Highlands Sky 40 Mile Trail Run 2015 – Race Ramble on the Morassitude

SHORT AND SWEET: Course was muddy, and it stayed hot and humid. Forty miles of ultra goodness.


6/23/15 – I forgot to mention that I saw a bear run across the “Road Across the Sky” around mile 24. It was booking it. A truck travelling down the gravel road nearly collided with it. It was fully grown. Angie Kern, a runner right behind me, she saw it, too. I also saw a nearly neon green snake coiled in a bush, and when it slipped into the shadow upon its detection, it looked like someone pouring hot candy, glistening and smooth as glass. 

I wanted to run this again immediately, but I think I’ll run Laurel Highlands 70 miler next year, usually scheduled on same date.

I ran the race in rather poor time, but with relatively little training, it was surprisingly achievable. I think fifty people dropped from the race or didn’t bother showing. Only 150 people finished of the 200 who registered to run. Registration closed in 4 days. Interest up? Joel Wolpert shaved a frikking lunch break off the course record wit a 5 hr 44 min finish.


From the website: 

the point to point course begins near the Dolly Sods Wilderness Area on Red Creek in Laneville, WV.  Following a 2 mile paved section, the trail ascends to Roaring Plains, Flatrock Plains and Red Creek Plains into Dolly Sods. The course proceeds north along the Allegheny Front to Bear Rocks.  Here runners will turn west crossing Dolly Sods to the rim of Canaan Valley north of Timberline Ski Resort. A descent through Timberline  leads to Freeland Rd  and into Canaan Valley State Park. This is not an easy ultra, but very rewarding when completed!The course climbs a total of 5474 feet and descends 4856 feet and is basically in three sections;  the Plains, the Road Across the Sky, and Dolly Sods. Two significant climbs occur in the first 15 miles where a 2500′ ascent is followed by a 1700′ descent, and then another 1200′ climb. In the first half of the course highly technical (rocky), single track sections occur from mile 7-11 and 16-18. The Dolly Sods section has an exciting boulder-hopping stretch from mile 30-31. The course is 75% trail, 15% Forest Service road, and 10% paved road.   There are eight aid stations. You should carry fluids and fuel due to remote location and distance between of some of the stations.
Photos from the first half.

Unfortunately I don’t have the fresh eyes to give a detailed report. I just remember that, after my left ankle opened with fresh blisters at mile eight or so, I sort of went to a special place in my brain, and every opportunity I could I got soaking wet. The water kept my bleeding legs (I have horrible psoriasis from paraquat posioning sustained in 1992) relatively quiet. The course was really, really muddy and slippery this year. In the very technical single-tracks up in The Roaring Plains and in places at Dolly Sods, well, I walked a LOT through those sections after falling, tumbling on rocks I couldn’t see in the thick, aerated black mud. It was like running through a tiramisu with sharp chunks of concrete breezeblocks beneath, sometimes stopped in my tracks from the sliding, muddy morass, and stuff.  It definitely was Morassy



First, a little bio:

I am a Western hunker person. The fire, the fat dripping onto the sizzling hot coals, that is our temple, one without walls. We live a simple life among the “Americans”, chasing down our food and stealing condiments from gas stations.
chuck wagon mural


.old crusty pa home


I didn’t start out that way. I was raised by my three fathers and my muncle in a modest, three-house bedroom on the western edge of the old village, dividing my time between the three palaces I and my siblings claimed as our circuit. No one owned homes any more. Everyone roamed, selling nuggets and beads, returning to the earth an unspelled letter of stewardship and love. They wore the alphabet on the soles of their bare feet.

My family foraged and hunkered, and ran our food down. We were still tied down.  In time, our children, and our children’s children became tired of the ways of our people. They wanted to wander. Hunkering, they thought, was a problematic solution. All infrastructure related to deformations of a completely fluid existence, in constant motion, was futile.The sky was theirs, the cosmos. Upon their open hands, their upward gazing eyes, sparkled the stars come to shine upon them. What was ownership among such kinship? Their two-year old sons would scream for like eight fucking hours because they were cutting second molars and were unable to cope with the pain, unable to travel the world. Their cries would attack the phantom wolves, the ones with the GoPro Cameras and switch blade pogo sticks.

 -ucking reason would their two-year old sons would shove lemons and pictures of Abe Lincoln’s beard into the printer. The screams of the ailing bairn had caused one of the non-hunkering offspring of this weird and middling tribe to decide to – oh merciful fuck he’s throwing the modem and routers on the floor! I would like to write about – 

RE:  there’s no place to squat with a bottle of ketchup by some burning meat over a big smokey fire built on the split framing of a cabana bar dug up from the rubble in a place known as –

-oh shit  WHAM!! he’s destroying the cat’s carpet castle! While I’m trying to piece it together he’s suddenly quiet, too quiet. What’s he up to? Oh, he’s lined the turds up on the floor next to the upended cat box kill me! where’s the soap oh god, oh god I’m a bad parent kill me god – 

Terra Alta, WV, is one of the most beautiful little valley I’ve seen in West Virginia, and I haven’t seen much. I didn’t take any pictures of it. You can Gizoogle it if you want. My GPS took me along Brandonville Pike  and spit me out a little closer to Davis. I swore if I ever hit the jackpot or the revolution renders my state a smoking crater, I would trade my blasted pit for one in Terra Alta, any day. I wouldn’t trade at night because I can’t see the faces on the coins in the dark.

