Beginners and Beyond


Rock'n The Knob RR (Read 86 times)

Trail Monster

    Shane surprised me with an entry to the Rock'n The Knob 30k a couple weeks ago. After last weekend's disastrous trail 10k I was about terrified of running up and down a mountain for three times as long. But the race director of the RTK, Ben, had given Shane a free entry for me as a fellow race director so I couldn't be a no-show.

    The Rock'n the Knob is not actually 30k. It's advertised as 19.23 miles (31k) but everyone got closer to 20+ miles by GPS which means it was probably actually longer since tree cover causes signal loss and vertical gain/loss are not calculated in by GPS. I'm glad I didn't know this in advance.

    The race itself is billed as 'PA's Highest Trail Race'. The course description states: "Runners will start from the Clubhouse at the Blue Knob All Seasons Resort. Racers will then conquer the ski slopes, enjoying beautiful vistas along the route. The 30K racers will then split from the 5 mile route, linking with the Lost Turkey Trail to begin their assault on the State Park side of the mountain. The 30K runners zigzag up and down the mountain accumulating over 9,700 ft. of elevation change! This race will be the most challenging in the area, putting even the most hardened trail runner to the test."


    The view


    I made the decision to drive out to Bedford, PA and stay the night before the race. I found a hotel and then headed out for some food at a little Mexican place called Salsa's. If you're ever in Bedford I highly recommend it. While Denny's, Hosses, and all the other chain places were packed, Salsa's had maybe 10 patrons inside, live music, and the food was excellent. I made it back to the hotel and laid out all my gear (minus a forgotten Garmin) and got ready for bed.

    After a restless night I got up at 6:30 and dressed in my INKnBURN denim shorts and sugar skull tee with Altra Superiors. I added a long sleeve pink shirt on top as a warm up. I grabbed coffee from the hotel lobby and began the half hour journey to Claysburg where the race would begin at the Blue Knob Four Seasons Resort. Once there I picked up my packet and bib. I'd been assigned number 13. On top of the forgotten Garmin, the poor night's rest, and the bib number I was pretty convinced it would be a bad day. I mostly hid in the lodge until start time because otherwise I was freezing in the 48* morning air. BRRRR!

    We lined up right on time and were given some brief instructions on the course and markings before a shotgun start. Wow was that loud up there in the mountains!




    Looks like I was lucky to avoid this guy's farmer blow


    The start at the Clubhouse (elevation 2,376 feet) meant running uphill for about 2.25 miles until we reached the radio towers on the top of Herman Point (elevation 3,014 feet). I took this slowly and watched people disappear over the hills and around bends wondering if or when I would catch them again. My stomach felt rocky and I hoped I just needed to warm up. We then turned onto Lost Turkey Trail and headed down the mountain. I almost got smeared by a speeding car at the road crossing but was able to hustle across just in the knick of time. After that I reached the steepest descent of the race, an old logging trail that drops 831 feet in 0.87 miles. Thankfully it was followed by a flat 0.73 mile trail to the campgrounds. I was already struggling by this point and my stomach was roiling but just focused on relaxing and staying rubber-side down. There were two women in front of me running together and I dubbed them The Ponytails because that's all I would see as they disappeared around each bend in front of me. I vowed to catch and beat them before the end of the race.


    The Lodge


    The runners next circumvented Blue Knob State Park campgrounds via a wide single track trail before taking an access road over to the Crist Trail. It was at this point that I realized I wasn't absorbing my water. My stomach sloshed with each step and the weird gurgling sounds it was making worried me even more than the stabbing pain it was causing. As we headed towards Pavia Road we headed down the sharpest descent of the race with 859 feet of fall in 2.6 miles. Unfortunately my stomach couldn't take the pounding and I walked a lot of the descents. I crossed Pavia Road and stopped at the mile 7 aid station to eat a couple gummy bears and refill my handheld. From here I had to conquer a 4 mile loop consisting of rolling single track, an ascent of Rock'n Ridge Trail, and a loose rock gully climb. The climb is roughly 2 miles and becomes progressively steeper the farther it goes. The total climb is 887 feet. Thankfully it's followed by almost a half mile of flat double-track before dropping back to the aid station. Here I joined up with a group of runners named Luke, Rachel, and Sarah for the remainder of the run. Luke had fallen at mile 2 and broken his hand but refused medical attention and finished the race. What a rock star!


    Careful descent of the stone stairs


    From the aid station we followed the road and headed straight back up, 0.87 miles and 395 feet of climb from the park office to the Homestead Loop Trailhead. The loop is 1.75 miles long and follows an old road. First it descends 363 feet in 0.63 miles and then ascends 624 feet and 1.11 miles back out of the hollow. I dubbed this section the Hill of Despair for the numerous false summits and relentless climbs. We did pass a woman on this ascent which made me feel a little better about my performance. Finally, we reached Raven's Rest Pavillion and the final aid station at 2,037 feet elevation. I sat on the picnic table and tried to eat some gummy bears while the volunteers checked out Luke's hand. My stomach had relaxed some but pounding down descents was still out of the question.




