Runners Notes
By Heather Cass Erie Times-News staff blogger
If you want to know anything about the local running scene, ask Heather Cass. A member of the Erie Runners Club for 10-plus years, she is immersed in the local fitness culture, and she's taking your questions.   Read more about this blog.
Archive for the ‘trail running’ category
Posted: March 7th, 2014

St. Pat’s Packet Pickup

If you’re registered for the St. Patrick’s Day distance festival race on March 15 and you want to pick up your packet and timing chip early, you can do so on Friday, March 14 at the Beach No. 1 pavilion from 1 to 7 p.m.

Note, though, that the race is at the Rotary Pavilion on Saturday. There will be no parking near the Rotary on race day — park at the cabins, Beach 6, Beach 8 or the cookhouse.

Try the trails?

If you’re not doing the ERC St. Patrick’s Day race and you want to try trail running, Mike and Jan Vieyra are inviting you to join them and other ERC runners for a training run on a 5-mile loop over the river and through the woods– Asbury Woods, that is. Meet at the picnic shelter (behind the Asbury barn, across the street from the Nature Center) at 7:30 a.m. Several folks are planning on running multiple loops at various paces.

Think Thanksgiving…in May

ERC President & Turkey Trot race director, Dave Comi, is dangling a carrot to encourage attendance at the summer membership meetings. He’s offering a discount on Turkey Trot registration to every member at the May 12 meeting (place to be announced, but it is often at the Asbury barn). You can sign up for just $17, which includes the sweatshirt.

Membership meetings are held the 2nd Monday of each month. In the summer, they’re held outdoors at local picnic shelters. The club provides hot dogs and soda, members often bring something to share (chips, cookies, fruit, etc.), but you don’t have to. Families welcome.

Beach Party for the 1/2

The post-race festivities for the Presque Isle Half Marathon will not require a drive up to Waldameer this year. The picnic and awards ceremony will be right at Beach No. 1 in the new ERC shelter.  Race directors are encouraging you to bring your outdoor chairs and beach gear and spend the day relaxing…after you run around the peninsula, of course. :-) The premium this year is a beach towel. Perfect!


Posted: February 18th, 2014

I work at Penn State Behrend, which offers myriad running options from rugged trails to paved paths to cleared streets (our M&O folks kick butt at clearing the roads/paths here). I mostly stick to streets or paved paths (here are a few of my favorite routes), but last summer I was feeling adventurous, so I said to coworkers and avid trail runners Chris Coulston and Dave Lesher: “Hey, I want to learn the trails around here, can we go for a run sometime?”

I envisioned a nice soft-surface trail run along Fourmile Creek, but I got more than I bargained for. They had me scrambling up the side of mountains, dodging bees nests, crossing creeks, and running on slopes that caused me to yell, “OH. MY GOD. I am not a mountain goat!”  And, they were taking it easy on me.

Suffice to say, I haven’t run with those guys again. You know the saying: If you can’t run with the big dogs, stay on the porch.

Proving, once again, that they are more bada@# than I could ever hope to be, Dave recently posted this GoPro video of one of their recent winter trail runs.

If, like me, this is the only way you’re going to experience a rugged winter trail run, enjoy:

Hat tip to Dave Lesher for the video.

You win, guys….you win.

Posted in: trail running, Videos
Posted: November 6th, 2013


Question: Let’s get off road — what (and where) are your favorite trails to run (with in a 1-hour drive of Erie)?

Asbury woods… Hills, stream crossing… Just did Erie Bluffs and they have developed a lot more also. — Jan Comi

Asbury Woods and Oil Creek State Park — Karen Manganaro

Pleasant Ridge Park. — Megan Corbin

Asbury Woods! — Dennis Albrewczynski

Depending on how fast you drive and where in Erie, for me, Oil Creek State park is always worth the drive down. — Christine Vassen

Re. the O.C. trails: You can catch the trail in Titusville near Drake well museum..park just before Jersery Bridge. Walk up the bike trail about 1/4 mile & the entrance to the Gerard hiking trail will be on your right. Also…at the parking lot is a large display of the trail system where you should find a free map of the park.  —Linda Young

Presque Isle has miles of well-groomed trails that are not extensively populated. Enjoy them before the snow flies! — Tom Toale (Editor’s Note: You can enjoy them after the snow flies with a pair of cross country skis!)