Needless to say, Terra Alta has some crazy stretches of road you should drive on at 35 mph, not 55, as suggested by the GPS. I thought I’d lose my spelt. My road food was spelt, garlic spelt. Growing up and leaving the Hunkering People taught me the value of a good piece of crackling garlic spelt.

I traveled to Canaan Valley for the fifth time in as many years to brave the rough love of Highlands Sky, much in the way one would tolerate an especially confused muncle. …To honor the ones who came before, before the roaming farmers, before the squatters. I burned some pigeon blood, rubbed the ashes on my eyes and nipples, chanted the Family To-Do Hymn, and, saying good-bye to muncle and my three or seven dads, I walked to that dark and lonesome highway and was hit by a silver turkey –

– reincarnated at around two miles, felt myself solid in my shoes. I’d been drifting back to a dream I’d had in the tent the night before. When the rain had stopped around 3 am, a couple of raccoon came down from the trees at the campgrounds to investigate. I could hear and smell them. I swear to merciful Dusty Rhodes I haven’t had more than three hours sleep the night before this race, and that included the time in 2013 when I booked a room and slept on a comfy bed, with my five-year-old farting and flipping all over the bed next to me. So, sleep wasn’t really a consistent positive element of this experience.

I ate a banana and sucked down some coffee, boarded the cheese and road into the clearing at the start. Dawn was breaking and entering, stealing my life. Why bother stretching? I had to run 40 miles. With each year I drift a bit from the enchanted center in which I’d found myself upon the first running. The vast and varied distances covered, the complete clinic of possible conditions, including elevation that I was never trained to handle…these obstacles were becoming smooth with familiarity.

Nevermind that I had not run more than 18 miles – wait, I think I did 20 miles one Saturday this past February, once – at any one time. I had only run one other race this past year, Decker’s Creek Half Marathon, a fast cakewalk on crushed limestone with an asphalt finish that crushed your spirit.

I was not physically trained for this in the traditional sense. I ran for only the past four months, about 20 miles a week, sometimes 25. I was 25 pounds overweight when I started running again this spring. I just basically wanted to do it really, really badly. To run this exceptionally challenging race. I think it takes a piece of me, these valleys, when I go here. I go back looking for it, losing again and again a little piece of my heart, a piece of the wild earth. Maybe I never owned it. Maybe I belonged to it. And my crack. I belonged to my crack.




Another look at my ZTE phone camera’s panoramic stitching.



I wrote a long spiel about my drone camera love and somehow erased the entire draft. I wanted to fly this Ominus FPV drone at Canaan Valley because I’m launching an aerial photography and oil painting service. I had mentioned in an earlier post my intentions. Still working. My plans include ten more flights in advanced settings, an indoor test, an obstacle course, webcam frame-up and time trial of demo job.

Ominus FPV, sporting a 1080P camera, a 16 GB SD card. Stable, teabag sized battery, crashworthy. Easy to use, not so easy to download or convert on my PC






I had about a five minute window to fly Friday night after I grabbed my race bib and spaghetti. I maxed out the motors and had a good time keeping it in the air.


That’s where I’m at, using slow speed. Hi-speed settings will reduce flight time and camera utlity, but the video glitching is really cool looking. Hoping to warp the crap out of some video.



A shot from my very first flight, moments before impact in the grass inches from the blacktop on left side of photo.








But things are getting easier.



no reason, just glitchy.

spotty fence


Click the System 200 to hear my HS 40 theme music.

Uh,  I ran 40 miles. The end.

I’m going to get Oil Creek 100 this October. Shit is real. Ugh, I have things to do.rockyterrain

Home, home in the rain.


An old pic of an unending road, the “Road Across the Sky”


Little baby finish line.





I have a lot of shit to do.

I can make my eyes wander independently. take that, trail running masters!



I can fall off a switchback when the ground gives way and roll onto rocks until my corpse is lying still and cold, forgotten, doomed to rot, if it were not for the alien zombie spores that allowed me to live again.
welcome to stretchway
I always work out my DOMS in ol’ Stretchway, some fetching Alpine shits, indeed.


3 Replies to “Highlands Sky 40 Mile Trail Run 2015 – Race Ramble on the Morassitude”

  1. Fantastic write up, S. F’Mutton. ” I go back looking for it, losing again and again a little piece of my heart, a piece of the wild earth.” A little being “borne back ceaselessly into the past”…. that’s me, anyway, trying. Nice.


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