FKT: AJ Palmer - Enola Low Grade Trail (PA) - 2020-08-08

Route variation
one way
Gender category
Start date
Finish date
Total time
5h 23m 25s
GPS track(s)

You might wanna sit down for this. You are not going to believe this. Where do I even begin? Let's start with a flat tire in the town of Atglen. After placing my finish line drop bag and on my way to place what would be my 2nd drop bag, flat tire. FixAFlat, turn around and go back to where I placed the finish line drop to figure this out. Oh yea, did not have my cell phone on me. Don't ask me why. I met Joe who owns an HVAC business and likes doing triathlons. He was a very nice man who let me use his cell phone, the restroom of his business establishment as well as a cup of coffee. Wow, that is the kindness and hospitality of small town America. AAA would not let me ride w/ them, so then I met Jose who was willing to give me a ride back to Lancaster after I could not reach anyone on his phone to come pick me up. Unbeknownst to me, Jose was Joe's adopted son from El Salvador who came here when he was 16, I think, to escape drug gang violence. He had an incredible story, really lifted my spirits with his testimony and invited me to his church. Now I was starting to think things had happened the way they did up to this point for a reason, a purpose. Two new tires and a headlamp purchase later, I was on my way to finish placing my drop bags. Blasting Florida Georgia Line in my car I dropped two more bags @ 10 miles and 18 miles in. Each drop bag contained 50 oz. water, 16 oz. Liquid IV and 16 oz. XEndurance Fuel 5. The first drop bag also contained my hydration vest, containing two 16 oz. soft flasks of XFuel5 as well as 1.5 liters of water in the bladder and two caffeinated Ultra Endurance GU's. After parking my car in front of the post office in Columbia, PA I walked to the Enola Low Grade Trail western terminus, right on the Susquehanna River. Then, I met pro ultra runner Zach Miller. He had just finished some training and was stretching out in the grass. We had a nice little conversation and found out he is originally from my local area. He was stoked for my FKT attempt. Now I'm freaking fired up man. Departed Enola Low Grade Trail western terminus @ 16:00. Started with one 18 oz. handheld bottle filled with XEndurance Fuel 5 mixed with a super top secret energy drink mix that has 5... 5! different types of caffeine as well as amino acids, vitamins and minerals. Made sure to not let that touch my lips until I was on the first bridge. Came out the gate pretty hot, but not too fast. Wanted to go fast. Saw a shmedium turtle on the trail. Tried to keep a steady pace around 8 min miles. Was not going to hold back. Had to shoot my shot. Made it to the first bridge in about 45 minutes, the second bridge roughly 45 minutes later.
Now let me stop to say this...
The first bridge is a shipwreck of plywood and metal grates.
The second bridge is an arthritic rusted skeleton.
Having said that, I walked on water across both bridges. Angels carried me across.
No adrenaline rush. Calm, cool, steady. Easy.
The first drop bag went well, but I am still learning how to keep my body properly fueled and hydrated running ultras. Drank most of the fluids I had stashed and put on the hydration vest. Only stopped for a few minutes. Felt like I consumed the right amount of fluids. Overall pace definitely slowed down between drop bags one and two. Maybe I did have an adrenaline dump from the bridge crossings, but I don't know. Just not good @ managing fluid consumption from this point on. Started dealing w/ stomach cramps. Some walking. Second drop bag went well. Could not tell whether I needed more or less fluids so I drank as much as I could. Refilled soft flasks w/ XFuel. Paced picked up for the 20th and 21st miles. Consumed GU somewhere around there. Can they not just make those things taste sweet instead of bitter?... Miles 23 and 24 offered up the most flooded mud and sand. Definitely slowed me down. I swear, rabbits are faster out in the country. The sun was setting behind me as the trail gave way to more countryside views. Serene. Left hamstring cramped and pulled up hard and fell down. Stretched it out and was feeling it the rest of the way after that. It did not hurt. Just tight in the same way you can feel your left shoe tied tighter than your right shoe. Could not push off and kick back as hard to run fast. Jogging replaced running. Walking when fueling and hydrating. Never really saw cows run before, but they were running w/ me along side me in their enclosure and I was worried they might break loose! Darkness fell and the headlamp came on. That feeling of no end in sight set in. The stars were shining bright and beautiful. Huge fallen tree branches and more flooded mud pits from Isaias tried to stop me. Never. Eventually, I started to recognize that I was getting close to the end. Could see that I was entering Atglen. I kept hoping to see a sign indicating the End of the Enola trail, but no...
The trail is slowly consumed and swallowed alive by wilderness. After through most of the 30th mile I am just wading through tall grass, weeds, brush, thickets, bushes, thorns, small trees, spider webs, everything, the Jungle!... eventually the trail clears out again to the amtrak rails and that's it. No real clear, official indication of where this trail starts/ends in Atglen. No clue. All I know is that I ran more than 29.4 from Susquehanna to Atglen. As far as I know, no one has ever done this trail, crossing the bridges while they are down & out for repair or with the bridges intact. If that ain't good enough for an FKT... I don't know man... you tell me.

Made it to Atglen with an hour to spare before the last train departs Parkesburg back to Lancaster. E-Ticket on my phone. Walked/Jogged 3 miles carrying my final drop bag. Turned the last corner onto Maple St. as a cop pulls up to the STOP sign, looking @ me like i'm some kind of maniac. I am by the way... Just imagine being a small town cop on partrol late at night and you see some maniac with a headlamp on carrying a big orange bag, running with a hydration vest on, looking like trash... man. Got to the train station with minutes to spare. Though I missed the train. Then I hear the train and can see the train light approaching. Then I notice it is pulling up to the other side of the tracks. Then I see the sign on the other side of the tracks that says to Harrisburg. Then I realize Lancaster is on the way to Harrisburg. Then I remember that I'm on planet Earth and call Lancaster my home. Then I watch my perfect ending stop just for a moment and that pull away and speed out of sight. Would have been home in less than 30 minutes. How cool would that have been?... Damn!... called home. My brother Matt graciously agreed to come pick me up and I sat there eating maple almond butter and pecan pie Lara bars with a fresh change of clothes on, in my bare feet @ and old dusty small town train station. And the lights were not so bright so as to dampen the stars from the brightness of their shining. My brother got there fast and I told him all about my day on the ride home.