Edinboro U. Cross country course (Perry Lane on the wooded side between Scott Road and Darrow Road) and Bull’s Dam (see below) — Ginny Sackett

Some of my favorite places to get off-road:

Penn State Behrend has myriad trails snaking through the woods around campus. They are not marked, but they’re pretty well worn and, so, not hard to follow. None of trails go for very long before emerging on a road or spilling onto campus, but you can usually pick up another trail across the sidewalk/road, etc. Trail heads start in the upper left hand corner above the soccer/lacrosse field, on the left side after crossing the bridge just past the “Behrend fields” sign, and at the foot of Cooper Road (run up the gorge trail, pick up smaller trails at the top).

Bull’s Dam (also known as Eaton Reservoir) has a three-mile flat and wide grass trail around the reservoir, but….there are also miles and miles of single-track technical trail in the woods surrounding the reservoir.  Just venture in wherever you see an opening and explore.

Harborcreek Community Park (Clark & Firman Roads in Harborcreek) has a paved trail around the park, but there are also lots of trails through the woods that the local cross country teams run. Again…none of them are more than a couple miles, but they are relatively easy trail running (flat, not too technical), but still give you a nice off-road experience.

Headwaters Park has three miles of trails that are well marked and easy to run without having to look down the entire time. We just discovered this park recently…it’s tucked behind the Country Fair off Route 8 in what I thought was an industrial park. Who knew there were 70 acres of wilderness back there?

Headwaters Park and the Headwaters Natural Resource Center was created by the Headwaters NRC Trust.
Located near I-90 and Route 8 is a unique area creating the headwaters of Mill Creek. 35 acres adjacent to the Thomas E. Bundy Industrial Park was donated by Erie County for the creation of our conservation park.

I’ve also been meaning to check out Harborcreek’s Six Mile Creek Park (off Clark Road). Some trail running friends have said there are nice paths there.

Safety notes

Trail running can be dangerous for a several reasons. You can get lost. You can fall and get injured (and be miles from help). And trails are, of course, usually not populated and are found in remote (isolated) locations. So…please heed these tips:

* Run with a friend, if possible.

* Always carry a cell phone (but understand it might not work if you’re in a very remote location)

* Dress in layers. Things can cool off fast…and if you get too hot, you can always take off layers.

* Pay attention. Make it a point to pick out landmarks or certain trees, particularly if the trail forks, so you can find your way back out.

* Wear gloves to avoid bloody palms when you fall (it’s a given that trail runners occasionally fall).

* Carry ID.

* Don’t wear headphones.

* Tell someone where you are going and when you’re leaving. This is good practice…no matter where you are running.

Trail running rules

Just as there are etiquette rules in racing, road running and group running, there are trail running etiquette rules, too.




Posted: August 28th, 2013

A few random running news & notes:

Bull Dam run is Sunday

Sunday morning (9 a.m.) is the 2nd annual Hitting the Trails run at Eaton Reservoir (Bulls Dam), 10021 Ashton Rd, North East, PA 16428. The race director is offering both a 5K course and a 10K (more challenging, more trail) course. Here are all the details:

5K walk runners: You’ll be running/ walking on the grass/ gravel multi-purpose trail around the reservoir. Keep the water to the right and you can’t get lost. It is a loop course. This is a great course for entry level trail runners.

10K runners: You will be running on grass, woodland terrain, dirt, leaves etc. on a majestic winding well marked trail through the woods around the reservoir. Much of this run is completed on single tract trails. There will be plenty of opportunities to pass the competition on straight-aways. This is a run that will take you through pines, hardwoods, open areas, with some challenges of minor hills challenges. This course is largely based on trail biking routes existing onsite.

AND….there will be pancakes after, provided (and cooked) by the Greg’s Boy Scout Troop 82 of North East who are benefitting from the race. NOTE: There are not age group awards for this race because it’s a fundraiser, but…there are pancakes…and that’s better than any medal, plaque or certificate, right?

Registration, application and more information here.

Erie Marathon needs you

The Erie Marathon committee sent out the following plea earlier this week. If you’re not running, consider giving back and volunteering. (I’ll be working registration on Saturday and I’ll be road marshaling (and CHEERING) on Sunday).

