26 days from conception to the start of the execution. The #Brew2Brew100k was a culmination of a goal I had and the inspiration of a task a fellow Vol-Stater had completed. For quite sometime I’d wanted to run/walk from my hometown of Altoona, PA to State College, PA; this would have been about 40-50 miles pending the route I took and where I decided to end the run. Then I saw my friend Steve Monte do a Chuey’s to Chuey’s 100k in Texas and the route I wanted just kind of fell into place. Go from the local downtown Brewery in Altoona, Rail Road City Brewery, to one of my favorite brew pubs, Elk Creek Cafe in Millheim, PA. Conveniently I found a round that was just about 100k, add in the wrong turns and detour (we’ll get to that later) and it was nearly 70 miles.
I had put the idea out to my Facebook friends and local running community shortly after I decided I was going to do it, it caught very little interest with exception from a long time friend Ben Rex. My initial plan was to do it on a Friday-Saturday, but with Ben’s work schedule it was suggested we go from Thursday into Friday. Without anyone else showing interest I decided this was the best choice. So we planned to Meet at Rail Road City at 6:30-7:00pm, have a drink or two and head out.
On 4/13 around 6:30pm my girlfriend Mikalee and I got to the brewery and were greeted by the bartender “So you’re really doing this?” “Of course!”
Shortly there after Ben had showed up and a mutual friend Jordan came to see us off. Corey Hudson reached out letting us know he would not be able to make the trip out, but his support meant a lot. We each had two beers, posed for Matt Winrick (RRCB’s owner) to take a photo in the brewery, then I had a photo taken of us by Jordan outside the bar and we were off. We posted the photo on social media and were met with some nice responses offering support and others that well….their comments speak for themselves (see below).
Ben and I agreed this would be a walk, without the pressure of cut offs and just wanting the experience we decided there was no need to get to the end by a certain time, our only goal was to meet last call at Elk Creek the next day, giving us about 27 hours to walk an (estimated) 62.2 miles. Jordan parked a few blocks away so he joined us for a few blocks, after he departed we stopped at a Sheetz (local convenience chain) to get a cup of coffee and some Levi Garrett Chew (it just seemed to fit the bill).
Ben and I made an agreement that we would stop in any open bar and have a beer during our journey and on the way out of Altoona we stopped at TKs and the Kettle Inn. After the second stop we started up Kettle and proceeded to no man’s land through Sinking Valley. This early in the journey we felt great and were talking, laughing and excited about what the next 20 hours had to bring. The beginning of Kettle road has several S-turns, blind corners and bad drivers. It was because of this that I decided to ask my uncle, owner of JLS Construction Inc., if he would loan us a pair of fluorescent reflective vests. After my 1/10 meeting with a Dodge Ram 1500 I didn’t want to take any chances. We made it through the S-turns and blind curves of Kettle street and started along the semi rural/farmland parts of route 971. We walked without any lights on until we saw headlights reflecting coming in either direction and would then flash them on. The waning moon provided enough light for us to see the road and allow our eyes to adapt to the surrounding area.
As we moved through sinking valley we passed Fort Roberdeau and then into Arch Springs. This area was very beautiful in the moonlight. The road traversed wetlands, farmlands with livestock. A haunting forest on either side of the road seemed to be the setting of any horror film, but the peacefulness of the night helped to drive us on.
It was just past Arch Springs that we made out first mistake. I had saved the route on a GPX file and downloaded it to my phone. However through a combination of poor GPS signal and my map not updating the route seemed to stray off into private land, crossing yards and missing roads entirely. we decided to cross route 453 rather than turn right as it appeared the map was wrong. After about a half mile, we realized our error and turned around on Logging Road 31060. From here we turned left onto Union Furnace, then followed left to stay on Union Furnace Road.
Once we made the left hand turn we were 2 miles out from Spruce Creek. 1.25 miles from our turn we came to an underpass, and there were several trains that were passing through, this coupled with the extreme signage posted from a property owner made this part of the trek interesting. It was here that I noticed Ben was falling behind a little bit. I would stop to wait for him and share my gloves to help him out as his hands were cold, we continued up into Spruce Creek.
