Sunday's inaugural running of the Nifty Fifty Relay was a comedy of errors for the three-man team known as Missing Toenails. But that didn't keep it from winning the 50-kilometer (31-mile) relay race from Sunshine Cove to Skaters' Cabin.
While Tracy Rivera was running the first leg from Sunshine Cove to the Windfall Lake Trailhead, second-leg runner Dave Pusich and his wife were madly racing in their car to the exchange zone, splashing and drenching Rivera with a puddle as they pulled in for the handoff.
Later, while Pusich was running his leg, third-leg runner Layne Brant couldn't find the second exchange zone at the Montana Creek Trailhead. He arrived at the exchange zone early, before officials set it up, and parked his truck. He then wandered with his dog, Southpaw, and two other third-leg runners up the trail to look for the exchange zone. Suddenly Brant was passed by Pusich about a half-mile to a mile away from the handoff area. Pusich and Brant ran together back to the zone, where Brant hurriedly put his dog back in his truck and changed down to his running shorts.
"It was like the Three Stooges run a race," said Kim Rivera, Tracy's wife, who ran the first two legs of the race for the 16th-place team, Douglas Island Duo.
Despite the misadventures, Missing Toenails managed to finish more than seven minutes ahead of the second-place team, Wes Plus Two Fatless Geezers (Glenn Frick, Wesley Brooks and Brian Goettler). Missing Toenails posted a time of 3 hours, 25 minutes, 38.5 seconds, while Wes Plus Two Fatless Geezers needed 3:32:56.2 to complete the course.
Third place went to Forest Gimps (Bob Marshall, Guy Thibodeau and Gordon Taylor) in 3:35:53.5; Douglas' Crew (Al Graves, Steve Davis and Jim Douglas) took fourth place in 3:41:23.6; and Team Bursell (John Bursell on the first two legs and Jamie Bursell) was in fifth place in 3:48:42.9.
"Yeah, me, Gordon (Taylor) and Steve Porter couldn't find the exchange zone," Brant said. "It was Gordon's idea to run out to the end of the trail. We were a good half-mile or more out there when Pusich comes blazing past me."
"There he goes, blaming me," Taylor said. "We probably lost 20 to 30 seconds on the exchange."
Several other teams also had their share of problems. Most had to do with route-finding, especially on the third leg, but there was one sprained ankle on the second leg and a grizzly bear sighting by a couple of runners near Eagle River on the first leg.
The first leg of the race followed the Old Veteran's Highway for about 10.5 miles on the road. The second leg of the race followed the Windfall Lake Trail until it merged with the Montana Creek Trail for about 10.7 miles on the trails. The final leg mixed road and trail running for about 9.8 miles, as it looped along Montana Creek Road, Back Loop Road, the Hydropower Trail to Menden Hall Glacier parking lot, then part of Moraine Traikl and Dredge Lakes Trail back to Back Loop Road and the finish line at Skaters' Cabin.
It was the final leg that caused the most problems, and race officials had to add a couple of additional trail markings and pylons after runners started getting lost among all the turns. One runner from Gustavus, Steven Anderson from the team Tri Amigos, was unfamiliar with the area and twice got so turned around on Back Loop Road that he was halfway to Auke Bay each time. The second time, race officials brought him back to the proper trail in a car.
"Where's the race organizer," Anderson shouted out as he finally crossed the finish line. "I've got two words for you, 'Ray Charles.' If he can figure it out, I can figure it out."
Even some of the runners in the top teams had their problems. Brant said there were just enough turns and junctions in the final leg to keep things interesting, while some of the later runners got so frustrated they nearly quit. But all 16 teams eventually finished, with three of the 45 runners in the race doing double-legs.
"I was looking on the sand for the chalk marks, I think we needed a few more cones," said Goettler, who posted the fastest time on the final leg. "It was hard to see all those 'X's in the sand. And, there was a tree that fell down in last night's storm and it was blocking the trail."
"Dredge (Lakes) was just fine," Taylor said. "But I really had no idea where I was headed. I heard somewhere we were supposed to end up at East Glacier (as he said this another runner said the trail listing said the course was to stop short of East Glacier). Next year we'll figure it out."