19 Days until the ERC Marathon/Half Marathon and we need volunteers!
Races cannot be held unless there are volunteers and the Erie Runners Club has the best!

We need people for parking on Sunday, 5:00 am. and we need  Road Marshals, Sunday, 6:30 AM

If you are confirmed, Thank you!

Not sure, Contact David Comi at 814-881-0060 or Teresa Wigham,

Please leave your name, phone number, email address, the area you would like to work and shirt size.

TNRL is Wrapping Up !?!

Seems like just yesterday Jim Lang was telling us that the Tuesday Night Racing League was starting up again and here it is already winding down. Fall schedules and shorter days make it hard to continue the TNRL after September. And, besides, it’s something to look forward to in the spring, right?

There are just two TNRL’s remaining. They are:

September 3, 2013 – North East Cherry Runs – Gibson Park, North East

September 10, 2013 – 6:30 start – Evanoff home – 4550 South Hill Rd, McKean PA (Season Finale!)

More info about TNRL here.

Newsletter Stuffing  moved to Sept. 3

Note that due to the Monday holiday, the ERC newsletter stuffing “party” will be moved forward one evening to Tuesday, September 3 at 7 pm. at the Plymouth Tavern (usually in the front room). First, you help collate, fold, tape and label the ERC newsletter, then you enjoy free wings, pretzels and beer/softdrinks courtesy of the club.

Biggest Loser race photos

The Biggest Loser official race photos are up and they are free, free, free for you to download! Check them out here. (Mine are…as always…appalling. I will never give you my bib number…never!).

BTW — word has it that race is being moved to Penn State Behrend next year. Waaaahhhh?  Hit the hills my friends, no avoiding them up here in these parts!


Posted: August 6th, 2013

Oh…now this is good news — the organizers of the Eaton Reservoir Trail run (also known as the Bull’s Dam run) — a 5K run or a 10K single-track trail run — have lowered the price to $20 AND…that includes post-race pancake breakfast! Woot! Woot!

This race is a fundraiser for the Boy Scouts (Troop 82 from North East), who know how to lay a trail and how to whip up some fluffy pancakes, so…why not put this unique race on your Labor Day weekend to-do list?

BTW, any friends or family who are coming with you but are not running the race can eat breakfast for just $5 for adults and $3 for kids under 12.


Team registration is now available, too. So…get your buddies together and do it together.

If you’ve already registered….

The race director will be issuing you a $5 refund (the race was $25) at registration and…if you wish to be added to a team, you can still do that, too. Just email the race director. You can find his contact info on the race’s website.

Hope to see you all there!

Dan and I are definitely running…and it’s my birthday on 9/1, so…you have to let me win. Also, I love cheesecake. And carrot cake. And chocolate cake. And ice cream cake. I love cake. Bring cake. (Just kidding…do NOT bring cake…this girl don’t need it!)


Posted: July 31st, 2013


Tired of racing around the same concrete circle at Presque Isle State Park? Get off the beaten track and head east to the Eaton Reservoir (also known as “Bulls Dam” in North East for the 2nd annual “Hitting the Trails” run.

Date: Saturday, Sept. 1

Time: 9 a.m.

Location: Eaton Reservoir (Bulls Dam), 10021 Ashton Rd, North East, PA 16428


5K walk runners: You’ll be running/ walking on the grass/ gravel multi-purpose trail around the reservoir. Keep the water to the right and you can’t get lost. It is a loop course. This is a great course for entry level trail runners.

10K runners: You will be running on grass, woodland terrain, dirt, leaves etc. on a majestic winding well marked trail through the woods around the reservoir. Much of this run is completed on single tract trails. There will be plenty of opportunities to pass the competition on straight-aways. This is a run that will take you through pines, hardwoods, open areas, with some challenges of minor hills challenges. This course is largely based on trail biking routes existing onsite.

Dan & I love Eaton Reservoir. Here’s why.

Registration, application and more information here.

Posted: July 1st, 2013

The rain stopped just in time for the Fahey/Ferko races in Harbocreek on Saturday morning. Results here.

Also Saturday morning — the Kids for Saint Nick’s 5K. Results here.

And, on Sunday, The Bemus Point Summer 10K was held  in nearby Bemus Point, N.Y. Results here.

