Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Wakely Dam Ultra. Be Careful What You Wish For.

The past two years I started the race season with a clear goal in mind. In 2008 I returned to running after a long-term injury. My goal was to run my first trail marathon which I successfully completed in the fall. In 2009 I raised the bar and made completing an ultra marathon my goal. I reached this goal in August by finishing my first 50K race. With still a few months of good racing weather on the calendar I decided to push on and attempt my first 50 mile. I finished the Stone Cat 50 in November and ran it fast enough to qualify for the Western States 100M lottery.

I started this year with no real goals in terms of a specific race or ultra distance I wanted to attempt. Many of my ultra friends are looking ahead to their first 100 mile race at Vermont this summer but I don’t have the desire to run that far at this time. I think it would be a huge mistake to enter such a difficult race without making a 100% commitment. I just don’t have it in me right now. I thought I might just end up wandering around aimlessly this year with no goal in sight and nothing to look forward to. And then I checked my email.

The email was from the Race Director of the Wakely Dam Ultra regarding my entry in the 2010 race lottery. It started like this, “Dear Wakely Runner: You have been selected by way of highly randomized and scientific means to participate in this year's Damn Wakely Dam Ultra.” When I entered into the lottery I had no expectation of ever getting into the race. You see, Wakely is a very small race due to permitting regulations and has a cult-like following among its die-hard followers. Runners who have completed Wakely in previous years get an automatic entry into the race. It’s only when the race does not reach capacity that ‘outsiders’ get a chance to enter. I was one of a handful to get invited and needless to say I was very surprised to get in. Then I thought to myself,” Do you REALY want to do this?”

The Wakely Dam Ultra is an unique race. It’s the only race held in the remote wilderness of the Adirondacks. It covers the 32.6 uninterrupted miles of the Northville Placid Trail from Piseco Lake to Wakely Dam. There are no cross-roads, there are no short cuts and there is no way out if you’re having a bad day. Once you start Wakely, you have no other option but to finish. There are no DNFs at Wakely! As if that’s not enough to worry about, there are no aid stations and no supplemental trail markings on the course. Runners are expected to navigate using a map and compass if needed. Runners must carry all their food and any gear they may want or need during the race. The race is held in July’s heat and without aid stations runners must locate drinking water from the streams and brooks along the 32.6 mile route, filtering or treating it to make it safe for drinking. I have no experience in doing this.

This race will be a real challenge for me but one I’m looking forward to with great excitement and some trepidation.

This is one of my favorite videos from Wakely 2007:

Y O U W E R E N E V E R T H E R E from RDJim on Vimeo.


  1. Very interesting race. Treating water is extremely easy to learn, with the right stuff. Carrying all your own stuff is what I'd be more stressed out about. ;)

  2. wow....sounds like a great oppourtunity. Good luck and I can't wait to read the race report.

  3. Wow, you are going to have a blast! The course looks beautiful! C'mon, embrace the experience and leave the worries behind:)

  4. That's great you got in! I bet it will be an awesome race. I like that it is one way in and one way out, to run the full distance. Good luck!

  5. thrilled for you Dan... it's going to be exciting seeing you get prepared for this one!

  6. Dan, let's talk water purification systems. there are a lot on the market. Laurel V might have some excellent insight as she's run the Laurel Highlands, which I think is self-supported, too.
    Let's get some running in on the AVIS trails that I drove by (bait of course). Kz, Mich, et all welcome to join in the single-track trail caravan!

  7. KZ, looks like I won't be running Speedgoat with you. Maybe next year.

    Pixie, you know how much I like running the AVIS trails so just give me a shout when you want to hit it.


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