Let me start off by saying this is hands down one of my favorite local half marathon courses. Major kudos to RD Scott Newcomb and the entire volunteer staff that make this race possible every year.
Trail running attracts a certain crowd, and Squirrely Tail certainly brings them out. What I love about Squirrely Tail is the “no frills” style of the race. But, don’t let that fool you.
This race puts out a great spread and has some of the friendliest volunteers that make race day more of a community event than a flashy swag-fest. Sure, each registrant gets a race tech shirt (as long as they register in time) but really you come to this race for the experience.
The course has around a total of 745 to 800+ ft gain depending on which direction you run. Last year the race was run counter-clockwise around the lake (745 ft gain), this year the course was run clockwise around the lake (808 ft gain). The terrain is technical, but not very difficult and has a lot of opportunities for easy running.
February in Eastern PA is a bit of a crap shoot. Last year was a cold, muddy, miserable mess. This year the temperature was cold, but the course wasn’t as muddy as the previous year. The only thing about this year that I was focusing hard on was not rolling my ankle, otherwise conditions were near perfect.
I got to the race a little behind schedule, so this year was a no-fuss-collect-your-bib-and-go approach. In my haste, I forgot that I had to pee, and took off with the group only realizing my mistake after running past the port-a-johns.
Call me crazy, but you’d think a race in the woods would have provided me plenty of opportunities to stop and relieve myself… but it didn’t. Every twist and every turn I could see other runners, and being one to keep pushing on, I told myself I’d go to the bathroom once I was done.
The first 4-5 miles went off without a hitch, I was enjoying my easy going pace and naturally fell into a groove trailing behind a couple that was making it a point of staying together. I was enjoying our pace, so I didn’t push. After crossing a small bridge they met up with a friend who was walking the course in the opposite direction and stopped to chat.
[Side note: during the race the trails are open to the public so you can expect to encounter plenty of hikers, especially when the weather is favorable].
Deciding to not break my stride, I broke away from the couple and continued onward, slowly trotting behind two more runners. The three of us kept a good pace, exchanging small talk about the awesome weather, the course, Watch out for that root!, and so on.
By mile 9 I really had to pee, but didn’t know where to stop, so I kept telling myself, “you’re almost done, just keep going.” This worked surprisingly well, and by mile 12 I forgot about it. Around this time another runner [Grayce] caught up to me, she had run Frozen Snot the day before and was killing it. Kudos to all of the runners who ran Snot the day before and were running Squirrely Tail the day after. I’m telling you this race is awesome at attracting the nuts! Anyway, I kept with her until the end, focused on the port-a-john as I crossed the line.
After I finished, an Instagram follower [Ryan] approached me to say hi! We chatted about the race, the conditions, how awesome it was, and parted ways after shaking hands and finally getting to meet each other in person. I made my way to my car to swap clothing out. I needed fresh warm socks and a new sweater. After getting dressed I looked over to base camp where I saw Dave was cooking hot dogs.
Naturally, I partook in a hot dog, loaded with ketchup, mustard, and relish – helped myself to some chicken corn soup, a shot of peanut M&M’s, and a hot coffee.
Once satisfying my palette, I was getting ready to head back to my car to leave, and… oh yeah, I have that whole I need to pee thing! After 13 miles of awesome trail running, sipping on Tailwind Nutrition now and again, partaking in hot coffee afterward and downing a Gatorade, it was the perfect ending to my morning adventure. Whatever, it was so satisfying, don’t judge me.
Hands down, this race kicks ass and you’ve got to be a little Squirrely to want to run it year after year. I enjoy the course’s challenges and I enjoy the people even more. I’ve met some really awesome people out on the trail and back at the base camp after crossing the finish.
Do yourself a favor and sign-up for this race next year, it won’t disappoint, and when you are done have a hot dog with Dave! Tell ’em Ken sent ya!