There were several Erie area runners doing ultra distance this weekend including Dan Young and Christine Vassen who ran at Run Between the Suns, a 12-hour endurance trail run event in Franklin, and Pat Krott who ran Western States 100 Miler in 25:30:29 in triple-digit temps in Auburn, California (which makes me feel like HUGE baby for whining about a humid 15-miler on Saturday morning!).

Congrats to you, Pat! (Please forgive me for blatantly ripping these photos off your Facebook wall. :0) )



Posted: June 11th, 2013


Tom Jennings, ultra marathoner, race director of the Oil Creek 100 Trail Runs

Guest post  by Christine Vassen

Trail Runner magazine asked readers:  Tell us someone awesome you’ve met through trail running.

I paused when I saw this and thought immediately of Tom Jennings, race director for Oil Creek 100 (and an amazing trail runner himself). I meet Tom at an Erie Runners Club 12-hour endurance event. He was the ‘100 mile guy with the funny things on his shoes.  I was way too intimidated to ask him what they were. I learned that Tom was an ultra runner and I figured that ultra runners never spoke to newbies. (I was wrong on that fact.)

The next year, I read about the Oil Creek 100 trail runs and e-mailed Tom to ask several newbie questions, such as: “Are there really bears out there?” Tom humored me and patiently answered all my questions. I started training for my first marathon.

February in northwestern Pennsylvania is snowy/icy. Jack Frost hits us hard.  As race director, promoting the 50K newbie angle, Tom offered to take a group of us out for the 5-mile loop. I figured, 5 miles = no problem. We arrived and Tom greeted us enthusiastically. We headed up the bike path to the trail. Tom was in great spirits telling us how easy it was. I was already struggling and we weren’t even on the trail yet!

Tom consistently checked on us that day and sent a follow-up e-mail that afternoon to make sure we’d make it home OK. At one point, I realized he was breaking the trail in the snow and I thought this seemed insane. But, to me, that’s what’s trail running is about. Meeting people who make the impossible seem normal and entirely doable.

Last year, I suffered a serious injury. As Oil Creek approached, I had to be there. I couldn’t participate, and I couldn’t even stand and cheer. My loving husband, who couldn’t understand why I wanted to be there, drove me to the race and set-up a sleeping bag on the ground at the finish line. He agreed to leave me there while he went for some food. It started to drizzle. Tom checked on me periodically. Thankfully, Tom covered me up at one point to make sure I didn’t get completely drenched. He understood why I wanted to be there. Only an awesome trail runner would understand.

I got to watch Tom at the Burning River 100, which he is training for again this year.  At 3 a.m., Tom was still making the run look easy. He was laughing and having fun. The next year, I was back at BR100 volunteering at an aid station for much of the day. Last weekend, I participated in a supported Oil Creek training run. Tom goes out early and puts fruit and water at critical points along the trail. At the end of the day, he gathers everything up and leaves zero trace. He also helps maintain the trails.

I would have never had such amazing experiences if Tom had ignored my e-mail or laughed at my silly newbie questions.


Christine Vassen, above, completed the Oil Creek 50K in 2011. You can read her account of the experience here.

Posted: April 21st, 2013


OK, I’ll admit, I scoffed when I first heard about the Barber Beast on the Bay adventure race, primarily because I’m tighter than two coats of paint and was annoyed that the race had a $100 registration fee.

But, after participating in a 3-mile Beast on the Bay trial run on Sunday, I can say with every confidence — it’s going to be worth every freaking buck.

Open up your checkbooks and chalk it up to a good cause (the Barber Center) and one bad@#$ hometown opportunity. This is one race you aren’t going to want to miss.**

First impressions

First impressions count and from their first press conference to the race’s website to this weekend’s trial run (and the very detailed instructions/Parking map/course map we received in advance), race organizers have impressed me wholeheartedly.

These people have their stuff together. This is going to be a first-class race and it’s going to go smoothly and flawlessly. I am in awe of the amount of planning and effort that has already went into this race, a race that is not happening until September, mind you. (Heck, I direct a race a few weeks later and I don’t even have my application done yet).

The very fact that they hosted a test run is testimony to the every-detail-thought-out event that you can expect.  Event organizers wanted to test their registration and bag-drop process, they wanted to make sure the wave times were going to work, and they wanted to try a few of the planned obstacles.

