The Birth of an Ultra

Baker Trail UltraChallenge - August 27, 2005

In late 2004 we were searching for an event we could stage on the Baker Trail that would reinvigorate it. The trail had fallen into disuse in many sections because of lack of maintenance. Trail work crews are much easier to assemble if the crew members know their efforts will be of benefit to someone. After all, a freshly cleared and blazed trail only lasts for a short time before nature reclaims it. We needed a goal; a deadline, really. We knew our Rachel Carson Trail Challenge brought the Rachel Carson Trail back from near death. This was our archetype.

After kicking around several ideas, we concluded an ultramarathon was the way to go. A running event would cover more of the 141-mile trail than anything else, it's a natural next step for folks who've mastered the Rachel Carson Trail Challenge, and ultramarathons in this area aren't common. We decided to divide the trail into three segments and run each segment as part of a three-year series.

In January we started meeting monthly, a group of determined trail supporters and area runners. There was a lot to do. Find a suitable ending facility, lay out the course, get the requisite permissions, set up the web pages, promote it, solicit sponsors, and of course, get the trail cleared and blazed.

Another task we needed to do was to find a theme for the event, something we could build the event promotion, shirts, and medals around. After considering a wide variety of ideas, we settled on keying off the Baker name, as in "one who bakes", and a three-piece pie to represent the three parts of the series.

There were setbacks. Our initial course layout was torpedoed when our request for permission to use a local school as our ending facility was denied. Fortunately, the friendly folks at the Brookville YMCA were incredibly helpful and its director, Thad Turner, readily agreed to let us use their building. And a landowner along the trail forced us to alter the course at the last minute, sadly cutting out some nice trail through Cook Forest and adding more roads.

Hundreds of volunteer man-hours of trail maintenance, phone calls, email messages, meetings, and paperwork came to fruition when 31 ultra runners and 3 relay teams set out from the northern trailhead just after 6:30 AM on Saturday, heading for the YMCA in Brookville, fifty miles away.

Along the way, many volunteers manned the aid stations that would sustain the runners on their journey, offering a plethora of food, drink, and encouragement. Many of the runners ate very little, leaving us with quite a bit of leftover food. We donated as much as we could to the YMCA.

Weather conditions were ideal for running. It was overcast with temperatures in the mid-60s throughout the day. Light rain fell later in the day, becoming intermittent showers as evening drew.

Many runners reported getting lost on the course at least once. This is understandable: at a running pace, some of the trail markings that are obscured by vegetation could be missed. More than one runner, though, missed the blazing for the right turn in Corsica, which is harder to explain. Those blazes are on two telephone poles on different sides of the intersection, were just repainted three days prior, are offset blazes, and can be seen from quite a distance.

I originally scheduled the award ceremony for 4 PM, thinking the frontrunners should be finished by then. It turns out that was optimistic. Around 5:45 PM we decided to go ahead with it. Even though not all winners had finished yet, those that did wanted to go home and go to bed. The trophies were awarded as follows. Congratulations to all!

  • First Overall: Morgan Windram
  • Second Overall: John Reynolds
  • Third Overall: Garry Rarer
  • First Male: Scott Pearson
  • Second Male: Philip Westlake
  • Third Male: Gary Hemmelgarn
  • First Female: Suzanne Weightmann
  • Second Female: Sue Albert
  • Third Female: Mary Kashurba
  • Masters Overall: Philip Carino
  • Masters Male: Glenn Schwartz
  • Masters Female: Rhonda Hampton
  • Relay First Overall: Geezers With Youth (Mike Berry, Jeff Nelson, Joe Covell, Nathan Mitchell)
  • Relay First Male: United (Ray Doolittle, Jerry Shaffer, Ross Ananea)
  • Relay First Coed: Skanks & Geezers (Jim Crist, Dave Syiek, LuAnn Eyerman, Dan Ruble, Valerie Kunkel)

Our heartfelt thanks to all the volunteers who donated a portion of their life in order to make this event possible: Ed Angso, Dewaine Beard, George Bender, Joe Block, Joyce Block, Charlie Brethauer, Paula Brethauer, Patty Brunner, Helen Coyne, Larry Creveling, Jim Crist, Charlie Danielson, Lou Dawson, Lou D'Angelo, Bob Derry, Ben Dilla, Angie Dorko, Mark Eyerman, Sue Fink, Kate Fissell, Dave Galbreath, Silvano Gallego, Jerry Hoffman, Patricia Kline, Wayne Kocher, Diane Kostka, Joe Kostka, Bruce Lundberg, Doug Moore, Sherryl Nash, Glenn Oster, Barb Peterson, Jim Ritchie, Ed Scurry, Mary Siegel, Kevin Smith, Kevin Snyder, Joe Spagnuolo, Dave Syiek, Walter Tereszkiewicz, Mike Waldvogel, Steve Waltman, Linda Xenophontos, Katie Zellars, Ken Zellars.

And many thanks to our generous sponsors this year: Elite Runners & Walkers, Brookville YMCA, McDonald's (Natrona Heights), PowerGel, Amphipod, Ultima Replenisher, Pizza Hut (Brookville), KFC (Brookville), Hammer Gel, Protection Services, Truck Stops of America, Command Systems, and SportHill.

Next year, in part two of our series, the course will follow the central section of the Baker Trail. I hope to see you then!

— Steve Mentzer