heat up at this point so made sure I grabbed ice at the last AS. There are many races where I’ve just kinda shut things down and shuffled it in, but this time I was still focused on staying hydrated, fueled, and cooled. I’m sure this was responsible for my best run into the finish. I passed one runner gingerly making her way down the final descent (been there, done that) and then was cruising in for my fifth finish.

The course made me work for it, but I managed to set a PR in the end.

Running any hundred mile race is a very hard thing to do and ES100 is a graduate level course. There are so many decisions that can go bad. Tons of variables to juggle. And it literally only takes one wrong step to end your race. Congratulations to all the runners who had the courage to start the race last weekend. No matter how things ended, remember that you signed up because this was not going to be easy. This is obvious from an intellectual standpoint, but can be harder to grasp emotionally. Be proud of what you were able to accomplish out there.

Speaking of signups, I wonder when registration opens for 2023 . . .

10 thoughts on “2022 Eastern States Race Report”

    1. Thanks for volunteering this year! It was nice to see a friendly face when I rolled through Hyner. Well, in addition to my wife. 🙂

  1. Always love your recaps and so happy to see you crush another finish! Incredibly well-deserved.

  2. Phil,
    Congratulations on another ES 100 finish and PR. It was nice to talk with you on Friday during bib pick up. Great description of the race. ( I can only vouch for the first 51 miles ) I finally made it to the start line this year. Hopefully next year I can get to the finish.

    1. Tom, it was great chatting with you as well. The first 51 are the hardest. It’s Much easier after that. Haha. See you in 2023!

  3. It was great running with you for those miles Phil. I really appreciated your willingness to share the knowledge you had of the course and just running 100 miles races in general. It proved helpful as I did eventually make it to that finish line.

    1. Chad, awesome job out there! Our mid-course foursome all managed to finish, which was cool to see.

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