There were more than 50 area runners on Sunday morning who were willing to be the Beast’s guinea pigs.  And, they’ve got the bruised and scraped forearms and bloody knees to prove it.

It’s going to be a beast

Folks, this is going to be a tough race. It is being designed by Erie athlete and former Navy SEAL, John Walker, who, based on my experience yesterday, is not going to go easy on our civilian candy a@#$es.

It’s going to be a challenge. I don’t care if you run 50Ks or 100Ks, running miles on sand and pulling yourself up and over three 10-foot (?) storage boxes with nothing more than a rope and a hand, if you’re lucky, from a strong guy on top, is going to stretch your physical limits.

The little beast trial run

The trial run started at Waldameer. Waves of runners went off every 10 minutes. We ran down to beach no. 1 and were directed onto the sand just after the condos across from Sara’s.  SAND. (Yep…prepare yourself now).  We ran over a few natural obstacles — sand-stick-stone hills, a driftwood-strewn obstacle and up and over at least a half dozen sand mounds.

Then, we came to the metal storage boxes with ropes dangling from the top. Three in a row. And we had to get up and over them — twice  (it was an out and back course). These were definitely the most challenging obstacle on Sunday and they left most runners, including yours truly, with bruised, swelled and bloodied forearms and knees.  Getting down was almost harder than getting up.

If you think I’m complaining, you’ve never done an adventure race.  War wounds are expected and, frankly, I think most participants would be disappointed if they didn’t have bruises to show off and brag about the next day (see my photos below! :-) ) .

The turn around consisted of about 9,567 tires (well, it seemed that way) that you had to high-step it through.

There were water stops, an enthusiastic and crowd-rallying DJ, an entire photo/video crew, a costumed mascot, and a mini party, complete with bananas, granola bars, water, free “Beast on the Bay” tumblers, and beer at the finish line.  And, THAT was just for the “test” run.

The verdict

This is a don’t-miss event if you’re the type who likes a challenge and isn’t afraid to get a little banged up to get your kicks.

Want more opinions?

Ask any of these people who battled the Beast on Sunday.

A few lousy photos

Here are a few photos I took. I’m sure there will be many, many more photos of this event based on the five-man crew Erie photographer, and runner, Rob Frank from Rob Frank Photography had there. UPDATE: There are now 284 photos here.

**  There are a few types of people I’d recommend miss this race: pregnant women, kids, those who aren’t physically fit and/or don’t run, runners who don’t want to get injured (or take the risk of getting injured), and those who are planning to run the Erie Marathon the next week because you will get banged up, bruised and bloodied and one week before your “big race” is a really bad time to do that.

Posted: April 17th, 2013


The Bull Dam Trail Run  (at Eaton Reservoir in North East) is back again this year and race director Stephen Haeseler is, once again, offering two distances — a nice, flat, grassy 5K and a more challenging 10K that weaves through the woods.

From the Bull Dam Trail Run website:

This is the Second Annual Trail Race at Eaton Reservoir (locally known as Bull Dam). The race will be in the morning of Sunday, September 1st 2013. This is the Sunday of Labor Day Weekend.

The 5K course: The 5K course is a very flat wide path that travels about 1 lap around the reservoir. This is a great course if you would like to try trail running for the first time. The scenery is beautiful there will be no worries on getting lost. Just keep the water to your left. The trail will also be marked with white flags on the left side of the path. The trail itself is a mixture of  gravel and grass and just a smidge of asphalt at the spillway.  Historically the spillway is dry in late August early September but there is no guarantees.

The 10K course: The 10K course is single lap, more sophisticated and challenging course. There are some wide trails and about half the course is single tract trails that weaves through the woods around the reservoir. The running surface will be a mixture of packed dirt trail, grass, gravel, a touch of asphalt, and grassy areas. This will also be over roots, under limbs, up short hills, down small grades and over stick covered mud puddles. There will be no worries about getting lost however. Last year we had 30-40 volunteers guiding runners on the path as well as bold marker at every turn and flagging periodically along blind straights and at turns. This is great for the beginner as well as the seasoned trail runner. There is no mystery on figuring out course.

This would be a great chance to try a trail run and to race in a place other than Presque Isle State Park. Dan & I and the kids frequently walk the dog around the Eaton Reservoir, but I told you all about that last year.

Race registration info here.



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