Race Director's Report
Triennial Finger Lakes Trail Relay X
It was dank, dark, and raining, but at least fairly mild, as we drove up Blackman Hill in Caroline for the start of the dreaded Shingadin Hollow stage -- this time made quite a bit easier by a dyspeptic landowner who has purchased, and therefore thinks he owns for all purposes, the hillside south of NY79 which is the traditional Tri stage points -- including the very first start in 1981. I wonder what that landowner has to say to the Haudenosaunee let alone the Great Spirit. What we need is a right-to-ramble law as in Scotland from which some of my ancestors escaped English opression. But I digress... out of the mist we could barely discern fellow Trilobites (as we affectionately call those who plan their training as a three-year cycle to peak for Triennial)... minus Lorrie Tily whose handicap was so massive that the starter, driving cautiously, had not arrived in time. She had wandered off into the blackness. We soon got the others going, a few well-prepared with headlamps. I was already inspired by meeting Tri veterans such as Tessa (who has manouvered Mighty Isis into Atrocious-like dominance of the female division); Brent, bottom-feeding all the way from San Diego, and Ron Knewstub with a new team name but same team attitude. But what was this Enclave with the last 'e' spelled backwards? I smelled professionals at work... When I saw Adam I realized that his Trumpled Hipsters were probably also all ringers. Where was the Stew team? On the cell phone, from bed, in Elmira.
During the first stage the clouds lifted a bit and there was some light, but the trails were wet, slick, and muddy. Blazes either disappeared in the gloom or were hidden by the abundant foliage from the past exceptional summer. This proved too much for my own teammate Sh'Tara, who couldn't find the top of the abandoned McGrath Rd and ended up bushwacking out of the woods about a mile up Old 76, running into a backyard, knocking on the door of friendly 76'ers who fortunately knew in which direction the trail crossing was, and even better, gave her the correct information. In fairness to Sh'Tara, living in Chicago makes it difficult to pre-run the trail... NOT!! when you have three full years to do it!! She also managed to run right by one of the orienteering checkpoints without seeing it. Well, all I could borrow were the faded controls from Eric Smith, so the orange wasn't too obvious, even though I tried to hang the controls so they would hit most runners in the face.
The condition of the runners finishing the first stage prepared the second stagers for their task. It was looking bad for Atrocious as the so-called Spider took his shirt off to reveal a massive belly swollen by two weeks of eat like a marathoner but don't train, topped off by a midnight snack of pizza and apple pie. But where was Bottom Feeder Matt Warfel? Well, as we later found out, with his car face down / tail up in a ditch somewhere up in the hills, trying to reconoitre the trail. After being pulled out, he drove to the start and off he went, using leaves as punch cards for the controls.
On Michigan Hollow Rd. it was more of the same -- mud and rain -- and also some blood as Shelly "did a Grover" right at the stage 2 finish. Not a full face-plant so perhaps a "half Grover". Meanwhile Joe Daley was suited up in camoflage (green, brown and black), even at the risk of being shot and gutted by a Sarah Palen wannabee, and snorting to go. But a minute before off went Jim Miner, looking serious. Sixteen minutes later was the scratch start, with Action Figures from the Enclave, Hipsters and Mountain men in hot pursuit.
But at the top of Lick Brook there was Joe steaming down the hill in first place, and there he was at the finish Shady Corners, but only two minutes ahead of the Enclave's Nate Senner. Joe was watching his feet, not his head, and ran right under the last control at Lick Brook. Oh well, next time I'll hang them at waist height.
