Welcome to the
July 21st, 2001
The 2001 Damn Wakely Dam Ultra kicked off as scheduled on 21 JUL 01 at 6AM. The morning started off cool but gave way to a hot sunny day. A strong group of runners descended on the Adirondacks and laid to waste 32.6 miles of challenging Northville Placid Trail.
As the blistering heat of Friday began to drop, runners trickled in to the Poplar Point campground at Piseco Lake, NY. The traditional pasta dinner was prepared over an open fire and runners relished the grilled Italian sausages as though it was their last meal - and it would be for some time. Everyone settled in early and rested for the early start Saturday morning.
Here's how the run looked from the
middle of the pack:
At 5:45 registration and weigh-in began. Inge Aiken won the prize for the heaviest pack, a whopping 11 pounds in contrast to Ken Roberts' sparse provisions which he kept neatly in his shorts pockets. It was a cool morning and skies were clear.
Just prior to 6AM, the elite runners gathered for a photo. At six, the clock was started and they were off. Frank Harrison leapt into the lead and set an aggressive pace. The first 5 miles were relatively easy single track with frequent blow downs. With Harrison out of site and trail difficulty increasing, Aiken charged ahead leaving Dan Lopata, Jim Houghtaling, Paul Verrette and Ken Roberts jockeying for position. Chip Tuthill hangs on in the distance. Joe Costa and Rich Northup stuck to their strategy and kept steady pace while the Kenyans were no where in sight.
Spruce Lake is reached at mile 9.5. It's at this point that runners split up as pit stops were made to replenish water supplies. Runners opting for the chemical water treatment had a clear time advantage as filtering runners pumped away. Paul Verrette takes a splendid spill somewhere in this area, but alas, no blood. The Sampson Bog Outlet is reached at mile 13.5. A wonderful waterfall and sparkling water make an inviting pit stop. Houghtaling catches Lopata as he struggles with his water filter. Both runners would loose their lead over veteran Ultra runner Tuthill as they toil. Lopata gives up on his filter and finishes his task using Houghtaling's Sweetwater Gardian. The two would attack the next section of trail together and catch up to Tuthill.
At mile 15.2 the washed out bridge over the West Canada Creek is reached. Water levels were not high and some industrious Boy Scouts had crafted a simple bridge using boards from the bridge deck placed between rocks. Nails were a real threat here. The source of the West Canada to this point is Mud Lake. Houghtaling and Lopata stopped yet again to fill their bottles with the last working filter. Tuthill ventured on.
Tuthill, Lopata and Houghtaling stop briefly at the long bridge over the South Lake Outlet to take a photo then proceed at a steady pace to a grassy opening at 16.4 mi. - site of the former caretaker headquarters cabin. A DEC signpost is in the center of the grassy area, where several trails come together. The three seemed dazed and confused about which direction to go. Chip trots off straight and soon turns back when the markers turned red and because there were no footprints in the dew covered grass. Chip gets the Indian Scout Award for his reconnoitering skills. Maps were consulted and the obvious choice was to head north on the blue trail to Cedar Lakes. (duh...)
The lead pack of Harrison, Aiken and Roberts are well out of site. The middle pack of Houghtaling, Lopata and Tuthill held together until Mud Creek where the last working water filter failed. Tuthill sailed along with his chemical treated water while Houghtaling and Lopata struggle to get any water at all through their filters. They head out with less than full bottles and begin to conserve water. Despondent, the two struggle at a fork in the trail - had they looked at their map they would have known they were at the junction of the trail to the lean-to on Third Cedar Lake. Verrette is on his own, Northup and Costa work with each other as they fend off the Kenyans who are no where in sight.
Cobble Hill presents a tough challenge. The initial climb makes pudding out of the fittest quads. Just as you think you've got it licked, runners are faced with a near vertical ascent - slowing many runners to a mere death march to the top. The downhill into Cedar Lakes offers little rest as the steepness and rocks demand equal respect and force runners to ride the breaks or face the consequences.
With the lead pack now a distant memory, Houghtaling and Lopata stop one final time to attempt to fill their dusty bottles. A 46'er sits on the bridge overlooking Beaver and Cedar Lakes. He briefs the runners on the trail ahead and confirms that Tuthill is building a considerable gap. Lopata eyes the old timer's Gatorade as he pumps in vain - all the while the deerflies add to the runner's fluid loss. Fifteen minutes later Lopata settles for three-quarters a bottle. Houghtaling fumbles and knocks his half-full bottle into the lake. One wet foot later, he's back on the trail with no water. Verrette, renewed by a Cliff bar plugs along like a man possessed, shouting aloud as the trail continues to take a savage toll "Damn you Wakely Dam!" Costa and Northup battle it out as they strive to keep running. The Kenyans are no where in sight.
Harrison, Aiken and Roberts charge up the old logging road for 4.5 miles and onto Moose River Recreation Area road. Jaded by the now persistent ESPN helicopter, Roberts struggles as Harrison and Aiken battle towards the dam. Frank Harrison squeezes out a two minute lead over the battle hardened Aiken.
Setting a course record, Frank Harrison finishes first with a time of 7 hours 32 minutes and 35 seconds.
Inge Aiken is swept away by the crowd as she steps foot on the dam in a women's record setting 7 hours 34 minutes and 57 seconds.
Ken Roberts crosses the finish in 7:36:00 sporting a shiny gash on his shin - awarding him the run's "Best Blood."
Back at mile 23, Lopata and Houghtaling stumble across two supporting actors from the HBO series "The Sopranos" sleeping in the sun at the third Cedar Lakes lean-to. They trade some warm filtered water for a bag of white powder (Gatorade, that is). They escape with their lives and Lopata pulls away from Houghtaling for the last time. The warm water goes fast and Houghtaling begins drinking untreated water from the mountains - he staggers on. Verrette is still shouting at the trail but keeps a steady pace. Northup and Costa are moving. The Kenyans are nowhere in sight.
Dan Lopata reaches the dam in 8:53:51. "This run put me in my place, and the only way to complete it was to rely on a power other than myself to drive me to the finish."
Jim Houghtaling stepped onto the dam at a disappointing 9:20:13. Odds makers expected a lot more from this guy, especially with that neat pack and all. Paul Verrette powered his way to a 10:18:19 finish with nearly all his toes in tact.
Hand in hand (at least that's what they said) Joe Costa and Rich Northup grab the 8th and 9th finish in 11:20:00!
Rounding off the top ten were the Kenyans who were nowhere in sight with a big fat DNF.
The day ended for some with a long ride home. For others, a nap in the tent and a fine steak dinner. Special thanks go out to the professional crew who manned the start and finish. It's these little people who really make a run an "event." The 2002 Damn Wakely Dam Ultra is now in the planning stages and is set for July 20th, 2002. Keep your eye on the website for more details as they develop.