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07-June; Sunday; 26 starters, 23 finishers
East to West; Caroline (NY 79) to Watkins Glen State Park (lower entrance)
Catherine the Great: Ed Lindley, John Walsh
Christopher Columbus: Jeff Furman
Andrew Carnegie: T.J. Pempel, Larry Prud'Homme
No one but the Rossiter Brothers and Joe Daley actually thought that this idea would work. So, they solicited all the runners who might be interested, and asked for their recent 10-mile road race time. On this basis, runners were divided into three teams of approximately equal ability. The Triennial tradition of whinging began early, when several of the more sensitive souls objected to be classed as 'bestial'.
John Walsh earned a share of the coveted Catherine the Great award by winning Leg 4 (Connecticut Hill) and then continuing on Leg 5 (Texas Hollow). Ed Lindley earned a share for destroying a quality field on Leg 2 (South Danby).
Jeff Furman set an all-time standard for Christopher Columbus on Leg 3 (Lick Brook). He ran with Rossiter & Lagoze from Bald Hill Road to near the top of Lick Brook, then became confused about directions, headed back up Lick Brook on an abandoned section of the FLT, then followed the same trail he had run down for six miles all the way back to the start. Still not recognizing where he was, he ran another six miles in the wrong direction to South Danby road. At this point it occurred to him that he should have been in Treman Park about two hours earlier. So he stopped in a house to ask the way to Treman Park... 14 miles the other way, sonny...
A man who is always up for a challenge, T J Pempel, wrote up the race for Running Times of August (?) 1981. Anyone have a copy?
Triennial I: 1981: First Leg:
Why Triennial? As Alan Ginsburg might have said, had he run anywhere but to a shirt-lifting convention, because we have seen the finest runners of our generation non-plussed by ennui: race numbers, entry fees, hardware, runners who were angry that I entered a race as Leo Tolstoy Jr., a belief that even the Finger Lakes marathon (with its brutal ups and downs, the range of driving snow to baking sun on the same day, Appalachian kids sitting by the trailer and yelling "Momma, there's a man in short pants out here") wasn't strange enough.
The Rossiter brothers were raised to be rebels, but with manners. Lafayette, Nathan Hale, and Alexander Hamilton lived in our house. So when we declared war on running races as we know them, and decided to hammer the 75 miles from Caroline to Watkins Glen with the crazed gusto that Joe Daley would hammer the five boring miles of the Ithaca 5 and 10, we actually thought we'd be polite, and just let the Finger Lakes Trail Club know that we were going to be on their turf that day.
Truck Rossiter was stunned by the reaction: with visions of ten thousands runners, trampled flora and terrified fauna, scattered cups and Gatorade buckets, the FLTC replied that Triennial would be illegal, and that the County Sheriff would be at the start to serve an injunction against this trespass.
So much for manners: the race would go on, and as first-leg runners your correspondent (Runs Like a Spider Rossiter), Big Joe Daley, and Reinhold "Austrian Woodchopper" Wotawa drove out to the 6 a.m. start, we agreed that even if the police were there with drawn guns and liens on Joe's rental properties, we would sprint past them and start the race. Well, with the Woodchopper, you're not sure what he is saying, so maybe he wasn't in on the pledge (for years I thought he was incomprehensible because English was his second language, but then my flame Maya, who was raised in Munich, informed me that he was incomprehensible in German, too).
But only Truck was with us out there on Rt. 79 at the county line as the starting hour approached: but wait: a car is honking, careening at a high rate down the highway, bilnking its lights! The fuzz! We turned to run up the trail, but the person who emerged from the car was no cop, but Ed Hart, dean of Ithaca distance runners, who had brought his camera to record for posterity the start of the epic Triennial.
After photos (where are they today?), we were off, myself for Atrocious, Big Joe for Bestial, and The Woodchopper for Crazed and these were the days when we could do some damage to ourselves: Joe had broken 25 minutes for the Ithaca 5, Reinhold thought nothing of running to Watkins Glen for a race, winning it, and running back to Ithaca [actually, that was Joe Arthur - ed.], and I had my lifetime double in the previous year: under 2:40 at Finger Lakes Marathon, under 2:00 in the half mile. So the first assault of Triennial was brutal: Joe and I, young, dumb and full of it, hammered up that mile-long hill as hard as we could. Sleep-addled, the Woodchopper immediately fell behind, and by the time we hit the dirt road, he was hopelessly lost, flagged down a pickup truck that by chance was headed downtown, and was back in his bed on Albany Street by 6:30, as Joe and I were just starting to realize the depth of our despair: blown out, lost at a cross-roads looking for blazes, with 10 miles to go. For some reason, despite this performance, we let Reinhold run a few more triennials, but eventually he was barred for life, on the general principle that somebody should bar him for life from something.
Stone-faced but dying underneath, looking like the ghost in Bob Dylan's take on the Hells Angels' appeal to the New Left ("picking up Angel who just arrived from the Coast, who looked so fine at first but left looking just like ghost"), I held Joe's tail for five miles until Shindagin Hollow, when he began to pull away from me going up the gorge toward Braley Hill... and he was crawling on all fours! I was whimpering now, having to crawl five paces, then rest a few breaths, but I got lucky at the top: Joe not only got turned around and lost, but his contacts had come out, making it tough to see the blazes! I tried to sneak by him, to no avail, and he chased me down the hill to White Church Road, holding his contact with one hand, and using the other to prop his eyelid open on the other eye. We hit a mucky patch at the bottom that popped off one of my Elites, and then I sprinted for the road, which was the finish line.
The spirit of the Triennial was created at that moment, as the runners for the next leg, who might have thought this was a fun run, a jog in the woods, probably including the wood-whimps Torn Jock Pempel and Larry "Prudent Man" Prud'homme, who hated to get their racing shoes dirty or take a single step that couldn't be compared with another flat, fast, certified race course, stood gaping as Big Joe and I crashed out of the bushes by a ditch and elbowed our way in a mad sprint for first... barefoot, blood all over out arms and faces from the pricker bushes and fir-branches we'd hit on the run, mud to the waist. I can't remember who won, but no quarter was given. We rewarded TJ and Prudent at the banquet (!) with their favorite things: "hardware"...but not little cute trophies and badges, but rusty saws and hammers [stolen from my garage - Ed] which they, good sports, put up in places of honor in their trophy rooms. Triennial, the anti-race, was off to a good start.
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Last modified: Sat Aug 23 12:31:35 EDT 2014