I found out a couple months ago that this would be the very last Mega Transect as it is known to me. As it is known to the people that have run it all 13 years. As it is known to people that have run it two years, or however many years people can get out to this magical little place in the heart of the woods in the center of our state.
It was my third year, and I signed up for the camping, for the after party, for the training and the challenge, and for the family.
Not my family here safe at the house in Meadville. They know how I feel about them. They know I go out to the trails because I need something there that makes me who I am.
I needed the trail family. The family that I've built since starting trail running in 2011. The family that knows you'll get injured at some point, and can offer advice. Or you'll get burned out and need some time away from the trails. Or that you can't run as fast as they can, but because it's a training day, they'll run with you for a little bit, and find out how you are. That kind of trail family.
This has been a rough year since January. I wanted that comfortable banter, the nostalgia of past races with good people. The laughter and joking and gentle ribbing of each other over a hard cider or a beer.
So I went to the last Mega.
I finished the last Mega.
And I cried a little on the way home from the last Mega.
I didn't take many photos this year. And I didn't stick with any one person this year. I saw my friend Jeff off in the morning, as he would go on to relish in the "playground" that is the course of this race, and he would come in third. I know he was bummed that this would be his only opportunity to run it.
I drank coffee with my friend Kim, as she toed the line with a few other friends, hoping to hike the course. Her breath was taken away at the boulder field. I'm glad she made it down to see what this place is like.
I ran a few miles with Paula and David, remembering how Dave stuck with me last year, and this year he stuck with Paula, who even coming off surgery, finished super strong.
I watched my friends Roger and Ken come up to the top of the boulder-field, looking strong and hooked on trails as always.
I caught up to my friend Daren, who cut at least an hour off his time and who is now hooked on trail ultras.
I climbed the final ascent with my friend Brian, who had paced me for my first 100 miler, and I had paced him on his.
I gave the race director, and another friend, Dave Hunter, a giant hug when I finished this indescribable race.
And I missed the other friends who I had met here before. The people that I had ran this with before, the family in other places.
And there will be more races, and there will be adrenaline and excitement and awe again.
But on a year when it's been rough, I'll still let myself be a little sadder that there won't be that specific boulder field to carry my "rock" to the top. There won't be the speck on that hill from the camping area. There won't be that Raw trail to set me to trembling...
Thank you, Mega Transect. For your hills and rocks and clambers, for the blood and sweat that I've left there, and for that spark that I'll be looking for again, that you put in my heart the first time I climbed that mist covered boulder field. I'll be back again, if only in the stories I'll tell, and in the pictures I'll share of a place that has given me the best trail running memories in my life.
My first time on the boulder field with RD Dave Hunter.