The plan before Sunday's Nifty Fifty Relay was to rearrange the top teams so there would be three or four equal squads at the front of the pack.
But that didn't work out.
Dave Pusich and Don Eagle were supposed to run with Jerry Buckley, but Buckley stepped aside to let Guy Thibodeau run in his place. That was enough to throw the competitive balance out of whack, as Team Pusich-Thibodeau-Eagle won by nearly four minutes, covering the 50-kilometer (31-mile) course in 3 hours, 14 minutes, 53 seconds.
"I realized we had four runners on our team, so I let Guy run," said Buckley, who ran the second leg of the race as a training run.
Second place went to the combo of Brian Goettler, Dewey Peacock and Glenn Frick, who posted a time of 3:18:39. The third place team finished in 3:22:54 and featured Shawn Miller, Steve Davis and Mike Crotteau, while fourth place went to Al Graves, Tom Casey and John Bursell in 3:23:44.
"Guy was a late addition to the team for Jerry Buckley, and that may have stacked the deck for us," Eagle said. "It was kind of unusual. We talked to six guys, then we got another team involved and we shuffled the teams. We ended up with a (Smokin' Ole) Geezer on each team."
"We'll see where we are in two weeks, when the Geezers beat them in the Klondike," said Frick, challenging Eagle's Darwin's Tribe team for the Klondike Trail of '98 International Relay, which takes place Sept. 6-7 from Skagway to Whitehorse, Yukon Territory.
Most of the runners involved in Sunday's race were training for the 20th anniversary running of the Klondike. Frick, Buckley and Graves, who are all members of the Smokin' Ole Geezers, are the only three runners to have run in every Klondike race. Goettler and Davis are also Geezers.
"We had half our team out here," Frick said. "We get the biggest turnout of any (Klondike) team at the local races."
The race started at Sunshine Cove and followed Glacier Highway to the Windfall Lake Trailhead for the first leg, called the Road Leg, which had a distance of about 10.5 miles. The second leg, or the Trail Leg, followed the Windfall Lake and Montana Creek trails to the Montana Creek Trailhead, a distance of about 10.7 miles. The final leg, called the Mixed Leg, wound through the trails and streets around the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center, Dredge Lake Trail and Back Loop Road before finishing at Skaters Cabin, a distance of about 9 miles.
Miller dominated the first leg, which started in a downpour, and was the only runner to complete the opening leg in less than an hour (58:38). Pusich followed about five minutes later and it was another four or five minutes before Goettler and Graves reached the exchange zone.
"That first leg was pretty soggy," Miller said.
"It was wet and raining pretty hard," Pusich said. "Shawn was way up on everybody."
Even though he started third, Peacock was first through the second leg. Peacock covered the leg in 1:21:09, more than five minutes faster than Thibodeau's leg time.
"I was just trying to get to the finish line as soon as I could," Thibodeau said.
Thibodeau trailed Peacock by about a minute at the second exchange, but Eagle was too fast for Frick on the final leg.
"It didn't take long, maybe a mile, mile-and-a-half, before he caught me," Frick said. "He can only run 30 seconds a mile faster than me."
"I was worried about John (Bursell) the whole way," Eagle said. "I didn't relax until when I had a long stretch and could look back and not see him."
Bursell had the fastest time for the third leg, 44:49, three seconds better than Eagle's, but he was hampered because Casey took a wrong turn near the Windfall Lake cabin and lost a few minutes.
"I thought I had a pretty good run after that," Casey said. "I feel bad for John, because it probably wasn't as fun for him."
Casey's wrong turn was the only major case of anyone getting off course this year. That was a welcome change compared to last year's race when several runners lost the trail on the third leg, including one runner who nearly wound up in Auke Bay and lost about 1 1/2 hours.
"It was well-marked this year," said John Walsh, who was on the team with the lost runner last year. "The river dropped down quite a bit since yesterday, so it was just puddles. We were told we might have to run through knee-deep water."
Walsh's wife and teammate, Dawn Walsh, leads the Lady GuDivas team in the Klondike, which broke the masters women's record last year. Dawn Walsh, Deb Rudis and Deb Grove of the GuDivas all ran Sunday.
