Jennifer Brunet's 2014 Eastern States 100 Mile Race Report

The inaugural Eastern States 100 brought 162 hardy runners to the start line to traverse some of the most challenging terrain on the East Coast.  Runners would experience the most scenic and challenging views on the East that would include the Black Forest Trail, Western Rim Trail, the Donut Hole Trail, T Squared Trail, Long Branch Trail, the Tiadaghton Trail, and a few others that comprise the 100 mile loop.  We would circumnavigate the largest creek in the US, Pine Creek.  This is known as the Grand Canyon of PA.  The river route supplied lumber that built America.  There are multiple 900 - 1200 ft climbs with downhills that were even more punishing.  This was a world class wilderness trail experience!

Photo by Jeff Calvert

The first 17 miles of the course gives you a little bit of everything you could expect throughout the rest of the race:  slippery unstable moss covered rocks, steep climbs, steep downhills (you will not find switchbacks), many creek crossings, and much of your running on the trails is with your feet stacked on an angle.  If you can get through the first 17 miles, you should be able to get through the rest of the race.  Running this race without a pacer or a crew would add to the challenges.

You have a very short road segment to the trail.  As soon as you hit the trail you're on slick slippery unstable rocks.  When you're not on the rocks you're running with your feet stacked (imagine your feet stacked in a side plank position) so there's a lot of pressure on the outside of your top foot.  It is extremely narrow trail.  I tried running a little higher but slid right down and risked sliding off into steeper sections.  The rocks move as your running, they're wet, and a lot are covered in moss (it makes running in Bear Mountain seem like running on pillows).  As I ran on the rocks they'd shift and banged from one ankle into the other.  The running with feet stacked was worse because you could not afford to slip there.  

Photo by Mike Romano

The climbs really weren't as bad as I expected, there were just a lot of them.  In training, repeats, climbing the red trail to the tower in Bear Mountain State Park was good prep for that.  The downhills were a killer because you went straight down.  I don't recall any switchbacks. There were many creek crossings.  Before mile 30 I crossed the creek at least 4x's.  Except when we ran together in the beginning I rarely saw anyone.  

I'd see a few guys ahead and catch them, passing them on the climbs and they'd blow me away on the downhills; they'd joke about that and say see you on the climbs. Besides the two lead women I only saw 2 others for a short period of time and passed one woman on a climb and one woman at an aid station.     

The weather was nice except for a thunderstorm in the middle of the night which I don't mind (I enjoy running in the rain) but without a crew I tried to guess where to place a jacket.  I carried it in my vest which I switched from handhelds around mile 50.  From mile 50 on I looked like a ton.  Vest with water bottles, batteries, flashlight, headlamp, about 12 hammer gels, 2 containers of nuun, extra shirt, endurolytes, and a flask in my skort with perpetuem.  I could've opened an ultra running store.  

Upcoming, there was a deep water crossing with rushing water. As soon as I put one foot in my knee hit a rock hard and I was face down into the water.  I was worried it would have broken my headlamp.  I felt for all my teeth and proceeded to cross with a lot of slipping.  There were all slimy moss covered rocks under high rushing water.

Climbing on from there.  I found the most challenging part of the race between miles 60 - 66.  There was a very long section of what looked like a dried creek of moss covering rocks that were extremely difficult not to slip off and you were climbing, of course...I lost too much time here.

Around mile 70ish, I had to cross a road and slid into the trail on the other side because it was muddy. I suppose I startled a bear since I heard a rock crash and movement.  Assuming it would run away I continued but shortly after I heard a larger rock crack behind me and a big thump like I've never heard and musty smell.  I'm pretty sure it was behind me. I didn't want to stop but knew running was not a good idea so I was walking really fast.  I was a bear's dream.   Full of gels, heed, nuun, and perpetuem on my leg.  I figure if I had to, I'd unclip my vest and waist pack for it.  

Photo by Mike Romano / rattlesnake den

My muscles felt weak from nerves because I didn't know what was going to happen with this bear but someone from above was looking over me.  I never felt delusional, dizzy, or out of sorts but experienced highs and lows with the highs giving me a lot of energy.  

Mile 91 -97 was the most runnable part of course.  97 - 100.8 wasn't as runnable as I hoped.  I just wanted to run there but some climbing, steep downhills, maneuvering around rocks, passing a rattlesnake nest, then about 1.5 miles of running to the finish.  

3rd overall female, 23rd overall out of 72 runners who completed the race.  90 dropped between 17 - 73 miles.

This was a great adventure!  I loved the course!  I was comforted to know that although my MPF teammates and I were running in different races, we were running together in spirit!