Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Sugarloaf triple-trail challenge, Ohiopyle trail running

Here's another trail run that I'd like to share with fellow trail runners local or visiting the Laurel Highlands of SWPA.   I offer this one up as a challenge to see how fast anyone can complete it or as a great training run for "the hill of it".  As always comments are encouraged regarding the route and your experience while on it!  A few posts back I highlighted the Bear Run, Trail Run Challenge hoping to help fellow trail runners find the great running trails of the Laurel Highlands.  This is the second route I'd like to highlight since its easy to follow and offers a great hill workout.  This route takes advantage of 3 great trails that Ohiopyle State Park offers.  Sugarloaf trail, McCune trail and Baughman trail pretty much in that order.  I've named it "The Sugarloaf Knob Triple Trail Challenge".  It utilizes all the great elevation between the train station and the peak of Sugarloaf Knob.  I've been running a shorter 10 mile variation of this route for several years.  I've added a new section which makes it just shy of 15 miles (seems like a better training distance).  I found it to be a nice change of pace from the normal out and backing usually done on the early miles of the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail (LHHT) for hilly runs.

The Start/End point at the train station
Here's the route:  Start the clock at the red line under the information kiosk outside the train station (see the above photo).  Follow the bike trail a short distance to the turn off for Sugarloaf Trail.  Turn right onto Sugarloaf trail.  Follow Sugarloaf trail up the ridge for about 5 miles to the Sugarloaf mountain bike/sledding area.  From the parking area take a right onto Sugarloaf Road and follow less than a mile to the McCune trailhead.  Follow the McCune trail loop 3.5 miles back to Sugarloaf road.  Retrace Sugarloaf Rd. back down to the mtn biking/sledding area, retrace Sugarloaf trail downhill a short distance to the intersection with Baughman trail.  Turn right onto Baughman trail and follow back down to the bike trail.  Turn left onto bike trail and follow back to train station Start/End.

Trail maps are available at the Train Station visitors center.  The trails are easy to follow and for the most part single or double track.  The whole thing is very runnable if you've got the legs and lungs.  Two vistas are passed along this run.  One on the McCune loop (at the bench) and one at Baughman Rock Overlook which is passed on the way down.  Both worth stopping to check out, unless going for the speed record ;)

My experience on this run:  The temps were hovering around 83 with high humidity.  I worked hard to keep my run going up the initial long climb.  I was grinding away with my head down.  I find looking up on long steep sections can be mentally defeating.  Most of the run was in the shade, but the heat took its toll.  I ran with my Nathan hydration pack filled to capacity (70oz.), which on most days would be plenty.  I was drinking more than normal with the high heat and humidity which caused me to run out (thankfully only) 2 miles from the finish.  I consumed 3 elete tablytes and 2 gels for electrolytes and energy.  I completed the course in 2:27:50 which felt like a good first effort.  I look forward to running this one again... I hope you do too!

This bench was recently installed at the overlook
 along the McCune trail.  Mile 7.5
The view from Baughman Rock overlook.  Mile 13ish

FKT (fastest known time):
6/25/13 Tim Anderson  2:27:50

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