"We're going to try to break the Klondike record again," Rudis said. "Dawn's a hard task master."
Mona Yarnall, who teamed up with Bob and Mark Hopson, is entered in her first Klondike and said Sunday's race gave her a good preview of what a Klondike leg will be like.
"We've got a team at the university of faculty and staff together," said Yarnall, who slipped and did a header in one of the Leg 3 puddles. "I ran primarily to get my mileage in. It's fun, now that it's over."
While most of the runners Sunday are also entered in the Klondike, there were a few who aren't entered. John Walsh isn't running, and neither are Stefan Ricci and Rebecca Braun. Ricci, who teamed with the Walshs, said he just did the race "for fun" while Braun said she was looking for an excuse to get out of the house.
"I've got a young kid and my husband (John Caouette) and I are in the middle of moving," Braun said. "This was the only way I could get out, was tell him I have to go for a run. Rorie (Watt) knew he was getting either my husband or me to run today. It was so beautiful."
Watt ran two the first two legs Sunday, but he didn't match the hard-core approach of John Burick, who ran all three. Burick, who recently moved to Juneau from Petersburg, was assisted by his parents who gave him a fresh pair of shoes and socks at each exchange zone. Burick finished the 31 miles in 4:27:48 to tie with the team of Lachelle Crotteau, Kim Rivera and Jamie Bursell for ninth place.
"It was just the challenge," Burick said. "I missed out on the marathon (the Frank Maier on Aug. 3) and this was the next one. I just wanted to finish, it wasn't about the time. I changed my shoes at every one of them (exchange zones). It felt good to have my feet dry for a couple of miles."
Charles Bingham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The final results of the Nifty Fifty Relay, a 50-kilometer (31-mile) three-leg relay race held Sunday from Sunshine Cove to Skaters Cabin. Teams are listed with their overall times, as well as individual splits for the three legs. The first leg - the Road Leg - was about 10.5 miles and followed the highway from Sunshine Cove to the Windfall Lake Trailhead. The second leg - the Trail Leg - was about 10.7 miles and followed the Windfall Lake and Montana Creek trails to the Montana Creek Trailhead. The last leg - the Mixed Leg - was about 9 miles and followed the roads and trails around Back Loop Road, Dredge Lake and the Mendenhall Glacier area to Skaters Cabin.
1. Team Pusich-Thibodeau-Eagle, 3 hours, 14 minutes, 53 seconds (Dave Pusich, 1:03:23; Guy Thibodeau, 1:26:38; Don Eagle, 44:52);
2. Team Goettler-Peacock-Frick, 3:18:39 (Brian Goettler, 1:07:43; Dewey Peacock, 1:21:09; Glenn Frick, 49:47);
3. Team Miller-Davis-Crotteau, 3:22:54 (Shawn Miller, 58:38; Steve Davis, 1:38:27; Mike Crotteau, 45:39);
4. Team Graves-Casey-Bursell, 3:23:44 (Al Graves, 1:08:53; Tom Casey, 1:30:02; John Bursell, 44:49);
5. Team Walsh-Ricci-Walsh, 3:39:09 (Dawn Walsh, 1:17:44; Stefan Ricci, 1:30:07; John Walsh, 51:15);
6. Team Watt-Watt-Braun, 3:58:05 (Rorie Watt, 1:12:44; Rorie Watt, 1:36:14; Rebecca Braun, 59:07);
7. Team Hopson-Hopson-Yarnall, 4:10:49 (Bob Hopson, 1:14:52; Mark Hopson, 1:46:28; Mona Yarnall, 1:09:29);
8. Team Hawkes-Groves-Rudis, 4:17:32 (Clayton Hawkes, 1:25:16; Deb Groves, 1:51:56; Deb Rudis, 1:00:20);
9. tie, Team Crotteau-Rivera-Bursell, 4:27:48 (Lachelle Crotteau, 1:15:43; Kim Rivera, 2:06:07; Jamie Bursell, 1:05:58);
9. tie, Team Burick-Burick-Burick, 4:27:48 (John Burick, 1:29:04; John Burick, 1:51:49; John Burick, 1:06:55).
Incomplete team: Breea DeSloover, who was not on a team, ran the third leg in 55:57.