Even though there were some misadventures, many of the runners weren't too upset, even Anderson who spent time joking about his wrong turns with several of the other racers. All except for a couple of the runners entered in Sunday's race are also entered in the Klondike "Trail of '98" International Road Relay, which will take place Sept. 7-8 from Skagway to Whitehorse, Yukon Territory. They were using Sunday's race as training for the Klondike relay.
"It was a perfect morning for running," Tracy Rivera said. "It was nice, with just a little headwind that died down after awhile. It was good preparation for the Klondike."
Charles Bingham can be reached at email@example.com.
Nifty Fifty Relay
Results from the Southeast Road Runners club's Nifty Fifty Relay, a 50-kilometer (31-mile) relay race for teams of up to three runners. The race was held Sunday and went from Sunshine Cove to the Windfall Lake Trailhead on the first leg (about 10.5 miles), from Windfall Lake Trailhead to Montana Creek Trailhead on the second leg (about 10.7 miles), and from Montana Creek Trailhead to Skaters' Cabin on the third leg (about 9.8 miles).
1. Missing Toenails, 3 hours, 25 minutes, 38.5 seconds total elapsed time (Tracy Rivera, 1:07:13.7 first leg; Dave Pusich, 1:23:58.8 second leg; Layne Brant, 0:54:26.0 third leg);
2. Wes Plus Two Fatless Geezers, 3:32:56.2 (Glenn Frick, 1:07:50.4; Wesley Brooks, 1:31:34.2; Brian Goettler, 0:53:31.6);
3. Forest Gimps, 3:35:53.5 (Bob Marshall, 1:07:44.8; Guy Thibodeau, 1:26:32.9; Gordon Taylor, 1:02:35.8);
4. Douglas' Crew, 3:41:23.6 (Al Graves, 1:10:58.2; Steve Davis, 1:35:38.6; Jim Douglas, 0:54:46.8);
5. Team Bursell, 3:48:42.9 (John Bursell, 1:03:37.6; John Bursell, 1:30:20.7; Jamie Bursell, 1:14:54.6);
6. Team Caouette, 4:15:50.5 (Rori Watt, 1:18:35.5; John Caouette, 1:46:12.5; Dave Audet, 1:11:02.5);
7. Eagle's Crew, 4:21:13.6 (Ingrid Stevens, 1:38:56.2; Don Eagle, 1:29:19.0; Don Eagle, 1:02:58.4);
8. Retirement Crew, 4:35:07.4 (Clayton Hawkes, 1:27:17.8; Ben Kirkpatrick, 1:53:58.4; Steve Porter, 1:13:51.2);
9. Weakest Links, 4:40:24.4 (Nancy Thomas, 1:32:55.7; Steff Thomas, 1:51:37.4; Steve McPhetres, 1:15:51.3);
10. Tri Amigos, 4:42:20.7 (Cecile Elliott, 1:18:47.6; Kari Cozby, 1:48:49.6; Steven Anderson, 1:35:23.5);
11. Rider's Crew, 4:45:48.8 (Dawn Rider-Walsh, 1:20:45.7; John Walsh, 1:39:28.6; Bryce Edgmon, 1:45:34.5);
12. Team DeSloover, 4:47:26.4 (Paul DeSloover, 1:22:53.2; Breea DeSloover, 1:51:02.9; Gina Ord/Breea DeSloover, 1:33:30.3);
13. Team Moyer, 4:57:40.9 (Jan Moyer, 1:35:27.8; Martha Bellisle, 2:28:42.7; Bill Crompton, 1:03:30.4);
14. Craig's Crew, 5:05:02.9 (Deb Craig, 1:34:19.7; Sandra Woods, 2:21:29.4; Linda Giguere, 1:09:13.8);
15. Two Tortoises And A Hare, 5:05:30.8 (Jan McPhetres, 1:51:35.6; Kevin Linebarger, 1:55:46.0; Dick Deems, 1:18:09.2);
16. Douglas Island Duo, 5:14:00.9 (Kim Rivera, 1:27:57.5; Kim Rivera, 2:27:22.6; Wes Coyner, 1:18:40.8).