Race Report from RD Mark Flood

Is it just me, or did the first year races run into weather problems this year?? Babcock was very cold and drizzling, Alligator Rock was very hot, and now Valley Falls has pouring rain!!! These were some of my many thoughts as I woke from a restless night at 5:30am.

Being a first-time race director, I was soooo nervous to make everything run smoothly. Several people had been helping to clear the trails of fallen trees, trail blazes were placed with care, and my friend Tony Morris and I put up ribbons over the last 6 miles of the course in 75 degree weather just days before the race. The race bags were all stuffed, the awards were coated for the last time, the t-shirts were printed, pre-registered participants were entered into my Excel spreadsheet for easy sorting when awards time came around, and everything seemed to be going smoothly. Surely I could not make any mistakes!

My daughter, Amanda, was the main reason for this event. She has an immune deficiency that was diagnosed after she had 2/3 of her right lung removed at the age of 5. The Immune Deficiency Foundation (IDF), a non-profit organization, provided our family with lots of information about her condition, and we attended two conferences in Baltimore where we were able to mingle with a variety of people ranging from doctors to representatives for the immunoglobulins (also called antibodies) Amanda was being infused with on a monthly basis. IDF also helped us fight to get Amanda subcutaneous infusions, where now Amanda now uses an insulin-type pump to push the antibody solution under her skin instead of into a blood vessel. Needless to say, the Floods have benefited from IDF’s services, and now was the perfect opportunity to raise awareness about immunodeficiency disorders, raise money for an outstanding organization, and fellowship with one of my favorite group of people…..trail runners!

The rain quit about 1 hour before race time, and temps stayed in the 50’s – perfect for most people – but luckily I was not running! A passing train interrupted my comments about the course for a couple minutes, and then it was off for the 49 runners and 9 walkers participating in the inaugural Valley Falls 10 Mile Trail Run & 5K Walk. While most of the racers were from wild and wonderful WV, there was also Mark McMillan from MD; Joe Triglia, William Stroup, and Darlene Hudak from PA; Fran Davey from DE (yes, that’s Delaware!); and Bob Barr who starting driving at 5:30am to arrive from Madison, OH to win his age group!! Thanks to all of you who drove here to enjoy these WV hills with us – bring back some friends next year!

The trail conditions were nearly ideal, with lots of freshly mowed sections of the course and the trails soaking up most of the rain to leave little standing water. Besides the trail was well marked……how could anyone possibly get off course??

The early male leaders included David & Michael Bee, Jeff Jordan, Daniel McDowell, Dennis Stottlemyer, and Lew McGrath. Once the first trail was traversed, and the roller-coaster section of Deer Trail completed the Bees had a slight lead going across the road to Red Cardinal Trail. Then a strange event happened where Jeff and Daniel started down the road instead of across, a volunteer chased them down to force them back up the road, but I was driving down the hill at this point and made a decision to have them turn around again and just complete this portion of the course by going down the road to AS#1. By the time they arrived at AS#1 the Bees and Stottlemyer were out of sight. Somehow on those “Lehmann” hills Jeff and Daniel did manage to catch and pass Dennis, but could not catch the Bees. Congrats to Michael Bee who finished first with a time of 1:06:33, while David Bee came in second place at 1:07:59.

The female race was less complicated, thank goodness! The first female through AS#1 was Heather Bury-Parks comfortably in the top 10 overall racers at that point. She was followed by Charleston’s Joni Adams, Hurricane’s Sarah Sturgill, and one of Fairmont State’s finest Stephanie Zorio. They should have just stopped there and picked up their awards right then, because they maintained those same positions throughout the rest of the race that included those couple of “Lehmann” hills along Rhodendron and Wild Turkey trails. Heather Bury-Parks finished first overall female (and 8th overall) with a time of 1:19:00, while Joni Adams finished strong to take second place in 1:32:02. The women’s race report would not be complete without congratulating Fran Davey, who ran the entire course with the use of only one eye – try that one at your next trail run and see if that isn’t challenging!

The 5K walk was not without it’s complications either. Some competitors, who shall remain nameless, arrived just as the race was starting and had to use the facilities – luckily they were only 100 meters down the trail from the starting line – which put them at a slight disadvantage. As for the female 5K walkers there was the blazingly fast Bonnie Freeman winning first overall female. She was also the first overall walker to arrive at the chili and potato soup! A large cluster of female walkers arrived later en masse, as Pam Huggins, Sarah Dodson, and Melinda Huff finished in nearly a dead heat for second place. Then there was infant Tadeo Huggins fiercely fighting his father Luke Huggins for first overall male walker. Luckily he was strapped on the front and so managed to edge out dear ole dad!

As the 10 mile runners finished most of the comments went something like “great course”, “I was worried I would get lost, but the course was well marked”, “those downhills were really fast!” and “I thought you were kidding about the ‘Lehmann hills ahead’ on the sign. Boy was I wrong!” While awaiting the awards, everyone ate lots of chili and potato soup along with hot cocoa, bananas, AND those homemade cookies provided by the members of the Morgantown Revival Center! In addition, free dermatology screenings were offered by Dr. Jeff Dodson, a dermatologist on staff at Franz Dermatology and Associates – the main sponsor for this trail event!

The awards ceremony started out with me breaking up about Amanda’s battle with her immune deficiency, but I managed to regain my composure in time to give out the prizes. Lots of cool prizes were handed out including several bottles of Hammer gel with flasks, 1-year subscriptions to Trail Runner and Running Journal magazines, Road-ID tags, and a couple of heating pads for those aches and pains! Thanks to Hammer Nutrition for providing the raspberry gels on the race course and the endurolytes in the “goodie” bag.

I did make a rookie mistake by awarding Cathleen Bernett third place in her age group, when she had actually finished 4th. Luckily she forgave me enough to return the trophy so that it could be returned to it’s correct owner. I hope Cathleen will come back next year and enjoy the second annual event for free, as I plan on waiving her entire registration fee for being such a good sport!! It just reminded me, once again, why I love hanging out with trail runners so much.

A big thanks goes to our financial sponsors: Franz Dermatology and Associates and Dr. Jann Barber, DDS!!! Also, special thanks go to Valley Falls State Park superintendent Ron Fawcett for working so hard to clear and mow sections of the course, and for allowing so many people see this great park for the first time. Finally, to those of you who volunteered….you know who you are Lori & Amanda, Jody & Lara, Phil, Dave, Brett, Kelly, and numerous others…… thank you sooo much for your help with aid stations, directions, pictures, and event timing!!

As a result of all your efforts $700 will go to IDF!!!!!! See you on October 7, 2006 for the 2nd Annual Valley Falls Trail Run where we will shoot for $1,000! A 10K distance might be added, and all inaugural runners should keep an eye out for the possibility to earn free race registration next year!

Author: Mark Flood