Spruce Creek Cafe has their self proclaimeed famous fries, and even though the cafe had been closed for several hours the smell of french fry grease permeated for about a half mile leading up to the restaurant. It was here we took our first break, sitting for only about 5 minutes and moving on. We would turn left onto route 45 which would eventually lead us to our destination. From this point on the journey became absolutely miserable. It got cold, down to the high 30’s with a constant headwind. Ben had my only pair of gloves so I balled my sleeves up, tucked them into my wind breaker and held the straps of my pack with my fingers against my chest just to stay warm. From Spruce Creek we passed through Pennsylvania Furnace and shortly after redirected our route. Instead of continuing on route 45, we turned left onto W Whitehall road. This was a mutual decision as Ben was struggling and this would give us the chance to reach a convenience store that had a place to sit down and get some warm food versus the Uni-Mart in Pine Grove Mills that we would only be in and out of.
It was nearly 10 miles from turning onto W Whitehall until we reached the Uni-Mart and at this point we were both suffering. I was cold without gloves, the headwind chapped my lips and it was all I could do to keep pushing on. Every so often I would glance back to see been further and further behind. Ben is a great cyclist and has done some epic trail running, at this point though, this had been 1.) the longest he’d ever been on his feet, and 2.) the first time he spent covering this distance on the road. It was catching up. We were not moving quickly but the space between the two of us was growing more and more. I would stop and wait for him to catch up, take a breather with him then press on. Eventually we made it to the Uni-mart at the intersection of W Whitehall rd and route 26 (College avenue) in State College. After getting some breakfast and coffee, Ben decided he had had enough. He covered 45 miles on his first journey run without any prior efforts or training, an epic journey in itself. After arranging for my brother to take him back to my house and getting myself situated I would continue on. Ben went back to my house in Altoona, took an Epsom salt soak and a nap and would later ride up to Millheim with Mikalee(my baby mama/girlfriend) to see me at the end and share dinner.
Once I left the Uni-Mart I put music on, this was only the second time I’ve listened to music on a run, the first being Vol State. I took 26 back to the original course of 45 and headed towards Boalsburg. It was here that I made the second wrong turn, but it made for a much more scenic route. Instead of continuing on to Historic Route 45, I managed to stay on Shingletown road(route 45) bringing me into the heart of Boalsburg and past the Pennsylvania Military Museum.
I snapped a few photos of the area and continued on catching back up to my planned route at the intersection of Earlystown Road (route 45).
A few days before I asked a friend of mine if she would leave Ben and I a drop bag just before the underpass of the Mt. Nittany Expressway where Earlystown road intersected, luckily she did! This drop was made for 2 people and she left us out some bananas, PB&J sandwiches two water bottles and the biggest present of all 2 New Belgium Voodoo Rangers.
I took the drop bags off the side of the road and walked down the hill next to a townhouse complex and ate one sandwich, dranks both waters and had to drink bother Voodoo Rangers. Luckily as I was packing up I saw an older man outside that let me get rid of my trash in his garbage can and recycling bin. From there I only had 18 miles to go and I pressed on. I took my time and enjoyed the next 5 miles into Centre Hall. Once passing through the junction of 45 and 144 I stopped at the Earlystown Diner for some ice cream, cold water and to charge my phone. The staff was very nice, This would be the second “aid station” during the entire 62-70 mile trek.
From here I decided I wanted to run/walk the next 13 miles. I put my music back on and decided I would run one song and walk the next. This would eventualy prove difficult as it seemed every time a run song started I was at the bottom of a hill, but it is what I decided to commit to. The miles went by very slowly, after running through two songs and walking one I felt like I had covered 1.5 miles only to learn that is had been 0.8. I began to get very frustrated after seeing the same result several times and decided I was done looking at what I had left. I made sure I didn’t have any other other turns to make and just went.
I finally reached Millheim and still had 1.7 miles to Elk Creek Cafe. Shortly after reaching the town line my friend Ben Mazur drove past, stopped up the road and took a photo of me running into town. No sooner did I see the sign for the brewery, I did it! A 100k+ self supported, “un-aided” (with exception of the one drop) and I connected two great breweries on foot.
This run taught me that I don’t need to pay a bunch of money to have a race. I can set a course and find the time to do it, I can prove people wrong, I can get past my own hesitation. You don’t need someone to organize something for you, you just need to get out and create your own adventure and do it.
I’m excited for my next Brew2Brew Journey Run.