    From the pavillion we began to climb the southeastern flank of the mountain. We traversed a contour to 2,570 feet elevation and then dropped 500 feet in a half mile to Beaver Dam Run. According to the course description "this entire section requires runners to be able to stop on a dime to avoid seriously technical and jagged rocks along the narrow single track." Once you reach the bottom, you are greeted by a stunning view of a waterfall cascading down a gully filled with boulders covered in moss. Well, stunning until you realize you are about to climb the waterfall, 971 feet of ascent in 0.79 miles on slippery rocks and crossing the falls twice.


    Finally we reached a dirt road where we continued our final ascent of the mountain for another 0.2 miles until reaching the 'Stone Pads'. This is a single-track section of extremely rocky trail. After awhile things leveled off and we followed rolling trail past the Pavia Overlook and out to Pavia Road, which we ran up to the ski lodge at the summit (3,142 feet). We turned onto an access road to the ski lifts and proceeded to run straight down the Route 66 ski slope to the East Wall Traverse ski slope and down to the bowl at Stembogen. Finally the last of the stomach-pounding descents were over and I turned into the forest until I reached the final surprise, the 'rock garden'. This is where I finally overtook The Ponytails as they walked through and decided it was a good race afterall. The maintenance building appeared and then the finish line and I was able to put out a final kick to finish in 5:42:21.


    Elevation profile


    Course Map


    I was surprised to learn I took second in my age group but it turned out two of the top women were in my age group. The Ponytails and the other woman I had passed were also in my age group so there is some satisfaction in that. Afterwards, there was food and beer to be had before I made the long trek home.




    Finisher's Medal/Bottle Opener


    Age Group Award


    Overall, this is a great race for an experienced trail runner. The views and trails are amazing and well worth the trip. However, it's definitely not something to be taken lightly as evidenced by Luke's broken hand. The medals, the shirts, and the post-race food and refreshments all make it top notch. And it's not every day that you can summit the second tallest mountain in PA twice while traversing both sides. The course was well marked and obviously well planned to challenge everyone who attempted it. But it definitely was not beginner or even intermediate runner friendly.


    And I'm still not sure I can ever wear the race shirt because having 'Rock'n The Knob' emblazoned across my chest just seems like it will invite sexual innuendos, especially from those who know it was Blue Knob! Oh boy! *face palm*

    2013 races:

    3/17 Shamrock Marathon

    4/20 North Coast 24 Hour

    7/27 Burning RIver 100M

    8/24 Baker 50M

    10/5 Oil Creek (distance to be determined)


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    Altra Zero Drop


      Congratulations, it looks like a beautiful race and you did wonderfully. I had a good giggle over the "knob" part though, but you earned that shirt!


      Caretaker/Overlook Hotel

        Congratulations, it looks like a beautiful race and you did wonderfully. I had a good giggle over the "knob" part though, but you earned that shirt!


        Coralie.......Shame on you!  Your polluted little mind could so easily influence such a delicate little flower like our baby Banshee.  Big grin Cool Shy


        Oh, and "blue knob" sounds like some sort of painful condition. Cool






          Hell no!  >:-/


          Seriously though, I would break into a million pieces if I tried to run that!  Trail runners are a different breed, there's no doubt about it.


          Second is second, regardless if two were removed because of overall wins.  As such, you are gathering quite a collection of bling this year, you go girl!

          Will run for scenery.

            Nice race!


            I wonder how the Ponytails would feel if they knew you only ran the race b/c you "had to" ....

            Stupid feet!

            Stupid elbow!


            Wickedly Average

              Awesome race!


              That looks like a great area to hike and visit, but I am pretty sure that I would not be capable of running it. Even as a hike, it would likely be a VERY long day.


              Beautiful area regardless.

              Tom (formerly known as PhotogTom)

              5K - 25:16, 10K - 55:31,  15K - 1:20:55,   HM - 1:54:54


              Barking Mad To Run

                Congrats on a great trail race for you and your placing. Looks very scenic, from your photos - with you as part of that lovely scenery, of course Big grin - but also looks like a very tough course!  Congrats!

                "Do what you can, with what you have, where you are." Theodore Roosevelt

                Hip Redux

                  Heh heh, you said knob.  Big grin


                  That elevation profile is NUTS!   Great job!


                  Bad Ass

                    Better weather, better performance, rocking it!



                    "The most powerful weapon on earth is the human soul on fire."

                    It's always fucking hot in Miami! (except for 3 days of the year)


                      Congratulations on grinding it out and taking 2nd in your AG! It looks like a beautiful course. Thanks for sharing the RR and pics.

                        Congrats on another tuff run. The trails look beautiful, thanks for sharing.


                        Wickedly Average

                          Heh heh, you said knob.  Big grin


                          That elevation profile is NUTS!   Great job!


                          Heh heh - you said Nuts after she said knob...

                          Tom (formerly known as PhotogTom)

                          5K - 25:16, 10K - 55:31,  15K - 1:20:55,   HM - 1:54:54

                            That elevation profile looks good for hiking up mountains, and you ran it.  Daaaaamn.


                            Great report, beautiful pics, and you had lucky 13 for a bib number, sweet!

                            Hip Redux


                              Heh heh - you said Nuts after she said knob...


                              Heh heh!


                              Will run for scenery.


                                Heh heh - you said Nuts after she said knob...


                                You said 'she said' after she said 'you said'.  Just sayin'....

                                Stupid feet!

                                Stupid elbow!