Stage 4 was the longest, with the most net elevation gain (up to the tower) with 2.2 miles of rough trail on top of Connecticut Hill tacked on to shorten the next stage. When I saw Yvette at the start I had a feeling... especially because she had totally dominated Connecticut Hill (Cayuta outlet to Porter Hill) in the other direction in Triennai V (1993) as a mere 30-year old to win the Catherine the Great award for out-standing performance, winning the stage outright. She did not disappoint, romping up the hill in 2:19 (1:58 scratch), although this time Michael Wunsch (Hipsters) and Erik Maki (Desciples) nearly caught her. A special mention here to my teammate Hermann van Leeuwen, who grew up in my present home town (Enschede, eastern Netherlands) but migrated to Buffalo some years ago. He tried to get a Checkers A.C. team together but in the end was invited to join Atrocious on this most difficult stage which he had never run. Never lost, properly cautious, and with full respect for the trail, he finished eighth.
I had planned Stage 5 for older, slower veterans who wanted to enjoy some more Triennials without destroying their bodies in training, for example (in fact, as designed for) my brother Winton, or perhaps eager virgins who are not ready for several hours of rough trails. Some teams were right in this same line of thought: Steve Ryan of the well-named Joe (Dabes) Old Cronies, Fred Knewstub complete with state-of-the-art pacemaker, Tim Patronski of the Bottomfeeders (he's only 31 but he is a bottom feeder!), Nadia Singh recruited by Tessa from the biotech lab at Cornell. But who was that lining up at the start but... Earl Steinbrecher Jr., Ithaca 5&10 champion, holder of numerous trail victories... Tim Ingall of the Hipsters, complete with racing stripe... Quinn Thomas of the Enclave (OK, I guess they're all fast). Earl finished in 46 minutes scratch (49 clock), definitely "driving too fast for conditions".
Towards mid afternoon the weather got nicer, and the sun began to shine on the wet wood. It was time for the two "simultaneous orgasm" stages, 6E and 1W, planned to come together at one of the most beautiful views in the Finger Lakes, Satterly Hill. And in fact youngster Seth Tucker (IC cross country) and veteran Jim Chely, both of Stew, almost did it: 1:37:28 and 1:37:10. That difference would be pretty good in a lot of marriages... Stew's Christina Bruner, scheduled for stage 1E, finally got out of bed and managed to double up on stage 1W, although having difficulty following the trail (yelling "help, how do I get out of here?" from the bottom of Excelsior Glen). Stage 6E was won by Alan Evans, also a star of Triennial IX, three minutes before Tucker. On 1W I was trying to hold off Action Figures but it was not to be, as studs Scott Bickham (Enclave) and Ben Logsdon (Hipsters) went flying by on the long, painful, never-ending uphill on Middle Road into Burdett. Too bad I didn't put a control in the corn maze. Speaking of landowners (remember stage 1E?) there are lots of really good guys, including the one at the base of Satterly Hill who lets the FLT run right through his agro-tourism business. The Hallow'een figures on the driveway and the "go back!" warnings to kids added a nice touch. Karen Grover, like most of her team-mates, had dyed her hair red because of some rumour of Joe Daley giving a "red-headed handicap" in Tri IX. Well, he's susceptible to feminine wiles, but our super-"volunteer" and stage 1W (and 4E) starter Herb Engman is made of sterner stuff.
Another good "simultaneous" performance was put in by married couple and Purple Haze teammates Chris (6E) and Joe (1W) Reynolds: 2:31:03 and 2:29:01, although Chris when it looked a lot fresher at the finish (actually, she always does...)
Post-race party at the Bleachers in Watkins Glen... hey, if you want a sports bar, with friendly staff, a knowledgeable bartender, big-screen TV's, a pool table, good bar food, and local colour, that's your place! Thanks to Joe Daley for organizing this, it went smoothly and efficiently. An unexpected development was the intervention of a patron to buy us all a round, in honour of his daughter who had run XC under Joe Reynolds at Watking Glen HS and then died of leukemia at 20. The heartfelt speech by her father reminded us of how short life is, and how much we should appreciate the time we have -- and what better time can you have than running the Triennial?
See you in 2011. It seems that the fall date is preferred, so we'll stick with that unless I hear good arguments for spring. Well, maybe I'll change it anyway. Who knows? The race committee will be savouring this one and plotting for the next.
D "Truck" Rossiter
Atrocious team captain